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Trump Considering Pulling Ukrainian Aid?; Florida Braces For Hurricane Dorian; Interview With Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN); House Democrats Say They Were Blocked From Following Up On Visits To Immigration Facilities; Trump Administration Limiting Citizenship For Some Children To U.S. Military Members Living Overseas; DOJ Won't Prosecute Comey Over Handling Of His Memos On Trump Despite Finding He Broke FBI Rules; Police Arrest College Freshman They Say Bought Guns in Preparation to Carry Out School Shooting; As Flames Rage in the Amazon, Brazil's President Bans Land-Clearing Fires for 60 Days. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 29, 2019 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Favoring Florida. After insulting Puerto Rico when it was in danger from Dorian, the president now says he's so concerned about the threat to Florida that he's canceling a trip overseas. Is it a nod to the Sunshine State's clout in the 2020 election?

Blocking aid. Mr. Trump is seriously considering denying U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, a move that would make Vladimir Putin happy. Even some Republicans are warning him not to cozy up to the Kremlin again.

And college murder plot? A North Carolina college student is now in custody after reportedly confessing to planning a mass shooting on campus. Authorities say he already had a stash of powerful weapons and was studying how to kill.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the hurricane emergency now in effect for the entire state of Florida.

A just-released forecast shows Dorian is intensifying and is expected to be a major hurricane tomorrow as it plows closer and closer to the southeastern coast. It's likely to strike somewhere in Florida on Monday during the unusually busy Labor Day holiday.

It's a final path that is right now uncertain. And Southeast Georgia also is at serious risk tonight. More than 20 million people in both states are being warned to stock up and stay alert for potential evacuation orders.

Tonight, President Trump is acknowledging the threat of a huge disaster on his watch. He just announced he's canceling a trip to Poland this weekend, so he can stay in the United States to monitor the storm.

This hour, I will talk with Republican Congressman Jim Banks. He's a key member of the House Armed Services Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to CNN's Nick Valencia. He is on Florida's east coast for us right now.

Nick, the entire state is on alert, as Dorian gets closer and stronger.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are nervous times and, in some cases, unusual times as well.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office advertised this location as a place where residents can come and get free sandbags. But because inmates were helping out, they had to briefly pause it, as kids showed up here for practice.

But they're restarting this program and residents are continuing to show up here, some of them frustrated not seeing the sandbags. But it just goes to indicate just how nervous people are four days ahead of this storm.


VALENCIA (voice-over): Cities all along the Florida coast bracing for Hurricane Dorian.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you haven't acted, act to make preparations. Do not wait until it's too late.

VALENCIA: And Floridians are heating the warning, stripping shelves of the essentials. This Costco has dozens of people lined up to buy supplies.

At gas stations like this one near Miami Beach, lines reached back into the main street. The governor signing an emergency declaration for every county in the state.

DESANTIS: One of the things that the state of emergency allows us to do is to get more fuel into the gas stations. I know people are going and looking. We have heard reports of there being fuel shortages already.

VALENCIA: But, four days out, the path of the storm is still in flux.

LENNY CURRY, MAYOR OF JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: If we get into evacuation situation, you don't know if it's going to be the flooding, the when, the downed power lines. But you do know it's going to be one of those.

VALENCIA: A million gallons of drinking water and over a million meals will be available across the state. But residents should plan to have their own food and water for seven days, the governor says.

Officials say they learned lessons from Irma, which hit the area hard two years ago. The mayor of West Palm Beach says they're already sending out teams to nursing homes to make sure they have supplies and generators.

KEITH JAMES, MAYOR OF WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA: We don't want to repeat of some of the horror stories that I'm sure you heard from other communities in 2017 where folks literally died from heat exposure.

VALENCIA: Labor Day weekend is big business for these communities. In Daytona Beach, a tourist hot spot, this restaurant owner isn't taking any chances.

JASON ZELENAK, CRABBY'S OCEANSIDE RESTAURANT: I plan to make sure that we're safe here. And I'm -- listen, if they say to evacuate, I'm going to evacuate.

VALENCIA: In nearby Cocoa Beach, local officials say there are reports of hotel cancellations and cruise ships and flights are being rerouted from the coast.

