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CNN Tonight

U.S. Attorney Reviewing Classified Documents From Biden's Time As V.P. Discovered In One Of His Private Offices; Sources Say, Biden Was Not Aware Classified Documents Were Located In Office; Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Calls Rep. George Santos' (R-NY) Lies An Internal Issue; Brazil's Riots And The January 6 Capitol Riots; Classified Documents Found In Biden's Office As Vice President; Damar Hamlin Released From Cincinnati Hospital. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 09, 2023 - 22:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening everyone, I'm John Berman and this is CNN TONIGHT. And our headline, several classified documents from President Joe Biden's time as vice president discovered in a private office he periodically used it in Washington. The source tells CNN a fewer than a dozen documents were found, found, by the way, by Biden's own people. His lawyers say they found them, including some with the sensitive compartmented information designation, they found them on November 2nd.

They say the White House Counsel's Office notified the National Archive immediately and the Archives took possession of them the next morning. The president ignored shouted questions in Mexico from reporters tonight.


REPORTER: Any comment on the documents, sir?


BERMAN: Now, there are questions tonight about how the documents got there, who knew they were there, what exactly they contain. The U.S. attorney in Chicago who, by the way, is a Trump appointee is conducting a damage assessment.

But there are important distinctions between this and the swirl of controversy around Donald Trump in the documents at Mar-a-Lago. Biden's lawyers say they immediately turned over documents and cooperative with the DOJ as soon as they found them. It took several asks and subpoenas to get the documents that Trump had, not to mention the search warrant. In that case, there was also an investigation of possible obstruction. The documents found in Biden's office, now fewer than a dozen, the documents found at Mar-a-Lago number in the hundreds.

There was also a legal side and, of course, the political. Everybody who watched the chaos in Congress this past week knows there is a new Republican majority in the House with the gavel, with new committee chairs, and they are hungry for investigations. And this could be at the top of their list now. All of this is against the backdrop of Joe Biden, CNN is reporting, getting ready to run again.

I want to bring in CNN's Evan Perez and Sara Murray. Evan, you have the reporting on these documents. Just lay it out for us. What do we know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, what we know now from the White House that these documents were found in November during a search -- or a process that the president's legal team was doing to shut down an office that he had set up when he left office back in 2017, when he left office as vice president. He had set up a think tank with the University of Pennsylvania. And it's during that process last November that they uncovered these government records that needed to be turned over -- should have been turned over to the National Archives.

Now, among those documents, as you pointed out, were what the Trump's -- what is President Biden's team says were fewer than a dozen documents as classified. A source is telling Phil Mattingly that at least some of these documents were at TFSCI level, which stands for sensitive compartmented information, some of the most closely guarded secrets of the U.S. government, and the president didn't know and still doesn't know what exactly were in those documents, John.

So, at this stage, we know that the Justice Department is doing a review, an investigation of this, being handled by the U.S. attorney in Chicago, John Lausch, and we'll see whether that's where this remains. At this point, that's all we know.

BERMAN: The U.S. attorney, in Chicago who, by the way, is a bit of a court here, is still a Trump appointee, one of the very few U.S. attorneys who is a Trump appointee.

Evan, people will look at this and say classified documents in possession of a president or a former president. What are the differences here between the Biden case and the Trump case?

PEREZ: Right, there are some big distinctions. According to President Biden's team, we are talking about fewer than a dozen, according to that. We know from the court fights that we've been watching with regard to the documents that were turned over from the former president, Trump, that we're talking over 300 documents of various classifications, 92 at least which were at secret and a couple dozen that were at the highest classification.

And as you pointed out, John, it took months and months of arguing and letters and threats from the Justice Department, the FBI and the Archives to try to get Trump to turn over some of those documents. And in the end, he still didn't turn over all of them because when the FBI went in, in August, to do a search, they found additional documents.

[22:05:08] And we should point out that the Justice Department says in court filings that the reason why they conducted that extraordinary search that we saw in Mar-a-Lago in August was because they had received information that documents were being moved out of that location.

