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THE SITUATION ROOM
Police Shootings; Congress Grills FBI Director; Did Donald Trump Threaten Republican Critic?; Protestors Gather in the Wake of Fatal Police Shootings; FBI Director Defends Clinton Email Probe to Lawmakers; President Obama Comments on Police Shootings. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 7, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Appalling at all level, that's how Minnesota's governor describes the fatal shooting of an African-American man by a police officer during a routine traffic stop. The victim's fiancee live-streaming his death on Facebook. It's the second deadly police shooting of a black man in two days. What will the investigations reveal?
Director's defense. The head of the FBI grilled by lawmakers, forced to defend his decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information. But tonight Republicans are asking for a new investigation. Should Hillary Clinton face charges of lying to Congress?
And plea for unity. Donald Trump huddles with GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill, calling on them to rally behind his presidential campaign and warning of dire consequences of they don't. Did Trump actually threaten one of his sharpest congressional critics?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following two major breaking stories tonight, including the second fatal police shooting of African-American man in two days.
We need to warn you the video is very graphic, 32-year-old Philando Castile pulled over for a broken taillight. His fiancee live- streaming the moments after he was shot, saying she was only reaching for his license and registration as instructed when the police officer fired multiple rounds.
In this case, this is a case coming just one day after police in Louisiana shot and killed Alton Sterling. The video in both cases sparking outrage and controversy around the country. President Obama is now speaking out about it, writing on Facebook -- and I'm quoting him now -- "All Americans should be deeply troubled by the shootings, adding that they are not isolated incidents.
We're expecting to hear more from the president this hour about these police shootings. We're standing by for that.
Also, a politically charged hearing on Capitol Hill today, the FBI director, James Comey, vigorously defending the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private e-mail servers. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee incredulous that Comey did not recommend Clinton be charged for mishandling classified information.
We're covering all angles of the breaking news with our guests, including the head of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks. Our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.
Let's begin with the controversial police shooting in Minnesota. The state's governor saying pointedly he believes race played a factor.
CNN Rosa Flores is on the scene for us.
Rosa, two black men shot and killed by police in two days, emotions running very high. What's the latest?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, emotions definitely high and hearts are very heavy as well as a state agency begins to investigate the shooting death of Philando Castile.
You can see behind me that emotions are very high as well, protesters asking for justice.
DIAMOND REYNOLDS, GIRLFRIEND: Stay with me.
FLORES (voice-over): Chilling words from Diamond Reynolds narrating the scene live on Facebook just moments after a Minnesota police officer shot her fiance, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop.
REYNOLDS: He's licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his I.D. and his wallet out of his pocket.
FLORES: Castile covered in blood dying next to her.
REYNOLDS: Please, officer, don't tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir.
FLORES: The officer also captured in the video, his gun still drawn and pointed at Castile.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand off it!
REYNOLDS: He had -- you told him to get his I.D., sir, his driver's license.
FLORES: Reynolds' 4-year-old daughter was in the backseat as it unfolded.
REYNOLDS: Please don't tell me my boyfriend went like that.
FLORES: Castile died from his wounds.
GOV. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: Nobody should be shot and killed in Minnesota for a traffic, a taillight.
FLORES: Minnesota's Governor Mark Dayton said he's shocked, calling the event appalling at all levels.
DAYTON: Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passenger, were white? I don't think it would have.
FLORES: Now Reynolds is speaking out.
REYNOLDS: I did it so that the world knows that these police are not here to protect and serve us. They are here to assassinate us. They are here to kill us because we are black.
FLORES: She says police initially sent her to the wrong hospital.
REYNOLDS: They sent me in the whole wrong direction, so I never got to see him before they did whatever they did. I never got to say my last words to that man.
FLORES: Castile's family sells CNN it feels like open season on African-Americans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he was just black in the wrong place. We're being hunted every day. It's a silent war against African- American people as a whole.
FLORES: Castile is the second black man in two days to be killed in police shootings involving eyewitness video; 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot Tuesday morning in Louisiana.
CNN has learned officers approached Sterling after a homeless man called 911 claiming that Sterling brandished a gun at him and refused to give him money.
L. CHRIS STEWART, STERLING FAMILY ATTORNEY: If you are getting desensitized to seeing this so many times, there is something wrong.
