Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

CNN: Evidence From At Least One Witness Prompted Mar-a-Lago Search; Some Justice Dept. Officials Want Garland To Make Statement On Trump Search; FBI: Armed Person Tried To Breach Cincinnati Field Office; Mar-a-Lago Search Fuels Online Threats Against Florida Judge; Violent Comments Escalate On Pro-Trump Internet After FBI Search; GOP Lawmakers Ramp Up Anti-FBI Rhetoric After Mar-a-Lago Search; Rep. Swalwell Says He Received Death Threat After FBI Search; Average Gas Prices Dip Below $4 A Gallon. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 11, 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 very busy news day with us. Does the FBI have eyes inside Trump world? New reporting suggests the tip off about classified material, led to the dramatic search warrants served at the former president's home.

Plus, a milestone at the pump. The average price per gallon of gas dips below $4 for the first time since March. And police politics, Democrats in Congress are at odds over bills to boost spending on cops. It's also a critical midterm election dividing line.

(Video Playing)

A first for us this hour, new and important reporting on the Justice Department's case against Donald Trump. CNN is now learning this. Federal investigators had already served a grand jury subpoena back in June at Mar-a-Lago. At that meeting, the FBI took away sensitive national security documents. So then, why the unprecedented search warrant this week?

Well, CNN has told the FBI developed evidence in part for at least one witness that there were still classified documents stashed at the Palm Beach Resort. The Wall Street Journal was first to report the warrant was based on an inside Trump world witness account. Just the news was the first report evidence of that subpoena.

With me to dig deep on this and share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Evan Perez, CNN's Gabby Orr, CNN's Katelyn Polantz, and the former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig. Evan, let's go around the table here and bring important new reporting to light. What is the most significant thing is the search warrant? Everyone said why would you do something unprecedented? So, they served a subpoena, fought they got the documents, and then realized they didn't have them.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And what this tells us, John, is that these interactions between the Trump lawyers and the prosecutors turned confrontational, much earlier than then we really realize here. And so, we know that before this meeting in June that they were a subpoena, grand jury subpoena that was served. That led to the June meeting, at which point, prosecutors and investigators were able to leave Mar-a-Lago with classified information documents that were being held there.

Now, subsequent to that, we know that there was another subpoena that was served to get surveillance tapes from Mar-a-Lago, it's a separate matter. We also know that at least part of the reason why things turned out the way they did was that the FBI developed information from at least one witness. And in addition to other evidence, that led them to believe that there was additional documents that were still being stored at Mar-a-Lago.

In addition to the 15 boxes that had already been taken away earlier this year, retrieved as part of the National Archives effort to get these documents back. These are property of the U.S. government and had no business being at Mar-a-Lago, according to the Justice Department, according to the National Archives. Again, it gives us a sense that things started falling apart between the two sides much earlier than we really realized.

KING: So, a subpoena in June, then a search warrant in August. At least one witness inside, this has to number one rattle the former president that somebody inside is talking. What do we know about the conversations with Trump staffers, others at Mar-a-Lago during this process?

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Well, let me fill in what was happening from January when those 15 boxes were picked up by - when archives officials sent folks to pick up those boxes to that June meeting with Trump and his attorneys. What we know and what we've just learned is that there were multiple aides to the former president who were on staff at Mar-a-Lago or who were involved in transferring these boxes of documents from the White House at the end of Trump's presidency to Mar-a-Lago, which is now his primary residence, who had been interviewed by federal investigators.

We do not know what was said in those interviews. We don't know what types of questions were asked or what federal investigators were trying to learn when they spoke to these staff members for Donald Trump, but we do know that those interviews happened. And this of course, speaks to the fact that federal investigators were looking for more information about exactly what was at Mar-a-Lago, what was in those boxes and how familiar these aids may have been with, you know, the security protocol around those boxes and the information itself.


KING: And so, do we know the answer to the question of exactly what this is about in the sense that, took some documents in June. The FBI came to believe, it had been lied to or misled and there were still documents. And so, then you take the dramatic step for a search warrant. Was that a statement, saying we are getting every last document back? Or was that a statement we think there are bigger crimes at play here? KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It's totally possible. It could be either. But we just as you're looking at this, now, with this new reporting, it's basically showing us that it didn't come out of nowhere when they did this search. You know, when you talk to legal defense experts, defense lawyers, especially, they don't ever talk about what crimes were committed. They talk about what legal exposure someone might have. What are the concerns that someone might have?

