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FBI Chief and IG Grilled by Congress on Report; IG Says Mueller Quickly Removed FBI Agents Behind Texts; FBI Chief Says Mueller Is Not on A Witch Hunt. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired June 18, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST:
SEN. MIKE LEE, (R), UTAH: They weren't aware of that and didn't give it to you, but had they gone through the same steps you had gone through, they might have found it.
MICHAEL HOROWITZ, INSPECTOR GENERAL, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Correct.
LEE: Does that cause you to have any lack of confidence about whether or not you have all of the evidence you need, all of the evidence you requested?
HOROWITZ: Clearly as a result of that effort -- we're going to issue a separate report about the technological efforts we undertook, and I'll be careful of how I described them because I'm also a lawyer not a cyber expert.
The concern is we now believe that not only are we unsure whether we have 100 percent collection in the period for which there was this blackout, four to six months, but it's now clear to us that even when the software at the FBI was collecting text messages, because the August 8th period was within the collection. We had the incoming page to stroke text. We didn't have the response. It's now our clear to us that outside of this blackout period we're not convinced that the FBI was collecting for obvious reasons 100 percent of the text messages.
LEE: That's obviously of concern. Mr. Wray let's jump back to you for a minute, I think we all can agree that Mr. Comey should not have made his July 6 announcement and press conference. I assume you don't disagree with me on that. Would you have made a charging recommendation at all or would you have left that to the Department of Justice?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Well, senator, as I said, we accept the findings and recommendations in the report. My own view is that the policies about public disclosure as you've alluded to are pretty clear about what we should or shouldn't do. As far as making charging recommendations privately, I think my view --
LEE: Yes, but I'm not talking about recommendations.
LEE: I'm talking about charging decisions.
WRAY: My view is that the FBI doesn't make charging decisions.
LEE: It just isn't done. Mr. Horowitz, the report says that Mr. Comey's machinations quote, resulted in Lynch concluding it would be counterproductive to speak directly with the FBI director. Can you unpack that for me? What does that mean? Is the idea here that Lynch and Yates were simply afraid of exercising their authority? their oversight because they were afraid that it would look like political interference? What's that about?
WRAY: Couple of things. They were responding to the fact that Director Comey, rather than speaking to them directly, went through his chief of staff to one of their aides to them to relay his view on what they he was going to do. What they told us their assessment at that point was based on their prior dealings with Director Comey was first of all if they went to him directly and said don't do it, it would first of all look like strong arming and they weren't sure he would comply with the instruction.
They concluded it would be more effective or they would have a better chance of changing the decision if they went back the same way to him with their message which was to their principal associate deputy AG, to his chief of staff and to him. And as we lay out here they reported back through that means that they objected or recommended or -- actually, let me clarify this. They told him that they did not believe he should do it. He's testified to us that he took that as a recommendation because they didn't call him directly and he decided they were leaving the decision to him and so he decided to go forward.
LEE: Before I call on Senator Klobuchar, I need a quick clarification. You said earlier in reply to Senator Corbin that Comey used g mail for work but only for unclassified information. How can you know that if you didn't get access to that account?
HOROWITZ: I'm sorry, let me correct that. Based on the e-mails that we saw, which we observed by looking at the FBI's server and what ended up going back to the FBI, you're correct, senator, I can't sit here today beyond what we looked at and say precisely what other purposes he may have used it for.
[15:35:00] LEE: OK. Senator Klobuchar:
SENATOR KLOBUCHAR, (D), MINNESOTA: I wasn't going to start with this, but since Senator Lee was finishing up, I think it's good to continue with that. I was a law school classmate of director Comey. I think Direct Wray knows this. I have worked with him over the years. I know he's done some good work but reading this report this weekend I continue to disagree with his decision in how he handled those announcements and the more I read of your report, which I thought was very thorough, I want to thank you for that, Mr. Horowitz, the more I began to focus on the ad hoc decision making based on his personal views, even if it meant rejecting long standing department policy.
I would start with you, Mr. Wray. The way I have described my job as a prosecutor in the past to people when I did my own town hall meetings, I would say it's like the show "The Law and Order." The first half of the show the police do the investigation, the second half of the show the prosecutors make a decision. Would you agree with that summary?
WRAY: I think so. I guess the way I would put it is we do an investigation, we determine whether or not we think there are sufficient facts to go forward with the case and then we present the facts to the prosecutors who then make the decisions and exercise prosecutorial discretion. I don't think prosecutorial discretion by definition is something the investigative agency decides.
