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The Ten Biggest Unanswered Questions in FBI's Mar-a-Lago Search; Trump-Backed Candidate Gets GOP Nod for Governor in Wisconsin; Suspect in Custody After Four Muslim Men Killed in Albuquerque. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 10, 2022 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Again, what we know and what we don't know, both very important.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, let me start with the easy part of this quiz, what we do know, John. Three things that we know for sure, prosecutors, first of all, established probable cause that a specific federal crime was committed, they established that it was likely that they would find evidence at the location at Mar-a-Lago and we know that that was approved by a federal judge. Okay. We have that in place. The rest of this is unanswered.

One of the biggest questions, what evidence did prosecutors use to establish that probable cause? Now, the way do you this as a prosecutor is you have to write out what we call an affidavit in support of a search warrant. These documents can be dozens of pages, this is actually the one from the Michael Cohen case, which was over 200 pages long.

This is the Rosetta Stone. This will tell us everything we need to know. Who has it though? Prosecutors have it, the judge has it but it is what we call under seal, meaning not available to us in the public. Donald Trump does not have this document in his possession. He won't get it unless there ever comes a day when he is charged.

BERMAN: But he does have something.

HONIG: Exactly. He does have what we call a search warrant. Does he have a copy? Yes. Can he release it? Yes. However, there's fairly limited information in this document. It's one page. This is it, this is a sample of it. It tells you where is to be searched, Mar-a-Lago, what are they looking for, it will say things like documents, papers, computers, it won't guess into specificity usually, who is the judge and when does the FBI have to conduct the search warrant by.

However, sometimes there is an attachment to this and that can tell you here are the crimes that prosecutors allege may have been committed. So, Donald Trump does have that document but it will not give chapter and verse.

Another important document that Donald Trump has will answer the question of what did the FBI take from Mar-a-Lago. Now, this is called a return. It's basically an invoice. It's a receipt. The FBI will say, here is what we took out of your property. But, again, there is a level of generalities to that. They are not going to detail every piece of paper. It will more likely say something like 12 boxes, X number of laptops, that kind of thing, but Donald Trump has that, he can release that too.

BERMAN: Again, if it's innocuous, though, the warrant itself, why wouldn't he release it? Is it a possibility of an attachment that outlines the crimes?

HONIG: That could well be. I think that would be the most important thing. If there is that attachment and it fairly frequently does have an attachment to it, it would say typically we believe that here is the crimes we established probable cause, Trump may not want that out there.

BERMAN: And, again, he could release that if he wanted to.

HONIG: Absolutely.

BERMAN: So, for all the calls from Merrick Garland to come out and say something right now, Trump could do that?

HONIG: They both have information. But, yes, Trump could release that.

BERMAN: All right. What other questions you have outstanding?

HONIGH: So, what documents exactly were still at Mar-a-Lago at the moment the search warrant was executed? Now, we know that earlier this year, there were 15 boxes of documents delivered from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives. DOJ then obtained those same 15 boxes from the National Archives.

Now, DOJ, as our new reporting has shown, started to grow suspicious and learned there were other documents there and started to grow distrustful of the way they were being handled. They went in, did the search warrant and our reporting now is that DOJ has grabbed about 12 more boxes from Mar-a-Lago. What's in there, we will find out.

And then there is the question of why did DOJ exactly use a search warrant instead of less intrusive means. And there is a really interesting history here. Back in June, there were these meetings that Kaitlan Collins and others have reported for us where investigators met with Trump's team at Mar-a-Lago, shown that there were other boxes of documents in the basement and the investigators came back and say, throw a padlock on that, save them for us.

So, why were investigators okay with that? Why were they okay with those documents staying at Mar-a-Lago for months and months until August 8th, until two days ago when they executed the search warrant? That's an intrusive means and I think, ultimately, DOJ is going to have to justify it.

BERMAN: Again, and that's one of the unanswered questions here. The answer to that, if it exists, might explain something. One of the things being thrown out there by Trump allies is, oh, well, this information was declassified any way.

HONIG: Yes. So, Pam Brown has new reporting that that may well be one of the defenses. One of the potential crimes here is mishandling of classified documents that we may see a defense that, well, Trump did declassify it. Now, look, you have to do it while you are president. You can't do it now, many months later. The question is did he actually declassify.

There is no specific form you have to fill out to declassify. The president has broad authority over that. The question is what is the evidence show. Is there actually proof that he declassified? But watch for that. That could be a battle coming up.

BERMAN: Everyone calling for Merrick Garland to come forward with information. Can DOJ do so?

