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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

WSJ: Tip From Information Prompted FBI Search of Mar-a-Lago; DOJ Charges Iranian with Trying to Assassinate John Bolton; How New Bill Aims to Lower Prescription Drug Prices. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go. It is Thursday, August 11th, 5:00 a.m. exactly here in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Christine Romans.

It was a tip from an informant that triggered the FBI's search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, an informant whose identity remains unknown this morning. CNN has already reported that investigators from the FBI and DOJ met with Trump lawyers at Mar-a-Lago in June. They were seeking information about classified material that had been taken to Florida after Trump left the White House.

Now, according to "The Wall Street Journal," after that meeting someone tipped off investigators, there were more classified documents beyond what Trump turned over to the National Archives earlier this year.

Let's bring in former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin.

What is your reaction to the reports of an informant here that there was a meeting at Mar-a-Lago in June, after that meeting someone informed law enforcement that there were more documents that were unsecured? Is this a possibility that this informant is from Trump's orbit?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it would make sense that somebody within the Trump world, within the Mar-a-Lago complex, had knowledge of the existence of additional boxes, 12 as we learned, and they decided that it was important to honor the obligations of law enforcement and let them know where these things were and so it went.

ROMANS: With all the people coming in and out of Mar-a-Lago, I mean, you can see why investigators would be concerned if there were documents that would pertain to national security for example. And we know that investigators had suspected that Trump representatives were not being completely truthful.

Was that the reason to pursue a search warrant?

ZELDIN: It seems so. It seems that there has been a month's long process where the National Archives through the Justice Department has been asking Trump to return documents that didn't belong to him. Very similar to the way they asked Nixon to turn over the tapes and he refused. At that point, there was no Presidential Records Act, so they went to court and ultimately got the tapes.

Here there is a Presidential Records Act passed after Nixon specifically for Nixon. And when they felt that they were being misled or in some way not being treated honestly, they said, you know, what we'll take advantage of our rights under the presidential records ability and act and we'll go in and take these things. And they did.

ROMANS: There are a couple of different angles there on that. You know, you talked about the Nixon year era to prevent a president from taking things out of the White House. These things belong to the American people, right? I mean, these belong to the American people, not to the president in almost all cases.

ZELDIN: That's right. In fact, the Presidential Records Act was passed because prior to Nixon, the presidents all said these were private papers. And they were entitled to them personally. After Nixon refused to turnover the tapes, they passed a new statute in 1981 that said all of the documents that occur during a president's official activities belong to the American people and that has been the practice ever since, until Donald Trump.

ROMANS: Some DOJ officials are now criticizing the silence, the department silence, about the search.

You know, what do you think they should do here? This is such a unique moment, right? We've never had a former president's private property searched like this. What should they do to re-ensure the public or do they need to say anything at all?

ZELDIN: I think the best thing for the DOJ to do is to honor the policy of the DOJ which is to remain silent during these investigations. We saw what happened when FBI Director Comey violated had policy and spoke about the Hillary Clinton email investigation, what a dust storm that created.

Between silence and Comey, I would pick silence. And I think that the American people, not the zealots that are around Trump, but the American people understand that the DOJ went to a federal magistrate, presented evidence that the judge felt was equal to probable cause that crime was being committed or that evidence of a crime on that property, and they took that evidence.

There is nothing other than basic criminal justice blocking and tackling in this process. In fact they gave Trump a lot of sort of leeway.


They showed up at 10:00 in the morning instead of 6:00. They weren't wearing FBI jackets, they were in plain clothes. They made sure that Trump wasn't there at the time of the search.

So they did everything that they could to protect his interests, they got a federal magistrate, they issued it pursuant to the law, and the American people should feel assured that everything is going by the books. You're not going to change the minds of the people who surround Trump no matter what you say. It is -- it would just make matters worse I think.

ROMANS: The former president is fund raising off of this, of course, and he could of course just release the warrant, right, but instead there is still this mystery around it and he is already fundraising off of it.

Michael Zeldin, thank you so much. Nice to see you this morning.

All right. The violent rhetoric is now circulating on pro-Trump websites following that FBI search of the former president's home and includes threats on the life of Attorney General Merrick Garland, calls for the release of the address of the judge who signed off on the search warrant.

More now from CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Multiple law enforcement sources tell CNN they are closely monitoring violent rhetoric and threats that have spiked in online forums and other platforms since the FBI's raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago compound on Monday.

