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Afghanistan Withdrawal One Year Later; Heightened Threats Against FBI; Senate Requests Documents Seized From Mar-a-Lago. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2022 - 13:00   ET



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Alex Marquardt in Washington, D.C., in today for Ana Cabrera. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Now a new push from the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying: Show us the documents. Its leaders are requesting information on what exactly was seized from former President Trump's Florida home a week ago today.

Now, this comes as House Democrats want an intelligence damage assessment and as some Republicans are digging in on a new tactic, to question if those documents are actually all that sensitive. We are on top of all of the latest.

Plus, a federal judge rules that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham must testify in Georgia's investigation of Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Graham's attorneys had asked the judge to quash his subpoena. We will have more on that and barricades right now lining the FBI headquarters here in Washington, D.C., as the agency faces an unprecedented number of threats.

But let's begin with new details about the Mar-a-Lago search.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has been all over this.

Katelyn, Congress is really stepping up its efforts to learn more here, both Democrats and Republicans.


There may be different motivations at play. But there really have been bipartisan calls for transparency, for people on the Hill to really learn more about why this search was needed and what was found in those boxes that were removed from Mar-a-Lago.

So, over the weekend, we had two House chair -- committee chairs, both Democrats, asking the director of national intelligence, so the head of the intelligence community, for both a classified briefing about what was found there, and also a damage assessment on how potentially serious this could be of what was being kept at Mar-a-Lago and not in a secured facility. And then, on top of that, we are hearing today from Capitol Hill that

Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, the two senators that lead the Intelligence Committee on the Senate side, a Republican and a Democrat, that they too have asked privately for more information from the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, and from the attorney general, Merrick Garland.

Rubio said in a statement to CNN that: "In his remarks, Attorney General Garland claimed there was a substantial public interest in the execution of an unprecedented search warrant on President Trump. As such, the Intelligence Committee has asked the Department of Justice to share with us, on a classified basis, the specific intelligence documents seized from Mar-a-Lago."

We will have to see what the response may be to that. We also know the news organizations have been in court, including CNN, asking for the unsealing of an affidavit. So, that written narrative the Justice Department used to try and secure and to ultimately secure this search warrant, that is under seal.

The defense team also would not have seen that yet. We're waiting to see if that could be something where we could get more information. Of course, Donald Trump says everything here has been declassified. We do not know if that is the case. It doesn't appear so that he was able to do that.

And there is still this possibility that there's classified information, hence those calls from Capitol Hill -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Yes, here we are, a week on, and still so many questions.

Katelyn, Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much for all your terrific reporting.

Now, with us now to discuss all this is CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers and former FBI executive assistant director for intelligence Joshua Skule.

Josh, I want to start with you where Katelyn left off there. Now we have these calls from both the Senate and the House for briefings into what exactly was in these documents. Everyone agrees this is an unprecedented situation. So do you believe that DOJ and the FBI should be sharing information with Congress in an unprecedented way?

JOSHUA SKULE, PRESIDENT, BOW WAVE LLC: Well, Alex, thank you for having me on.

I think this is an unprecedented time, obviously, conducting a search warrant on the former president's residence. I think the Department of Justice and FBI will have to do an assessment as to whether or not they need to go up to the Hill now and provide that information.

I do agree that a damage assessment should be done to look at what the gravity of the documents discovered were and which organizations those impact. MARQUARDT: And, Jennifer, we now know that a letter was sent from the

Trump legal team to the Department of Justice saying that there was no more classified information that was being stored at the former president's home. That clearly wasn't true. And then the search happened based on a tip saying that there were more classified documents


How important is the intent in this letter? Was it careless? Or was someone lying here?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's really the question, Alex.

And the answer to that question will determine whether the lawyer, himself or herself, is potentially in criminal trouble. And I think the lawyer also is likely in trouble with his or her bar, wherever he or she is barred, as an ethical violation.

