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Trump Speeding Up Presidential Bid Announcement?; DOJ Charges Iranian in Assassination Plot; Inflation Cooling Off?; Trump's Legal Woes. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 10, 2022 - 14:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Alisyn is off.

Right now, former President Donald Trump is under deposition in a civil probe of his family business. Now, when it started this morning, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. That's especially notable, given his repeated criticism of people who take the Fifth.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The mob takes the Fifth. If you're interested, why you taking the Fifth Amendment?

When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth, so they're not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it's disgraceful.

Have you seen what's going on in front of Congress? Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment. Horrible. Horrible.


BLACKWELL: Lawyers are deposing him in a civil investigation by the New York attorney general looking into the Trump Organization's allegedly misleading lenders and insurers and tax authorities by providing them inaccurate financial statements.

Now, this case is separate from the federal criminal probe of presidential documents. That one led to the FBI search of Trump's Florida home on Monday. And the two cases join a whole host of legal troubles facing the former president, who may soon announce a 2024 run.

CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the New York attorney general's office.

So, two questions here. Why did he refuse to answer questions? Also, how is he explaining this apparent hypocrisy on the Fifth Amendment?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, that was quite a montage that you just played.

So the former president arrived here about five hours ago. And shortly after his arrival, he issued a statement saying that he was not going to answer any of the questions, that he was going to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Now, in a lengthy statement, Trump's of the reasons he was doing that is because the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who is a Democrat, he accused her of bringing a politically motivated investigation. And he also said that what solidified his decision was the FBI search warrant that was executed on Monday at his home in Mar- a-Lago related to a different investigation.

So, in this lengthy statement, I want to read you one part of what the former president said. And this goes right to the point of those previous statements he had made. 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, supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the fake news media, you do."

So he's saying that he's not going to answer these questions because of that. He's been in there for five hours. And just for a point of context, the -- Letitia James' office is investigating the Trump Organization and whether its financial statements that were provided to lenders, to insurers, and using their tax statements was accurate.

She said the way to get to the bottom of that, she wanted to know who was involved in creating those statements and coming up for the values of the properties. That's why she wanted to interview the former president today. Recent -- in recent weeks, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump both came to this very same building and answered questions under oath.

They did not invoke their Fifth Amendment. Now, we don't know how long Trump is going to be in there. But they can continue to ask him question after question, and he can just keep asserting the Fifth Amendment.

Now, Eric Trump, the other son of his who runs the Trump Organization, he was deposed in 2020. At that interview, he had asserted the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times. So, waiting to see how long he will be in here. We're at about five hours now, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Five hours. That count can go pretty high.

Kara Scannell for us there, thank you very much.

We're also learning new details about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. Now, this came after authorities suspected Trump or members of his team did not return all the materials belonging to the government at the end of his term.

Officials believed these documents had national security implications, according to a source.

CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz joins me now. So, what more are you learning about the search, Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Victor, 48 hours after that search, what we're learning is that there were pretty serious concerns that law enforcement have -- had.

So we now know that, when federal investigators went into Mar-a-Lago on Monday, there was an awareness that what they were retrieving could have national security implications if that information had gotten out. And they had taken the step even to obtain surveillance video from the property to see how things were going there.

Of course, this was part of an ongoing criminal investigation. It was known, and it was coming several months after the National Archives first reclaimed documents that Trump shouldn't have had they're on the property in Florida. Since then, authorities were convinced Trump and his team hadn't turned over everything to them and that they may not have been completely truthful when they were working with investigators.


So that's some of what we know now about what was going on leading up to this search on Monday -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: So what's the team's explanation of why these documents were at this resort on Palm Beach?

POLANTZ: Well, according to several sources on Trump's side, advisers thought it was OK, apparently. They were around him and they thought this investigation really had stalled out. They were clearly in touch with authorities over the past several months.

They had that visit in June at Mar-a-Lago with law enforcement. But things were pretty quiet in recent weeks. And now we are starting to see Trump advisers push back on at least the possibility that the classified records were found on the property, but they weren't -- may not have been classified anymore.