Shortly after the raid, in online forum dedicated to Trump, the phrase lock and load was one of the top comments posted. Another post said Attorney General Merrick Garland, quote, needs to be assassinated, simple as that. One user posted: kill all feds.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: We have never seen anything like this. As soon as the news broke about the search, we saw angry cries from radical supporters of President Trump from a range of right wing extremists.

TODD: One post that CNN found called for violence against FBI agents.

Former deputy Director Andrew McCabe is worried about agents' safety.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Potentially each one of those people, as they go through communities, as they knock on people's doors and show up at businesses, talk to sources of information and witnesses and victims of all sorts could potentially be a target.

TODD: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell a frequent target of the far right posted on this Twitter account a recording of a threat against him and his family which he says came in after the Mar-a-Lago raid.

CALLER: Cut his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) head off. Swalwell is a worthless piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Cut his wife's head off, cut his kids' heads off. TODD: But other members of Congress, hard-line Republicans have contributed to the violent rhetoric since the raid on Trump's Florida home.

GREENBLATT: We've seen Paul Gosar, you know, elected member of Congress, suggest that we need to, quote, destroy the FBI.

TODD: The extremist online postings after the Mar-a-Lago raid were found by CNN correspondent Donie O'Sullivan, who tracks extremism online. He said this about that online forum supporting Trump.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That website is one of the very same websites where many people were talking about plans for January 6 in advance of the attack on the Capitol, people discussing how to attack police officers.

TODD: In fact, one reply to the lock and load threat came from an account run by Capitol insurrectionist Tyler Slaeker, according to the group Advance Democracy, which investigates cases like this.

The replay said, quote, are we not in a cold civil war at this point?

Tyler Slaeker's lawyer did not respond to CNN's requests for comments.

The Anti-Defamation League worries about what comes next.

GREENBLATT: It could be the lone wolf who now feels compelled to commit violence against a law enforcement official or against some other person. It could be an organized group.


TODD (on camera): A congressional security official told CNN that shortly after the news of the Mar-a-Lago raid broke, U.S. Capitol Police began discussions about monitoring and planning for potential violent rhetoric, that official saying that they have particular concern about violence being directed against members of Congress and federal law enforcement.

The Capitol police would not comments on security plans.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

ROMANS: All right. Brian, thank you for that.

The former president, of course, who has said that only mobsters plead the Fifth -- pleaded the Fifth on Wednesday, refusing to answer questions from the New York attorney general at a deposition. Prosecutors wanted to question Trump as part of a three year civil investigation into whether the Trump organization duped lenders, insurers and tax authorities by providing them with misleading financial statements.

Just ahead, CNN goes inside Mar-a-Lago for a closer look at the rooms the FBI may have searched.

Plus, the Facebook evidence being used in a Nebraska abortion case.

And John Bolton wondering who is next after Iran put a price on his head.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think there are a substantial number of people who are vulnerable.



ROMANS: Former national security adviser John Bolton telling CNN, more Americans could be targets of the regime this Iran. The Justice Department has charged a member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard with plotting to assassinate Bolton on U.S. soil.


BOLTON: I think it is quite correct to say many other Americans are in the targets of this regime. It tells you what the regime is. It tells you about its character. And frankly from my point of view, the regime's terrorist activities are just the other side of the coin of its nuclear weapons program. And any idea this regime will adhere to its commitments on anything is just a terrible delusion.


ROMANS: A source tells CNN former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also a target of the Iranian assassination plot. Let's bring in CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

You know, what a story. We heard from John Bolton last night. We'll hear from him again this morning I think on NEW DAY.

But give me a sense of what this is all about.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, it certainly seems to be quite an elaborate plot, according to the justice Department.


It's certainly something that was in the planning stages but in the late planning stages where this member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard allegedly called someone and asked him for information, first of all, on John Bolton and then said that he wanted a hit on John Bolton and offered $300,000, at the same time, offering up photos of John Bolton's residence and saying that he wants this assassination of John Bolton to take place in the parking garage underneath the residence where John Bolton apparently lives.

So it seems to be in the fairly late stages of planning. However, the informant -- the person that this IRGC member he was talking to was apparently an informant of U.S. authorities. So all this unbeknownst to him was not going anywhere.

