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Gas Drops Below $4 Average for First Time Since March; Informant Tipped Off Feds About Docs at Mar-a-Lago; Secret Service Warned of Potential Criminal Probe; CDC Official Warns Polo Outbreak is 'Tip of the Iceberg'; Democratic Officials Hesitant to Comment on Potential Biden Reelection Run. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 11, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. There is breaking news this morning. This is the kind you are going to want to hear.


I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar, and here is the news. This morning, gas prices dropped below $4 a gallon for the first time since March.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The national average has fallen for 58 days straight since hitting a record high of more than $5 a gallon in June.

So let's bring in CNN chief business correspondent and "EARLY START" anchor, Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Hey, guys. You watched those gas prices race higher this spring, right? And now they are tumbling fast, below $4; $3.99 is the AAA national average here.

And I can tell you, about half the states are now below $4, well below $4. And in the Midwest, you're looking at below $3.75 a gallon here.

Look, $5.02 was that high that we hit back in March. There was the war in Ukraine. There was the hottest peak of inflation there, but now these things are starting to cool off.

Anything can happen ahead, right? We are at the very beginning of a hurricane season, of course. But many of the analysts are expecting -- they expect another 10 to 30 cents decline on these gas prices here.

I can tell you that 21 percent -- prices are down 21 percent since the high, but they are still higher than last year. Still, you've got people out there looking for the cheapest gas they can find in their neighborhood, and it is a welcome reprieve for consumers.

Of course, yesterday we saw that those falling gas prices, one reason why consumer inflation looks to have moderated a little bit in the month of July. We have producer price inflation. That is a factory- level gauge of inflation. That comes out at 8:30 this morning, guys.

KEILAR: Yes, I'll -- I will certainly take it, if it's going to be, what, $3.70 versus $5 a gallon --

ROMANS: Absolutely.

KEILAR: -- in the near future. Christine, thank you for that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: All right. The other major news this morning, reports that point to the possibility of someone inside Donald Trump's orbit raising concern about possession of classified documents.

The "Wall Street Journal" reports this morning that sometime after Trump first turned over 15 boxes of material to the National Archives last winter -- this is the quote from the "Journal" -- "someone familiar with the stored papers told investigators there may be still more classified documents at the private club."

So who could that person be "The Journal" is talking about and why would they be concerned?

Joining us now, CNN's senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz; and political correspondent for "The New York Times," Michael Bender. He is the author of "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost."

And Michael, I just want to start with you on this "Wall Street Journal" reporting, this careful language. They said someone familiar with the documents raised the possibility they hadn't turned anything over. What questions does that raise for you this morning?

MICHAEL BENDER, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it's a pretty broad statement; and, you know, this could really include any number of people.

I mean, as you both know, the Trump White House was one of the most talkative White Houses, certainly, in our lifetimes, a culture that was set at the top. And there -- and meanwhile. there are multiple investigations at the federal level.

The House committee looking into tying Trump closer to these actions on January 6th; federal prosecutors talking to witnesses about Trump's role in overturning the elections.

So -- so something like this, you know, suggests that it could be as broad as something turned up in the course of -- of those investigations, as well.

KEILAR: Because what you have and the reason we ask, Michael, is because you have some Republicans very much in Trump's corner who are seizing on this as -- and this is an FBI informant who is turning on Trump within his inner circle. Of course, we know that you had the feds talking to aides of Trump, as well, about these documents. BENDER: Yes, that's right. Again, the language that you read there

from that story is pretty broad and could include any number of things.

And -- and we've certainly seen Trump and his allies in the Republican Party try to seize on this search of his home for -- for political relations points and, you know, and political points; and that sounds like it would fall in that category, as well.

KEILAR: And so, Katelyn, I want to bring you in here. Because you have some new reporting, some key new data points. And this is interesting, given the other things that are being floated out there by some people. Some reporting that the FBI and investigators almost bent over backwards to not make this a big, threatening deal. Explain.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So we really haven't heard anything from the Justice Department or the FBI about this search that happened on Monday. It really was Donald Trump's information to share with the public, which he did. That's how we learned about it first. Since then, we've seen his lawyers out there.

And what we know about the way that this search was conducted is it wasn't, you know, yelling, banging on doors with guns, going in, trying to grab information with people wearing FBI jackets that you sometimes see in news reports of what you would call raids. That was not this. This was much different.

These FBI agents that went into Mar-a-Lago, they were wearing very nondescript clothing. They went in midmorning. It wasn't at the crack of dawn like sometimes these surprise searches can happen.

And we really have seen very little to explain what else was happening here, because the agencies are trying to keep a very low profile about this.

What we do have now is we have the FBI agents' association. They're the only entity that has come out and put out a statement about this, and this is how they described the search, without commenting on it directly.

But they did put out a statement saying FBI agents performed their investigative duties with integrity and professionalism, remain focused on complying with the law and the Constitution.

And then they also remind people that, as part of this process, when FBI agents conduct searches like this, they are being -- doing it under search warrants that are issued by judges and that must satisfy detailed, clear procedural rules; and that there is collaboration and consultation with relevant Department of Justice attorneys. So that is all part of this low-key approach that the agencies are taking here.


KEILAR: And, Katelyn, our colleague, Evan Perez, has reported that, while we hear some Republicans saying, look, the DOJ needs to come out and needs to talk about what is going on with this search and seizure. There's some internal pressures as well within the DOJ about this.

POLANTZ: That's right. So Evan was able to obtain reporting yesterday that there are some Justice Department officials who would like a public statement from the department on this, but that's just not how Attorney General Merrick Garland does things.

It's not how he has ever done things as a former federal judge. It's definitely not how he's done things on even the most significant cases around January 6th, that other major investigation that we have going on.

It's the department's policy generally not to comment on ongoing investigations. That's for two reasons. It's to protect those ongoing investigations, but it's also to protect the rights of people who may become part of the investigations, people who may become targets.

And so it really is for Donald Trump's own protection, if he wants that protection, for the Department of Justice not to be out there.

I should say, even on top of that, the department has really tried to take pains not to put Garland out there in a way that's even unusual for this department.

Yesterday it was really telling that we didn't see a press conference following the announcement of this Iranian assassination plot of John Bolton, where a person was arrested on that.

Instead of a press conference, there was a video recorded statement from officials from the national security division. That would be the same division that would very likely be part of this classified documents investigation that prompted this search at Mar-a-Lago. We just didn't see those people out there yesterday.

BERMAN: One thing, to be clear, we're going to talk to John Bolton, which is lucky, a little bit later. So we'll get Bolton's own view of this.

But Michael, one thing I do want to make clear here, based on everything Katelyn's saying, there is one clear short path to the public getting more information about what happened at Mar-a-Lago, and that's Donald Trump, or his lawyers, releasing the search warrant that they have in their possession, releasing the receipt of what was taken from Mar-a-Lago that they have in their possession.

Why don't you think -- for all this talk you're hearing from some people -- that Donald Trump doesn't want to release this information?

BENDER: Yes, it's a really good question, and the answer is because it's politically advantageous for them, for Trump and his allies, to do exactly what they're doing right now.

As much as the FBI wanted to avoid a spectacle, I think what this shows here is that -- is that you're not going to ever be able -- you can try to mitigate a spectacle with Donald Trump, but you can't avoid it. That's because that's his modus operandi here. That's how he operates. We've seen this time and again. Any major legal issue facing Donald

Trump, he tries to turn into a public relations issue; and he's handling this one just the same.

I mean, wall-to-wall coverage on FOX News. We saw his family members repeatedly on FOX talking about this.

We haven't seen the receipts of the search warrant, as you mentioned. Why? Because they see this as -- as a political advantage for them right now. And so far, they're right.

The Republican Party is -- is incredibly united behind them right now. Potential rivals for Trump in a 2024 presidential campaign, folks like Ron DeSantis, folks like former Vice President Pence are issuing statements of support for Donald Trump.

I think in the eyes of Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago right now, this is working for them.

BERMAN: We'll see if it continues. We'll see how long he can keep that information that he has private.

Michael Bender, great to see you.

Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much for sharing your reporting. We are going to speak to one of Merrick Garland's predecessors ahead. Alberto Gonzales will join us, now former attorney general of the United States. That will be fascinating.

KEILAR: We do have some new CNN reporting on Secret Service members facing possible criminal exposure after handing over their personal cellphone numbers to government investigators in connection with the January 6th investigation.

CNN's Whitney Wild is live in Washington. Whitney, what have you learned about this?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bri, the professional association that advocates for federal law enforcement agents warned members of the U.S. Secret Service Tuesday that their personal phone numbers that have been handed to oversight bodies will likely be used in a criminal investigation.

This warning appeared in a letter sent to members of that organization. This is the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

Last week CNN reported that the personal cellphone numbers of Secret Service agents had been provided to oversight entities. That is a highly unusual move that came after weeks of scrutiny over missing Secret Service text messages.

Here is a quote from that letter. Clearly, Brianna, this organization is very concerned. They say, "Exactly whose numbers were provided, to whom and for what purpose have yet to be determined. However, the information will likely be used for a criminal investigation into the Secret Service employee."


The letter reminds agents that Secret Service attorneys represent the interests of the organization and not the individual and encourage them to seek legal counsel from that organization.

The Secret Service did not address the specific concerns laid out in this letter, Brianna, but the Secret Service did reiterate that it is committed to cooperating with all investigations under way.

But clearly, that unusual move is causing a lot of anxiety among the Secret Service agents, and now you have this organization fighting back on that.

Further, Brianna, the head of that organization really blasted the Secret Service earlier this week, saying that this was really just an attempt to try to clean up what was the result of, frankly, bad management prior; and they think that that is coming at the expense of the agents.

Back to you.

KEILAR: All right. Whitney Wild, thank you for that reporting.

We do have some more news. CNN reporting a new level of concern at the CDC about the spread of polio. Why they say a single case in New York is just the tip of the iceberg.

And it's the question that continues to stump congressional Democrats. Should President Biden run for reelection in 2024?

BERMAN: Why Beto O'Rourke just dropped an "F" bomb at a campaign rally.


BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It may be funny to you, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), but it's not funny to me, OK?




BERMAN: So we have new CNN reporting this morning, a single case of polio in New York has health officials concerned. A senior CDC official says that one case could be the tip of the iceberg. And a local leader says the agency is warning the virus could, quote, "mushroom out of control."

Here now, senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Polio?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Polio. Polio. It's so upsetting, because we licked polio. We had it licked back in the '50s, '60s with the massive vaccination campaigns.

And what's happening now is that anti-vaxxers, people who refuse to vaccinate their children, are bringing polio back.

There is one known case of an unvaccinated young adult in Rockland County, just North of New York City, who has polio. But a senior CDC official told me we think there could be many, many more cases, because polio doesn't usually paralyze people.

Usually, when people have polio, they're actually asymptomatic. They don't even know they have it, and they could be spreading it around.

Let's take a listen to Dr. Jose Romero.


DR. JOSE ROMERO, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR IMMUNIZATION AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES: We're definitely concerned. Finding polio in a country where we've had high levels of vaccination, haven't seen polio cases for over 40 years, is significant.

Remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg, right? The very, very tip of the iceberg. Because it's the rare case that causes paralysis.

So that means that there must be several hundred other cases in the community circulating before you see this one case. It's not just this community. It's any other community surrounding it that has low vaccination rates that's also at risk. So the spread is always the possibility, because the spread is going to be silent.


COHEN: So let's talk a little bit about this anti-vax community that Dr. Romero is talking about. It's small but enough to make a difference. If you look at national polio vaccination rates, it's 92 percent. That's great.

In Rockland County -- this is just North of New York City -- it's 60 percent. Orange County right next door, 58 percent.

So the anti-vaxxers did a great job at targeting these communities, and enough people didn't vaccinate their children that now we have this. So Dr. Romero makes the point we have just kind of forgotten about polio, about the terrible things it can do, about the children who were in iron lungs. That people have just forgotten about that.

BERMAN: We could because if you were vaccinated, it's not a problem.

COHEN: Exactly.

BERMAN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much for that.

So he was the target of an Iranian assassination plot. What former national security adviser John Bolton is saying about it, and the threat to the U.S. From Iran. He will be with us on NEW DAY this morning.

KEILAR: And the immigration battle between Texas Governor Greg Abbott and New York City Mayor Eric Adams is heating up.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: I kind of feel like Clint Eastwood. Go ahead, Mayor, make my day.




KEILAR: President Biden is up for reelection in 2024, but according to polls, many Democratic voters say they want someone else on the ballot. When asked about this, Democratic lawmakers, they can't seem to come up with a good answer.


ERROL LOUIS, SPECTRUM NEWS: Should President Biden run again in 2024?

SURAJ PATEL (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Too early to say. Doesn't serve the purpose of the Democratic Party to -- to deal with that until after the midterms.

LOUIS: Ms. Maloney?

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): I don't believe he's running for reelection.

KEILAR: Why do you think he's not running?

MALONEY: That was just my own personal belief.

Mr. President, I apologize. I want you to run. I happen to think you won't be running, but when you run or if you run, I will be there 100 percent.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you want to see him run for reelection?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Look, right now, my concern is electing more Democrats in this midterm election.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION" You won't say, yes, I support President Biden. Is that where you want it to be?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I will support President Biden.

BASH: Do you want him to run?

BLUMENTHAL: If he decides he wants to run -- and I think his decision will be determined by how November ends for the Democratic Party and for senators like myself who are running for reelection. BASH: President Biden, he is saying he's going to run again in 2024.

Will you support him?

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): You know, if the president chooses to run again in 2024 -- I mean, first of all, I'm focused on winning this majority right now and preserving a majority this year in 2022, so we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to see Joe Biden run for a second term?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's got to go.

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): You know --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's an easy question. That's not going to take long. Do you want to see Joe Biden --

BUSH: I don't want to answer that question, because we have not -- that's not -- yes, I don't want to answer that question.


BUSH: I mean, he's the president. He has the right to run for a second term, absolutely. But I don't want to -- I don't want -- I'd rather you not do that question.


KEILAR: Let's bring in Errol Louis, who starred, actually, in that mashup there, CNN political commentator and columnist for "New York Magazine"; and John Avlon, CNN senior political analyst. Why is this so hard to answer? Why?

LOUIS: It's really not hard. I mean, the reality is that their fortunes this year in the midterms are inextricably tied to the perceptions of the president, who is, after all, the leader of their party. And frankly, it is -- look at this last week that he had.



LOUIS: It's a pretty good record to run on. I'm not sure which part of it they're having problems with. Is it the lower prescription prices that they don't want to go out there and argue for? Is it the -- is it the gun control legislation for the first time in 30 years that they're a little bit wobbly about?

Never mind the polls. They have a -- the man has a record to run on. He's the head of their party. A, B and C, but they just can't seem to figure that out.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But they can't, and they can't for a reason. It's because, for the last year since the withdrawal from Afghanistan, he's been underwater, not by a little but by a lot. Now, look, for the last month, they had a really impressive record.

Take a step back. Try to view this presidency in history, and you'll see a man who's led legislative successes that would have been impossible, most people thought, with a 50/50 Senate.

But the issue is one of vigor. The issue is politics being perception. And so the open question is, is he too old to run for a second term? And how much of his victory the first time was about the implicit promise that he was going to be a one-termer who was going to return the country to normalcy. The problem is, we're still a long way from normal.

BERMAN: Ms. Rose (ph) can't even say, "Vig-ah."

AVLON: "Vig-ah."

BERMAN: As we say in Massachusetts.

Look, a lot of these comments I just want to say were made up until about Sunday. The Inflation Reduction Act, things like that, have developed since. I do wonder if Democrats might answer it slightly differently now, or more Blumenthal-ish who said, Look, let's see what happens in November.

AVLON: Yes. Let's see what happens in November. Let's see if he gets his numbers close to -- closer to 50 percent, that may be a different situation.

LOUIS: I have to say, I moderated a different congressional debate just last night, six candidates, and -- it's what I do for a living. What do you want? And same question, same answer.

BERMAN: All right.

LOUIS: Well, if he chooses to. And that "if," I have to say Joe Biden really put on the table, because in 2019 it was reported and in 2020, he said, If I'm in good health, I will run for a second term. You can't leave that crack open for Democrats. They either get scared or they get ambitious. Either way, they're not necessarily --

KEILAR: You start hearing, If you don't, I'm cool with it, Mr. President, is sort of what you start hearing there.

I want to ask you about this back and forth between Governor Abbott of Texas and Mayor Adams of New York, because you've seen Abbott shipping on the taxpayer dime migrants up to D.C. and now to New York and you're seeing these homeless shelters overflow with migrants. Adams is so upset about this, but is this playing right into what Abbott wants?

LOUIS: It seems to be a campaign tactic. There's some -- apparently good reporting that he's not saving any money, Governor Abbott, by doing this.

KEILAR: It's costing more, apparently.

LOUIS: Costing more apparently and yet, something like 4,000 people have showed up in New York City shelters in the last couple of months. He's doing it in order to draw a response, which he has now gotten here in the media capital.

We have the mayor of the city saying this is awful. This is immoral. This is un-American. And even threatening to go down and campaign against Governor Abbott, to which he says, Hey, a bunch of New Yorkers coming down here to campaign against me, come on down.

AVLON: Yes. Yes.

LOUIS: And so it's awful. People really are being used as pawns. And these are people who didn't ask to come to New York, they showed up looking for asylum, as is their right under international and American law. And instead, they're sort of shipped around, literally like pawns on a chess board.

AVLON: This is trolling as public policy, or pretending to be public policy, but it's really a campaign. And look, he's in a reelect right now. Beto O'Rourke on the other side, who made himself some news by denouncing someone in a -- in a speech, who seemed to be mocking or making light of Uvalde.

Look, this is -- you know, we can get into the politics of immigration. But I think the problem in our politics is that people would rather demagogue this issue than deal with it and solve it. And this is a prime example of that.

BERMAN: Well, since you brought up Beto O'Rourke --

AVLON: You're welcome.

BERMAN: Who is running against Greg Abbott in Texas, this was O'Rourke at a campaign event last night. Let's listen.


O'ROURKE: AR-15s, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and take that weapon that was originally designed for use on the battlefields in Vietnam to penetrate an enemy solder's helmet at 500 feet and knock him down dead, up against kids at 5 feet. It may be funny to you, (EXPLETIVE DELETED), but it's not funny to me, OK?


BERMAN: So I don't know who he was referring to --

LOUIS: They talk like that in New York all the time.

What's the big deal?

BERMAN: Look, Beto O'Rourke drops "F bombs. He does this, but at an event like that when he was -- I don't know exactly what was going on there, but what did you see?

LOUIS: What I saw was somebody who is -- if you ever talk to Beto O'Rourke. And I know you've interviewed him, he is passionate about being part of that border community. He feels it very deeply and very personally. And that happens to be how he expresses himself when he's in the moment. Is it going to help him politically? I can't see how.

AVLON: Actually, I could make a counter case. So let's put Texas aside, which is where he's running, so absent that, I think it speaks to a need, a desire right now for a fiery liberalism that fights back. And when you're dealing with disingenuous trolls, to call it out. And so, you know, the "F" bomb becomes a signifier of authenticity,

someone who's pissed off, not going to take it anymore, is not going to deal with trolls.