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Justice Department Inspector General Report on FBI Handling of Clinton Email Investigation Release; Rudy Giuliani Calls for Donald Trump to Suspend Mueller Investigation; Bias Questioned in Special Counsel's Report. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 15, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president tweeting about the report for the first time just this morning as his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says Robert Mueller should suspend his investigation today so FBI officials in the report can be investigated and even jailed.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The report finds that former FBI director James Comey was not motivated by political bias in his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. Comey was strongly criticized for his actions that were, quote, "extraordinary and insubordinate."
And there's more. House Republican leaders unveiling a draft immigration bill that adds new restrictions to legal immigration and asylum seekers but would offer protection to young undocumented immigrants and change the Trump administration policy of separating parents and children at the border. This comes as the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is now using the Bible to defend that practice. "The Washington Post" notes it's the same Bible passage once used to justify slavery.
CAMEROTA: OK, let's bring in CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for "The New York Times," Maggie Haberman. Maggie, great to have you here to walk us through all of the news happening today. Let's start with the inspector general's report, the long- awaited inspector general's report. This is what President Trump had been touting as was going to be filled with big headlines, and it is filled with big headlines in terms of James Comey's, I guess, wrongheaded behavior. They think he broke with protocol. They think he was insubordinate. What does Donald Trump and the White House do with this?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The report says he was insubordinate and broke protocol with relation to the Hillary Clinton probe which is I think a part of that report the president's lawyers are aware a lot of people are not going to hear that aspect. They're just going to hear insubordinate, colored outside the lines, did things he wasn't --
CAMEROTA: And they meld it with the Russia investigation, the White House. HABERMAN: Correct, correct, or the president's legal team has because
what they are looking to do is muddy the waters. This report, and so the president you saw this morning tweeted and said this essentially validates his, quote-unquote, good instincts in terms of firing James Comey. Remember initially the logic he cited was how he handled the Hillary Clinton probe. He then gave several other answers too.
I think that if you went into this believing James Comey and thinking that he was a reliable narrator, then this didn't necessarily change your view. I think if you went into this thinking that he was a problematic figure, this compounded your view. And I think you are going to see various parties use this for political means, as expected.
BERMAN: You are seeing various parties using this for political means. I want to know, Maggie, what you're hearing from your sources. You have Rudy Giuliani out overnight saying that Mueller needs to suspend the investigation today. This is Rudy Giuliani who now says things. He makes noise, words out loud, that often doesn't lead to anything. But do you have a sense that the president is going to make this call within the next few hours?
HABERMAN: I don't. But certainly I think that they are stoking the idea that he might. I think the president is aware that messing with the Mueller probe, especially before there is a report out from Mueller, is a particularly bad idea when the president is still in the process of this back and forth over an interview that very few people believe he will ever give Mueller.
CAMEROTA: So is this a real back and forth? I'm sorry to interrupt you. But the idea that they're still debating, they're still negotiating -- are they really?
HABERMAN: No. I think at this point what it is is essentially buying time by the Trump legal team, which, look, their job is to defend their client, their job is not the same as what reporters' jobs or what government officials' jobs are. Their job is trying to get this as close to the window of the election as possible where Mueller will get accused of playing politics if he releases a report.
What I think has become fairly clear if the president's lawyer is to be believed is that he's not going to be indicted. I think people are hoping that the Mueller probe was going to end with the president getting frog marched out of the Oval Office, that is not going to happen. But Mueller will issue a report to Congress, and then that could spark impeachment hearings depending what happens in the House.
BERMAN: It is interesting. Rudy Giuliani said they are lighting his hair on fire saying that that Sessions who has recused himself and Rosenstein should suspend Mueller right now. But your reporting is it's unlikely that the president, who has the power to fire Rod Rosenstein or push any buttons, isn't likely to do it right now. This is all an act we're seeing from Giuliani.
HABERMAN: Or it's lawyering, and it's a P.R. effort that we're seeing from Giuliani. I don't know that I think it's an act. He didn't say and the president is going to do this. He said this should happen. We have seen repeatedly as the president is acting as if the DOJ is not part of his government. They act this is something they are pushing back separately from, and I think this is just a continuation of that.
CAMEROTA: Next topic, somewhere between 500 and 650 children have been separated from their parents over the past few weeks at the border. This is a new policy from the Trump administration, they call it a zero-tolerance policy. It's hard to know how they really feel about it because they are looking for other justifications for it as if they don't want to own it.