FLORES: The U.S. has taken up Sterling's death as a civil rights investigation, Minnesota's congresswoman now calling for the department to take us Castile's death as well. Protests are erupting in both states.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't black anger. This is Black grief.
FLORES: Echoing the outrage of past shootings across the nation, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeting: "Alton Sterling matters. Philando Castile matters. Black lives matter."
FLORES: At this hour, investigators are collecting evidence. They are interviewing witnesses. One of those witnesses, of course, the police officer who fired the four to five shots.
Wolf, we're hearing that we are expecting to learn from the governor the name of that police officer. That name has not been released at this hour -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Rosa, we will stand by. Get more information from you. Thank you very much.
By the way, some protests are going on in New York City right now. You see these protests organized by Black Lives Matter. They're moving from Union Square, we're told, New York City up towards Fifth Avenue right now. You're looking at these live pictures coming in from New York City. We're going to watch these protests. Hopefully, they will remain peaceful and quiet as they move up Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Let's bring in the president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.
Cornell, thanks once again for joining us.
You see the images. I want to get your immediate reaction. We spoke yesterday after the shooting of a black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, today in Minnesota. What was your reaction when you heard about it?
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Absolutely heartbroken to see the second African-American man killed on camera, if you will, in a year in which we have seen 500 people lose their lives in the hands of police custody.
We're heartbroken, but we're also heart-determined. The people across this country are yet grieving, but they are determined to bring about an end to police misconduct. But the governor of Minnesota got it right when he said that it's likely that if Mr. Castile were white, he would be alive, but because he's black, he's not.
The fact of the matter is all too often all across this country, African-Americans are regarded as the objects of suspicion, not the subject of protection by the police. And we see it again and again, one horrific video after another, one hashtag after another.
But this is a moment in which this entire country has to come to grips with the fact that we have to put an end to this epidemic of 21st century lynching at the hands of those wearing blue uniforms. It has to come to an end. And we have to do that by mobilizing our people all across the country to make their decision at the polls based on how they're treated in the streets.
That has to do with a police accountability reform agenda that needs to move in Congress. We have people hand-wringing, wringing their hands in Congress who have not yet moved on an End Racial Profiling Act. They have not moved on the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act. They have not moved on the pieces of legislation that could bring about the reform that would protect black lives all across the country. The same is in fact true in our state legislatures. There's no need
for us to watch videos and talk about how bad it is and then fail to do our jobs as public officials in terms of bringing this madness to an end.
BLITZER: Cornell, the Department of Justice, as you know, is investigating the Alton Sterling shooting in Baton Rouge. The FBI has been asked to investigate the Minnesota shooting as well. Do you believe the Department of Justice should take the lead in these cases?
What we have seen again and again is a lack of trust and lack of credibility by local prosecutors. And so it's important for state officials to take a lead here in terms of independent prosecutors, special prosecutors, but the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is a trusted entity.
This is a case that the Department of Justice needs to take up, where we have a man shot, apparently carrying a licensed firearm, with his fiancee chronicling this on Facebook and a little girl in the backseat.
This is an absurd tragedy in our midst. We need the Department of Justice out front on this. And they are probably the only credible actors who can come forward and lead this kind of investigation.
BLITZER: As you know, the president of the United States, we're awaiting another statement he's about to make, but earlier he posted a statement saying that what's clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents.
As you know, in the past two years, in the wake of Ferguson, he's set up a task force on what was called 21st century policing. Do you see any difference so far?
BROOKS: What we have seen is the president put forward a series of recommendations through his task force, a task force that was balanced, a task force that had law enforcement represented, civil rights advocates represented, millennials represented, with a strong set of recommendations.
The question for us as a country is, have we gone from paper recommendations to making real those recommendations in the streets in a way that ensures that our fellow citizens are protected? And the answer to that question is decidedly no. We need a sense of urgency, not only in Washington, not only in the U.S. Capitol, but in the state legislatures across the country.
At the end of the day, we have police departments that need training. They need to provide data in terms of how they police the communities and fundamentally they have to shift the model of policing from one of a warrior model to a protector model. Where we have citizens who feel like they are not the subject of protection and service, but in fact harassment and predation, this is not tenable.
