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THE SITUATION ROOM
New York Sues Trump Foundation; Interview With New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler; Inspector General Report on FBI Conduct Released; White House Defends Trump Salute to North Korean General; I.G. Report: Comey Violated Agency Norms, But No Bias Found; A.G. Uses Bible to Justify Separation of Immigrant Children from Parents. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 14, 2018 - 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: The long-awaited inspector general's report faults former FBI Director James Comey and others for their handling of the Clinton e-mail probe, but says there's no evidence of political bias.
Like a checkbook. New York State's attorney general sues President Trump and three of his children, accusing them of using their family foundation as a personal piggy bank.
Testy exchange. The White House briefing gets heated, as reporters pose pointed questions about the administration's policy of separating undocumented parents and children crossing the border.
And saluting North Koreans. Cameras capture President Trump saluting one of Kim Jong-un's top generals. Tonight, the White House is defending the controversial greeting as common courtesy.
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: Breaking news tonight, sharp criticism of former FBI James Comey in a newly released inspector general's report on the bureau's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation.
But despite what it calls extraordinary and insubordinate behavior by Comey, the report concludes there's no evidence of political bias on his part.
We will talk about it with Congressman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee. And our specialists and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, who has more on this long awaited report.
Jessica Schneider, Comey's friends and foes are both claiming some vindication tonight.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf.
That's because this report really has two takeaways. For Comey's foes, they're seizing on the finding that Comey was in insubordinate and deviated from established protocol. Meanwhile, Comey's friends are pointing out that the I.G. found nothing that indicated any of Comey's actions were motivated by political bias.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the Department of Justice's inspector general point to mistakes, violations of policy and even insubordination by former FBI Director James Comey and other FBI officials during the investigation of classified material on Hillary Clinton's e-mail server, but repeatedly said he found no evidence of political bias.
His nearly 500-page report, inspector general Michael Horowitz writes of the decisions made by Comey: "While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey's part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrator of justice."
Much of the criticism comes not from how the FBI handled its investigation of Clinton's e-mail server, but of how Comey handled wrapping it up, including his surprise press conference in July 2016.
JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive highly classified information.
SCHNEIDER: The I.G. said Comey broke FBI policies by not telling then Attorney General Loretta Lynch about his planned announcement, writing: "We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to do so."
The I.G. also criticized Comey's choice to tell Congress 11 days before the election that the FBI was reopening the investigation, a decision made after Clinton e-mails were found on former Congressman Anthony Weiner's laptop. At the time, Weiner was married to Clinton's top deputy.
The report says Comey sent this letter to Congress, even though it violated FBI practices, and despite the fact the Department of Justice had told Comey's deputies they believe doing so was a bad idea.
"We found it extraordinary," the I.G. writes, "that in advance of two such consequential decisions, the FBI director decided that the best course of conduct was to not speak directly and substantively with the attorney general about how best to navigate those decisions."
The I.G. Dismissed calling Comey's contentions that his actions were necessary to protect the FBI and DOJ from extraordinary harm. At the time, then candidate Donald Trump seized on the news that the investigation was reopened.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton's corruption is on a scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
DONALD TRUMP SR.: I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the Department of Justice are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made.
SCHNEIDER: Hillary Clinton has blamed Comey's announcement on October 28 in part for her election loss, saying the damage was already done by the time the FBI announced nothing more had been found on November 6, two days before the election.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey's letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me, but got scared off.
SCHNEIDER: The most salacious details of the report focus on one brief text message exchange between FBI officials that the I.G. says shows a bias against then candidate Trump.
In August 2016, Lisa Page, a top FBI lawyer, asked FBI agent Peter Strzok, with whom she was having an affair: "Trump's not ever going to become president, right? Right?"
Strzok, one of the leading counterintelligence investigators working on both the Clinton and Russia investigations, responded, "No. No, he's not. We will stop it."
Tonight, the inspector general concluded: "The conduct by these employees casts a cloud over the entire FBI investigation, but that the review did not find evidence to connect the political views expressed in these messages to the specific investigative decisions that we reviewed."
In a press conference late today, FBI director Christopher Wray said he accepted the I.G.'s findings, stressing he has overseen big changes at the FBI since he took the helm last August.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The OIG report makes clear that we have got some work to do. But let's also be clear on the scope of this report.
