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FBI Searches Trump's Mar-a-Lago In Dramatic Escalation; Eric Trump: FBI Said Search Was For Documents At Florida Home; Trump Calls FBI Search An Attack By Dems Who "Don't Want Me To Run For President In 2024; RNC Fundraising Off FBI Search At Rump's Resort; Biden Signs Law To Incentivize U.S. Made Semiconductor CHIPS. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired August 09, 2022 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a very consequential news day with us. American history at Mar-a-Lago. For the first time, federal investigators search a former president's home. The FBI combing through Donald Trump's resort for classified documents.
Plus, a big bipartisan win for Joe Biden. The president puts pen to paper on a new law, he says will boost American manufacturing and provide even more jobs. And today important primaries in four states, plus a dark twist in the Georgia Senate contest. A new ad surfaces accusations of abuse against the Republican nominee Herschel Walker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CINDY DEANGELIS GROSSMAN, EX-WIFE HERSCHEL WALKER: First time he held the gun to my head. He held the gun to my temple. He was going to blow my brains out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We begin the hour with a monumental moment and what it might mean for the former president of the United States. Federal agents, serving a warrant and searching Donald Trump's home, the former president's palatial Florida Resort. The search happened Monday afternoon, first alerted by a local Florida politics reporter and then confirmed within the hour by Trump himself.
The search was both legally executed and unprecedented. It is a stunning escalation in the federal probes into the former president. Sources tell CNN the search was for classified materials, including some documents labeled top secret that Trump had removed from the White House.
In a statement the former president was quick to paint the search as a witch hunt, calling it a "siege" and "they even broke into my safe." But the search no doubt cleared an extraordinarily high legal bar, sign off from top Justice Department officials, sign up from top officials at the FBI and sign off from a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed, and that those agents would likely turn up evidence in the search of Mar-a-Lago. Let's go straight to Palm Beach, CNN's Leyla Santiago. Leyla, tell us more.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it has now been full 24 hours since the FBI executed that search warrant here at Mar-a-Lago, here at the primary residence of the former president. And I can tell you, according to our sources familiar with this investigation, President Trump - former President Trump was not here at the time. He was in New York. We have no reason to believe that he is here now.
But we do know according to sources, that when law enforcement went in to execute the search warrant, they were targeting specific areas, looking really closely at the offices of former President Donald Trump, as well as the personal wing of the house, a very massive 17- acre home for the former president.
And we know because the president himself said it, his family has said it, even his attorney has confirmed that the FBI took documents away from here, potentially what could be classified information that is at the center of this investigation. So, all of those are things that we are learning. We're still waiting to find out exactly what they were looking for, exactly what those documents, what type of information that obtained.
But something else that I want to make clear that I am seeing out here standing right behind Mar-a-Lago is what this has done to his base. You are really seeing supporters coming out here riled up by his announcement of the search, the search warrant being executed by the FBI. John?
KING: Leyla Santiago, live for us in Palm Beach. Leyla, thank you for kicking us off. With me now in studio and remotely to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins, CNN's Katelyn Polantz, the former FBI supervisory agent Peter Licata, and the former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers.
Jennifer, let me start with you. This is the former president's residence. This is the former president's office in Florida. This is a former president. Is there any way this happened without the attorney general of the United States signing off on it? And looking at a very detailed probable cause warrant?
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't think so, John, I mean, of course, we're in unchartered territory here. But it's so consequential, of course, everyone knew it would immediately be big news. And you want to be very careful with this sort of investigation and proceeding. So, you know, seems to me, Merrick Garland signed off and that they were very, very careful about this affidavit and its contents for sure.
KING: And so, Peter, put yourself in the position of these agents going to the former president's office and his suite at Mar-a-Lago. Again, understanding this is unprecedented, a former president's house being searched here. What's going through their mind? And where do you think the bar was in terms of the credibility of making the case? We have no choice now. We've tried to negotiate for months. We believe we have to serve a warrant.
PETER LICATA, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Correct, John. So, first of all, you're cautious. You're cautious in my time and 21 years in the FBI, you're cautious on every search you do, because you want to do the right thing. You don't want to cut corners, especially when we're talking about a former president, let alone a politician at all, right.
So, agents have been cautious. By the way, like reports about how the house was ransacked. Of all the searches I've been on, I've been to drug houses. We don't ransack the place. Things are left in the order that we try to find them, other than what the agents took out of the house. So, where was the bar?