We cannot continue this way. We have got to go beyond those recommendations. We need to hear governors. We need to hear candidates for the U.S. presidency talking about implementing those recommendations in real time. It's not enough for us to simply say that we have studied the problem, we have analyzed the problem, we have commented on the problem on television, but we have not acted on the problem in city halls, in state legislatures, and in the U.S. Congress.
BLITZER: Cornell William Brooks is the president and CEO of the NAACP. Cornell, thank you so much for joining us.
BROOKS: Thank you.
BLITZER: The breaking news continues here. We're standing by to hear directly from the president of the United States. There you see live pictures coming in. Air Force One has just landed in Poland. The president is expected to speak out shortly about these two fatal police shootings of African-American men in the past two days. We will have special coverage of that. Stand by.
Plus, the director of the FBI on the defense as Republican lawmakers grill him about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail servers.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, the second deadly police shooting of an African-American man in two days. Take a look at these live pictures coming on.
These are Black Lives Matter protesters. They're in New York City right now. These are protesters moving up Fifth Avenue. Also some protests going on in Saint Paul, Minnesota, as well. The most recent incident there, 32-year-old Philando Castile killed during a traffic stop near Minneapolis. His fiancee saying he was only reaching for his license and registration, as instructed, when the police officer opened fire.
Let's dig deeper into all of this.
Joining us our, CNN actor and good friend Don Lemon, our CNN justice correspondent Evan Perez, criminal defense attorney CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson, and former FBI assistant director, our CNN senior legal analyst -- senior law enforcement analyst, I should say, Tom Fuentes.
Guys, Thanks very much.
Don, Philando Castile's mother, she said something very poignant today. She said he was simply -- quote -- "black in the wrong place." Do you agree?
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, as simple as that. I agree with her. Far be it from me to disagree with a grieving mother, and she knows.
Wolf, you know my mother as well. She sent me a text today saying, "I still worry about you at your age."
Yes, he was simply black in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you listen to her entire interview, she said, I have taught him to do the right things his entire life. I have taught him to comply with police officers. I have taught him how to deal and act when he's stopped or if he's stopped by police officers.
His girlfriend who was with him in the car says he did all of those things, yet and still he's dead today. So, yes, black in the wrong place at the wrong time.
BLITZER: I know you mother. What did she say? Did she give you some advice today?
LEMON: My mother always gives me advice.
I told, Wolf, but I don't drive anymore, because I live in city where there's mass transit. I can take a taxi home. I don't have to drive a car as much anymore. I still do drive, but every night when I worked at CNN in Atlanta for seven years, I would drive home. I would drive home with my mother on the phone, on the headset or as soon as I got in the house, she would say, are you at home? I would say yes and she would hang up the phone.
In my 40s, I would have to do that with my mother because she was concerned about my safety, because she knows, quite frankly, you can be in any class. It doesn't matter if you're black and you're wealthy and you're black and you're poor. You can be stopped by a police officer and the wrong thing can happen.
I happen to be black. I happen to do pretty well. I happened at that time to drive a Mercedes. I happen to have got stopped. Officers didn't care who you were, what you were, what you were driving. It didn't matter. What mattered is that the color of your skin.
As a grown man in his 40s, who had a little bit of cash, who was able to afford a luxury car, yet and still my mom every single night as I drove home from CNN Center in Atlanta to Adair Street (ph) in -- to my home, she would not hang up phone with me until I was safe and sound and she heard the door locked behind me.
BLITZER: That's a very moving story, indeed.
Tom Fuentes, the governor of Minnesota, he had poignant words. He also noted that Philando Castile wasn't even treated for his wounds while he was bleeding. I want you to listen to what the governor of Minnesota said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAYTON: Philando was not given first aid. Nobody attended to his condition as they were attending to the condition of the police officer who did the shooting.
She was handcuffed and taken to station, police station with her 4- year-old daughter. It's just the stark treatment, just -- I find it actually appalling at all levels.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It is shocking, Tom, when you hear that from the governor of Minnesota.
TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I find it appalling also at all levels.
I think everything in this situation, I see nothing that justifies what that officer did. I will go so far as I would say I would not be surprised since the authorities are interviewing that officer right now in Minnesota, I would not be surprised if charges are brought against him tonight or tomorrow.
BLITZER: That quickly, you think?
FUENTES: I think so.