So, we know that that is the reason why the former president is now the subject of an investigation, that include obstruction. According to President Biden's team, they turned over these documents, without being asked, they turn them over immediately. And so that's where the distinction lies.

BERMAN: All right. Evan, standby for a minute. I want to bring in, Sara Murray here. Sara, what has the reaction been from Capitol Hill?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, for Republicans this is essentially a political gift today. They were awfully amused, as we were talking to them about the story tonight. You know, Kevin McCarthy, the new speaker, sort of seemed skeptical, then all of a sudden these documents have emerge and sort of seemed that suggest that Biden should have know better.

He said, President Trump had never been in office before and had just left, came out, and then here is an individual, he's talking about Biden now, he spent his last 40 years in office. It just shows that they were trying to be political with President Trump.

I also talked to James Comer about this. He's the new oversight chair. They are planning on sending documents to the Archives as well as to the Biden White House about this matter. He said, how ironic that Biden now finds himself in this position.

We also heard from Jim Jordan, he is chair of the judiciary committee. He said, we will see whether this becomes an area of investigation.

The Democrats, as you might imagine, were more muted. Some of them talked to my colleague, Manu Raju, Jim Himes, Adam Schiff, top Democrats on House Intel, both said these classified documents do need to be kept in a secure space. Obviously, that it was not the former -- sorry, Joe Biden, current president's office when he had left office as vice president.

And we also heard from Jamie Raskin. Now, he was more defensive. He said that attorneys for President Biden have taken immediate improper action to notify the National Archives, that he was someone who I think was more defensive of the president.

BERMAN: So, what of them saying to people, particularly Republicans, say about Donald Trump and the Mar-a-Lago documents when that whole issue emerged?

MURRAY: Well, I think sort of the key sentiments we heard from Republicans at the time was not to focus -- don't look at all these classified documents that may have been scrawled away at Mar-a-Lago. Don't worry about that, this is about the search in Mar-a-Lago and how the government has overstepped. That is really what a number of Republicans focus on. And, frankly, that's what their continuing to focus on as we go into this new Congress.

As you pointed out, they got the gavels, they have an opportunity now to investigate the Biden administration and this now becomes part of it for that.

BERMAN: And, Evan Perez, one more question to you here. What about the timing of this? If Biden's lawyers discovered them on November 2nd, that was before the midterm election, why are we only hearing about this now?

PEREZ: Right, exactly, that's a question we certainly have. We don't know why these took so long to come out. We certainly know that what the National Archives did after reviewing the situation is they decided to make a referral to the Justice Department for them to do similar to what they handled the Mar-a-Lago situation.

The question now, though, is what happens next, right? After this, review after this investigation that is being done by the FBI, do they ask for more information? Do they have to do interviews to see who handled these documents, John.

Remember, these documents have been sitting there apparently in a closet at this office for, I guess, six years, right? And so that's a long time for documents to be sitting there in a place that is not secure and that has been part of the issue of the investigation into the former president, which is the handling of classified information is a big, big issue and, of course, something that President Biden has made a point to -- of distinction of pointing out with regard to Trump.

BERMAN: Evan Perez, Sara Murray, thanks to both of you for your reporting on this.

I want to bring in former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean and David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst.

John, just first to you, this is now, to a certain extent, in the hands of U.S. attorney out of Chicago. What questions need to be answer here from a legal standpoint?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, obviously, all of the facts surrounding the discovery of these documents of the think tank that Biden was associated with have to be developed. That's going to be done informally by -- or I don't think it'll go to a grand jury. I think the FBI will investigate it. They'll ask all the people the right question and gets some information.

If it is serious, if it's just not a civil wrong and a irresponsible act by the former vice president and current president, then it will be a grand jury. Otherwise, it will just really be dealt with some sort of report that the attorney general, because of the politics of it all, is going to have to decide whether to release it or not.


