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Inside Politics

Trump Pleads 5th, Declines To Answer Questions In NY A.G. Probe; Source: FBI Subpoenaed Surveillance Tapes From Mar-a-Lago; FBI Seizes Phone Of GOP Rep Scott Perry; CNN: GOP Allies Urge Trump To Speed Up 2024 Bid After FBI Search; CNN: Trump Privately Tells Republicans He's "Made Up His Mind" On 2024; Eric Trump Claims Without Evidence Biden Signed Off On FBI Search; Sen. McConnell Breaks Silence, Demands Answers On FBI Search. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 10, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The former president of the United States pleads the fifth. Donald Trump under oath in a New York probe into his finances, declines to answer questions and invokes his right against self-incrimination.

Plus, get this an assassination plot interrupted. The Justice Department unveils criminal charges against Iran special forces, were allegedly trying to murder the former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton and his inflation finally cooling off. A key metric says, prices held steady last month, perhaps, perhaps a sign inflation has peaked and how much you pay for your everyday life will soon go down.

A first though, Donald Trump goes under oath, and he refuses to answer questions. A marquee moment this morning in the New York investigation into the former president's finances. Mr. Trump leaving his home for a deposition at 8:30am to face questions from New York's attorney general, lawyers in the New York attorney general's office.

But we now know Mr. Trump did what he says only mobsters do, plead to the fifth. In a statement, Trump's saying "under the advice of my counsel for all of the above reasons, I declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution."

Let's get straight to New Yorker now, CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, tell us more.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So, Donald Trump arrived here at around 9am, and not that long after about an hour or so he issued the statement, saying that he was going to assert his Fifth Amendment rights and not answer any questions. And as you noted that, you know, Trump had said that was something only monsters do.

In fact, on the campaign trail in 2016, he said if you're innocent, why are you taking the fifth. Today, he's saying that - he's doing that because the New York attorney general is leading this investigation, Letitia James. He has called her racist. He said that her investigation is politically motivated. And so, he was not going to answer any questions. He also cited the FBI search warrant at Mar- a-Lago on Monday, saying that really solidified his decision not to answer questions today.

Now this investigation has been long running for more than three years. And the attorney general's office is looking into whether the Trump organization and its employees, including the former president had misled lenders, insurers and tax authorities by having fault, you know, fraudulent or potentially miss representative financial statements that were provided to them.

You know, she said that the reason why she wanted to depose Donald Trump and subpoenaed him for this testimony was because they wanted to know what he knew about the decisions. What his role was in creating and putting out these financial statements. So, he's not answering questions today.

It's unclear how long he's going to be there. His other son, Eric Trump had sat in taking the fifth when he was deposed in 2020. He asserted the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times. So, we are waiting to see when he's going to leave and how long have you here today, John?

KING: Kara Scannell, important reporting, kicking us off in New York. Kara, thank you very much. Let's get some expertise and insights now from the former federal prosecutor Elie Honig. Elie, a legal question in a minute, but I just, Donald Trump as a businessman and as an American citizen has every right, every right to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. I just want to remind our audience, Donald Trump, the politician, mocks those who do. Listen?


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the fifth, so they're not prosecuted. When you have the man that set up the illegal server, taking the fifth, I think it's disgraceful. You see the mob takes the fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?


KING: That's Donald Trump, the politician. Elie, from a legal perspective, his attorney said don't answer these questions. Walk us through what that means.

ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY & CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John. So first of all, the hypocrisy, of course, is jaw dropping here. And it really is a moment of shame for Donald Trump and for the American presidency to have a former president who has to invoke the Fifth Amendment. But legally, you're absolutely right. This is Donald Trump's right. He can take the Fifth Amendment the same as anyone else can.

Important to know, though, in a civil lawsuit in New York state, if somebody takes the fifth, that can actually be used against them. The jury can draw what's called an adverse inference, meaning the jury in again, a civil case, can sort of assume the worst about what his testimony might have been. It cannot be used against him in any way in a criminal prosecution.

And I do think it's worth noting here, John. Letitia James has politicized this investigation. She campaigned on vote for me, and I'll nail Donald Trump. She has fundraised on it. So, that's not a ridiculous fear for him to have.

KING: It's not ridiculous because of that you're right. And prosecutors should know when they take the job. They need to be more careful about talking about politics. Just quickly for our viewers who might be confused because they hear about the rate at the president's search at the president's Mar-a-Lago house. They hear about the Georgia investigations, hear about the January 6 committee. Just what is at stake here in this civil investigation in New York?


HONIG: Yes. There's a lot to sort out. So, this is an investigation of the financial practices of the Trump organization, primarily before Donald Trump even became president. The key allegation here is that the organization would intentionally inflate or deflate falsely the value of its assets in order to cheat on taxes and insurance.