So, he offered up this $300,000 for John Bolton and said apparently that there was another job for $1 million the U.S. understands to be former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We understand that the U.S. does have very tight security both on former and current government officials who in any way could be the target of Iranians.

One of the things that Iran has said, Christine, in the past, is that they want retaliation for the 2020 assassination of their main IRGC General Qassem Soleimani and that that retaliation would be ongoing. Now, the U.S. believes that this might be related to that as well. But of course at the same time, it also comes in the final stages as the Biden administration is trying to revive the Iran nuclear agreement.

The Iranians, by the way, Christine, have also come out, they call the accusations baseless. They call all of this a fairytale. But they also make no secret of the fact that their retaliation for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani is something that will be ongoing, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred, than thank you so much for that.

John Bolton speaking out about that plot by Iran to assassinate him. The former national security adviser live on "NEW DAY" as we said ahead.

Plus, how the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to lower your prescription drug costs.



ROMANS: When the Senate passed President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act last week, Democrats say they finally addressed one of the country's most pressing problems, sky high prescription drug costs. The House is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow.

I want to bring in Abigail Abrams, staff writer for "Time Magazine" who has written on this. I think that it is impossible to overstate how important this was and how elusive this has been for Democrats. I mean, they have been saying for years that they wanted to find ways to lower drug costs and to get Medicare to be able to negotiate these drug prices and they are on the doorstep, right?

What happens between now and tomorrow and how will people feel it right away?

ABIGAIL ABRAMS, STAFF WRITER, TIME MAGAZINE: Yeah, that's right, Christine. Democrats have been working on this for decades and they have finally gotten the Senate to pass this bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Now, the bill passed the senate, going to the House, the House is expected to vote on it tomorrow and could soon go to President Biden's desk.

Once -- if the bill does become law, people will start to see prices come down pretty soon in some areas. For the drug price negotiation, that will begin in 2026 with ten drugs and up to 20 drugs in 2029, and that will bring drugs down for sometimes cancer patients, people with diabetes, MS, those drugs can be in the thousands of dollars a year.

ROMANS: And the bill is also designed to require the drug companies to pay rebates if drug prices exceed inflation rates, faster than inflation. I can't imagine the drug companies are happy about this.

ABRAMS: No, this is definitely the biggest loss for the pharmaceutical industry that we've really seen. They have fought these kinds of provisions tooth and nail over the years.

ROMANS: You've seen the ads on TV. I was still seeing ads yesterday.

ABRAMS: Yeah, they have poured millions and millions into fighting these kind of provisions. But we know drug prices do often increase faster than inflation, so this rebate is designed to get them to lower those prices for consumers.

ROMANS: And they have said that this threatens the development of new drugs but we know a lot of people are struggling to pay for their drug prices. The insulin part is interesting. If you are on Medicare and you are a diabetic and you use insulin, your out of pocket costs will be capped at $35 a month. Democrats wanted to extend that to private insurance but for a lot of technical reasons, the Republicans weren't on board with that.

ABRAMS: Right, exactly. But that $35 cap for Medicare beneficiaries, for older people, people with disabilities will really help. We know that many people right now on Medicare spend $54 every prescription that they use for insulin and for diabetics, they need that to survive. So, this really will help people who are living on fixed incomes.

ROMANS: And capping out of pocket every year?

ABRAMS: Exactly. That would really the biggest piece of this immediately for seniors. The bill will cap out of pocket costs for drugs at $2,000 a year. Right now, there is no cap. So seniors, people with disabilities who are spending thousands of dollars on drugs can keep spending and often that can be really difficult for them.

We've spoken with people who, you know, make choices between buying Biden groceries and spending on their prescription medications.

ROMANS: Right. You know, big question is will Democrats be able to go to the polls in November and say, look, we've promised this, this is a promise delivered.

ABRAMS: I mean, we know this is incredibly popular. Voters across all parts of the political spectrum want lower drug costs. They want the government to be able to negotiate drug costs. So this really is a big win for Democrats if they can message on that in the fall.

ROMANS: All right. Abigail Abrams from "Time Magazine", thank you. Nice to see you this morning. Thanks for coming in for us. All right. Just ahead, Facebook messages used as evidence in an

abortion case.

And searching Mar-a-Lago, not as easy as it sounds.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My thought was how are they going to find anything in Mar-a-Lago, because there are so many nooks and crannies.