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New Day

Trump to Be Deposed Today in NY Investigation of His Finances; FBI's Mar-a-Lago Search Came after Suspicions of Withheld Docs; Trump Ally, a Key Coup Plot Player, Says FBI Seized His Cell Phone; McConnell Says DOJ Must Clear Up Reasons for Trump Search; Trump- Backed Candidate Gets GOP Nod for Governor in Wisconsin. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2022 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: New revelations this morning about the unprecedented FBI search of a former president's home and what was found inside.


Good morning to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Wednesday, August 10. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington with John Berman in New York.

And sources are telling CNN the FBI was so concerned that Donald Trump and his lawyers were not being honest with them about classified documents at Mar-a-Lago that's what sparked the search warrant.

We're also learning the FBI seized the cellphone of a Republican congressman in relation to the January 6th investigation. We'll have more on that in a moment.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: But first, just in, the former president is about to be deposed. Sometime in the next few hours, Donald Trump will face prosecutors from the New York attorney general's office.

This is the culmination of a civil investigation into the Trump Organization's finances that has lasted for more than three years.

Investigators are probing whether the Trump Organization used false or misleading asset valuations in its financial statements to obtain loans, insurance benefits, also tax benefits.

Kara Scannell, who has been all over this story for years, joins us now. Kara, great to see you. So the former president being deposed. What can we expect today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. It's a big day and a long time coming.

So sources tell us that Donald Trump will be deposed today, will face off with the lawyers from the New York attorney general's office.

And, you know, this is something that he had fought. He was subpoenaed late last year. He lost multiple battles in court, and today is the day.

Now, the big question of the day is will he answer questions? And some advisers have told him that he should, because in the past, he has -- in civil litigation, he has already testified under oath about these very topics, these exact financial statements, how they came to be, what his role in that was.

Now, other advisers are saying he should assert the Fifth Amendment and not answer any questions. Not only for this investigation, but there is still a looming criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney's office. That has been more quiet, but it is still open.

And when I interviewed the Manhattan D.A., Alvin Bragg, in April, he told me that, if there is a civil parallel investigation and there's testimony, they will look at it. So certainly, the stakes are high for him there.

Now, another consideration we're learning from sources is that how will this play politically if he were to take the Fifth Amendment? You might remember when he was campaigning in 2016, he had said if you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?

So a couple of different factors at play. I think no one really knows how it's going to go until he's in the room. His son Donald Trump Jr. and his daughter Ivanka Trump recently were deposed as part of this investigation. They both answered questions.

So a lot at stake here. And it really comes amid a very extraordinary legal week for the former president. You know, and this investigation, you know, as you say, has been going on for three years. This is in the home stretch, so we might see a decision on whether there's going to be an enforcement action pretty soon.

BERMAN: Yes, two things. One, in a civil case, if you take the Fifth, it can be used as an adverse inference. It can count against you, sort of.

And the other thing is, we know he was in New York. The reason he was in New York while the feds were searching his Mar-a-Lago estate was because he was talking to his lawyers about this.

SCANNELL: Yes, and he was preparing for this very moment.

BERMAN: All right. Kara Scannell, thank you so much. We know you'll be all over this today. Keep us posted.

KEILAR: The investigation of the Trump Organization's finances is just one of many involving the former president. There's the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Justice Department is examining Trump's conduct as part of its criminal investigation into January 6th.

There's also a criminal investigation by the D.A. in Fulton County, Georgia, into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results in the state. A federal appeals court just gave a House committee access to Trump's

tax returns, something he has fought for years in court to prevent.

And the DOJ is also looking at the potential mishandling of classified documents. That investigation, of course, just ramped up with the unprecedented search of Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago. That search coming after authorities believed Trump and his team did not return some materials to the National Archives.

Let's bring in CNN's Katelyn Polantz for the very latest on this -- Katelyn.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So Brianna, two days after this search, we're learning more from our sources now about why federal authorities had to go to Mar-a-Lago to collect these boxes, this what we should call evidence in this criminal investigation of handling of classified records.

So our sources tell us that law enforcement believed that, even after the National Archives went to Florida to reclaim 15 boxes of records in January, Trump still had records that weren't his on the property, including documents with national security implications.

On top of that, sources tell Pamela Brown, Kaitlan Collins and I that investigators were thinking Trump's team wasn't being entirely truthful with them.

Now, on the Trump side, we understand that the advisers around Donald Trump thought that this investigation had stalled out in recent months, and now their argument is going to be that Trump didn't keep documents with national security secrets at Mar-a-Lago after the presidency, because when he was president, he declassified them.

But, remember, Brianna, we still don't know fully what happened behind the scenes to merit this investigation and, specifically, these steps from the Justice Department this week. That is just how these sorts of things work.