BERMAN: Because from a legal stand point, what matters is how the document ended up there and who knew that they were there?

DEAN: Well, you know it's very unusual for this level of classification to be outside of a SCIF or proper filing system. I don't know if this think tank has that. That's part of the facts we don't have. If it was a mistaken delivery by some staffer who left them there, the vice president has no exposure at all. He claims he doesn't even know what the documents are today.

So, I think what will happen here because the Republicans are so good at making mountains out of molehills that they will make a mountain out of this. It's not going go away while, politically, it is a gift to them. Legally, it's not going to change Trump's situation at all.

BERMAN: Not change Trump's situation at all.

David Gergen, to you here. In terms of how the current White House has handled this, according to them, they told the National Archive as soon as they knew they were there. What is your assessment here?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they didn't go public with it. And this whole effort is going to be tried first in the court of public opinion, what happens in the next two to three, four weeks as the investigation goes on and we get more facts. But, clearly the White House should have disclosed this when they first found out. They did the right thing by turning over it to the Justice Department but they would have saved themselves a lot of grief politically had they served it up to the public right away. I imagine they were very worried about the midterms, which was just around the corner. They had some momentum, and this blunts it.

I think in the long-term, the Democrats will come out. I think this is going to be certainly one of these polarizing issue. One side has a group of arguments in his favor, the other side has a group of arguments. And (INAUDIBLE) and we just go on and we'll polarize -- further polarize it. I don't see this as settling the polarization issue at all.

BERMAN: One of the issues, David, and, again, you worked in many different White Houses here, how easy is it to walk away with classified documents? Again, there's the issue of the possession of them nearly having the classified documents, then there is the issue, and this is where you get into the Trump world, of having them being told you shouldn't have them, being asked to get them back and not turning them over. So, the act of having them, how unusual or how many questions does that raise in and of itself?

GERGEN: Well, the act of asking everybody, can you give me this and give me that?

BERMAN: Well, no, just the fact that they existed in the closet, if they ended up, because someone packed them there and they moved there.

GERGEN: Sure. I think it's unbelievable that this stuff has been sitting in a closet for six years. I mean, it's sort of stunning in and of itself. And the question I have is, how many -- were there some other closets around? Well, why in the world was the vice president keeping classified documents anyways, why on a side which is unprotected? So, I think there is a lot about that that I think he is going to get scolded for in the weeks ahead.

But I do think that John Dean is right. The Republicans have become awfully experienced and pretty darn good at making mountains out of molehills.

BERMAN: So, John Dean, put yourself in Merrick Garland's position now, the attorney general of United States. You just told me that you don't think this changes Donald Trump's legal situation. But does Trump and his team now have a defense in a court where a jury would have to decide beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump is guilty? Does Trump now have a defense that is something along the lines of, well, other guys took documents to?

DEAN: I don't think so. It will hold up. What Trump's problem is he obstructed the process of getting the documents back. Had he returned the documents when the National Archives requested them, this would have never developed into an issue. It's because he stalled, refused, then stiffed them on a subpoena and obstructed and misrepresented what was there. That's why he's in trouble. It's not the fact that he had the documents even if he took them for some sinister or improper reason. He probably could have gotten away and just returned them. But his refusal to return them is what the issue became. And that is what the attorney general has to look at when the special counsel refers the case to him if he decides it's prosecutable.

BERMAN: Well, that's what I was getting at with my questions about whether the possession in and of itself is enough to necessarily be nefarious. It gets to also the legal question, John, of do you think the attorney general will support a prosecution based on obstruction alone, not necessarily the possession?

DEAN: Well, it's a question of the intent. What was the intent that each of them obtained these documents?


I think it happens much more than we know that former high officials end up with classified documents in their files. We know a former CIA director had them. We -- former military people get them and generally just returned and no issue is made of it. It's because of the way Trump behaved once he did -- was discovered that he did have these documents that raised the criminal issues with him.

