Return to Transcripts main page
Awaiting Trump Legal Response To DOJ Move To Unseal Warrant: WAPO: BFI Searched Mar-a-Lago For Nuclear Documents; Justice Dept. Moves To Unseal Mar-a-Lago Search Warrant; Trump; GOP Intel Members Demand Oversight As DOJ Moves To Unseal Warrant; Trump Lawyer: Hasn't Talked To Trump About Nuclear Docs. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired August 12, 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, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing another very, very busy news day with us. We should soon see the warrant and the list of items the FBI seized at Donald Trump's Florida home. There is new reporting on just how sensitive those documents are. The former president now says, he's fine with making the war in public. But he changed his tune because of a bold move by the Justice Department.
Plus, this is a day of enormous policy and political consequence. The House is voting on final passage of a democratic plan to lower drug costs and to make giant investments in the climate fight. And so along social distancing. The CDC and some of its COVID recommendations, including the six feet rule. The White House says these new guidelines should make our third COVID school year, almost normal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We've had two incredibly hard years in terms of kids in schools, we should look forward to a very different school. We should look forward to a school year, where every child is in school, in person full time for the whole year. I think we have all the ability to do that and that should be the only acceptable standard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We'll begin the hour with the countdown to knowing more about the documents Donald Trump took when he left the White House and the warrant the FBI served this week to take them back. One new report today, says the classified records include documents related to nuclear weapons.
And other "sources saying the FBI asked for this unprecedented warrant because it had reason to believe some of the documents involved special access programs." That means operations or capabilities even more classified than top secret, we should know a lot more soon.
The former president's lawyers have a 3pm deadline, three hours from now to respond to a Justice Department request to make public, both the search warrant and the inventory of what the FBI recovered at Mar- a-Lago. Trump says he has instructed his lawyers to not oppose the release. And on his social media site, he goes all caps. You see it there and claiming, he is encouraging the immediate release.
But like all things Trump, beware believing what he says. He has had a copy of the warrant and the inventory since Monday and could have released them at any time over the past four days. Instead, he has repeatedly attacked law enforcement, even accusing the FBI of planting evidence. Today, he labels hoax, the reporting that the documents included some about nuclear programs.
With me to share their reporting, expertise and insights, CNN's Katelyn Polantz, CNN's Evan Perez, the former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers, and CNN's Jeremy Diamond. Evan, let's start with you. And it says, this reporting, that the documents could include references to nuclear weapons and nuclear programs. What do we know?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I think this helps explain why the FBI, why the Justice Department have been so dogged in trying to retrieve these documents that should never have left the possession of the federal government, that one ended up at his beach house in Palm Beach, right.
The post says that at least some of the documents in question that the FBI has been seeking were related to U.S. nuclear weapons programs. CNN previously reported that, at least some of the documents in question were special access programs documents. Now the new program documents would be the type of thing, would be - that would be classified as special access programs.
This is something that even people with the top security clearance need additional clearance to be able to get access to, of course, as former president he would have had access to this kind of thing when he was president. Once he left, he no longer has the right to have possession of these things.
And the other part of this is that it also explains why we have these lawyers from the national security division, including from the counterintelligence section that have been overseeing this because there is this deep concern, given the history of Mar-a-Lago and the lack of protocols for security there. That someone who, you know, a foreign adversary could somehow get to some of these things because of where they were being stored.
KING: I want to kind of have more on the substance in a second, but Katelyn jump in here and the idea of its 12:04 here in the east. The lawyers have until three o'clock today. The Justice Department filed the motion saying, fine. If the president is going to go out and say what he's saying, the foreign president's going to say we're saying, release the warrant, release the inventory. Trump says, he says, he just told his lawyers not to oppose it, but we won't really know until they file, right?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's exactly right. If the filings going to come through the Justice Department, there does have to be as discussion behind the scenes. But what it's very easy for Donald Trump to tweet and to take a position that way. It's a little bit more difficult. It's more complicated to take a legal position in court in an ongoing criminal investigation.
So, we know that that the Trump team was caught off guard by this Garland move yesterday. They had really believed until on Monday that the entire investigation had stalled that nothing would come of it, that everything was in the clear, clearly that was not the case. So, this has been an evolution for them all week.
And with this Garland announcement yesterday, right around three o'clock, so 24 hours before the deadline, you know, they have had to figure out what to do. We heard that from Kaitlan Collins that they were looking at potentially bringing in outside lawyers. They have to look at the political implications for Donald Trump. That's always a question here, he is the candidate that chanted lock her up over this accusation of classified material on a private server for Hillary Clinton.
