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CNN TONIGHT: Source: FBI Search Of Mar-A-Lago Came After Suspicions Of Withheld Materials; Graham: Belief Is Stronger Now That Trump Will Run In 2024; Serena Williams Says She Plans To Be "Evolving Away From Tennis". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 09, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A bright note, to end the program. 8-year- old Cooper Roberts, who was paralyzed, in the Highland Park mass shooting, could soon be heading back to school.

Cooper's currently at a rehab hospital, after being moved out of pediatric ICU, last week. His family says he's now doing daily physical activity, to help regain strength and mobility. He'll be there for another six weeks to 12 weeks. And he's expected to join his twin brother for half days at school, and do outpatient rehab.

Take a look. Cooper has also been reunited with the family dog, George. He's been asking for him, after the shooting. Great friends reunited! We wish him the best.

The news continues. Let's hand it over to Sara Sidner and CNN TONIGHT.


SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much.

I am Sara Sidner. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

The big question, tonight, what exactly was the FBI looking for, when it executed a search warrant, at former President Trump's Florida home? Why was it so important? There is still a lot that we do not know. But we are getting more information.

Here's what CNN is learning from someone familiar with the matter. This search of Mar-a-Lago came after federal authorities believed Trump or his team had not actually returned all of the documents and materials that belonged to the government.

You'll remember that they handed over 15 boxes of material, earlier, this year. But now, a lawyer, for Trump, tells The Washington Post that they took 12 more boxes, from a basement storage area, of Trump's home.

Two other important points, from CNN sources. One, authorities believed the documents, at Mar-a-Lago, had national security implications. And two, there was also suspicion that after months of discussions, about this, that Trump's team wasn't being completely honest, with investigators.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department isn't saying a thing more than 24 hours after this extraordinary step, as Trump supporters rally behind him, tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you Donald!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes! Yes! I love you! I love you! I love you!



SIDNER: You hear the response, from those who are his supporters. And there, the former President is, arriving back at Trump Tower, in Manhattan, just a few minutes ago.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, some in the GOP are calling for Attorney General Merrick Garland to resign or be impeached.

Others, like Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and Trump's former Vice President, Mike Pence, are calling for much greater transparency, and they want it, right now.

Here's what Pence said on Twitter. "Yesterday's action undermines public confidence in our system of justice and Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately."

Now, should Garland come forward to explain why the FBI went in, to help eliminate any perception that Trump is being politically persecuted, as he claims? Keep in mind it wasn't so long ago that the ex-President had a lot of positive things, to say, about the current attorney general.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to say this: Judge Garland is highly respected. I have a lot of respect for him. I do. I have a lot of respect for him.


SIDNER: A lot of respect for Garland. That was September of 2020. And now, accusations that the justice system has been weaponized. What changed? Well, we sort of know, don't we?

And this isn't the only movement from the FBI. Republican Congressman Scott Perry says that the Bureau seized his cell phone today. It is not clear what prompted that seizure. But Perry is closely linked to former DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark. Clark's the one, who wanted to be installed, as the Acting A.G., to help overturn the election. Perry also communicated with Trump's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, about those efforts.

So, where might all this lead, next? We have two guests with us, who can provide important perspective.

Peter Strzok is a former FBI counterintelligence official, who played a central role, in both the Hillary Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations. He's the Author of "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump."

Also with us, former Trump White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, who says, she herself saw Donald Trump mishandle documents. She saw that with her own eyes.

Peter, let's start with you. What kind of evidence would the FBI need to believe is there, in order to take this extraordinary step, and go into a former President's home, and take out items with, of course, a search warrant?

PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL, AUTHOR, "COMPROMISED: COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AND THE THREAT OF DONALD J. TRUMP": Well, first of all, it is extraordinary. This is the first time in the history of the FBI that any FBI agent has gotten a warrant, issued by a judge, and gone into a former President's residence, and searched for information.


Now, the standard, to get a search warrant, is that something that a judge, not anybody within the Executive branch, the prosecutor and agents have to go to a judge, and lay out, in an affidavit, facts, supporting probable cause, to believe that there's evidence of a crime, at the place to be searched, at that moment.

So, one, it has to relate to something that is criminal. And two, it can't be something that was there three years ago, or some long time ago. There has to be a probable cause to believe it's there right now.

So, what that tells me? And particularly, when we're hearing sources coming out, saying that people are concerned, about the national security implications, of what might have been there? And certainly coupled with what we know, about prior information, about materials that Trump eventually turned over, from Mar-a-Lago to the Archives? I have a strong suspicion that the material that was recovered recently by the FBI is quite likely classified information.