BLITZER: You speak as a -- you were a former cop before you went into the FBI.
FUENTES: If you want to analyze the traffic stop, Wolf, you are walking up.
You noticed in the video that the lady was taking that the driver side window was halfway down, which means as he walks up to the driver's position, he can see in that window. And you're supposed to look in the window as a cop. He could see there's a young child in that car. He walks up and the person tells him, I have a concealed carry permit. I'm in complete compliance.
You can see by the nature of them they don't appear to be on their way to a convenience store to commit an armed robbery. And I think this officer just flat-out panicked, lost control, shot him all those times, was in shock, and the part of the treatment afterward, I don't know how long before they decided to help him in that treatment, but it just appears every step of the way, up to and including the shooting itself, was wrong.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a very, very heartbreaking when you see it.
The FBI director, Evan, today, James Comey, he said these investigations now -- these police officer-involved shootings, in his words, incredibly important matters.
What are you hearing about the role of the FBI now in these investigations?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We expect that FBI is going to be playing a role in this investigation. The FBI and the Justice Department will both be in the background, Wolf. But what's important, we hear, in Minnesota is that the state authorities are taking their responsibility seriously. They're going to investigate this as a homicide case, whether or not to bring murder or perhaps manslaughter against this cop.
What keeps happening around the country is you see local jurisdictions abdicating their responsibility to look into these charges. A lot of times -- I know some of our guests here have asked for the feds to take over these cases.
The problem with that is that then the federal responsibility is much narrower. Their jurisdiction is much narrower. The local authorities have a responsibility to see whether or not there's a case to bring, a murder case to bring against these cops and if not, then the feds can take over. That's the way it should happen.
BLITZER: Joey, the video we have of this incidents begins after Castile was already shot. The police officer was not wearing a body camera.
With so many missing pieces, how are investigators going to make sense of what happened? Because presumably the police officer will say he thought he was acting in self-defense.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a great point, Wolf.
But what they're going to do is to look at the facts and the surrounding circumstances. And when you do that, look at this, it's a deadly force incident. You had to use your weapon. The question becomes, where was the immediacy of the threat? Where was it?
And that is something that they will look to the facts to have to explain. Was there an immediate threat, such that you felt your life was in danger based upon a traffic stop, based upon a taillight, based upon not someone who is fleeing or you getting call that someone otherwise represents a danger, based upon having a woman in the car and a child in the back? Where was the immediacy?
And then they will look to the second question, the proportionality of the forced used. You discharged your weapon. As a law enforcement official, you discharge and assess. You discharge and assess. Was that done? Or was the force grossly disproportionate to what, if any threat were posed?
And, then, finally, the investigators will look to the reasonableness of the actions. Would another officer in that officer's position have done the same thing? I think the facts and surrounding circumstances will drive it.
In addition, perhaps there are some other people, not only the girlfriend. She appears to have a lot of information in terms of what occurred. But who, if anybody else saw it? What, if any other surveillance was there? But certainly they will get to the bottom of it and all those questions will need to be answered.
BLITZER: Don, as you know, we're standing by hear from the president, as Air Force One just landed in Poland, in Warsaw, Poland.
But the vice president, Joe Biden, he just tweeted this. And let me read it to you.
"More black lives lost. More anger I share with the country. More broken trust we have to restore. We all must do this."
What's your reaction when you hear that statement from the vice president? You heard earlier what the president said.
LEMON: My reaction is, I'm happy that the president said something. I'm happy that the vice president is speaking out about this.
But as I'm sitting here looking at the pictures of all these people out in the streets in New York City and recounting my own stories and thinking about what happened with the young lady in the car witnessing her boyfriend dying, I'm heartened by all these young people who are out today.
And if you look at the people who are in this crowd, Wolf, it's people of all different colors who are sick of this, who want everyone in earshot to know that people are not making this up. African-Americans are not making up their interactions, their horrible interactions with police officers.
And as I said on the air earlier, it's not that African-Americans don't have problems in their communities. We hear about Chicago. We hear about all that. Every different race, every different ethnic group has problems in their own community.
It doesn't mean that this is not a problem as well that must be dealt with. If people can have outrage -- and I said this earlier -- if people can be outraged and sign by the hundreds of thousands a petition for families members, parents to lose their child over a gorilla at a zoo, then surely you can be outraged by witnessing two human lives being lost on television, live on television.