So, these are very different criminal cases versus civil. There's no evidence at this point that Mr. Biden has done anything that's criminal. He certainly made an abuse of the norms for handling classified documents by taking them as a former vice president to his think tank. We don't know he got them there, though.

BERMAN: All right. David, I've got to let you go in just a second here, but, David Gergen, just quickly to you. Joe Biden, the president, didn't answer questions about this tonight. How long do you think that can go on? Do you think you he addresses this tomorrow? GERGEN: Yes, he's going to address it tomorrow. He needs to do it immediately, more quickly (INAUDIBLE) for claims all of the closets out and disclose what's there. He can this under control. But at this point, if you're the prosecuting attorney and thinking about having a court case against Donald Trump, you have a lot of the sting about the documents being in the wrong hands. That sting is going to evaporate. Making those arguments now in front of the country about how serious this is from a democratic point of view, which is probably really difficult to argue.

BERMAN: All right. David Gergen, John Dean, our thanks to both of you.

So, last week everyone was watching. It was something of a nightmare for Republicans in the House of Representatives. So, what's the impact of this news about Joe Biden? What will Republicans in the House do with it? And what does it mean for President Biden, who, by all accounts, is now firming up support, gearing up for a run for election?



BERMAN: All right. There is now a speaker of the House. Republican Kevin McCarthy is the speaker. They have moved past that, although not without some scars. And now that Republicans are running things in the House, they are, no doubt, going to face this issue that is percolating over the last few hours with these documents that were found at an office that Joe Biden used that were marked classified.

Here with me, CNN Political Commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin, CNN Political Analyst Astead Herndon and Senior Political Analyst John Avlon.

I want to go quickly over what we were just talking about with these documents found in Joe Biden's former officer here, John, one of the most important issues that you see, the real issue that you see here?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the real issue on the political side is Republicans are going to be able to play the whataboutism game and say, see, Joe Biden did it too. Any charges against Donald Trump are going to will be purely political.

Look, we often let politics play the ref around legal decisions. The obvious thing is apply the same standards no matter what political party is involved, but you also have got to have perspective. And you did a great job at the top of the show putting this into perspective. There's a difference between less than a dozen documents and 300. There's a difference between handing immediately over to NARA and obstructing requests for the documents over a long period of time.

And then there's question of just what's in the documents. Is it something nefarious that had personal benefit to Joe Biden and/or his family, or is it totally innocuous? Those facts matter. And the rush to play the whataboutism game falling into that I think does a disservice to the facts of the case. You've got to follow the facts without fear or favor.

BERMAN: Alyssa, it is interesting, and, no doubt, Republicans will ask about this. I don't there is anything necessarily even controversial about an oversight committee of either party asking for more information about something like this. But anyone does go then and say, what Joe Biden did is wrong, don't they also then have to say that Donald Trump was wrong and then don't they tied themselves in some reverse back-flip knot there?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's where it gets complicated, but I do want to say, full stop, it is wrong when anyone, president, vice president, average citizen, mishandles classified information. I have been consistent when it was Hillary Clinton, when it was Donald Trump, and in this case, the president.

Here is the problem that I think Republicans are going to encounter and trying to litigate this in the court of public opinion, is many were silent on Donald Trump mishandling classified information. However, their counterpoint is going to be no one raided the vice president's former school that he had, a facility. I'm already seeing that percolate. It's going to descend into the political corners of each side.

I agree very much with David Gergen. The sooner the president gets out and says, we tried to be above board, we came forward, we turned this over, the better for him. But I'm not a lawyer, I'm a political adviser. This makes Merrick Garland's case a lot harder, as I see it.

BERMAN: How comfortable is Merrick Garland tonight, Astead?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, Merrick Garland has kind of made his name on this out of ignoring the politics. So, he would hope that in this moment he would kind of stay on the courts, as he has said. But that's going to be harder and harder, to your point, as more people are looking to make that equivalence between Trump's action and Biden's actions.