KING: Elie, standby. We'll come back in a moment because we're also learning some important new details about the federal search at the former president's Mar-a-Lago home. Among them, this, federal investigators previously had subpoenaed the Trump organization for surveillance tapes from the Florida resorts. CNN's Evan Perez is here to join our conversation. What else are we learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we are learning that, you know, the FBI before taking this action, that obviously is highly unusual, to say the least. Before they did this, they came to believe that there were still documents that were of national security importance, that were classified, that were being held at Mar--Lago that needed to be returned to the U.S. government.

This is something that obviously has been under discussions with the Trump team. Don't go back to since May of 2021, when the archives first went to the Trump team and said, we believe there are national security documents that there's information that should be - that is the representational records, as well as classified information that belongs to the U.S. government that needs to be returned. And so, there have been ongoing discussions through that entire period, including in recent months.

We know that there was a June meeting. We know that there was a subpoena that was served on Trump organization to get access to the surveillance cameras inside Mar-a-Lago. All of this leads us to believe obviously, that the Trump team should not have been very surprised that the FBI came to retrieve documents that clearly they believe were classified and did not belong in this circumstance. Inside a warehouse or I'm sorry, inside a basement at the president's residence in Palm Beach. KING: So, part of the debate is who's telling the truth about the sequence of events? Part of the debate is could you have issued a subpoena instead of a search warrant. Elie Honig is here. To get back into the conversation. Elie, I want you to listen here to David Laufman, who is the ex-FBI counterintelligence chief, saying the president could emphasis on could be in some deep trouble here.


DAVID LAUFMAN, FORMER FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE CHIEF: The president is in significant legal jeopardy if he retained classified information at Mar-a-Lago, and especially if he failed to turn it over to the department in the FBI all these months later.


KING: You hear Mr. Laufman lay it out. Elie, this has been the conversation over the last 48 hours to not issue a subpoena, but decide instead, you're going to take the extraordinary step of serving a search warrant at the home and the office of the former president United States. The implication is that they got serious information that those either Trump had lied about documents he'd returned or there were some documents at peril, but there are still things we don't know here.

HONIG: Yes. I think Evan's new reporting sort of answers some questions and raises others. I think it tells us, this is why the FBI felt it was important to get a search warrant, which is a drastic and intrusive measure. They obviously felt there were national security interests. And as David Laufman said, there's a potential primary. It is a crime to intentionally mishandled or destroy or remove classified information.

On the other hand, the timeline is really important here. And you have to ask, why was the FBI fine with those documents being there for over a year? We know the FBI knew those documents are padlocked in the basement for at least a couple of months. Why were they fine with that? Why did they leave those documents there if they were so important? And then only, then go in and get him a couple of days ago, two months later. So, there's still a lot to be determined here.

KING: And so, as we work through the legal questions, Evan, and try to answer, find out more of the things we don't know, which are important, very important about the context and the scope, and why do you take this unprecedented step. This is what Donald Trump said today on his truth social site, everyone was asked to leave the premises, they wanted to be left alone without any witnesses to see what they were doing taking or hopefully not planting.

In the political environment, the Justice Department now finds itself in. I know, they want to put on their, you know, put on their blinders and say we're making decisions on the law. They cannot be blind to the politics here. You have Donald Trump now saying, there is zero evidence of that, zero evidence of that. But do they feel any pressure at the Justice Department to say something, you obviously can't go inside an investigation until it's done? Or at least that's their policy, but to say something?

PEREZ: Oh, yes. There is absolutely pressure and some of that pressure is coming in - coming from the inside. By the way, there are certainly people inside the Justice Department, inside the FBI who believe that they have a duty to at least explain some of what has happened. Obviously, the Justice Department, by the way, has not said anything.

The only reason why we know this happened is because the former president went out and tweeted or put out a statement nearly at the end of the search. We know that the agent showed up wearing plain clothes, they didn't wear the FBI jacket so that would have set off all kinds of alarms. They showed up after 10am. I mean this is as polite as the FBI could be in doing a search like this, clearly trying to not set off all of the things that Trump has now set up.


The question is, obviously, are they close to bringing a case? We don't know. And how is the attorney general? How is the FBI handle something like this when, you know, they may never get to bring a charge, but they're clearly took some action, that that is premised on a criminal investigation. And I think there is reason to believe that the Justice Department should say something because, you know, you're leaving it to Donald Trump to fill in the blanks.

KING: Right. In the political environment, without a doubt until now, right until, this is - so they do speak up. It's all for him. So, we'll see how that one plays out. Another major development, we want to bring you out of the Justice Department. It's been a busy week. Federal authority, seizing the cell phone belonging to a sitting Republican member of Congress, Scott Perry, who of course on several occasions did try to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election results.