And that's important because, of course, there are many - there are several federal and criminal laws, which prohibit unauthorized personnel, from maintaining classified information. So, my best thought is that the material that the FBI seized, yesterday, is likely to be classified information, is quite possibly highly sensitive, highly, highly classified information. And what I'm curious about, right now, is a couple of things that you pointed out. One, how - there seems to be the suspicion that people knew that Trump and his attorneys were not being forthcoming. How is it that they knew that?

Did they see something when they were there, meeting at Mar-a-Lago? Is there somebody on the inside at Mar-a-Lago that told them that there were things that Trump and his attorneys were denying? Does the Archives have some sort of list, or somebody in the Intelligence Community have a list of things that they know weren't turned in?

But these are all questions. Certainly DOJ knows that right now, the FBI knows that right now. And we're really looking, from the outside, just trying to make a best guess about what that might be.

SIDNER: Can I ask you something, though? You talked about something being highly sensitive, and potentially a breach of Intelligence.

Why, when the FBI investigators, were there, talking to Donald Trump's attorneys, as we have learned, would they leave it there, for weeks, before they went back in? What would have prompted them to say, "You know what? We're going to walk away from this. And then we'll be back weeks later?"

STRZOK: Well, that's a huge question, because none of this should come as a surprise, the fact that there was federal interest, in this material.

Because, again, going back to last year, the middle of last year is when the National Archives first reached out, according to media reporting, to Mar-a-Lago, to the former President's attorneys, and others, and said, "Hey, you know, we think there's material here that you may have." And in fact, that produced early this year, that first batch, I think, of 15 or so boxes, which according to what they told Congress, contained highly classified information.

And from there, we see this sort of slow-dance, where they believed that there's classified information there. They engaged with the Executive branch, to do a classification review. It appears they've determined that there is in fact, classified material there, because the Executive branch issues a subpoena, to the Archives, to get that material, in the April timeframe, of this year.

And so then, in June, we have CNN broke, I think, this reporting that a group of prosecutors, and investigators, go down to Mar-a-Lago, and they're having a discussion, in early June, where they see this room in the basement. And what's in there concerns them so much that they, five days later, send the letter saying, "Secure that room."

And according to reporting, a lock, a padlock is put on the door. But there is, you know, so none of this is a surprise. If you're Trump, and you want to destroy it, you've had over a year to do it.

DOJ has to of course, move very cautiously, in part, because you are dealing with the former President of the United States. He hasn't, to this - at this moment, destroyed it. So, it stands to reason he - it may stay there, and you can secure it. And then it's absolutely important.

And what we've heard Attorney General Garland say time and time again, is that we absolutely, as a nation, absolutely DOJ has to get it right.

So, when you're dealing with somebody, at the level of the President, former President, who's never been subject to a search warrant, before, in the history of our nation? That, I think, it counts for some of the deliberate pace that you see, from the Department of Justice, in this instance.

SIDNER: Stephanie, I want to go to you now, because you have lived in President - former President Trump's orbit. You have seen things that we cannot see. Can you give me an example, of something that, you have seen happen that concerns you, when it came to the President, at the time, and potentially sensitive documents?

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WH PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I mean, there were many public instances that I can talk about.

I don't want to go into some things, just because I don't want to talk about a lot of national security issues. But there are many public things that he did, while we were in office that it was reported upon. And it happened over and over.

One would be obviously when former Prime Minister Abe came to Mar-a- Lago, which is the irony of that. And Kim Jong-un in North Korea was testing missiles.


President Trump and Prime Minister Abe were at dinner, in the middle of Mar-a-Lago, with a bunch of members. And, all of a sudden, they're getting briefed, at the table. Members were taking photos. There's sensitive information, papers that are being shown to both Prime Minister Abe and former President Trump. And the members are taking pictures, and putting that on social media. That's the first one.

Another one that I was present for was a trip to the border, and the former President started talking to the press pool, who had assembled, about some of the technological advances, and some of the new gadgets, I'll use that word that we had at the border, and somebody had to actually step in and say, "Mr. President, you shouldn't be talking about those items."

And finally, another one that I was actually present for was when the former President did the announcement about killing al-Baghdadi, and the raid there. And he, as he usually did, went off script, and he actually talked about some highly classified information, and some tactically sensitive things that had a lot of our military leaders very worried and upset.

So, those are some public things that he did. I've talked about this before. I sat behind him, in a plane, one time, where he had a bunch of documents he was going through. And I was bored. None of us could have phones on that particular flight. So, I was just watching him. And he was going through a big pile of documents. Some things, he would tear up, some things, he would throw away, some things he would tear up, and put in his pocket, and some things he would fold up, and put in his pocket.