But it really will depend on the details in the letter, and then whatever else the authorities can find out. If the letter was a generic, I have done diligence, and I have determined there are no further classified documents, then the lawyer likely would say that he or she just made a mistake, maybe wasn't as thorough as they should have been.

If, however, the lawyer -- the letter is very detailed, and says, I personally searched the following locations, and lists them and describes them, and then authorities are able to determine that, in fact, those locations did contain classified documents, and, perhaps through the surveillance records that were taken from Mar-a-Lago, nothing had come in and out of there, then you're now talking about proof that could establish an actual false statement to authorities, which, of course, is a criminal charge.

So it really depends on what evidence they were able to develop. But it's really bad news for the lawyer, who now needs his or her own lawyer and is likely recused from representing Trump going forward.

MARQUARDT: And, Jennifer, Trump is demanding some of these documents back and making claims of executive and attorney-client privilege. Is that demand in any way justifiable, since all presidential documents, regardless, do not belong to the individual after the president's term ends?

RODGERS: Yes, this is a red herring.

Attorney-client privilege documents are attorney-client communications. So nothing that's classified at any level of classification and nothing that belongs to the government as a presidential record is going to be attorney-client privileged.

It's possible that, in the search, some items were swept up that in fact are attorney-client privileged, but that's why the government will put a filter team in place to weed those documents out and ensure that prosecutors who are actually on the criminal investigation don't see them.

So this is really a claim without any basis at all.

MARQUARDT: And, Josh, we only have a moment left. Some of these documents were labeled top secret SCI. That's one of the highest levels of classification.

They then went on down from there to top secret and classified, but there were 11 sets of classified documents. One of the explanations from the former president is that the documents had actually been declassified. We're hearing that from him and his team.

Can a president make sweeping declassifications and not leave any record of that?

SKULE: So, the president of the United States is the ultimate classification authority.

So he or she can declassify those documents while they're in office. That being said, there are some specific protocols that they have to go through in order to document the declassification. So whether or not he can, there is always the conversation, especially with the intelligence community, as to whether or not they should, due to sources and methods.

So if, in fact, these were declassified, it would be easy to produce the document that declassified them.

MARQUARDT: And that is very -- one of the big fears is that those documents that were held in an unsecured location did contain sources and methods. And that would be very valuable to adversaries.

Joshua Skule, thank you very much for your time.

Jennifer, stay with me. We have a lot more to discuss.

We want to turn now to Georgia, where a federal judge has ruled that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has to testify in the election investigation.

Now, CNN's Kristen Holmes has been on this story.

Kristen, why has Graham been reluctant, so reluctant, to testify? And remind us again of what his role in this case was.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he has been reluctant, Alex.

So, remember, this is the Fulton County investigation into Donald Trump's actions after he lost the 2020 election in that state. Now, Graham's subpoena was around two calls that the senator had made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Graham had argued and his legal team had argued that they should quash this subpoena, saying that he was performing -- quote -- "legislative acts" when he made those calls. They also argued that, under the Constitution's speech and debate

clause, that, as a senator, he could not be compelled to testify. Now, on the other side of that, the Fulton County district attorney had said that Graham's calls were actually about -- quote -- "trying to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for President Trump at that time."

The judge ruled in favor of the DA and is compelling Graham to testify. In that ruling, she said that Graham is not shielded. She also wrote that the DA's office has shown -- quote -- "extraordinary circumstances and a special need for Senator Graham's testimony on issues relating to alleged attempts to influence or disrupt the lawful administration of Georgia's 2020 election."


She has ordered him to appear to testify on August 23, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right, Kristen Holmes, thank you very much.

Now, back with me is Jennifer Rodgers.

Jennifer, you heard what Kristen said right there.

Senator Graham did not want to testify. This judge now essentially saying, what you did goes well beyond the scope of your legislative duties as a senator.

So what's the significance of what the judge said today?

RODGERS: Well, the significance is, of course, that Lindsey Graham will have to testify, even though he didn't want to, due to his loyalty to Trump and probably his concern about his own culpability.

