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At This Hour

Redacted Mar-a-Lago Affidavit Could Be Released At Any Moment; Fed Chair: Focus Is On Bringing Inflation Back Down To 2 Percent. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired August 26, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. At This Hour, we are within the final window now when a federal judge will make public the affidavit used to obtain a warrant for Donald Trump's home. That federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to release a redacted version of the Mar-a-Lago affidavit by noon Eastern today. That document could tell us why investigators believe there was probable cause that crimes had been committed in connection with the classified material being kept at Trump's home. That document could also be heavily redacted. We will have to wait and see. And we're standing by for that.

Yet even a redacted version could offer some new revelations about the investigation and unprecedented search of the former president's home. Let's get straight to CNN's Jessica Schneider. She's live in Washington standing by with us. Jessica, what are you learning about what we may see any moment now?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the big question here, Kate, is how much of this document will the public actually see? You know, this is a document the prosecutors have previously talked about in court as being very lengthy as talking about the sources and methods of this criminal investigation, ongoing criminal investigation, I might add, as well as discussing the details about multiple witnesses who have been involved in this investigation. So the question is, how much of this will ultimately be released and how much will be blacked out.

And we know for sure what the public will not see because of the two- page order that the judge issued yesterday, just before 4:00 p.m. and less than four hours after the DOJ had submitted its proposed redactions, its recommendations. The judge apparently satisfied with those recommendations. And that's what we'll see in less than an hour.

The judge, though, agreeing with the Department of Justice that there are key details in this lengthy affidavit that cannot be released publicly. And he spelled it out in his order. He said that the public will not see the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents, uncharged parties, those people who prosecutors are still investigating who may ultimately be charged in this investigation. We also won't see information about grand jury information. And we certainly won't see information about the investigations progress, sources, and methods here. So that will all be blacked out. But it's possible that given the revelations of the past few weeks, as to how long this back and forth between the National Archives and Trump's team have been ongoing, maybe because of those revelations, in particular from Donald Trump's team. Maybe the DOJ is a bit more willing to reveal how this investigation has been going, especially since the FBI got involved, as we've learned just about in May, when things really ramped up.

So we could see a bit more of those details, because Trump's team has so been -- has been so willing to get those details out in the public. Kate, this is definitely something that will be interesting to see any moment now certainly in less than an hour here. But the judge seemed to agree with DOJ that a lot of this needs to stay under seal. But DOJ, it seems did give a bit more than they might have been previously willing under the judge's orders here. So we'll see what else we get a glimpse of. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Jessica standing by, she'd be with us as soon as this comes through.

All right, in the meantime, joining me right now is CNN counterterrorism analyst, Phil Mudd. He's a former FBI senior intelligence adviser. And Shan Wu is here, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. CNN national security analyst Shawn Turner standing by as well. Shan let me start with you. Jessica went over it. But let's start with the basics as we're waiting for this to come through. Why did the Justice Department really push for redactions and why did the judge decide they need redactions? Talk me -- talk to me more about that.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Sure. Well, as we've heard, it's very rare to have an affidavit be released at this early stage of investigation. There's no case yet at this point. So they would be very concerned about revealing the strategy of the case and of course, also really revealing sensitive information witnesses, timelines, et cetera, that's why they were pushing for the redactions.

Now, my initial reaction to this, Kate, was that after you got through redacting, it would just look like a solid black box of sharpie ink. But as Jessica said, I think the recent events have indicated that they may be a little bit more forthcoming but probably not too much. I mean just because there's been publicity, if I were the prosecutors, I would not be kind of second guessing what I want to protect better to air on the side of caution here.


The other factor here to watch for is that the judge was obviously feeling like there's a strong public interest. And there's a calculation DOJ had to make, which is if they gave him just a solid black box, the judge might kick it back to them. So clearly, there are some innocuous details that it's safe to release. But my expectation is because they want to protect that kind of sensitive information. They want to protect the strategy of the case, if there ever is a case. I think it's going to be fairly minimal in terms of juiciness.

BOLDUAN: Phil, what are you watching for and what are you looking for when this releases?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, first, whatever Shan said, oh, I'm sorry.

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Phil.

MUDD: Whatever Shan said, just put that on CNN all day. He is exactly right. I think we will see a little bit here. But people are expecting a lot of juice. I don't think we'll see that much. There is one or two things I'm looking for. The first is the why. Typically, if you're at the FBI, you use what's called least intrusive means. That is you don't want to violate somebody's, the privacy of someone's home unless you've exhausted other all of the other options. I don't think it would hurt the Department of Justice or the investigation to reveal how much back and forth there was with Mar-a-Lago and how frustrated they got it not being able to acquire the documents by other means. So that might be interesting.

