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AG Garland Makes First Public Statement Since FBI Search Of Trump Home; Garland: "I Personally Approved Seeking Search Warrant For Trump Home. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 11, 2022 - 15:00   ET


ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I wish I knew. I don't think it's - knowing Director Ray somewhat, having worked with him for quite a few months there in 2017, I don't think that's really his style. He's not someone who is really super comfortable with kind of bold statements at all, certainly bold public statements.

But again, this is a job that pushes you beyond the limits of your comfort zone and I think the current conditions call for that.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right. Top of the hour now, we are waiting remarks from the Attorney General Merrick Garland. We know that they will be about the search of former President Trump's home on Monday. The Attorney General was expected to be at about 30 minutes ago, but we are standing by waiting for those remarks.

A remarkable time in this investigation. The pressure has been so intense for the AG to say something he now has obliged and will make some remarks. Let me come to Katelyn Polantz. The former president can clear up a lot of this of these accusations. He has a documented inventory of what was taken from his home on Monday as part of this search and he thus far has decided not to disclose that.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right, really. We have heard mostly the Trump team, his lawyers himself trying to fill in the blanks about why they believe there was this search of Mar-A-Lago. We've done our best to report out what we're able to say that they are national security concerns, that there were concerns that the people at Mar-A-Lago weren't being entirely forthcoming about what was there, that there was a need to go back in after a subpoena with this search to get boxes.

But I wanted to highlight one of the things that Director Ray said in this letter that Evan just obtained. He said, when all the facts come out, we stuck to the process. And the process here, that is a process that's in court.

So the reason that Trump is able to go out there and speak freely is because of the First Amendment. The reason that the Justice Department is not is because they are working, doing their jobs in the court system in front of judges, in a case that is currently under seal, so confidential, secret, about National Security.

And so, Merrick Garland being someone who's going to be doing things by the book bound by that ceiling, there could be a possibility that they could want to unseal something. There are news organizations, judicial watch, have filed to ask for access to the search warrant. But everything in that is not even in the hands of Donald Trump, it's in the court right now.

We know that there's an affidavit attached to this search warrant, that is an extensive narrative that the Justice Department would have had to tell the judge about exactly why they needed to go in to do this search, what they believed was still at Mar-A-Lago, not just what they believed months ago was at Mar-A-Lago, but what they believed the evidence would be that they would pick up the moment when they walked in the door that they had recent information that could cause them to go in right now to need to get it, they would also have to disclose the statutes of the crimes that they are investigating to the judge.

There is just a lot of information that the Justice Department behind the scenes has collected in this investigation that really at this point, and from what we understand, appears to be pretty far along even though we have not heard much about it at all. And there have been other investigations around Donald Trump that have consumed the discourse up until now, up until this week.

BLACKWELL: All right. We just got the two minute warning remarks from Attorney General Merrick Garland. He, of course, will make remarks about the search warrant execution at Mar-a-Lago on Monday.

In the interim, Elie, let me come to you. There was this request early this year for documents. They took 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a- Lago. There was the subpoena ahead of the June meeting and then the search warrant. Would an additional subpoena been futile in this effort, considering, I guess they thought they had the documents relevant before they got that call from the informant?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Victor, I think it's safe to reason that Merrick Garland came to that conclusion. We try to subpoena once. You gave us some documents, but we then learned that you had not given us all of them. So what's another subpoena going to do in that situation? I think that could well have been DOJ is reasoning.

And Victor, to the point Katelyn Polantz was just making, prosecutors and Merrick Garland in this situation are in a really difficult scenario when it comes to this type of situation, because your hands are largely tied as to what you can say to the press. Your instinct, as a lawyer, as a prosecutor is I want to get behind that microphone, I want to set everything straight. I want to explain what we did. But you cannot do that for policy reasons.

So I think what we're going to hear today is a reaffirmation of vote of confidence in the men and women of DOJ and the FBI, as Andy McCabe said.


And I think we will hear sort of conclusory assertions from Merrick Garland that everything we've done here has been necessary, proper and by the book. Will that answer and satisfy all the critics? Maybe, maybe not. But I think one of the main audiences here is the people who work inside DOJ and FBI as well.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I think one thing we can know for certain is that what the attorney general says today will not satisfy all the critics because for many of them, it's not in their interest to be satisfied by what the attorney general says today. Let's listen now to the Attorney General Merrick Garland.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good afternoon. Since I became attorney general, I have made clear that the Department of Justice will speak through its court filings and its work.

Just now, the Justice Department has filed a motion in the Southern District of Florida to unseal a search warrant and property receipt relating to a court-approved search that the FBI conducted earlier this week. That search was a premises located in Florida, belonging to the former president. The Department did not make any public statements on the day of the search.

The former president publicly confirmed the search that evening, as is his right. Copies of both the warrant and the FBI property receipt were provided on the day of the search to the former president's counsel, who was on site during the search.

The search warrant was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause. The property receipt is a document that federal law requires law enforcement agents to leave with the property owner. The department filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president's public confirmation with the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter.

Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.

All Americans are entitled to the even handed application of the law, to due process of the law, and to the presumption of innocence. Much of our work is by necessity conducted out of the public eye. We do that to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to protect the integrity of our investigations.

Federal law, long standing department rules and our ethical obligations prevent me from providing further details as to the basis of the search at this time. There are however, certain points I want you to know.

First, I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter. Second, the Department does not take such a decision lightly. Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken.

Third, let me address recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors. I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked. The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated,

patriotic public servants. Every day, they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety, while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves. I am honored to work alongside them.

This is all I can say right now. More information will be made available in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attorney General, the former president (inaudible) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) FBI agents?

GARLAND: Excuse me. Thank you all for your questions, but as I said, this is all I can say at this time.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's discuss now what we just heard from the Attorney General, that he has now filed a motion in the Southern District of Florida to unseal the search warrant and the property receipt in the search of former President Trump's home on Monday.

Let's bring everybody back with us here. And I want to start with Elie. First, the legal element of this, this application it sounds like a big deal coming from the Attorney General.


Is this unprecedented? How rare is it to request that this be made public?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is a remarkable and unusual move, Victor. We essentially just saw Merrick Garland call Donald Trump's bluff. And here's what I mean by that, in the wake of this search warrant, Donald Trump has two documents, he and his lawyers. One is the search warrant itself with whatever attachments and the other is this inventory or this receipt. Now, those documents are going to have important information about the search.

These are the documents that people have been saying, well, if Donald Trump wants to make an issue of this, he should release them. What Merrick Garland just said is, we, the DOJ are going to release them. We're going to go to the judge. We're going to ask the judge to unseal those documents, meaning make them available to the public because DOJ policy is they will only speak about things that are on the record with the court.

So essentially, Merrick Garland just said, okay, Donald Trump, you're not going to release them, well, we're going to do it. We're going to put those documents in front of the American public. But I do think it's important to understand what will and will not be in those documents.

The warrant typically will list logistical information place to be searched, usually a general description of items to be searched for, the name of the judge, a deadline by which DOJ has to execute the search. But it also sometimes has what we call an attachment and that attachment typically will list the statutes, the laws that DOJ believes it has probable cause to believe were violated.

So that's going to be the first thing I look for. I'm going to look right at that attachment and say, do they list the statutes, that's going to tell us what laws could be at play here. When we talk about the second document, the inventory or the receipt, that is what it sounds like. It's a listing. The FBI says here are the items that we removed from Mar-a-Lago.

Now, again, degrees of specificity and generality tend to vary. I do not expect that to have a piece of paper by piece of paper breakdown if they took thousands of pages. I think what we're going to see is listings like X number of boxes, if they took any electronic documents, if they took any laptops, cell phones, that kind of thing.

Now, one last thing, Victor.


HONIG: The document that we still will not see is the big one. The most detailed document here is the affidavit. That is the document, which typically can be 20, 40, a hundred pages where prosecutors lay out chapter and verse, here's all of our proof that gives us probable cause.

That still is going to remain confidential. Donald Trump does not have that. Merrick Garland is not moving to unseal that. But the other two documents that Donald Trump has, Merrick Garland has said, well, I'm going to show them to you now.

BLACKWELL: Because that affidavit is crucial and central to the investigation, you wouldn't expect that that would be released at this point.

HONIG: No. Typically, Victor, that only gets released if and when there's a charge. If somebody gets searched and then indicted, then they will be given a copy of that affidavit. Again, this is the very long detailed document so that that person can then challenge it in court. Typically, what we see is the defendant or the person who's been searched will ask the judge to throw out whatever was found, because they'll argue that the affidavit was insufficient, did not establish probable cause.

So that's the longest, most specific, most detailed document. We are still not going to see that, but we are going to see if Garland's motion is granted, which I suspect it will be by the judge, then we will see the warrant itself which will give us some crucial information. And we will see the return, the inventory of the items that were seized from Mar-a-Lago.

BLACKWELL: Katelyn Polantz, we were expecting remarks from the Attorney General. Here he's taking some action, just walk us through the significance of what we just saw here. POLANTZ: That's right. So we did just get in the court filing in the

U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida, that's where this search warrant was approved by a magistrate judge. We did just get the motion. So the request from the Justice Department to unseal the documents that Ellie was just describing that Merrick Garland just spoke about wanting to release.

Now, some of the legal reasoning here is pretty simple. They are arguing to the judge that one of the reasons that they can release this or why they believe it could be released is because the occurrence of this search and the indications of what it was about, those are already public. There has been public reporting on it. Donald Trump's own lawyers have spoken about it. His son spoke about it on television. And then they also write that the public's clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in the favor of unsealing these documents making them public.

So that just underlines what Garland was saying. It's underlining it to the judge is going to have to review this. And the other thing that happens in this motion is that the Justice Department does do what they normally would do in a situation like this. They say we would like to give the former president and his attorneys the opportunity to respond to this request.

So Donald Trump's attorneys will be able to take a position in court on whether they want this to be public. And what's fascinating about that is that these three days have gone by, we have heard Trump speak publicly they have had an opportunity to file to suppress whatever was collected in this search if they wanted to.


We even saw something like that in a very separate recent search in a different investigation related to John Eastman, the President's elections lawyer. In that case, there was a search warrant and a - both of these types of documents, the returns, they were all made public in court. This is what Eastman filed. He put it into his court record to make it public to try and challenge.

And so that's how we learned about that Eastman search. Trump could have done that as well and the receipt as well as the other thing that the Justice Department is asking to unseal that we have learned through this new filing today, that that wasn't something that was originally put in the court, it wouldn't have been at the beginning.

It's a paper that's filled out by the FBI agents on site, the people who are on site from the Justice Department handed to the lawyers that also was added to the court record after the fact of this search so that it could be potentially provided to the public if the judge agrees, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Katelyn Polantz has the documents that we just heard the Attorney General filed a motion for to be unsealed.

Let me go to Evan Perez. And one element that we learned from the AG is his involvement in the application for that warrant that was executed on Monday. He says he personally approved it.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor. Look, I think this was him trying to make sure people understood that the buck stops with him and really was in response to, there are some very inaccurate reporting out there that seemed to suggest that maybe he was surprised by this that he was maybe not involved.

And we all - those of us who covered the department knew that that was not true. This was, of course - it's one of the most important investigation that's now ongoing in this building and there's absolutely no way that Lisa Monaco, the Deputy Attorney General, that Merrick Garland, the Attorney General, would not have been deeply involved in the weeks and months of lawyering that went into this decision to carry out this search.

And one of the things that I think he mentions in there in his comments was the idea that they looked at less intrusive means before taking the step. Again, that's something that is routine in these cases, but I think it's very important to respond to the accusations that you're hearing from the former President and his team, which is that they, A, they were shocked that this was completely unrequired by the department, unnecessary by the department that they could have simply just gone through the lawyers and gotten these documents that's handed over what.

The attorney general was saying, they took this step, because they had to. It was the ultimate step that they had to take, because other less intrusive means did - was not - were not going to work. And, obviously, I think, at the end here, this was a bit of a put up or shut up for the Donald Trump team, which they've had the field for a couple of days, making accusations and now it's up to them, if they want to go to a judge and try to get the judge to say, no, Your Honor, you cannot release these documents that the Justice Department says it's in the public interest for us to see, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's go down to the White House. So Kaitlan Collins, you have a development.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, I think what Evan was getting at there is really the underlying point here, which is that for about 72 hours now, Trump and his attorneys and his allies have driven the narrative around this search warrant. They are the ones who have been framing in their way and in their manner and calling it unfair and politically motivated.

And now the Justice Department is basically daring them to explain why they don't want these documents released, because the Justice Department view in this motion that they have just now filed, they say given the intense public interest presented by the search of a residence of a former president, the government believes these factors favor unsealing the search warrant.