It's focused on a specific set of events back in 2016, a small number of FBI employees connected to those events. Nothing, nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our work force as a whole or the FBI as an institution.
SCHNEIDER: And Director Wray also saying tonight the FBI will hold employees accountable for any potential misconduct.
We know that Director Wray has referred five employees to the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility for an inquiry into whether their contacts violated code. This report out today says that five employees, including Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, it says that they wrote politically biased texts and instant messages.
At this point, Lisa Page has since left the FBI. But, of course, Wolf, FBI special agent Peter Strzok is still there, his case now being handled by OPR and human resources. We will see what happens next.
BLITZER: Yes, we will see what happens to him.
Thank you very much. Good report, Jessica.
Let's dig deeper into all of this.
Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, is joining us.
Evan, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, he just spoke, as you heard. How bad does this report make the FBI look?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, Wolf, it's not a good report for the FBI, but I think the most important finding is one that I think Christopher Wray certainly endorsed and was very happy about, which was that the legitimacy of the Clinton e-mail investigation is not affected in the end by some of the conduct, by some of the mistakes, by some of the -- frankly, the bad decision-making that was done by James Comey, by some of the other top leaders at the FBI, and, of course, by Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and some of these agents that were exchanging these very inappropriate messages.
Look, the problem is that, even though the investigation was done properly, according to the inspector general, who spent 18 months looking at this very question, the fact that these messages exist and the fact that some of these decisions were made in the way they were made has cast a cloud over the FBI and over this investigation.
And it's something we're going all live with for a long time.
BLITZER: Stand by for a moment.
I want to bring in Shimon Prokupecz, our crime and justice reporter.
You were -- you're there at the FBI. You were in the room during the news conference, Shimon. And you asked if the assaults on the FBI from the president from various members of Congress, now the findings in this report, had impacted the reputation of the FBI going forward.
So, how might he try to fix it right now? Were you surprised -- where were you surprised, if you were, by his response?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly, Wolf, I was, in that he doesn't -- didn't address specifically his concerns about the reputation. But, instead, I think what I was really surprised about was certainly the passion with which the FBI director spoke about the reputation of the FBI, saying how this was an issue that was near and dear to his heart. He then listed and went into sort of a litany of things he looks at it in trying to gauge the reputation of the FBI, attrition, recruitment, the work that they're doing with partners.
But he didn't want to specifically address the repeated attacks by the president, by members of Congress, who repeatedly take jabs at the FBI, at the Russia investigation, and the FBI agents who are working that investigation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Evan, what does this report mean for the credibility of the FBI's Clinton e-mail probe?
PEREZ: Well, I think for the Clinton e-mail probe, it really does bolster the idea that this was done properly, that it -- the report certainly even mentions that there were things that James Comey could have mentioned to explain why there were no charges to be brought against Hillary Clinton, for instance, the fact that she was sharing e-mails with people who were -- frankly, had a right to know and had a need to know.
These were government people, even though she was doing it on a private server, that this was not something that was improper in the end for her to do.
So, I think it bolsters the eventual finding. But I think it's important what Shimon is pointing out, which is Chris Wray -- look, Chris Wray is a very -- kind of a boring guy. After James Comey and excitement of James Comey, Chris Wray is on purpose very boring.
But you saw the passion that came out in his voice as he was talking about what he considers to be important, which is judges and people who the FBI works with every day.
And I think that's why you found him so passionate about responding to what -- the attacks that have been coming forward about the FBI's reputation and about these investigations that they're doing.
BLITZER: All right, Evan, thank you very much. Evan Perez, thanks for that report.
I want to get much more on all of this.
We're going to have Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York -- he is a member of the Judiciary Committee -- joining us. He's got a lot of thoughts. And Jerry Nadler, if, in fact, the Democrats were to become the majority in the House of Representatives, he would become the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you for having me. BLITZER: All right, I know you disagree with why the president
decided to fire James Comey.
But having now read this report, which I assume you accept, do you believe that Comey committed fireable offenses?
NADLER: He committed serious errors of judgment.
The report says they were not -- he was truthful at all times. They were not sins of lack of candor. But there were serious errors of judgment.
And all of those errors of judgment, all of the things he did that he shouldn't have done inured to Donald Trump's benefit and against Hillary Clinton.