The Chamber of Commerce says they're confident they could bounce back quickly. But Dorian could bring massive rain and flooding.

JAMES: A lot of times, the real difficulties of these storms is not during the storm. It's the aftermath.


VALENCIA: When Dorian does make landfall, it will be the fifth major hurricane to impact the state of Florida in just the last four years -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Nick Valencia on the scene for us, thank you.


BLITZER: Also tonight, President Trump is trying to show that he's taking the hurricane threat to Florida very, very seriously.

It's in stark contrast to his reaction when Puerto Rico was potentially in serious danger from Dorian.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, you were there in the Rose Garden a little while ago when the president spoke.


President Trump announced in the Rose Garden that he's not going to Poland, a trip that he had planned in the coming days, so he can stay in Washington and keep tabs on Hurricane Dorian. Vice President Mike Pence will now be going to Poland in the president's place.

The president insists his administration is ready for this storm. But there's no mistaking the big difference between now and how the president was behaving just 24 to 48 hours ago, when the hurricane that we're talking about now was targeting Puerto Rico.


ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is sounding all business about his administration's storm preparation efforts, announcing in the Rose Garden he is postponing his trip to Poland as Hurricane Dorian is expected to crash into the state of Florida over the Labor Day weekend.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our highest priority is the safety and security of the people in the path of the hurricane. And I will be rescheduling my trip to Poland in the near future.

ACOSTA: The president is warning Floridians that Dorian could be devastating, tweeting: "Be prepared and please follow state and federal instructions. It will be a very big hurricane, perhaps one of the biggest."

But contrast the president's no-nonsense warnings for Florida with his comments on Puerto Rico when the hurricane was on its way to the island. The president tweeted: "Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on Earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either incompetent or corrupt. And, by the way, I'm the best thing that's ever happened to Puerto Rico."

But critics in Puerto Rico say that's not true, pointing at the president's paper towel-tossing performance on the island two years ago after Hurricane Maria.

QUESTION: Between one and 10, how would you create the White House response so far to the hurricane?

TRUMP: I would say it was a 10.

ACOSTA: Away from the storm, the president is making other waves, as his administration is considering pulling back on military assistance to Ukraine, even as the country is reeling from years of Russian aggression.

Cutting that aid would be welcomed by Russia's Vladimir Putin.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: The United States has a strong moral and ethical -- I believe ethical commitment to help the Ukrainians defend themselves against the Russian incursions in Eastern Ukraine. It's hard not to juxtapose this with the push by President Trump to bring Russia back into the G7.

ACOSTA: But the president is again ramping up his rhetoric in his trade war with China, accusing Beijing of retaliating with tariffs aimed at American farmers to punish Mr. Trump in 2020.


TRUMP: China plays a vicious game. They have targeted our farmers. That's how vicious they play the game. They actually target, because they know that the farmers like Trump and Trump loves the farmers, actually. I love what they do. They're incredible people. They don't want any subsidies.

ACOSTA: The president sounds just as mad at FOX News, telling one of the network's hosts he's unhappy with the conservative channel's coverage of his administration, with the exception of certain personalities.

TRUMP: I'm not happy with it. I'm not happy with FOX. I think people think FOX is for me. FOX is good. Look, Sean and Laura, and Tucker has really been very good for -- well, Tucker, he is a little tricky, but that's OK. But he's been very good.

And many of them, you guys in the morning, Ainsley and Steve and you, you have become -- you are solid. I used to say you were a solid six, maybe a seven, but you're getting much better.


ACOSTA: Now, in another major foreign policy move, the president said he's planning to draw down the number of troops in Afghanistan.

Mr. Trump has long advocated for a total withdraw from Afghanistan. But it appears advisers who warned against that move have now won the day for now. As for the president's trip to Poland, it's worth noting Mr. Trump was supposed to meet with the new president of Ukraine while he was in Warsaw.