So, Kash Patel, who was an administration official, he told FOX News last night that Trump was declassifying records whenever he was president. But if President Trump had actually declassified these, that is a really murky fact to nail down because of how broad the authority for a president has, that a president would have to declassify.

And, of course, Victor, Trump lost that declassification power the moment he left office. So it's a pretty complicated situation there.


Let's talk about this Republican Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Last night, he said the FBI seized his cell phone. What do you know?

POLANTZ: Right. Well, we don't know exactly why they did this. And Perry hasn't disclosed that, if he even knows.

But I did learn through a source last night that the Justice Department inspector general's office is mentioned on Perry's search warrant as doing some work there involved in the forensics of that phone. So, the I.G. is the office at the Justice Department that looks at wrongdoing by employees in that agency.

And we know they're also involved in recent searches of Trump's election attorney John Eastman and of Jeffrey Clark. He was the DOJ employee whom Trump wanted to install as attorney general in January 2021. So that's all part of the January 6 criminal probe that the Justice Department is doing.

It's not clear right now if all of these searches came in the same investigation, but, Victor, Scott Perry is not a stranger to Jeff Clark or to Trump. In fact, he introduced them around the time of the 2020 election. We also know he was in touch with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff.

BLACKWELL: Katelyn Polantz watching all the new developments for us there and breaking some news.

Thank you so much.

CNN senior law enforcement analyst Andrew McCabe joins me now. He is the former FBI deputy director.

Andrew, good to see you.

Let's start here with what we learned from Katelyn right at the top there, is that the concern was that these documents have national security implications and that's why they went in to get them. Does that detail justify now this unprecedented step of executing a search warrant at a former president's home?


So I think the real question here is how we got from a meeting at Mar- a-Lago with prosecutors and agents sitting down with the folks at Mar- a-Lago in June all the way to an abiding interest of recovering that material through a search warrant. That's the big mystery here.

And I think -- quite frankly, I think it would be helpful if the department or the bureau stepped forth and spoke to that a little bit publicly. I doubt they will, but that's a different issue.

The FBI is in a really tough spot, right, because when they know that confident -- or classified materials being stored in a place that's not authorized to store it, they are supposed to go recover that material to make sure that they have mitigated any potential threat to national security.

So, presumably, they knew there was classified there during the meeting in June when they were able to go through some of those boxes and see exactly what was there. And so they were in a -- probably a very uncomfortable and awkward balance, trying to recover that stuff, but maybe working through the folks at Mar-a-Lago to do so.

So, for some reason, they decided that working with them was not -- was not going to be sufficient. And they went with a search warrant.

BLACKWELL: I wonder, though, if the timeline is enough here, because, as we have reported, the first inklings of there being some documents that should have been handed over to the government, that was in May of 2021.

There were, of course, talks. There were boxes retrieved. And if they thought there were still documents there, we have now hit that 90-day point before an election. And if the thought was at DOJ, if we don't get them before these 90 days, then Trump could be a candidate, potentially a president, and the next chance we will get an opportunity to get these would be, what, 2029, and that is the calendar that led to what happened?

What do you think?

MCCABE: Those are all very good possibilities here. And the unfortunate and frustrating fact is, we just don't know what happened.

So you're absolutely right. This thing goes back over a year, right? So the National Archives is talking to the Trump folks to try to get the things that they have heard are down at Mar-a-Lago. They do recover the infamous 15 boxes in January.


In February, based on their review of that material, they're so concerned that they go to the Justice Department and ask them to open a case, which the Justice Department does. They impanel a grand jury. They serve a subpoena on the National Archives, so they can review the material.

So you can see a clear pattern of escalation of concern and of approach to this issue. And that culminates with this weird meeting in June at Mar-a-Lago, in which you can imagine they tried to negotiate some sort of resolution.

Well, something happened after that meeting that led the DOJ and the FBI to think, we got to go get that stuff right now.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And, again, we won't know unless they go public with that, which is, at this point, unlikely.