Now, we know it is a factual false equivalence. We should not make those two things the same. But the politics of that allows the Republican Party to be able to say maybe that it's not just as bad as what Donald Trump did but just at minimum to muddy the waters around the classified documents. They are going to play that card. They needed no encouragements to play that card before today but that has been supercharged for them after today.

BERMAN: I do have questions about the timeline here, about when why this was discovered, who knew what, when in terms. Merrick Garland announced the appointment of the special counsel after I think he knew about these documents in Joe Biden's office. That's not uninteresting.

HERNDON: That's not uninteresting and I do think there are questions around this. I mean, when did that knowledge happen? And then also why didn't they announce it before or when that acquisition was made is something that we are going to get real answers to. I think to your point, it does make sense to have a kind of investigative questions to be asked, but the politics is where this is going to live and die. And that is going to be for a Republican Party that has an extensive to absolve Donald Trump.

AVLON: That's right. And the only thing I would add is that President Biden has an obligation to come forward and answer questions as fully and fulsomely as he possibly can.

BERMAN: And maybe he's going to say, I didn't know they were there.

AVLON: It may very well be.

GRIFFIN: You would think based on the audio we've heard of him just vociferously condemning Donald Trump for how it's irresponsible to have these documents.


I suspect he probably didn't know.

But can I just take a step back, why do so many of our senior most leaders not know how to handle classified information? When I was at the Department of Defense, if I had taken TS document out, I would have been prosecuted and thrown into prison.

BERMAN: Yes. There is a difference I think of expectations or at least understanding for the most senior and in the rank and file here.

I do want to talk about something else that's happening in the House of Representatives. Here George Santos, the member of Congress from the state of New York here, who said a whole lot of things that weren't true about himself, is now a sitting member of the House of Representatives. That part is all true. Everything I just said there is true.

Kevin McCarthy, who is now the speaker of the House, has been asked, what are you going to do about this guy who lied about himself who is now in your caucus? Kevin McCarthy had refused to comment on it until now. But now he told CNN tonight, just a short time ago, you know high handle internal stuff? I handle it internally. I'm sure at times I'll come tell you. So, this guy who ran on a bunch of lies and is now being investigated, that is an internal issue?

AVLON: IN Kevin McCarthy's reality distortion field at the moment, yes. And, look, you can understand someone saying, look, this is an issue with one of my members. I've got a pretty narrow majority. I'm going to handle it behind closed doors. But there's investigations occurring that are quite public. And this guy lied about everything. And this ain't going away even if the speaker might like to contain it behind closed doors.

GRIFFIN: Well, it's also rich because the leader of my party, Kevin McCarthy, also decided to hash out a public debate throughout 15 speaker votes instead of working it out behind closed doors with issues with his members. So, it's a little bit of inconsistency there.

I'll be curious to see if he seats him on committees. Committee assignments are coming down. Where do you put somebody who is under an SEC investigation and elsewhere? HERNDON: This is the speaker of the House in name -- I mean, we do not have a political capital shown so that he actually is --

AVLON: He is speaker of the House.

HERNDORN: I understand that that is true. I am not saying that. I am just saying who has the power in that caucus, that has been made clear over the last couple of days. And I think we should note expect a Kevin McCarthy to behave in the same ways that the speaker has been the traditional leader of the caucus since then. He is in uncharted waters.

BERMAN: Can I just say, in the case of George Santos, just this little -- who is the George Santos caucus? Who is like rooting for this guy? Why would any Republican -- I know that there's a very thin margin but it's just one vote, maybe you can spare the one vote not have the guy who lied?

AVLON: And we know. The answer is if he were in a district they thought they could win a special election, then he'd be gone.

GRIFFIN: That's exactly it.

AVLON: But that is not the case. And so they're going to try to live with it as long as they possibly can.

GRIFFIN: It was a surprise vector that he won that district. The Democratic should have run a better campaign and should have done more vetting. They can't afford. Kevin McCarthy has such a slim majority. He is going to hold on to this guy until he has somebody better than him.