But it's a good -- it's a good precedent. You have President Trump claiming kind of blanket executive privilege. You have now Lindsey Graham claiming a sort of blanket speech and debate clause right to avoid testifying. And judges are saying, no, that goes way too far. You can't just have a get out of jail free card with the speech and debate clause.

So I think it's an important ruling, even though it wouldn't be binding on judges in other parts of the country. As these things kind of go through the courts, we may see more and more of these sorts of claims. And so it's good to get it shot down.

And, of course, Lindsey Graham now will be testifying. And so investigators will have the benefit of his testimony, assuming he doesn't assert his Fifth Amendment rights.

MARQUARDT: Does he have any recourse here? Or is he definitely going to be showing up on August 23?

RODGERS: Well, he can try to appeal. There's always a right to appeal. Hopefully, given the timeline of the case and the importance of the criminal investigation, any appeals will be resolved swiftly. But, again, in my view, there's no legal basis for his claim. So,

hopefully, the appellate judge will agree. And they can move forward with getting his testimony.

MARQUARDT: All right, Jennifer Rodgers, thank you for your expertise on all these different subjects. Appreciate it.

Now, the number of threats against the FBI and other law enforcement since the Mar-a-Lago search is being called unprecedented.

Let's bring in CNN's Jessica Schneider.

Jessica, just in the past week, we have seen an attack on the FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio. In Arizona, in Phoenix, we saw people carrying guns outside of the FBI office there. Now we have barricades around the bureau's building here in Washington.

There's major concern that something dangerous could happen.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's a major heightened threat environment here, Alex, so much so that the FBI Security Division right here, they have notified the FBI's nearly 40,000 employees.

They're saying stay vigilant when you're working at any of these FBI facilities around the country. Then, on top of that, we had a joint bulletin from over the weekend from FBI and Homeland Security laying out how threats online have really intensified. They said that there's been a threat to place a dirty bomb outside of FBI headquarters here in Washington, also calls for civil war and armed rebellion.

So, because of that, we're seeing these precautions. We're seeing it right here in Washington outside the Hoover Building. That's where the FBI headquarters are located. They put up that fencing around the building. And, really, these threats have only increased since the search warrant was executed at Mar-a-Lago one week ago.

Our team is now told that the FBI is investigating an unprecedented number of threats against the bureau. And, Alex, that includes threats against two of the special agents. They were listed in court records as being involved in this recent search. Notably, their names are redacted from the official copy released by the court.

But their names actually were listed in the leaked copies that were put out earlier on some conservative media outlets on Friday. In addition to that, FBI has really noted an uptick in what they call doxxing. That's where online actors publicly post personal information of FBI employees.

So there are a lot of concerns across the board, across the country when it comes to FBI employees, FBI agents. And they are really putting the word out to be vigilant here. And that includes the FBI director, who noted in a statement last week that his primary concern here is the safety and security of employees at the FBI.

And they're definitely under heightened threats right now -- Alex. MARQUARDT: Yes, such concern and such major echoes of what we saw before January 6.

Jessica Schneider here with me in Washington, thank you very much.

Now, the Taliban today is celebrating one year since they took over Afghanistan, but many women, young girls and starving Afghans certainly are not celebrating. We will have a closer look at life under strict Taliban rule coming up.

Plus, tonight, Congresswoman Liz Cheney will learn the political cost for a Republican who stands up to former President Trump. She's facing a likely primary defeat in her home state of Wyoming. What happens next?

And why panicked shoppers at an Ikea in China made a mad dash for the exits.

That's coming up. Stay with us.



MARQUARDT: Today, Taliban fighters are marking one year since they returned to power in Afghanistan and swept through the capital.

They have declared today public holiday. Of course, not many civilians were seen out in the streets of Kabul amid these celebrations. The economy has collapsed. The lives of many millions of Afghans have gotten so much worse.

