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At This Hour

WSJ: Informant Tipped Off FBI About Classified Docs At Trump Home; Some Justice Dept. Officials Believe Garland Should Make Public Statement; Trump Repeatedly Invokes Fifth Amendment In NY Probe Questioning; John Bolton, Mike Pompeo Targets Of Alleged Iranian Plot; Russia Confirms For First Time Prisoner Swap Negotiations With U.S. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, at this hour, an informant reportedly tipped off the FBI to more classified records at Trump's Florida home. And the plot thickens. Another U.S. official was targeted in the Iranian plan to kill top American officials.

Plus, gas prices fall below $4 A gallon for the first time in months. This is what we're watching at this hour.

Thank you so much for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. More details and many more questions about the multiple investigations into Donald Trump right now. The Wall Street Journal reports an informant tipped off federal investigators to the possibility there were more classified documents at the former president's Florida home, leading to that unprecedented FBI search at Mar-a-Lago on Monday.

The big question this morning is who turned on Donald Trump? CNN has also learned that some Justice Department officials are pushing Attorney General Merrick Garland to speak up publicly about the investigation to try and push back on Trump and his defenders questioning the credibility of the nation's top law enforcement agencies.

This extraordinary week in American history is seeing yet another first, a former president repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment in a sworn deposition as New York's Attorney General and her -- as New York's Attorney General and her team questions Trump for hours yesterday. Trump refused to answer hundreds of questions.

Let's get to it. Let's start with CNN's Evan Perez. He's live in Washington. Evan, on that tip that led investigators to get the search warrant to head to Mar-a-Lago, what are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we know that there was at least one witness who told the FBI in the last few months that there were additional documents that are being stored at -- classified documents that are being stored at Mar-a-Lago. This is in addition to the 15 boxes that had been retrieved under orders from the National Archives earlier this year.

So it's clear that there was somebody who had knowledge about these documents, knew where they were, and told the FBI this during an interview. Now the issue is, you know, there are a number of people, obviously, who were interviewed in this spring, who had knowledge about where these documents were stored, and the circumstances under which they came to be stored at the Mar-a-Lago.

Listen to Mick Mulvaney, talking a little bit about what he knew when he was chief of staff, to the former president.


MICK MULVANEY, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF: I didn't even know there was a safe at Mar-a-Lago and I was the Chief of Staff for 15 months. So this would be someone who was handling things on day to day, who knew where documents were, so that would be somebody very close inside the president. My guess is there's probably six or eight people had that kind of information.

I don't know the people on the inside circle these days so I can't give any names of folks who come to mind. But your instinct I think is a good one, is that if you know where the safe is, and you know the documents are in 10 boxes in the basement, you are pretty close to the President.


PEREZ: And Kate, there's a huge guessing game now inside Trump circles about exactly who this person could have been. Because clearly this person knew a lot about where things were.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Evan, thank you.

As his customary, Attorney General Merrick Garland has not said anything about the FBI search of Donald Trump's home. Though CNN has learned some inside the Justice Department believe that Garland should break protocol if you will, on this one, and make a public statement as Trump and his allies are filling the void with conspiracies. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is tracking this one for us. Katelyn, what are you hearing?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Kate, Evan Perez was able to confirm this yesterday that some Justice Department officials believe this is such an extraordinary circumstance for the department to be in to be executing a search at a former president's home. That Garland should be out there making a statement, but we really have not seen him.

And the bottom line here is that that is just the way that Merrick Garland as Attorney General works. The policy long standing at the Justice Department is not to comment on existing investigations. They often won't even confirm they exist, even if they're known. And we also know that it just isn't the sort of thing that Garland has done with other major investigations in recent months, or even years that he hasn't made statements when there was seditious conspiracy cases charge. Those were really a big deal.

And then even yesterday, there wasn't a press conference after the announcement of these charges in this case about the plot to assassinate John Bolton, that could have been an opportunity for Garland to come out. He just did not.


And neither did the National Security Division, people -- officials that were overtop of that case and also would have been handling some of the issues here in the search of Mar-a-Lago related to classified documents. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. Katelyn, thank you so much.

So while all of this is unfolding, Donald Trump repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment during hours of questioning and a deposition in a New York Civil investigation into the finances of his family business.