I am heartened by this. My voice is cracking. I am upset. But I really do believe that change is about to come in this country. I feel that something is going to happen with this situation when it comes to not only the way police interact with people of color, but also when it comes to race in this country.
It's time that we stop just talking and saying I need to have conversation. It's time that we actually do something. And I hope the president and the vice president, whoever the next president in this country that we're voting for now that we discuss so much here on CNN will make sure that that does happen.
BLITZER: Yes. We expect momentarily to hear from the president. Just landed in Poland for NATO meetings. And we will hear what he has to say about this. He's about to make a statement and we're standing by that for that. Tom, you saw the video yesterday of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Alton
Sterling was hot, an African-American shot by a white police officer. You saw the exchange that was going on.
When you looked at that -- and you're a professional -- you're a former assistant director of the FBI. You were a police officer yourself. what did you think?
FUENTES: Well, I thought from the beginning it was mishandled by the police officers leading up to the shooting.
For example, having responded to many, many calls of man with a gun, man brandishing a gun, man threatening other people with a gun, that when those officers arrived and they confront Sterling, there was no need to rush, because in my mind you would have half-a-dozen police or more other police cars responding to that call of a man with a gun.
You have two officers there, and one of them decides that he's going to run across and make this dramatic tackle. There was no reason to do it at that moment. Sterling did not appear to be making any kind of a hostile move toward the police officers.
Secondly, he does the tackle stupidly between two parked cars, where either one of them could have had their head smashed against the fender going down. As a result of laying on the ground by those cars, the videos don't accurately show where was the gun, where was Sterling's right hand when somebody yelled out he's got a gun, and then the cops panic then.
So, at that point, there's going to be a little bit of an argument that they had a reasonable belief that maybe that gun was going to be a threat to them.
PEREZ: This is what we keep seeing in these cases, right? You keep seeing training being an issue. We saw that in Ferguson, cops who just aren't trained enough.
And people lose their lives because the cops make mistakes, and then they get into a position where they have to shoot somebody because they have put themselves in that...
BLITZER: If you saw the video yesterday of this 15-year-old son, that little boy crying hysterically when he discovered his father was dead, it was just heartbreaking to see it.
So, Joey Jackson...
FUENTES: If I could add, Wolf...
BLITZER: Joey, I'm sure you saw it as well.
But a source with knowledge, Joey, of the investigation has not told CNN that Sterling flashed a firearm at the man who called 911, which prompted the response from police officers. A source also said that the gun was recovered on Sterling's body at the scene. Will these two factors weigh heavily in the police officer's defense?
[18:30:26] JACKSON: Wolf, absolutely they will, because it goes to the issue of state of mind. In the event that you hear and you're responding as an officer whether there's a gun. Of course, you're going to be ready.
But that's not where the inquiry ends. It's where it begins. It's not that someone has a gun. Many people do. We have a Second Amendment. Many people are proud gun owners. It's what you're doing with the gun. Does that gun represent a threat to you at the time? Because someone yells out "gun" doesn't necessitate the death penalty being applied. So the question because where were his hands relative to that gun, and could he have gained access to it? And if he was pinned and there was no basis to gain access to it, then the issue becomes was it necessary and appropriate, and why was there a need to use a lethal force at that moment?
And so that's where the inquiry will lie. Where was the gun relative to his hands at the time. If his hands were not in a position to gain access to it, then you're looking at something that's highly problematic in terms of the use of force and whether it was necessary in the first instance.
BLITZER: You see these demonstrations, Tom Fuentes. You see the anger and it's understandable, to be sure.
LEMON: Wolf, can I say something?
BLITZER: I want you to say something in a moment, but let me just get a thought from Tom Fuentes. Go ahead Tom.
FUENTES: I was going to say, we always talk about police training. We don't talk about police hiring. There are some people that should not be in uniform, carrying guns with a badge and a stick and a gun, who shouldn't be hired. And that -- we have to look at that also in this country. Police hiring, as well as once you hire good people, do you give them adequate training in the second place? Both things matter, and then is there adequate discipline within a department to make sure that the cops are trained and operate correctly.
BLITZER: All right. Don, go ahead.