BLITZER: But are they -- all of the bad things that he did -- and this report outlines many things. He shouldn't have gone public in July.
BLITZER: He shouldn't have gone at the end of October. Those were inappropriate statements, and other things, including using his private Gmail account for FBI business, after investigating Hillary Clinton for using a private e-mail server.
Did all the stuff that he did wrong, were they fireable offenses?
NADLER: I don't know. I don't know that they're fireable offenses or not. I don't know what the standards are at the FBI.
But don't forget, he was not fired for that. He was fired, as the president told Lester Holt of NBC, because of the Russia investigation. He was fired because of the Russia investigation, as the president told the foreign minister of Russia in the Oval Office.
So it's a red herring as to whether he should have been fired for these other things. That's not why he was fired. I'm sure that -- I can't believe that Donald Trump would fire him for doing things that helped Trump in the election.
He was fired because Trump wanted to short-circuit the investigation of possible collusion between his campaign and the Russians.
BLITZER: So you have severe criticism of the way Comey operated during the presidential campaign.
NADLER: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: Even though they concluded it was not political bias, he made blunder after blunder after blunder.
NADLER: He made blunder after blunder.
He made three major blunders, two of which are directly referenced. He should not, in July -- on July 5 of 2016, he should not have given his personal opinion as to the rightness or wrongness..
BLITZER: He should have let the deputy attorney general or the attorney general or the U.S. attorney -- the FBI investigates, but they leave it to the prosecutors to make those announcements.
NADLER: Even beyond that, there's nothing wrong with announcing, whether he did it or the deputy A.G. did it, that you are not indicting someone who was publicly under investigation. That's only fair.
But to then give your private opinion of the conduct of someone who is not being charged is absolutely wrong. It's against the FBI policy. But it's absolutely wrong.
BLITZER: And they condemn him for that in this report.
NADLER: And they condemn him for that in the report.
I condemned him during the summer of 2016 for that at a public hearing. He should not have announced publicly that they were reopening the investigation a week before the election.
BLITZER: And he did that a month after they reopened the investigation. It was kept secret throughout the whole month, basically, of September.
But the fact is, he announced it. He should not have announced that during the election. He gave reasons for that. But, as the report finds, his reasons should have yielded to the department's policy, which is that you don't do anything that will affect an election shortly before the election.
BLITZER: But do you believe that showed on his part a pro-Trump or an anti-Hillary Clinton bias?
NADLER: No. No, I don't. I think it showed, frankly, an egotism and a desire to protect his own -- the -- his own reputation and the reputation of the FBI.
But it was an egregious error of judgment. That was not his decision to make. It went against the policy and guidelines of the Department of Justice.
The third error he made was that he was perfectly willing to talk about the investigation into Hillary Clinton's campaign while there was an investigation going on into Trump's campaign, and he wouldn't talk about it. He wouldn't confirm it.
I asked him in a hearing in September, are you investigating the Trump campaign for the Russians, et cetera? And he wouldn't say yes or no.
NADLER: So, he was willing to talk about one, but not about the other.
BLITZER: The fourth mistake he made, a fourth blunder, was using a Gmail, a personal Gmail account for FBI business after investigating Hillary Clinton on that.
NADLER: Yes. That, too. That, too.
BLITZER: Congressman Nadler, thanks so much for joining us.
NADLER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
There's more breaking news. We're going to have our legal experts weigh in on the inspector general's report and James Comey's reaction. Why won't he acknowledge his mistakes?
Plus, the New York lawsuit against the Trump charitable foundation, why the state attorney general is now suing President Trump and three of his children.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news.
The White House is blasting a lawsuit against the Trump family foundation by New York state's attorney general, who says the charity was -- quote -- "little more than a checkbook" for Mr. Trump and his family.
Our national correspondent, Athena Jones, is working the story for us.
Athena, the president, his sons Eric and Donald Jr., his daughter Ivanka, they're all named in this lawsuit.
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
That's right. This is just the latest lawsuit, latest legal challenge the president is facing. And this lawsuit stems from an investigation that began in June of 2016.
New York's Attorney General Barbara Underwood has released a long list of documents as supporting evidence, including a memo from Trump personally authorizing an improper payment from his foundation.
So, what we're seeing over and over again is that courts and in this case New York's chief legal officer are stressing that no one, including the president, is above the law.