First of all, this was not a raid. This was a search. This was a legally executed search as per the Fourth Amendment. What probable cause that a crime has or will be committed? Therefore, as previously stated, the attorney general signed off, layers and layers of FBI general counsel, as well as Department of Justice general counsel and an appointed federal magistrate signed off on this, to allow the FBI to conduct a search to prove or disprove that a crime has or will be committed with regard to classified documents.
KING: So, let's let dig in. There's a lot we don't know. And it's important to say that there's a lot we don't know, and Donald Trump is innocent until proven guilty. But let's dig into what we do know, including Donald Trump was in New York. He was at the Trump Tower in New York as this was playing out at Mar-a-Lago, but his son Eric was there. Here's some of his description.
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ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: And the purpose of the raid from what they said was because the National Archives wanted to cooperate, whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession, and my father has worked so collaboratively with them for months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Katelyn Polantz, it's the last part from Eric Trump. He says his father has worked with them collaboratively for a month. This dispute over these documents, goes back to a couple months after Donald Trump left office back to May of 2021. A little more than a month ago, you had agents actually at Mar-a-Lago and the former president stopped by that conversation. They were trying to get documents back. What got to the point after months and months and months of trying to negotiate this, that the FBI decided we are at an impasse, we need a search warrant?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: I mean, John, that really is the question. We just don't know so much about this. But we do know what this investigation was. Initially, it was the National Archives being very concerned about these documents that the Trump people had after the presidency at Mar-a-Lago. And what's interesting about this is that we have talked before about 15 boxes at Mar-a-Lago, those boxes as far as we know, those were recovered previously by the National Archives and then subpoenaed by the Justice Department as part of this same criminal probe if it is the one that Eric Trump is referring to there. And so those documents now, they already had in their possession.
And at some point, they realized in that June meeting that there was more there, it appears, they were shown by the Trump lawyers on site, you know, there are things here, and the Justice Department came back and said, keep those secure. We just don't know what happened after that. If they came back and said, again, you know, we want to come in, or if this was a total surprise to everyone, and that they were just really taken off guard.
KING: Which is what gets you to the unprecedented part of this? And we'll get to the politics of this in a moment. I want to stick to what we know at the moment. But so, if you're the FBI team investigating this, and you've had these months of back and forth, and then you decide, OK, we need to go to the boss. We're not making progress we need to ask for a warrant.
That has to go up the chain of command to Chris Wray appointed by Donald Trump to be the FBI director. Then that has to go up the chain in the Justice Department, presumably all the way to Merrick Garland, the former federal judge known as a very cautious guy appointed by Joe Biden.
Listen here to Preet Bharara, the former US Attorney in the Eastern District of New York saying, to make probable cause they needed some evidence, there was a crime being committed and to get that evidence where to come from.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DIST. OF NEW YORK: They must have some close in time percipient witness, who can show the judge in an affidavit that the documents are still there, that there's evidence of misconduct up to it, including the former president of the United States, you don't take this kind of action lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: If you look at what we've learned from the January 6 hearings, it has people very close who had constant eyes on Donald Trump, who have provided the most damning testimony about his conduct from election day through the insurrection and beyond. Preet is suggesting there that to get this warrant, the FBI must have some inside information that it could not trust what was being done with the custody of those documents.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's the major question here of what documents were leftover that were not returned back to the National Archives when those 15 boxes that we believed did go back to the National Archives went back. And so, that's the big question here. [12:10:00]
The president's attorneys showed investigators several months ago at Mar-a-Lago where these documents are being stored. It was in the basement of Mar-a-Lago. They took them down there. I'm told that the investigators looked around the room, then they left. They did not take the boxes with them, we believe.
And the big question on that is once they left, and they sent this letter asking them to further secure the documents, which is when I'm told aides to Trump put a padlock on the door, what happened there. And that is really where this big black hole basically is, is in those two months that transpired since then.
And what Preet and others are saying is obviously, you don't take a step like this lightly with a former president. And so, that's why it's raising questions, not just for outside people, or people like produce to work as a district attorney. It's also raising questions for the president, the former president orbit of what could they have been searching for? What were they seeking, as they are trying to paint this as politically?
KING: So, Peter, given your experience, something this sensitive. I don't think anybody has the experience on something this sensitive. But are you going - if you're asking for a search warrant of the former president, United States residence? When you're at the beginning of that investigation, you're still trying to check boxes, or when you're at the very end, and you need that final piece of - you believe, you need a final piece of evidence, and you believe you know where it is.
