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Nuclear Documents at Mar-a-Lago?; House Set to Pass Inflation Reduction Act; Trump Team Facing Deadline to Oppose Release of Search Warrant. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 12, 2022 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS today and throughout this very, very busy news week. Try to have a great weekend. We will see you back here on Monday.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

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

Let's begin with a fierce legal battle and a fast-approaching deadline, now 120 minutes and counting. Former President Trump's lawyers have until 3:00 p.m. Eastern today to signal whether they will legally oppose the release of two documents that will shed light on the search of Trump's Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.

We're talking about the search warrant and a list of what the FBI agents seized.

Now, Attorney General Merrick Garland is requesting their release amid the growing criticism and a spike in violent threats against FBI agents. Meantime, new reporting from "The Washington Post" could explain the FBI's sense of urgency to do this search. "The Post" reports that federal agents were looking for classified documents related to nuclear weapons. CNN hasn't independently confirmed that.

This is a fast-moving story. We're covering it all.

Let's go first to CNN Katelyn Polantz with more on this deadline.

And, Katelyn, Trump said, "Release the documents." And I'm quoting there. This was after the attorney general said -- and I'm paraphrasing now -- tell the judge you want them released, and they can be. So what is Trump's team waiting for?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That is a great question. We too are waiting to see what is going on. Clearly, everybody is in a wait-and-see position right now.

We're keeping an eye on the court record to see exactly what former -- formal position Donald Trump and his team will take in court. It very well could be different from what he does -- what he's saying on social media.

But we're also watching the time here. There is a deadline set by the judge of 3:00. That is the time that the Justice Department needs to be able to tell the court exactly what the position of Donald Trump and his attorneys would be on whether or not he believes they should be released. Merrick Garland clearly previously said that this would be in the public interest.

But we just don't know what position Trump will take. He has a couple of options here. One, he could, as you said, release this warrant himself. He could release the inventory list, the receipt that he received at the end of the seizure that his lawyers have. That has always been an option since Monday, since they were handed those papers by the FBI.

He could also agree to the Justice Department's motion to release the documents. That could totally happen before 3:00. We would imagine that the judge would be watching for that and would act fairly quickly if both sides were in agreement.

And then, of course, he could oppose the Justice Department motion. That could throw us into all kinds of other questions. And then, of course, we would be watching for what the judge would do next -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Katelyn Polantz, we know you're going to let us know just as soon as there's any new development there.

Let's bring in CNN's Evan Perez now.

And, Evan, what do you know about this report that investigators were seeking documents related to nuclear weapons?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it really does explain why the FBI, why the Justice Department has been pushing Donald Trump to return these documents that should never have left the possession of the federal government, and certainly do not belong in a basement at his house in Palm Beach.

"The Post" says that at least some of the documents in question relate to nuclear weapons programs in the United States. Now, we also previously reported that at least some of the documents that had been in dispute were related to special access programs.

Now, nuclear weapons issues -- documents would actually be among those things that are among the most closely guarded secrets in the federal government. They're not supposed to be, obviously, out of the hands of federal -- of any federal authorities, and certainly not being housed in a basement with lax security.

What we know, though, is that the FBI has been -- over the process of 18 months has been engaged in all of this to try to figure out how to get these documents back. And the former president has posted on his social media platform saying that the whole nuclear thing is completely false. We don't know at this point whether the documents in question have

been retrieved as part of this search. We're waiting to find out a little bit more on, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Evan Perez, thank you. So many questions.

Here to answer them now is former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, Phil Mudd, who was an FBI senior intelligence adviser and CIA counterterrorism official, and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. She was assistant homeland security secretary under President Obama.

Thank you all for spending part of your Friday here with us.

We will discuss the nukes angle in just a moment.

But, first, Renato, the deadline here is just two hours from now. Tell me, do you think we will see the search warrant? Will it be unsealed?


RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's likely, because I really struggled to see what -- first of all, what possible justification that Trump's team could give for wanting to keep it hidden at this point, particularly since he's probably calling for its release.

And, secondly, I have to just say that I think the judge is going to be inclined to release this, absent some good reason. And I don't see one on the Trump team's side.

CABRERA: That's an important point, because, as Katelyn pointed out, the judge could say, these documents are unsealed even if Trump's team comes to him and says -- him or her and says, we don't want them unsealed.