HONIG: So, he can. He is allowed to. I would love to hear him call a press conference for today and tell us what's going on, but I do not believe he will, given his history, and given a really important prosecutorial principle. You do not talk about pending investigations. Part of that is strategic. Bill Belichick doesn't walk his playbook across to the other sideline to say, here is what we're doing.


BERMAN: He tapes practices.

HONIG: Well, that's true. Actually --

BERMAN: Allegedly.

HONIG: -- not the best example, right. But you want to maintain the secrecy of your investigation, you don't want to tell the other team what you're doing. But part of that is also an principle to protect the rights, the reputation of whoever may be under investigation.

Generally speaking, the person who is being investigated doesn't want the attorney general coming out and saying, hey, we believe this person may have committed a crime

BERMAN: Just last thing, the proximity of the midterms here. Are they playing into this?

HONIG: Yes. So, midterms are now exactly 90 days away, and that matters because there is a longstanding DOJ policy you don't take an overinvestigative step like a search warrant that may be politically sensitive within 90 days of the midterm, so they did that search 92 days before, maybe coincidence, maybe because they were trying to stay out of that 90-day --

BERMAN: Does it matter that Donald Trump is not running in the midterms?

HONIG: No, it doesn't. I mean, there is a way to technically construe that memo, oh, who cares, but who looms large over these midterms than Donald Trump? You have to be realistic if you're DOJ in construing.

BERMAN: Elie Honig, very helpful, as always. Thank you.

HONIG: Thanks, John.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Some new CNN reporting this morning, violent rhetoric circulating on pro-Trump online forums following the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago. Among the calls for violence against the attorney general and a federal judge, there was talk of a, quote, civil war.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is with us now on this. Donie, tell us about these threats.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna. Yes, I want to show you some of what was posted on a very, very popular pro-Trump forum right after that news broke on Monday night. They read, lock and load, I'm just going to say it, Garland needs to be assassinated, simple as that, another posting kill all feds.

Now, I think a lot of people would be asking why are we speaking about anonymous threats that are being made online. Well, one of the reasons is that very website, that very forum was used in the run-up to January 6th to talk about plans for that day, to talk about even specific plans, like attacking police officers.

And I want to show you another comment that was made, it was actually made under the lock and load comment, and it's somebody talking about civil war. They say are we not in a cold civil war at this point? That really plays into this whole idea a lot of rhetoric about civil war.

The person who actually posted that, according to a nonprofit that does a lot of work in this space researching online, Advanced Democracy, the person who posted that is actually somebody who was involved in the January 6th riot. So, we can see that these websites are where these places were planned and also people who were there that day who took part in a lot of this, they are lurking on these sites.

KEILAR: That's the convicted January 6th rioter who hasn't been sentenced yet?

O'SULLIVAN: That's correct, yes. And, look, I mean, this is the thing, right, it's very, very difficult because of the shear amount of online threats to know what is something that is serious and what might just be talk, and we're seeing it across more and more platforms.

Now, you know, pre-January 6th, a lot of this discussion was happening on the major social media platforms. After Trump got kicked off that, after a lot of the major conspiracy theorists got kicked off that, they moved to other platforms that have even less rules and, really, it's a kind of Wild West out there right now.

KEILAR: How is law enforcement handling this? O'SULLIVAN: Yes. So, our colleague, Whitney Wild, was speaking to a congressional security source on Monday night and she said that U.S. Capitol police immediately started discussing how to potentially respond to violence -- threats of violence in the fallout or because of this. But as I mentioned, the area to mantra has become so much bigger, there are so many more online forums than there might have been -- that people are using pre -- before -- pre-January 6th.

KEILAR: All right. Donie O'Sullivan, thanks so much for keeping an eye on this for us. We appreciate it.

Joining us now is retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, he is a former director of European Affairs for the National Security Council, and, of course, he emerged as a star witness against Trump during his first impeachment. Alex, always great to have you.

And I do want to you can at that to you because you're someone who dealt with classified information at a very high level. As we look at this search and seizure that happened on Monday at Mar-a-Lago, one of the arguments that we've heard from some Republicans, including Kash Patel, a former White House and Pentagon official, is this.


KASH PATEL, FORMER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What I can tell you definitively is that President Trump was a transparency president.

President Trump, on multiple occasions at the White House, declassified whole sets of documents, including, I will remind you and your audience, that around October of 2020, he issued a statement from the White House declassifying every document related to not just the Russia gate scandal but also the Hillary Clinton email scandals.

Not to mention his follow-up actions in December, I believe, and January off the top of my head before he left, where he issued declassification orders at the White House.


And when the president says that, that's it. He is the unilateral chief, commander-in-chief and the sole authority on declassification.


KEILAR: Alex, what do you say to that argument that, basically, he is the president, he just can declassify stuff and it's not declassified anymore?

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN (RET.), FORMER EUROPEAN AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, we should first talk about the messenger, Kash Patel is a non-credible individual and notorious by many accounts by his efforts to cover up and deceive on behalf of the president. So, I think everything that he says should be taken with a grain of salt.

In this case, he's making a -- trying to tag a tiny bit of credibility to this argument that the president does have ultimate classification authority and could declassify. Of course, the president was going to have to demonstrate that he did that before he left office. His powers as commander-in-chief evaporate at the inauguration. And if he took those boxes home without declassifying them, then he committed a crime.

So, I think that's -- and the burden that the Justice Department had to clear in their own minds for the attorney general had to be enormous. It had to be no doubt whatsoever that they were justified and right in conducting the search warrant and seizing these boxes and making this public spectacle that had to be basically 100 percent certainty that they knew they had the goods, otherwise they wouldn't have taken this action.

So, I don't think anything that Kash Patel says is credible. I think the fact is this veneer of presidential authority is not going to bear out in facts. And, frankly, of course, Merrick Garland did the right thing in pursuing this course of action because nobody is above the law. In fact, that's what I believed when I reported the president's wrongdoing on that notorious so-called perfect call that everybody in the United States is subject to the law. Nobody is above the law.

KEILAR: The rhetoric that we're hearing from those in Trump's corner, they are talking about regime, they are talking about persecution, they're promising revenge. What do you think when you hear that?

VINDMAN: Well, this is -- it's now public, but this is something that's been discussed privately. I can tell you that I and my wife and my family have discussed what happens if the Republicans take power, if they manage to somehow even get control of the House in the midterm elections, we will probably be subject to investigations, even though I'm basically an open book and, you know, I would expect to be persecuted just like I was subject to a campaign of intimidation, harassment and retaliation while I was in government.

So, I think we should take them at their word. We should believe them when they say that they will do this and that it will erode further our democratic institutions, our democratic values. I think they're hoping -- they've massively overreached with an extremist policy that has taken away rights from women, they have overreached with regards to their ability to try to claw power away from state legislatures, and I think that's actually starting to have positive trend lines. Even as a layman, I can see that the tide seems to be turning in our favor, but that's what happens with extremism.

And I'm hopeful that the Republicans won't be able to gain a foothold and that the Biden administration, which has had an amazing legislative success over the past week, is going to -- and with the reduced inflation, is going to be able to, you know, convince the American public that Democrats who are going to benefit the American public are the party that should maintain power.

KEILAR: You know, you mentioned worrying that you will be persecuted if Trump is reelected. Earlier this year, you sued Donald Trump Jr. and Rudy Giuliani and former Trump staffers, alleging that they tried to intimidate and retaliate against you. I mean, is it more of that that you're worried about? Detail some of what that was for you.

VINDMAN: Well, I think, certainly, they basically made my -- my military career untenable and they did that by publicly attacking me, coordinating -- this is the contention and I think it's well-justified in my claim that they coordinated the -- the White House coordinated with the media to attack me and then they made my ability to -- they fired me from the White House, they made my ability to stay in uniform untenable. They obstructed my promotion, made me radioactive.

And it's frankly something that I feel even now at this moment that there are people that don't want to talk to me because I'm politically tainted even though I was an apolitical army officer that's in the United States, that's overseas, people read the tea leaves about Republicans coming in.


And that's particularly damaging when, you know, my focus is 100 percent on advancing U.S. national security interests and trying to shape good policy around Ukraine and I'm making -- I'm advocating for a particular approach and people are potentially concerned about, you know, taking some of that and --

KEILAR: Alexander Vindman, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thanks so much for your time.

VINDMAN: Thank you.

KEILAR: So, a CNN scoop this morning, sources say the head of Fox News has been privately and harshly denouncing Trump. We have that exclusive reporting ahead.

BERMAN: And results coming in from key primary races. CNN Political Director and outstanding human David Chalian will join us live with the takeaways.

Plus, U.S. officials believe Russians have begun training on Iranian drones. We have new CNN reporting on how this might escalate the war.


BERMAN: Votes still being count this had morning as four states voted in a number of key primary and special elections.


Here with us. CNN's Political Director and host of the CNN Political Briefing podcast David Chalian. Let's start with Wisconsin, a lot of people watching the governor's race there.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Big Republican gubernatorial primary in Wisconsin, this was that third round of Trump versus Pence. You'll recall the Pence-backed candidate won in Georgia, the Trump-backed candidate won in Arizona. Well, Donald Trump gets another victory here. Tim Michels, the outside businessman, defeats Rebecca Kleefisch, the former lieutenant governor to longtime Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Kleefisch had all the establishment support, including former Vice President Pence, and Michels credits Trump's endorsement along with his huge amounts of money that he spent on this race, his personal fortune, with getting him over the top here. And it's a pretty substantial victory in what will be a critical battleground state both this and next fall.

Up in Minnesota, there was a critical House special election. This was actually not a primary, folks. This was R versus D due to the passing of Jim Hagedorn, the congressman who had representative this district, and the Republicans held on to it.

Now, the Republicans held on to it here by a margin of about 4 percentage points. They're happy to have that seat, but this is what we call an R plus eight-seat. So, this margin underperforms how Republican this district is, Democrats see that as perhaps a hopeful sign that they can mitigate some of the worst scenarios that are projected for them this fall.

In Minnesota also, this Democratic primary in the House, Ilhan Omar ekes out a victory. She faced a challenge from her right, inside the Democratic Party. Her polarizing position even within the Democratic Party makes this a close primary, but it looks like she will sail on to reelection in November.

And in Vermont, I just want you guys to take a look here. This is -- as you know, Vermont only has one House district, the at large House district Democratic primary, Becca Balint wins big. And this was like a progressive establishment kind of divide. Becca Balint had the backing of Bernie Sanders. We saw Molly Gray who had the backing of the outgoing senator, retiring Senator Pat Leahy, there and some other folks. Big progressive victory for Becca Balint.

She goes now on to the general likely in Vermont that she's going to win. If that's the case, she will be the first woman sent to Congress from the state of Vermont, the 50th state so send a woman to Congress.

BERMAN: Also a victory for alliteration, Bernie backs Becca Balint big.

KEILAR: It certainly is.

And also, David, there is another data point in how voting for impeachment has affected Republicans who did that. Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler conceded her bid for reelection after she lost last Tuesday's primary.

CHALIAN: Yes, that's right, Brianna. This is a bit of clean-up from last week's primaries when Washington was voting. But now, after we got more vote in, Jaime Herrera Beutler, the incumbent Republican congresswoman, who you noted was one of the ten who voted to impeach Donald Trump, she conceded her loss.

This is a top two primary system. So the Democrat here in this Washington State district secured a spot and now we learned that Joe Kent, the Trump-backed challenger on the Republican side to Herrera Beutler, is going to go on to the general election.

So, what does that mean for the impeachment ten? Well, three have lost their Republican primaries when they faced Trump-backed challengers because Donald Trump was on his revenge tour here. Herrera Beutler, Tom Rice down in South Carolina, Peter Meijer in Michigan, Liz Cheney's fate will be decided next week by the voters in Wyoming in the Republican primary there. Four folks have retired. Only two of the impeachment ten thus far, Republicans who voted to impeach the president, Dan Newhouse in Washington State, David Valadao in California are going on to be in the November elections.

BERMAN: Important context and still more big primaries to come. We will see you for those too. David Chalian, always great to see you.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: A Fox big week sharing a vastly different view of Donald Trump in private than what is on T.V.

KEILAR: And many top Republicans are rallying behind Trump following the FBI's search of his resort, some using dangerous rhetoric. We have a Reality Check next.



BERMAN: New revelations this morning after police in New Mexico arrested a suspect and are searching for a motive in the deaths of four Muslim men in Albuquerque.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is there and brings us the latest.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Investigators here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, say a tip from the public led them to 51- year-old Mohammad Syed. They believe that Syed is responsible for at least two of the four murders that have recently happened here in the Albuquerque area. Three of those four murders have taken place in just the last two weeks.

Investigators say they have shell casing evidence that ties Mohammad Syed to at least two of those murders and that they are working to link him to the other two murders. Investigators here say he will face murder charges and possibly even federal charges as well.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In five days we have identified 51-year-old Mohammad Syed as the person who perpetrated at least the two crimes on Rhode Island and Cornell southeast.

We think there might be involvement in two other homicide cases. Those are still considered open and active. But we're working on more evidence testing and more interviews to continue to build that case with the prosecutor's office.


LAVANDERA: Syed was arrested as he was driving his car from Albuquerque to Texas. In a surreal kind of moment, we were inside Syed's home hours before the police here announced his arrest and that he was a suspect in these murders.

We spoke with his family who told us that it was about an hour or so before police searched their home, went into their home and began looking for evidence that Mohammad Syed had told the family that he was thinking of moving them to Texas and that he was going to drive there. He left the house just about an hour or so, as I mentioned, before police arrived there at the home to search it.


And then later that night he was arrested along the interstate on his way to Texas.