Meantime, back here in Washington, House Republicans have issued their own report on the chaotic U.S. withdrawal. We all remember these scenes. And we're learning that the Biden administration now has no plans to release billions of dollars in frozen Afghan assets.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the State Department.

Kylie, Republicans have been blocked sitting President Biden for the entire year for how the withdrawal went down, but what details does this report now add to what we knew?


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're right, Alex, but this report does give us a little bit more meat on the bone.

They say there was this complete lack of proper planning for this Biden administration withdrawal from Afghanistan. And they get into specifics, saying that, for example, at the height of this evacuation, according to information that they got their hands on, there were 36 State Department officials on the ground who were able to process the Afghan paperwork that was needed in order to get on those evacuation flights. According to their report, that is about one State Department official

for every about 3,400 of the evacuees. There's a stark figure there. They also point to the fact that, according to information that they have gathered, about 25 percent of the people who were getting on those evacuation flights are women and girls, of course, alarming, given the concerns about the threat to women and girls that they were expected to face if the Taliban took over.

We have seen that manifest, sadly. So there is some real detail in here. Now, the administration is pushing back. One of the things they're saying is that about 40 percent, 43 percent of the Afghans who came over to the United States and settled were women and girls. They are also calling this a partisan report, saying it was cherry-picked.

But we should know that the administration themselves committed to doing their own reviews, their fact-finding missions to determine what went wrong during this withdrawal and the lessons that they could gain from those and learn from those, apply from those. And we have yet to see the administration roll out any of those reports they have done themselves.

MARQUARDT: And, Kylie, one of the major questions after the Taliban took over was what would happen to the billions of dollars under U.S. control. The U.S. hasn't wanted to hand that back over to the Taliban, even though the Taliban says: It's ours. It belongs to the people of Afghanistan.

Today, the administration is -- has given an update about those billions of dollars. What are they saying?

ATWOOD: Yes, they're essentially saying that they are not going to be releasing any of that money anytime soon, with Tom West, the State Department official who is in charge of Afghan affairs, saying that that is not a short-term option here.

What they are saying in part is that the Taliban's sheltering of Zawahiri, that al Qaeda leader who the Biden administration took out just a few weeks ago, they're saying that the fact that he was in Afghanistan is increasing their concerns about the possibility of these funds potentially being routed to terrorists in the country.

So they have essentially put a pause on that money, but we will continue to watch to see where that goes -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Money that is much needed in Afghanistan by so many.

Kylie Atwood at the State Department, thank you so much.

Now, there is a new U.S. intelligence assessment that shows that, in the year since the Taliban swept back into power, al Qaeda has not used that time to regroup in Afghanistan. This comes after that strike that Kylie was talking about against the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al- Zawahiri, that happened last month, just a few weeks ago, really, in downtown Kabul.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins us now. Natasha, we have also heard from the FBI director, Chris Wray,

recently. He said that he is worried about attacks against the U.S. emanating from Afghanistan. This intelligence assessment appears to downplay that threat, saying essentially that it won't happen anytime soon.


It's saying essentially the opposite of the fears that Chris Wray had expressed just a few short weeks ago in a hearing with lawmakers. What this intelligence report says -- and I should note that it was prepared after the U.S. strike killed Zawahiri in Afghanistan, and it was just declassified, and a summary was provided to CNN -- is that al Qaeda has not reconstituted itself over the last year since U.S. forces withdrew.

Now, that is a surprise, because senior Biden administration officials were saying about a year ago that they expected that al Qaeda would be able to reconstitute itself and regroup in Afghanistan within one to two years.

So, clearly, the intelligence here has shifted a bit. And not only that, but they believe that fewer than 12, just under a dozen, core members of al Qaeda actually remain in Afghanistan and that they are not at this time plotting any attack on the U.S.

In addition to that, they also say that al Qaeda right now does not have the capabilities to even do that, even if they wanted to, so clearly a very optimistic report here by the Biden administration. They -- obviously, it raises questions, because Zawahiri was being harbored by the Taliban. The Taliban didn't know that he was being kept in Kabul.

