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FBI Raids Residence of Former President Trump at Mar-a-Lago; Sources Indicate FBI on Mar-a-Lago to Secure Documents From being Destroyed; ; Online Shopping Prices Are Suddenly Falling Fast. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 09, 2022 - 08:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are working our way through new information this morning on the FBI search of Donald Trump's home in Florida. One thing that everyone agrees on, nothing like this has happened before.

I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. There are still so many questions, though. What exactly were agents looking for? We are told this was part of an investigation into the handling of classified documents, taking them, the former president, from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. Now, mishandling classified documents, hiding or destroying them, if that happened, that could absolutely be against the law. But what caused this search now? What triggered the apparent approval of Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray? What can we read into this?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Searching the home of a former president for possible evidence of a crime would require approval at the top levels of the Justice Department, and a federal judge would have to agree that there was probable cause a crime had been committed. Trump himself announced the search. We have not heard from the DOJ. That's not unusual, of course.

The news is drawing a surge of criticism from Republican backers of the president, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even vowing revenge against Attorney General Merrick Garland.

CNN's Leyla Santiago begins our coverage this morning. She is live outside of Mar-a-Lago in Florida with the latest. Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, when you think about it, it was this time yesterday that FBI agents were going right in there, into Mar-a-Lago, the primary residence of former president Donald Trump. And as you mentioned, there are still a lot of questions remaining about what exactly they were looking for, what exactly they took out of the home.

But here's what we know so far. We know according to sources familiar with the investigation that this was related to presidential documents and potentially classified documents. We know that the former president was not home at the time. And we also know that the law enforcement agents that were there were primarily focused on Trump's office, as well as the personal quarters. All of that coming from sources familiar to the investigation.

I can tell you it is a very different day today. Pretty quiet here where we are. A very different scene yesterday where protesters, but mostly supporters, were out here really kind of riled up by the announcement of this news, waving flags. A caravan of cars kind of going back and forth in front of Mar-a-Lago. According to Trump's attorney, there were records that were taken out of the home. But the Department of Justice, as you mentioned, really staying tight-lipped here and not giving a lot of information, fiving the "no comment." So still a lot to learn when it comes to what exactly went down in that house around this time yesterday. Brianna, John?

KEILAR: Leyla Santiago, thank you for that report.

BERMAN: We are told they took boxes of stuff out of that house.

Joining us now, CNN chief correspondent Kaitlan Collins who of course covered the Trump White House as well, and CNN senior legal analyst and former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. Preet, I want to start with you. We've talked about probably cause. We've talked about the technical levels that must have been met for this search warrant to have been executed.

But I guess I want to ask you, what must have Merrick Garland and Christopher Wray have seen, why do you think they deemed it was worth it if they approved this for such an operation to take place?

PREET BHARARA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You're absolutely right that there's a technical level of proof required, the standard is probable cause. I think if you had just barely probable cause that a crime had been caused, whether it's removal of presidential records or removal of classified documents, given the stakes here, given the sensitivity, given the nature of the person whose property it is, the former sitting president of the United States, I think the threshold that they wanted to meet was much, much higher.

I think it signals that they have very serious concerns that they didn't get all the documents back, the National Archives didn't get all the documents back in January when they took 15 boxes. But they must have close in time percipient witness who can show the judge in an affidavit that documents are still there, that there's evidence of misconduct up to and including the former president of the United States. You don't take this kind of action lightly, as evidenced by the coverage that has been nonstop for the last 24 hours.

KEILAR: Kaitlan, how is the president relating to what happened? How are those close to him relating to this?


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The former president, obviously, is the one who confirmed this. There had been a report on Twitter that this had happened. He was prepared. Obviously, he had known for several hours that this search was underway. Eric Trump, his son, says he was actually the one who informed him, and Eric Trump also confirmed that this search warren is related to this investigation into how this classified information was handled when Trump left the White House.

And so the former president is framing this as politically motivated. He is criticizing, saying that it is Democrats who are behind this. Of course, the FBI director is someone the Trump himself picked. That's Chris Wray, someone, of course, we know he has long since soured on. But it is something worth pointing out, when you look at what's happening here and talking about how this search warrant was actually carried out and executed and granted.