KLOBUCHAR: You might discuss the cases with the prosecutors, but in the end, they make the decision?
KLOBUCHAR: So, if you had been in that place at that moment in time as the FBI director would you have called up in the July decision and the October decision, would you have then called up either the attorney general or deputy attorney general to ask them to make a decision?
WRAY: Well, I don't know that I can speculate about what I would have done at the time. What I can tell you is that I cannot imagine the situation in which I would unilaterally assume for myself as the FBI director a charging decision and then announce it in a news conference.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. So that leads me to where I want to begin, and that is when law enforcement officers act improperly, when they make mistakes, one of the great things about a democracy is we have an inspector general and we try to get that information out, and I think our democracy depends on that, but I don't think that should be confused with attacking the integrity of thousands of investigations that the FBI manages every year, investigations that are not even part of this report in any significant way like the Russia investigation, and attacking the integrity of 35,000 FBI agents, analysts and other public servants.
I think it's very important that we defend them, and I note in your memo you did recently to the FBI after the Nunes memo was released over the objections of the FBI, you said, Direct Wray, talk is cheap. The work that you do is what will endure, and you urged employees to stay laser focused even when it's not easy. Could you elaborate on that?
WRAY: Senator, I am a big believer in the idea that what really matters for the FBI is the work and when I go around from office after office, the opinions that I care about the most, the brand, if you will, that I care about the most are the opinions of the prosecutors we work with out in the field, the law enforcement partners we work with out in the field, the judges that we interact with out in the feel, the juries we interact with out in the field, the victims who are making decisions about who they trust to get their loved ones back, and I think I've visited the field offices of almost every senator up here and I will tell you that the work that they do recovering kids who are victims of child exploitation, taking down gang members, disrupting terrorist plots, doing public corruption investigations.
I can go on and on and on, and to me, those are the people who experience the FBI through the work. Those are people who get to see the professionalism, the character, the integrity of FBI people up close. We're a 37,000-person organization. We've been around for 110 years. We do thousands of investigations every year. This is one.
[15:30:00] KLOBUCHAR: OK. Thank you. Mr. Horowitz, I want to go on to your report now. Much has been made by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle about some things that were clearly wrong that Director Wray has said there are ongoing internal investigations about this and decisions are going to be made and training is going to occur, but I don't want to lose the forest for the trees here in terms of what your report found. First of all, the President, upon the release of the report, tweeted that he, quote, hoped the IG report is not being changed and made weaker, end quote. Can you confirm that your office followed all appropriate processes in the course of its review and that the report was not changed as a result of improper political influence?
HOROWITZ: We followed normal processes. We took comments. We made decisions on issuing the final report. It was not made weaker or softer in any report.
KLOBUCHAR: The report states on page 263 that it did not find evidence of the Justice Department's decision not to pursue prosecution following the investigation was politically motivated. Was that an accurate summary?
HOROWITZ: We did not find that the prosecutor's decision not to charge was the result of political bias.
KLOBUCHAR: And you found that the relevant decisions were made on the facts and the law as well as in part department practices, is that correct?
HOROWITZ: As to the prosecutor's decision whether or not to charge, that's correct.
KLOBUCHAR: To be clear, did you or your staff speak to any witness who would point to an example of anyone in the investigation allowing political considerations to affect their decisions on how to obtain evidence?
HOROWITZ: As I sit here, I don't recall anybody indicating that.
KLOBUCHAR: Did you or your staff review any documents indicating that a particular investigative decision was made for political reasons?
HOROWITZ; Well, we had concerns about the October time period and Mr. Strzok's decision.
KLOBUCHAR: Did you and you're talking here in part about the -- well, you mentioned the Russia one, but the Comey decisions to go public, is that what you're referring to?
HOROWITZ: I'm sorry, I'm talking about in terms of -- maybe I misunderstood the question. We had concerns about Mr. Strzok's decision and the handling of the wiener laptop.
KLOBUCHAR: Senator Durbin has gotten the information out there about inspector Mueller's investigation and that's continuing and that he is no longer the person involved is no longer involved in that investigation?
HOROWITZ: That's correct. That's my understanding. That's correct.
KLOBUCHAR: Did you determine that any investigative action was the result of political bias or other improper considerations besides what we just talked about?
HOROWITZ: Prior to July 5 the specific investigation -- investigative decisions we looked at we did not find evidence, testimony or documentary evidence that they were the subject of improper considerations, including political bias.