LEMON: Just a couple of things about the gun. And I think that you know this. Baton Rouge is my hometown. I grew up there. I know the streets.
My nieces and my sisters live not far from where the man was killed, from that convenience store. My nieces know that -- know the man, Alton Sterling. They have bought CDs from him. They said he was a nice man. They never had any odd interactions with him.
Louisiana is an open carry state. You can carry a gun there. His, according to my source -- and I reported yesterday that there was, indeed, a gun found on him, but the gun was in his pocket at the time. It was not removed from his pocket. It was a handgun. And according to a police source, at this point, unless something else
emerges from the videotape or from the investigation, it appears that the officers acted too aggressively. I know which officer it was that shot him. I won't reveal that information.
But one of the other officers was also involved in an altercation in December of 2014, as well, where officers had to be put on administrative leave, as well.
So there are lots of issues when it comes to this story. But unless something emerges, these officers, according to my source, it depends on how these officers explain the situation. And they've got some explaining to do in order to justify their use of deadly force when it comes to this man, especially considering the video, and that they were on top of him.
Yes, it is -- indeed, the cameras did fall off, according to my source, because you can see in a picture that one of the officers is trying to put the camera back onto his body. But the audio is still going. And the audio will help with the video, the two sets of video that they have from the parking lot.
BLITZER: Protesters continue to march in New York City as we speak right now. Everyone stand by.
Don, by the way, will be back with much more on all of this later tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern. A special two-hour edition of "CNN TONIGHT." Stand by. We're going to need you in a little bit.
We'll have more breaking news coming up. We're also standing by to hear directly from the president of the United States. We'll get his reaction to these deadly shootings.
[18:38:48] BLITZER: Standing by to hear directly from President Obama. He just landed in Warsaw, Poland, for NATO meetings. But he's about to make a statement on the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. We'll have live coverage of that coming up.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, a politically-charged hearing on the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. House Republicans making it clear to the FBI director, James Comey, they strongly disagree with his decision not to recommend that Clinton face criminal charges for mishandling classified information.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us. Jeff, this hearing lasted, what, for four and a half hours.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It did, indeed, Wolf. And during those four hours, Republicans tried to build the case that Secretary Clinton has repeatedly misled the American people and Congress.
But the FBI director vigorously defended his recommendation not to file charges, and he pushed back hard against suggestions it was a political decision. The FBI, he said, doesn't give a hoot about politics.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Did Hillary Clinton break the law?
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: In connection with her use of the e-mail server, my judgment is that she did not.
ZELENY (voice-over): The judgment of Hillary Clinton under withering scrutiny today on Capitol Hill.
CHAFFETZ: Did Hillary Clinton lie?
COMEY: To the FBI? We have no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI.
[18:40:04] CHAFFETZ: Did she lie to the public?
COMEY: That's a question I'm not qualified to answer.
ZELENY: FBI director James Comey on the hot seat for four and a half hours, explaining why he called Clinton extremely careless in handling classified information but still recommended no criminal charges.
COMEY: I don't see the evidence there to make a case that she was acting with criminal intent.
ZELENY: House Republicans called Comey on the carpet in an extraordinary congressional hearing, all about Clinton and whether she's been truthful.
REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: Secretary Clinton said she used just one device. Was that true?
COMEY: She used multiple devices during the four years of her term as secretary of state.
GOWDY: Secretary Clinton said all work-related e-mails were returned to the State Department. Was that true?
COMEY: No, we found work-related e-mails, thousands that were not returned.
ZELENY: Republicans said they intended to open a new inquiry about whether Clinton lied to Congress. Democrats called it a partisan witch hunt.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: In their eyes you had one job and one job only, to prosecute Hillary Clinton. You refused to do so. So now you are being summoned here to answer for your alleged transgressions. And in a sense, Mr. Director, you're on trial.
ZELENY: And for a time, it seemed like he was.
REP. JOHN MICA (R-FL), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: My folks think that there's something fishy about this. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but there are a lot of questions on how this came down.
COMEY: Look me in the eye and listen to what I'm about to say. I did not coordinate that with anyone. The White House, the Department of Justice, nobody outside the FBI family had any idea what I was about to say. I say that under oath. I stand by that.