I will say that when it comes to documents that may have been left over at Mar-a-Lago, after there were over a dozen boxes sent back to the national archives, we do believe there were, based on what we're hearing, about a meeting that happened about two months ago where investigators when down to Mar-a-Lago and actually met with Trump's attorneys. And one of those was Jay Bratt. He is the head of the counterintelligence and export control section at the Justice Department. He was one of those present at this meeting. We are told it was back in early June, they believe.

And they met with Trump's attorneys. I'm told that they were shown a room that had boxes of documents that were there, that days after they left Mar-a-Lago, they sent a letter to Trump's attorneys asking them to further secure the room, given the information that it contained. What happened in those two months since then that led to yesterday, this search warrant being executed, that is still a big hole of information that we are still trying to learn more about. But it is remarkable to see how this investigation has escalated this month.

BERMAN: So Preet, what about that key piece of reporting that Kaitlan just mentioned there, that there had been a meeting in June and the Trump people were told to secure a room. There are two separate things we're talking about here in retrospect, the Presidential Records Act that has to do with archives and presidential documents. But then there was also just the handling or mishandling or destruction of classified documents which is purely against the law. So the fact that they were told to secure a room there, what does that tell you?

BHARARA: It tells you that they have concerns about how that information that material, those boxes of documents were going to continue to be respected and used by the former president and his staff. And it made me, as Kaitlan points out that they weren't satisfied with security in the room, that they weren't satisfied with the level of cooperation that the FBI was requesting. I would imagine that at first, given the fact of the meeting, they requested voluntary compliance and turning over of information, not only of materials that may have been classified, but also information and materials surrounding the secretion of that material at Mar-a-Lago in the places that we're talking about. And the likelihood is they didn't get that cooperation, they didn't get a level of comfort that evidence was being preserved. So they took the extraordinary step of going to a federal judge who had to authorize a search warrant, and you have the events that we've had over the last 24 hours.

KEILAR: Because, Preet, they were, the account -- and we should keep in mind, a lot of this narrative is being constructed by Trump or it's being constructed by those close or loyal to Trump. But they were allowed in, as we know, pretty recently into this area, people pretty high up in DOJ to survey the scene, to take a look at where these documents were. So, if you're describing a situation where the cooperation maybe wasn't there to then secure those documents, or perhaps there was concern that there was more to this, because Kaitlan has reported that there was a safe in Trump's office that was looked at, how do you get from that point of them being in there, looking around, meeting with lawyers. And then getting to the point as Trump describes it, they're breaking into his safe, and we don't know the details of it, but how do you get to that point?

BHARARA: Well, they didn't break is into a safe, but they went to a safe. They had authorized warrant signed by a federal district court judge to do so. And so clearly there was some breakdown. There are various ways to get evidence of a potential crime, by the way, we should emphasize, we don't know if there's a crime charged against Trump or anyone else. We're a long way from that. But one way to get evidence is to ask for it. Another way to get evidence is to issue a subpoena, which is a little stronger. And more direct and aggressive way to get evidence is by search warrant, as what happened here. So you can imagine that given that there was some cooperation, there were meetings voluntarily held, people were allowed on the premises from law enforcement as recently as two months ago, as Kaitlan points out, something must have happened between then and now. A breakdown in trust a breakdown in cooperation, a breakdown in communication that led to a fairly extraordinary thing that's never been done before. \

BERMAN: Kaitlan, because this has come up, and just to be crystal clear, how did the White House, the current White House, the president, the White House staff, find out about this search?


COLLINS: We are told that President Biden was not aware before this search was conducted that it was expected to happen. Obviously, we talk about this given the sensitivity of this and how high stakes this is, we have been told that it's very likely senior Justice Department officials were aware and signed off on this. But President Biden himself, we are told, was not aware. I can say a lot of White House definitely were not aware. They found out like the rest of us did, when Trump announced this and it was first reported on Twitter, and of course subsequently in the news that this had happened. So there was a general sense they did not know this was going to happen.