KLOBUCHAR: Did your report find that senior justice department leadership including then Deputy Attorney General Lynch and Deputy Attorney General Yates have a limited role in the investigation and instead appropriately relied on career staff rather than political appointees?
HOROWITZ: We do describe here their limited involvement prior to July 5 in the day-to-day operations of the investigation.
LEE: Senator Graham.
KLOBUCHAR: Could I just ask one more question?
LEE: If you do it quickly.
KLOBUCHAR: Did you find that the department's decision making in this case was consistent with its approach in other circumstances in terms of investigations?
HOROWITZ: We found the prosecutor's described to us their process and that, in fact, that is what they based their decisions on.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
LEE: Senator Graham.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Would you say that this investigation was done by the book?
HOROWITZ: Hard to say what by the book is.
GRAHAM: Who wrote this book? If it was done by the book, who wrote the book?
HOROWITZ: There are reasons to raise questions. GRAHAM: I think you did a good job, but the whole idea that this is
normal, folks, there's nothing here normal. I don't want you to think the FBI does this day in and day out. This is not normal. I think that's what you tried to find.
GRAHAM: Do you believe it's pretty clear to everybody in the country that July 5th that Donald Trump was the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party?
HOROWITZ: That's my recollection, and from the --
GRAHAM: The convention was on the 18th.
HOROWITZ: And the texts, I think, reflect that as well.
GRAHAM: I'm going to read this text message from page to Strzok on August the 8th after he had gotten the nomination. She says, Trump's not ever going to become President, right? Right? Strzok responded, no, no, he's not. We'll stop it. Now I don't know how you feel about that. That's pretty unnerving. Strzok, wasn't he the lead investigator of the Clinton e-mail investigation?
HOROWITZ: He was in essence the lead guy.
[15:45:00] GRAHAM: The head guy looking at Clinton on august 8th says we've got to stop Trump. Now was that just idol talk? A week later here's what they say. Strzok text message to Lisa Page. I want to believe the path you threw out to consideration in Andy's office that there's no way he gets elected but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy and the unlikely event you die before you're 40. Now that's a week later. Who's Andy?
HOROWITZ: Our understanding it was Andy McCabe, the deputy director.
GRAHAM: So, you have the deputy director meeting with the lead investigator of the Clinton e-mail investigation and Ms. Page, who's involved somehow meeting in Andy's office discussing taking out an insurance policy to make sure Donald Trump doesn't become President? Is that what you're telling us?
HOROWITZ: I'll be clear, I can't speak to whether McCabe -- Mr. McCabe was there or not.
GRAHAM: Did you ask Mr. McCabe?
HOROWITZ: We did. He said he did not recall.
GRAHAM: So, one of them is lying. So, I want you to reopen this investigation and come back and tell us. Do you believe Strzok or do you believe McCabe? Because you just told me the deputy director of the FBI says he's not the Andy.
HOROWITZ: He doesn't -- just to be clear, they're talking about a conversation in his office? GRAHAM: Yes.
HOROWITZ: He's claiming -- he is saying he does not recall whether he was there or not and neither of those individuals are putting him in the middle of their conversation.
GRAHAM: All I'm saying is that the Andy's office where this occurred, he wasn't there. What did Strzok -- Strzok says he's there. Somebody's lying. Anyway, we'll figure that out later. None of this is normal, folks. Let's look at the actual interview itself. How many people were involved in the Clinton interview on July 2nd?
HOROWITZ: There were six or eight people present but two agents conducting the interview.
GRAHAM: So, as I understand it, there were two agents and two prosecutors?
GRAHAM: Now this was an e-mail sent in February 2016 from page to McCabe. Hey, you surely already considered this, but in my view our best reason to hold the line at two and two, two agents and two prosecutors, is she might be our next President. How did you feel about that?
HOROWITZ: We were concerned about it and we lay out here why we were concerned.
GRAHAM: OK. Let's keep talking about this interview. One of the FBI agents in the interview said on election day to another FBI agent, you should know that I'm with her. Now her was Clinton, right?
GRAHAM: How do you feel about that?
HOROWITZ: Very concerned.
GRAHAM: OK. Eventually very concerned gets to be enough already. I'm very concerned, you know -- one, I'm glad I don't text and e-mail, that's one thing I'm glad I don't do, but circumstances -- have you ever proved a case by circumstantial evidence, Director Wray?