CNN's Kara Scannell joins us with this. So Kara, you were following all of this for us yesterday. What does all of this mean?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, because he asserted the Fifth Amendment hundreds of times and did not answer questions, if the New York Attorney General does bring a civil action against him in the Trump organization that can be used against him. The jury is allowed to take that as a -- an adverse inference, but it is good news for him as far as this open criminal investigation because he didn't incriminate himself because he didn't answer these questions.

You know, we learned a little bit more color about what happened inside the room yesterday. Sources tell us that, you know, Trump was in the room. The New York Attorney General Letitia James was in the room. These two have traded barbs against each other for years --


SCANNELL: -- including yesterday morning as Trump was heading into that deposition. He released a statement, you know, with some more criticisms against her. So what we're told him, his lawyer Ron Fischetti told me that Trump's in the room, Letitia James is in the room.

She gives an opening statement. Then, Fischetti says, you know, Trump -- he basically says we were only doing this as a last-minute decision. He didn't decide until today that he wasn't going to assert the Fifth because he'd been getting conflicting advice. But so then Trump reads this two-page statement, in which in front of Letitia James, he is criticizing her calling her a renegade prosecutor saying this was a vindictive and self-serving fishing expedition.

But from their turn cordial, he didn't answer these questions. He just said same answer, same answer repeatedly.

BOLDUAN: Hundreds and hundreds of times.

SCANNELL: Four hours.

BOLDUAN: Kara, it's good to see you. That's a long four hours for anybody. Thanks, Kara, I really appreciate it.

Joining me right now for much more on all of these, CNN Law Enforcement Contributor Steve Moore. He's retired FBI Special Agent. Kim Whele, she's a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and law professor at the University of Baltimore. And CNN's Evan Perez is back with us. Kim, anyone taking the Fifth hundreds of times in a deposition? And this anyone is also the former president no less, what does it say to you?

KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, remember, this gives Donald Trump the opportunity, at least with respect to what happened in New York allegedly regarding taxes and finances to say his side of the story. Truthfully, if he wanted that to be the message that got out instead, he I think, in a rare moment, took his lawyer's advice, and decided that to answer the questions truthfully could potentially incriminate himself, could demonstrate his guilt. That's the Fifth Amendment that protects all Americans.

I think it's great that Donald Trump's finally standing up behind the Constitution. But as Kara indicated, in a civil case, the jury can be told that they can infer from that, that the government's point of view is the truth. This can't be used against him in a criminal case, knowing as we all do, his psychological profile is not experts.

The fact that he doesn't sort of stand up on these things willingly. It says a lot that he finally, after saying over and over again, that only gangsters take the fifth that he finally took this action, I'm sure it was very difficult for him. And in this moment, it does demonstrate that the -- what swirling around him now for years, lots of allegations of wrongdoing, multiple investigations are finally closing in. And I think that's good for the rule of law. It's good for democracy. It's good for the cause of justice, frankly.

BOLDUAN: And Steve, while there is so much that is still not known about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, and people really do need to appreciate that, there is this new detail from the Wall Street Journal of investigators to -- they were tipped off by someone to more missing classified documents still at the residence.

The president's former chief of staff said this morning that it would have had to be someone very close to the president to know that information. What does this tell you about this investigation?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it actually kind of confuses me, because first of all, the person who would have been informed it, would have had to have had access to Trump, he would have had access to the documents, you would have known things, he would have been credible, which makes him a very significant person in and of himself or herself.

And the issue is, if somebody just cold called the FBI and said I saw these things, they probably wouldn't get a lot of traction on it. So what you're seeing is somebody who has been given a lot of credibility enough to where a judge has signed off a search warrant. I think the bigger issue here, though, is the fact that we are invested negating the former president of the United States and it's being done under the auspices of his successor.


And this is fraught with all sorts of risks on both sides. You know, a peaceful transition of power is two things. One, release relinquishing power, and the person who takes it not getting retribution on the other. So we, as a nation, have gone since our inception without going after the outgoing officeholder. So to do it now, there needs to be a lot of explanation.

BOLDUAN: Well, actually, let's talk about that, Evan, because it is your reporting that some inside DOJ think that the department needs to say something about this.

PEREZ: Right.