I will say, when it comes to the Justice Department, it was just about two weeks ago that the Attorney General Merrick Garland was pressed by reporters on whether or not they would pursue Trump if they believed he had committed any criminal wrongdoing or criminal acts. And he was talking about no one being above the law. And when a reporter interjected to say, what about a former president, he repeated that sentiment very forcefully. And it's come as the Justice Department has come under pressure in

regards to that matter. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of questions about this. You're already seeing how Trump and his allies are framing it, Kevin McCarthy saying that he wants to potentially interview and speak to Attorney General Garland about this. Republicans are right now expected to take the majority in the House come November and launch a series of investigations. So, I don't think the scrutiny what happened here and what led to this is going to go away. Of course, the Justice Department doesn't comment on their investigation, so they haven't shed new light on this, on what they can share, obviously.

KEILAR: Preet, we now realize as this was happening at Mar-a-Lago, it was happening as we were starting to see the first pictures of toilets that Trump had ripped up documents in and flushed them, or attempted to, right, to destroy documents, that jump over a subpoena to a search warrant, how much does knowing that he has a propensity to not just rip up documents, but to actually try to dispose of them, how much does that play in to jumping to that search warrant?

BHARARA: Yes. That's part of the probable cause narrative. You have to show probable cause, that there are fruits of the crime, or evidence of a crime, at a particular specified location. Not just at Mar-a-Lago generally but specifically within Mar-a-Lago. It's a sprawling estate, as I understand it. And they specified probably the safe, the personal safe of the former president, his personal quarters, his residence. And as part of that evidence that you're presenting to a judge to show probable cause you're going to talk about the propensities -- not the propensities, but the prior conduct that has been demonstrated by the person who owns the premises that are seeking to be searched, including in the residence, destroying documents by flushing them down the toilet.

And by the way, just to reiterate something that Kaitlan was saying, there's no way in this universe that this wasn't signed off by the attorney general himself. I ran a fairly independent United States attorney's office, and even though there may not be a formal requirement to get the signoff of someone at the highest levels of the Justice Department in order to execute a search on a private citizen, which Donald Trump is, given the magnitude of it, given the high stakes nature of it, you want to get the signoff of the top official at the Justice Department. And, by the way, they know, as Kaitlan also points out, that this action is going to get tremendous scrutiny not just in the press but by members of Congress over the coming months and even years. So they wanted to make sure and they had to make sure that every "t" was crossed and every "i" was dotted. And all that information is going to come to light, and we'll see.

BERMAN: Preet Bharara, Kaitlan Collins, our thanks to both of you.

So our coverage of the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago continues. We're going to speak to the former director of the National Archives as we learn more about what officials were after.

And Taiwan conducting military drills this morning amid heightened tensions with China. KEILAR: And the world mourning the loss of singer, actress, and

advocate Olivia Newton-John. We're going to speak with one of her best friends, actress Jane Seymour.



KEILAR: News this morning about the FBI's search of former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate coming months after the National Archives said that at least 15 boxes of White House records were recovered from Mar-a-Lago, including some that were classified. The National Archives is charged with collecting in sorting presidential materials.

Joining us now is Jason Baron. He is the former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Jason, it's great to have you here and get your perspective on this. You know, knowing what you know about this process, how do you get from that point, from boxes being retrieved from Mar-a-Lago, to a search warrant being executed and documents being seized?

JASON BARON, FORMER DIRECTOR OF LITIGATION, NATIONAL ARCHIVES & RECORDS ADMINISTRATION: Well, the National Archive staff has tried to do the right thing. The presidential records of the Trump administration are not supposed to be at Mar-a-Lago. They are supposed to be under the legal custody of the archivist of the United States, as of January 20th, 2021.

And so, NARA staff contacted appropriate people of the former president but somewhere along the line, there is either been an impasse or some kind of incompleteness in the delivery or transfer backup materials. There should be no materials, whether they're classified or unclassified, there should be no presidential records sitting at Mar-a-Lago. They should be within the legal custody of the national archives.

BERMAN: That's a period full stop when it comes to presidential records in general. Now an FBI search warrant executing a search warrant, though, is a separate matter for them. And one would think that there is a criminal aspect to it that might go just beyond the Presidential Records Act in this case.

When you're talking about classified documents, what are the considerations there for the preservation, the protection of classified documents?

BARON: Well, presidential records like all records of the federal government if they are classified for example the top secret level or above, they need to be in -- stored under very strict conditions.


