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President Said The IG Report's Findings Exonerated Him; What President Trump said about Kim Jong-un, having good chemistry with the North Korean dictator; the President pointing the finger at Democrats for his own administration's policy on immigration. Aired: 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 15, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Not to mention so many other headlines on North Korea saying that he has solved that problem. Let's get to Abby Phillip at the White House.
Good morning, Abby. And let me just begin, this was an extraordinary series of events that took place, just the President walking out, pretty unannounced at the White House lawn to give that Fox interview and then gaggling with reporters for nearly 30 minutes.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, it would have been unannounced if he hadn't announced it on Twitter, and by the time he showed up here on the lawn, there was a group of maybe 20 or 30 reporters out here, and he took questions, first from Fox News, then from a gaggle of reporters, for a total of an hour on a number of topics, everything from Scott Pruitt, North Korea, Vladimir Putin, Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
The President seemed frankly upbeat about a lot of these topics and one of the bigger topics of conversation this morning was that Inspector General report that he declared was good for him.
He used it to attack James Comey, the former FBI director who he fired last year, he used it to attack Hillary Clinton, FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page whose text messages were part of the report and the President said the report's findings exonerated him. Listen to what he had to say.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that the report yesterday, maybe more importantly than anything, it totally exonerates me. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction, and if you read the report, you'll see that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Now, the report doesn't actually say that. It doesn't deal with the issue of the President and his guilt or innocence whatsoever, but it just goes to show, this is how the President wants to talk about this issue. He is using the report to undermine the FBI and the senior leadership, the people who created the special counsel now looking into the Russia investigation. and when I asked him about the report's findings of James Comey's actions when it came to the Hillary Clinton investigation were inappropriate, at his press conference, talking about the investigation into Hilary Clinton was inappropriate, I asked him if he thought that Comey was being unfair to Clinton.
And he said, no such thing. He said, he was right to fire Comey and that what Comey did was exonerate Hillary during the election when he should never should have exonerated her.
So, the President really reading into this report, exactly what he wants to see, but it is not exactly clear that that lines up with what the report actually says, Poppy.
HARLOW: With the facts of the independent report, Abby Phillip, thank you.
President Trump calls the Inspector General's report a horror show, his words. He says the report blew it in one part by concluding there was a lack of political bias in the Clinton probe. With us from Washington, to go through the facts of the report, someone who has certainly read all -- what is it? 568 pages, Laura Jarrett our justice reporter?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Quite lengthy.
HARLOW: Fact check the President for us on this one, that it totally exonerates him.
JARRETT: So, Poppy, he appears to want to have it both ways. On the one hand, he says the Inspector General totally blew it, then on the other hand, he says that it totally exonerates him.
The report is obviously far more complicated than that. It is extensive. It is the product of over 17 months of investigation, over 1.2 million documents were reviewed, over 100 witnesses, but here's how he described it just a short time ago on the White House lawn, Poppy.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The headline right now from the "Wall Street Journal", DOJ, Clinton report blasts Comey and agents but finds no bias in conclusion.
TRUMP: Well, the end result was wrong. There was total bias. I mean, when you look at Peter Strzok and what he said about me, when you look at Comey and all of his moves. So, I guess, you know, it is interesting, it was a pretty good report, and then I say that the IG blew it at the very end with that statement because when you read the report, it was almost like Comey, he goes point after point about how guilty Hillary is, and then he said, but we're not going to do anything about it.
The report, the IG report was a horror show. I thought that one sentence of conclusion was ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JARRETT: Now, there is no question that the report is devastating in many ways for Comey's legacy. It goes on and on at length about how Comey's actions were extraordinary, how he was insubordinate in many ways, usurping the Attorney General Loretta Lynch's authority, breaking protocol in announcing that Clinton was cleared.
But on the Peter Strzok issue in particular, the President is obviously attached to this because of those damming text messages, which were just recently found and revealed in the report where he says that he wanted to make sure that the President didn't win. But Peter Strzok, his response to that is that if that was true, he would not have kept secret the fact that the President's allies and Russia were being investigated, Poppy.
HARLOW: Laura Jarrett, thank you very, very much, and as we speak, the former chairman of the Trump Presidential campaign Paul Manafort back in court in Washington over allegations from Bob Mueller and the special counsel's team that he tried to tamper with not one but two witnesses in this probe.
Shimon Prokupecz has the latest on that. And Shimon, this comes on the heels of the President saying this is someone who had nothing to do with our campaign.
HARLOW: Even though he ran it.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, well, quite clearly the President had a lot to say about the various people that are associated with him that are now under investigation.
