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Heightened Threats Against FBI; Senate Requests Documents Seized From Mar-a-Lago; Afghanistan Withdrawal One Year Later; Rudy Giuliani Target of Georgia Grand Jury Probe. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.


We are following breaking news.

Rudy Giuliani has been told by prosecutors in Atlanta that he is a target of the special purpose grand jury investigating whether Trump and his allies broke the law in their efforts to flip the 2020 election results in Georgia.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is on the story.

What more are you learning?


Well, we are learning from sources. They tell our Sara Murray that Giuliani was notified by prosecutors that he would be a target in this investigation. As you noted, this is the Fulton County investigation into Donald Trump and his allies' actions after he lost the 2020 election in that state.

Now, he was already, Giuliani, scheduled to testify in front of a grand jury after being subpoenaed on Wednesday. His lawyers now say that he is still going to do so. But they would not answer questions on whether or not he would invoke the Fifth Amendment, again, because he has now been told officially that he is a target of this investigation.

At the time, Rudy Giuliani was serving as Trump's personal attorney. And he made efforts in multiple states regarding the 2020 election. Now, of course, we are seeing how this is unfolding in Fulton County in that investigation.

CAMEROTA: OK, that's really interesting breaking news.

And, Kristen, also, what's -- there's some news about Lindsey Graham?

HOLMES: Yes, that's absolutely right. So this comes on the same day that Senator Lindsey Graham has been

ordered by a judge to testify in front of that grand jury. Graham and his attorneys had argued that he didn't have to do so. This was all around two calls that he made after the election to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

He argued that, when he made those calls, they were -- quote -- "legislative acts." They also argued, Lindsey Graham's team, that this was all under the constitutional speech and debate clause, and, because of that, he wouldn't have to be compelled to testify because he was a sitting senator.

The judge said, no, that he would have to testify, he will have to show up in front of that grand jury on August 23, said that there is nothing that shields him from doing so, and that the DA had made a case that his testimony was critically important, so he would have to show up.

OK, Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for all of that breaking news. We will dive more into the details coming up.

BLACKWELL: Well, now to the expanding fallout from the FBI's search of former President Trump's home in Florida one week ago today.

Extremist threats are intensifying against the FBI. Congressional pressure is growing for more information from Attorney General Merrick Garland. And the explanations for why Donald Trump had these sensitive documents in the first place, well, that all keeps evolving.

CAMEROTA: Now a new detail sheds more light on why the Justice Department may have felt compelled to take the unprecedented step of searching the home of an ex-president.

Sources say one of Trump's lawyers signed a letter sometime in June, more than a month before the search, saying there was no more classified information stored at Mar-a-Lago. Well, that contradicts the publicly released search warrant, which says the FBI removed 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago.

Some of the records were marked as top secret, at SCI. That's one of the highest levels of classification.

BLACKWELL: CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz has been all over this story since it broke.

Katelyn Polantz, there's now this bipartisan push for the Justice Department to show more information to the Senate Intelligence Committee. What do you know?


It's the Senate Intelligence Committee, but there's also members of the House, both on the Democratic side and the Republican side, that want more information around what happened here, what was taken out of Mar-a-Lago. Now, they may have different motivations for asking for that. But,

right now, we do have a recent private letter sent from Senator Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intel Committee -- so he's a Democrat -- and then Senator Marco Rubio on the Republican side of that same committee, where they have asked for more information and a classified briefing from Attorney General Merrick Garland and the director of national intelligence, Avril Haines.

We also know that there are two Democratic House committee chairs that have asked for a briefing also classified and also for a damage assessment on how -- what the severity is of keeping documents after the presidency at this unsecured location, Mar-a-Lago.

Now, we may never know ultimately what is exactly in these documents if they continue to be classified, if they are indeed still classified. But, as of right now, Donald Trump and those around him are saying he had this standing order to declassify everything that was being moved to Mar-a-Lago.


So far, we have no evidence that that is indeed the case. Even his former National Security Adviser John Bolton was on MSNBC saying, no, there was never -- we would never had an awareness of anything even remotely like that sort of order that would declassify things so quickly.

And then also, on top of that, we do know that, when the FBI removed these 11 boxes -- or 11 sets of documents labeled as classified, they did have labelings at every set of classification in the system, top secret, confidential secret, even TS/SCI, that would need to be specially kept in a secure facility.

So that's where things are now. We're waiting to see if there may be a response even in court from the Justice Department or from the intelligence community.

CAMEROTA: OK, Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much for the update.

All right, joining us now, Tom Dupree was principal deputy assistant attorney general under President George W. Bush. Harry Litman was deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton and a U.S. attorney. And Peter Licata is a former FBI supervisory special agent and CNN law enforcement analyst.

Gentlemen, welcome to you all.