Let's go to CNN's Sara Murray now, with more details on that. Sara, another extraordinary step. What do we know?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is? Yes. Scott Perry is a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. He said yesterday that he was traveling with his family, he was visited by three FBI agents, and they seized his phone. Now in his statement, he didn't say anything about what he believed this investigation was related to. What we heard from a source that was familiar with this warrant that came for looking at his phone.

And, you know, they said that this is related to an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general. That investigation has been focused on Jeffrey Clark. He is a former DOJ official, who was little known until Scott Perry introduced Jeff Clark, to then President Donald Trump. Jeff Clark was buying into Donald Trump's 2020 election lies, and the two-kind of works behind the scenes to essentially try to orchestrate a coup at the Justice Department.

And we should note that Perry and Jeffrey Clark have not been charged with any crimes. Jeff Clark's home was also searched earlier this summer. So, we don't yet know where this investigation is going. But obviously, it's a very striking thing for the FBI to do to come in and to be seizing Congressman cell phone, John?

KING: It is remarkable. Sara Murray, appreciate the important reporting there. And let's bring Elie Honig back into the conversation. Again Elie, presumably all the way up to the attorney general this week, signing off on a search warrant for the president's - former president's home and office at Mar-a-Lago. How high up in the Justice Department part this go.

This is a sitting member of Congress who yes, we know from January 6 committee testimony was part of Sara just outline, introducing Donald Trump to Jeffrey Clark. We know he was part of the conversations in his home state, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to try to overturn the election results. They're still - you're serving a subpoena and taking the cell phone away from a sitting Republican member of Congress. That's pretty high up the sensitivity chart.

HONIG: Yes, John, no question in my mind. This would have to have gone all the way up to the Attorney General Merrick Garland, one week by the way. The third story is that a sitting member of Congress has his phone seized by the FBI. And this to me, by the way, is one of the overlooked aspects of the effort leading up to January 6 to steal the election.

Scott Perry was instrumental in this plan to try to weaponize DOJ. And to me, it's one of the clearest instances of fraud when Jeffrey Clark who as Sara mentioned was Scott Perry's guy on the inside of DOJ. He wrote a draft letter on DOJ letterhead that was supposed to go out to the state of Georgia saying, we have identified significant election fraud concerns in your state and other states, and we recommend you call a special session of the assembly to reconsider your electors.

Thankfully, other officials at DOJ refused to send that false and fraudulent letter. But if that had gone out, it would have been a disaster for DOJ, a disaster for the country. And so, I think that's where their focus was Scott Perry.

KING: Elie Honig, this is a remarkable couple of days. We're in the middle of a remarkable series of investigations. Elie Honig, we appreciate the insight to evidence. Sara, thank you as well. Up next for us, the upside-down politics of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. The FBI serves a search warrant at Trump's home and more and more Republicans say hey, he should run for president again. And he should announce it asap.



KING: Donald Trump is now telling Republicans he believes get this, the FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home is a big political win. And a lot of Republicans get this, are telling Trump, hey, they agree. In fact, some Trump allies who a week ago were urging him to hold off any definitive statement about 2024. Now say, Trump should declare his candidacy immediately. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says, he spoke twice with Trump just yesterday.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I talked to the president just about an hour ago with Henry. The one thing I can tell you is that I believed he was going to run before. I'm in stronger and my belief now, I think President Trump is determined now more than ever to straighten his country. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN's Jeremy Diamond, and Margaret Talev of Axios.

A lot of the things about Donald Trump and politics are upside down, just outside of the old rules. The old rules don't apply. But the idea that after all we've heard from the January 6 testimony. He took the fifth today in this New York Civil investigation of his finances, the FBI served a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago and Republicans think we should get this guy out there running for president again, helped me.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you know, I wish I could. It is the upside-down world of Trumpism where everything, you know, that you would think - would think any other candidate seems to buoy this candidate. At least that is his spin. You know, I'm sure privately he's very worried. Who wouldn't be worried if the FBI is after you, if the AG is investigating you in New York? If there's an investigation in Georgia, so all of these investigations are looking into Trump, both his time as a private citizen and his time as president. So, sure there is worry.


But I do think in some ways this comes after a horrible summer. The January 6, a committee all of the revelations that were revealed to the American public. Some decline in his support among Republicans and his sense that Republicans weren't out there enough or at all really defending him. And so, here they are sort of stepping into that void in boosting him. Even as there were some Republicans sort of thinking about, running maybe Mike Pence, maybe Ron DeSantis, it looks like he is in a strong position to be the front runner.