HERNDON: Absolutely.

AVLON: Yes. Actually, part of the problem was, I mean, New York Times, news day, this was considered a safe seat.

BERMAN: You're blaming him? You're blaming Astead.

AVLON: News day shouldn't particularly (INAUDIBLE). They're on the island. But the real problem is it was considered a safe seat, and so there wasn't the adequate attention. And so you get a guy who lied about everything.

GRIFFIN: And actually there was a brief moment on the House floor where his name was called repeatedly and people started joking maybe his name isn't even George Santos. So, we don't know what might come out of this guy.

BERMAN: So, they are renting the seat at the cost of a lot of lives there. Thank you all so much for being here tonight. I appreciate it.

So, a political riot in Brazil has a lot of people saying, you know, this looks familiar. The parallels between what's happening there and what happened here in January 6th, after this.



BERMAN: A historic scene in Brazil over the weekend that is both frightening and familiar as supporters of Brazil's former president, Jair Bolsonaro, storm the country seats of power. You look at this and you immediately think of what happened in this country two years and two days before. We're putting the Brazilian riot and the January 6 riot at the U.S. capitol side by side here.

The Brazilian rioters or insurrectionists appear as if they are trying to overturn the election of Lula da Silva who was sworn in last week. Take a look at some of the video. And really, there are similarities.


Again, U.S. on the left, Brazil on the right. You are seeing there in the heart of two democracies here. Again, you are looking at these two pictures here and you can see they are very similar. Now, for the record, Bolsonaro did not stick around for the inauguration of his successor. He left for the U.S. two days before.

Trump, Donald Trump, was the first outgoing U.S. president since the 19th century not to go to the inauguration of the next president. This is how the two leaders, Bolsonaro and Trump, discussed their election results.


UNKNOWN: In a terse, two-minute statement, he said he would respect the constitution, but he neither admitted defeat, nor recognize the results of the election.



BERMAN: Now, Bolsonaro happens to be in Florida right now. In Florida, Bolsonaro, is where Donald Trump has been since he lost his election. Bolsonaro did condemn the riots in his country, we should say that. Brazil's justice minister says there have already been some 1,500 arrests since the rioting.

In the U.S., more than 950 people have been charged in the attack on the U.S. capitol. So, you are looking at, of course, the chaos in Brazil. Well, maybe happening around the world, following of course, what happened here in the United States.

Also here in the U.S., what do we know about how Republicans will now handle their power in the House of Representatives and of course the questions over the new reports tonight about classified documents being found in an office used by Joe Biden after he was vice president.

[22:35:03] My next guest, we're going to ask him about all of it. Former Defense Secretary William Cohen is here. That's next.


BERMAN: So, we're back following a number of big stories. Violence that is being compared to what we saw here on January 6th. Brazil, it's happening there. It is reeling after hundreds of supporters of the former president there stormed the seat of government after he refused to concede his election loss. That's going on.

Here in the United States, the Republicans, they have the gavel in the House of Representatives. They have a speaker. What will they do with this power? And tonight, we are learning that classified documents from Joe Biden's time as vice president were discovered in a private office that he used after the Obama administration.

With me now is former Defense Secretary William Cohen. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.


I want to start with what we are seeing or saw in Brazil over the weekend. My colleague, Jim Sciutto asked the question, is election denialism now a chief U.S. export? What do you think about that?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I think it has been exploited. I think Bolsonaro was looking at President Trump as an example to follow. It may be that he sees him as an alter ego. But the fact is that what he and Trump both have done is to undercut the legitimacy of our institutions and especially the right to vote.

And I think when you delegitimized the vote, saying unless I win, it's fraudulent, then what you're doing is you're undercutting the very promise and the basics of having a democracy. So, yeah, I think that President Trump, he is not the originator of this tactic. It's a tactic of totalitarians, authoritarians, those who are seeking to destroy institutions and come in on a white horse and say -- a white man coming on a white horse and say we're going to rescue you.