But, Phil, again to set expectations here, we are talking about the search warrant. So what will these documents show? What won't they reveal? And what will you, with your trained eye, be looking for specifically?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: kill I won't be looking at the documents for what they show about the raid, believe it or not, Ana.

I -- for example, on the classified information that was recovered, obviously, there will be a list of what was recovered. I assume a lot of that, because it's classified, even the title for a document will be redacted.

So, let me cut to the chase about what I'm most interested in. It's about the lead-up. The attorney general has said, we exhausted every means to get these documents. Presumably, the Department of Justice had to go to the judge and say, we tried, we tried, and we tried again. And, therefore, we have to take this extreme measure. The interesting question would be, how much did the president resist?

And are Republicans in Congress going to say, wow, no wonder the Department of Justice had to take this measure, because President Trump said no?

CABRERA: So, Juliette, given this hasn't happened yet, it begs the question...


CABRERA: ... why wouldn't Trump's team want these documents made public?

KAYYEM: Well, they have to think of a theory for the president that can help them in the future. And the only -- the president hinted at it this morning, which is -- not even hinted -- he said it -- which is that the documents were planted.

And so we shouldn't be surprised if that ends up being his defense, because it can -- it might be his only defense at this stage. I really think it's important to highlight what Phil was just saying, which is, there's documents that Donald Trump already gave away.

I mean, the Archives asked for them, and he gave them. And so why is he so intent on keeping these documents? We don't know. I mean, it might just be some weird, I don't know, sentimental thing that he has. But, nonetheless, these are related to the -- our nuclear capabilities or some country's nuclear capabilities.

And so he has to think of what the defense is, given that he's already given up some of the materials that were asked for by the Archives. And so I don't believe a word that Donald Trump says. I cannot believe that people read that tweet or whatever he wrote this morning and thought that that was going to be the legal strategy.

And I think the fact that hours have passed suggests that it may not be. And he needs a defense. And so the defense is what you're starting to hear, which is that they were planted.

CABRERA: Phil, back to this "Washington Post" reporting that -- quote -- "classified documents relating to nuclear weapons are among the items FBI agents sought." And we don't know if that's what they found.

You have had access, of course, to classified materials in your former roles. What is the most concerning thing a president could take with them? Is it nuclear documents?

MUDD: Let me take you inside the room here. They used the phrase in that article or in some of the coverage -- I don't remember which coverage it was -- there's a phrase called special access program.

Ana, think of this as a pyramid. Confidential and secret stuff is a dime a dozen. Millions of people have access to that. You take a step up the pyramid, top-secret stuff, which I had access to from day one at the CIA, is fairly limited. There are further steps beyond top- secret, top-secret code word, which typically means intercepted communications.

Not that many people have access to that kind of stuff. I did when I was at the FBI and the CIA. If it is, in fact, what's called special access program, that is beyond top-secret. And the special access program for nuclear, when I was deputy director of national security at the FBI, I could not see.

That tells you, if the reporting is right, how sensitive this stuff is. That's about as high as you can get in the classification pyramid, Ana.

CABRERA: And there's good reason for that, right, Juliette?

From a national security stance, just how dangerous is it if this kind of material was taken to his private residence?

KAYYEM: I mean, it absolutely is -- I can't -- that Republicans are parsing the classification system at this stage shows you that there's no way off this train for them, I mean, because they have no idea.

All they can do is just hold on for dear life at this stage. And so those House members this morning who were trying to say there's overclassification know exactly how sort of bogus that argument is.

Let me just -- and it doesn't have to be the codes. Look, a country's nuclear capabilities are relevant to its allies and its enemies. So the information may be about an ally country, who's now nervous about working with the Biden administration because Donald Trump is so careless.


It may be an enemy country that is now very, very nervous about what -- whether Donald Trump holds on to them or he gives them to someone else. Or it's about us and our own capabilities and our own limitations.

Remember, we're not perfect. We may have -- we may not have capabilities that we wouldn't want an enemy to know. And just to remind everyone, all of this falls on the Biden administration, not Trump. They have to deal with the consequences of other countries wondering what might be sold, what might be handed off, and whether they can have reliance on U.S. protecting secrets.

CABRERA: And, again, if this is at Mar-a-Lago, I want to remind people that Mar-a-Lago has been a target for potential spies, most recently, a Chinese woman who made it past at least five Secret Service agents and into a main reception area at that resort.