GRAHAM: Well, I'm going to write you a letter and talk to you about why you should reconsider your findings as to whether or not it affected the investigation. Here's what Ms. Page -- Mr. -- Ms. Page said on March 4th, 2016. God, Trump is a loathsome human. How do you feel about that? I mean, she's entitled to her opinion.
HOROWITZ: I think we've laid out here why we were so concerned about it.
GRAHAM: Well, when you add it all up, as early as march these people hated Trump and this investigation was anything but by the book and at the end of the day what Comey did just blows me away as much as it does y'all, and I can't believe that this happened to my FBI. I told you the story, Mr. Wray, Director Wray, about wanting to be part of the organization and y'all were smart enough not to take me. The bottom line is, if you're on our side of the aisle, this really does hit you hard. And we can't just write it off. I think there was a lot of bias that did affect an investigation that is to me almost impossible to explain using any standard that I grew up with as a prosecutor or even as a defense attorney.
This is Strzok to Page on October 20th. Trump is an f'ing idiot. The bottom line is, I'm glad you found what you found, Mr. Horowitz.
[15:50:00] I'm not buying that the Clinton e-mail investigation was on the up and up, and the reason I'm not buying it is because the two people intimately involved, one, the guy -- the lead investigator clearly did not want to see Donald Trump become President of the United States. Finally, do you agree with me that finding her liable criminally would be inconsistent with stopping Donald Trump? If they found Hillary Clinton was criminally liable, that paves the way for Donald Trump. Can you put those two things together?
HOROWITZ: I guess it would depend when.
GRAHAM: How about July? Before the convention.
HOROWITZ: It clearly could conceivably --
GRAHAM: Well, not clearly conceivably, that's exactly what's happening here, folks. You cannot hold her criminally liable and stop him. As to the law, why did they change gross negligence in the original statement, Director Wray, to reckless disregard?
WRAY: I think I would defer to the inspector general to look into that.
GRAHAM: Why did they do that?
HOROWITZ: The explanation was that --
GRAHAM: Can I suggest something.
GRAHAM: Gross negligent is a criminally liable standard.
GRAHAM: So, if they said it the way they originally wrote it, she's guilty of a crime, and the reason they changed it is because she's not guilty of a crime and if you want to stop him, it can't be gross negligence. What is the difference between reckless disregard and gross negligence?
HOROWITZ: Not much.
GRAHAM: It is a lot politically.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
LEE: Senator Coons is next and so I guess will go to Senator Blumenthal.
SEN. Blumenthal, (D), Connecticut: I can't let this afternoon pass, Director Wray, without saying to you how grateful we should all be for the men and women who work for you and put their lives on the line, whose integrity and dedication to our nation are in no way affected by anything in this report and I still have on my wall my seal from the Department of Justice of decades ago when I was a United States attorney and know that men and women of the FBI work hard every day to uphold those ideals.
And I want to thank you for your response, which is to make the FBI even better and avoid any repetition of a small number of agents and attorneys casting a cloud on the integrity of the FBI. So, thank you for your response so far.
Director Horwitz, if I were President Trump and I held up this document to you and I said sitting here, right now, this report totally exonerates me, it shows no collusion, no obstruction of justice, what would you say to me?
WRAY: Senator, I would answer as I did before, which is our -- the report covers the midyear investigation and it touches on the Russia investigation in connection with the Wiener laptop matter and that is what this was concerning.
BLUMENTHAL: And I want to thank you for the work on this report. And I respect you're basically avoiding my question. I know that you're playing by norms and rules that apply to the Department of Justice, but you're dealing with the President of the United States that has no respect for those norms and rules. And he is distorting this report and weaponizing it to discredit the special counsel and to really undermine the rule of law in the United States of America and he's using your report to do it.
So, I would just respectfully suggest that all of us have a responsibility to state the truth and speak that truth to power, which in this case happens to be one of the most powerful men on earth when he lies about it. Because it gravely threatens the rule of law and I know you're playing by the rules. But he isn't.
Let me ask you, Director Wray, the affect of these leaks from the New York office to Rudy Giuliani was the subject of a letter I wrote to you on May 8th. I don't know if you have seen it or have it in mind? Basically, it asks you what is being done to assure there are no continuing unauthorized disclosures to Rudy Giuliani who now just to state the elephant in the room, is the President's lawyer? Can you assure the American people that there are no ongoing leaks from any office of the FBI to Rudy Giuliani? [15:55:00] WRAY: Well, senator, I'm certainly not aware of any. We
are aggressively investigating a number of leaks, even as we speak, as I mentioned earlier, we have a dedicated unit that I stood up to focus on that. We have a new media policy that makes the rules unmistakably clear to everyone in every office. We have a disciplinary arm well regarded as being one of the toughest but fairest out there and we intend to use all of those things to make sure that everybody and in every office follows the rules regarding leaks.