BERMAN: Does it undercut U.S. diplomacy worldwide when the U.S. pushes the virtues of democracy?

COHEN: Oh, I think it does. I think anytime you see action being taken the United States that in any way undermines the rule of law, and I believe we have seen that take place on the part of the Republicans for the past two years, at least, denying the election was legitimate, notwithstanding all the court cases, that will reaffirm the legitimacy of the elections. They still say we can't support it. So, I think that we are sending that signal to other countries. This is how you do it if you want to overthrow the Democratic constitution.

BERMAN: One of the, you know, 26 super impressive job you've held in your life is as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. A Republican member from Maine. How would you like to be serving in the Republican caucus right now? What are you expecting from then over the next two years?

COHEN: Well, I wouldn't like to be serving, nor will they like to have me serving because I've always believed that we need to agree on the facts. And I think that many on the hill right now are living in an alternate universe, meaning alternative facts. So, I think when you deny factual information then you are -- I think it was Timothy Snyder, the professor from Yale, who said that a post-truth era is a precursor to pre-fascism.

So, post-truth, pre-fascism. And I think that's what we are looking at if we don't restore respect for the rule of law. And I don't know that the Republicans have that in mind. I think there are more inclined to see if they can denigrate President Biden, his son, and do everything they can to prepare for 2024.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you about the news report tonight by CBS and then CNN about documents found in Joe Biden's private office, and office he used after he was vice president, between when he was vice president and then elected president, documents marked classified there. What questions do you have? What do you think are the legitimate questions about the presence of those documents?

COHEN: Honestly, intent is the most legitimate in terms of whether President Biden knew he had the documents and whether he in any way withheld them once he knew about them. But, you know, the politics are going to override any attempt to be reasonable about this. I think it was Harold McMillan during the time when there is a scandal in Great Britain.

He said words to the effect, it may be a tempest in a teacup, but in politics, we sail in paper boats. And I think that's where we are right now in terms of how the paper boats that we're in, I think the water will overwhelm it however serious it turns out to be in terms of what Joe Biden had in mind or didn't have in mind. I think the politics will outweigh the facts.

BERMAN: Mr. Secretary William Cohen, always a pleasure speaking. Thank you so much.

COHEN: Great to be with you, John. Thank you.

BERMAN: So, one week and two hours since Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during Monday night football. It's been that long, but we've got a wonderful update for you. We'll tell you how he is doing now. That's next.



BERMAN: The Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin is back in Buffalo tonight at a local hospital just one week after collapsing on the field with cardiac arrest during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Doctors says recovery continues to beat expectations.

Hamlin tweeted out his appreciation for those rallying around him writing, in part, quote, "The same love you all have shown me is the same love that I plan to put back into the world and more." He tweeted a photo of himself yesterday from his hospital bed rooting on his teammates and their win, their big win over the New England Patriots. Doctors say Hamlin maybe got a little too excited watching the game.


TIMOTHY PRITTS, SURGEON: You watched the game yesterday when the opening kickoff was run back. He jumped up and down, got out of his chair. Set, I think, every alarm off in the ICU in the process, but he was fine. It was just appropriate reaction to a very exciting play.


BERMAN: I was swearing at the TV, also an appropriate reaction. With me now, CNN Contributor Cari Champion and former NFL player Ephraim Salaam. Ephraim, I just have to say, first of all, it was one week ago that you and I were talking, before we had any idea that Damar Hamlin was on the road to recovery here. I just want you to reflect on the difference and emotions between this moment and one week ago.

EPHRAIM SALAAM, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Yes, it has a lot to do with, you know, the grace of God.


When you look at what we witnessed Monday night, seven days ago, and to see where he is now and how he has been able to cheer on his team. I think the other reason that the guys were able to actually go and play that game was because he was (inaudible) not quit --


-- I think that your teammate is (inaudible) it's hard to do. And I think that's why the NFL, the coaches, the players decided not to continue that game Monday. But you felt his spirit going on in that Buffalo game with those -- both of those kickoff returns, especially the first one.

