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Armed Man Attempts to Breach Ohio FBI Office; Inflation Easing?; New Details Emerge on Mar-a-Lago FBI Search; Merrick Garland to Deliver Remarks; Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 11, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

There is a lot going on. We're starting with that breaking news

Attorney General Merrick Garland will deliver remarks at 2:30 p.m. And, of course, there has been intense pressure to say something after the FBI search of former President Trump's home.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins us now.

So, Katelyn, we know he's going to speak. We're not sure yet if it's about the search warrant served on Monday. Is that right?


So we didn't expect Attorney General Merrick Garland to come out today. But now we do know in about 30 minutes he is going to be making a statement from the Justice Department building in downtown Washington. They haven't disclosed yet exactly what it is going to be about.

But you're right. There has been pressure building in recent days since this search on Monday, this unprecedented search of a former president's home, that we are watching to see whether Garland may want to make a statement about this.

Now, this isn't something that the Justice Department typically would comment on. It is an ongoing investigation. We don't believe that there have been charges brought at this time. We haven't seen any emerge from this.

It's also about national security issues. On top of that, Garland is not the type of attorney general that makes a lot of public statements, does a lot of press conferences. Even whenever there were charges for seditious conspiracy, another unprecedented law enforcement development over this past year related to January 6, we did not see him hold a press conference, make a statement. Yesterday, there was major news about an Iranian assassination plot where there were charges brought. That plot was against John Bolton, a former national security official. Even then, there wasn't a public statement from Garland. There was only a taped video from national security officials.

And so we are waiting to see what Garland has to say today and whether it will be addressing the Mar-a-Lago search that happened three days ago -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and, if he's going to address this, how far he's willing to go. Of course, we will bring that to everyone live when it happens.

Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much.

Meantime, we are learning much more about what led to the unprecedented FBI search of former President Trump's home.

New CNN reporting shows the tension between the Trump team and the Justice Department over sensitive documents had been escalating for months. So, sources revealed federal investigators obtained a grand jury subpoena and served it during a meeting in June when they were visiting there at Mar-a-Lago.

Now, during that meeting, investigators saw where documents were held and took some sensitive national security documents with them. Now, sources also tell CNN that, after that meeting, at least one witness tipped off investigators that there were still potentially classified papers on the property.

And sources also say that tip, along with other evidence they developed, prompted Monday's FBI search.

CNN's Gabby Orr is part of the team breaking this new reporting.

Walk us through what happened and how really this has been building for months.

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Well, Victor, I want to start with that June 3 meeting that you just referenced.

And let's pull up this timeline that sort of breaks this down step by step, because that meeting is when we know this subpoena was delivered. And in that meeting between Trump attorneys and federal investigators, they were brought down to a basement facility at Mar-a- Lago. They were shown boxes of documents that were being kept there.

And at the conclusion of that meeting on June 3, they left with documents that we're told were marked with top-secret markings or higher classification. We then fast-forward to June 8. At that point, Trump's team received a letter from federal investigators asking them to do more to secure the facility where those documents were being held and to preserve them, presumably because they wanted to retrieve those at a later point. And if you go back to that period between June and August of this

year, on Monday, when that raid happen at Mar-a-Lago, we know that there was somebody talking to federal investigators, letting them know that they believed there were more documents down at Mar-a-Lago, potentially documents that were marked classified or contained sensitive national security information.

And so that is what prompted this search that was executed by FBI officials on Monday at the former president's primary residence. This has been building for quite get some time. And it is interesting that all of this sort of happened between June and August of this year, because our sources have told us that, after federal investigators arrived at Mar-a-Lago -- I'm sorry -- after Archives, the National Archives, sent folks to Mar-a-Lago in January of this year to retrieve those 15 boxes, that we know they eventually were returned to the government, this was slow-burning for many months.


And now we're sort of getting this rush of information of what was actually happening behind the scenes, starting with that June meeting, and obviously concluding on Monday with the FBI search -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: You have got a lot of new reporting here. I want to go into this potentially tipster, this one informant, at least one.