Today is a big day, really, for Paul Manafort. The new charges coming, the allegations that he tried to intimidate witnesses, but the bigger issue for Paul Manafort here is that the special counsel is going to ask the judge to revoke his bail to put him back in jail as he awaits trial.
It is obviously a significant change in Paul Manafort's life and the idea that he could be back in jail now for several months. It was interesting to hear the President again this morning trying to distance himself from Paul Manafort, saying that he quite frankly -- that this is something that the special counsel has gone back 12 years to look at.
This is important to keep in mind, this is not anything the President's lawyers wanted him doing this morning, talking about any parts of this investigation. Let's take a listen to what the President said this morning about Paul Manafort.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I feel badly about a lot of that because I think a lot of it is very unfair. I mean, I looked at some of them where they go back 12 years, but Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. I haven't spoken to Michael in a long time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he still your lawyer?
TRUMP: No, he's not my lawyer.
PROKUPECZ : The other thing here, clearly, Michael Cohen, the President's personal lawyer, that is on his mind as reports indicate that he is changing his legal team, and what does that mean in the end?
Certainly, the President has said this morning that he had nothing to fear, that if Michael Cohen was to cooperate.
Obviously, there is no indication that Cohen is planning to cooperate, but certainly you can see all these things are still on the President's mind.
HARLOW: Shimon, they are indeed. Thank you for the reporting. Let us know when you get some updates again. Paul Manafort due in court this morning on this witness tampering charges.
Let's discuss all of this with our legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa; our law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell; CNN's political director, David Chalian is back; Josh Dawsey of the "Washington Post" and CNN contributor is here; CNN legal analyst, Jennifer Rogers is here.
We have a lot to go through. David Chalian, let me just begin with you and your top line from all that we've heard from the President this morning.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: So, it is an odd thing, Poppy. When I was -- before he started talking this morning, I thought, "Wow, if I was working in this White House, I would feel like today is a day where maybe we turn the corner a bit." They were clearly getting good reviews and poll numbers out of the North Korea meeting and clearly the President had something to seize on to in the IG report with these Peter Strzok texts to make points that he thinks that the Mueller investigation should be wrapped up.
Whether or not that is actually what the IG report was saying is another matter, but something politically that he was going to seize on to.
And then he just started talking endlessly about every topic and that good news moment for him, I think, perhaps made that muddled here. Especially on the issue of immigration, that he is not going to sign this moderate compromise bill that is being hammered out in the House, I think that was an enormous thing to hear from the President today and really complicates Republicans' legislative strategy.
But you can see that from North Korea to the IG report to feeling exonerated to talking about the economy being better than it has ever been before and he thinks he's delivered peace on earth already with the North Korean deal, that this is a President who is feeling pretty good about where he is at the moment.
HARLOW: Can I ask you, David Chalian to follow on that, at the end of this 45 minutes worth of interviews, the President said when it is my fault I will tell you. After blaming Democrats for his own administration's policy that effectively separates children from their parents undocumented at the border, after blaming President Obama for the annexation of Crimea, not Vladimir Putin, after saying the problem is solved with North Korea, and also pinning the escalation of tension with North Korea on his predecessor, President Obama, what does this do to his party?
I mean, how are Republican members of Congress, whom we tried to book on this show today over and over again, how are they going to respond to questions on all of this stuff? What does it do to the party?
CHALIAN: They saw what happened to Mark Sanford, right, on Tuesday night in his primary. This is not a Republican Party on Capitol Hill that is going to take issue with that, but on that specific point, Poppy, that you are saying, about he was saying this is not my fault; if it is, I'll take the blame, no, he won't. Why do I know that to be true? Because he told us, just a few days ago that he said, "Well, I'll probably find an excuse, I won't actually admit fault if there is fault to be had."
So, he and his own words has already told us that he is not going to take responsibility or blame for anything that he doesn't think is going in the right direction.
HARLOW: Josh Dawsey, listening to the President this morning, what was your biggest takeaway?
JOSH DAWSEY, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: A couple of things, he's definitely emboldened. I mean, the President leaving the residence, strolling down the north lawn and doing a Fox hit from pebble beach, that's what reporters call the area out there, it is pretty unusual, and it is clear that he is still his own communications director. He doesn't want anyone else speaking for him. He think he can speak best for himself, just a number of striking comments, Poppy. His comment that--
DAWSEY: -- he wanted the people to stand up and rise, like they do for Kim Jong-un. Him saying that he can't--
HARLOW: Actually, let's listen to that, Josh. That was an important moment, I think. Let's listen to the exchange.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we close to seeing Mr. Kim here at the White House?