And, again, we don't know if they found these documents that they were seeking that they thought might be at Mar-a-Lago. That might have been part of this search warrant, according to "The Washington Post."

But, Renato, if this is about U.S. nuclear security or another country's nuclear security, does that have any effect on the types of criminal charges someone could face? MARIOTTI: I think it really -- yes, first of all.

And it also really limits Donald Trump's defenses. So, one of the defenses that has already been -- there's already been a trial balloon out there is that Trump declassified documents before he left office.

For nuclear documents, certain types of those, he cannot declassify those alone. He would need, for example, the Department of Energy to sign off regarding the declassification of certain nuclear documents. It also just, I think, makes it hard for -- a jury would have a difficult time believing that he declassified in his mind.

I mean, there was some argument that, without telling anybody or writing it down, that he just in his own mind declassified these while he was president. I think that would be difficult for a jury to believe when it comes to nuclear secrets or something that sensitive. It's the sort of thing that the average person is going to see as obviously government property and obviously should be kept secret.

CABRERA: Everyone, stick around.

We have a lot more to discuss and to cover as we approach that 3:00 deadline. You will be back with us here throughout the show, including what Republicans are saying now about the FBI search and reports that some of the documents are related to nuclear weapons.

Plus, the House is expected to pass the Inflation Reduction Act in a matter of hours. It's being called a game-changer and transformative. But how long will it take for your wallet to feel the impact?



CABRERA: Republicans in Congress still fuming about the FBI search for former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, even as more alarming information about that search comes to light, including these reports that nuclear secrets may have been among the classified documents stored there.

Let's go live to CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill.

And, Melanie, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee held a news conference this morning. What did we hear from them?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Ana, I would say we heard a much more muted response from House Republicans than earlier in the week, when they were threatening investigations and attacking the FBI.

But Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee held a press conference today where they heaped praise on law enforcement. And they asked the Attorney General Merrick Garland to release more information. And they also acknowledged that there were some limited scenarios where they said it would be problematic for Trump to be holding on to highly classified information. Take a listen.


REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Look what's happened over the last five years. And look at the premise of most of your questions. Was it nuclear? Was it a -- heck, maybe it was aliens. That's the point. We don't know. We're asking them to tell us.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): There are -- there are a number of things that they could show us -- and I don't want to speculate on what those would be -- that would obviously rise to the level of maybe you didn't have any options.

But I'd be very, very, very surprised as to what those are, considering the breadth of what they could have done besides this.


ZANONA: I also caught up with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. And he too called on Garland to release more information beyond just the search warrant, but he dodged questions about whether he thought there was any scenario in which it would have been justified to conduct that search warrant on Mar-a-Lago.

Now, I will say Republicans still are standing by Trump. They are still promising to pursue oversight investigations. But they have notably softened their response in light of this "Washington Post" report that Trump may be in possession of highly sensitive nuclear documents.

But I would also point out that not everyone is holding back their criticism. Republicans Scott Perry, who had his phone seized by the FBI in a separate probe earlier this week, said he does not trust the FBI. And he also told us he is not the target of an investigation, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill, thank you for that reporting.

Also on the Hill today, we're approaching the final vote on the Inflation Reduction Act. The massive bill takes on climate change, taxes and health care. I believe these are live pictures inside the chamber.

This bill is also poised to become a huge legislative win for President Biden and the Democrats. It passed the Senate. Now it's the House's turn. Every indication is, it will pass shortly.

Let's bring in CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean and CNN economics and political commentator Catherine Rampell. She's also an opinion columnist at "The Washington Post."

Ladies, good to have you.

Jessica, what's happening right now? JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, what we're looking at right now, Ana, is the process. It's playing out.


We're in three hours of debate. We're kind of in the middle of that time frame. And after that debate is up, that's when we're expecting the final vote on this legislation, which, as you mentioned, we expect to pass without any problems. It will be along party lines, as it was in the Senate. But, once it passes, it will go to President Biden for his signature.

Also worth noting, they're technically on recess. So they all came back today. So we have over 90 members right now voting by proxy, which means they're allowing another member to vote for them. So it might take a little bit longer than normal just because of that. But we do expect to see this pass by later this afternoon.

And this is a big win not only for President Biden, but also for congressional Democrats. As I mentioned, they're all at home right now. And for those running for reelection, they want to be going home, talking about things that they have passed, talking about legislation that they think is going to be a difference-maker when it comes to the midterms.