And let me start with you, Harry, on the breaking news that attorneys for Rudy Giuliani say that he has now been alerted, made aware, informed that he is a target of this investigation in Georgia. What's the takeaway here?


So this is a formal process that prosecutors go through to say, basically, I'm planning to indict you. You are a putative defendant, in my eyes. They tell him this so he can invoke the Fifth Amendment, which I expect him to do, but, nevertheless, they tell him this because they think they already have the evidence to indict him.

This is a 70-year -- 78-year-old man with a huge ego who doesn't want to spend the rest of his life in jail. In other words, this is someone who is very dangerous to Donald Trump in this very investigation.

CAMEROTA: OK. As we get more details, we will bring those to everyone.

Meanwhile, Tom, let's talk about these classified documents that the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago. We're starting to hear the various explanations. I mean, Republicans who are defending former President Trump are casting a wide net for why this would all be OK.

So let me just play some of those explanations for you.


JOHN SOLOMON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, JUST THE NEWS: This is from President Trump's office. It just came in a few minutes ago.

"As we can all relate to everyone -- as we can all relate to, everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time. American presidents are no different."

KASH PATEL, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The GSA has since come out, the Government Services Administration, and said they mistakenly packed some boxes and moved them to Mar-a-Lago. That's not on the president. That's on the National Archives to sort that material out.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): We have this list from the FBI, but we don't have conclusive as to whether or not this actually is classified material and whether or not it rises to the level of the highest classified material.


CAMEROTA: OK, so Tom, it was a mistake, or everyone brings their work home, or maybe they weren't classified after all, which of those are legitimate explanations?


Look, I think each one of those explanations has its challenges. I mean, the question of whether or not the president actually declassified these materials before he left the White House, color me skeptical. There is a process by which presidents can declassify materials, but it requires a process. The president can't just unilaterally say as he's walking up to his bedroom at night, I hereby declassify the documents in my hands.

You have to follow a process. I'm not too confident that the Trump White House followed this process. And I'd also add that it's not directly relevant to a lot of the charges DOJ is looking at as to whether these materials were classified at all.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's an important point, is that the three statutes that have been named in this search warrant that was unsealed, not one of them requires these documents to have been classified, that they are government property and should not have been at Mar-a-Lago.

But, Peter, before I come to you, Harry, I want you to drill down on declassification. Is there a law, not a norm, not a tradition, not a prudent procedure, but is there a law that requires documentation of declassification?

LITMAN: Of course, there is. There are law. There's regulations, because people who use it have to know whether it's classified or declassified.

All of the arguments here would be, A, I did this in my head, preposterous, for the reasons Tom says, and, B, any law that tells me otherwise is unconstitutional. So that's what he has to be trying to stand behind. And it would be an admission, a complete derogation of law, all kinds of laws, including this standing order would have had to go through all kinds of review within the government.

It never happened.

CAMEROTA: Well, Tom, I just want to go back to you -- and, Peter, I promise we will get to you -- and the FBI involvement in all of this.

But what is the process? When you say there's a process, you can't just make it up in your head to declassify, what is it?


DUPREE: Well, typically, if it involves an agency declassifying, what would happen is, the president would direct the head of the agency to declassify the documents.

That would result in a written fine, because, to Harry's point, people have to know if something's been declassified. If the president announces it unilaterally in the secrecy of the White House, it's like the tree falling in the forest. No one hears, no one knows it.

There is also a separate process for declassifying information concerning nuclear weapons. That requires the participation of federal officials other than the president. Again, there is a process. I'm not too confident it was followed in this case.

BLACKWELL: All right, Peter, now to you.

The former president says that some of the documents that were taken as a result of this search warrant were protected under attorney- client privilege, executive privilege. I'd imagine, when there's a crime suspected, that that's out the window, but correct me on here.

What's your take on the president's claim that some of those documents were protected, and he wants those returned to him? PETER LICATA, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: The documents, anything

that's taken via a legal search warrant that's not relevant as evidence should be returned back to the owner.

We used to do it all the time in the FBI. And they still do it. But the documents that are part of potential evidence in a crime need to stay. And classified documents are not going to be attorney-client privileged. Top secret documents, SCI documents, secret documents and confidential documents are not going to be part of Trump's lawyers argument.

But anything else that's not relevant to the crime gets returned. It may not get returned right away, but it will get returned in time.

BLACKWELL: Peter, one of the astonishing things is how many Republicans we have seen come out and cast aspersions at the FBI, this party that used to claim the mantle of law enforcement or believe -- supporting police.

And now you hear people in the so-called Freedom Caucus saying things like destroy the FBI using, words like Gestapo. What happens inside the FBI when there are threats? And we know that there's an unprecedented amount of threats because of all this and language like this.