TRUMP: It could happen. I mean --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you talk about that yesterday? TRUMP: Yes, that would happen. I think it is something that could
happen. Hey, he's the head of a country, I mean, he's the strong head. Don't let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Okay, he speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same. He did go on to say, "Look, I was being sarcastic. That was in jest." But I think really notable, right?
DAWSEY: The President expressed admiration on a number of occasions, a kind of strong man leader -- the reason they sit up at attention is that they don't have any choice. It is a dictatorship where they can't defect. People who (inaudible) are executed. This rhetoric of Kim Jong-un. I mean, he has repeatedly praised him as a terrific negotiator. He is talking about the relationship saying he solved the problem.
You know, meanwhile, he goes to the G-7 and really splits with our allies, particularly Trudeau. It is a reordering of alliances, and the President is willing in whatever negotiating situation he's in to treat someone and in the case of striking a deal, to flatter them, to cajole them, there is a kind of a sense of traditional allies and adversaries. With Kim Jong-un, we are seeing a rhetoric that is really quite unusual for an American President to a brutalist dictator of a country that treats his people very terribly.
HARLOW: Jennifer Rogers, to you, our legal analyst, our former federal prosecutor, to the President's assertion that the IG blew it on one of its main findings in the report, but also at the same time that the IG report on the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe, "total exonerates him," based in any shred of fact, I mean, this wasn't a report on the Mueller Russia probe.
JENNIFER ROGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right, so it doesn't exonerate him in there, obviously, and he wants to have it both ways as we have been discussing. I mean, it doesn't exonerate him on Russia, but it also doesn't show bias on the part of the FBI and the Clinton e-mail probe.
So, he doesn't have what he wants. I think they wanted to get out of this something more to hold on to, to say they were on Clinton's side, they weren't on my side. They didn't get that. So, I think they are going to let this drop after today because it doesn't do what they had wanted.
HARLOW: What is your biggest take away from the IG's report overall?
ROGERS: Well, just exactly that. That while Jim Comey had violated protocols, which we already knew, of course, that there is no bias there. The investigations were not impacted. And so everyone is just going to accept that, I think. And we have to let it lie from here.
HARLOW: Asha Rangappa, to you as a former -- formerly working with the department, the President said to me, guys, let me know if we have the sound. I don't know if we do, but he said about the FBI, it was at the beginning of the Fox interview, that he would have the best polling, I think we have it, the best polling possible, listen to this.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would bet if you took a poll in the FBI, I would win that poll by more than anybody has ever won a poll.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: You were a former FBI special agent. We've heard what the President has said, degrading our intelligence community. What do you make of his assertion this morning?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It is very contradictory to other assertions that he's made that the FBI is a vast liberal cabal that is out to get him in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Look, I mean, the FBI hues conservative, maybe there are people who support him. I am not sure. I think that Josh would agree with me that people really don't bring their politics into the office, and I would just say that to the point where he feels that there is so much bias in the FBI, which again is contradictory to that comment, I think it just justifies the existence of the Mueller special counsel probe.
This is a probe that is now insulated, it has different agents, different prosecutors from anyone who worked in any previous case, and I think he is actually making the case for having the special counsel conduct the Russia investigation.
HARLOW: Josh Campbell, as a law enforcement analyst, former FBI supervisory special agent, one thing that the President really ignored in his response to this report is that the IG Horowitz found no evidence in his words, "To connect the political views expressed in these text messages to the specific investigatory decisions."
Now, these text messages are inappropriate, period, right? To be talking about we will, you know, we will make sure the President isn't -- I think we can pull it up, but we will stop it -- is what one FBI special agent texted to another. But it is a really important distinction, isn't it? That the IG found after 17 months that those personal feelings did not impact the professional investigation.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It is. It is very important.
CAMPBELL: That's the top line takeaway here, that after 18 months of essentially a campaign to, you know, try to spin this narrative that the FBI was corrupt and it is out to get the President and his allies, the Inspector General found something different, that, you know, they weren't part of some political cabal and with respect to the Hillary Clinton investigation, there wasn't political bias. That was the big takeaway. But what you just mentioned there, that's one aspect of this impromptu
press conference that we just saw. You know, sometimes our job is to report the news, sometimes it is to fact check those who are in power. In this instance, we have to do both, and it is important and people ask, I know the President was very dismissive of a CNN reporter just then, but it is our job to kind of point out when things are wrong and to fact check our leaders.