And, at that time, I didn't know what was there. I don't know that it was classified. I don't know what those things were. But I do recall thinking, wondering about his filing system, like what made him tear something up, and throw it on the floor, versus putting it in his jacket.

So, those are some of the things I've seen. We were - we didn't have a real culture of compliance, I would say, at our White House. We were certainly given trainings every year.

But when you saw somebody at the very top level, who was the President of the United States, doing a lot of what he was doing? I think a lot of people, not all, I want to be clear about that, felt that those kind of rules didn't apply.

SIDNER: And it sounds like the President himself didn't think those rules applied, from what you are describing.

Peter, and Stephanie, we're just scratching the surface here. We want you to stick around, because we have a lot more to ask you, about your experiences, and also about what is an extraordinary time, in the history of America, and the presidency.

We'll be right back.



SIDNER: Thanks for hanging with us. We are back with Peter Strzok, and Stephanie Grisham.

As we learn new details, of the FBI search, of Mar-a-Lago, Peter, I want you to listen to what the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence community (ph), says about this investigation, as compared to the Hillary Clinton email investigation.


REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): There are two different things, when Hillary Clinton, while she was Secretary of State, had classified material, about her classified communications, traveling through her computer server, in her house, putting it at risk, for any counterintelligence, or any others, who are hacking into her materials.

In this instance, we don't really know that these informations are classified. The Archive is saying that something is labeled classified, doesn't mean that it is. We have to look at the substance of what the President has. These aren't ongoing communications of the United States.

So, the President of the United States, unlike Hillary Clinton, has the ability to declassify those materials.


SIDNER: OK. So, two points were made there. I'd like you to respond to both of them.

Let's start with the one at the end. He says, "Well, the President has the ability to declassify." Does he have the ability to declassify materials, after they've been taken from his home?

STRZOK: He certainly doesn't have the ability to declassify, once he is no longer the president. I mean, presidents do not have what you formerly think of as a security clearance. By virtue of the position of the presidency, they both can classify and declassify at will.

Trump administration encountered some troubles in that regard. Because Trump would frequently flippantly tweet or make statements that he was going to declassify something, leading people to file a lawsuit, to get that presumed declassified material, only to have DOJ, and White House, try and walk that back and say, "Well, it was never written down that it was declassified. So therefore, that was just his bluster."

So, there is a little bit of an argument that Trump saying something is declassified may or may not carry the day. So, I don't know that it follows that the material at Mar-a-Lago, I assume, and presume, it is classified, certainly the material that the initial batch of material, that the National Archives had, that they said it was so classified, they couldn't even tell Congress, they couldn't even provide them a table of contents, because that's how sensitive the material is.

So, I significantly doubt that what are we up to now? 27 boxes, 30 boxes of material that Trump deliberately went through, and declassified all of that? So, I don't give that much weight.

As to his first point, keep in mind, yes, Hillary Clinton was investigated. But it took the FBI over a year, to get from the initial allegations, to a full understanding of what the material was, whether or not it was classified, why that happened, and whether or not there's any criminal culpability, here.

We're a day removed from the search. The FBI, at this point, is probably still working with a filter team, just to make sure that, no privileged communications are not inadvertently given to the investigators. So, there is a road ahead that it's going to take some time.

Like, Congress is going to play games. They do it on both sides. That's the nature of their political business.

But what is different, this time, in my mind? During the Hillary Clinton investigation, you did not have members of the Democratic Party try, and their supporters, trying to do the sort of enraging the mob sort of statements that we saw, out of a lot of right-wing pundits, and political figures.

It wasn't just the protests that we're going to call Merrick Garland to Congress. It was talking about another civil war.

SIDNER: Right.

STRZOK: It was talking about taking a violence. And that's the sort of dangerous rhetoric that again, we've seen it once, on January 6th. But before that, that just isn't the sort of behavior that we've seen from political figures.


SIDNER: Stephanie, I want to bring you in here. What are people saying in that sphere? I know you have left sort of the Trump-world, in some ways. But what do you make of what is being said?

The things that have been published on some of the right-wing rhetoric, and publications out there is "This is war." We have seen that one. We've seen that one multiple times. What do you make of this?

And nothing happens in a vacuum. So as much as this is a legal issue, for the president, it's also been turned very much into a talking point, way to fundraise and a political issue. What are you seeing?

GRISHAM: Absolutely. You're right, on all points. I'll start with the rhetoric. I think, some of it was to be expected, especially from some of the very far-right leaning social media sites, websites, et cetera.