No word on whether the vice president will have that meeting instead. That's a very key meeting. As you know, Wolf, the administration is considering whether to hold up military aid for Ukraine, something the Pentagon does not want to see happen. Perhaps the Kremlin does, but the final call is up to the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Jim Banks. He's a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. JIM BANKS (R-IN): Great to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So you served in Afghanistan. What's your reaction -- we just heard from Jim Acosta -- to this announcement from the president that he's going to significantly reduce U.S. troops there to less than 9,000?

BANKS: Well, the deal is still yet to be finalized, Wolf. But I am one who believes that a sustained presence in Afghanistan is important to continue to fight the Taliban, fight future threats that come from that part of the globe.

But it appears that the deal that President Trump is striking with the Taliban would leave a residual force there. It would be more focused on counterterrorism. And if that is where the president and the administration arrives, then I think I can support where we're heading.

BLITZER: Because, right now, there's, what, about 14,000 or 15,000 U.S. troops, a lot more contractor -- American contractors there, but that would be a significant reduction.

Let's get back to Hurricane Dorian right now, which is the breaking news we're following, serious threat to Florida, maybe Georgia as well.

First of all, are you pleased that the president decided to at least postpone his visit this weekend to Poland in order to stay here in the United States and monitor this storm?

BANKS: It's a wise decision by the president for him to be that focused on the storm.

I also know that Governor DeSantis -- I know the governor very well, served with him in the House of Representatives. I know he's preparing as well as he can in his position as governor, working closely with the federal government, to do everything that they can to prepare as well.

So I'm pleased that the president made that decision. I'm sure he will be focused on the storm and what we can do at the federal level to help our partners at the state level to keep everyone safe in Florida.

BLITZER: You heard, in Jim Acosta's report, that the president's level of really a lot of support for the people of Florida right now and Georgia very different to the kind of image he was projecting when this storm was threatening Puerto Rico.

What do you make of that?

BANKS: Well, I have been in Congress, Wolf, for two-and-a-half years, and we have had a number of these storms that have wreaked havoc on both coasts and in other places that we -- that the Congress has appropriated a large amount of money and supplemental aid to different regions to help from time to time.

And the president each -- in every each and every case, including with Puerto Rico, has supported those large aid packages. At the same time, we should hold those accountable who spend those funds. And I think that's where the president's frustration has come and to make sure that those funds are spent on what they're meant for, what the American people are appropriating those dollars to do. So I don't think everything has to be about politics. And in this

case, the president is showing wise leadership in not going to Poland, staying on the ground to focus our federal resources and how we can help all who are affected by this storm.

BLITZER: The canceled trip to Poland this weekend means that the president won't have his scheduled meeting in Warsaw with the new Ukrainian president, at the same time as the president is now thinking very seriously of blocking $250 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.

Now, should the administration be doing more to help the people of Ukraine against Russian aggression?

BANKS: Well, Wolf, the administration should keep doing what they have been doing since President Trump took office.


And that's -- that's helping Ukraine fight against Russian aggression.

This administration deserves high marks.

BLITZER: But should the U.S. block $250 million in appropriated funds, military aid for Ukraine, as the president is now suggesting?

BANKS: Well, the president isn't suggesting that he's going to do that. He's called for a review of our foreign assistance to Ukraine.

But the fact of the matter, Wolf, is that this president has provided lethal aid to our Ukrainian partners to fight against the Russians. I have been in Ukraine on the eastern front and just recently, since I have been in Congress, to see firsthand what our American troops do to train the men and women of the Ukrainian military to fight back against the Russians as well.

When President -- when President Obama was in office, and the Ukrainians asked for help, we sent them blankets. President Trump has sent them lethal aid to fight back against the Russians. This president has been tough in that regard, in giving the Ukrainians what they need to battle back against Russian aggression.

BLITZER: Well...

BANKS: And my hope is that he will continue to do so.

If President Trump cuts foreign aid to Ukraine, and I don't -- I don't think he will do that -- have me back on the show, and I will criticize that. But that's not what he has -- what he has decided to do with this at this point in time.

BLITZER: But you would have -- and you're right. He hasn't made a final decision on this.

But if he were to make a final decision and eliminate that $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, you would be opposed to that? BANKS: I would be opposed to that.

But I'm not opposed to the president calling for a review of the substantial amount of money that we spend in foreign aid to support the Ukrainians. That is all that he's done at this point.