The other thing, just personally, I'm interested in is when I used to watch investigator speak at the table when I was at the FBI with Director Mueller, they got really frustrated at being lied at during investigations. I want to see whether there's suggestions in there that officials at Mar-a-Lago were untruthful, when they said that they -- there were no more documents at the house. Because if they did, if there's evidence of that, that's what's called 1,001 violation, that's lying to a Federal officer, that could lead to a charge. Those two things, the why and whether somebody lied to the Feds, it's something I'm going to be watching for.

BOLDUAN: There's another why, Shawn, that I wanted to ask you about. Do you expect there will be anything in here that gets to kind of the central question of all of this, is why did Donald Trump take these documents? And why didn't he and his team hand them over when it was requested?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, you know, Kate, that is the central question as you pointed out, look, this is the other big why. This affidavit is going to lay out the reason that the FBI was allowed to go in and get these documents. But what I will be looking for and what I think Intelligence and National Security officials will be looking at is when you get beyond all the concerns about whether or not this will tip off witnesses or whether or not there will be some information about the scope and scale of the investigation, I'm going to be looking for whether or not there's any information at all, that suggests that some sort of a reason or motivation that President Trump or his allies would have for taking these documents from the White House and keeping them at Mar-a-Lago.

But from an intelligence perspective, there's not -- it's really unlikely there's going to be anything in here and anything juicy, as you know, as Phil and Shawn, were saying, but it is the case that investigations are all about gathering bits of information, connecting the dots and trying to paint a picture. And so while there may not be anything in there, that the average person will look at and say that's related to intelligence collection, for those around the world who are interested in what we have from an intelligence perspective and how we know it. They'll be looking at these documents as well to see if there is anything in there that they could add with other information to paint some picture of how we collect intelligence. So I'll be watching very closely for that.

BOLDUAN: Shan, the fact that the judge made his decision so quickly to accept the Justice Department's suggested redactions, and also then, you know, in talking about releasing it means what?

WU: I think there are two things that it means. First of all, it means the DOJ did not give them just a bunch of sharpie black ink. But I think the judge and I think this is generally true with these kinds of cases. The judge is not really in a position to be second guessing the national security implications or even the case strategy implications. The judge is going to be fairly deferential to what DOJ has decided to strike out. I mean, the judge has no business saying, well, I don't think this is really that sensitive for national security, it doesn't have the background for that.

So I think DOJ did make a good faith effort, obviously. The judge wasn't irritated by it. And I think the judge was prepared as he had said before he was concerned maybe the redactions would ended up meaning that there was, you know, nothing of value for the public. But I think we can read into this that DOJ made a good faith effort did narrowly tailor it in the courts words, and there's probably a little bit have information in there


BOLDUAN: Phil, can you also speak to me, I think because I do think it is as we wait for this to come out at any moment, it's worth taking a beat just to mark the fact that what you're about to have in your hands is going to be an affidavit justifying a search warrant on the, for the home of a former president.

MUDD: Yes, and I think there's one additional point about this search warrant for a home, again, going back to the issue of intrusive means and extremely intrusive investigation. And that is whether there's any information in what we see revealed today about how confident the FBI was, that the information at the house was actually top secret or above. In my world, if they had information saying that the documents at the House were confidential or secret, confidential or secret in my own world is bad. It's not horrible.

If you want to go into somebody's house, I want to see evidence that says we had a high level of confidence. I don't want to know what the source was. I don't want to know who the witness was. A high level of confidence that information was actually top secret, that tells us again, why the FBI was so insistent not just in talking to Mar-a-Lago about getting the documents, but going inside searching and picking them up. I want to see their level of certainty that there was top secret stuff there because that is some nasty sensitive stuff, some of the kinds of stuff I would have seen at the CIA.

BOLDUAN: Shawn, what do you think of that?

TURNER: No, I think Phil is absolutely right. Look, when the letter that was released recently from the National Archives came out, I was particularly interested in the language in that letter. You know, up until that point, we knew that there were top secret documents that were at Mar-a-Lago. But what we did not know, what we were very careful about speaking to was whether or not there were what we call special, there were special access program information there. And as Phil will tell you, I mean, there's top secret SCI, then there's Special Access Programs that really gets into the most sensitive, highly classified information.

And so I think Phil is absolutely right, you know, having that information in the hands of not only former president, but people who are moving about in and out of Mar-a-Lago is extremely sensitive. You know, the other thing that I think is really important here is, you know, look, I was in government, I was the director of communication for National Intelligence, when Edward Snowden took all of our documents in went initially to China and then on to Russia.