A judge did have to sign off on the details here backing up this search warrant under seal, keeping it secret, and specifically sign off on investigators' reasoning to allow them to search the Mar-a-Lago beach club and to take back those boxes this week.


KEILAR: And, Katelyn, a Republican congressman, a Trump ally, had his cellphone seized by the FBI. Tell us what we're learning about this case with Congressman Scott Perry.

POLANTZ: That's right. So Scott Perry, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, he did have his phone imaged by FBI agents on Tuesday morning. He announced that in a statement last night.

He didn't say why he believes he's being investigated, but I was able to learn from a source last night that there's a mention of the work of the Justice Department inspector general on his search warrant. So that's the office that is looking at wrongdoing of Justice

Department employees pretty frequently, and we know that they're also involved right now in the recent searches of Trump's election attorney, John Eastman, and also Jeffrey Clark.

Remember, Jeffrey Clark is that DOJ employee that Trump wanted to put as attorney general in January 2021 as he was trying to fight this election loss. And Scott Perry knows Jeff Clark and was around after the election in 2020. He was, in fact, Brianna, the person who introduced Clark and Trump right around that time.

KEILAR: All right. Katelyn Polantz, great reporting. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Let's go back to the search at Mar-a-Lago. Joining me now, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson; and a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and professor at Cardozo Law School, Jessica Roth.

Joey, reports this morning that the FBI took 12 boxes of stuff out of Mar-a-Lago when they searched it Monday. Does that seem like a lot?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, anything, right, would seem like a lot when it furthers a criminal investigation. We don't know, right, how large the boxes are, how many documents are within those boxes.

I think, though, to be misled by the notion that it simply dealt with declassified documents, I think, would be misleading. I think there's a lot more here that we have to connect the dots to.

Is there any information in there with respect to January 6th that would further the notion of what he was doing, who he was communicating with, any documents centered around that?

And so, you know, the fact is, is that we are in unchartered waters here, right? Who goes to a president's residence to take documents?

In my view, John, I think the issue here is that indictment -- and I'll say it -- I think it's imminent as it relates to the president. Look at the timing and everything else. I think he's in trouble. I think is surroundings -- Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, perhaps about Mr. Giuliani -- it's going down, as they say.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, so people understand, our reporting as of now is this has to do with the issue of archives and documents. It is not directly related to January 6th is our reporting. That doesn't mean if they find something connected to January 6th, they can't take it, if it's in plain sight.

The reporting that we did get overnight, Jessica, is that the FBI and investigators were concerned that the president and his staff weren't being straight with them about these documents.

Is that the type of aggravating circumstance here that would make executing a search warrant necessary? Talk to me about that. JESSICA ROTH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW

YORK: Yes. So again, it's important to emphasize that there's still a lot we don't know, including exactly what crimes the FBI was there to collect evidence of and to which they had sworn out an affidavit establishing probable cause to a judge's satisfaction that a crime had been committed and that evidence of it would be found on the premises.

But with that caveat, if the reporting is accurate that this concerned classified information and that it was in furtherance of the National Archives' efforts to recover information from the president that belonged in the National Archives, and that was based on review by the National Archives of previous documents classified, it would make sense that the FBI would proceed by search warrant, rather than waiting for consent or pursuing consent with the president, especially, again, in the context of what appears to be ongoing discussions with the president and his aides that were not productive of all the information that the National Archives said was missing.

In that context, you would move in as quickly as you could, especially if they thought it was important to seize it imminently.

BERMAN: OK. Talk to me a little bit more about that. There could be a national security reason here, separate and aside from a criminal reason. You want to get these documents in a safe place as fast as you can, period, and that might not necessarily mean you ultimately press charges.

ROTH: Absolutely. And it's important to make a distinction between the legal standard that's necessary to obtain a search warrant, which is probable cause, and the legal standard necessary to convict somebody at trial, which is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

It's the same standard to seek an indictment, but prosecutors, especially in these circumstances, would not pursue an indictment unless they were confident that they had proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. So it's important to distinguish those stages of an investigation and prosecution.

BERMAN: Joey, I'd hire you as my defense attorney, not that I need one here. But one of the things that has been said by allies of Donald Trump is, oh, Merrick Garland needs to come forward and explain why this search happened. Give us the information.

The flip side of that is there is someone who could come forward and produce the search warrant, because he presumably has a copy of it and a receipt for what was taken from his residence; and that's Donald Trump. So why would or wouldn't Donald Trump release that warrant?


JACKSON: What would be the upside, with respect to his defense, of providing that information?

Let's talk about what search warrants contain. Information which is sometimes damning with respect to allegations of criminality. Do I want that narrative out there about my client with regard to what was taken, with regard to what is alleged that he would have done, the mishandling of classified information, et cetera, when I have a narrative of the left is out to get me? I'm running for president. I'm being persecuted. There's nothing to see here. This is an outrage. How could they?