And then also they have to decide what they're going to do in relation to the judge who's overseeing this, and what to do with the Justice Department that is still investigating this. And remember, a search warrant is not the end of the process here. It is merely a step in the investigation to gather evidence. And then there could always be an indictment, which is a whole another set of questions.
KING: So, we wait first just to see the warrant and then the inventory. There likely be some redactions in that inventory if it's dealing with a specific sensitive information. Jennifer Rodgers, did you understand how these forms are filled out? You can translate when boxes are checked in the lack.
I just want to read a little bit to Evan's point about the Washington Post reporting. Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former President Donald Trump's Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation. Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons.
Again, any White House document belongs to the American people. It does not belong to any former president once they walk out that door. But the fact that what would the purpose be of taking classified documents relating to nuclear weapons with you if that is indeed true?
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, nothing good, John. I mean, there is no - not only is there no legitimate reason for Donald Trump to have documents like that. There's no innocuous reason for Donald Trump to have documents like that. And the timeline tells us that this can't be a mistake. You know, it can't be that age just swept up a bunch of documents when they were collecting things that he intended to take.
And yet, then they learned later that they shouldn't have had those things. Because we know there have been months of negotiations. There was reported, there's been a subpoena trying to get this back. So, he knows what he has. And he's known it for a long time. So, this can't be a mistake. But the reason that this information, nuclear information, if in fact, that's what it is, is kept so secret, and under such strong locking key, is that this is what our foreign adversaries want, right? This has great value to enemies of the United States. If we're talking about nuclear capabilities, nuclear technology, those sorts of things.
So, the fact that Donald Trump has this, I mean, if you want to take worst case scenario, and it's really hard to think of anything else that applies, frankly. If in fact, this turns out to be true, is that he would give or sell this kind of information to one of our enemies, and that can be extremely valuable for them and extremely bad for us.
KING: Jeremy, joined in the conversation with the context of your long several years, covering a Trump world in the sense that we need to be fair to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is innocent until proven guilty. Here we're about to learn more about it. He has posted a lot in recent hours. And as I said at the top of the program, we need to be careful because we know a lot of what he says is simply just not true.
But among them, he says the nuclear weapons issue is a hoax just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a hoax, and he goes on. So, familiar language about witch hunt, familiar language about hoax, about a lot of people were concerned when that Washington Post story initially posted yesterday, hours and hours, and hours went by, and Donald Trump said nothing. And among a lot of Republicans, there was a bit of trepidation that maybe the FBI had every right and reason to do this.
Yes. And what we're also seeing from Trump is also the familiar playbook of throwing a lot of things out there and seeing what sticks, starting to toss out these various conspiracy theories, including suggesting that he was being framed over these nuclear secrets that perhaps FBI agents, somehow planted them. He's also tweeted out this baseless allegation that foreign President Obama also held on to classified information without providing any evidence to that effect.
And again, it's all an attempt to try and drive the narrative, to try and see what can possibly go out there. I think what's also notable is the fact that Trump clearly has a very different view of the Justice Department. A lot of that is informing his thinking here. You know, when you think about the way that the Biden White House has handled this investigation by really staying away from it, not commenting on it, saying that they were not aware, they were not getting briefed by the attorney general.
Think about the contrast with former President Trump when he was in office, and he was constantly trying to interfere in the Justice Department trying to interfere in the FBI. Firing FBI Director James Comey, which led to the appointment of a special counsel, of course, suggesting that Comey should drop the investigation into Michael Flynn.
So, there's all these ways in which some of his thinking frankly, about this conspiratorial thinking is being driven by the very way in which he served as president and in which - in the way in which he interacted with the Justice Department and the FBI, right.
KING: So, the challenge in our business always is to sort the facts from what he throws up into the air, which is a lot. Evan, I just want to read again, this is from the New York Times. The person briefed on the matter and said investigators had been concerned about material from what the government calls' special access programs, a designation even more classified than top secret.
It is typically reserved for extremely sensitive operations carried out by the United States abroad or for closely held technologies and capabilities. So, you read that on top of the nuclear program, so you come in, and so now you understand. Number one, why Merrick Garland apparently, they just lost his patience with Donald Trump saying what he was saying. What made an attorney general who has consistently said we do not talk about investigations come out. He didn't say a lot, but he said enough.
PEREZ: He did say enough. And I think he had to be persuaded to go to this step, look on Monday. Certainly, he was a no on making any public comments and you saw the build over the last few days, with the former president making accusations about planted evidence, with threats being made against FBI agents, again, attacking the institutions.