JONES (voice-over): Tonight, New York's attorney general is suing the President, the Donald J. Trump Foundation and three of his adult children, Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, alleging they broke state and federal laws, part of a pattern of persistent illegal conduct over more than a decade.
The petition filed Thursday says the Trumps and the foundation engaged in extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit the president's personal and business interests, and violated basic legal obligations for nonprofits, with a board of directors that had not met in more than 15 years, with Trump alone making all decisions.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood, in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, promising to hold the foundation and the Trumps accountable.
BARBARA UNDERWOOD, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: There's no reason why a foundation owned and operated by a sitting president should be exempt from the laws that we routinely apply to other foundations.
JONES: The petition alleges the foundation raised more than $2.8 million -- quote -- "to influence the 2016 presidential election at the direction and under the control of senior leadership of the Trump presidential campaign."
That money was raised at a January 2016 fund-raiser Trump held in Iowa, instead of joining his other GOP contenders on the FOX News debate stage.
DONALD TRUMP SR.: We raised over $5 million in one day.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JONES: The lawsuit alleges Trump signed a false filing after the event, saying it was held to raise money for veterans organizations, when -- quote -- "In reality, the fund-raiser was a Trump campaign event in which the foundation participated."
The campaign then broke federal and state law by dictating the timing, amounts and recipients of the foundation's grants, including at least five $100,000 grants made to groups in Iowa in the days immediately before the Iowa caucuses.
Underwood released supporting evidence, including e-mails from then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directing the funds. The petition also alleges the president used the foundation to promote his hotels and other businesses, to buy personal items, like this $10,000 painting of himself displayed at his Trump National Doral Golf Resort, and to settle his legal obligations, including a $100,000 payment to settle legal claims against his Mar-a-Lago club. The petition alleges this document is Trump personally authorizing
that payment. President Trump is slamming the suit, blasting the previous attorney general and vowing, "I won't settle this case."
His son Don Jr. questioning the timing of the case.
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: Timing couldn't be more coincidental, right?
JONES: Underwood's response?
UNDERWOOD: This is a straightforward case of violation of the laws governing charitable foundations and nonprofit corporations in New York. We brought this case when we were confident that we had the evidence and the legal arguments to back it up.
JONES: For its part, the foundation says: "The lawsuit is politics at its very worst. The foundation has donated over $19 million to worthy charitable causes, more than it even received. The president himself or through his companies has contributed more than $8 million."
JONES: Now, this is a civil case, so we're not talking about prison time of any sort here. However, the attorney general also sent referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission identifying possible violations of federal law for further investigation and legal action.
So the president could end up facing even more legal jeopardy here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Athena, thank you, Athena Jones reporting.
Let's get some more on the breaking news.
The former U.S. attorney and CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara is joining us.
Preet, what stands out to you from this Trump charitable foundation, the allegations against some of the practices that they use? What stands out to you what was outlined in the lawsuit?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, a lot of it was outlined brilliantly by Athena in the report.
I should say at the outset, even before talking about the particulars of the lawsuit, the attorney general of the state of New York right now is Barbara Underwood who is not a political person, who is not running for attorney general in the fall.
She has the respect of people on all sides of the political spectrum. So, I believe her and credit her when she says that this suit was brought when the facts and the law supported it. As pointed out in the report, there's allegation after allegation that
this foundation was basically a front for Donald Trump and his business interests to do what they pleased.
It's not a particularly large foundation, given that Donald Trump purports to be a billionaire multiple times over. But, over and over and over again, you see that the foundation didn't have any employees. It didn't have any oversight. It was governed more, as the complaint alleges, more by whim than by law.
The board of directors never met, hasn't met in, I think, 19 years, since 1999. So, it was a foundation that over and over and over again, backed up by specific pieces of evidence, by e-mails and by documents, and by very credible concrete allegations, was used as a funnel to pay off legal debt to various charities, or to further his political campaign.
And everyone knows that a foundation that is set up under the laws, like the Trump foundation was, that is clear as black and white, is not supposed to engage in politics, is not supposed to be directed by a business, and is supposed to have a lot of oversight.
BLITZER: That's a good point.
The New York attorney general also has referred this, as you heard, to both the IRS and the FEC, the Federal Election Committee.
Walk us through what may happen from there.
BHARARA: People make referrals all the time. You never know what sort of bureaucratic meanderings occur after you make a referral.