And so when you get a search warrant that would give credibility and credence to a judge evaluating specific facts, which have been delineated, as to wrongdoing, why would I want a narrative out there, ever? I think the defense attorney says bury that, and let's go along with Garland is just an outrage. This is the left out to get me, and let's gin up some more votes and energize the people who support.

BERMAN: Are you suggesting, or is Joey suggesting that possibly, the people calling for the public release of this information might be disingenuous, that they might not like what they hear ultimately?

ROTH: Yes, I think I would agree that it's much easier to attack the FBI in broad strokes without the specifics out in the public domain and the documents that identify the crimes that the FBI was there to investigate and that a judge had signed off on as there being probable cause to believe it had been committed and that there would be evidence of it at the former president's residence.

So once it's out there, what crimes specifically are alleged, then the pressure is on the defense to actually answer hard questions. Did the president or anyone close to him commit those crimes, and is there evidence there?

JACKSON: And we don't want to do that. You don't answer the five questions.

BERMAN: But in theory, is it easier for all these calls to make public what's going on here? Would it be easier for Trump to do it than Merrick Garland to do it right now, Joey?

JACKSON: Look, the bottom line is that there's an election looming in the background, right? And let's talk about this in that context with respect to why the Department of Justice would act now, right, not within the zone of danger, if you will, as it relates to the election.

And so we can't talk about this divorced from politics. You have people out there who believe -- we've seen the violent rhetoric on social media sites, right, extremists talking about things that we shouldn't repeat now in terms of assassinating people because of this. And so I think the political narrative does the president some good.

I think getting into the weeds and the details about his criminality does him no good. And I think a search warrant would not be signed off on by a neutral magistrate unless, again, there was probable cause to believe that crimes were committed and the subject of the investigation potentially committed them.

BERMAN: Quickly, Scott Perry, the congressman who had his phone taken by the FBI, that's not something that happens every day. You know, investigators are typically careful with politicians in this type of thing. What does that tell you? ROTH: Well, it tells me, as with respect to the search warrant at the

former president's home, that the FBI is investigating what it considers to be very serious crimes that would warrant taking these actions that clearly have political consequences, and that these matters were -- these processes were signed off on the highest levels of Department of Justice, and that every "I" was dotted and "T" was crossed.

BERMAN: Seems to be a consistent theme here. All right. Jessica, Joey, thank you both so much for being with us this morning.

JACKSON: Thank you.

ROTH: Thank you.

BERMAN: So top Republicans suddenly trying to rush Donald Trump into announcing that he is running in 2024.

Plus, primaries in four states. A Trump-backed candidate wins in the pivotal swing state of Wisconsin.

KEILAR: And gas prices are down again, and it comes on a big morning for the state of inflation.



KEILAR: Republicans are rallying behind Donald Trump after the FBI's search of his Mar-a-Lago property. Some lawmakers now demanding answers from the Department of Justice.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying this: "The country deserves a thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday. Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately."

Let's bring in CNN reporter Gabby Orr and CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona with their reporting on this.

Gabby, let's start first with just whether it's realistic or not what McConnell is calling for, because unsatisfying as it is, not having a thorough and immediate explanation of this search and seizure that he's calling for, he knows that's not how it works.

GABBY ORR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. And I can tell you that my colleagues and I have spent the past 48 hours trying to get these exact answers, trying to figure out what this warrant might have contained, what statutes it referenced, what laws the Justice Department believes Donald Trump may have violated in his recordkeeping of previous White House records at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

So, you know, digging into the reasoning behind this FBI search warrant that was executed at his Palm Beach residence, getting answers on what exactly was contained in the boxes that were carried away from the residence, these are questions that we might never have answers to until this investigation has fully sort of borne out.

So I do think it's unrealistic, not just the call from -- from McConnell, but calls that we've seen from other potential 2024 Republican hopefuls, as well who have echoed that same sentiment and said that the Justice Department, the onus is now on the Justice Department to prove why they took such a drastic step here.

KEILAR: And, Mel, let's talk about why McConnell and why Mike Pence, for that matter, he's saying this: "Yesterday's action undermines public confidence in our system of justice, and Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately."

You know why? What are the pressures on them that they have had to come out and say these things in defense of former President Trump?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, I think you're really right to point out how interesting it is to see how some of Trump's critics, like McConnell and potential 2024 rivals like Pence, feel the need to come out and defend him here.


And I think what they're really responding to and trying to channel, frankly, is the anger that they're seeing in the base right now, who's really fired up, who just see this as another political witch-hunt against Donald Trump.