BLUMENTHAL: Well, if you would, I would appreciate a response to the letter. We have received none yet, that provides some more specific assurance that there are no ongoing leaks. Because these leaks had a very practical effect. And we state the timeline in the letter. Rudolph Giuliani said on October 26th, 2016, that he expected a surprise in the next few days. Two days later Director Comey issued his letter and he did it in large part, and I'm quoting his general counsel, because they felt it would leak, the e-mails would leak if he didn't write the letter. And then Rudolph Giuliani said, when asked about whether or not he knew about the letter, your darned right I did. So, the practical effect on Director Comey's decision to do that letter was very, very tangible.
I want to go to another impact of the leaks and ask you about them. We now know that Mr. Giuliani was not the only recipient of leaks designed to hurt Hillary Clinton, Representative Nunes recently admitted that FBI personnel secretly informed him in September of 2016 when Clinton e-mails were found on Anthony Wiener's laptop and he's admitted that fact. And they did it just days after the e-mails were discovered. So, there was a leak to him, the timing and context of this disclosure strongly suggests the goal was, in fact, of this FBI leak tore give an outspoken Trump ally politically sensitive and highly secret information to use for political purposes. Representative Nunes appears to have recognized this fact because he never told any of his Democratic colleagues on the intelligence committee about it. Can you assure us that there are no ongoing leaks or unauthorized disclosure to Representative Nunes or anyone else in- house intelligence committee?
WRAY: Well, senator, again, I'm not as -- as I said before, I'm not aware of any ongoing leaks to any member of Congress or to the media.
BLUMENTHAL: And you would find --
WRAY: I would absolutely if I was aware of a leak, I would take appropriate action. I don't want to cast aspersions on the New York field office which is one of the best offices, but I don't condone leaks anywhere to anyone and I don't care what the motivation is, no matter how altruistic it might be, and leaks are wrong, and we need to be tough on them.
BLUMENTHAL: And I want to join you in the respect that I share for the New York field office and as I stated earlier, for the FBI generally. General Horowitz, the comments that we have all said are unacceptable and abhorrent from Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were not the only inappropriate texts. In fact, there were comments that were disparaging about Hillary Clinton, were there not, that you found in your report?
WRAY: We have put in there other examples of texts and including other individuals --
BLUMENTHAL: And there were slurs by FBI agents against Hillary Clinton and one saying, for example, that urged colleagues in the FBI to continue investigating Clinton to, quote, get that -- I'm not going to articulate the word here -- but there were slurs against her from other FBI agents.
WRAY: I think that recounts what the general counsel said he heard. So, I don't think that is from the text messages.
BLUMENTHAL: It is not a direct quote, but it is something heard.
WRAY: Something the FBI general counsel related to us.
LEE: Senator Crapo.
SEN. Crapo, (R), Idaho: Thank you, Mr. Chairman --
BALDWIN: The majority of the hearing underway on Capitol Hill. Shimon Prokupecz is with me our justice correspondent. We've been listening to both the Department of Justice Inspector General and remember it was the IG who put out the 500-page report last week that folks like you and others really sorted through that gave that final assessment of how the FBI did or didn't when it came to the Hillary Clinton private e-mail server and also listening to Chris Wray, the FBI chief there.
[16:00:00] And I think we both looked up listening to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham when he was pointing out, the text messages -- that seems to be the truly damning part when it comes to how the FBI mishandled between Strzok and Page.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Brooke. And that is the big issue for the FBI. And you talk to the FBI agents, now former agents, this is one of the darkest clouds over this entire situation this episode are those text messages. It is something that will take them years to get over. I think the other highlight here is certainly the FBI director Chris Wray defending the FBI and he did this on Thursday and then the other thing is defending Robert Mueller.
PROKUPECZ: Using the President's words -- this is the second time now that he's done it. That is important as well. Because there are FBI agents working that investigation. So, all of this really -- a lot of this was obviously a rehash but very important points here that were made by FBI director.
BALDWIN: Appreciate you sitting here and listening to it. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you. And let's go to Jake Tapper. Special coverage continues right now.