I have some more confidence that if there's an enforcement action to be taken by the IRS, that that's more likely to happen than an enforcement action by the Federal Election Commission. That's just because, historically, the Federal Election Commission is -- it's a commission with five people. And it is stocked usually with people from the -- who are political from the various parties and has a majority of people who would be supportive of the president's party.
And it has historically been known to be a commission that doesn't necessarily bring enforcement actions quickly. That's been true in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The IRS, I think it depends on whether or not you have independent people who are going to go through the proper process and dot all the I's and cross all the T's. But, again, from what I can see in a reading from this afternoon of the lawsuit, there are credible allegations that tax laws were broken.
BLITZER: Let's turn to the Justice Department's inspector general report.
You have had time to go through it by now. What's your analysis of the report's findings?
BHARARA: First, again, with respect to the report as a whole, it's thorough. It's detailed. It's reasoned. It's not histrionic.
And it was authored by a team of people led by Michael Horowitz, who I know well and is an alum of the Southern District of New York. And so it's everything I expect it to be.
I expect and have seen already on television and on social media people cherry-picking particular pieces that they want to emphasize because it supports a particular political narrative, and then denigrate other portions of the report because they don't like it.
My position is very similar to what I heard a little while ago the FBI director, Chris Wray, utter. And that is, I accept in reading it -- and I haven't read all of it, but I have read the executive summary and large portions of it -- from -- based on what I have read, I accept the report in total.
And that means some things that are unfortunate and sad to have to accept, among them that Jim Comey engaged in errors of judgment, that Jim Comey was insubordinate. I accept that.
But I accept also that there were FBI agents who engaged in text communications that they shouldn't have that are terrible. I accept also that there were FBI agents who seemed to have accepted gifts and gratuities from reporters. And that shouldn't have happened.
But, at the same time, I also accept the determination that the I.G. made that the decision not to charge Hillary Clinton in connection with the e-mail investigation was also appropriate. Maybe the closure wasn't handled well, but the decision based on a very sort of tight analysis of the multiple statutes that the FBI and the DOJ were considering with respect to Hillary Clinton's e-mails, that that decision was made appropriately.
Now, that doesn't make everyone happy. I also accept in connection with what the I.G. has found that there's no sort of deep state operating to rig the system in favor of one candidate or the other.
Jim Comey may have made errors of judgment. But, again, I credit the I.G. report with saying that he was not doing that in connection with trying to sway the election up one way or another.
So, there's a lot here for people to pick apart and a lot here for certain sides to say they like and other sides to say they don't like.
I think we should respect the process. It was very thorough. I was interviewed myself for a portion of the I.G. report. And I think it was done very well.
BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
BLITZER: Just ahead, a rather testy exchange between our own Jim Acosta and the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders. As the White House tries to justify the separation of children from parents who cross the Mexican border.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, vindication being claimed tonight by allies and enemies of the former FBI director, James Comey. A new report by the Justice Department inspector general says Comey violated bureau norms and was insubordinate in his handling of the Clinton email probe. But it also finds that his actions were not politically motivated.
Let's get some White House reaction to all of this. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, has details. Jim, the press secretary, Sarah Sanders, she had a little bit to say about the report.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: She certainly did, Wolf. The White House pounced on the scathing inspector general's report that's critical of the Justice Department's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation.
But the White House was also back on its heels today when the administration tried to use the Bible to justify the separation of children from their parents at the border.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It didn't take long for the White House to seize on the findings of an inspector general's report, slamming the Justice Department's investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mail practices. No surprise: the report, which found former FBI Director James Comey was insubordinate at times in his investigation, but displayed no political bias, landed in the press secretary's talking points at the briefing.
[18:35:06] SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president was briefed on the I.G. report earlier today. And it reaffirmed the president's suspicions about Comey's conduct and the political bias among some of the members of the FBI.
ACOSTA: But the White House is also facing questions about another investigation into the Trump Foundation. In a lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general's office, investigators say the foundation used its own funds to settle legal claims against the president's resort at Mar-a-Lago and against the Trump National Golf Club, as well as $10,000 to purchase a painting of Mr. Trump.
The president slammed the investigation, tweeting "It's the product of sleazy New York Democrats."
The White House was also asked about the president's summit with Kim Jong-un, where he was caught on camera saluting a North Korean military official.