BOLDUAN: John Bolton actually had an interesting -- he described it in an interesting way this morning. Let me play what he said.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think the nature of the times we're in forget Joe Biden and the White House. That's not the issue here. The issue is former Judge Merrick Garland, and the integrity of the men and women, the lawyers, the FBI agents, everybody that works at the department is being called into question. And it's, I think, the questions that are being raised have no bearing on reality, but somebody in the department has got to take up the cudgels.


BOLDUAN: What is the debate within the department right now like?

PEREZ: I think John Bolton really does crystallize exactly the debate that's happening. And I think everyone recognizes that nobody wants to do a repeat of what happened when Jim Comey did this in 2016, talked about uncharged conduct related to Hillary Clinton. What I think you hear from officials now, internally is that we have to say something because this search, which is Trump is calling a raid, was done in the most polite way, so to speak, right?

They went in without red jackets, no FBI markings on them, they came in close to 10:00 a.m. This is not the mark of what the FBI usually does in these types of searches. Secondly, it's leaving it open for, you know, the former president to claim that there is that there is evidence being planted.

And it also really undermines the work that's being done, because the work that's being done is not only supported by, you know, this report of witness, but we also know that from talking to people that there are -- it's additional evidence that led them to take this step. So, obviously, they can't speak to a lot of this, but there is something that the Attorney General can say, to try to at least reassure the public that what is being done is being done for the right reasons. And that his job.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And Kim, I want to get -- what Evan was kind of getting at is that there has been like conspiracy theories now thrown out by Donald Trump floated, by Donald Trump and others, including a sitting U.S. Senator Rand Paul, that things -- throwing out there that things could have been planted by investigators in there. And that's what John Bolton was getting at, the credibility of the agency is at stake.

I mean, you could ignore the conspiracy theories brushed them off. But given the recent history of what has happened in our country, with people acting on believing conspiracy theories, how dangerous is it to ignore this?

WEHLE: I don't think there's anything Merrick Garland can do to shift the tides of the conspiracy theories are our people being, you know, nominated for office across the land that still are touting the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen. That horses out of the barn and I don't think Merrick Garland is going to say one thing, I think he's going to keep his head down and do the work of the American people.

And the story here isn't about what did the Justice Department do or not do right. The story is about why did they go in? What was in those 15 now 25 boxes is contraband? Under the Presidential Records Act, Donald Trump had no right to take any of that information out of the White House. He has no security clearance because Joe Biden hasn't given it to him.

We know it contained communications with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. We know from Robert Mueller, that he's tight with the -- with Vladimir Putin, that Vladimir Putin helped him get in office that his campaign in 2016 communicated with Vladimir Putin. What I want to know is whether, you know what happened -- how important that is for national security? And my guess is, it is because there were counterintelligence agents on the ground in Mar-a-Lago.

I think we all have to take a deep breath, and trust the men and women of the American sort of law enforcement apparatus that I believe most of which, if not all of them, are doing their best work in a very fraught environment. And that's really what the story is here.

There's finally some accountability and some steps being taken to frankly save American democracy from its slide into authoritarianism on many, many levels. And that's really what we're seeing in this moment. And I'm glad that Merrick Garland is not buying into the politicization of the execution of a Fourth Amendment warrant.


BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you all very much for coming out. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up for us, two former U.S. officials targeted in an Iranian assassination plot. The latest reporting on this disturbing case next.


BOLDUAN: New details on a story that broke during our show just yesterday. The Justice Department charging a member of Iran's Elite Revolutionary Guard force in an alleged plot to kill Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton. A source tells CNN that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also a target of the assassination plot.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is tracking this one for us. Fred, what more are you learning about this?


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Kate. Well it seems as though this plot seemed to have been in pretty late stages already. And according to the Justice Department, he's member of the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who by the way, is not in U.S. custody despite already having been charged.

He apparently contacted someone in the United States and at first said he wanted a couple of photos of John Bolton, offering up the address of John Bolton and then later said that he was offering up $300,000 for an assassination, which turned out to be against John Bolton. And he also said that he kind of wanted that to happen in the parking garage apparently above the residence where John Bolton is saying that that was a place that was frequented with a lot of traffic.

Now, the person that this Revolutionary Guard member was talking to was apparently an informant of the FBI. And this IRGC member then later said that he had a million dollars for another assassination plot and the U.S. strongly believes that the person that was supposed to be assassinated was former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

So this, obviously, very troubling. And we have heard from U.S. officials saying that, of course, both former and current U.S. officials that are in any way involved with Iran, have gotten additional security. I do want to mention, the Iranians have also since come out, they call all of these a fabrication. However, they also make no secret of the fact that they want retaliation against the United States for the killing of Qasem Soleimani in 2012. Kate?