And just a reminder for everyone out here, there's several buckets within this legislation. First is climate. It's the largest climate initiative and investment that we have seen come out of Congress ever, $369 billion. There's also health care provisions in there that would extend the Affordable Care Act subsidies by three years. It would cap out of care -- out-of-pocket Medicare expenses at three -- at $2,000, and also allow for the first time Medicare to negotiate some drug prices.

There's also some tax provisions in there. That's how they're going to pay for all of this, chief among them, this corporate minimum tax that sits at 15 percent. So that's kind of a broad strokes of what's going to be in this legislation that we do expect to pass here in the next several hours.


And, Catherine, assuming this passes, how soon until Americans actually feel the impact of this, and in what areas specifically?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So I think this is a major achievement. I just want to say that up front. This is a major achievement on climate, on health care and, over the long run, it will make a big difference for Americans' quality of life, as well as in some -- to some extent their cost of living.

But, in the near term, there's not going to be much of a material impact, things like, for example, the climate provisions. Some of the energy related tax credits, for example, technically go into effect next year, but they're not really going to be usable right away. So, for example, for the electric vehicle tax credit, most cars right now do not qualify, because there are very strict sourcing requirements for what cars -- where cars have to be made, where their components have to be sourced from.

And car companies can't change that overnight, if they ever do.

CABRERA: They're trying to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. of those components.

RAMPELL: Right. Right, which may...

CABRERA: But, right now, that's not happening in most cases.

RAMPELL: Right. That's not something that can be switched overnight.


RAMPELL: So even if, technically, those tax credits are available in 2023, as they are, there are very few cars that they will be applicable to.

Similarly, with the Medicare prescription drug negotiation plank of this legislation, Democrats celebrating that. I understand why, but it's pretty limited. And it only says, as of 2026, Medicare can negotiate over 10 drugs the prices.

So, again, if you're looking for a material impact for the typical voter between now and November, you're not going to see it. That doesn't mean it's not a significant political achievement. That doesn't mean that Democrats can't go out and celebrate it and say this should change the narrative about whether they're delivering on their promises or whether they're able to get their act together and come together and vote on an agenda that they all support.

All of those things are political wins. But in terms of the direct economic consequences, voters aren't going to feel that between now and the midterms. And so I just think that some of the celebrating in terms of the political impact should be taken with a grain of salt.

CABRERA: Jessica, you talked about how there have been a number of legislative wins that Democrats are celebrating this week with all of these different bills that they have passed recently.

There have also been a number of positive economic developments this week separately, several reports showing inflation is slowing down. Gas prices just fell below $4 a gallon for the first time since March. We have the latest jobs report, which crushed expectations.

So this was a big -- a big week on the economic front for President Biden and his party.

DEAN: Absolutely, it was.

And this was something they really hoped would happen. And now I think they feel like they have a little bit more wind at their backs heading into these 2022 midterms. It's worth noting what Catherine just laid out. A lot of what's in this particular bill, no one is really going to feel the implications of immediately. It's going to take time for that to play out.

But, Ana, when you put all of those pieces together that you just laid out, Democrats are certainly hoping that that's enough to go back to voters and say things are looking good.

But don't count out Republicans who want to continue to hammer home inflation and the cost of gas. They still think those are big winners for them in the midterms. And we're going to hear a lot more from them on that in the coming months.

CABRERA: So, quickly, Catherine, is the worst behind us economically on inflation and so forth?

RAMPELL: It's so dangerous to make forecasts. I think the one thing we have learned over the last two years is, don't ever say anything is transitory, don't ever say anything is fully in the rearview mirror.


The economic reports that we have seen recently have been good. So, I think that gives cause for hope that maybe the Fed can achieve its so- called soft landing, that that is, inflation can come down without stoking a recession. A recession is not inevitable.

But the path coming out of the pandemic and all of the other shocks we have experienced over the last couple of years, including the war in Ukraine, have just made it extremely, extremely difficult to know where the economy is heading.

CABRERA: That's a good point. We don't have a crystal ball.

RAMPELL: I wish.

CABRERA: Thank you.


CABRERA: Thank you, Catherine Rampell and Jessica Dean. I appreciate it, ladies. Happy Friday.

We are following all the latest on the attempted breach of an FBI office in Ohio. The suspect is now dead, but his online posts are giving us a lot more insight into what he may have been thinking.

Stay with us.