And during that time period, we were constantly assessing the documents that were taken, and making determinations as to what we needed to do in the intelligence community to make sure that we did not see strings of intelligence dry up, we knew those documents were out there. And we knew that at any moment, they could be released, or they could be shared with other individuals. And so I'd be really interested in knowing once the intelligence community knew what documents were likely at Mar-a-Lago, were they were they making adjustments with regard to intelligence collection? Were they talking to partners and allies, because they recognize at any moment these documents could be exposed publicly. If that was the case, and I think the President's problems which are massive right now are going to be even larger going forward.

BOLDUAN: That's very interesting. Gentlemen, please stand by. We're standing by for the affidavit to be released. And obviously we'll be bringing it to you as soon as it does.


Still ahead, though, for us At This Hour, a very big important speech this morning, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell just spoke about the state of the U.S. economy, and why he warned American families that there is still pain ahead. That is next.


BOLDUAN: At This Hour, the stock market as you see right there down in a big way. The Dow down more than 500 points at the moment, this is after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned in a much anticipated speech that Americans are in for more pain as the Fed works to rein in high inflation. CNN's Rahel Solomon joins me now with more on this. Rahel, what else did the chairman say?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Kate, clearly the markets responding to what was aggressive messaging from the Fed chairman. Chairman Powell starting his speech today saying, look, my focus is more narrow, my message is more direct, essentially saying, let me be clear, we must raise rates to fight inflation. He said several times, we must keep at it until the job is done. He talked about the impact of this, he talked about the fact that we are likely going to see a loosening labor market, a softening labor market, that could mean lower demand for workers, perhaps some joblessness. He talked about the fact that borrowing costs will continue to rise. And he acknowledged the fact that this will cause more pain for some than others. However, ultimately, it should be better for the larger public in the form of lower inflation. Take a listen.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Without price stability, the economy does not work for anyone in particular. Without price stability, we will not achieve a sustained period of strong labor market conditions that benefit all. The burdens of high inflation fall heaviest on those who are least able to bear at them.


SOLOMON: And if you're at home wondering I thought inflation was starting to ease, well, Powell will actually address that and said, the reports that we have seen have fallen far short of what they need to be confident that inflation is moving in the right direction. I.E., we're still too early in this process, which means inflation will likely be with us for longer, Kate. And so will higher borrowing costs.

BOLDUAN: Rahel, thank you so much for that.

All right, joining me now for more on this is CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and CNN economic and political analyst Catherine Rampell, she's a columnist with The Washington Post. John, Rahel laid out really well the contours of Powell speech what stick -- what stuck out to you and what is the White House listening to and taking from this?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, you know, the Fed has two different mandates. One is to maximize employment, the other is to keep inflation at a reasonable level. For a very long time, Jerome Powell like the Biden administration leaned heavily toward maximizing employment as a in their monitory policy, and then the administration's fiscal policy because they were concerned about a slow recovery from the pandemic.


Having made that mistake and having heard very grave warnings from lots of economists that we could have a big multiyear problem with inflation, Jerome Powell was signaling there, he is not going to be the Fed chair who eases up too quickly. He is determined now that he has pivoted toward addressing inflation, he's going to get the job done.

And I think it's important to reflect as the sound bite that Rahel played indicated when he says that there's going to be pain and we say there's going to be pain, that is in the service of what Jerome Powell believes will be an overall benefit for the economy, because inflation is a big problem. And solving it will require slowing the economy, some rise in unemployment, on net, he thinks the American economy and the American people are going to come out ahead.

BOLDUAN: Catherine, when it comes to the Fed, or the Fed chairman speaking and there's always what he says and also what he doesn't say, what did you take?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think what he was trying to do was convinced markets that the Fed is super serious about inflation, the recent encouraging numbers on inflation are not sufficient for them to take their foot off of the brake. And I think the subtext here is a little bit, well, if they talk tough, if they talk super hawkish, then maybe they don't have to act quite as hawkish down the line. Meaning that if they convince markets, that they are quite focused on inflation, that they are willing to take the Punchbowl away every other metaphor, then that will keep inflation expectations under control. And the Fed doesn't have to raise rates quite as much as it might otherwise.

BOLDUAN: Is that what he noted, you know, inflation feeds upon itself when he was talking about public sentiment too?

RAMPEL: Right, expectations are really important. I mean, there's a big debate in economics about exactly what feeds into them, and how much they actually cause price increases. But the idea is that if people believe prices are going to -- going to go up, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, right, that they raise their own prices, they demand much bigger raises, for example. And so that in and of itself perpetuates more inflation. So you want to nip that in the bud and convince the public convince markets, convince consumers, convince businesses that, no, don't worry, we have it under control.

BOLDUAN: One of the things that he -- that the chairman said is that, you know, that they're going to need to, the economy is going to need tight monetary policy, John, for some time. And that, that gets -- when I heard that it got to a question that I know you have asked the White House and the economic team, as well as, we all have, which is what are you going to know -- it's -- what are you -- when is your goal of when it's going to be better? And what do you think it is going to be better? Which of course they do not touch on, but it's an important thing that he was, I don't know if he thought it was managing expectations, or what it's going to do?

HARWOOD: Well, I don't think anybody knows for certain when the inflation problem is going to be over. I think what the White House will settle for at the moment is a directional change in the right direction. And that is happening right now. We do see inflation slowing down. It's not conclusive. It doesn't mean the problem is over, as Jerome Powell indicated. But having gas prices go down, having overall inflation go down, even if for a temporary period, is welcome news to the administration.

And I think on the point that Catherine raised a minute ago about Jay Powell trying to convince markets. If you look at the several 100 points, the Dow is down this morning, he has convinced him at least for the moment that he is going to take the Punchbowl away, slow the economy down. And markets are taking that into account.

BOLDUAN: Look, John, the economy and what the President is doing to improve it was a big part of his first big real political speech of the midterms last night. He took a victory lap in part of his speech about the student debt relief plan that they've -- that he just announced. Let me play that for everyone.


POWELL: The spike in inflation is so far largely the product of a relatively narrow group of goods and services that have been directly affected by the pandemic and the reopening of the economy. And from long experience, we expect the inflation effects of these increases to be transitory.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks to our historic deficit reduction, we can afford to cancel $10,000 in student debt and $20,000 if you're on a Pell Grant, for tens of millions Americans, making under 125, now this is a game changer.


BOLDUAN: On the student, on the student debt relief plan, and he was talking about it last night, John, now that they're finally answering questions about the price tag of this, what does that do to the economic and political conversation that kind of surrounds all of this?

HARWOOD: I think from a White House point of view, they're very happy with this conversation. Look, this is a policy that economists generally speaking Democrats and Republicans do not like. They think it's an inefficient way of distributing money to people who might deserve it and benefit from it while giving money to other people who are more affluent, who shouldn't get that money. But at this point in the political season, having gotten their legislative agenda, through the Congress, having seen these inflation numbers get better, at least for a while. I think Joe Biden is happy to say come fight me on giving student debt relief, wiping out the student debt of 20 million people.


You had a new report from Penn Wharton today saying that 75 percent of the benefit would go to people making under $88,000 a year. I think the administration, you know, Joe Biden's got a new bit of a chip on his shoulder. And I think he's happy to wage that fight and point to other things that may be unfair in our tax code and our economy and satisfy himself that voters are going to come down on his side on that issue.

BOLDUAN: Catherine, your column on this, is headline, Biden's student debt plan is a Democratic version of trickle-down economics. I read it with quite a bit of interest. What do you mean? RAMPELL: What I mean is, Democrats seem to have decided that the only way to help the needy, the only way to help the poor, and the middle class is also to give some money to the rich, which is a sort of flipside of some of the arguments that you've heard from Republicans over the years that the only way to help the poor is to give tax cuts to the rich.

In this case, the argument from the progressive left is, well, the only way we can help people who are struggling with student debt is to also give forgiveness to households making $250,000 a year, which is what this plan does. Now, it may not be that those people get the majority of the benefits, but they will get money. I mean, that is that is money that could be used for other purposes, that is money that could be used on the child tax credit, or a million other things that progressives normally claim to care more about.

I find it a little bit frustrating that the progressive left has insisted on in a number of their ways of thinking about remaking government has insisted on the only way to help those who are needy is also by giving away benefits to the upper middle class. And sometimes the argument is a political one like, well, the only way we can get buy in is if rich people benefit too.

I think in this case, it's basically that the demographics of the Democratic Party have shifted, and it is increasingly a highly educated higher income party. And so they feel like they have to give away some goodies, essentially, to, you know, the investment banker who recently, you know, the future investment banker who just got their MBA is going to get debt relief from this, for example, someone who might be a plastic surgery resident today who might have a moderate income, who's going to make $400,000 next year, they're going to get some of their debt wiped out.

The way that this was designed, effectively gives away quite a bit of money, making the plan more expensive than it otherwise needs to be essentially, to some of these constituencies that I think the party has now decided or more important to them.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Catherine, thank you. John, thank you so much. It's great to see you.

Coming up for us, as we wait for the release of the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Donald Trump's home. CNN, has new reporting on who one person in particular that Donald Trump is talking to so much, and the advice that he's getting, more on that next.