What has concerned me is the fact that, the Republican Party, leadership, especially in the Republican Party, and we're talking electeds, and candidates, have just jumped on the bandwagon of "The FBI is bad. This could happen to anyone, if it could happen to him." And that's what scares me a little bit, because it feels like January 6th, a little bit, all over again.

And I believe that part of our justice system and our - the institution of law is that yes, it can happen to anyone. If you are potentially doing something wrong, then I believe somebody's going to come to your home, and look for wrongdoing.

In terms of the talking points, I also expected that just from being in Trump-world and living it, as you said earlier, and actually participating in a lot of that, I see that they're starting now, with the newest talking point of potentially the FBI planting evidence, there.

I actually wondered yesterday, if that's what they were going to do. And I thought, "Stephanie, you're being so paranoid. Stop!" So, that's been disheartening to see, but also very, very expected.

I do want to say, from a PR perspective, and it is hard, because this is a legal issue.

SIDNER: Right, right.

GRISHAM: This is a legal issue. But as you said (ph) they're fundraising off of it, and they're all saying the same talking points. I do hope that when this information comes out, it will be translatable, to the American people, in - meaning, if this national security information comes out, if it's something about our sources and methods, meaning it could put American lives at risk? I hope that the DOJ and anybody else involved will be smart, about making it translatable, to the American people, so they really understand what a detriment to our country it could be.

This can't be just it was a memento or a letter. If that's the case? They've handed this president another term, I believe.

SIDNER: Peter, I do want to ask you this, because there is always going to be a lot of talk about this. The FBI has been under scrutiny, you yourself under scrutiny. There are people, on the left and the right, there are people across the board, who have a trust issue, a trust deficit, with the FBI.

Should the FBI have handled this somewhat differently, or at least come out, and done some kind of press conference, to give people an idea of what it is they got or are looking for?

STRZOK: Not at this point. I don't think so.

I mean, look, I think there absolutely is a trust issue between the American people, on not just the FBI, but across the government. And I think that's a direct result of four years of Trump attacking the mechanisms of the professionalism of the U.S. government, whenever it didn't suit his goals. So, I do think that's there.

I think the way that you respond to that is exactly what Attorney General Garland and the FBI are doing. They're going out. They're doing the professional job.

I do think there is a role, at some point, for either the FBI, or the Department of Justice, to make some sort of statement about what they found. Because again, I - they know full well the impact of what they're doing, when they execute a search warrant, at the residence of a former President. I have to hope and I do believe it isn't just for the soccer ball that Putin gave to Trump, in Helsinki, or some gift from the Saudi government.

I do believe that there's highly classified information there that they recovered. And I think that there's a way, for DOJ, or FBI, to give some indication of what was seized, without touching on whether or not somebody's culpable, about it, without talking about the progress of a criminal investigation, but essentially, to dampen these - this mistrust, to take away frankly, this gift of fundraising that's been given to Trump, but that does serve to sort of reassure people that this was a legitimate action, it is an action that every American taxpayer would want, the FBI and DOJ to do.

Regardless of the party, regardless of the position of the person, like Stephanie said, this is an indication that nobody is above the law. And I do take heart in that this demonstrates that.

So, I think - I do think we'll see some sort of information. It may take a little bit of time, months, perhaps. But I think we'll see some information, ultimately about what was seized.

SIDNER: As Stephanie said, the longer it takes, the more there is going to be talking points out there. So, I think, there's a lot of people that are wondering why we're not hearing something sooner.

Peter Strzok, and Stephanie Grisham, thank you so much for joining us.

GRISHAM: Thank you.

STRZOK: Thank you.


SIDNER: GOP Senator Lindsey Graham says he spoke to Trump twice today, and the likelihood of Donald Trump running for president again may have just increased.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The one thing I can tell you is that I believed he was going to run before. I'm stronger in my belief now.


SIDNER: Is that going to help or hurt Republicans, if Donald Trump did announce another bid for the White House? We'll dig in more, on the political fallout, coming up, next.


SIDNER: Question on a lot of people's mind, is Donald Trump more likely to run for president, after all this? He's privately telling Republicans, he has made up his mind, on 2024.

Let us get some perspective, because we need it, from John Avlon, Mark Sanford, the former Governor of South Carolina, and our S. E. Cupp.

All right, S. E., is the GOP concerned, after you're seeing potentially classified information--


SIDNER: --that may have been taken out of the President's home that was supposed to be handed over?

CUPP: Potentially crimes.

SIDNER: Potentially crimes.

CUPP: Yes.

SIDNER: Why is the party that often says they're the party of law and order not concerned with us?

CUPP: Well, I think-- SIDNER: Or are they?