Any idea of who this person was? Were they saying the documents that were missed on the 8th? What do you know about that person?

ORR: Yes, we do not know the identity of that person. It's certainly an answer -- a question we're trying to get an answer to.

But take a listen to what Mick Mulvaney, former President Trump's former chief of staff in the White House, told our own Brianna Keilar this morning.

He said, that this had to have been somebody really close. Let's take a further listen.


MICK MULVANEY, FORMER ACTING WHITE HOUSE 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 the day-to-day, who knew where documents were.

So it would be somebody very close inside the president. My guess is, there's probably six or eight people who 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ORR: We know that, when federal investigators arrived at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday, that they did look at a safe that was being contained in his primary residence there. And that is part of the reason why Mulvaney said this is potentially somebody who was very close to the former president, either at one point or still remains so, to have known that that safe would have been in his residence and potentially containing documents, papers, items that FBI agents took away with them on Monday, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Gabby, was it the investigators' conclusion that the former president was attempting to hide these documents that were still there at the start of this week?

ORR: Oh, that's a good question.

It's unclear at this point whether they felt that there was some deliberate misleading of the actual documents, boxes, the amount or volume of information that was being held at Mar-a-Lago, or if this was sort of unknowing, that they didn't realize the volume of papers or documents or White House mementos that were being kept at his property, though, of course, we know, based on what this witness has told federal investigators, that they didn't receive everything that was being kept at Mar-a-Lago when they went down there, when Archives sent somebody down there in January of this year to retrieve those 15 boxes.

BLACKWELL: Gabby Orr, breaking news, thank you very much for that.

Let's bring in now Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent and Yale lecturer, and Harry Litman, helped lead the Justice Department as deputy assistant attorney general, and now hosts the "Talking Feds" podcast.

Welcome to you both.

Harry, let me start with you and the breaking news that the attorney general, Merrick Garland, in a little more than 20 minutes will be making some remarks. We don't know if this will be about the search at Mar-a-Lago.

But considering the pressure, very likely that that will be what we're going to hear from him. What do you think of this moment?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, we will see at 2:30.

This is the standard time when people gather to hear stuff from the news. He doesn't normally speak, so it stands to reason, just because the pressure will be enormous.

I think he's got to be aware that you start down this path, and there's kind of no end to it. The policy of the DOJ that's normally for no comment can be interpreted to permit this, given the intense public interest. So we will see.

And what -- he is a buttoned-down, by-the-book guy, especially in these matters. But I got to agree with you that he's going to be saying something vague and then a little bit informative and then clam up.


Again, I want to make sure we moderate some expectations here. The DOJ has not said the topic of these remarks.

But, Asha, as I come to you, how far can he go? I mean, he obviously has to protect the investigation. But if he's going to speak, he wants to say something that I guess satisfies those who want to know more about what led to this unprecedented search.


And I think he may also want to correct misinformation that may be out there. There is a lot of misinformation specifically about what the FBI was doing, whether it was legal for them to be there, allegations that they were planting evidence.


And this can lead to bad places. I mean, this morning, there was a gunman who showed up in the Cincinnati FBI's office. So there is also a public safety aspect to this and an interest for him to protect the people who work under him to correct misinformation that's out there and to offer the reasoning for going in.

I think another possibility, if he chooses to comment on this, as I have mentioned on Twitter, it's not entirely clear that this will result in criminal charges. If this was basically a retrieval operation, a surgical operation to get and secure these documents, that may be the end of the story.

And if that's the case, then I think that would be important for him to clarify as well, because, otherwise, this would happen -- in the absence of that, this would happen -- the search warrant would happen, and then nothing -- the public would not know anything more. And that would, I think, really do a disservice both to the American public and to the Department of Justice.

BLACKWELL: Harry, let me put to you the question I just asked Gabby, and let me set it up.