SANDERS: It's a common courtesy, when a military official from another government salutes, that you return that. ACOSTA: Mr. Trump was critical of how former President Obama showed
courtesy when he was overseas, tweeting in 2012, "Do we still want a president who bows to the Saudis?"
Even Republicans are split over Mr. Trump's gestures to the North Koreans.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The president speaks fondly of dictators and belittles our allies. So it's not a good thing.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think anybody who has intellect above that of a single-cell organism understands that, when you're trying to negotiate a deal, you don't walk in and slap your opponent and call him an ignorant slut.
ACOSTA: On the issue of immigration, the administration is still trying to justify separating children from their parents who cross the Mexican border. Attorney General Jeff Sessions turned to the Bible to say the government must follow the law.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would say, Apostle Paul, in his clear and wise command in Romans 13, "To obey the laws of the government, because God has ordained the government for his purposes."
ACOSTA: A view endorsed by the White House.
SANDERS: I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible. However, this -- hold on, Jim. If you'll let me finish. Again, I'm not going to comment on the attorney's specific comments that I haven't seen.
ACOSTA: You said it's in the Bible to follow the law.
SANDERS: That's not what I said. And I know it's hard for you to understand, even short sentences, I guess. But please don't take my words out of context.
But the separation of alien families is the product of the same legal loopholes that Democrats refuse to close. And these laws are the same that have been on the books over a decade. And the president is simply enforcing them.
ACOSTA: -- your policy to take children away from their parents. Can you imagine the horror that these children must be going through.
SANDERS: It's a policy to follow and enforce the law.
ACOSTA: To be clear, and I'll use the short sentences here, Wolf, it's the administration's policy to separate children from their parents at the border. The administration has repeatedly attempted to blame Democrats for the separation. But the White House could order that the separations be stopped tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point. Jim Acosta, thank you very much. Let's get some more with our specialists and our analysts.
And Mark Preston, it was an excellent question, appropriate question by Jim Acosta. And CNN political analyst Brian Karem, he followed it up with this exchange with Sarah Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Don't you have any empathy for what these people are going through? They have less than we do. Come on.
SANDERS: Brian, God, settle down.
SANDERS: I'm trying to be serious. But I'm not going to have you yell out of turn. Jill.
KAREM: You say it's a law, and they have -- these people have nothing.
SANDERS: Hey, Brian, I know you want to get some more TV time. But that's not what this is about. I want to recognize you.
KAREM: It's about you answering the question.
SANDERS: Go ahead, Jill.
KAREM: Answer the question. It's a serious question. These people have nothing. They come to the border with nothing, and you throw children in cages. You're a parent. You're a parent of young children. Don't you have any empathy for what they go through
SANDERS: Jill, go ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She didn't answer his question. What did you think?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple things. Since we saw the attorney general quote the Bible, let me quote from the Republican Party platform. OK? That is passed every four years.
Among many things said in the platform, it says children raised in a two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, more likely to do well in school, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage.
This is the Republican Party platform, the party of family values. The idea that there need to be two parents raising a child.
And yet, we have a Republican attorney general president separating children at the border. It seems to fly in the face of everything their party -- the Republican Party has led itself to believe up to this point. JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And even the Republican --
even Donald Trump recognizes how immoral this is. That's why he's coming up with this phony explanation of blaming the Democrats. But the underlying fact that our government is separating parents and children is something that really is growing as an issue in the country, and frankly, it's just an abomination.
BLITZER: It's hard to believe that these little kids are being taken away from their mothers at the border.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And kudos to our colleague there, Jim and Brian for making this -- I know he's gotten a little bit of criticism for being so expressive at the briefing. And I think it was unfair for Sarah to say he just wanted to be on TV.
[18:40:08] You know what? Sometime in that room, when you have a government official, and you have a short period of time to get a question, being a little dramatic like that is what gets people talking about an issue. It's probably one of the reasons we're talking about it right now. So I think he did the right thing by really pressing her.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": I think the tone of that exchange is reflective of frustration within the briefing room that this White House has refused to explain its policy of separating families at the border. They've refused to even acknowledge that this is a Trump administration policy.
You had both the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as well as the chief of staff, John Kelly, openly say that they were going to pursue a zero-tolerance policy at the border that was intended to deter people from coming and presenting themselves for asylum.