So they are making publicly clear that they believe let everyone see what's in the search warrant and make it clear why this search warrant was granted by - personally by the Attorney General. And so now they are basically saying, it's game on, Trump. Go ahead and see what their explanation is going to be for why they don't want these documents out there, if that's the position they take. Otherwise, these documents could potentially be released and I think that is really notable.

And one thing when you look at this motion to unseal the warrant that it stands out to me, Victor, is one of the people who signed it is Jay Bratt. He is the head of counterintelligence and export control section at the Justice Department. He is also one of the very few handful of officials who went down to Mar-a-Lago on June 3rd, sat down with two of Trump's attorneys which the former president stopped by and greeted these officials before they were shown a room in the basement of Mar-a-Lago where the remaining documents that he still had in his possession were being kept.


And Jay Bratt's name is on this motion to unseal the search warrant. And I think that is someone who had been communicating with several of the attorneys now representing Trump, and talking to them about this case, and obviously knows exactly what the communication was between those two parties and what led to that June 3rd meeting and then, of course, the search warrant that happened on Monday.

And so basically, what you're seeing the Justice Department do here is dare Trump to try to make a case for why they don't believe these documents should be made public.

BLACKWELL: All right. Kaitlan there at the White House for us.

Let's go back to Andy McCabe and your reaction to not only what we heard from the Attorney General, but the motion that he filed.

MCCABE: Yes. So Victor, I thought it was really interesting that the AG basically made the case for the motion in the in his opening comments. We started by making it clear that the warrant - a copy of the warrant and the inventory sheet were given to Trump's lawyers on the day of the search. And then he very deftly pointed out that no one in the department said anything about this search and Donald Trump was the one that brought it to light with his statement on Monday evening.

So he's clearly building to this argument that there's essentially no reason to keep these documents sealed because, obviously, it's a public matter now at the discretion and because of the decisions of the subject of the search. I thought that was really interesting.

And of course, he finished on a really strong note, I thought, talking specifically about the baseless allegations that have made against the FBI folks and DOJ folks. And I thought it was appropriate that he concluded by saying that he's honored to continue serving with them.

So I know that those words will be really embraced by people in the Department and the FBI who are listening, no doubt closely to his comments and I'm glad he did it.

BLACKWELL: This is a pretty remarkable development from the Attorney General this request to unseal these documents. Let's go to Pamela Brown on this request to unseal both the search warrant and the property receipt, Pamela?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a remarkable turn of events here and this already unprecedented investigation with DOJ now going to the court and saying it should unseal the search warrant and the property receipt from the search.

Now, of course, what is interesting here, and as the other guys have noticed, this is essentially putting the ball back in Donald Trump's court and say, look, you guys can decide. Now, it's up to you whether you want to do this or not, so that is notable.

And what is interesting reading through this motion is that it lays out many statements that came from Donald Trump himself right after the search and Donald Trump's representatives about what was taken in the search as justification for why this should be unsealed, saying essentially, there's already a lot out there that came from the former president and his representatives, also talking about the public interest here and say, look, if you look at competing interests, the public interest and finding out more, it is taking precedent here over the interest to keep this private.

So it is remarkable and what stuck out to me, too, is Merrick Garland clearly wanted to come out at a time when his people in his ranks are very anxious and feeling like they're under so much pressure right now. He wanted to come out and essentially say, the buck stops with me. I personally made this decision and it is a decision I did not take lightly. And he's essentially saying, look, if this gets unsealed and you see it, you can choose for yourself what you think.

BLACKWELL: Elie Honig, how long until a decision is made on this significant public interest, obviously, for judge to decide whether indeed these documents will be unsealed?

HONIG: So Victor, I think the next thing we will see on that docket sheet is the judge typically will give a schedule here. He will say, okay, Donald Trump, your opposition or your brief is due by. I think they'll give him a week or so and then he'll say, government, I want to hear a reply back from you.

So the next thing we're going to see is a scheduling order. That will tell us how long the judge believes he needs to decide this. And really, this is sort of an ingenious tactical move by DOJ because it leaves Trump with only three options. One, Donald Trump can sort of moot this whole thing. If he just goes ahead, he is free to post those two documents on the internet wherever he wants. Right now, he can do that.