LICATA: Alisyn, in the 100 and I think it's about nine or 108 years that the FBI has been in existence since 1908, both sides have tried to disparage the FBI. The political aspects have been taken.

And the FBI is not without sin and not without scar. However, what is not right is, politicians need to be leaders. Politicians need to support law enforcement, whether it's the FBI or any other law enforcement. But FBI agents, to a T. act -- well, for the most part, act without any political favor. They do not show any favor or should not be intimidated by politicians trying to influence their jobs.

Our job is to swear an oath to the Constitution, not to care if you're right or left or in the middle. It's to do our job and support, to defend the Constitution, and to investigate laws that are potential violations of Title 18 federal statutes. And we would hope that politicians, as leaders, would support us in our activities.

BLACKWELL: Harry, on this new CNN reporting that we delivered at the top of the show, this statement that was signed by a Trump attorney back in June confirming that there was no additional classified information at Mar-a-Lago, that clearly was not true, according to the property receipt.

What's the expansion, if any, of legal exposure because these documents were discovered on Monday?

LITMAN: Whoever signed it, if they know it's false, it's a separate crime, 1001. But that person is now possibly the second most dangerous person for Trump in America.

If he did it knowingly, he's a total target to try to turn, as with Giuliani. If he did it unknowingly, he will be brought in and will tell everything.

Just one quick follow-up, to Peter's point. It's right. Things go back to the owner. Every single document here, the owner is the people of the United States. He shouldn't have taken a single document out in the first place. Nobody should have, because they just weren't his to take.

CAMEROTA: OK, Tom Dupree, Harry Litman, Peter Licata, thank you all for your expertise.

We're going to have much more on the search at Mar-a-Lago, including a split in the GOP, as some Republicans defend the FBI, while, as we have been discussing, the Trump loyalists attack them.

BLACKWELL: And today marks one year since the fall of Kabul and the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan. We are live from Kabul with what -- with more on what life is like under Taliban rule.



CAMEROTA: One year ago today, the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan's capital. Taliban fighters celebrated the anniversary in the streets of Kabul this morning.

They drove through the city carrying weapons and waving the white flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

BLACKWELL: The U.S. withdrawal led to thousands of Afghans rushing to leave the country as that 20-year war came to an end.

CNN's chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is in Kabul.

Clarissa, what is the country like today, especially for women living under the Taliban?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I would say a it's a very mixed picture, Victor. It really depends who you talk to and where you are.

Here in Kabul, particularly with educated women, the last year has been incredibly painful and incredibly challenging. Young girls are no longer allowed to go to school once they reach sixth grade or about 12 years old. There is no secondary education for them.

The Taliban has repeatedly said this is only a temporary suspension. But so far, nothing has really been done to lift the ban. And, of course, in the 1990s, when the Taliban was under control -- in control, again, girls weren't not able to be educated.


Women have been largely sort of marginalized and pushed out of public life, particularly in high-level government positions. So, girls who had dreams of running for Parliament, for example, those dreams have very much been snuffed out.

But if you are living in rural areas, some of the places that we have spent time, Ghazni Province, these were front-line positions under heavy bombardment day in and day out for many years, where girls' education simply isn't a priority anyway, their lives haven't changed that dramatically, except for the fact that it is now much safer in Afghanistan than it was.

So, many people, of course, as well feeling that it has been a positive thing to have the Taliban takeover and U.S. and allied forces withdraw. One thing that both sides seem to agree with, though, is the very real humanitarian crisis that is playing out here, the economic crisis.

And the focus for many Afghans at this stage, honestly, is just about trying to put food on the table to feed their families.

CAMEROTA: That's such important context.

Clarissa, I remember so vividly how often we talked exactly a year ago about what the fate would be for all of the fixers and the helpers who worked with the Americans over the last decade and what would become of them, if they were going to -- if the Taliban would instantly kill them if they identified them.

So what has happened to all of them?

WARD: Well, tens of thousands of them are still here. They are trying to get their Special Immigrant Visas, there SIVs, processed. That is proving to be a very complex and slow-moving process, partly because it requires an in person interview that would have taken place at the U.S. Embassy here. That is no longer open for business.

And so the State Department saying as many as 160,000 Afghans are eligible for SIV status, but because it's moving at such a glacial pace, they say they might not even be able to process those by the end of President Biden's term.

And I have to tell you, Alisyn, not a week goes by that I don't get contacted by Afghans who worked with the U.S. military, who worked with the U.S. Embassy who are frightened for their lives still, who are desperate to get out. Even today, at the large sort of Taliban celebration in the center of town, a man came up to me, he said: "I'm a little nervous to speak to you here."

But he gave me his phone number, his name. He said: "I was an interpreter. I'm desperate to get out."