CUPP: Listen, I think, on the one hand, the GOP and Trump love this because in their sort of corrupted minds, this vindicates a lot of what he had been saying, about the Deep State that hasn't charged him with anything yet, the Deep State, like the FBI Director, he appointed, the Deep State, a conspiracy theory he probably invented for moments like this, right?


CUPP: To prepare his fans, to distrust moments like this.

But, on the other hand, this is bad. This is bad, for Trump. This is bad, for Republicans. And I don't understand this argument that maybe the FBI just handed Trump the nomination or another term. I don't get that.

If this animates you in Trump's favor? You were already a Trump voter, a reliable one. You weren't more animated for Trump, now than you were five minutes ago. So, I don't - I don't get it.

I think it's bad for Trump, I think it's bad for Republicans, even though they're happy to focus on it, and gin up their base.

SIDNER: All right, John, the Dems are being criticized, as well, for hypocrisy, right? And they use this whole thing about how they defended Hillary Clinton, when it came to her emails.

And I want to quickly just go to - we have sort of a little mash-up of some of the things--


SIDNER: --that have been said about Hillary, and her emails, which has been brought up by Republicans.



TRUMP: As you know, the FBI has reopened its criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton.


TRUMP: Folks, she shouldn't be allowed to run.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Hillary Clinton is disqualified from being the President of the United States.


RUBIO: Because she stored classified and sensitive information on her email server, because she thinks she's above the law.

GRAHAM: I want somebody outside the Clinton network, looking through these emails.


SIDNER: All right. There's Republicans.


SIDNER: Democrats stood by her, for the most part. So, what do you make of what you just heard there, from Republicans, who were saying, "Hey, what about Hillary?" Now, this is 2016, right?


SIDNER: But it's being brought up again, like "They're going after this former President. Why didn't they raid her place? Why didn't they look for those emails? Why didn't they raid anything in her home?"

AVLON: Well, I mean, first of all, there was an investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. She was ultimately exonerated. I mean, the State Department did its own investigation. This was the genesis of the "Lock her up!" appeals.

SIDNER: That's right.

AVLON: Which remember, is something very much outside the realm of typical American campaign politics, at the time, right? "We're going to arrest our political opponents." Now, that is very different than the rule of law, about if somebody breaks the law.

And part of, I think, what's gotten people's heads spinning is, this seems a little bit like Al Capone and tax evasion, right? I mean, breaking the Presidential Records Act doesn't seem to most folks like something that you have the FBI come into your private residence, of an ex-President, even though it is illegal.

The obvious point here is situational ethics. And unfortunately, we're living at a time, when that's table stakes in politics. I mean, we're living in a time, when election lie, is a litmus test, for many Republican primaries. So, I'm not surprised to hear that epic contortion, because it's all through the prism--

CUPP: Can I just--

AVLON: --of partisan politics.

CUPP: Everything - everything you just said is right.

AVLON: Except?

CUPP: No, it's right. I think what's gross though?

AVLON: Sure.

CUPP: Is when Hillary, who mishandled classified information--

AVLON: Absolutely, yes.

CUPP: --goes out, and tries to fundraise off it.

AVLON: Absolutely.

CUPP: With snarky T-shirts, and hats. This is serious S-H-I-T, OK? This is serious stuff!

AVLON: The children can hear you spell!



CUPP: No, I don't--

SIDNER: It's a serious Sugar Honey Iced Tea, yes.

CUPP: Well, I mean, look, I have zero stomach for hypocrisy. And I call out Republicans.

SANFORD: You do.


CUPP: I call out Democrats. I hate it. And I don't think this has anything to laugh about, or fundraise off of on either side. This is serious. Our democracy is at stake here.

AVLON: I think you make a really important point, especially with the parallelism to the fundraising. Trump's fundraising off this, Hillary Clinton tried to do something cute.

CUPP: Worse.

AVLON: This is too serious. We need to start applying consistent principles of standards in our politics. And that's what we've gotten too little at.

CUPP: It'd be nice.

SIDNER: Good luck with that!


CUPP: All right, I want to ask you about midterms.


SIDNER: No, because there's a lot of money to be made.

SANFORD: I'd go with the comment, "Good luck with that."

SIDNER: Yes. Good luck with that. I mean? SANFORD: But anyway, we'll come back to that (ph), yes.

SIDNER: The truth is, is that I went online, just to see what was going on. And I - you could buy a myriad of things, from both parties, but especially the Republican Party.

And people, who are on the right, were selling things left, right and center, saying things like "This is war." I mean, this is violent rhetoric that is being sold, to make a lot of money. And a lot of money will be made.