Now, Garland may still follow through with the motion to make sure we get the official documents that were stamped and filed with the court. If Donald Trump does not post them right away, then he only has really two options in court. One is to say, okay, I agree with DOJ and the court can unseal these documents. And two is for Donald Trump to oppose it. He would have to go into court if he took that tack and say, no, Your Honor, please do not unseal these documents.

[15:25:03] Please do not make them available to the public, but that's really

going to undermine a lot of the rhetoric that we've been hearing from Donald Trump's representatives and allies.

And I just want to stress, Victor, how extraordinarily rare this move is by DOJ. I've never seen a motion to unseal a warrant and the and the index immediately after a search warrant has been executed. I've never seen this. I've never heard of it. I don't think there's anything in the rules that prohibits it.

And the argument that DOJ is making here, as Kaitlan and Pam just laid out is essentially, there's enormous public interest. Donald Trump himself, by his own words, by his lawyers' on words, has sort of made this a matter of public interest and there's now a need to inform the public given his own words.

BLACKWELL: I've got a copy of the motion that was filed in the Southern District of Florida, in which the property receipt is a redacted property receipt.

So Elie, to your point that we won't get an itemized list of everything that was taken likely a description of just numbers of boxes and counts of technology, a redacted properties' receipt listing these items seized filed with the court on the 11th. Also, another detail here, the search warrant signed and approved by the court on August 5th. So the Friday before this search was executed, a judge approved the warrant to search Mar-A-Lago.

Kaitlan Collins, to you, what we heard from the Attorney General was an effort to be as minimally intrusive as possible here in this search. We know that these agents who went there, they did not wear the typical windbreakers with the branding. They were suits instead, that there was a sensitivity to this unprecedented step and the scrutiny that would surround it.

COLLINS: Yes. This wasn't a raid that you typically would see on television, for example, where they show up in the early dawn hours in the FBI jackets pounding on the door. What we are told by sources is that they showed up in plainclothes, basically. They showed up at about nine o'clock in the morning. They, of course, carried out this warrant and executed this warrant and this search.

After the subpoena had already happened, after officials had already visited Mar-a-Lago a few months earlier, Mar-A-Lago, this time of year, is closed. It's not an open club in the summer. That's typically when the former President spent his time and his other club in New Jersey or at Trump Tower in New York. And he was at Trump Tower in New York on that day.

So the way that this was conducted is not necessarily in the frame that you've been seeing Republicans describe it as, when they talk about this raid. It was conducted in a different manner. It still was a search, of course, of the former president's residence. And so that is the factor here that I think is important to keep in mind.

One thing that Attorney General Garland also said there at the end when he did not take questions from reporters that stood out to me was he said, the appropriate information will come out at the appropriate time. But noting that they are taking this step because they understand the intense public interest given it's pretty unprecedented for there to be an FBI search of a former president's home, especially one who was just in office not that long ago.

And so I think they were speaking to the level of sensitivity that they've used here and obviously how this raid was conducted when very few people were actually at Mar-a-Lago beyond really a skeleton staff. Though he did note that one of the former president's attorneys, Christina Bobb, he did not name her there in his press conference, but he did say one of the former president's attorneys was on the premises when this search happened.

And I think the more that we've learned in the day since the search happened about the subpoena, about the fact that they did take that step about how investigators did go and visit Mar-a-Lago back on June 3rd and then later asked Trump's attorneys to further secure the documents that they still had in their possession speaks to what was going on behind the scenes and why they felt the need to carry out this search warrant because they didn't feel like they were getting all of the information and all the material certainly that they still had at Mar-a-Lago.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let me read from this filing. At the time the warrant was initially executed, this is the filing that the Attorney General mentioned just a few minutes ago, he says the Department provided notice directly to former President Trump's counsel. The department did not make any public statements about the search. The search apparently attracted little or no public attention as it was taking place.

But later that same day, the former President Trump issued a public statement acknowledging the execution of the warrant. In the days since, the search warrant and related materials had been the subject of significant interest and attention from the news media and other entities, and let me go on to read here, that's the first page.

On page three, they go on to say, "Although the government initially asked and this Court agreed to file the warrant and attachments A and B under seal, releasing those documents at this time would not impair court functions including the government's ability to execute the warrant, given that the warrant has already been executed."