And you have more than 1,000 immigrant children who have been separated from their parents as a result of President Trump's interpretation of the law. She's saying that it's been around for more than a decade. Well, previous presidents, Republican or Democrat, did not interpret existing law as necessitating splitting up families in large numbers at the border. It is only this president who sees it that way.
BLITZER: They've got to fix this, and they've got to fix it quickly. Make sure it doesn't happen anymore.
Let's turn to the Justice Department inspector general's report. We got it a little while ago. You heard the FBI director, Christopher Wray. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The OIG report makes clear that we've got some work to do. But let's also be clear on the scope of this report. It's focused on a specific set of events back in 2016 and a small
number of FBI employees connected to those events. Nothing -- nothing in this report impugns the integrity of our work force as a whole or the FBI as an institution. As I said earlier, fair and independent scrutiny is welcome, and appropriate accountability is crucial. We're going to learn from this report, and we're going to be better and stronger as a result.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very quickly, your thought?
TOOBIN: Well, there -- there is grist for both sides in this report. Frankly, I think there is more grist for the people who are pissed that Hillary Clinton lost the election. I think the fact that Jim Comey intervened with ten days to go remains inexplicable. And I think the OIG emphasized that.
But there were certainly text exchanges that were indefensible and anti-Trump. And I don't blame the White House for -- for pointing that out.
PRESTON: A few bad actors does not and should not color or discolor the whole Federal Bureau of Investigation.
LIZZA: One overlooked thing in this report is that Comey really did shut down an attempt for the FBI to be more public about the Russia investigation, which I think, you know, was -- gets to the heart of one of the things he did wrong in 2016, is talk publicly about the Clinton investigation but wouldn't do so with respect to Russia.
SIDDIQUI: I think that, while there was some individual conduct that was condemned in this report, the key takeaway is there is no evidence to support the president's claim of widespread bias or that this is some kind of witch hunt.
At the end of the day, though, people will take from it what they so choose. And people are very hardened in their views about the Russia investigation. So I don't think it's going to move the needle in that sense.
TOOBIN: And how about one more fact? Jim Comey used private -- his private email to do government business.
BLITZER: A Gmail account.
TOOBIN: Like, is irony dead or what?
LIZZA: I think that's a little unfair. The issue with Hillary Clinton was not a private e-mail. It was classified information. And using a server that essentially was designed to make sure that FOIA requests--
BLITZER: They say in the report he used his Gmail account for FBI business, but it wasn't classified.
TOOBIN: So he says. So Hillary Clinton said, as well.
BLITZER: All right. We'll continue to watch all of this.
There's more breaking news we're following. More on the White House defense of President Trump's controversial salute of a top North Korean general.
[18:48:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Tonight, the White House is defending President Trump's decision to salute a North Korean general during a summit with Kim Jong-un, calling it common courtesy. The scene is in a newly released North Korean propaganda video.
Let's bring in Brian Todd.
Brian, what else does it show and what else does it say?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, North Korean photographers got some incredible access to Kim Jong-un and President Trump during the summit. The result is a slickly produced video with some behind the scenes footage, images which seem to score another propaganda win for Kim, making him appear as one expert says to be the one in the driver's seat.
TODD (voice-over): From his red carpet airport sendoff, accompanied by the gushing narration of his favorite news anchor and flowery music, to an extraordinary shot of him inside his plane on route to Singapore, this 42-minute propaganda video captures a carefully orchestrated view of the most spectacular moments of Kim Jong-un's summit with President Trump, edited and spun for a North Korean audience.
Near the end, a remarkable scene. As Kim returns to Pyongyang, he is greeted by generals, other top officials and colorfully dressed women, none of whom can seemingly contain their emotions. The video was shot and produced by North Korean state media which gave its photographers access that Western media didn't have with either leader.
Analysts say this is a typical master stroke from Kim at image control.
SUK-YOUNG KIM, NORTH KOREA PROPAGANDA EXPERT, UCLA: North Korean state propaganda is a very sleek machinery. Music and camera angle of capturing Kim are just classical North Korean state propaganda where their leader, not others around him, is in charge and is in the driver's seat.
TODD: But tonight, Kim's image control is leading to White House damage control, after the North Korean footage showed President Trump saluting this North Korean general in full uniform.