So this is a very real problem. And it's one that doesn't have a solution in sight.

CAMEROTA: Clarissa Ward, it's so helpful to have you there, as always. Thank you very much for your reporting.

And joining us now to discuss, we have CNN military analyst and retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, great to see you.

I just want to start with this report that House Republicans have put out now a year later about all that went wrong with the evacuation. And some of the headlines are that there was a complete lack of proper planning for withdrawal by the Biden administration. Basically, they didn't even start planning for the evacuation until mid-June, so not enough time.

There were only -- according to the report, only 36 State Department officials to process 100,000-plus Afghan evacuees, meaning basically one officer for every 3,400 evacuees, which is not enough. The evacuation flights were taking off at 50 percent capacity, which is obviously gut-wrenching, because we saw all of those people crowded around the airport desperate to get out.

And then one in only four evacuees were women or girls, though we know that women and girls were the ones who were most likely to become instantly subjugated, as Clarissa just said. So the Biden administration says that the Republicans in the House are cherry- picking this and some of this is inaccurate. How do you see all this?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I read the summary or the report on CNN online, Alisyn.

And I would actually agree with that cherry-picking. If you try to really conduct an after-action review of a 20-year war using only congressional staffers, and not getting input from the various departments that contributed forces or people to that campaign, and really go through the fact that it spanned over four different administrations, of which the Biden administration was only into their first six months, it tells you that there has to be some cherry- picking of details and what they want to make known to the public.

The State Department, the Department of Defense, USAID, several other agencies within the U.S. government are in the midst of doing some very intricate, detailed after-action reviews of the Afghan campaign. From a military perspective, I will tell you that that's done with every kind of war, every kind of combat operations.

And you can't do it in a relatively short amount of time using only congressional staffers. You have to get a whole lot more information. Now, the Department of Defense had 11 different four-star commanders involved in this. It would be a good idea to get the span of control of those individuals over the 20-year war and say, what went wrong?


And, admittedly, Alisyn -- and I will say this admittedly -- there were all aspects of wrongdoing on the part of the United States government. It was just a matter of different people being involved in a very complex operation in a society that is multicultural, has different religious approaches, and different views of government than what a Western state does.

(CROSSTALK) HERTLING: The military messed up. The State Department messed up. The presidents messed up.

CAMEROTA: But are those generals talking? I mean, I will those?

In other words, when you say that the House Republicans didn't do a thorough enough interviewing process or after-action report, would those generals all share what they think went wrong?

HERTLING: Well, they did a few months ago on a CNN special, where every single one of them talked for more than an hour.

And that information was gleaned into a special, where they were -- reported on what happened during their tenure of that -- tenure of that 20-year war. The question I might have is, did any other congressional staffers interview them? I don't know.

And, again, the allegation that some of these reports had been cherry- picked, from what I saw, it really appeared that they were taking specifically things from the last six months of this war, this combat that actually was started by the Trump administration when they conducted their relationship with the Taliban in Doha and came to the peace agreement.

So I mean, again, these are all things -- I'm trying to give an unbiased view of this. But it seems like, if you're talking about only the Biden administration and what they did during a six-month period prepare for withdrawal, it doesn't take into account all the other things that happen In Afghanistan.

CAMEROTA: General, what about what Clarissa just talked about? Because that number is staggering, the 160,000 helpers and fixers, plus their families. I mean, that includes their families, I should say, that are still trying to get out on those special visas.

That's just a higher number than we had. And what do you think about whether or not the Taliban has honored their commitment not to retaliate against them?

HERTLING: Well, let me start this way by saying, no, they have not honored their commitment not to retaliate against those who worked with the United States and the NATO staff. There is evidence of that already.

What I would say is, that number and that anecdotal information that Clarissa just gave, it may be true, it may not be true. I can't tell you, Alisyn, the number of times that -- serving in a combat zone in Iraq where I had Iraqis come up to me and say, hey, I was an interpreter for General Petraeus, so you got to help me get out of here.

If they don't have the paperwork, and they haven't done the interview -- and, granted, those are difficult to do now that there's no -- no American Embassy is there. But, certainly, there are a large number of individuals that did not get out. But there were also a large number of individuals that did get out and continue to try and get out. But, truthfully, you're talking about -- if you calculate all the

individuals who say they should get out, without proof of an SIV, a Special Immigrant Visa, you're talking about close to between 250,000 to 500,000 people.That's an awful lot of immigrants coming out of the country of Afghanistan, and not all of them worked for the U.S. or NATO governments, but they do have pictures with generals or with colonels or captains.

And that's just sometimes the way these societies work.


As always, really helpful information. Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Republican candidates on the ballot in Florida and Arizona are criticizing the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago. They call it politically motivated.

Now, others in the party are avoiding that language.