I mean, I try to be tough and I'm an offensive lineman, but I cried. I really shed a tear when I had - I saw that Sunday, the opening kickoff. It really touched me.

BERMAN: Look, I wanted nothing more than the Bills to lose that game as a Patriots' fan. And even I -- even I was shaking my head in appreciation when they ran back, the first. The second one I thought, that was fortuitous. Cary, I do mean to ask. Cary Champion, I can't remember a time when it's felt like -- we see so much controversy in sports over the last few years.

When so many people have come together, there really has been this joining of spirit the last week, capped off, by the way, by that supernatural kickoff return against the Patriots.

CARY CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah, I think, you know, we all felt it. Here is the beauty. You know, I have such a love hate relationship with social media, as I'm sure most of us do. But what happened for us on Monday was in realtime, music, community -- we could discuss what we were seeing and our hearts went out to a 24-year-old, for lack of a better term, kid, who hadn't experienced life and that just seemed so unfair.

So, when we knew football was over that night, you know, all said and done, the right decision, the progress that he has been able to make within a week has been our progress. He belongs to us collectively. We all wanted to watch our friend, now our friend, Damar, do well because he reminded us of someone we cared about or simply because we wanted to see something better.

And for doctors to talk about his experience and how he feels at this moment, and how he set off all the alarms, and for you too, at the same time say, I'll be -- you are the biggest Patriots fan and we know this, who still are rooting for this young man because he won at the game of life, as the doctors have said.

And you can't help but to wish him well. What I saw, and to me the most, I thought, significant issue there, John, was that his charity, Chasing M's, he only wanted to $2,500 for the toy drive, and it's upwards of $6 million, maybe seven at the moment. And the bulk -- a bulk of the proceeds came from people; donations came from people who donating $30 and $40. And in this economy and in this world that we live, we forget that $30 is a lot of money to someone.

And if everyone was doing that in small increments -- he had the entire -- I mean, for a lack of a -- I mean, I'm extreme here, but he had the world watching. And we just wanted to say, we are rooting for you and we want you to do well. To me, that spoke volumes about what we are as a group of people in our community.

BERMAN: I love the way you just spoke. And I got chills listening to you explain, what we've all been feeling for the last week. So, I think that really does sum it up. (Inaudible) from the real questions now, people are now asking the questions, it's an obvious one. Well, what happens next for him? Will he play again? It's that even an important question to be asking right now?

SALAAM: No. That's not an important question and we don't know that. That's not -- the flesh shouldn't be the focus. The focus should be on his health. The focus should be on being with his family, getting as healthy as he can. What we -- what happened to all of us, the whole country who watched, and other countries who saw this --


-- this is -- this -- we get so divisive especially when in a political cycle, where, you know, you're far-right, far-left, Republican, Democrat -- what we witnessed, especially with the giving to his foundation, is humanity. This is what it is supposed to be about and nothing like sports brings people together from all walks of life, genders, ethnicities.

And that's what -- that's the biggest thing that I took away from everything that has transpired this week, is you know, humanity will win out over politics, over gender, over religion, over anything. And I am just -- I'm happy to see that part of this country especially show that side of humanity that made this a great country.

BERMAN: I hope Damar Hamlin get whatever he wants. But I hope he appreciates that, as Cary said, he has already won at the game of life. Our thanks to both of you for coming on. Great to see you both.


So, classified documents from Joe Biden's time as vice president found in his private offices. Now, the Justice Department is investigating. We have much more information on this. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Our top story tonight, classified documents from Joe Biden's time as vice president found at one of his private offices in Washington, D.C., that he used after he was vice president and before he became president of the United States.


A source tells CNN that fewer than a dozen documents were found by Biden's own attorneys, a couple of months ago.