So, in January, federal officials retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago. There were more interviews that led them to obtain this grand jury subpoena in June. They collected additional documents. And then they got a call from an informant saying, there's more here.

Does this appear to you to be a president who was actively trying to hide some of these records from federal authorities?

LITMAN: Surely. And that's what the June meeting, which postdates the subpoena, was about.

And, as Asha says, now it looks much, much more like a retrieval operation. The documents we're talking about Victor, top-secret or classified, these are things that could reveal sources and methods, literally endanger the lives of U.S. folks.

And we know that Trump loves to sort of brandish them and boast to strangers passing by. So it looks more and more, now that we know about the subpoena, that they tried everything they could, and then they got the confidential information that stuff was still there.

That was in the affidavit, as was everything else, by the way, which people are wondering. Of course it was. But it made out a compelling case that, A, it's still there, and, B, they have done everything they can to cooperate, and he's just not doing it.

So therefore they had to go in. The evidence, they will sift through it. It could potentially lead to charges. But I agree with Asha. It now looks much, much more likely that this was an operation to get the documents back, because great danger could be done with them, especially in the hands of an indifferent possessor like Donald Trump.

BLACKWELL: It's interesting, Harry. You say that that information about the sensitivity of the documents had to be in the affidavit .

Asha, let me bring that to you. When applying for this warrant, does the DOJ under these circumstances need to know the sensitivity of the documents, or, we asked once, we asked twice, now we need to just come and take whatever is left?

RANGAPPA: Yes, both. And so I will address both of these questions that you're asking.

I think this making -- highlighting the sensitivity of the documents really depends on the charge that they are working under. So, if it's espionage, for example, then, yes, it has to be information related to the national defense which has the potential to injure the United States. So they might highlight that.

If it's merely government property, just presidential records, maybe that sensitivity would not necessarily have to be highlighted. But you mentioned a point about doing everything they can. And I think it's important to note that, typically, in cases of unauthorized possession of classified material, the DOJ does not use a subpoena, because the person is unauthorized.

They're essentially holding stolen goods. And I think, for example, General Petraeus was not given the opportunity to resolve his situation through a subpoena. They executed a search warrant.

And so I think the fact that DOJ has taken these intermediate steps, has -- it's taken months, they have gone there, they have they have tried to work through this, shows the extreme deference that they have given to the -- to President Trump and also that this was a last resort and one I think that they really wanted to avoid, if at all possible, and probably wouldn't have taken if these national security interests were not at stake.

BLACKWELL: Harry, we're about 15 minutes out from these remarks from Merrick Garland. I want to end our conversation where it began about what he could say here. And to the point that Asha was making on clearing up misinformation, how much could the remarks from the A.G. impact those? The people who want to use this as a political cudgel will continue to do that after he speaks. Those who want to plant these conspiracy theories will still do that after he speaks.


How much potential is there that he can try to quell some of those lies?

LITMAN: That's exactly the point. And he's well aware of that.

What audience is he speaking to? The 40 percent of MAGA fanatics who came out of the box with basically preprepared fascist state comments, they are not going to be satisfied here. There will be some -- how thin is the reasonable middle now -- who will hear, huh, OK, really serious stuff, we really tried, and we can leave it at that, because, again, they can't compromise the investigation.

And lord knows they can't say who the confidential informant is. If Trump was ready to hang Mike Pence, he'd be ready to draw and quarter this guy. So there's -- they can just say basically the point about the security interests. He might well say that, but he can't then keep talking and parrying them point for point.

This would be sort of it, until they speak in court. We will eventually see this affidavit. But in the normal course of things, it wouldn't be for several months.

BLACKWELL: All right, we're standing by for those remarks from the attorney general.

Harry Litman, Asha Rangappa, thank you.

LITMAN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: And we're also tracking the developing story out of Ohio.

Police there in a standoff now with a man who they say tried to break into an FBI field office this morning. And he was armed with, they say, a nail gun and an AR-15-style rifle.