HABERMAN: That is 100 percent correct. That is one of the most striking things about this. It's what we saw with the president with DACA too.
[08:05:00] He doesn't want to be known for the thing that he is doing, that his administration is doing. Ending DACA was the president's choice. I understand that their argument was it was ruled unconstitutional and we had to say something because of an external lawsuit. That lawsuit was brought by allies of the administration. It is hard to imagine that there was not some foreknowledge. And if the president wanted a fix to DACA, he could make it happen. He keeps trying to blame Democrats.
The same thing here. He keeps saying this is President Obama's policy. There are aspects of Obama's policy that are part of what President Trump has been doing with immigration. Separating children from their parents at the border as a deterrent to future immigrants or asylum seekers is not an Obama policy. That is a Trump policy.
CAMEROTA: Not spelled out anywhere, just to be clear.
HABERMAN: And it's not a law, it's their policy.
CAMEROTA: That's right.
BERMAN: Chief of Staff John Kelly has told us this is a deterrent. We know this because he has told us it out loud.
CAMEROTA: Sessions says it also.
BERMAN: It is a Trump administration policy.
HABERMAN: Correct. And it is very -- it is increasingly creeping into the mainstream consciousness to see these images of children being taken from their parents. And I think it is going to be very, very hard as time goes on for the president to keep spinning that as something that someone else is doing. This is his policy.
CAMEROTA: OK, that said, and we were debating this last hour, maybe it's a tactic and maybe it's an effective one. And even if you're using children as political footballs or tools or wrenching them from their mother's breast, maybe it's a tactic that appears to be working since it has gotten Congress' attention and now there is a Republican immigration bill that they are going to vote on and they are going to present.
HABERMAN: I reject that theory because this bill is going to attract no Democratic votes. It's a poison pill. The president will then blame Democrats and say, see, they don't want a fix. This would impact asylum seekers, which the Democrats will not go along with, number one. Number two, one of the most troubling aspects of this bill for people who are concerned about the president's border policy in terms of separations is it keeps billing this as if this is about keeping families together. We're going to change the separation policy. It's not really. It's going to say that parents can stay with their children but then they will be held indefinitely. That is quite a choice.
BERMAN: Finally on this subject, Maggie, I'm interested in what your reporting tells you. Does the White House, are there people in the White House who think they have a problem on their hands.
HABERMAN: Yes, yes.
BERMAN: Now that they've made the choice and these pictures are out there, do they realize this is dicey?
HABERMAN: There are a lot of people in the White House who realize this is dicey. As we have seen repeatedly on a number of other issues, it is not clear that they are going to be able to get anyone to change anything. If people wonder why it is that Jeff Sessions puts up with everything that he has put up with over the last year and a half, and it's not compulsory work, Jeff Sessions has a real vision of what immigration should be and this is what it is. And this is why he is staying. You have other people around the president who have that as well, such as Stephen Miller. And it's going to be a heavy lift to get the president to get away from it, especially in an election year, which we are in now. It's not the president's election, but the midterms will affect him greatly, and they believe they need to turn their base out.
CAMEROTA: Jeff Sessions cited the Bible, Romans 13, about why this has to happen. He was sort of saying that the government's decisions are beyond reproach. That's gotten a lot of criticism, even Franklin Graham, obviously, probably best known evangelical Christian in the country.
CAMEROTA: So any sense that there's enough blowback, enough pushback that they would alter this?
HABERMAN: I think that if you start hearing from more evangelical leaders, Sessions' quoting of the Bible aside, I think if you hear from more evangelical leaders, I think that could impact the president, especially if he sees them on TV.
BERMAN: So you've got some reporting on the comings and goings, the revolving door, as it were, at the White House. Who's in, who's out, what are you learning? HABERMAN: Everybody is often both in and out. The president is
consumed with the topics of leaks to a degree that he was actually in the first two months of the administration. He is constantly asking is xyz a leaker, him, her.
The new -- I think there has been a lot of proxy war going on, and a lot of it is basically John Kelly's frustrations with the president and things the president will not submit to or get other people to submit to in terms of Kelly's authority. So the latest target of that is Andrew Giuliani, the son of the president's lawyer, who had his West Wing pass revoked because he was seen as not following protocol. He also had the president say he wanted him elevated to a certain position and John Kelly just didn't do that.
You have seen now Marc Short, the White House legislative affairs director, make clear to people inside the building that he will leave sometime this summer, I think likely next month. I think the job has become sort of impossible generally but certainly in a midterms year I don't think they're going to get much done legislatively.
And then the question is who takes it over. John Kelly's favorite Ishi (ph) Herinaipu (ph) was a staffer, the deputy at the National Economic Council and is pretty well regarded. My understanding is she has told people she is not interested. I will be surprised if she takes that job. But anything is possible.
CAMEROTA: How about Sarah Sanders?
[08:10:04] HABERMAN: I think that Sarah Sanders is increasingly having a more and more difficult time in that role. I think that she has made clear to people outside the building and inside the building that she doesn't know she's going to do it forever, but I don't know whether that means before the midterms or not. And I think the midterms are going to be the demarcation point where you're going to see many people leaving regardless. You will see others leave before her. She may be one of them, but time will tell.
BERMAN: On North Korea, if I can ask you this, one of the things we were thinking about during the summit while we were in Singapore is would the president be surprised at some of the criticism of the agreement that was signed? Does he think, does he really think that he got something new, new concessions from North Korea, or is he just trying to make a big show of it?
HABERMAN: No, I think that he has told himself that this is actually something real and this will lead to something even further. When he feels like he is not getting proper praise, that's when you see things like the tweet that says there's no more nuclear threat, which is obviously not true. But that is what he wants people to perceive it as, and I believe it was very frustrating for him to get back to the U.S. and see the coverage of this summit and recognize it was not quite on par with what in his mind it should be.
CAMEROTA: Look, we have to go, but also, Maggie, since you know I like to do a little arm chair analysis, when he talks about Kim Jong- un and how impressive he is, how much respect he has because of what he was able to take over from his father in his 20s and that one in 10,000 --
HABERMAN: Actually it was one in one. It was not one in 10,000. There was not a request for proposals to take over for the dictatorship. There was just one person.
CAMEROTA: OK, thank you for doing the math, for crunching the numbers on that for us.
BERMAN: We have much more on the Justice Department's inspector general report into Hillary Clinton e-mail situation. What does it mean for the Mueller probe? One of the president's staunchest allies in Congress who has called for the firing of Robert Mueller weighs in next.
BERMAN: President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, says the Special Counsel's investigation should be suspended today in response to the Inspector General's report about the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. Joining me now is Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida. He has repeatedly criticized the Special Counsel's investigation and called for the firing of Robert Mueller. Congressman, thanks for being with us.
REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: Thank you.
BERMAN: I know you're on the President's speed dial, so I have to ask, have you had a chance to speak with the President of the United States since the release of the I.G. report?
GAETZ: I have not. I think he's been a little busy trying to make sure we frame up the sewing together of the Korean Peninsula so he hasn't had time to call me with his hot takes.
BERMAN: I'd wait by the phone. I'm sure you'll get that call sooner or later, Congressman. Listen, I am sure now that you've had 20 hours to digest it; you've read the report. Are you concerned that James Comey, the FBI Director, treated Hillary Clinton unfairly during the e-mail investigation? Those decisions to give that news conference, the decision to release that letter to Congress in the days before the election, do you feel that was unfair to Hillary Clinton?
GAETZ: I think it was unfair to the American people that James Comey repeatedly violated FBI procedures and that the protocols and processes that we rely upon for the most extraordinary of circumstances like the investigation of a Presidential candidate weren't followed. Look, I think that that was bad for all of us -- Hillary, Trump, the entire campaign and the country.
BERMAN: Did that hurt the Clinton campaign in the days before the election?
GAETZ: You know, so many things happen in a Presidential election; it's very difficult to engage in the histrionics but if Peter Strzok had not prioritized the Russian investigation over the Clinton investigation, the timetable seems to indicate that the revelations regarding Anthony Weiner's e-mail would have come out in September rather than October and perhaps that could have worked its way through the political digestive system before the - hours before the election.
BERMAN: So you think the fact that this was held back, the Weiner laptop news was held back, may actually may have hurt Hillary Clinton when all it all comes out?
GAETZ: I think what I said is there's so many alternate causalities in a Presidential election it's difficult to nail that down, but Strzok prioritizing Russia over the Clinton email investigation and the gathering of that evidence was not a good thing for Hillary Clinton, it wasn't good for Donald Trump, and wasn't good for the country.