And the fact that obviously, he has been out there speaking, the Justice Department tried very - to do this very quietly. They've been, frankly, very deferential. I mean, they showed up there without FBI jackets on. They went there in suits and ties. They showed up around 10am. Not the way you usually do raids or searches because they know he's a former president and because frankly, they know how he is, right. That's why they did it this way. And then finally, was pushed to the point to take the activity action that he did yesterday.
KING: We will watch and wait. Again, 12:11 now here in the east, three o'clock deadline for Trump's lawyers. We will see if they file what the former president says he has told him to file. We'll stay on top of that and bring you more as soon as we get it. Up next for us. The politics of all this Republicans face a choice, wait for the facts or follow Trump, and attacking law enforcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): The FBI raid of President Trump is a complete abuse and overreach of its authority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Today a good glimpse at how House Republicans deal with Donald Trump's demand for blind loyalty. Ohio's Mike Turner is the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee. And he would be the chairman next year if Republicans take back the House. He is demanding answers about the unprecedented FBI search warrants served at Trump's own. But listen here, he's also a little cautious. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): And we are glad that Attorney General Garland has begun the process of releasing some of the information to the American public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Trump loyalists on the committee though, showed no such balance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEFANIK: A House Republican majority will leave no stone unturned when it comes to transparency and accountability into the brazen politicization of Joe Biden's DOJ and FBI targeting their political opponents.
REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): No one is above the law. I agree with that statement. No one is, that includes you, Attorney journal Garland. That includes you, Director Wray.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Sara Murray, Marianne LeVine the POLITICO, and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post. Marianne, it is interesting, possibly Chairman Turner, Ranking Member Turner. Now, he's Trumpy, but he was careful. The others, even though there's information coming out later today, they don't even wait. That's an interesting to me, that they don't even wait to see what the Justice Department releases. They just say Donald Trump is right, FBI is wrong.
MARIANNE LEVINE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. And I think it speaks to the fact that many House Republicans have just a preemptive defense of the president, even without full information about the context of the search warrant and what it really means. And I think we saw people like Representative Turner and other Republicans start to dial back a little bit of their rhetoric today, especially in light of reports about nuclear weapons, or information related to nuclear weapons in some of these documents. But I think that there is definitely a big portion of the GOP that's going to defend the president, no matter what comes with this.
KING: Among those, pick your word at home, dialing it back, toning it down, taking a little bit of a pause, is the man who would be Speaker of the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Who said, you know, yes, we need to know about the timing. But then when pressed on whether there was anything that would justify a search McCarthy said, we'll see what it is. We'll see what it is, he says today. A couple of days ago, he issued a statement about the weaponization, the politicization of the Justice Department going after Biden, going after the attorney general.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, this is a difficult if you want to be even a little bit intellectually intelligent as a Republican. It's a difficult circumstance to be in when you spent so much time railing against Hillary Clinton for the way that she handled classified materials to then have this report out there in the Washington Post, saying that there are documents that perhaps deal with nuclear weapons.
You know, Mike Turner, the Congressman, in his press conference said today that there would be a potentially very narrow window that would justify a search. It would be documents that have to do with nuclear weapons, and if there is an immediate national security threat related to that. So, you can see how far Republicans are going to try to give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt here.
KING: But let's see if they give - if they ever give a Democrat that benefit that they were - this started in May 2021. They started these conversations. And Donald Trump still has documents that whether it's a White House menu, or nuclear weapon document don't belong to Him. They belong to the American people, but we'll see where that goes.
It was interesting, though, when the post wrote the story last night, that the documents included, documents referencing nuclear weapons programs. There was a pause in Trump world if you will. People start to think, wait a minute, he wants us to be blindly loyal. He wants us to attack the FBI and attack the Justice Department, including one of Trump's lawyers went on Fox News and this is what happened.
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST, THE INGRAHAM ANGLE: Is it your understanding that there were not documents related to our nuclear capabilities or nuclear issues that had national security implications in the president's possession when the agents showed up at Mar-a-Lago?
CHRISTINA BOBB, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: That's correct. I don't believe they were, and if they thought---
INGRAHAM: What do you know for a fact? Do you know for a fact they were? Have you spoken to the president about it?
BOBB: I have not specifically spoken to the president about what nuclear materials may or may not have been in there. I do not believe there were any in there.