[18:50:04] In another scene, it appears from a distance the president salutes another North Korean at the top of an escalator.
LINDSEY FORD, THE ASIA SOCIETY POLICY INSTITUTE: I think the optics of this are going to be pretty shocking to a lot of people.
TODD: Former U.S. military officials say the salute did not follow protocol, that the appropriate thing for the president to do would have been only to nod his head and shake the general's hand.
A U.S. official tells CNN, the president was briefed on that protocol. But that the White House does not view the salute as a mistake, and instead believes it was part of a broader goal that day to show respect to Kim and his entourage.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a common courtesy when a military official from another government salutes, that you return that.
TODD: One former military official says the cost of that was far too high.
FORD: The fact that he would use it with a North Korea general, a country that has killed U.S. citizens, has killed soldiers of South Korea, I think it's going to be pretty stunning. And it not only sends a propaganda message that the North Koreans can use. I have to ask what does this say to our men and women in uniform and those of our allies as well.
TODD: But it's not just the salute that is turning heads tonight. The North Korean propaganda video is also filled with spectacular vistas of Singapore, with gleaming streets, and skyscrapers, a bustling port, stores and restaurants.
Could Kim be taking a risk showing the video to North Koreans? And letting them see what life is like in an open society so different from their repressive regime?
KIM: North Korea's really showing its people that this is our future. We could get here with proper support of our leader and support of his policy of engagement.
TODD: Analysts say all these collective images from the summit not only give Kim a propaganda win at home, but they also might send the wrong message to diplomats and other leaders who the North Koreans are going to deal with in the future, because they humanize this dictator, who's still got more than 120,000 people in gulags, who executed his own uncle, who had his half-brother murdered in public -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you.
Breaking news ahead: the Justice Department inspector general finds mistakes and missteps by the former FBI Director James Comey, but no political bias.
[18:56:57] BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, a Justice Department watchdog report saying there's no evidence former FBI Director James Comey was politically motivated in his handling of the Clinton e-mail probe, although he did violate various FBI norms.
Let's get more from the host of "CUOMO PRIME TIME," CNN's Chris Cuomo is joining us right now.
Chris, so, first of all, how do you think your -- one of your guests tonight, Congressman Jim Jordan, is going to react to this report?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, CUOMO PRIME TIME: Well, we've seen some indication on social media already in statements that have been put out. There's no question that you're going to look at this through a partisan lens, and see what you want to see. We will try to lay out objectively what is in this for people who want to say that there was misdoing by the FBI in terms of how the Clinton investigation was handled, there's certainly plenty on that.
The conclusions drawn by this inspector general and the reason that the director of the FBI regards it so highly is he's been very thorough and very even handed. But that's not really the game that's afoot. This isn't just about accountability and transparency within the agency, this is about a political argument. One advanced by Trump and his supporters that he was treated unfairly by the FBI.
Do we see proof of that in the report? That's what we'll be taking on with Representative Jordan. That's the story that appeals to the head tonight, Wolf.
But there's one that appeals to the heart that we're going to take on as well. What's going on at the border with this separation of families and children, with these people who are applicants for asylum, and the attorney general citing the bible for his divine authority, I guess, for punishment under law for those who disobey, we're going to look at that as well, because this isn't just a simple matter of law or law enforcement. This is about morality and it's about culture.
BLITZER: It is so, so heartbreaking to think these little kids are being separated from their moms and their dads at the border simply for seeking asylum here in the United States for what's going on in their home countries.
Very quickly, you're also going to be interviewing John Podesta. He was Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. Does her campaign sort of feel validated by the findings of the inspector general?
CUOMO: Well, it will be interesting. I mean, you know, it's amazing to have the gift of his head on this. You know, somebody who's held the positions he has. What does he think matters in this report?
What does it mean about what Comey did and the outcome on the 2016 election? What does need to be remedied? You know, what does -- how does he weigh the things that are in this? That's going to be really important.
We saw Hillary Clinton took to social media and said, but my e-mails, referencing that Jim Comey supposedly used his own private e-mail for certain state business. I think there's political ramification to her being involved that cuts two ways as well. We'll take it all on.
BLITZER: We're looking forward to the show. You're doing an excellent job with the new show.
Chris, thank you very much for doing it.
CUOMO: Thank you, captain.
BLITZER: To our viewers, "CUOMO PRIME TIME" airs later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.