BERMAN: Let me tell you what James Comey said about the delay there. He said the FBI had all the information it needed on September 29th to obtain the search warrant and it did not seek until more than a month later. The FBI's neglect had far-reaching consequences. Comey told the inspector general had he known about the laptop in the beginning of October and thought the e-mail review could have been completed before the election, it may have affected his decision to notify Congress. In other words, he wouldn't have told Congress, the public may never have known that the e-mail investigation was reopened, so perhaps that may have hurt Hillary Clinton.
GAETZ: It may have. Again, it's a Presidential election and a lot goes on, but I think we can all agree that it's a bad thing when the inspector general says that the lead agent in the Hillary Clinton e- mail investigation, Peter Strzok, who then becomes the lead agent in the Trump Russia investigation when he is utilizing and accessing bias to prioritize one over the other. Again, that was pretty well reflected in the I.G.'s report.
They said they did not have confidence that it wasn't political bias that led Peter Strzok to prioritize Russia over the Clinton email investigation and that threw off the entire timeline and it also, I think, began an illegitimate Russia investigation. Remember, he said we'll stop Trump only nine days after he opened up on Papadopoulos and only six days before he was talking with his girlfriend about an insurance policy against the Trump presidency. That is as good an evidence of bias that you could have in a case.
BERMAN: He says to be fair, to be completely fair, he said we did not have confidence that Strzok's decision to prioritize the Russia investigation was free from bias. He doesn't say they found there was bias, he said we didn't have confidence that there was no bias.
GAETZ: That's in an I.G. report.
BERMAN: I'm just saying out there what was said.
GAETZ: But they don't have confidence that there wasn't bias, that necessarily means that bias was present. BERMAN: I'm just reading you the language the I.G. used so the
American people can hear what it is and make that judgment for themselves. They also said, by the way, when it comes to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, we found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias. Those are the two different ways that "bias" is used as a word in this.
I keep asking about the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe in this case because it does seem that you are open to the possibility that the net impact of all these decisions were made, it's possible; you're leaving open the possibility that it did have a negative impact on the Clinton campaign. Yet,...
GAETZ: I just don't know. I just don't know.
BERMAN: You're not ruling it out.
GAETZ: Yeah. It's a Presidential election.
BERMAN: We agree that you're not - we agree that you're not ruling it out. Yet you were out here every day saying that the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and those involved in it were out to get then candidate Trump. It just doesn't seem as if those two things could be happening at the same time.
GAETZ: No. look, if you look at the text messages between the people who were the senior folks on the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, they're doing everything they can to pave a yellow brick road for her.
BERMAN: No, no, no. Hang on, hang on. You don't know -- you say everything that they did. Everything that they did. But they said, they said -- hang on. We're judging the things that they said. They absolutely said the things that they said and we now have that from this inspector general report.
GAETZ: They were for Hillary, they were against Trump.
BERMAN: In terms of the things that they did, what they could have done was leak the fact that President Trump, the candidate, was under -- his campaign was being investigated, they were looking into the possibility of Russian collusion. They did not do that. In terms of what they did, that was something that didn't happen, correct?
GAETZ: I don't think that we give the FBI a gold star for not leaking. That's their job. You don't get extra credit for doing your job. Here you saw persistent examples of the very people who should have been holding Hillary Clinton accountable demonstrating their bias in favor of Hillary Clinton. It's a different question whether or not --
BERMAN: Where, where --
GAETZ: Hold on. Let me finish my answer. So whether or not they were effective in helping Hillary Clinton is a different question as to whether or not they wanted to help Hillary Clinton. I think that likely Peter Strzok believed that delaying on the wiener laptops was helping Hillary and in the end it may have ended up hurting her; we don't know. But that's why the processes are so important; that's why we should follow them in any circumstance so we don't have to come back and Monday morning quarterback those decisions.
BERMAN: No argument here and that's clearly what this Inspector General report says, that James Comey had a choice whether or not to give that July 5th press conference. He chose to do it and that was the wrong choice. James Comey had a choice, it said, whether to release the letter to Congress; he decided to and that was the wrong choice the Inspector General says.
You keep on suggesting that there was some conspiracy to get Donald Trump and that's just not in this I.G. report. You say that these agents were trying to help Hillary Clinton. Where's the evidence they were trying to help Hillary Clinton before James Comey gave that July 5th news conference?