KING: Never was, if the president's lawyers are going to go on television, they should ask the questions that they know they're going to get asked. But over to you, saw a little bit of a pause there that hey, wait a minute, where are you taking us?
YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I mean, I think the calculus changed for Trump loyalists for Republicans in Congress, once this report from my colleagues came out, that some of the documents contain information about nuclear weapons and special access materials. I think, you know, it's going to be a very hard argument to make if the dot once we know what's in the documents and a bit more about the search warrant, that there is some immediate national security threat. And that's why the FBI and Merrick Garland felt it was appropriate to search Mar-a-Lago and get these documents.
I know, and the story that my colleagues wrote, you know, one of the concerns among experts is that, if he has documents pertaining to nuclear weapons, and they're not securely stored, could adversaries get access to that for the special access materials. It's very dangerous to foreign governments understand what the United States is collecting on them and how they might be penetrating foreign governments.
So, I think, you know, Republicans probably figured they need to take a beat. Because if there are immediate security threats in these documents, it's going to be very hard to say this was an overstep by the FBI or the Justice Department.
KING: And so, I just want to read this a little bit here. Some senior Republicans, this is in the New York Times last night, warned by allies of Mr. Trump, not to continue to be aggressive and criticizing the Justice Department, the FBI over the matter, because it is possible that more damaging information related to the search would become public. We've all lived through the last five years.
I guess my question is, why would Republicans take the leap to begin with, knowing on so many occasions? Trump has said something that turned out not to be true, Trump has demanded they do something that turned out to be problematic.
MURRAY: You know, I think they've sort of moved beyond that. I think that they have sort of decided that they are all in for Donald Trump. I mean, I'm trying to envision what the line would be, that would finally cause them to back away. And I just don't think that it exists.
I think we crossed over, you know, certainly a lot of those lines in 2016, a lot of those lines in 2020, a lot of those lines on January the sixth, and we're still seeing this kind of blind loyalty. So yes, you may see a little bit more of a muted response today, but we are still seeing straight loyalty.
KING: And you're seeing, and, you know, I take no joy in saying this, but maybe we could put it right up here. This is Donald J. Trump on Truth Social, release the documents now. He has the documents. This is one of the frustrating things of covering him. And he's a former president, and he's innocent until proven guilty. But that he has the documents. He's had them since Monday.
LEVINE: Yes. And I think that complicates the Republican argument here of just siding with him. You're seeing Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham, for example, saying we need more details. The FBI needs to detail what the search warrant was about and wants to see the underlying documents to justify the search warrant, documents that were not going to see for a long time. But I think the fact is that Trump could release these documents if he wanted to. And I think that complicates the Republican argument for more transparency when Trump doesn't want to provide it. KING: Right. Instead, he wants to mislead his own supporters. We'll follow this one as we get new information. But very important happening right now, the House is debating a landmark piece of legislation that invest in the climate crisis, more money for healthcare and spending.
KING: This is a day of giant policy consequence here in Washington. A day all but certain to bring big changes in both healthcare and climate policy. It's also a day of enormous progress for President Biden and the Democratic Party agenda. This is the House of Representatives, right now debating final passage of a big Democratic healthcare, climate and tax package. The measure would deliver on democratic promises to cut prescription drug costs for seniors. And it makes landmark new investments to fight climate change.
Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill and CNN's Melanie Zanona. Melanie, take us inside the debate?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Well, this is such a big moment, John, for President Joe Biden and his party. And a moment that just a few weeks ago, they didn't think was going to come. I mean, in fact, the mood out here right now is elation among Democrats. There were climate activists outside the Capitol this morning with pom poms. They were cheering, they're rallying very different than the protests we saw not too long ago.
And just a reminder for viewers at home about what is inside this bill. It includes a historic investment in the climate nearly $370 billion worth it would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices for the first time, it would impose a 15 percent corporate minimum tax that would help reduce the deficit and pay for this bill. And it also would expand Obamacare subsidies, which were set to expire in the fall.
And so, Democrats now feel like they have something that they can tout on the campaign trail when they get back home. And the White House of course, is wasting no time and starting the messaging push here. They are already messaging this as a victory, delivering for American people. They're really trying to highlight how they are lowering prescription drug prices.
They are trying to reduce inflation with this bill, bring down spending, and you know, investing in the climate, which again is just been a huge priority for Democrats and can help excite the base and excite younger voters which have been drawing away from the party in recent months.
And so, really comes down to a sales job here because a lot of the benefits of this bill are not going to be felt immediately. So, it really does come down to how they're going to message your spell, and you know, it's really going to come down to that, John.