I talked to one House Republican yesterday who said they're hearing from their constituents who are angry about this and want their members to do something.

But I will say that Mitch McConnell's response and a lot of Senate Republicans' responses have been a lot more measured than what we've seen in the House Republican conference.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has already made clear that, if they win the House, they are planning to investigate the Department of Justice over this. I'm told it also came up in a private conference call yesterday morning, and it also came up at a dinner between Trump and a group of House Republicans last night.

So clearly, this is something on the minds of not only Trump but some of his allies in the House. And I do think we can expect to see investigations and hearings if they recapture the majority this fall.

KEILAR: It is a stark contrast. I mean, all of these Republican statements, they're not all equal, if you start dissecting them, for sure.

ZANONA: Right.

KEILAR: Gabby, this search and seizure at Mar-a-Lago, it does have Republicans -- some Republicans -- urging Trump to move up his 2024 reelection announcement.

ORR: That's right. I'm told that there are a number of advisers inside Donald Trump's orbit who had previously been telling him, you should wait until after the midterms to announce. You don't want to take the focus away from Republicans or even put -- take the focus away from vulnerable Democratic candidates in announcing before the midterms.

But that thinking has now shifted in the wake of this search at Mar-a- Lago. We are told that a number of people in Donald Trump's ear have been encouraging him to actually launch his 2024 campaign sooner rather than later.

And one of the reasons for this is the fundraising possibilities here, Brianna. Trump has been long concerned that the moment he announces the 2024 campaign, he will essentially be cut off from that $121 million war chest that he has raised since leaving the White House. There's campaign finance laws that would prevent him from accessing a lot of that cash.

And yet, I want to read to you what Michael Caputo, a long-time Trump adviser, told me in terms of the fundraising opportunity here for the former president. Here's what he said.

"Most of the downsides of announcing early are regulatory or financial, but the Democrats just guaranteed that Trump will raise three times the money he was going to and probably in the immediate future."

So there seems to be a thought going on here inside Trump's orbit and among House Republicans, as Melanie just mentioned, that Trump should move up his announcement. He should do it soon; and that if he does, he can capitalize on frustration among Republican voters and use that to sort of fund-raise the amount of money that he would otherwise be cut off from when he announces.

KEILAR: And Melanie, what does that mean for Ron DeSantis, who's eyeing a run, you know, in 2024. but now he finds himself in this position of bemoaning, quote, "the weaponization of federal -- federal agencies against Biden opponents." Now, in defense of Trump.

ZANONA: Yes, I mean, DeSantis just like Pence, felt the need to jump in and defend him. And I think there was this initial thought that, if Trump was indicted or faced these legal woes, that it would make him a damaged candidate and that it would actually benefit potential 2024 rivals. But instead, we're actually seeing the opposite.

And what I've heard from a number of Republicans is they're, as Gabby said, encouraging him to run before the midterms now. And part of the calculation here is they think that this could help inoculate Trump, at least from a P.R. and political standpoint, from a potential indictment.

Now, if Trump does get into the race, does this freeze the field? I mean, that remains to be seen. I think it certainly makes it more difficult. He becomes the instant frontrunner. But we've heard from some candidates who said that, you know -- potential candidates who said, even if Trump does get into the race, they're not going to make their decision based on that. So we'll just have to wait and see.

But certainly, over the last 24, 48 hours, the landscape has rapidly shifted in terms of the thinking among Trump and his allies.

KEILAR: Yes. It's staggering. It really has. Melanie, Gabby, thanks to you both.

So more new CNN reporting. Violent threats circulating on pro-Trump forums online. This is following the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago, and that includes talk of civil war and assassinations.

BERMAN: Another Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump losing a primary race. The brand-new results this morning.



KEILAR: A Trump-backed candidate winning the Republican primary for governor in Wisconsin. Businessman Tim Michaels defeating Rebecca Kleefisch, who was endorsed by Mike Pence and the Republican establishment.

Michaels will take on incumbent Governor Tony Evers in November.

Then in Minnesota, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar won a surprisingly close race for her House seat.

Also, CNN projecting that Republican Brad Finstad will win the special election in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District, holding that seat for the GOP.

In Vermont Becca Balint winning her House primary race. She's on a path to become the first woman to represent the state in Congress.

And in Washington state, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of the "impeachment ten" Republicans who voted to remove Trump, conceded in her bid for reelection.

Let's bring in CNN Kristen Holmes, live in Milwaukee with the latest on all of these moves -- Kristen.


From swing state Wisconsin, which will be home to two of the most consequential and competitive races this fall, and now the table is set for November.

So let's start with that governor's primary, because this was a resounding gut punch to the Republican establishment. There was a time -- and it was a lengthy period of time -- where former lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch was considered the heir apparent to the Republican candidacy here.