GAETZ: Well, the fact that they were texting one another repeatedly saying they thought Hillary Clinton should win the election 100 million to 0 is likely they didn't just hold that opinion at one time, that it was pervasive throughout the decision-making process these people were engaged in. The fact that...
BERMAN: I don't, but we don't know that. Look, you don't -- you don't know --
GAETZ: ...they were being dismissive of the Trump movement to their peril.
BERMAN: There's no question that these texts between Peter Strzrok are deeply troubling. The fact that there are five people is now being looked into; there is no question about that. But in terms of helping Hillary Clinton during the Clinton e-mail probe, that's not here. In fact it says the exact opposite.
GAETZ: Of course it is.
BERMAN: It says the opposite.
BERMAN: It says we found no evidence that the conclusions by the prosecutors were affected by bias or other improper considerations.
GAETZ: So they acknowledge that bias existed, but they don't find the connection between the bias and investigative decisions. I think that's a decision the American people can make and particularly the e- mail from Andrew McCabe to the Washington Field Office is instructive. Andrew McCabe rips this case away from the jurisdiction of the Washington Field Office so a bunch of people at the head shed at the FBI can cook the investigation and that's precisely what happened.
If we would have followed our normal processes, you would have had the front line prosecutors, investigators in the Washington, D.C. field office and this is why so many retired FBI agents and current FBI agents were livid with James Comey and were e-mailing him after his really bad announcement saying if they had done the very same things they would have been fired and possibly prosecuted for it and shows the double standard for it. If you don't think there's evidence of that, you need to read chapter 12 is pretty clear on the manifestation of that bias as it relates to opening up Trump and Russia.
BERMAN: OK, the Trump and Russia, there's a separate I.G. investigation into that. This investigation deals with the Hillary Clinton email probe.
GAETZ: Well, it mentions Russia too.
BERMAN: It does come up, it does come up. It does come up but it doesn't reach any conclusions about the Russia investigation.
GAETZ: It concludes that you can't exclude bias as a factor in prioritizing the Russia investigation. That's one hell of a conclusion.
BERMAN: It says - it says you cannot rule out bias in the fact...
GAETZ: The fact that the very reason Russian was prioritized was biased. Does that not bother you?
BERMAN: But at the same time it opens up the possibility that that actually helped Donald Trump. Again, all I'm saying...
GAETZ: It helped Donald Trump to open up on Russia and prioritize this.
BERMAN: Hang on, hang on, Congressman. Hang on and I'll let you make your case here. In this case where it talks about the fact it could not say with confidence that Peter Strzok did not act with bias when he delayed that aspect of the Clinton investigation, it opens up the possibility that it helped candidate Trump and not Hillary Clinton.
All I'm saying is if there was a conspiracy, which you have suggested, to help Hillary Clinton, there is no evidence here.
GAETZ: No, just because the conspiracy didn't work doesn't mean it didn't exist. Again, the conspiracy is ongoing.
BERMAN: Do you feel -- last question, last question. Do you feel the same way about the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton? Just because the conspiracy didn't work, it doesn't mean it didn't exist? Does that same logic comply there?
GAETZ: No because there was not an accepted offer. Donald Trump Jr. did not accept the offer of assistance. People were...
BERMAN: He absolutely did. He said if that's true, that's great. GAETZ: No, no, no, he did not accept any assistance and did not
collude and they're not coordinated anyway. There's zero evidence of that. These were people making an offer that wasn't accepted and they were engaged in activities on their own, for their own purposes and for their own reasons. At the end of the day, we should not have a Russia investigation ongoing.
It was only nine days before Peter Strzok said we'll stop him about Donald Trump that he opened on Papadopoulos and only six days after that that he's talking about his insurance policy against the Trump presidency. It's one of the reasons why more than half the country believes this is a politically-motivated investigation and that number is about to skyrocket as this I.G. report sinks in with the...
BERMAN: In that case we'll have you on again to talk about it as the days go on. Great to have you with us, Sir.
GAETZ: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Good thing you read that report.
BERMAN: That was a lot of reading.
CAMEROTA: There were a lot of citations in there. Wow, good job.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is using the Bible to justify separating children from parents at the border. As house Republicans circulate a new draft of their new immigration bill that they claim could fix all this. What do Democrats have to say about it? Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas joins us live.