And the question here, the biggest question is, we just don't know what's written on that search warrant? As those statutes that could be criminally investigated right now, is it just about mishandling of classified records, is about other things too? Is there the possibility that the FBI could be concerned about a false statement or being misled? We were hearing earlier that there was concern of being misled.

And so, without being able to see what's written down there, what was shown to the court, we really just don't know the full scope of this. And still, at this time, the Justice Department isn't saying anything. The people who could say something is the Trump team, if that was written in there, or the court could be able to release the documents here.

KING: So, Elie Honig, I'm blessed to have three great reporters at the table. I'm going around, asking them questions as a reporter, questioning reporters, as a former prosecutor, put your prosecutor hat on, when you hear this new information. What does it tell you?

ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Well, John, it's such important context, because it tells us that from DOJ perspective, they tried it the easy way first, and when that didn't work, then they went to the hard way. And here's what I mean. The fact that there was a subpoena first is crucial. That's the easy way. A subpoena is just a single piece of paper that says, you are hereby commanded to hand over these items.

Apparently, there were some documents handed over as a result of those subpoena. But then DOJ apparently realized, well, wait a second, they haven't given us everything. And some of the things they haven't given us, our national security sensitive. And that could explain why DOJ then said, OK, now we have to do it the hard way. Now we have to send in agents. We're going to get a search warrant and we're going to seize those documents.

KING: And so, this raises giant sensitivities for everybody involved. So, let's start with the former president United States, this in Rolling Stone. A source close to Trump describes it to Rolling Stone. He has asked me and others, do you think our phones are tapped? Given the sheer volume of investigations going on into the former president, I do not think he's assuming anything is outside the realm of possibility.

You report on Trump world all the time. How rattled are they that apparently, they thought - if they thought they had the answer, the FBI's concerns when the subpoena was served? And then the FBI just come back, say no, we think you still have more. How rattled are they?

ORR: Well, publicly, we know that they're saying that they were totally caught off guard. They claimed to have been very cooperative over the course of these conversations between federal investigators and Trump's attorneys. I want to read you just quickly part of a statement that Donald Trump's spokesperson Taylor Budowich gave me today.

When I asked him about the subpoena that we just learned about, he said, Monday is unprecedented read and it was absolutely unnecessary. This continues to be part of the most egregious action of hostility by the Biden administration, whose Justice Department has been weaponized to harass President Trump, his supporters and his stuff. So, that is their posture.

Privately, we know that Donald Trump has already had conversations. He's been briefed by his attorneys about the other investigations that he's facing. So, he is aware of the legal jeopardy that he's potentially in. And I would imagine that this would only add to that paranoia, that's sort of playing out behind the scenes.

KING: In the political conversation that Trump has the floor room (Ph) himself at the moment and Trump's spokesmen like that. And they're stoking the bay saying, this is a weaponization of the Justice Department, we were cooperating. You have some reporting. There are some concerns inside the Justice Department some bits, you know, should we say more?

PEREZ: Yes. I know, there is a lot of, I think, debate inside the department about what should they say? Because obviously, they tend to not speak about ongoing investigations, that those are the rules. You do have an unusual situation here, especially because, again, they're trying to portray that they're being cooperative. But what we are learning is that this has not been so cooperative for a lot longer than we realize.

And so, if you want to correct the record, if you also want to push back on these claims that Trump is making, that the FBI planted evidence. And really the threats that are now coming as a result of some of the stance that Republican politicians are making, I think, you know, that's where you see pressure coming from inside, saying that the attorney general should stand up and explain a little bit. Again, not giving away the whole store, but explain a little bit about what is going on here, to reassure the public that they're doing everything according to the law.


KING: Garland has memories, of course, he was not there, but he remembers what happened when Trump was president, James Comey and all of that. How much does that factor into? If we're going to say anything, we better chant once and then not change it down the road. If you're going to do it, get it right.

POLANTZ: I mean, Garland is in the FBI director, that is also Chris Wray. I am sure he's looking at the Comey past there and making sure that they're not going to be making announcements. But Garland, remember is a former federal judge. Judges do not speak publicly when they're sitting on the bench. I mean, occasionally they do. Sometimes they'll write a book, sometimes they'll get a speech about legality, but you just don't see them coming out unless there is a very specific time and place for them to do so, in the course of the Justice Department it's an indictment.

KING: I need to interrupt this important conversation to bring you some breaking news. Word of a scary and still developing incident out of Cincinnati. An armed individual CNN has told, tried to get inside the FBI Cincinnati field office, shortly after nine o'clock this morning. The suspect then fled. CNN's Brynn Gingras is following this for us. Brynn, what do we know?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. As you said, this is developing. It's still ongoing to our knowledge. What we've learned is what you just said right there, is that an armed individual tried to breach the FBI field office there in Cincinnati, and actually engaged with security officers at that building, before getting into a car and fleeing. Now that field office is just south of Dayton, Ohio.