Can I ask you what you think, this is going to mean, as we head into the midterms?

SANFORD: I mean, I think it's a wash on tonight's elections. When you're this close out--

SIDNER: Right.

SANFORD: --from an election cycle, I don't think the last couple of hours and anything matters that much. But what I would say is it continues to harden the political lines that already have a no man's land in between them.


And that's the problem with American politics, these days, which is, to your point, I mean, if you're a solid Trump voter, none of this changes anything, for you, as a solid Trump voter. And likewise, if you're solid Trump hater, nothing changes.

And so, you've got these hardened lines. And the question is, where do we go, as a Republic, next? I mean, I think you're pegging the point because, at some point, there's a straw that breaks the camel's back.

So, I think, in the short run, it probably accrues to Trump's benefits, what's going on, and the Trump wing of the Republican Party. Over the long run, there is a straw that's going to break the Trump line.

CUPP: What is it?

SIDNER: Yes. What--

AVLON: Yes, yes.

CUPP: Because it wasn't an insurrection.


CUPP: Is it the second insurrection?

SIDNER: That is the question.

SANFORD: I mean, I don't know.

SIDNER: Is there a straw?

SANFORD: But I know there's a straw. Yes, we'd find (ph).

CUPP: Yes, yes.

SIDNER: Is there - I think the question that needs to be asked at this point is, is there something that would break the camel's back, so to speak, when it comes to his supporters?

We just heard people screaming, "I love you!" over and over and over again to the President, as we are facing this, ostensibly this very unusual time in history.

SANFORD: But I think what has to be remembered is he's going to pitch it as, I mean, I don't know what's in the boxes.

SIDNER: Right.

SANFORD: None of us does.


SANFORD: But he's going to pitch it is "Yes, there was some Post-it Notes that had some scribble on them. And that's what all this is about." So, you're going to get that version. And then on the opposite camp, you're going to get a very different version.

Again, nobody's listening to sort of reason. So, we'll play this out, see how it unfolds.

AVLON: But let's get the information out, right?

SANFORD: Yes, yes, right, right, right.


AVLON: I mean, Trump could release some information. I think it's incumbent upon the DOJ or the FBI to put some information out there. Let's have a degree of transparency, consistent with impartial justice.

CUPP: Yes.

AVLON: That's what we're missing right now. We need more sober voices, less people playing to the, rush into the ramparts, to try to politicize this, because this is something that's beyond politics. There shouldn't be equal justice under law.

SIDNER: Yes, that's the test.

AVLON: That's the test we're at here.

SIDNER: And there is a vacuum right now.

All right, stick around with us. We've got new reporting. Congressman Jim Banks, who is with a dozen other GOP lawmakers, at Bedminster, says the group encouraged Trump, to run sooner than later. He also described Trump as upbeat and not fazed at all by the FBI search.

We'll talk about all that, with our great panel, coming up next.



SIDNER: Right-wing social media users are seizing on the FBI search, of Mar-a-Lago, and the rhetoric is alarming.

"Lock and load," said one user on a forum dedicated to the former President, while another post explicitly called for Attorney General Merrick Garland to be assassinated. But it's not just the unknown fringe promoting civil war and incitement to violence and anti- government fervor.

Right-wing podcaster, Steven Crowder, told nearly 2 million followers, "Today is war." It's just one of dozens of tweets, from influential figures, some elected Republicans, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, who tweeted, "Defund the FBI!" And Ron DeSantis, who says we're in a "Banana Republic."

John Avlon is having a hard time keeping his face straight. Mark Sanford is also here with us. And S. E. Cupp, also back with me.



SIDNER: I know you're laughing, because--

AVLON: Only the irony of "Defund the FBI"--

SIDNER: "Defund the FBI!"

AVLON: --for you, that's all.

SIDNER: Right. So, these are the same people, and we should mention why you're laughing, that were going after Democrats for saying, being accused--

AVLON: "Defund the police!"

SIDNER: --of saying, "Defund the police!" although.

AVLON: Right. There are, by my count, seven House Democrats--


AVLON: --who support "Defund the police!"

SIDNER: Right AVLON: And a 147 who--

SIDNER: And the rest.

AVLON: --Republicans members (ph).

SIDNER: Right. Now, because the favor is turned on their person?

AVLON: Of course. Then "Hey?"

SIDNER: Now, it's defund--

AVLON: "Defund law enforcement all day long"--

SIDNER: --the FBI.

AVLON: --starting with your - consistent with your political agenda.

SIDNER: But is there a real concern that we should be worried about? Having seen what happened, in the lead up to January 6th?

AVLON: Yes. Yes.

SIDNER: Should we be concerned?

AVLON: Of course, we should. Look, you want to - you want to make sure that tail wagging the dog in terms of folks on the Donald, posting crazy stuff.

SIDNER: Right.

AVLON: The real issue is elected representatives.


AVLON: You might recall when Bush 41, George H. W. Bush resigned his membership, in the NRA, when they called the FBI, "Jackbooted thugs," in advertisements. We are a million miles away from that.

And I don't expect, the right - the right-wing, hyper partisan media ecosystem is unfortunately going to be fanning the flames.

But I do hold elected senators, and governors, and members of Congress. They should be held to a higher standard than fanning the flames, of violence, in pursuit of partisan game, which is - which is what many of them are doing. That's a different standard, and they should be held to a higher standard.


SIDNER: You've been in the position, Governor.

SANFORD: --I think that there's sort of three slices of the apple. I think you've got the political provocateurs that you're alluding to, and they're going to say whatever they're going to say.


SANFORD: You have elected officials, who these days are just frankly, in survival mode.

So, at the time that a couple of us spoke out, earlier, against Trump, me and Amash, in the House, and Corker and Flake, in the Senate, it was political extinction. That's no longer the case. But people keep - trying to get their head down.

AVLON: True, yes.

SANFORD: But the real folks, out there? I was dealing, today, with a guy that his alternator had gone bad. And that was his world. And that's what he was focused on.


SANFORD: And, I think, there are a lot of folks, for whom this is just noise. Period!


SANFORD: And so, is there a frightening rhetoric? Yes. But I don't think we should get all that ginned up, about the different camps that are throwing a lot of it.

SIDNER: What do you think, S. E.?

CUPP: Well, it's that second slice of the apple, you talk about.

SANFORD: Yes, yes.

CUPP: Folks who don't say anything, who are silent.


CUPP: Because--


CUPP: --we got here because four years, five years, six years of no one in leadership or cable news, or anyone with influence over the President or MAGA did anything to tamp the rhetoric down--

SIDNER: Right.

CUPP: --did anything to ring the alarm, and say, "This is bad, and it should stop." Trump loved the violent rhetoric. He leaned into it. He promised lawyers, if you ever got in trouble, for going after his opponents.

And he watched with joy, as people armed, marched to the Capitol. He said Mike Pence probably deserved it, when they chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" He's here for it. And no one checked him on it.

So, I'm not surprised we're here. I'm not surprised we'll be here for probably another insurrection. He loved the first one! And without anyone saying "Enough," in a position of power, "Enough," it's just going to get worse.

SIDNER: Governor, what's happened--

SANFORD: But I think, you know?

SIDNER: --what's happened--


SIDNER: --to the GOP? In your mind, when you are looking at it, from 35,000 feet, what has happened to this party?


SANFORD: It's gotten hijacked. I mean, what you have are a lot of people, for whom government wasn't working, and they've been beaten down by life, and by a variety of different factors. And there's always a strongman that comes along, in the history of man, who offers a immediate cure. And he was that guy. The question now is what do we do about it?

And so, I think this underscores though, how political this moment is. This is not a legal proceeding. I think the Justice Department, in some form or fashion, given the amount of distress that's out there, needs to say something, so that the void is not simply filled, by Trump and others.

SIDNER: And, right now--

CUPP: Well--

SIDNER: --it's being filled with that. So, what did they do, John? Because, right now, none of us know exactly what are in those documents. And they're going to be reticent, right, to go there, right away. So, now what?

CUPP: But it's been a day. I mean?


SIDNER: It's been a day.

AVLON: I mean--

SIDNER: It's been a day.

AVLON: --the problem is, is I mean, the social media speed to politics is on a totally different timeline than the pace of justice.

CUPP: Yes.


AVLON: And so that gap can be exploited. What I think is more significant is you see members, of the Republican Study Committee apparently circling around Trump, tonight--


AVLON: --basking in the attention of this. And encouraging him to run--

CUPP: Involved with him (ph).

AVLON: Right, yes, well this is the--

CUPP: Right?

AVLON: --this is the victim--

SIDNER: Victimhood.

AVLON: --the victimhood--

CUPP: Yes.


AVLON: --that is sort of part and parcel of Trump's. He's ultimately the aggressor and the victim. This is aggressive defensiveness.


AVLON: This is an idea that goes back, to some of the battle days, a century and a half ago.

So, here's the real question. Will Republicans who know that Donald Trump running would be terrible for their party in the midterms, will they stand up?

Will the people thinking about running for president stand up and say, "You know what? I got questions and doubts and concerns about this raid. But no, I am not all in on Trump 2024," because the goal is to freeze the field.