And I imagine that that review will come back with a positive outlook of how our aid dollars are spent with our -- with a very important partner that we have in Ukraine in a very important region of the world.

BLITZER: Congressman Jim Banks, thanks so much for joining us.

BANKS: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: All right, we got more breaking news just ahead, as we track Hurricane Dorian and the danger to millions of Americans right now in Florida and Georgia.

And also new details emerging on an alleged mass shooting plot on a college campus. Police say the suspect was shockingly far along in planning a massacre.



BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, President Trump canceling a trip to Poland this weekend in order to monitor Hurricane Dorian, now forecast to slam into Florida's east coast over the holiday weekend as a major Category 4 storm.

Let's dig deeper with our experts and our analysts.

FEMA is warning it could wreak, David, all sorts of havoc on roads, power, infrastructure. I assume you agree it was the right call by the president to postpone this visit to Poland?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: I think it was the right call. Good on President Trump for prioritizing this disaster over a foreign trip, which can be rescheduled.

It's an opportunity, as he has had many of them, Wolf, to demonstrate that he can make a situation, especially an emergency about other people, Americans in distress, and not on himself. That's not always what he did in prior disasters. Let's see if he can rise to the occasion.

BLITZER: Because his -- there's a huge contrast between the way he was reacting to a potential disaster -- fortunately, it didn't happen -- to Puerto Rico 24 hours ago, and what might happen to Florida.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, this is as close to a scientific case as you can get between how the president reacts to a hurricane bearing down on a place he doesn't care about, and one that he cares about very much politically. I mean, we saw it in real time unfold. When this hurricane was on a

direct path towards Puerto Rico, he was essentially, as crazy as it sounds, blaming the Puerto Ricans for this. Now it's going to hit Florida. He's canceling a foreign trip and he's prioritizing this.

So I think this tells us a lot about President Trump and his priorities and how he sees these two very different groups of Americans.


SWERDLICK: One place has a lot of electoral votes, and one place has zero Electoral College votes.

BLITZER: You know, Samantha Vinograd, by canceling the trip to Poland, Warsaw, this weekend -- he was supposed to be there with the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

That meeting is not going to happen. But what do you make of this talk now that he's thinking of canceling $250 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I'm going to strongly disagree with David here in terms of the president canceling his trip to Poland.

I don't really think anyone can argue that the president staying home means he's actually going to do more work. He's been home the last few days. He's been insulting Puerto Rico. It is really unclear what his presence in the United States is going to do, other than, as Ryan just said, show that he is prioritizing the response to Florida and insulting the Puerto Ricans.

So I think that him going to Poland would have been smart, particularly because he would have seen President Zelensky and really issued a signal of solidarity with respect to Ukrainian sovereignty. This news about him ordering a freeze on $250 million in assistance to Ukraine really isn't a surprise.

I have been part of budget reviews. Funds are allocated based upon administration priorities. The president's priority is placating Putin. Moving ahead with this foreign assistance would have bolstered Ukraine and would have upset Putin. That is probably why he's put a freeze on it.

Now, the administration has said that this is part of some kind of foreign assistance review. And I'm kind of wondering when we have seen a foreign assistance review or an assistance or review for Trump's pet projects.

He only does reviews of things that don't jibe with when he's trying to placate people like Putin or Kim Jong-un or his campaign objectives.


BLITZER: Do you want to respond to that, David?

SWERDLICK: No, I was just going to say, I mean, I agree with the bulk of Sam's analysis.

I will just say, though, that this is a situation where, one, the president, he may not do the work that needs to be done if he's in Poland. And you have a situation where people like to see their president in times of distress.

There is certainly the possibility that this president will screw it up, as he has in past disasters. But I think we have to at least see what happens in this situation.

BLITZER: Because the criticism, Sabrina, that the president is getting by putting a freeze potentially on U.S. military aid to Ukraine is, it will please Putin. And people are wondering, why would he do that?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's shown a pattern of wanting to ingratiate himself with Vladimir Putin, first as a candidate, and then as president.