ZELENY: Four months before election day, Republicans are seizing on questions of Clinton's credibility. Speaker Paul Ryan sent a letter to director of national intelligence, James Clapper, asking Clinton to be blocked from receiving classified briefings afforded to presidential nominees.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: If we have someone who has so recklessly mishandled sensitive classified information, the kind of stuff I get as speaker of the House, because I'm in the transition, in the trinity of government, I think that we should think this through.
ZELENY: The FBI director did not fully absolve Clinton, saying if she worked at the FBI, she would face punishment. There would be a security review and an adjudication of their suitability and a range of discipline could be imposed from termination to reprimand, and in between suspensions, loss of clearance. So you could be walked out or you could, depending on the nature of the facts, you could be reprimanded.
BLITZER: Our Jeff Zeleny reporting. Let's go to the president of the United States.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My condolences for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
As I said in the statement that I posted on Facebook, we have seen tragedies like this too many times. The Justice Department, I know, has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge. The governor of Minnesota, I understand, is calling for an investigation there, as well.
As is my practice, given my institutional role, I can't comment on the specific facts of these cases. And I have confidence the Department of Justice (AUDIO GAP) -- say is that all of us, as Americans, should be troubled by (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
These are not isolated incidents. They're symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues.
According to various studies, not just one, but a wide range that have been carried out over a number of years. African-Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over. After being pulled over, African-Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African-Americans were shot by police at more than twice
the rate of whites. African-Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African-American defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with sentences carrying mandatory minimums.
[18:45:07] They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime, so that if you add it all up, the African-American and Hispanic population who make up only 30 percent of the general population make up more than half of the incarcerated population.
Now, these are facts. And when incidents like this occur, it's a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feel as if because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts. And that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue. It's not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about. All fair minded people should be concerned.
Now, let me just say we have extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. They've got a dangerous job. It's a tough job. As I've said before, they have a right to go home to their families just like anybody else on the job. And they're going to be circumstances in which they have to make split second decisions. We understand that.
But when we see data that indicates disparities in how African- Americans and Latinos may be treated in various jurisdictions around the country, then it's incumbent on all of us to say we can do better than this. We are better than this, and to not have it degenerated into the usual political scrum. We should be able to step back, reflect and ask ourselves, what can we do better so that everybody feels as if they're equal under the law?
The good news is that there are practices we can institute that will make a difference. Last year, we put together a task force that was compromised of civil rights activists and community leaders but also law enforcement officials. Police captains, sheriffs and they sat around a table.
And they looked at the data and they looked at best practices, and they came up with specific recommendations and steps that could ensure that the trust between communities and police departments were rebuilt and incidents like this would be less likely to occur. There's some jurisdictions out there that have adopted these recommendations. But there are a whole bunch that have not.
And if anything good comes out of these tragedies, my hope is, is that communities around the country take a look and say, how can we implement these recommendations, and that the overwhelming majority of police officers who are doing a great job every single day and are doing their job without regard to race. That they encourage their leadership and organizations that represent them to get behind these recommendations because ultimately, if you can rebuild trust between communities and the police departments that serve them, that helps us solve crime problems. That will make life easier for police officers. They will have more
cooperation. They will be safer. They will be more likely to come home. So, it will be good for crime fighting and they will avert tragedy.
[18:50:00] And I'm encouraged by the fact that the majority of leadership and police departments around the country recognize this but change has been too slow, and we have to have a greater sense of urgency about this.
I'm also encouraged, by the way, that we have bipartisan support for criminal justice reform working its way through Congress. It has stalled and lost some momentum over the last couple of months in part because Congress is having difficulty generally forward and we're in a political season.
But there are people of goodwill on the Republican side and the Democrat side who I've seen want to try to get something done here. That, too, would help provide greater assurance across the country that those in power, those in authority are taking these issues seriously. So, this should be a spur to action to get that done, to get that across the finish line because I know there are a lot of people who want to get it done.
And let me just make a couple of final comments. I mentioned in my Facebook statement that I hope we don't fall into the typical patterns that occur after these kinds of incidents occur, where right away, there is a lot of political rhetoric and it starts dividing @ people instead of bringing folks together. To be concerned about these issues is not to be against law enforcement.
There are times when these incidents occur and you see protests and you see vigils and I get letters, well-meaning letters sometimes, from law enforcement that say how come we're under attack? How come not enough emphasis is made when police officers are shot?