Now, to be clear, we don't know what the motive was here.

Let's bring in CNN's Brynn Gingras with the latest.

So, this is still an active situation.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we don't know the motive. We may not know the motive, and we certainly don't know it because he's currently not in custody just yet.

we're just learning from officials that he's contained at this moment by local state, and federal authorities in an area that's really in between Cincinnati and Columbus. But let's back up just a little bit and go to 9:00 a.m. this morning, when, we're told by the FBI, this person went into the local FBI field office there in Cincinnati, Ohio, with, sources telling me and my colleague Josh Campbell, an AR-15- style rifle and a nail gun.

There was some alert that was sounded, FBI agents responding. And this person, we're told, took off basically in a car, shutting down a highway. Now, we just got an update a short time ago from state authorities in Ohio, who said that they actually tried to pull over this person, and this person engaged with them. Shots were being fired from the car .They continued to -- that person continued to take off.

And now, again, this is a standoff that's going on really over an hour at this point. But, yes, big question here is, what was this person's motivation behind all of this? It's very unclear at this moment, was it a personal vendetta? Did it have to do with the raid that happened on Monday and all the rhetoric that has been spread now about the FBI?

As one source told me in the FBI, "Everybody hates us right now." So it's no surprise that some of this stuff is happening. But, certainly, this is a serious situation that they're trying to get under control. And we're still trying to learn what the issue is on the ground right now. When will this person be in custody? But they're working on it.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we know there has been this flood of threats and growth in violent rhetoric online.


BLACKWELL: We will bring you back if there are some updates.


BLACKWELL: Brynn Gingras, thank you very much.

We are set to hear in just minutes from Attorney General Merrick Garland. Of course, we will bring you his remarks as soon as they begin.

Plus, another report shows now that inflation slowed in July, and the nationwide average on gas has finally dropped below $4 a gallon. What this signals about the state of the economy.



BLACKWELL: Minutes from now, we're expecting to hear from Attorney General Merrick Garland.

He's scheduled to speak at the bottom of the hour, 2:30 Eastern. Now, let me just say we do not know what his remarks will focus on, but we know there has been so much pressure for the A.G. to make some remarks about the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago, former President Trump's home in Florida.

We will bring you those remarks as soon as they begin. But let's turn now to the economy, because, for the first time since

March, the national average -- I can barely hold my smile -- the national average for a gallon of gas is below $4. It's down more than $1 since the peak in June. And that's according to AAA.

Another key inflation measure fell in July, after surging last month. It is still painfully high.

CNN business reporter Matt Egan is here and CNN business correspondent Rahel Solomon. They're with us now.

So, Matt, let me start with you and what these numbers mean for the economy, for inflation.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Victor, I mean, it means that finally some relief is on the way, right?

The cost of living, of course, remains way too high. But there are some signs that maybe the worst is over here. These new inflation stats out this morning, they were encouraging, which is pretty rare that we say inflation stats are encouraging, right?

Producer price index showed that wholesale prices rose by 9.8 percent year over year. And month to month, we actually had deflation. Prices fell for the first time since April 2021, when COVID had shut the world down.

Now, here's why this matters to all of us. We're talking about inflation that is in the pipeline. So, if inflation is cooling off at the wholesale level, that should eventually lead to less sticker shock for consumers.

But let's be clear that 9.8 percent wholesale inflation, I mean, in any other time in recent history, that would be alarmingly high, but it is actually coming down from more than 11 percent. And so I think, if you take today's report, combined with yesterday's consumer inflation report, that is raising some hopes that maybe this inflation crisis is going to finally cooled off. And that's easing some of these recession fears.


I talked to Brian Deese, the White House economic adviser, and he said he doesn't think anything in the data about where we are right now in the economy is consistent with what we typically think of a recession, though Deese did concede that there are some serious risks out there, namely, inflation.

BLACKWELL: Rahel, gas prices now under $4 a gallon. How long until we get back to a $1.99 a gallon?



RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's impossible to answer.

But you are not the only person smiling about these gas prices, right, $3.99.


SOLOMON: The question is, might we be moving in that direction?

And I say this very cautiously. But based on conversations I'm having, based on the forecasts I'm seeing, it appears, yes, hopefully, that's what we're seeing.

Andy Lipow, for example, he's a veteran energy oil consultant. And he actually -- his forecast is $3.90 a gallon by Labor Day and $3.53 by Thanksgiving. Part of the reason why is, as we're heading into the cooler months, obviously, demand starts to slow. So that should help.

That said, however, there are still some factors that complicate that, right, in terms of geopolitically, in terms of it being hurricane season. If we see any major disruptions to refineries, well, we're likely going to see prices go back up. But $3.53 by Thanksgiving, I mean, it's not $1.99, but...

BLACKWELL: It ain't $1.99, but I will take it.

SOLOMON: ... it's some relief.

BLACKWELL: All right, Rahel Solomon, Matt Egan, thank you.

EGAN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Any moment now, Attorney General Merrick Garland will speak.

Ahead of that, let's bring in CNN's chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, and CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.

Kaitlan, let me start with you, and the pressure that we have seen, mostly from Republicans on the Hill, saying the A.G. has to say something.

That we're at this moment that, quite possibly, he will, what should we expect?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you have heard that from a number of Republican officials, not even just the ones that you typically would expect something like that to come from.

It's really been from across the board of people saying, look, let's wait and see what the Justice Department has to say about something that is incredibly unprecedented, which is the search warrant that was executed on the former president's home on Monday.

And I want to be clear we don't know that that is what the attorney general is going to talk about. But this is the first time we are going to hear from him in this capacity since that search warrant was executed on Monday.

And we have not heard yet from Attorney General Garland on this. So it certainly is a possibility. We don't know yet. We will find out just in a matter of moments when he comes out.

But it would be the first time that he is speaking on this matter if he does come out and address this. And you're right, Victor. You have seen a number of officials come out and say they would like to hear more from the Justice Department about this. Some of it is from very close allies of the former president's who are implying that there was wrongdoing here.

Some of it is from other Republican officials who have said, we want to wait and see what exactly is going on here, given how unusual this is for a search of the former president's home to be carried out in this manner.

And I think this also comes as you have seen from even some Justice Department officials who told our colleague Evan Perez they did think it would be helpful for some kind of explanation to come from the Justice Department on this, though there are certainly limits of where they can go.

If there is as active on investigation under way, they don't often speak about it. And we have seen where that has gotten officials in hot water before.

And so I think it will be curious to see what Merrick Garland has to say. One thing also is, this does come as, in this void of silence from the Justice Department, there has been a lot of misinformation being pushed out there or baseless information -- baseless information being put out there, including by Trump himself, saying that he hoped that the FBI agents didn't plant any incriminating evidence in his property while they were there searching for documents that we believed are ones that he took from his time in the White House.

Of course, that's an accusation he made without any evidence to back it up. So there are certainly things out there that the attorney general could knock down, say that that's not true, that they are following things by the book here.

But, of course, it is going to be a moment for Merrick Garland. And whether or not it's on this topic is certainly something that clearly you have heard from many people would like to hear from him on and see what he does have to say about this.

BLACKWELL: Andrew, the tumult of the James Comey statement after declining to indict Hillary Clinton in 2016 is certainly front of mind in the conversations we have had since the execution of the search warrant.

So they know this is treacherous territory for the A.G. to come out and speak. What are you expecting? How far do you think he will be able or will be willing to go?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Victor, there's no question that experience still hangs heavy over the minds of DOJ and FBI leadership as they try to figure out how to navigate this.

I would suspect that the attorney general will say basically nothing about the current case. Those folks who are hoping that he will get out and kind of correct the timeline or say things in response to the president's statement are going to be disappointed.

I expect that he might speak more generally about search warrants and how the department and the bureau approach