BOLDUAN: So good to see you, Fred. Thank you for that update.

Joining me right now is Bill Richardson. He's the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Ambassador, it's good to see you again. What do you think of this?


BOLDUAN: What is your level of concern now for other current and former U.S. officials?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think there's a vulnerability and I believe our law enforcement people, the Justice Department is acting appropriately, taking action, investigating. You know, this happened indirectly to me before I was doing a speech with -- I think John Bolton was with me with a bunch of other former U.S. officials in Paris for an opposition group of the Iranian government.

And allegedly, there was an effort to bomb the place. But luckily, some European officials found it. So this is pretty serious. And it shows the vulnerability of not just officials, but former officials. And I'm glad the Justice Department is following up on this.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, John Bolton was on CNN today and he said that this plot against him is an example of why the U.S. cannot negotiate in good faith with Iran now. I mean, you were very concerned, I recall, when President Trump pulled away from the nuclear deal. What impact do you think --


BOLDUAN: -- this will or could have on any chance for a new deal and any diplomatic dealings with them?

RICHARDSON: Well, Kate, you know that my main objective are American hostages, they're five of them in Iran. And if a nuclear deal was concluded, I think it looks good to get the five Americans out, again on a prisoner exchange.

So my hope is, look, if there is an Iran nuclear deal, they got to be some safeguards on hostages, on Iran, not helping terrorists. They're going to be in the Yemen situation. Strong, hard and fast conditions. But I don't know where it is. I think it's about to happen or not to happen.

But I am concerned about Iran having more uranium. I think it was a mistake that President Trump got out of it unilaterally. I think it hurt us with Europeans and hurt us in the region. So I think if there are enough safeguards, if we get our political prisoners out, it may be a good thing to do. But we'll see. We'll know any day now.

BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you, let's talk about this because as you have with other Americans detained abroad, you are currently talking with the Russians to try and help the U.S. government secure Brittney Griner's release. The Russians confirmed for the first time today that they are negotiating for what that's worth. Do you think a prisoner swap is the only way to get this done?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I do think so because this is an issue that this is how the Russians negotiate. Now that the court system is over with Brittney Griner and has been over with Paul Whelan. Let's not forget him, the American Marine. Then the Russians and other countries that I've dealt with to say, OK, the court process is over, we're ready to negotiate.

I think the President and his team have been very upfront and good and said, OK, this is what we want to get in return. They didn't do it directly with the booth but it's pretty obvious for Griner and for Whelan.

[11:25:00] So now the real negotiating through the government channel starts. I mean I'm helping but I'm not the official government channel. I'm not trying to replace anybody but I talk to both sides. I know a lot of the Russians. I do talk to the administration to the White House. I try to push the process along.

But my foundation works for the families.


RICHARDSON: On other words, the families ask us to get involved. Brittney Griner's family, Paul Whelan's family and we were involved in Trevor Reed, the American Marine, who two months ago got out for Russia named Yaroshenko. The President had to approve that and I'm giving him the credit for that. But we did help with a trip to Russia right before it happened.

So we are involved in this, but I think the prospects are reasonably good. Not instantaneous that a swap will happen. But yes, I don't see how else anything will happen other than a prisoner swap. They're unseemly. They don't look good, but we have to do them to bring our American hostages back.

And it's not just Griner and Whelan that are in Russia, there's a POW in Ukraine. There's three other detainees, the families have contacted us. So this is not over. But yes, it is going to be a prisoner swap. I think it'll be two for two. That's my prediction.

BOLDUAN: OK. Well, we'll going to keep talking. You mentioned Iran. I've had the family of Emad Sharghi, an American detained in Iran now for years --


BOLDUAN: -- had hit them on as they've been pleading their case as well, just an example of the huge job that you have in trying to assist these families to raise awareness and bring these wrongfully detained Americans home. Ambassador, thank you for coming on.

RICHARSON: Thank you very much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, it will soon be one year since Kabul fell to the Taliban. And the U.S. oversaw the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. international forces. CNN's Clarissa Ward is back in Afghanistan for report next.