LICATA: It's at the very end. It's towards the very end, when you have cooperated information from a close in person source that rely - that you're relying on to swear to your affidavit. So, this is going towards the end that they knew these documents were there and they were able to articulate to a magistrate. Let alone as you said their chain of command, the director of the FBI and the attorney general, the United States and all those lawyers in between, that something exists, that's a violation or potential violation of federal law and the FBI needs to go seize it.
KING: Jennifer Rodgers, it's Merrick Garland's job and everyone involved in this investigations job to try to block out history, if you will, but they are aware of Trump's history with the FBI. They are aware of Trump's history with the Mueller investigation. They're aware of Jim Comey and Hillary Clinton and everything else.
So, the former Vice President Mike Pence just tweeted, among other things, Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people, as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately. Can Merrick Garland say anything at this moment? Should he say something at this moment?
RODGERS: I don't think so. You know, listen, this search warrant application was reviewed by a neutral federal judge and went through all the procedures that every criminal investigation does, every search warrant does. That's really all that they have to say. You know, there are reasons that the Justice Department has policies that say, they don't talk about ongoing investigations, especially in this case, we're talking about classified documents.
There's a national security angle here. The notion that they're going to talk about. The importance of classified documents that the president was improperly holding. You know, that's preposterous. I mean, I think all of this spin from Mike Pence and other Republicans, they're just trying to stir up some outrage here.
But at most, if anything, the only thing that Merrick Garland and the Justice Department should be saying is, you know, all procedures were followed, and we have no more comment. You know, we're all going to have to wait for charges. I think if that ever comes.
KING: We will see the if that ever comes part is important. And also, so we're going to move on next. Jennifer and Peter, thank you very much. Next, the political firestorm. Trump plays victim and most Republicans line up behind him, calling the FBI's Mar-a-Lago search, a Biden dirty trick.
KING: That unprecedented FBI search of the former president's home is triggering a political firestorm on the right. Donald Trump says, he is the victim here, not the bad guy, and most Republicans are getting in line behind him. In a statement, the former president calls Monday search, "prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the justice system, and an attack by radical left Democrats who desperately don't want me to run for president in 2024.
And who will likewise do anything to stop Republicans and conservatives in the upcoming midterm elections." The former president offered no facts, no facts to backup any of that. And we should note the search warrant was issued by a federal magistrate, but 91 days now to the midterm election.
And as Trump prepares to run again in 2024, it is clear Trump and most other Republicans see an opportunity to mobilize the GOP base here. Perhaps most striking in the Republican reaction were the words of the man who might be speaker, the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Again, the warrant was legally executed. But McCarthy called it intolerable and put the Justice Department on notice. Should Republicans take control of the House, come January. Attorney General Garland, McCarthy said preserve your documents and clear your calendar.
With me now to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Kaitlan Collins is still with us, along with Ayesha Rascoe of NPR, Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post. It is pretty clear to me, tell me if I'm wrong to connect these dots. Number one, this is unprecedented. And number two, the right has long had grievances about the deep state, the FBI, etc. But we've also had a couple of weeks where the political conversation has been, things are getting a little better for the Democrats. They just see the opportunity here to light it up.
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR. THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean. I think that I don't know if we can connect those two things like, what the Department of Justice is doing is completely separate from the political realm of Democrats. But this does step on Democrats victory lap, a little bit of, you know, they've had a really good last several weeks, heading into the midterm elections to be able to celebrate those accomplishments.
But so, it just crowds it out a little bit, but they still have that. As far as what Republicans are saying, they think that this is going to be very good for Republicans and for the former president, should he decide to run? We'll see if that bears truth. But you know, Donald Trump has always been the most tenuous part of politics. We're not really sure who it's going to impact and who's going to, to benefit from it. And we don't know a lot about this.
KING: So, you see this firestorm in the right now, again it's 90 days to the election. So, can you sustain it for 90 days? Did Merrick Garland following the idea that you keep the Justice Department out of elections, either 60 days or 90 days, was the time to that. We'll find out all these things. But look at these are just some of the 2024 presidential candidates reacting.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says this is shows we're a banana republic. Senator Marco Rubio, who's on the ballot this year along with Governor DeSantis by the way, something we've seen many times from third world Marxist dictatorships.
The Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, we must see the probable cause affidavit before making a judgement. It's the last part there that jumps out at me. Asa Hutchinson is not a Trump fan. He does not want to seem disloyal. He wants to raise questions about the propriety of this, but he's essentially saying Merrick Garland make it public. Well, if that probable cause warrant is damning that hurts Trump.
AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY" AND "UP FIRST": Well, it obviously does hurt Trump, and for people like DeSantis, or even Mike Pence, I'm sure they are, you know, quietly, you know, crying over this happening because look, there would be nothing better for DeSantis to say, I'm taking up the mantle of Trump, but he's off to the side right now. But I'm going fight for you, and I'm going to keep doing it. While Trump is having some issues.
So, I mean, I think this idea, obviously, this is a political show, we're going to look at the politics of it. But when you look at the legal ramifications of it, I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think it's great to have the FBI raid your house, right? Like, that's not a great thing. And the legal thing, like the legal issues could supersede the political issue, that's the that's a conversation. Washington has had for a long time, though. He has been twice impeached. He is the guy who said he could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and get away. So, he achieved plays the victim card very well, including you see the Republican Party and Trump himself of raising money off this. As soon as it happened within hours, or if it happened, they said they want to raise money.
Let's listen to Kaitlan Collins to the voice of Donald Trump, is just an interesting or ironic. Pick your word for a day. After he finds out about this, he's scheduled to call into a political rally for Sarah Palin, the former Alaska Governor. Thank you, I'll get my states right, who's now running for Congress. Listen to Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT (voiceover): That's right. Another day in paradise. This was a strange day. You've probably all read about it, but very important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, tell us the truth in terms of the reporting inside, so I use his point. It is not a good day when the FBI rates your house. Trump is very good, very effective. I know Democrats out there get angry when you say this, but very effective at playing the victim card and a turning crisis into political opportunity. But they have to be rattled in Trump world.
COLLINS: And he certainly trying to use it to his advantage. Obviously, this bolsters this argument that he's long held, which is that basically, the government is pitted against him. They are constantly going after him witch hunt to reverse Watergate is which is how he's framing this. That has been a long-standing position of his.
It is true that this could help bolster that you're already hearing it from Republicans. You're hearing it from his own family members who are saying, if he does decide to run in 2024, which we know he's gearing up to launch, they believe this will put wind in his sails.
However, you also have to look at how this went down yesterday. These FBI agents showed up at Mar-a-Lago at about, we're told between eight and 10 in the morning, I'll give it a broad range. It wasn't until about 7pm Eastern last night that the president - the former president confirmed in a statement that yes, it had happened. And that was the first confirmation that we had. It was him in his own words, saying that this happened.
So, I do think there is a part of this where he's using this to his political advantage. But there's also the other aspect of this where people in his own orbit are saying they went and executed a search warrant on his residence. They've got concerns about whether or not there is something more there because they believe it is so explosive and delicate and sensitive that there must be something if they took that step, whether or not that there is remains to be seen, of course.
KING: As that they're attacking the attorney general, but even long serving Republicans in this town to know Merrick Garland well, from his days moving up on the federal bench. They don't think he would sign off on this unless he saw something, something that gave him good reason to do so. Up next for us a very big day for the current president, a signing ceremony at the White House for a bipartisan bill President Biden says will create 1000s of jobs in American manufacturing.
KING: Important celebration at the Biden White House today. The president signed into law the CHIPS Act. The bipartisan legislation makes major investments aimed at boosting the U.S. semiconductor industry. President says this measure will create thousands of new jobs, while also boosting American competitiveness in the global economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: We face an inflection point in our nation and around the world. Fundamental changes taking place today, politically, economically and technologically.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Tomorrow, another victory lap for the president. He will sign legislation that expands healthcare benefits for veterans who were exposed to burn pits during their service. And by the end of the week, Democrats hope to add in final passage of their big new climate and health care package. Our great reporters are back with us. And Ayesha Rascoe, this gets lost somewhat in the Trump news today. But this is a big deal.
Let's just look at some of the details in the CHIPS and Science index. It's $280 billion. Scientific research innovation, space exploration, expanding the U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, investments in research and development tax credit for semiconductor manufacturing. And already if you look a couple of companies, Micron and Qualcomm and GlobalFoundries have already said, we're going to jump in and we're going to create new American jobs. This is high tech good paying jobs as bipartisan achievement win for the president.
RASCOE: It's a big deal. You know, Biden would say he might throw another word in there but is a very big deal. Look, this is a president who has had a lot of problems over these past few weeks. And we've gotten in here and talked about how inflation is bad, and this is bad, and that is bad.