But we understand that that individual then took off in a car headed northbound on I-71. That is a major interstate that heads towards Columbus, Ohio. What we are understanding is that individual has also engaged with authorities there on that pursuit as well. Again, we are still trying to get information. But we're told though, that there is a lockdown situation for people in that surrounding area, trying to get this person apprehended.

But certainly, as you guys just said, this is pretty alarming that someone armed tried to get into a federal office there - at that field office there in the FBI this morning. So, of course, we're going to follow this and see what the latest is. But that's what we're learning so far from the FBI and local officials there on the scene in Ohio.

KING: Brynn, stay with us a minute. I just want to read this FBI sensitive tweet just moments ago. At approximately 9am this morning, an armed subject attempted to breach the visitor screening facility at FBI Cincinnati. After an alarm and a response by FBI special agents, the subject fled north onto Interstate-71.

And my understanding is local authorities now shutdown part of that highway as you go through this. So, obviously a troubling development but we have no sense. Later in the program, we're going to talk about some violent rhetoric, about the FBI in the wake of the search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, but we have no evidence at all that there's any connection, correct Brynn?

GINGRAS: That's correct. We don't have any motive or any sort of idea of why this person tried to get into the office. So certainly, as you said, there has been rhetoric, so there could be some speculation there but certainly we are going to keep you updated. To our knowledge, John, at this point, this person has not even been apprehended. So, still engaging with officers is the latest we've been hearing and of course, we'll just keep you updated. KING: Brynn Gingras, appreciate the hustle on this breaking news. We'll continue to report on as well. We'll bring you more information as we get it. We'll be right back.



KING: Our significant concerns today about the safety of the federal judge who reportedly signed off on the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago. Online violent rhetoric prompting a court in Florida to remove the information about the magistrate judge link by some media outlets to that warrant posted on pro Trump websites, have been calling for the judge's home address to be shared online. Another focus of the threats the FBI, the bureau's director speaking to reporters directly addressed the safety of these agents. Listen?


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I'm always concerned about violence and threats of violence against law enforcement. Any threats made against law enforcement, including the men and women of the FBI, as with any law enforcement agency are deplorable and dangerous.


KING: CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has been reporting on this violent rhetoric. He joins us live now. Donie, you track this stuff closely and you read some of it is quite disturbing. Going to the details and then help me with the context, is this louder, more threatening than prior to January 6, or about the same?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's very, very hard to, of course, going to measure these things quantitatively. But what we can say is that right after news of that FBI search at Mar-a-Lago broke on Monday, we saw an immediate spike in violent rhetoric online. And if we can bring back up that website, the Southern District of Florida court's website.

Up until sometime Tuesday evening, there was a profile of a judge on that site, with contact details for the judge, the judges' office clerks, et cetera. That had to be taken down from that website, because there are so many people on these platforms calling for violence against that judge. And of course, it doesn't just relate to the judge.

I want to show you some of the threatening messages and the rhetoric that have had been played out online. Somebody's just posted "lock and load" in relation to the Mar-a-Lago searched "kill all feds" and somebody else saying, I'm just going to say a Garland needs to be assassinated, simple as that.

Look, obviously, it is very difficult to tell the difference between a serious threat, something that might result in real world violence, and people who are just talking a big game on the internet. But what we do know is on these very, very same forms. This is where planning for January 6. This is where violent rhetoric in the lead up to January 6 was all playing out and we know people who went to the Capitol that day and committed violence were in these forms, John?

KING: Donie O'Sullivan, grateful for that important reporting, disturbing reporting, but it's necessary to bring it to you. Joining me now to discuss, to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Melanie Zanona, Olivier Knox of The Washington Post, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And the last point there, which is why I asked that, you know, Donie's very smart, this is what he does. You can't quantitate the analysis. Is there more or is there less, is it about the same.


But for the political leaders who are using strident language themselves and they would say they're not calling for violence. We have seen the cause and effect of what happened after the election before January 6. That's why it's so striking now to see some of this harsh rhetoric we hear from people in Congress.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. I mean these concerns are not unfounded and you have Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, not only not condemning the violence, but he's actually actively encouraging people to be loud and speak out, and of course, very different than calling for violence. But we've seen what feeding into conspiracy theories and riling up the base can do as is January 6.

And you have the number two Republican Steve Scalise, alleging without any evidence that these agents went rogue. You also have other Republicans who are actively spreading conspiracy theories about FBI agents planting evidence. And so, it is absolutely not an unfounded concern about political violence.

KING: And we can show you some of the words, Paul Gosar noted conspiracy theorist who happens to be a member of Congress from Arizona. We must destroy the FBI, Marjorie Taylor Greene. These are the type of things that happen in countries during civil war and there is more and more. It is striking.

OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: It's striking, but you know, beyond the Gosar and Taylor Greene stuff. And there's always been this kind of rhetoric built into the right wing. You know, when I started covering politics in the 1990s, you could walk the halls of Congress and find people who believed that the U.N. invasion force was on its way. You could find the people who talked about the black helicopters coming for Americans. You can find people who referred to federal agents as jackbooted government thugs.

The difference is, it wasn't - it was the Gosar, it wasn't the more central leadership of the Republican Party. That's been the evolution over the last quarter, century or so. And that's what I think is so dramatic. Sitting senators coming out and talking about how the FBI is scheming to, you know, put Trump in front of a firing squad. Sitting senators talking about without any evidence whatsoever, talking about planted evidence, which is - what's so striking is it's not some random internet chat forum. It's actually the leading lights of a major political party.

ZANONA: And can I also say McCarthy sees a political opportunity here. He's using this as a rallying cry for his party, and it's also trying to score points in the Trump world. He's fundraising off of this. So, there is another underlying reason here, why (crosstalk)

KING: Just as you mentioned, I just hold this up. If you could bring the camera here, it's hard to see at home. But this is an adoring Kevin McCarthy looking fawning at Donald Trump in the picture here. And then he goes on this fundraising email to talk about how furious is, the DOJ has been weaponized. What you choose to do or choose not to do at this moment will determine everything.

He means send me money. He means that's what he would say I just mean, send me money. But then you look at some of these pro Trump websites. So, here's the one post here, "are we not in a cold civil war at this point? It is their job and leadership to understand that's out there and to choose their words carefully. But they choose not to.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: I think they understand to Melanie's point. I think they believe that rhetoric around a civil war, rhetoric around President Trump, and you know, spreading conspiracy theories and misleading information about what this was, which was just a search warrant. And if he did nothing wrong, then you would expect that nothing would come of it, but they believe that this language will benefit them.

I think they believe this language will help distract from some of the things that Democrats have been celebrating recently. But I also think that they believe this language is what their base wants to hear is what their base believes. And they believe this language will keep them in power, but I wonder if they think about to what end.

KING: And do they think about their colleagues? We after 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Trump, many of them receive threats. So, this is Eric Swalwell. Republicans don't like Eric Swalwell. They think that he was on the impeachment committees, and he was over aggressive and all that. You're entitled to your political opinion about that. The question is, what about his wife and his children when this comes in?


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA) (voiceover): Cut his head off. Swalwell is a worthless piece of (Inaudible). Cut his wife's head off. Cut his kids' heads off.


KING: Again, set your politics aside. When you know this is out there. When we all watched what happened on January 6, that should be incumbent on everybody, including people in our business. Choose your words carefully.

KNOX: Yes. That doesn't seem like a complicated, get a conclusion to reach, right. But I think there's one other element to what you just said, which is that a lot of these folks worry about the cost of not using this rhetoric. Because the expectation has been built in now so much into the sort of the Trump world that this is the natural and necessary response.

And that there were, I mean, you know, Kevin McCarthy's first response was like, we're going to hold hearings. And that's not going to wash with a lot of the Trump land people who are out there making these much more incendiary comments.

KING: Steve Bannon just about every day, we are at war. That's how he puts it just about every day and that's sort of the, I guess, that's the litmus test of the world at the moment, and we know, words do have serious consequences. Up next for us in placement dips - inflation dips, gas prices drop, but consumer prices remain still high. And look at where the economy may be headed. That's next.



KING: A new key indicators today about the state of the economy. Gas prices at the lowest point in months, taking below $4 a gallon, the average now $3.99, down more than $1 from the peak. The White House projects that's more than $100 a month in savings for the typical American family. Falling gas prices hint that perhaps runaway inflation may have peaked.

Another key inflation index out today shows prices paid to producers for their goods and services have dropped, giving consumers and the president hopes him a reprieve. Let's get to CNN's Matt Egan, to go inside the numbers. Matt?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well John, inflation is still way too high. But there is a growing sense that perhaps the worst is over, and today's report was encouraging on that front. It shows that wholesale prices rose by 9.8 percent year-over-year in July and month- over-month, we actually had deflation prices fell for the first time since April