And the question now will be post the first insurrection, will there be Republicans in positions of influence who have the spine to stand up and speak clearly, and say, "No. We're not doing the sequel."

SIDNER: So far, we have not--


AVLON: Correct.

SIDNER: --seen that, not yet.


SIDNER: OK. There's a no. Thank you.

John Avlon, Mark Sanford, and S. E. Cupp, thank you so much, for going through all of that.

Coming up, we're going to change topics, and it is something that is been a long time coming, but it is amazing. She doesn't like the word, retirement, but Serena Williams tells the world she is nearing the end of her career, in the sport that she has helped redefine.

Another, tennis great, Pam Shriver, joins me to look, at her incredible legacy. That's next.



SIDNER: She didn't just change the game of tennis. She changed the world of sport. The GOAT, Greatest Of All Time, Serena Williams, is hanging up her racquet, soon.

She told Vogue magazine, in an article out today, quote, "I'm here to tell you that I'm evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago, I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family."

Here to discuss her impact on and off the court, ESPN Tennis Analyst, Pam Shriver.

Pam, thank you so much for being here.

PAM SHRIVER, ESPN TENNIS ANALYST: Thanks for having me, Sara.

SIDNER: Pam, let's talk about what she has said. I gasped, when I saw this. Because, she has made such a huge mark, not just, in sport, but for women, and particularly women of color, in business as well and, on social issues.

Can you give me a sense of how big this is? And why you think, judging from her statement, she has decided to start walking away from tennis?

SHRIVER: Well, I think there's a lot of reasons why. Obviously, her age, she'll be 41 next month. She hasn't won a major since 2017. She obviously had maternity leave.

She's made an amazing effort to try and tie Margaret Court, at 24. She's gotten to four major finals, after having Olympia, her first child. And I think she realizes that if she wants to have - expand her family, the time is really now. And it's really hard to do both.

I know that frustrates her. She spoke about it so eloquently, in her essay, that it's not fair, on one hand, for the female athletes, who really need to call it quits, when you're at this age. Whereas the men like Tom Brady, or Roger Federer, they can continue to play. But there's some things we can control. And there's other things we can't.

But what she could control, on the tennis court, starting in 1999, when she won her first of 23 majors, at 17, winning this, Serena Slam twice. That's holding all four major titles, at the same time, twice, the rivalry she had with her sister, her four Olympic gold medals, I could go on and on. That is why Sara, as you referred to her, and I think all of us agree, the GOAT.

SIDNER: You have had some experiences. Can you give me a sense of who this woman is? Because, we see her on the court, and we see her in sort of the public sphere. But who is she?

SHRIVER: Well, it's funny, she uses the word "Evolve," because I actually think that's really appropriate when you think about Serena, from when she won her first major, at 17, through all of the ups and downs, and being away from the sport at times, because of injury, or loss of interest at times.

And I think she has a great curiosity to life. Fiercely competitor - competitive. Obviously, an immense talent. So when you combine everything, the desire, the mental strength, the willingness, to be on the biggest of stages, and to perform at the highest level, like she's done, for 25 years, is truly remarkable.

And to think that she started this venture capital fund that's going to help female companies, especially, get started? Her impact, really, in life, as she says, is just starting. And you don't need to say goodbye to tennis. It is a lifetime sport. She's going to be playing with her family for a long, long time.

SIDNER: She can play as long as she wants, really, but she's maybe not in this kind of intense arena.


I do want to quickly mention that she was very open, with the fact that she had some serious complications, when she had her first child, and she brought that to the fore, talking about Black woman, in particular, and maternal health. And so, she's done a lot of other things than just play a sport, which is incredible what she's done in that sphere as well.

SHRIVER: Absolutely. Advocating for women in the workplace, no matter your color, but especially, as you mentioned, Sara, an advocate for Black women, and Black working women, to have better access, to whether it's childcare, whether it's to be able to have the fair play, in the workplace, despite having kids?

So, to me, she's done it all. She'll continue to do it all, just not at the WTA tour, or at the major tennis level. But let's all look forward to the U.S. Open because raise the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where her sister, Venus got to the--

SIDNER: We will be.

SHRIVER: Yes. We will raise the roof.

SIDNER: We will be ready, Pam Shriver. Thank you so much.

We'll be right back.

SHRIVER: Thank you.


SIDNER: Thank you for sticking with me. I will be back, tomorrow night.

Laura Coates is sitting in for "DON LEMON TONIGHT." And that show begins right now.

Hey, Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Hey, Sara Sidner? Thanks so much. Great show, as always.

And this is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm Laura Coates, sitting in for Don.