Let's turn now to this defense we're hearing from Trump's supporters, his camp there, that the classification of these documents, that's taken off the table. Listen to the explanation here from former Defense Department Chief of Staff under Trump by Kash Patel.


KASH PATEL, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: President Trump on multiple occasions at the White House declassified whole sets of documents, including, I would remind you and your audience, that around October of 2020, he issued a statement from the White House declassifying every document related to not just the Russiagate scandal, but also the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal.

So, when the president says that, that's it. He's the unilateral chief -- commander in chief and the sole authority on classification.


BLACKWELL: Essentially that these documents have been declassified.

Is there or must there be some provable documentation of the declassification of those records?

MCCABE: So this is a really interesting question.

So is there a requirement, a process requirement on the president's authority? No, there is not. But the devil is in the details, right, Victor, as always.


MCCABE: As a matter of practicality, if the president wants to declassify things, he has to issue some directive or statement or communication, so that other people will then be free to treat those materials as no longer classified.

So, in other words, if the president just thinks it and keeps that thought in his head, he hasn't actually executed the authority that he has. In this case, had he done that in a timely fashion and communicated a clear and effective declassification of this specific material, it's likely that his lawyers would have produced that to the Justice Department and the FBI earlier on in this conflict.

The fact that they didn't...

BLACKWELL: But, Andy, is just verbally saying everything in those boxes going to Mar-a-Lago is now declassified, saying that to a person while he's president who's on his staff, is that enough?

MCCABE: It's -- does he have the authority to do that? Yes. Is that going to be effective? No.

You got to have -- that person who you're telling to pick up that stuff and take it to Mar-a-Lago is going to need something more than this conversation they can't prove. So, as an effective matter, he's got to have written something, communicated something, sent an e-mail, for crying out loud, indicating what it is he wants to declassify.

You can't just wave the magic wand and everything around you becomes unclassified. It doesn't actually work in practice that way.

BLACKWELL: All right, all important details will be crucial moving forward in this investigation.

Andy McCabe, thanks for helping us understand it. The Justice Department has charged an Iranian national for an alleged

plot to kill former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Why he was targeted, we have that ahead.

And inflation took a much-welcomed breather last month. What the new data means for your budget.



BLACKWELL: The Justice Department announced criminal charges against a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard for allegedly trying to assassinate former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton.

CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood has the latest.

So, the DOJ says that Iran -- an official there attempted to pay people in the U.S. to do this. What do you know?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so DOJ rolling out these criminal charges against this Iranian, who they say is a member of the IRGC, for attempting to carry out this plot to kill the former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

And according to the information that came out from DOJ today, as you said, they -- this person, this Iranian was offering an individual in the United States, an FBI informant, $300,000 to carry out this murder.

And some remarkable details, with this Iranian sending a map that showed John Bolton's office on it. And in the image of that map, the screenshot of that map that DOJ was able to get its hands on, you could see that the location of Bolton's office was about 10,000 kilometers from the location of where that screenshot was taken.

That is about the same distance from Tehran to Washington, D.C. This individual also sent this FBI informant images of bags of money. Apparently, of course, that would have been the money that he was willing to pay him if he carried out this assassination plot.

Now, we should note that John Bolton today is thanking the FBI, DOJ, Secret Service.

And he also said this in his statement, saying: "While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable. Iran's rulers are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States. Their radical anti-American objectives are unchanged. Their commitments are worthless and their global threat is growing."


Now, we should note this isn't the first time that Iranians have tried to carry out plots to go after Americans here on U.S. soil or foreign officials on U.S. soil. They tried to carry out a plot to murder the former Saudi ambassador here in the United States a few years ago. So, there is precedent here.

Now, we do have the White House, the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, coming out with a statement saying that there will be repercussions if Iran continues with this kind of thing.

And so you see them very much standing by John Bolton. It's important to note that this plot was begun to be -- kind of come together in October of 2021. We know that John Bolton, according to a source familiar, was made aware of threats against him in 2020, but it wasn't until late 2021 that he got Secret Service protection.

And now, of course, we're learning why he would have had that Secret Service protection -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Kylie Atwood for us.

Thank you, Kylie.

And be sure to watch "THE SITUATION ROOM." Wolf will speak with Ambassador Bolton about that alleged plot to kill him.

All right, some good news here economically today. We still have some work to do, though. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that inflation finally cooled in July. Consumer prices increased 8.5 percent year over year, slower than the 9.1 increase in June.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you couple that with last week's booming jobs report of 528,000 jobs created last month and 3.5 percent unemployment, it underscores the kind of economy we have been building.

We're seeing a stronger labor market, where jobs are booming and Americans are working. And we're seeing some signs that inflation may be beginning to moderate.


BLACKWELL: CNN business correspondent Rahel Solomon is joining me now.

So, listen, still high.


BLACKWELL: Not as high, though.

SOLOMON: Not as high.

And not only was this a decline, but this was also better than most economists were expecting. So we don't get to say that much these days when talking about inflation. Core inflation remains steady. And month-over-month inflation, we didn't add to that, right? You saw that zero percent there. So that is certainly positive news. When you take a look back, a step

back, and think about sort of where we're coming from it look at inflation over the last few years or so from January 2020, you can see inflation is still very high, 8.5 percent, according to this latest report, but maybe, just maybe, that 9.1 was the peak. Maybe the worst is behind us.

But if you are at home, and you're watching this, thinking, what peak, this is probably why, right? Look at gasoline prices, higher by 44 percent compared to a year ago, food prices almost 11 percent, and shelter, which is really concerning, 5.7 percent from a year ago.

So this probably hasn't sort of trickled into sentiment yet. People clearly know that inflation is still problematic. And, by the way, the Fed is looking for several reports. This is not enough, several reports before the Fed starts to feel like inflation is really easing.

BLACKWELL: Yes, there's another CPI before they meet in mid to late September for that interest rate decision.

So we saw how much prices are increasing. How are people adjusting?

SOLOMON: Well, this is interesting.

People are bargain-hunting. They are shopping around. So we just got a new report out today from Information Resources, Inc., IRI. It's a market research group that does research on this type of consumer products. And what they're seeing is that people are shopping around. I mean, 55 percent of ice cream sales heading into July were on promotion, right?


SOLOMON: I mean, even in terms of -- I don't know. Is it too early to talk about liquor? But even in terms of...



SOLOMON: Alcohol sales, value brands of liquor sales, that increased more than 4 percent.

And when I asked the analysts behind this report, well, what's that about, she said people still want to enjoy their luxuries, but they're trying to do it a little bit more -- in a more cost-effective way.

BLACKWELL: I'm still going to get my taste, but I'm not going to go crazy with the expensive brand.

SOLOMON: Exactly.

BLACKWELL: All right, Rahel Solomon, thank you.

Republican allies of former President Trump are pressuring him to speed up his plan to announce his 2024 presidential bid after the search of his home. How this could affect the rest of the GOP field and midterms next.



BLACKWELL: Well, former President Trump is enjoying a wave of support after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, and some top Republicans who first urged Trump to wait until after the midterms to announce his run for president in 2024 are now urging him to get in sooner.

CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now.

So explain the strategy here.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Victor, I would say this is more of a P.R. and defensive strategy than anything.

I mean, look, Republicans do not know what the Justice Department has on Trump or what they're looking into. But they're trying to use that black hole to their advantage. And they think that by Trump declaring a presidential bid now, they can paint Trump as the victim and try to paint the investigation and a potential indictment as nothing more than just a political witch-hunt that's designed to take him down.

And this is really a rapid shift in thinking among Trump's inner circle, because many of them wanted Trump to wait until after the midterms to announce any presidential bid, because they were concerned about Trump being on the ballot in November, instead of it being a referendum on President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

But, over the last 48 hours, we have been told that Trump has just received a barrage of encouragement to run as soon as possible, including at a dinner last night that he had with a group of House conservative members.