KING: So, just forgive me for a second. We're 1718 months away from the first nominating contest of the 2024 presidential campaign. So, forgive me, a lot has changed in the last week about Joe Biden and about the Democrats fade about Donald Trump. But over this, I'm a little, not so sure about that. This is a great moment. But listen to these other Republicans.

Jim Banks, the Republican Study Committee chair and influential conservative. He told us his time, that his time is made up. It's just the timing of when, meaning he's going to run. We just don't know what he's going to announce it. Michael Caputo who is among those that Trump confidant saying, wait sir, does DOJ set up a nuclear bomb on that landscape. This is no longer business as usual.

John Thomas, Republican strategist who was organizing a pack to support you mentioned Ron DeSantis. It'll be a coronation at this point, not a primary. Why are they doing this? A cynic would say they're doing this to give trump the political argument. They're after me because I'm running for president. Not that they're after me, because those evidence I might have done something wrong.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it depends on who's doing it. There's two camps here. There's the Republican Party and leadership writ large. And then there's the pack of would be 2024 contenders. And what's interesting and complicated about them is that they feel that they have to secure this position earlier on in order not to alienate themselves from the base.

But in holding this position, they actually empowered Trump, who they either want to be in a stronger position to run against or who may want not running at all. You're going to see Ron DeSantis, starting in the western states this week, in Arizona, in New Mexico doing this kind of national tour. He's not doing that for some future far off decades from now. I think he's doing it for the thing that we all think it is, and yet, he can't.

And what or maybe doesn't want to come out of the gate in opposition to Trump because the way to secure your own position in the base is with this argument that the civil service is out of control, but if it could happen to Trump, it could happen to you. Obviously, it couldn't happen any normal person because a normal person wouldn't take classified information from inside of the White House.

KING: Yes. Or try to overturn the results of an election that have been counted, recounted 70 court cases and so on. As you jump in, have you spent a lot of time covering Donald Trump, you now covered the Biden White House. There's a lot of political dust up about this, including the former president's son, Eric Trump, who, you know, Joe Biden, were told you can tell me the reporting event, knew nothing about this. Eric Trump says, of course he did.


Eric Trump: Joe Biden absolutely signed off on this. And you know what the problem with the Democrats, is they always dig so deep that they end up finding themselves, you watch what ends up coming out.


KING: This is where we find ourselves. And this is a moment where it'd be nice if everybody could be calm and be patient. Yes, there's a high credibility bar on Merrick Garland the Department of Justice. they better prove. They had something, but they deserve the time to get to the point where their investigation where they can share that, but not if you listen to that Joe Biden did it.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We're also not at the point where they have arrested the former president and are refusing to explain why, right? Like this is executing a search warrant. It's very different. And sure, there are questions that need to be answered. And I'm sure that they will in time, of course, the White House for its part, they're saying that the President knew nothing about this. The White House did not get any kind of heads up. I tried asking the president just last hour at the White House.

You know, how he can reassure Americans that this is not politically motivated. The president was not inclined to answer our questions today. But I do want to amplify a point that Margaret just made, which is this notion of these Republicans who are now saying, you know, casting aspersions on this investigation. And in doing so, try not to alienate the base. But at the same time, as you said, they're also giving the space for the base to continue thinking that. That is the exact same thing that happened after the 2020 election, right.

The comments that we were all getting from our Republican sources was saying, look, we don't want to alienate the base. We need to give the president his time to investigate this to go through the motions of this. And what did it do? It left this huge space for misinformation and for conspiracy theories, and we are seeing the exact same thing taking place now.

KING: I should take this one and quickly just because I'm trying to find out, is there a middle ground for Republicans in this debate? Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader initially declined to comment, then he issued this statement yesterday afternoon. The country deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday. The Biden asks the American people and must do so immediately.

Attorney General Garland, Department of Justice should have already provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately. Noteworthy, the statement did not mention Trump, did not mention Mar- a-Lago. And we all know that Mitch McConnell hopes that explanation makes Donald Trump go away. You know, he doesn't say that in the statement, but that's his hope.


HENDERSON: But yes, Mitch McConnell's hopes aren't going to do any good, right? I mean, we've seen Donald Trump in some ways become more powerful certainly have a tighter grip on the Republican base, now than he had a probably in 2020 So Mitch McConnell hasn't really done anything actively to push him aside. He sorts of had the chance around his second impeachment decided not to do that. So, you know, we'll see I do think some people are taking that tack on Tim Scott, I think said something similar as well on notable that no one is asking Donald Trump to release the search.


KING: Trump's lawyers know what the warrant said. Trump lawyers have an inventory of what was taken.

DIAMOND: But like always, he has managed to set right.

KING: Yes, so just transparency or are we transparent. Lay it out. Just in for us some brand-new details on a foiled plot, get this to murder. The former Trump National Security Advisor, John Bolton.