And we really don't have a definitive answer as to what is motivating him. Does it have to do with his business interests in Russia? Was there some kind of quid pro quo between the Trump campaign and Moscow at the time that they were interfering in the 2016 election? Those were questions that Robert Mueller's report and investigation sought to answer, but, in the end, couldn't establish a criminal conspiracy between the Russians and the Trump campaign because they didn't have sufficient evidence.

But it does send a signal that he is willing to cozy up to people like Putin, despite gross violations of human rights. And he's also done that when you look at his attempts to flatter Kim Jong-un. It is not clear what exactly he's getting out of that, other than realigning, I think, U.S. relationships on the global stage and increasingly isolating traditional U.S. allies in favor of the likes of Russia, China, North Korea.

And that has very real implications for the U.S. in terms of its standing on the international stage for years, and potentially for more time to come.

BLITZER: What do you think, Ryan?

LIZZA: I mean, look, when Republicans have spent so much time defending Trump on his relationship with Putin, as the member, Republican member that you had on previously made a point of doing, and talking about how, at the convention, they really didn't change -- remember, in the 2016 convention, there was this change of the Republican platform.

And Trump sort of makes a mockery of those defenses at every turn. He has this weird obsession on the international stage of defending and promoting the interests of Vladimir Putin, and when they very often do not comport with American interests. And so what are the reasons? One, he likes to do everything that is

the opposite of President Obama, whether he agrees with it or not. If Obama did it, here's the opposite.


VINOGRAD: But he did do something which was the opposite of Obama. He gave lethal aid to Ukraine.

And we do have to point to that. I mean, he has flip-flopped on his own policy by putting a freeze on these funds. Just like every other foreign policy issue, there are two different Ukraine policies. We have the Pentagon and the State Department providing lethal aid to Ukraine, working to bolster Zelensky, working to deter Russia.

And as Ryan was just saying, we then have the president of the United States placating Putin and really condoning his actions in Eastern Ukraine. So by putting a freeze on these funds, the president is flip-flopping on himself, which is nothing new, and undercutting his own case.


BLITZER: But let me ask you Samantha, because you have worked on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

Why did President Obama not provide lethal equipment? You heard Congressman Banks just tell us Obama was willing to give them blankets.

VINOGRAD: Well, saying that President Obama just gave the Ukrainians blankets is ridiculous.

The Obama administration, since 2014, both under President Obama and under President Trump, there has been the provision, over a billion dollars in assistance to the Ukrainians.

And the fact of the matter is that providing military assistance and foreign assistance to the Ukraine has been a bipartisan issue. There aren't a lot of those these days.

So President Trump, by putting a freeze on these funds, is likely going to experience strong pushback from not just Democrats, but also from members of his own party. Representative Kinzinger has been out in front criticizing this discussion.

And I would expect to see a lot more Republican senators and members of Congress doing the same, which could lead the president to back down. When he feels under pressure from the Republicans, he sometimes changes his mind.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue this conversation.

We have got to take a quick break. Much more right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with our experts and our analysts. And, David Swerdlick, you've seen this letter from Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives, to the Department of Homeland Security, and the secretary, Kevin McAleenan, complaining that they're refusing to allow staff members from the House Oversight Committee to engage in the second round of visits to several detention facilities.

In the first round, the staffers documented what was seen as extremely troubling conditions. What do you make of this?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I make of it that the administration doesn't want Congress, A, to perform its oversight function, which is a part of Congress' oversight function, and they don't want people to see what presumably would be still substandard conditions at some of these facilities. If the facilities were running perfectly, I can't imagine they wouldn't want Democratic members or Democratic staff to come to the facilities.

Look, we have a situation here, Wolf, and we've been talking about this for months, where this shouldn't be hard. It's a hard thing to decide immigration policy.


It's not hard to decide that kids should have clean sheets, toothpaste, books, soccer balls, bathrooms and showers and everything that they need, and teddy bears even. It's preposterous that they haven't figured out a solution.

BLITZER: And it comes at a time, Ryan, when the administration wants to transfer funds already appropriated for FEMA, other disaster- assistance programs in order to deal with immigration problems.

RYAN CILLIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And, look, it's not necessarily a bad thing that they want to put more resources into the border. It just depends on what they're going to do with the money. There is D.H. money that the administration has a legal right to -- it is somewhat fundable, right?

The reports are though that they want to use this money for detention centers for asylum seekers. There was a policy that a lot of asylum seekers were allowed and did not have -- as their request for asylum was being processed, they were free to go to be in the United States freely. A lot of them actually were -- had ankle bracelets where they were monitored. And the administration wants some of those people to be in detention centers instead. And so there are some reports that that's what they want to do with this money.

And I think a lot of Democrats would say, well, that's not really a great use of those resources, that there is obviously a serious issue with the system being overwhelmed by asylum seekers right now. Well, that -- using that money for that specific purpose is not wise. But like David said, look, Congress, both sides agree in a sense that there is a crisis now with the system, but they're so far apart and so locked into positions on what to do about it.

BLITZER: Let me get Samantha to weigh in on this new citizenship policy. It's causing a lot of confusion right now that certain American diplomats stationed abroad, U.S. military personnel stationed abroad, a very small number may have some new questions raised about their kids, whether they're automatically U.S. citizens.

You've gone through, Samantha, and looked at this. But it's causing a lot of heartburn for American military, diplomatic personnel abroad who were wondering what about their kids?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's exactly right, Wolf. And part of the issue here is how inept the administration's rollout was.

The text itself is quite complex. I'm not a lawyer. I'm looking through it. It was frankly quite confusing. The administration didn't do a good job of explaining whom this would impact when it goes into effect on October 29th.

The fact of the matter is that this could impact relatively speaking a small number of children. It's still a serious development but it is likely not going to be a mass impact kind of event.

We do have to consider this though within the broader context of the president's war on legal immigration as well as illegal immigration and its continued efforts to put added strain on those who actually serve our country.

On the legal immigration front, President Trump has cited the need to streamline bureaucratic processes, has introduced visa delays, and now he's made certain service members and federal employees required to apply for citizenship for their children.

At the same time, he has really denigrated the service of Americans overseas at every juncture. He's called U.S. military exercises ridiculous and he's, again, introduced more hurdles to them doing their job. And so for that reason, I think this new citizenship process is very concerning and it's likely not going to be the last move that he makes.

BLITZER: Because U.S. Navy officer has told CNN, Sabrina, military spouses are really stressed out about this. If you go on their Facebook pages, for example, they're nervous, they're confused.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's just been very little clarity on what exactly this means and who it impacts. The administration is now engaging in some degree of damage control. They told reporters in a background conference call that this will only affect about 25 service members per year.

So they're really emphasizing that it's a small amount of individuals. But it does seem to disproportionately impact the children of non-U.S. citizens who are serving overseas for no fault of their own. And as Samantha, it fits into the president's attempts to crack down not just on illegal immigration but also creating new obstacles for legal immigration process.

BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this story as well.

There's much more coming up, including a watchdog's new report criticizing James Comey but finds no reason for the former FBI director to be prosecuted. What did we learn about the way Comey handled his memos involving his meetings with President Trump?

And police now say a potential campus mass shooter decided which college to attend based on where he could get guns more easily.



BLITZER: Tonight, the Justice Department confirms it won't prosecute former FBI Director James Comey over his handling of memos involving his meetings with President Trump. A just released report, a lengthy report, by the Department of Justice, the watchdog agency there found no evidence that any classified information was released to the news media, but it does say FBI rules were broken.

Let's bring in our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, the inspector general report is rather critical of Comey.

JESSICA SCHNEIRDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's very critical, Wolf. And It calls out Comey's actions in handling these memos. It actually says that it created a dangerous example for the rest of the FBI.

And the inspector general's 80-page, it pointed out that the former FBI's director's mishandling of his memos, he criticized the way that they were distributed as well as the way they were stored.



SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the former FBI director found by the inspector general to have violated FBI policy in his FBI employment agreement. The Justice Department watchdog in an 83-page report digging into James Comey's handling of seven memos, detailing his interactions with the president before he was fired, determining that Comey's release of portions of one memo to the press through his friend and the storage of some of those memos in a safe inside Comey's home set a dangerous example for FBI employees all in an attempt to achieve a personally desired outcome.

Comey has said he had specific reasons for getting the content of his memos out to the public.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. So I asked a close friend of mine to do it.

SCHNEIDER: The I.G. concluded that Comey never released classified information to the media himself but did determine that Comey's memos were official records and should not have been removed from the FBI. It also said that one of the memos Comey shared with his attorneys was later found to contain information classified as confidential, the lowest level of secrecy.

Comey contended before Congress in June 2017 that everything he wrote down was unclassified.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I think you said you had used classified -- classified --

COMEY: Oh, yes. Not the classified documents. Unclassified.

My view was that the content of those unclassified -- the memorialization of those conversations was my recollection recorded.

SCHNEIDER: Comey swiftly took to Twitter to respond to the report and take a not-so-veiled shot at President Trump who has persistently labeled him a leaker and to all of those who spent two years talking about me going to jail and being a liar and leaker, ask yourselves why you still trust people who gave you bad info for so long, including the president.

The Justice Department decided not to prosecute Comey after reviewing these findings, in part because prosecutors didn't believe there was evidence that Comey knew and intended to violate the laws dealing with classified information.


SCHNEIDER: And Republicans are now seizing on the I.G.'s conclusion that Comey mishandled those memos. And they're comparing it into the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email servers. Of course, Comey unilaterally announced the decision not to prosecute Clinton for mishandling classified information, the DOJ I.G later faulted Comey for really going rogue on that announcement.

And now, top House Republican Jim Jordan has quipped in a statement that after Comey cleared Clinton, well, Comey decided to mishandle sensitive information, too.

So, Wolf, the partisan bickering I guess continues.

BLITZER: It will continue for some time. There's no doubt. Good report.

Jessica, thank you very much.

Just ahead, an alleged school shooting plot is foiled as police arrest a college freshman they say was preparing to attack.


[18:52:45] BLITZER: We're learning new details tonight of an alleged school shooting plot foiled by police in North Carolina.

CNN's Martin Savidge reports.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, 19- year-old High Point University freshman Paul Steber in police custody.

COLTON ZENNI, HIGH POINT UNIVERSITY JUNIOR: It's kind of a state of shock. You know, nobody knows what to think, nobody knows exactly what's true. So, people are kind of uncomfortable with it for sure.

SAVIDGE: Steber, a student less than two weeks faces two felony counts of weapons on campus or educational property, and one count of making a threat of mass violence.

Steber's attorney did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

But according to prosecutors, Steber obtained a semiautomatic handgun and shotgun last weekend, as well as ammunition, all discovered by the police in his dorm room Tuesday. They also say that Steber had been planning the attack since December and actually had begun studying how to kill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watching videos of the Charleston mass shootings down into South Carolina and other mass shootings.

SAVIDGE: And that he specifically chose the North Carolina school as part of his plan, even though he is from Boston.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came to North Carolina to go to school because it was easier to get guns in North Carolina than other states.

SAVIDGE: University officials said they were alerted to the potential threats by students. In a message to students, High Point University said there was no immediate threat and that Steber had been removed from campus.

ZENNI: The impact of coming forward was the student was removed. And I mean you hate to think about what would happen if nobody said something and he went through whatever he was planning on going through with.

SAVIDGE: This is just the latest thwarted mass shooting attempt. Dozens have been arrested over threats to commit mass murder since the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month. And according to the FBI, there was a significant increase in threats in the week after the shootings totaling more than 38,000 threat tips from the public.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SAVIDGE: Wolf, Steber has so far been denied bond. It expected in the next week or so he will have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. He's already been expelled from the school.

But to hear the chilling point, many students will select a college based on academics or a career. He chose it according to authorities because it best fit his plans -- Wolf.

[18:55:01] BLITZER: I know High Point University is a really terrific excellent school indeed.

Martin Savidge, thanks very much for that report. We're going to have much more news right after this.


BLITZER: Dramatic new images tonight of the flames raging in the Amazon rainforest. After a record 80,000 fires this year, Brazil's president has just announced a 60-day ban on using fire to clear land. It comes as scientists are warning that the fires could strike a devastating blow to the fight against climate change.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'll Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.