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Justice Department Charges Member Of Iran's Revolutionary Guard With Plot To Murder Former National Security Adviser John Bolton; Trump Seizes On FBI Search To Fuel Backlash Against FBI, Justice Dept.; Afghan Man Arrested In Killings Of Muslim Men In New Mexico. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired August 10, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Back to our breaking news, the Justice Department just charging a member of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard in an attempted assassination plot to kill former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton, prosecutors saying that it isn't -- it wasn't -- the attempt was in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran's top General.

Back with me now is CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd. He's a former FBI senior intelligence officer. Phil, what is your take on -- what you've read of this plot so far? What the Justice Department put out in terms of what was Iran thinking here?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, this is far more fascinating to me than Mar-a-Lago. I used to follow the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guard from Iran when I was at the CIA. Note that this is an element of the Revolutionary Guard that is responsible for operations overseas. Let's took -- let's put two pieces of this together, Kate.

The first is the Iran peace. The revolution in Iran was only in 1979. The Iranian leadership views today in 2022, the Americans as the biggest threat to the continuation of the revolution, part of that -- part of that is because they see things like the assassination of General Soleimani a couple of years ago. They're saying the Americans today want to prevent the revolution from continuing.

Who represents that threat to the regime? People in the American government who were responsible for the assassination of General Soleimani, and who are known as being hawks on Iran, who want to get rid of that regime. Person number one, John Bolton. So you have a regime in Iran that wants to prevent the Americans from interfering in Iran, and you have a target that Iran views as a big threat. This is fascinating.


BOLDUAN: Reading through this, I was noting this with Kylie and Evan when they're -- when we were just talking about the breaking news. There's a lot of detail in here about how far along they attempted to pay individuals in the United States $300,000 to carry out the murder in Washington, DC or Maryland. I mean, based on what the Justice Department has in charging this, how far along do you think this assassination plot was?

MUDD: Not far. I would suggest that anybody who skimmed through this, read it again. Let me give you a fundamentally different object to understand. If you look at this as the Americans, in this case, the FBI following the Iranians, change your mindset. It looks to me from my first read of this that the FBI was running the Iranians that they manage this case. In other words, they are on the case so early, and you'll see that a reference in the document is something called a CHS, a confidential human source. That's an informant for the FBI who was one of the -- supposedly one of the two plotters.

The FBI owned the plot cage. And the reason they wanted to run on, the reason they allow it to run on is because, when they go to a court and a jury, they don't want a defense attorney to say this was all wannabes, nothing would ever really happen. This was all a bunch of talk. They want to see the subject that is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard person talking about transferring money, talk about the assassination and details so the jury won't be led to believe that this was all fun and games. They own the plot at the FBI, I think.

BOLDUAN: That's so interesting, Phil. I'm just told that we have some sound from the Justice Department announcing these charges, some details of what they have. Let's listen to this together.


MATTHEW G. OLSEN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, NATIONAL SECURITY DIVISION: The facts we allege are clear and chilling. Beginning in October 2021, working on behalf of the IRGC-Qods Force, Shahram Poursafi offered a U.S. resident a significant sum of money to hire someone to "eliminate the former National Security Adviser." This was not an idle threat. And this is not the first time we have uncovered brazen acts by Iran to exact revenge against individuals on U.S. soil.


BOLDUAN: I'm sure that last part you're s -- something you're very familiar with Iran's capabilities, what they've been known to and tried to do before. And what does this say about Iran's capabilities right now?

MUDD: It's -- it tells me two things. When you think about intelligence, Kate, you don't be caught -- you got to talk about intent, what they want to do. The intent piece here is the most significant piece that shows that Iran, in the midst of negotiations about things like whether we give them a break on the Iran nuclear program, whether they put restrictions on Iran nuclear program and start trading oil again. In the midst of those negotiations, they're worried -- they're thinking of -- or considering an assassination on U.S. soil. That tells you something about where that regime is in terms of boldness. The second piece, I think, is almost as interesting and that is, in addition to intent, you got to look at capabilities. If they had the tremendous capability in this country, why would they have to get online and risk trying to -- trying to hire somebody from 10,000 miles away, not knowing whether that person was a U.S. plant or something? It suggests that may be, maybe they don't have the capability in this country to do it themselves. That surprises me a little bit that they would take the risk of just saying hey, can we hire you?

BOLDUAN: Interesting. Phil, thank you so much for jumping on. I really appreciate it.

MUDD: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: All right, a quick programming note for all of you. John Bolton, the man who was the target in this plot. John Bolton will be joining Wolf Blitzer on the "SITUATION ROOM" this afternoon, of course, live on CNN.

Coming up still for us. Donald Trump is using the FBI search of his Florida home to fuel backlash against the FBI and the Justice Department now. Trump's former White House Communications Director joins us next.



BOLDUAN: Donald Trump is now trying to orchestrate fierce backlash against the FBI and Justice Department following Monday's FBI search of his Florida home, threats of violence are circulating online on pro-Trump platforms and there are warnings coming from all angles for retaliation from congressional Republicans.

Joining me right now, CNN Political Commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin. She's a former Trump White House Communications Director and now the newly named co-host of The View. It's good to see you, Alyssa. Donald Trump clearly thinks this is good for him. Do you agree that it is?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'll say this. So I'm hearing from those close to Trump that they think this is good for him politically, that it's ginned up his base, it's forced other 2024 contenders like Ron DeSantis and Mike Pompeo and others to put out statements supporting him. But I am hearing that Trump personally is very, very upset over the FBI raid. So it's kind of a balance there. I would say this. I do think it is showing what a strong pole he still has over the base, just the words that you're hearing and the kind of language coming from Republicans is clearly very much in support of him.

And one thing I just want to note, Kate, because of the segment you did before this, obviously, this significant DOJ investigation that ended up catching a plotted assassination attempt on John Bolton, that's what the FBI does. But then you have people like Senator Josh Hawley saying we need to reform it from the top down, we need to fire Chris Wray, we need to impeach Merrick Garland. So there's just this complete disconnect for many in the Republican Party and the reality of right now.


BOLDUAN: I think making that comparison and connection is extremely important. Because you have some Republicans flying to meet Trump at his home in New Jersey this week to kind of plan out their strategy give, their support, you have so many others quick to jump to line up with him. Rick Scott's on TV comparing the Justice Department to the Gestapo. Marco Rubio is comparing this search to third-world Marxist dictators. And then you have what will be and should be praised a bound for an investigation uncovering a plot to take out John Bolton. I mean, the reaction from Republicans like Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, does that surprise you?

GRIFFIN: It does surprise me that the Republican Party, my party, has been on this trend away from being pro-law enforcement. You know, we were the ones who spoke out against the Defund the Police rhetoric on the left but then January 6 came, and suddenly we weren't standing with Capitol police officers in DC Metropolitan Police. This is the latest where we're demonizing federal law enforcement who by and large, do incredible work to keep our country safe. And by the way, those statements that you noted, all went out without any of those elected officials actually knowing why they -- the FBI went and what the contents of the warrant were, and what the underlying potential crime is. So it's a -- it's just kind of remarkable to make these comparisons, having no idea what this is even about.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's exactly right. I mean, it's -- everyone -- we can use the phrase, but everyone just about needs to pump the brakes on, we don't know really what is being investigated. The Justice Department appropriately, being completely typed flipped -- tight- lipped about it. I mean, but just calling a spade a spade and all of this, you talking -- when you talk about the Republican reaction, and it's not entirely but the Republican reaction you and I are just talking about a potential misuse of classified information, you do not have to look far to find the hypocrisy, just a reminder for everyone. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, the FBI has reopened its criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton. Folks, she shouldn't be allowed to run.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R-FL): Hillary Clinton is disqualified from being the President of the United States because she stored classified and sensitive information on her e-mail server because she thinks she's above the law.

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM, (R-SC): I want somebody outside the Clinton network looking through these e-mails.


BOLDUAN: And, Alyssa, you know don't go to Washington if you want to find intellectual honesty. We -- we've -- we know that all over the place. But how do they get away from this?

GRIFFIN: Well, this is what's stunning to me is this is all happening while simultaneous separate investigations into Donald Trump are taking place. He was deposed today in New York where he pled the Fifth. He's under investigation in this Georgia election scheme as well as the ongoing DOJ investigation on January 6, 2021. So my plea to my Republican Party is why on earth are we lining up behind this man who is so vulnerable?

He is just, you know, across the board under investigation. As you point out, for things that we criticize Hillary Clinton for, at a time when the polls show he is the most likely to lose to Joe Biden. There's an absurdity that I just can't quite wrap my head around why the party is coming out behind him.

BOLDUAN: Yes. We'll keep talking about it. It's good to see you, Alyssa, thank you.

GRIFFIN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. A programming note, everyone. Tonight, Anderson Cooper is going to be sitting down with the Sandy Hook father Neil Heslin in his first interview following the Alex Jones defamation trial. That conversation airs tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Coming up still with us -- for us, an arrest in the killings of several Muslim men in New Mexico. A CNN correspondent was inside the suspect's home just hours before the suspect was identified. That correspondent joins me next.



BOLDUAN: An important development in a case that paralyzed a New Mexico Community. New Mexico authorities have arrested an Afghan man in connection with the murders of at least two Muslim men. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Albuquerque. He's been following this so closely. Ed, what are you learning about this arrest?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, investigators here in Albuquerque, New Mexico say they have showcasing evidence that they believe connects 51-year-old Muhammad Syed to the murders of at least two of the four Muslim men that have been killed here in the last 10 months. That first murder happened back in November, the last three happening in the last two weeks. But investigators also pointed out that they feel very confident that Muhammad Syed is the prime suspect in all of the murders but at this point, they say they're still trying to figure out what the motive is.

BOLDUAN: Ed, you were inside the suspect's home.


KYLE HARTSOCK, DEPUTY COMMANDER, ALBUQUERQUE POLICE: We work fully to understand what they are. Even though he's arrested today, we're going to continue to investigate and work with our prosecutors to understand what the motives were, and that's important in every criminal investigation.


LAVANDERA: So, Kate, it's important to point out also you know investigators say they found multiple firearms inside the home, the suspect's home, that they searched also in his vehicle. He left just before investigators executed a search warrant at his home. He was captured and taken into custody about an hour east of Albuquerque in the city of Santa Rosa.


BOLDUAN: And that's a -- sorry, I was jumping a little early there, Ed, because I did want to ask you about that because you were inside the suspect's home hours before the police even identified him. Can you tell us more about that?

LAVANDERA: Well, surreal, we have you know been working on the story for the last several days and we came across this family's identity and we arrived there at the house, the daughter and son-in-law and other members of the family invited us in and they were in the process of cleaning up the home just hours before investigators here in Albuquerque had been executing the search warrant. The rugs on the floor were turned upside down, the entire house was still being put back together from the search that was conducted inside of there.

The daughter of Muhammad Syed told us that she does not believe that her father is responsible for these murders. Muhammad Syed, according to court documents also told investigators the same thing. But she did say that an hour before or so, before investigators arrived at the house that he had decided to drive to Texas because he was thinking about moving the family there. So, just a surreal scene there as all of this transpiring very quickly and that family trying to figure out what exactly was going on in the investigation but investigators here believe that 51-year-old Muhammad Syed is the culprit of all four of these murders that has really devastated the small Muslim community here in Albuquerque. They say they are relieved with the news that a suspect is now in custody.

BOLDUAN: And still so many questions of why. Ed, thank you so much for your amazing reporting. I really appreciate it. And thank you all so much for being here AT THIS HOUR. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this break.