And so, to all of law enforcement, I want to be very clear. We know you have a tough job. We mourn those in uniform who are protecting us who lose their lives.
On a regular basis, I have joined with families in front of Capitol Hill to commemorate the incredible heroism that they've displayed. I've hugged family members who have lost loved ones doing the right thing. I know how much it hurts.
On a regular basis we bring in those who have done heroic work in law enforcement and have survived. Sometime they've been injured. Sometimes they've risked their lives in remarkable ways and we applaud them and appreciate them because they're doing a really tough job really well.
There is no contradiction between us supporting law enforcement, making sure they've got the equipment they need, making sure their collective bargaining rights are recognized, making sure that they're adequately staffed, making sure that they are respected, making sure their families are supported, and also saying that there are problems across our criminal justice system, there are biases, subconscious and unconscious that have to be rooted out.
That's not an attack on law enforcement. That is reflective of the values that the vast majority of law enforcement bring to the job. But I repeat, if communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement officers who are doing a great job and are doing the right thing. It makes their lives harder.
[18:55:00] So, you know, when people say black lives matter, that doesn't mean blue lives don't matter, it just means all lives matter. But right now, the big concern is that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn't a matter of us comparing the value of lives. This is recognizing that there is a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens, and we should care about that. We can't dismiss it. We can't dismiss it.
So, let me just end by saying I actually, genuinely, truly believe that the vast majority of American people see this as a problem that we should all care about. And I would just ask those who question the sincerity or the legitimacy of protests and vigils and expressions of outrage who somehow label those expressions of outrage as, quote/unquote, "political correctness" -- I just ask folks to step back and think, what if this happened to somebody in your family? How would you feel?
To be concerned about these issues is not political correctness. It's just being American and wanting to live up to our best and highest ideals, and it's to recognize the reality that we've got some tough history, and we haven't gotten through all of that history yet. And we don't expect that in my lifetime, maybe not in my children's lifetime that all of the vestiges of that past will have been cured, will have been solved, but we can do better.
People of good will can do better, and doing better involves not just addressing potential bias in the criminal justice system. It's recognizing that too often we're asking police to man the barricades in communities that have been forgotten by all of us for way too long in terms of sub-standard schools and inadequate jobs and a lack of opportunity. We've got to tackle those things. We could do better. And I believe we will do better.
Thanks very much, everybody.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States, obviously, very, very emotionally speaking about the deaths of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, hitting home this whole issue and the president speaking from the heart.
I want to get quick reaction. CNN's Don Lemon is standing by, also our legal analyst Joey Jackson.
Don, first to you. You know, the president is increasingly emotional when he discusses this critically important issue.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: As well he should be. He's a black man. He's had to deal with this. He knows. Not only speaking from the perch as a president who has had to deal with families who have succumbed to this kind of violence and police brutality and other violence that happens around the country and around the world, really, having to deal with the troops, but he had to deal with it as a black man.
And knowing him from Chicago, I know what he had to deal with, and I know what he did in the community, but the president, Wolf, spoke from the heart and he brought facts. He told you about the incidences of African-Americans and Hispanics versus the larger culture, and that as I said earlier that people of color are not making these things up, that they do, indeed, go on, and I would hope as he said that this would be a turning point in America.
All of those people who are out there, who are trying to use pretzel logic and twist this into something about, oh, you should be complying, you should be doing this, you should be doing that, if you didn't have a criminal record, if you didn't -- you need to check yourself because as the president said, the data shows, the facts show, not just emotion, that this happens to people of color more than any other ethnic group.
And if you are indeed an American of good conscience, folks of good conscience, then you need to dig within yourself and stop trying to come up with excuses to make excuses for police officers and for bad behavior and maybe for your own unrecognized racism or bias within you.
This is an American problem. Black people are Americans, and we make up this country. And we are dealing with issues that we are telling you need to be corrected in this country, and as Americans, we would hope that you would come along with us to help us and not fight against us because it's no good.
The definition of insanity is thinking that you're going have a different outcome by doing the same thing. Clearly, this is not working. It must be changed.
BLITZER: Strong words from Don Lemon. All right. Don is going to have a lot more later tonight, as well.
Our special coverage will continue. Right now, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts.