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Interview With Senior Adviser President Biden Gene Sperling; Inflation Cooling Off?; Violent Pro-Trump Rhetoric Increasing Online; Trump's Legal Battles. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 10, 2022 - 13:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. And thank you so much for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Deposed under oath. Former President Trump giving a thumbs-up on his way to his closed-door deposition at the New York attorney general's office today. But he's not talking today. He says he invoked the Fifth Amendment and he declined to answer questions in this three-year investigation into his business dealings.

Now, this comes as so many other developments are taking shape, including new details about the FBI's search at Trump's Florida home, Mar-a-Lago, the seizing of a key Trump allies phone, and a judge's ruling that Trump's tax returns can go to House lawmakers.

Now, each headline a major development on its own in the legal sphere. But here's the big picture when it comes to the legal pressures Trump is facing, two Department of Justice probes, one involving classified documents, the other January 6. There's also the House Select Committee investigation into his role in the insurrection.

And then, in Georgia, you have Trump's infamous find-the-votes phone call, the crux of an election interference case. And then there's his taxes, his finances. There are three separate investigations here.

And, today, there was a deposition involving the civil probe in New York.

And that's where we want to begin with CNN's Kara Scannell, who's outside the New York attorney general's office for us.

Kara, the big question going into today was, would the former president answer questions or would he assert the Fifth? And he chose the latter.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. That was the big question this morning.

And Donald Trump arrived here about four hours ago. He's in the building just over my shoulder at the New York attorney general's office, where he is undergoing this deposition. And he's been there for a couple of hours now. And he's asserting the Fifth Amendment. And he said that he wasn't going to answer your questions because, he said, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, a Democrat, he said her investigation was politically motivated.

He also said what solidified his decision was the FBI's search warrant on his home in Florida at Mar-a-Lago on Monday. He said that that made it clear to him that he didn't want to testify and answer questions under oath.

Now in a very lengthy statement, he made all of these allegations, but I will read you a part of it, in which he said: "I once asked, if you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment? Now I know the answer to that question. When your family, your company and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated witch-hunt."

Witch-hunt, we have heard him say that many times about all of these investigations. Now, it's unclear how long he will be in that room answering questions or not answering questions. His son Eric Trump sat for a deposition in 2020. He asserted the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times. So he could be in there for quite a while.

His other children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, they also testified in the past few weeks. They did answer questions as part of this investigation. And Tish James is looking into whether the Trump Organization had misled its lenders, its insurers, and even tax authorities by providing them misleading financial statements.

And that's the core of this. What was Donald Trump's role in these financial statements? And did he help prepare any evaluations on them? He's not answering that question today on -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Kara Scannell, it's all interesting. We will see what else comes of this investigation. Thanks so much.

So let's go from this probe to the DOJ's January 6 probe. This is a separate investigation. And Republican Congressman and Trump ally Scott Perry says the FBI now has his cell phone.

And CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz has the details here.

Katelyn, why would the FBI be interested in Perry's phone?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Ana, that is the question right now.

But what we do know is what Perry has put out there himself. So he's a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania since 2013. And, on Tuesday, he was traveling with his family out of state. And he had his phone seized and imaged by the FBI.

Now, since then, we're still pretty scant on the details. He doesn't know exactly why he was searched, or hasn't said that publicly. But I was able to learn from a source that, in the search warrant, it mentioned the work or assistance of the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General.

So this is a watchdog, independent. They don't typically get that involved in criminal prosecutions or investigations, especially when others are able to do that, and especially when it involves someone outside of the Justice Department himself.

But he was mentioned in this. And we also know that office, the Justice Department OIG, they are also working on the investigations that led to the searches of John Eastman, the elections lawyer for Donald Trump, and Jeffrey Clark, the Justice Department employee that Trump wanted to install as the attorney general in 2021.


And so it's Perry. If we line up the bullet points here, there's that commonality of the OIG's office. But there's also reason that Perry was working on some of these things with Clark, at least at the end of 2020-2021. We know he was attending Stop the Steal rallies. He was the person that introduced Clark to Trump.

We also know that Trump mentioned him on a phone call with the Justice Department when Trump was asking to corrupt the election. And then, finally, we know that Perry was in touch with Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, who was assisting Trump at the end of the presidency.

Of course, as these things go, the Justice Department is not commenting, and we haven't seen any charges on any of these individuals at this point.

CABRERA: OK, Katelyn, let's now talk about the FBI search at Trump's Florida home that's tied to the DOJ's classified documents investigation, the FBI now giving us a little bit more clarity on their reason for this search.

What is the agency saying?

POLANTZ: Well, the agency itself is staying pretty quiet here.

Justice Department, of course, isn't going to be commenting on these ongoing probes as they're in the works. But we are learning more through our sources two days after this search. So, right now, we know that these records seized on Monday, when the feds went in and took them, believing that there could be classified information in there, we know that federal authorities thought that there could be national security implications if those records were to get out now, now that Trump is no longer president.

We also know that investigators were suspecting that the Trump team, in working with them over the past several months, may not have been entirely truthful with them about what was being kept in the boxes or about what they were doing at Mar-a-Lago with them.

And this concern was playing into what law enforcement has been working on. We know they also subpoenaed surveillance footage of Mar- a-Lago recently and obtained that. So we're going to keep asking questions to see if we can get any more information about this search -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, thank you for that reporting, Katelyn Polantz.

we are learning all these legal woes could be impacting Trump's future political plans in a way you might not expect.

CNN's Gabby Orr is following this for us.

Gabby, this FBI search is turning into a real catalyst for some Republicans, right?

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Ana, that's right.

As the FBI search and the DOJ investigation heats up, so has the pressure on Donald Trump to announce a 2024 presidential campaign before the November midterm elections. Our sources are telling us that, over the past 48 hours, Trump has been on the phone pretty much since daybreak yesterday fielding calls from Republican allies who want him to announce.

And they want him to announce sooner rather than later. They feel like this is a moment that he can really capitalize on, given the frustration that they have heard from their own constituents and the sudden surge, basically, of unity among Republicans in this moment.

I asked a bunch of Trump advisers yesterday, does this raise the prospect of a fund-raising surge for the former president? He had been previously worried about announcing before the midterms because, as soon as he does jump in, he will lose access to that war chest that he has developed, $121 million, since he left the White House.

And here's what Michael Caputo, a longtime Trump adviser told me, when I asked that. He said: "Most of the downsides of announcing early are regulatory or financial. But the Democrats just guaranteed that Trump will raise three times the money he was going to, and probably in the immediate future."

So Trump's allies do seem to think that now is the moment, that there's not going to be a better time for him to announce another presidential campaign, that he should take advantage of this moment and make that announcement as soon as possible -- Ana.

CABRERA: As soon as possible, what does that mean? Could be days, weeks. We will see.

Gabby Orr, thank you.

We do know, since this unprecedented search on Monday at Mar-a-Lago, there's now been a very disturbing uptick in violent rhetoric, especially on right-wing social media platforms.

CNN's Brian Stelter is following this for us.

Brian, what are you seeing or hearing in these different media spheres?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're seeing a variety of violent reactions. These are all happening online, thankfully not in the real world, but

they're still consequential, because what happens on the Internet doesn't always stay on the Internet. We're seeing far right commentators, celebrities, right-wing media stars saying things like this.

Monday night, Steven Crowder saying: "Tomorrow is war, so sleep well." Of course, tomorrow was Tuesday. There was no war, no such actual action. We're not seeing MAGA rallies in the streets. But this online rhetoric is still concerning enough that it's caused security precautions to be taken in some cases.

Here's our colleague Donie O'Sullivan pointing out the big spike in tweets referencing civil war just as soon as the news of the search happened.



STELTER: Civil war chatter across Twitter and other sites.

And, again, some of this happens very visibly on Twitter. Some happens much more in the dark, in the dark fever swamps of the Internet. But I think what we're hearing is an echo effect back and forth from these sorts of random commentators on Twitter and other sites and right-wing media stars.

Here's Jesse Watters last night on FOX News, saying, this is war.


JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I have never seen the base more energized. I have never seen the base more angry. I'm angry. I feel violated. The whole country feels violated. It's disgusting. They have declared war on us. And now it's game on.


STELTER: That's the key point I think, Ana, is that they have declared war on us.

What we're hearing from right-wing media stars is the Democrats and the DOJ are goading us into a response. Here's Representative Jim Banks, a lawmaker, saying Republicans have a moral duty to fight back.

So it's not just stars on television. It's also GOP lawmakers that are employing this rhetoric, talking about fighting back, talking about some sort of response. We haven't actually seen it happen. But there's a significant concern. And I think it's also striking to see the three narrative responses that we have seen now almost 48 hours since news of this broke.

We have seen a lot of people, right-wing commentators, saying, where's the DOJ? Why haven't they responded? Well, as Katelyn just said, there are good reasons why the DOJ isn't commenting. We're also seeing lots of talk about evidence being planted, without any reason to believe, that they're suggesting the DOJ planted, FBI planted evidence at Mar- a-Lago.

And, number three, we're seeing lawmakers and others say defund the FBI. They're even selling T-shirts on some of these Web sites saying, defund the FBI. It is remarkable to see the party that Donald Trump said was the law and order party talking about wanting to defund the FBI.

But that's the level of rhetoric out there. And the way it connects to the violent chatter is, you start at the top of the funnel with very normal comments from Republican lawmakers. Then it gets more dangerous and more serious. And then you end up on right-wing social networks feeding violent rhetoric.

CABRERA: And on those networks, we're seeing people say things like lock and load, or things like kill Merrick Garland, the A.G. I mean, they are actually talking about physical harm in these cases.

STELTER: Right. And we have learned in the last couple of years online radicalization can have real-world consequences.

This is a serious threat at the moment, and we're going to see in the days and weeks whether the temperature rises or falls. Some of that's incumbent on Republican lawmakers to help the temperature stay calm.

CABRERA: All right, thank you so much, Brian. Appreciate it.

STELTER: Great. Thanks. Sure.

CABRERA: Still not great, but it could mark a major turning point, inflation cooling better than expected. But the pain for many Americans still burns. We will have details ahead.

Plus, a much-needed break for a city on edge. Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, have a suspect in the deaths of four Muslim men. What we're learning about him.

And NFL boss Roger Goodell sounds off on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, calling his behavior predatory and pushing for a much tougher penalty.



CABRERA: Not good, but not as bad as expected. A key inflation report shows consumer prices increased 8.5 percent in July year to year. Now, that's better than June and better than many experts predicted. It's also fueling hope that inflation has hit its peak.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich joins us now.

Vanessa, you're at a grocery store in Philly, a place where people are really feeling the pain buying food. What are you hearing from folks there? VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER: Well, some

good news overall with this inflation report, but not great news when it comes to food prices.

Food at home is the number you want to look at, up 1.3 percent in July, and, year over year, up 13.1 percent. And let's look at some of these items that we're seeing increases, but some decreases on.

So, first, beef, chicken, we're seeing that up 0.8 percent, chicken up 1.4 percent. Let's swing over here to whole milk, though. That's where you're going to see some cost savings, down about 1.4 percent. We're also seeing decreases on hot dogs, down 6.1 percent.

I want to swing you over here to tomatoes. This is also where you're going to see some cost savings, tomatoes down 2.5 percent. But this is on the minds of shoppers here at Klein's Supermarket.

I want to introduce you to a shopper, Ken Elder, who shops here often.


YURKEVICH: Ken, hello.

Just want to get a sense from you as we're talking about inflation and higher food costs, how is it affecting your bottom line?

ELDER: Well, I'm retired for three years now and live on Social Security.

So, when I go to the store, I have to go like on a daily basis just to get the necessary items that I have to have for either that one day or two days. And I can't go to a larger outlet and buy in bulk and get that savings.

And so I have to go ahead and just like shop a little at a time.

YURKEVICH: Are you noticing prices increasing, though, as you're shopping here?

ELDER: Oh, yes, especially in meats, dairy, produce not so much. Like you said, things are, like, going down.

But staples is another thing that has really increased in price.

YURKEVICH: And we have someone coming up after the break from the administration.

If you had a message to the Biden administration about how to help someone like yourself on a fixed income struggling with higher inflationary costs, what would you say to them?

ELDER: Well, I'd say, first of all, let's try to rein in the supply chain. The more you spread things out, you incorporate more cost.

So one way to save on that would be to shorten the supply chain, so that we can get foods readily available to us. And that's one thing. [13:20:05]

YURKEVICH: And we know that the administration has done some work on trying to tighten up these supply chains.

But, clearly, shoppers are still feeling the pain here, especially shopping for groceries. Good note, though, is gas prices have come down, some savings there, Ana, but, at the end of the day, the food prices still going up -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Vanessa Yurkevich with that real-life snapshot, thank you.

Joining us now is Gene Sperling. He's a senior adviser to President Biden.

Gene, first, with this Consumer Price Index report out today, inflation ticked down a bit last month. That's obviously good news. Has inflation peaked?

GENE SPERLING, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, obviously, we hope so, but there's a lot of risk when you try to make projections.

I think you're seeing -- in the data here, you saw, obviously, energy prices go down, used car prices, gas, natural gas prices, apparel. So you saw some places.

But I think your -- what you just showed also just drives home the fact that, of course, prices are still too high. They're high everywhere in the world. It's global inflation, but they're still hitting people at home. And you're right. Food prices is probably the place where we didn't see as much progress as we'd like.

But I think what you're going to see is this president doing everything he can to try to help the pocketbooks of workers like -- and like the person you just interviewed.

And, obviously, the Inflation Reduction Act with the lowering of prescription drug costs for people on Medicare, capping cost of insulin, limiting out of pocket to $2,000, these are all things that are going to directly help.

I think, when the Inflation Reduction Act passes, people are going to have incentives right away for lower energy cost, if they're doing things that are good for the climate. So, our view is, we just do every single thing we can, just like when the president released a million barrels a day, historic mount of oil.


SPERLING: That certainly has contributed to the lower gas prices.

Clearly, the best news has been on gas prices...


SPERLING: ... down, by some estimates, a $1.01, by some estimates, under $4; $3.79 is now the most common price.

Again, that's not good enough. But for a family with two cars, that's probably over $100 of saving.

CABRERA: It's helpful, for sure.

SPERLING: And it helps.


SPERLING: But we want to make clear, we're not -- nobody -- I mean, are we encouraged by the fact we have created 500,000 -- the economy created 500,000 jobs this month, and there was no inflation? Of course that's encouraging.

Is this...

CABRERA: Well, was there inflation. It just wasn't as bad as some had predicted it could be. It's still 8.5 percent year to year, when normal is around 2 percent, right?


SPERLING: No, but, for this month, I'm saying there was actually no inflation.

But, just to be clear, nobody here is suggesting things are good enough. Prices are still too high. They're still hitting families too hard at the grocery line. It's better at the gas pump than it was.

CABRERA: OK. Yes, I hear you.

SPERLING: But, yes, we totally understand. People should know we're looking for everything we can do and are committed to that.

CABRERA: So, let me ask you a follow-up question when it comes to something specifically and how the administration may be tackling issues that are facing everyday Americans.

We know renting a home, which is the biggest monthly expense for millions of Americans, is getting much more expensive. In fact, this latest inflation report shows the biggest year-to-year increase in rent in decades. That suggests that, for many people, the cost of living situation is getting worse.

So what is the Biden administration doing to tackle that issue?

SPERLING: Well, you're absolutely right.

Now, I mean, there was a slight positive, in the sense that, for this month, it actually -- rent prices actually moderated. But you're absolutely right. Over the last year, they're up high -- they're up too high. And I think the challenging thing here is, most things -- when we talk about gas prices, we're talking about the war.

When we're talking about some of the inflation we have seen, most of that is somehow related to the shutting down of the economy and starting it up due to the pandemic.

When you're talking about house prices, you are dealing with a preexisting problem in the United States, is that we have too small a supply of affordable housing. And that was true even before the pandemic.

So the president has a housing supply action plan. We're going to keep looking for everything we can do administratively and legislatively to try to help with affordable housing. And that can mean things like higher rental -- more rental vouchers in our budget.

But we also want to see -- get at that core problem, which is, we need more supply of affordable housing in the United States. There was way too little over the last decade. And, as you say, it is hurting renters right now. And that is absolutely going to be an ongoing concern and focus of this administration.


CABRERA: The Fed has been raising interest rates, working to cool down inflation. Can they hit the brakes without causing a recession? That's yet to be determined.

What do you see as the odds of a recession at this point?

SPERLING: What I'd say is that what we have seen and what we have tried to stress is a balanced view of this economy. And, yes, prices are too high.

But I think what people are starting to see that we have been saying is, there's also a lot of resilience in this economy. I mean, 3.3 million jobs have been created in the first seven months of this economy.

Net -- other than last year, that's the most ever created in the history of our country in the first seven months. So there is a lot of resilience. There's still a lot of indicators that there's less distress among consumers in terms of debt service, in terms of consumer bankruptcies.

So I think our economy, due to the policies the president has put forward, is in -- is more resilient than many people gave credit for it. And I think we're better positioned than virtually any country to make that transition to what we all are looking for, which is more stable, sustainable growth, still keeps the progress we have made on jobs, but one -- a future where we're back to more moderate, lower prices.

CABRERA: Here's the thing, though, Gene.

When surveyed, a majority of Native American, black and Latino households report that inflation has caused them serious financial problems. And a majority also say they don't even have enough money in terms of emergency savings to cover at least one month of expenses. And that's despite the record low unemployment.

So this economy isn't working for a lot of Americans. Who's to blame for that?

SPERLING: Well, listen, there was a famous survey that showed that over -- long before the pandemic, it showed over two-thirds of Americans didn't have an extra $400.

I think what the president has tried to do, both through the American Rescue Plan with things like the child tax credit, with the -- and just a basic pro-worker policy, is to put Americans in a better and stronger situation.

But you're right. We are in an economy where we have historically good labor force. You mentioned the Hispanic unemployment is actually at the lowest in history. It's been dropped by over half. That's good news. But, yes, people are facing the higher prices. And I think our goal is to keep sustaining as much as possible those benefits in the labor economy, where people are working, where many people are getting better jobs.

This month, actually saw real wage gains, but, at the same time, doing every single thing we can, from prescription drugs, to energy prices, to allowing people to get Internet coverage up to 50 million for virtually nothing.


SPERLING: We're just going to do everything we can, and realize that there's a good strong job market, low unemployment, but a lot of people feel like they're given up too much of that wages at the grocery line, as you showed before I came on.


SPERLING: And that's what we're dealing with. And that's what we're focused on every day.

CABRERA: Well, Gene Sperling, thank you for sharing that with all of us. I appreciate you taking the time today. Let's keep the conversation going.

SPERLING: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

CABRERA: An arrest, charges, and now police digging for a motive.

What we know about the investigation and the suspect in the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque.