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CNN TONIGHT: Trump: Mar-A-Lago Search Unannounced, Agents Broke Into Safe; Sources: Trump Greeted Investigators Who Met With Former President's Lawyers In Recent Months At Mar-A-Lago; Ahmaud Arbery's Mother On Federal Sentencing Of His Killers. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 08, 2022 - 21:00   ET



DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: --has real impact, real effect, in the United States.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: And to be clear, Homeland Security, FBI, everyone has warned that the Russians still do want to get involved, in the systems, here, in the United States.

Donie O'Sullivan, thank you, so much for your reporting.


BERMAN: Terrific analysis!

All right, a lot going on, especially with the breaking news, out of Mar-a-Lago, the FBI conducting a search operation, there.

The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Sara Sidner and "CNN TONIGHT."

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: I'm Sara Sidner, and this is CNN TONIGHT, on a very big news night.

Former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, in Florida, has been searched by the FBI. Trump confirmed it himself tonight.

Three sources tell, our Sara Murray, and Kristen Holmes, it was related to the handling of presidential documents, including classified documents. Those documents may have been brought to Mar-a- Lago, when Donald Trump left the White House.

In order to get a search warrant, like this, prosecutors have to establish probable cause that a crime was committed. So, this is a very big deal. Make no mistake about it.

Former President Trump has already blasted the move, claiming, as he often does, political persecution, and a witch-hunt. In a statement, released tonight, he says, quote, "These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before. After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate. Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries. They even broke into my safe!"

CNN has learned Donald Trump was not in Florida, when the FBI closed in on his home. He was at Trump Tower, here, in New York City.

I am joined now by CNN Political Analyst, Maggie Haberman, a Senior Political Correspondent, for The New York Times, and the author of the upcoming book, "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America," which goes on sale, in October.

Also, with us, former White House Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin and, former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu.

The President says this has never happened to someone - the former President says this never happened to a president before? Of course, it hasn't, because we've never had a president, in this position, before it. I mean, we can say that right, Shan?

Can we talk about, this search, and how much, how far up the chain that the FBI would have had to have gone, to get this search warrant. The President is calling it a raid, and unfair. But the FBI has to go through a process, to be able to do this, correct?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That's right. As you said, there has to be probable cause. And for the search warrant? It's got to go before a judge. So, a judge has to agree with the evidence that they set forth.

And for something like this, as sensitive, as you could possibly imagine, at the Justice Department, that's got to go to the highest levels. Garland has to know about it, has to give the green light. And certainly, the Head of the FBI, same situation, they have to know about it. They have to give it the green light.

SIDNER: Can you give us a sense of what you think this might be all about? Now, I know this is an educated guess. But from what we know, from what we have heard, in the past, and from some of the reporting that Maggie here has done herself, what might this be all about?

WU: Well, it sounds like, from the reporting that it's about the records. And in a sense, this is low-hanging fruit, for the Justice Department. It's very easy to go look, to see what other records there are. And that's sort of a prima facie violation.

It's not superbly legal, difficult, in terms of understanding it. They'd have to run it through ages of OLC analysis, Office of Legal Counsel analysis. So, it's kind of low-hanging fruit. So, it's a little bit in line with Garland's approach, which is methodical. And this is something that's sort of a no-brainer, "Let's go see what we find there."

SIDNER: OK. Apparently, there have been, from our reporting, 15 boxes that have been taken out.

Maggie, I want to talk to you, because you've been doing a lot of reporting on this documents being torn up, and flushed down the toilet, which a lot of people sort of laughed at. But it really isn't funny.

Ultimately, the former President is here, in New York. The FBI is there at his house in Florida. Why do you think it was done this way? Do you think it was calculated? And how dangerous may it be if he would have known that all this is, is going on beforehand?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES, AUTHOR, "CONFIDENCE MAN": It's hard to speak to danger, because we don't really know what we're talking about.

We don't know whether he, say, held on to documents that were supposed to have been returned to NARA. We don't know if there's additional information that they were seeking, because we really don't know a lot about, or anything, about the underlying search warrant material. So, there's a lot of unknowns.

There are a lot of people, who are speculating, on both sides, of this issue, those who are against Donald Trump, and his supporters, about what this means. And there's a ton we don't know yet.

What we do know is at least a portion of this, if not all, does relate to these boxes. Now, these boxes were supposed to have been returned. The fact that this happened, this way, indicates stuff was not entirely returned.

The fact that it took place when Trump was not there is certainly of note. I mean, it was the first thing that I thought about, because we know that he has been up here, for the summer, at his club, in Bedminster.


He's also expected to be deposed, by the New York Attorney General, in the coming days. And I think that that has been occupying, his time, as well.

Did it mean that he was not there to potentially interfere? Or were they worried about that? I think it avoided the question of the FBI having to go in and maybe be stopped, by the Secret Service, or by anybody else, who was around a sitting president, who would not be there, if he was not there.

And so, beyond that? There's a whole lot we don't know, tonight. It would be - it would be good if everybody would just wait until we know. I know that's not how anybody does anything these days. But there is a ton we don't know yet.

But we do know this is unprecedented. This is a remarkable situation. It is a former President. That is not something that is done lightly, where there was going to be a search warrant, executed this way. There's no way that Merrick Garland is doing this lightly. It's hard to imagine that he would not know about it. I also just want to note that the FBI Director, Chris Wray, was appointed by Donald Trump.

WU: That's right.

SIDNER: Yes. He is a Trump appointee.

WU: Yes.

SIDNER: You talked about how everyone is speculating. And Alyssa, I know that you've been looking at the folks, on the conservative side, who are supporters of Donald Trump. How are they taking this? What are they saying?

Because Trump has already started the rhetoric that he's been saying, a long time, a "Witch-hunt! They're after me! Deep State!" et cetera, et cetera. What are you seeing?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes. To be honest, the rhetoric, from the Right, is already extremely heated, and inflammatory, and already from elected officials, saying how unprecedented this is. Marco Rubio put out a very strongly-worded statement, which I was a bit surprised by.

But I want to say one thing, one that is in the speculation space and something that's not. This indicates the specificity of knowing where to look. His personal office, his safe, to me, says somebody pointed to it. This leads me to believe somebody is cooperating, who has knowledge of Donald Trump's recent operations, within Mar-a-Lago. Who that is? I could not tell you.

Now, something I could say that's not speculation, is these documents that were supposed to be archived, many of them were classified? We've - this has been reported previously. This is not a small crime. As a former TS/SCI security clearance holder, something that's top secret is considered to be a - pose a grave national security risk if it's in the wrong hands.

Mar-a-Lago, as has previously reported, has been a target of spies of espionage. You cannot just take highly classified documents, and keep them in your personal office. That's a very serious offense. You don't even.

And then the final thing, I would say, is getting into Donald Trump's head, the kind of things he would want to preserve? I couldn't even begin to speculate--


FARAH GRIFFIN: --what kind of classified documents--

HABERMAN: That's right.

FARAH GRIFFIN: --that could - that could pose a serious risk, to the U.S., if they got out.

SIDNER: Maggie, can I ask you about the potential that there is - I mean, nothing there - 15 boxes, as you said, someone may have pointed to where this was, and what they think might be in there. But we know from your reporting that some things have been destroyed. So, how do we know a bunch of stuff hasn't been destroyed?

HABERMAN: And that's really where this all comes down to, is that basically, everybody keeps saying around Trump, what - why is everybody assuming the worst? Well, they're assuming the worst, in large part, because of things like the shredding of documents, and in some cases, the flushing of paper that was - that were handwritten notes on it, and so forth.

We don't know what this is. But there is a reason to assume, again, just based on the fact that a judge signed off on the search warrant, that there was something significant there.

Now, is - it depends on what it is. Is it something that, his supporters would recognize as major? I don't know.

I do know that his folks - well, his - I shouldn't say his folks, some of his folks, certainly not all, and certainly him, have a long- standing habit of conflating legal problems, with PR problems. And, at the moment, they are treating this like it's a PR problem. But it's a legal problem.

Now, it may not be a consequential legal problem. We don't know what that looks like. I have no idea where this is going to result. We have seen investigations of people, around Trump, fizzle. We have seen investigations of people, around Trump, resulting guilty pleas, or convictions. So, I have no idea whether this is going to be anything.

Obviously an indictment of a former President, should that be where this was leading, will not be done lightly. But whether it is going to be something that his supporters see as, quote-unquote, "Sufficient," I think, is the question.

I'm already hearing, from people, around Trump, to Alyssa's point, if this is - if this is, quote-unquote, "Nothing," and define nothing, but "If this is nothing, it's going to rip the country apart." It may be headed in that direction, regardless. But I think that the argument from the DOJ would be "We have to follow the law."

SIDNER: You said either a legal problem, or a PR problem, depending on how you want to parse this. Luckily, we have a former federal prosecutor, sitting here, with us.

As a legal problem, how big of a legal problem might this be? Because, Maggie's reporting that things were shredded that - and flushed down the toilet.

WU: Yes.

SIDNER: How big of a problem could this be for Donald Trump? What kind of charges might he face, if they find something? WU: Well, in addition to the mishandling of the classified information, there could be destruction of government property, as well.


So, I think the thing that really strikes me about this is just how simple of a case, it could be, to prove. And that's why I refer to it as low-hanging fruit. I mean, if they find some of the boxes, and documents are still there? That's really the end of the story. And I think that is the real distinction here between a lot of the other probes that are going on.

So, I think it's sort of an open-and-shut case, depending on what they find. Of course, we're focusing on physical documents. Trump doesn't seem big on using the internet that much necessarily, or emails. But obviously, there could be digital records, as well, involved here.

And the fact that they are in there, in his residence, looking at his belongings? That's, frankly, that's enormously intrusive. And it gives them the opportunity to find all sorts of things. There is something called the plain view doctrine, which is, if you're there legitimately, anything else you see, you're legitimately able to look at, and take, if you need to.

SIDNER: Can I just stop, and just take a breath, real quick? A former President's home has been searched now, by a number of FBI agents. When you look at this, in the view of sort of 30,000 feet, and history? Maggie, I'll start with you. How big of a moment is this? Is this a moment, we are all going to remember?

HABERMAN: Yes, we're all going to remember being together on this night, because this is a night where you're going to remember where you were.

Even if this doesn't end up ultimately leading to, where Trump's critics and political opponents - and I don't mean in the White House, but I mean, Democrats, some Democrats hope it would go? It's still a remarkable moment.

We have seen six years of norms shattered, of ongoing investigations, of a sitting president, that he made more extensive, by the fact that he kept trying to get his arms, around the Mueller investigation. We saw not one but two impeachments. Then we have had the January 6th investigations. And yet none of that led to this point until now.

I do wonder - and we have not raised this yet. We've talked about sort of the confines of this investigation. But I do wonder, would we be seeing this, would there be a willingness to go forward the same way, again, absent knowing what they're looking for, had January 6th, not happened?

And I think you're going to hear a lot of people asking that question, because we know there are already two sitting grand juries. And actually, I think, there's a third investigation into the NARA documents. FARAH GRIFFIN: And just real quick, I'd say to the point that Maggie made? I hope that DOJ went about this meticulously, and that there is a there-there. Because if not? It will tear the country apart.

You're seeing it in the rhetoric already that's coming out from my fellow Republicans. And I'm really hoping that this was done for a credible reason, and it goes somewhere.

SIDNER: Alyssa, Maggie, Shan, we are going to be back. We have so much more to talk about.

Much more to come, on what the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago could mean for former President Donald Trump. The question, on everybody's mind, what might all of this mean for him, particularly when it comes to potential criminal exposure?

We're right back, with more analysis, coming up next.



SIDNER: We are following the latest, on the FBI search, at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, his current residence, as part of an investigation into the handling of presidential documents, including classified documents. He's already branding himself the victim of a witch-hunt by the Political Establishment.

We have great guests here, today. Alyssa Farah Griffin, Maggie Haberman, and Shan Wu are all here, still with me.

I want to go back to something that you said, just before the break, both of you. "This is going to tear the country apart, if there is no there-there." What do you mean by "Tear the country apart?" Do you mean that the President is going to launch, and try to get his supporters, to launch some massive what?

FARAH GRIFFIN: So, I think, his statement already was inflammatory, saying that this is something that's never happened before. It's the weaponization of our institutions.

Elected Republicans are kind of are echoing that. I haven't really seen any come out yet with a "Let's kind of let this play out and see what's going on," putting some degree of faith in our institution of the Department of Justice.

One thing I will note is this, a narrative that you're going to hear a lot, from the Right, is the fact that Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information, something that by the way, I criticized, when she did, but her home was not raided. So, you're going to start to see sort of this narrative pickup, of how it's completely wrong - different treatment for him. And he loves to be the victim. That's something that he does very effectively.

And I would note, OAN, an extremist right-wing network said, "This is war." They put out a statement saying that. And I think we need to be very careful, in the next few days, as this plays out, in how we're talking about it. And I would implore Republican leaders to as well.

SIDNER: Maggie, what do you think this means, when you talk about the fact that you're hearing, this is war? I know we're all seeing it. It's on social media. It's coming out of some of these far-right publications. It's going to be all over the place, tomorrow. What does that mean?

HABERMAN: Well, I think it - all we have to do is look back at January 6th, right, and why the concern - there's such concern about rhetoric that gets used in politics, around specific moments, and specifically by former President Trump.

The main point that the January 6th committee, the House Select Committee, investigating what took place, has made is that Donald Trump rallied people. Their argument is Donald Trump rallied these folks, according to them, knowing that they were carrying weapons or things that could be used as weapons, and sent them on a march, up to the Capitol.

Now, his folks always point to the fact that he used the word "Peaceful," in his speech before that. That's fine. But a lot of these folks made very clear, in what they said to journalists, and others, afterwards and to DOJ, in some cases, they felt they were being sent there by Donald Trump.

So, we know that he has the power, and that he has been honing this for six years, seven years, to motivate his followers, his supporters, to do things. It is unlike - he often says, it's unlike any political movement, we've ever seen, in this country. That's probably not completely true historically. But it's pretty close.


And so, because of that, it is not a power that he tends to reflect on. He whips people up, to defend him. "Defend me! Defend me!" is always Donald Trump's argument, whether it is the people working directly for him, or the people, who love him.

I go back, in memory, every time, to what happened, after the Access Hollywood tape, in 2016, when he came downstairs, from Trump Tower, and immersed himself, in the crowd. And that is sort of his playbook. That can have serious consequences.

So, rather than waiting to see - so, I was thinking, actually, you were talking about Hillary Clinton, and while Hillary Clinton, her home wasn't raided? No, but she was investigated for over a year. And her server, I think, was subpoenaed. And I think that she--

FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes. She testified to Congress, about it.

HABERMAN: She testified. And I think her presidential campaign was kind of impacted by it. So, I mean, I think that the idea that, this just happened, and it was shrugged off, is not historically accurate. But that is how his people will frame this.

SIDNER: That's how it'll be spun. I do want to ask you, Shan, what the criminal exposure might be, if, indeed, it's found that the former President destroyed documents, which would be government property, or had kept documents that he should not have, and should have returned?

WU: So, I want to manage some expectations, here. We often talk about, is this a felony, it's a misdemeanor? Converting government property, for your own use, could be a 10-year felony.

But before the internet blows up, and says "He's going to face a 10- year felony?" you have to keep in mind, what is the context of the details going to show. And, of course, he has no prior criminal record. So, when you run them through the sentencing guidelines, we're not necessarily looking at life without parole here.


WU: So, just manage those expectations.

I think, though, critically, any conviction of a former President is enormously significant. And particularly for this man who has had so many allegations, so many people close to him, Michael Cohen, saying all these things are wrong, he's going down? Thus far, nothing's happened.

This could be the break in the dam. Finally, if you have probable cause? First time, we're seeing probable cause, in front of the judge, with these search warrants. And there's a charge and there's a conviction? That's the break in the dam, finally.


SIDNER: Isn't the big thing, he can't run? I mean--

HABERMAN: Well, no, I mean, I don't actually think he will run. I think if he's indicted? I think that that we will see the presidential campaign kickoff that afternoon, if it hasn't already.

But I do want to make one point. We didn't see - a lot of the reason that we didn't see, indictments, potentially, or other aspects of investigations, in these previous instances, was because he was a sitting president. And he's not a sitting president, now.

WU: Right.

HABERMAN: And so there, you don't - the OLC, Justice Department Legal Opinion says you can't indict a sitting president, and Mueller decided not to test that. He's not a president anymore. And I think that, you have seen him struggle with that, struggle with being out of office, and what that looks like. He does not have that protection.

And a lot of people, around him, a lot of people close to him, are very blunt and open, that they believed part of the reason that he was running for president, and there were - there are many that he will run, if he does run. He loses the attention, if he doesn't run. He loses the ability to fundraise, if he doesn't run. But he also gains a potential shield against prosecution. And people should not underestimate that as a motivating factor.

SIDNER: You can make it look political, which is already happening.

HABERMAN: Or you can get elected and not get charged--

SIDNER: Or get elected and not get charged.



SIDNER: Alyssa, you're around - you have been around all of the people that were around him. Are you hearing from them? Are you hearing anything from them? Are you seeing what they're saying? And what are they saying about this?

FARAH GRIFFIN: My world is a bit disconnected, from them, personally, now. But what I am seeing is kind of a standard party-line, from the folks still close to the former President, which is, "This is a witch- hunt. This is Biden and Democrats coming after him," the "Democratic Department of Justice, not the independent hand of the FBI."

And there's a very quick narrative that's been spun. And I would note, Fox News, it's night and day, what you're hearing on other news outlets, in his preferred news outlet, which is framing it only one way that this is a witch-hunt and an attack on the former President.

So, half the country's hearing a very different conversation than the one that we're having here. And again, it goes back to my point of why this is sort of a, it could be a powder-keg moment, if we don't take down the rhetoric and wait for the facts to play out.

SIDNER: And you can guarantee that nobody's going to do that, in general, especially when you look--

FARAH GRIFFIN: Right, I don't expect that.

SIDNER: --when you look on sort of the social media aspect, right?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Right, right.

SIDNER: The media can be a little more calm, and sort of, try to go through all the details.


SIDNER: But there is a reason to ratchet this up.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And I would note, just because you are kind of the expert, in the extremist wings? You're going to see organizing in the next few days around this. You're going to see the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and others. I am certain that the Department of Homeland Security will be monitoring different channels that they organize on. And that's something that needs to be done, because this is going to tick them into action.

SIDNER: They were very much involved in the January 6th attack. And so, we will see what happens, with them.


WU: Yes. I do just want to say though I think the best answer to all that, that mobilization, would be for the charges to come. And many of us have been waiting for that to happen that the best answer here is to actually act, follow the law, and charge the crimes.

SIDNER: All right, Maggie Haberman, thank you. I know that you are on deadline.


SIDNER: So, you have to go. And I know that's difficult.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

SIDNER: Alyssa, and Shan, you are going to stick around with me.

Donald Trump has complained about being quote, "Persecuted," at CPAC, this weekend. He also written - that was before the charges. He also raised the prospect of running, again, and seize on America's culture wars. How does that all read now, after this major development, the FBI searching his home, Mar-a-Lago?

We'll be back.


SIDNER: Right now, we want to go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. She is getting new information, on the search, at Mar-a-Lago.

Kaitlan, can you let us know what you're hearing at this hour?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Sara. We're actually learning more about what happened, in the lead-up, to this search warrant that was executed at the former President's primary residence, today, in Florida.

And this was a meeting that happened in early June, we are told, when a handful of investigators, went to Palm Beach, Florida. They met with several of the former President's attorneys, while there.


We are told that during this meeting that the former President actually stopped by, and greeted these investigators, who were there, meeting with two of his attorneys, at Mar-a-Lago. He did not stay, we are told. He did not answer questions, according to sources, telling me that, and my colleague, Gabby Orr.

But then, after he left that - the two attorneys that were meeting, with these investigators, at Mar-a-Lago, then took them to a room that is in the basement of Mar-a-Lago, the property, there, and showed them where the boxes of documents that were taken, from Trump's time, in the White House, were being stored.

We are told that these investigators looked around the room. Then they left.

And I am told by a person, who attended that meeting that, five days later, Trump's attorneys got a letter, from one of those investigators, asking them to further secure the documents, in the room, where these documents were being stored.

I'm told it was locked. But they asked them to further enhance that security, essentially. And that led Trump's aides to then put a padlock, on this door, where these documents were being stored. And that really just gives insight into the fact that there have been discussions, between investigators, and the former President's attorneys, in the lead up to this search warrant being executed.

Now, of course, June 8th, that was two months ago today. So, what happened, in those eight weeks that led this from going from investigators visiting Mar-a-Lago, to then, of course, this search warrant being executed? That is still a gap that remains to be filled. It remains to be seen what exactly was happening there.

But it does shed light and some insight into what was happening, in the lead-up to this. And it appears to be part of what Trump was referencing, in his statement today, confirming Sara that the raid had happened, where he talked about how he had been cooperating, with these officials, about this.

And so, there are still a lot of big questions, of course, coming out of this major development, tonight. But it does shed light on a meeting, a rare meeting that investigators had, with Trump's attorneys, at Mar-a-Lago, two months ago.

SIDNER: Can I just quickly ask you, Kaitlan, just to clarify? Trump's own attorneys showed these investigators, where there were some documents? And then, the investigators asked them, to secure those documents, padlock the door, however they wanted to secure them? Is that - that's the sequence of things?

COLLINS: Yes, I don't - I don't think that they specifically said, "You need to put a padlock on the door."

But I was told that, days later, after those investigators had left Mar-a-Lago, they sent a letter, to Trump's attorneys, asking them to further enhance the security, for these documents, regarding these documents.

And, of course, part of this major investigation, is to - is into whether or not that included classified information, potentially. And so, you can understand why they would want them to be secured. That is obviously a number one priority, and why things like the Presidential Records Act, exists.

But it does show that there were conversations, between the two sides, about what was happening, what documents were being stored. What documents they were exactly, remains to be seen.

I think the other notable part about this is that Trump did stop by this meeting that his attorneys were having, with investigators. We were told he simply greeted them, and then went on. But he was at the property, at the time of this visit, happening, in June, at Mar-a- Lago.

SIDNER: Can I quickly ask you, can you clarify whether or not the White House, the Biden White House, knew that this was happening today that there was going to be an FBI search, of former President's home?

COLLINS: It's a major development. And there are big questions about who at the White House was aware of this, if anyone was aware. We are told that most officials were not aware of this that they found out, when everyone else found out, today, when Trump confirmed that yes, this raid had happened.

Of course, major questions for whether or not President Biden himself knew? We don't have reporting on that front, specifically. And we've also reached out to the Justice Department, to comment on this. They have not done so yet. Clearly, this is an active investigation. But that has been a major question, as well.

SIDNER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much, for bringing us the latest update, on this huge news.

We are again joined by former federal prosecutor, Shan Wu. And Alyssa Farah. They're back with me, as well as John Avlon, also joining us.

Happy to have you here, John.


SIDNER: You have the best insight. We are - all have great insight into what is happening. But this is really interesting.

So, as we just heard, Donald Trump himself saw these investigators, coming and talking to the attorneys. But what I - call me crazy. Is it odd that the attorneys showed the investigators where these documents, I guess, were?

WU: Not necessarily. I mean, they're at that point trying to make things seem like "Everything's OK. You don't have to be concerned about this," so, they're going to show them the documents.

But talk about leaving the fox in charge of the chicken coop? I mean, those assurances, "We're going to padlock the door?" That's really kind of questionable. That's second-guessing 20/20 hindsight.

Something happened between that meeting, and the search warrant, to take away any trust or confidence that the investigators, and DOJ had that they were going to get that cooperation. So, it's fine that Trump can talk about cooperation. Something's happened, where they're no longer confident that those records are safe. And that's why search warrant happens.

SIDNER: Alyssa, you alluded to this, while you actually spelled it out that you think that what may have happened, is that somebody said "There's stuff in there you need."


FARAH GRIFFIN: It seems very clear that somebody pointed the finger. This is just way too specific, knowing his private residence. He has multiple residences. They tried his office, obviously, the safe.

Hearing Kaitlan's reporting, which is very different than what we knew, an hour ago? This, to me, sounds like these are highly- classified national security documents. I wouldn't be surprised if they were Head of State exchanges of some sort, maybe something he kept as some kind of a memento? But that could have national security repercussions.

The idea of securing it, that when you're protecting those documents, they do have to be in a locked setting, and a certain sort of preservation. Leaving them on site is very odd. But if there was a legal back-and-forth, perhaps if his attorneys claiming, as the former President, maybe he had some sort of control?

SIDNER: He said they broke opened his safe. So, I don't know if that's exactly where these things were.



FARAH GRIFFIN: But that, to me, this - I can't imagine the Department of Justice and the FBI would be this worried about something, if there wasn't a national security nexus to it.

SIDNER: John, you have great insights into--

AVLON: Well--

SIDNER: --into some of this, and the history.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes. You knows this well.

SIDNER: A presidential historian. And so, give us a sense of what you think is going on here.

AVLON: Well, remember, first of all, that, presidents don't own their records. They belong to the American people.

When we found out about this, that the President had taken boxes of information and things that perhaps, maybe he just had sentimental attachment to, maybe they had national security implications? What I'm struck by is that when he was busted, in effect, for taking those documents that, they weren't in the process of being shipped wholesale, back to the federal government, where they belong, so historians can study them, for part of the historical record.

The fact that they still were in possession, I find curious. And then there's the question of what was in the safe?

SIDNER: Right.

AVLON: What is the cause, here? Look, Presidential Records Act is a serious thing. Destroying records is a particular serious. There's all sorts of statutes that go with that. People have been treated for misdemeanor, other people have been jailed.

But to go after a president, an ex-president, in this way, we're once again in uncharted territory. We're reminded there's nothing remotely like this in American history. And so the idea that this is, in effect, a misdemeanor that, the FBI decided to raid his primary residence? I find that unlikely.

WU: Right.

AVLON: Again, given what we know now, which is the caveat we put on front of it (ph) right now.

SIDNER: Right. We are at the beginning of this.


SIDNER: This is a highly unusual, the President said it himself. It is highly unusual. But this is also a highly unusual time, in American history with a highly unusual actions, by a president.

I want to talk to you about extremism. You have covered a lot of this. You have dug deep.

AVLON: True.

SIDNER: As we both have.

Can you give me a sense of now that this is out there, and the Right is responding to it? The Establishment is responding to it, and supporting Donald Trump, at this - at this point? Alyssa has looked at that as well. What might the reaction be, by groups, like the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters?

AVLON: Well, you and I both have studied, and interviewed, the Three Percenters, and these self-styled militia groups, these vigilante groups, in effect that played a role in January 6th.

I think you will see many of them say that "This is the tyrannical federal government, we were warning about." I think you will see some groups, and politicians, fundraising off this, with some degree of mock outrage.

But it will become a rallying cry. And that's why we both all need to take a deep breath, but also need to recognize that - hope that the DOJ is incredibly buttoned-up, before taking this kind of an action. This is not a first choice or a second choice. This must be something that involves serious national security implications. Time will tell. But you do not raid a former President's home, in this way, if you could have gotten those documents, in any other way.


AVLON: Or if they were effectively mementos.

But the far-right and radical groups will - this will become the new call to the ramparts, and it further ratchets up the danger of political violence. You and I've discussed this, a lot, in the past. But it was underappreciated, last week that Chris Wray, the FBI Director, said that political violence, and the threats, are now a daily occurrence, in America.

SIDNER: That's right.

AVLON: That is dangerous.


AVLON: That is not normal. And this is more fuel on that fire.

SIDNER: You can ask any politician, any judge, anybody in a political position of power--


SIDNER: --or anybody online, who speaks out. And they are getting those threats.

All right, Alyssa Farah Griffin, John Avlon, and Shan Wu, I thank you.

Coming up, another important story, Ahmaud Arbery's mother speaks to me after another emotionally-charged day, since her son's murder, at the hands of racists. The men responsible for the murder were sentenced, federally, today.

She'll tell us about the extraordinary choice she has made. That is coming up next.



SIDNER: Justice for Ahmaud Arbery being further, tonight, after a federal judge added a lot more prison time, for the three convicted murderers.

Father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, were both given additional life sentences, while their accomplice, William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., was sentenced to 35 years, in prison. Bryan Jr. was already sentenced to life in prison in state court.

The additional punishment comes after a jury found that the three White men were motivated by racism, when they chased and shot the 25- year-old Black man, who was simply jogging through their neighborhood.

Joining me now is Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud Arbery's mother, and Lee Merritt, the attorney, for the Arbery family.

Wanda and Lee, thank you both, for taking the time, to speak to me, on such an emotional day.



SIDNER: We are getting this sentence two and a half years after your son was killed. When you were in the court, can you give me a sense, Wanda, of what it was like, to be in yet another courtroom, and this time, being able to listen to these men, and speak your mind?

COOPER-JONES: Today was a great day, I would say, because I waited on this day for - actually for the last two and a half years. We finally got to the finish mark, for the federal case.

I was very, very eager to find out what each defendant had to say, on an apology. Unfortunately, I didn't get one from Travis, but I was able to get one from William Bryan, and also from Greg McMichael.


SIDNER: I want to give our viewers, a sense of what Gregory McMichael did say, to you. And we're going to pull that up now.

He apologized to you. And here's what he said. "The loss that you've endured is beyond description. There's no words for it. I'm sure that the words, my words mean little to you. But I wanted to assure you I never wanted any of this to happen to you." So as he's - it goes on to say, "There was no malice in my heart, or my son's heart that day."

He apologized. Travis did not. Did you accept his apology? And if you did, why?

COOPER-JONES: I accepted the apology. I can say, I accepted it, but I did not forgive him, for what he did.

I'm thinking that - I'm thinking that he's sat in jail, for the last two and a half years, he's come to terms that he has made - he made a very bad decision. And he wanted to say he was sorry. So, I did accept it. But as far as forgiving, I haven't forgiven him.

SIDNER: Can you give me a sense? Take me into the court with you. You have been - I was there in state court. The emotions couldn't have been higher there, with some of the words used, against your son, by both the men, and the prosecutor - or - and the defense attorney.

Take me into federal court, where we cannot have cameras. Can you give me a sense of what it was like in there for you, as a mother, whose son was murdered?

COOPER-JONES: Can you please take that (ph)? MERRITT: Well, when we entered the courtroom, it's split into two sections. On the left is the defendant' family. On the right is supporters of Ahmaud Arbery. And Wanda is sitting right behind the prosecution table.

She has been in close contact with the Department of Justice, since February, when these men were first sentenced - first convicted. And she's prepared impact statements that she was looking forward to share with the court. Having an opportunity to both address the court and the men responsible for her son's murder was a great relief to Wanda.

SIDNER: Lee Merritt, you are an attorney for the family. You've been through this, with several families.

And I'm curious to your reaction, and to Wanda's reaction, to the McMichaels' request, to remain in federal custody, saying that it isn't safe for them there, and asking the judge, to keep them in federal custody, because state custody is too dangerous.

What's your response? And can you - can you ask Wanda, what hers is, if she can - if she can't hear me?

MERRITT: Sure thing. We anticipated that these men would seek to be transferred to federal custody.

While federal custody is no walk in the park, we certainly understand that, in a lot of instances, federal prisons are more resourced, have greater access to safety, and benefits, than these men would face at, at the Georgia State level.

I think they made an appropriate argument, their attorneys made an appropriate argument that the Department of Justice itself, the same group of attorneys, who were there, prosecuting them, trying to send them to state prison, were suing - are currently suing the State of Georgia because of the conditions of their prison.

But these men are no different than all the other offenders who have been convicted in the State of Georgia. And it's critically important that if the Georgia state prisons are in such a state, that inmates can't be kept safe? Then, that's true for all inmates.

And I imagine most people, who are convicted of serious crimes, like murder, experience a bit of fear, entering state prison, when that - with the idea that that can be revisited on them.

Wanda, I don't know if you're still connected. But she was wondering, what was your response to their request to be transferred to federal custody?

COOPER-JONES: My feelings toward that was Ahmaud wasn't given a chance on the day that he was killed. Ahmaud wasn't given the chance to either go round the next block and be able to return home. Ahmaud wasn't given any kind of request. And he had one request, was to go home, and he was denied that.

So, I'm very thankful that the judge did deny the request for them to spend their time, in a federal prison.

SIDNER: Wanda Cooper-Jones, I just want to say to you that our hearts are broken for you. And I'm so sorry you've had to go through all of this.

And Lee Merritt, thank you for coming on and bringing Miss Jones with you. We appreciate your time and for coming on the show, on this day.

We'll turn to another search for justice, next--

MERRITT: Thank you so much for having her.

SIDNER: --who was responsible, for the shooting deaths, of four Muslim men, in Albuquerque. The latest victim went to the funeral of two other victims, just hours earlier. The governor is calling these killings, targeted.

That story is coming up.



SIDNER: The search continues, tonight, for the killers, or killer, of four Muslim men, in Albuquerque.

The newest victim found Friday, 25-year-old Naeem Hussain. He's the third Muslim man, found dead, in the last two weeks, and the fourth, since November. Hours before his death, Hussain attended a funeral, for two of the other shooting victims.

Police are not revealing many details, but they are seeking a vehicle of interest. You are looking at it, right there.


SIDNER: Today, Albuquerque's Mayor told CNN, he believes these killings were motivated by hate.

I want to discuss this with Joey Jackson.

Joey, I am so glad to have you on this show.


SIDNER: The Mayor says these killings are hate-driven, in his opinion. Law enforcement hasn't really called them hate crimes, at this time. What do they need to find, to make that call? Because one thing we do know that is similar is that they are all Muslim men.

JACKSON: Yes, absolutely. So, Sara, there's often this thing called circumstantial evidence.

SIDNER: Yes. JACKSON: And I know law enforcement is very loath to really, go out on a limb, before they know all the specifics. There's always an investigation into the details, and who did what and when.

But when you have something like this, where you have specifically members of a community that are targeted, where you have, literally, a person, going to a funeral, and dying, right thereafter, where you have members who don't want to really leave their home, right? You hear the stories that they just don't want to go out, don't want to shop, don't want to go to school? It's very difficult to have this discussion and not render the conclusion that it's motivated by the fact that they're Muslims.


JACKSON: And so, I think that we have to call it for what it is. And in calling it for what it is, I think, we need the community support, and involvement, with regard to bringing whoever it is to justice.

Law enforcement doesn't work in a vacuum, as you know. Law enforcement, state law enforcement works with local law enforcement, works with federal law enforcement, in order to acquire justice. I think that's what's going to happen here.

Last point, you showed the vehicle, right?


JACKSON: Of interest here? And I think that's a big deal. It's a big step. Why? Because it narrows down the focus with respect to what they're looking for, who they're looking for. And hopefully, they can make a determination, as we look there, Sara, at it--

SIDNER: Here it is.


JACKSON: --of who actually is doing this. But we have to call for what it is.

SIDNER: Yes. People should take a good look at this, especially those that live in the Albuquerque area.


Biden - President Biden has condemned this as serial killings of Muslim men. But we do not know who the person is behind it, and if we're dealing with a serial killer, or we're dealing with someone, who is motivated by hate.

There are steps that have to be taken, correct, before any of those things can be said? And we'll hear that first, I'm assuming, by law enforcement. JACKSON: You will. And so, what happens is, is that there's a place for both state and federal law enforcement to be involved here. You can have a state prosecution, when the person is brought to justice. But there's also federal hate crime statutes--

SIDNER: Right.

JACKSON: --that could - that have been enacted, to deal with this very issue.

And, at the end of the day, you look at this, and you see the heinous nature of it, and you see it terrorizing people and communities, and you look at laws, particularly at the federal level that are, deal with this issue. But you just really want this, Sara. I mean, at the end of the day?

SIDNER: What are we dealing with?

JACKSON: Right? What we're dealing with and what does justice look like here, right?

SIDNER: Right. And the community says they are terrified. People do not want to go to the Islamic Center or the mosque. They are afraid that they will become targets. And so, this has turned into a feeling of terror for them.

Joey Jackson, you are always so good on these issues. Thank you so much for coming on, and explaining.

JACKSON: It's a pleasure. Great to see you.

SIDNER: And thank you for being here. We will be right back.


SIDNER: Thanks for hanging out with me. Let's do this again, tomorrow.

But first, Laura Coates is sitting in, for "DON LEMON TONIGHT." That begins right now.

Hey, Laura?