So the question now is whether the U.S. is going to have robust enough intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan to really monitor any potential plots that may emerge.


MARQUARDT: And, of course, that monitoring much more difficult without U.S. forces on the ground.

And one name that we haven't mentioned is ISIS-K, the offshoot of ISIS that also has a presence in Afghanistan.

Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much.

Now, for the majority of Afghans, life has gone from bad to worse under the Taliban rule over the past year. According to Human Rights Watch, almost half of the population is going hungry. The economy has imploded because of sanctions and the cut in foreign aid. And then there's Taliban brutality, using torture, revenge killings and detentions to spread fear.

Girls and women's rights, going to school, holding certain jobs, having an opinion, all of that has essentially evaporated.

I want to bring in Heather Barr. She is the associate director of women's rights at Human Rights Watch.

Heather, thank you so much for joining me today.


MARQUARDT: Now, one of the biggest fears when the U.S. and NATO pulled out of Afghanistan last year was, what would happen to women and girls.

Is what you're seeing now, a year on, is it what you expected? Or is it worse?

BARR: I think everyone wanted to believe the Taliban's promises.

I don't think Afghan women's rights activists ever did believe them. But what's happened has been as bad as we could have imagined. There are very few differences between how the Taliban are treating women now and how they treated them when they were last in power from 1996 to 2001.

And those signs of danger started immediately after the Taliban takeover on August 15. So I think the real question now is, why hasn't the international community done more to try to defend women's rights?

MARQUARDT: What more do you think they can do?

BARR: So, we think that -- well, first of all, I think we have seen a real lack of focus and lack of urgency since August 15 of last year.

There hasn't been a coordinated plan. There have been lots of statements condemning the Taliban, but not much in terms of actual actions. Some of the actions that we think that they could take are -- for one thing, 13 members of the Taliban leadership currently have exemptions to the travel bans that they're under.

Those exemptions expire on August 20. And we'd like to see the Security Council remove all of those exemptions and consider adding additional Taliban leaders who've been particularly involved in human rights abuses to that list.

Second of all, in September, the Human Rights Council will convene again. And we want to see them put in place a much stronger mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in Afghanistan and collect evidence of abuses that can be used for prosecution.

MARQUARDT: We have seen signs of defiance from women. They're not being cowed. They are protesting this. We saw a protest over the weekend. We're looking at pictures of that now.

And, in response, Taliban fighters fired shots into the air and beat some of these women who came out. You can see there that fighter firing an AK in the air right next to those women. How dangerous is this kind of open defiance for Afghan women?

BARR: It's unbelievably dangerous.

There is no one on this planet that is braver than those women right now. And the fact that they are out on the streets protesting, after the abuses that other women have endured from the hands of the Taliban after having engaged in protests themselves, is probably a sign not only of their courage, but of their feeling that their rights have been stripped away so much that they have nothing left to lose.

MARQUARDT: I want to ask you quickly about the funds that have been frozen by the U.S., $7 billion of Afghan assets.

How do you think the U.S. should go about giving that back, so that they don't go -- so that it doesn't go into the Taliban coffers?

BARR: So, again, this is an area where I think there's just been a real lack of urgency.

I mean, you talked about the humanitarian crisis a moment ago. The U.N. is saying today that half of all children under 5 are malnourished. There has to be a solution where these funds can be made available and the Afghan Central Bank can function under appropriate oversight that makes sure that those funds really are used to allow the economy to function, not for terrorism.

And the U.S. government just has not made it an urgent enough issue to get that done.

MARQUARDT: Yes, it's a very complex question, how to get the money to the people who need it without going to the Taliban to further their goals.

Heather Barr from Human Rights Watch, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

BARR: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: Now, from a rising Republican star to fighting for her political future.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney's battle with former President Donald Trump is about to come to a head in her home state of Wyoming.