If we go line by line, just quickly of kind of what was said, I mean, he mentioned that the Inspector General showed no evidence of collusion, which is blatantly, patently false. this Inspector General report had nothing to do with collusion, and I am not saying that the President is guilty or his people are guilty. I am saying this has nothing to do with that. You look at what he said about Paul Manafort where he had nothing to do with the campaign, he was a campaign manager.
He talks about bursting in the office of the lawyer, the FBI agents did that with lawful legal process, and one thing that was important to me, one of the things, as a former FBI agent is he talks about Mike Flynn and saying, well, some people say he lied to the FBI, some say he didn't lie. One person who did say he lied to the FBI was Michael Flynn, and he pled--
HARLOW: And he pled guilty to it. Exactly.
CAMPBELL: A litany of untruths and we have to point them out when they happen.
HARLOW: I'm glad you're here to do that and help us with it. Thank you all very much -- Josh Campbell -- did I miss someone?
CHALIAN: Sorry, I was just saying the President himself said that Michael Flynn had to go because he lied. So that seemed a little odd today as well.
HARLOW: Right. David Chalian, good point, thank you, my friend. Thank you, all, Jennifer Rogers, Josh Dawsey, David Chalian, Josh Campbell, Asha Rangappa, they had a lot to get through there, and we continue to follow the breaking news this hour. President Trump's whirlwind press conference ahead. What he said about Kim Jong-un, having good chemistry with the North Korean dictator and also pointing the finger at Democrats for his own administration's policy on immigration. We'll get into all of it. Stay with us.
HARLOW: All right, an extraordinary series of interviews, the President did this morning on the north lawn of the White House. He talked about North Korea, his meeting with Kim Jong-un, he also said that he had solved the North Korea problem, saved the world from nuclear war. Listen to the President.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've spoken so passionately about the circumstances that led to Otto Warmbier's death. In the same breath, you are defending now Kim Jong-un's human rights records. How can you do that?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know why? Because I don't want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And by the way, you declared the nuclear threat from North Korea is over.
TRUMP: Because I don't want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family. I want to have a good relationship with North Korea. I did a great job this weekend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Joining me from the Pentagon, Barbara Starr, pentagon correspondent, Barbara, the President also said, "I have solved that problem." About North Korea and the nuclear threat. Is that the sentiment of those around him and those at the Pentagon.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Poppy, I think people who are watching this very closely think it is a good thing to have a more peaceful relationship, a calmer relationship with North Korea, but is the problem solved? Certainly not. That doesn't really solve anything. It is barely the beginning by any technical or military measure.
You don't know whether Kim Jong-un is going to declare all his facilities, all his weapons, where does he have secret sites that the US may not know anything about? It will be a multiyear process to get into those sites, to learn where everything is, to get that complete verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.
So, look, this is barely the beginning. No one is saying that the agreement was necessarily a bad idea, but it is barely the beginning of what needs to take place.
A couple of other things the President said that I think are very striking to military people, he talked about how he hated ever since he came into office the so-called war games, and of course, that is not a US military term. For the US military, this is training and readiness exercises.
This is the training that keeps US troops ready to operate in battle, why you would hate the prospect of that seems a little peculiar. You would want your troops to be trained and ready. Does it save money? Well, they have to train. So, you know, that money is going to get spent.
Finally, he talked about how parents of -- again, how parents of Korean war veterans are begging him to bring home their remains. We will see if additional remains are returned by the North Koreans in the coming days, but certainly no parents of Korean war veterans are speaking to the President, the war ended, you know, 65 years ago or so, 1953. The parents of Korean war veterans would have passed away many years ago. Poppy?
HARLOW: It is an important point, Barbara Starr in all of that at the Pentagon, thank you very much.
Just moments ago, China announced how it will retaliate against new US tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. What does it actually mean for you and your pocketbook? That's next.
HARLOW: All right, breaking news, the world's two largest economies now appear to be even closer to if not already in a trade war. The President though says no, no, we're not. China announcing this morning how it will retaliate after the White House officially said this morning it is imposing a 25% tariff, that's a tax, on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods coming into this country.
The President insisting this is good for America and it will protect the United States. Listen.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're just going to do $50 billion on $50 billion of high technology equipment and other things coming into the country because so much of our secrets, we have the great brain power in Silicon Valley and China and others steal those secrets and we're going to protect those secrets. Those are crown jewels for this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans is with me now. So, your takeaway?
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, the President is really trying to explain that this is about protecting jobs of the future, the technology sector, you heard him there. And on his trade agenda, just moments ago, he says the US isn't the one who started a trade war.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The trade war was started many years ago by them and the United--