There are places known as SCIF, sensitive compartmented information facilities. And simply putting a padlock somewhere is not sufficient to meet federal requirements. So, it is certainly the right thing for the FBI to have requested that

any classified materials lying around at Mar-a-Lago be put somewhere more secure. But there is a more basic problem here which is that classified materials should not be at Mar-a-Lago, period.

KEILAR: They shouldn't be at Mar-a-Lago, period. And yet, there's been this considerable period of time in trying to retrieve them. What is the normal process for when documents, classified and otherwise, our mishandled, are taken somewhere where they should not be, not in accordance with the presidential records act or they're classified and they're supposed to be in a SCIF?

BARON: So there is nothing normal about this. Because there is no president or a former president taking classified materials from the White House to their personal residence. But there have been a number of instances in the past where both federal records and presidential materials have been stolen, from the government and in the hands of private individuals. And so there has been law enforcement mechanisms including search warrants to find those materials and put them in their proper place.

But we have to realize that documents that are at the top secret level or above represent if they get out -- an exceptionally grave damage to the national security. That's in the definition of what top secret is. And so, this is not a trivial matter to be having classified materials.

BERMAN: Talk more about that, if you can, about why this is different than moving out of your house in packing the spoons in the wrong box of not being able to find them. This is not a matter of moving in mishandling stuff that you necessarily move with you.

BARON: Of course, the threshold point is that it's not your stuff. These records are not former president Trump's to move around. Or even to store in safe conditions. They are the American people's records.

In fact, today is the 48th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's resigning from office. After Nixon left, Congress put together they enacted the Presidential Records Act, which ensures that the American people have ownership of these records. There are stored of the National Archives.

And so this really is uncharted waters for a large collection of document, whether they're classified or not, being outside the control of the archivist.

KEILAR: Jason Baron, we appreciate your perspective on this. Very important. Thank you.

BARON: Thank you.

KEILAR: So, gas prices, they're continuing to fall which is great news. And it's nearing $4 a gallon this morning.

BERMAN: More good news on the inflation front. Online prices going down suddenly. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KEILAR: Just in, we have some positive economic news. Online shopping prices are finally falling and they're falling fast.

CNN's Matt Egan is here with the details.

What's going on here?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, John and Brianna, some really good news on the inflation front for all of us. New report just put out by Adobe shows that year over year, online prices actually fell by 1 percent in July. Now, normally, this wouldn't be a big deal because for the longest time, online shopping was the world of falling prices.

But we are not in normal times. Because of COVID, we actually saw an inflation invade the online shopping world. Prices started going up in June of 2020 and they kept going up every single month until this new report came out capturing a decline in July. This snaps a 25-month streak of rising prices.

And when you dig, you look at some of the categories. We saw electronics fall by 9.3 percent year over year. That is the most nearly three years. Toy prices going down 8.2 percent, apparel prices falling 1.2 percent.

As far as why this is happening, some of this is for good reasons, right? Supply is extreme proving. In fact, some retailers like Walmart and Target. They have too much stuff, they have an inventory plug.

Some of this is not for great reasons, though. Demand has actually taken a hit because of high prices and because of low consumer confidence.

And this improvement, though, is not across the board. We should note that Adobe found that some inflation categories like groceries and pet products, they're getting hotter so it took even eye on that. But still, it is encouraging to see that prices are cooling off online because that was the norm for so long.

We are all looking forward -- signs that things are perhaps turning it closer to back to normal on the inflation front. And this does look like one more sign.

KEILAR: Are toys down? Is there's supposed to minus sign next to toys there?

EGAN: Yeah, toys are down. That is encouraging news.

BERMAN: Also, minus signs, less available apparently because of inflation.


BERMAN: Matt, thank you very much.

KEILAR: I'd buy some toys. So it's always good to know.

Matt, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. More now on the major news this morning. The FBI search of Donald Trump's private residence.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia. Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

Senator, I saw CNN signed. Senator, are you there?

All right. Senator Tim Kaine, we are looking for him right now. We'll look at him back in just a second.

CNN has learned that the former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet virtually with the January 6 committee today.

KEILAR: And the team behind Hamilton telling a Texas church to cease and desist the rendition of the musical because of the changes that the church made to the script.