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CNN TONIGHT: WSJ: Informant Tipped Off Investigators About More Docs At Mar-A-Lago; McCarthy Attacks DOJ, Calls On Republican Lawmakers To "Be Loud" About FBI Search; Migrant Families Caught In The Middle As Texas Governor Sends Asylum Seekers To New York, D.C. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 10, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: "We will work to manage the consequences of this latest political charade too, including by continuing to support New York City and Washington D.C. through FEMA grant funding and more, as we do in other locations."
But Anderson, Abbott has not shown any indication that he plans to stop the buses, anytime soon.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes. Priscilla, appreciate it, Priscilla Alvarez.
The news continues. Want to hand it over to Sara Sidner and CNN TONIGHT.
SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Anderson, good to see you. And thank you.
I am Sara Sidner. And this is CNN TONIGHT.
We are going to take you through the momentous legal and political twists and turns, former President Donald Trump, and the country, frankly, are now experiencing.
First, there is new reporting, this evening, related to the unprecedented search of Trump's primary home. There are so many questions yet to be answered about what led FBI agents, to Mar-a-Lago, on Monday, and also who may have led them there.
"The Wall Street Journal" is now reporting there was an informant, someone familiar with documents, stored at Trump's residence, who told investigators, there could be more classified documents, after the National Archives already retrieved 15 boxes. So, the FBI was reportedly tipped off by someone, who led them to execute the search warrant.
Attorney General Merrick Garland faces increasing pressure now, to say something publicly, about why the FBI conducted the search. The calls are not just coming from outside the Justice Department. CNN has learned some officials within the DOJ believe the Department should provide a public statement. They argue internally that the silence is harmful, to the Department, and the public's interest. That's in part because Donald Trump, and his allies have filled the void with angry speculative rhetoric.
To that point, the ex-President puts out baseless accusations today that the FBI quote, "Planted" incriminating material, before searching his residence, trying to cast this, as some sort of conspiracy against him.
Trump or his team have a copy of the search warrant. Normally, it does list the items to be seized, and he could make that available to the public. But he hasn't.
Meanwhile, the FBI's moves shouldn't have come as complete surprise to him. A source tells CNN, DOJ investigators subpoenaed The Trump Organization for a copy of Mar-a-Lago surveillance videos, previously, and they were handed over. So, that could have been a giant clue.
It's been quite a week so far, for Donald Trump. And it's only Wednesday!
The search warrant was executed Monday, at Mar-a-Lago.
Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled Trump must hand over his tax returns, to Congress.
And today, he had to appear at a deposition, in the New York Attorney General's probe of his company. The deposition lasted roughly four hours. But Donald Trump didn't answer questions. He pleaded the Fifth over and over again, despite insinuating numerous times, over the years, taking the Fifth is what guilty people do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Now, he says he has the answer to that question. In his words, when you're the target of a quote, "Witch-hunt," you have no choice.
Now, the pressure is clearly building, on the former President, as his legal jeopardy intensifies. So many investigations, looming over him, simultaneously, including the Georgia election interference probe, and the January 6th investigations.
Let's take all of this to two people who understand the stakes.
Nick Akerman is a former Watergate Special Prosecutor and Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.
And John Dean, you know him well, served as President Nixon's White House Counsel. He was famously the star witness, in the Watergate hearings.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here.
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Thank you.
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL, AUTHOR, LECTURER, AND COLUMNIST: Thank you.
SIDNER: All right. I want to start with this. I will start with you, Nick. What are your concerns, with the GOP, very loudly, forcefully, we're talking about people who are both in office and who are big names in media, going after the FBI's integrity, in this case?
AKERMAN: Well, I think it just shows their total ignorance of how a search warrant works.
You mentioned before that Donald Trump received an actual copy of the warrant, which he has not made public. But he also received a inventory of everything that was taken. So, if anybody had any notion that anything was planted on there, all of the documents that were seized by the FBI would be on that inventory.
And if there was anything that even looked remotely suspicious, Donald Trump could go into court, the district court judge who signed that search warrant, and ask that that be looked at. They're not doing it.
They're not showing you what that inventory is. They're not releasing it to the public. If they did, we'd have a better idea of what the FBI was searching for, where they were searching, and what it was they seized.
So, what you're dealing with here are a bunch of ignoramuses, who just don't understand, how this system works, and they don't care to understand, how the system works.
SIDNER: And people would argue it is incumbent on us, to explain that. I myself have seen what it looks like, when the FBI leaves, what I would call a receipt, of all the things that have been taken. And they do that in every case, generally. So, this one should be no different.
AKERMAN: It has to.
SIDNER: John Dean, I have a question for you. When you see the landscape, right now?
Because, this isn't just a legal issue. This is, of course, and I think the FBI had to have known this, the DOJ certainly had to have known that this was going to be blown up, into a political issue.
When you look at what is happening here, does any of this surprise you, after what you have been through, with Watergate, looking at the scenario now, with the way that the GOP is dealing with this? Is this a surprise to you at all? DEAN: It's a disintegration of the Republican Party. And the great irony, particularly in a case, like this, is the silence of the Department of Justice. And the procedures they followed are to protect the innocent, protect Donald Trump.
But yet, they're turning around, and painting it, and painting the FBI, and this process, as guilty, and somehow eliciting, and improper. It's just the - it's beyond irony. It's almost pushing towards the edge of obstruction. There are limits to the First Amendment. And if they start getting physical about this, then they're going to find themselves, committing crimes.
But the fact that the Republican Party has sunk to this base level, and people who do know better, people who are trained, as lawyers, are making these just outrageous comments, about this whole process? And it really the, I think, at some point, Justice may have to say something to put this in context, because we don't want riots over this. And that seems to be what the GOP would like.
SIDNER: And I think that's what you're hearing, from inside the DOJ, with people saying "You've got to say something."
John, I want to ask you what you think of this reporting that has come out from "The Wall Street Journal" that someone tipped off investigators that there were potentially additional very sensitive documents that those who, investigators have been talking to, in the Trump sphere, hadn't let them know about?
Do you think that this may have been key to why you saw a search, as opposed to a negotiation, to get more of those documents?
DEAN: It's very possible. We, as you know, we don't know what exactly they were seeking. But it could have been a tip that made it very timely for them, and they were able to know what documents were there, and what was being done with them.
Now, this could be - these are apparently very highly classified documents. And the National Archives is very, very sensitive to this issue. They go after documents, like this. I know of instances, where former high-level aides have had, they've been threatened with prosecution, because they took and kept documents.
So, they try to police this. They try to do it politely, nicely. But when somebody doesn't play by the rules, they go after it. And I think that's what the situation is here. They knew Trump had this. They got timely information, as to where this material might be, or what was being done with it even. And they decided they had to move, to protect the national security.
SIDNER: Nick, one of the things we've been hearing, from Trump circle, is that, "Look, he declassified these documents, when he was president. No big deal!" What do you make of that?
AKERMAN: Well, first of all, there's no evidence he declassified any documents. Secondly, there's really no evidence that this search warrant was directed at these classified documents. The only thing we know is, from what the Trump people have said, who were present, when the FBI executed the search warrant. They're the ones that say it has to do with classified documents. We don't know if that's what it was.
Again, if we had the search warrant, and we had the inventory, we would know basically what the contours of that search warrant were.
But the fact of the matter is I think, there was somebody inside, who provided the probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that there was evidence of a crime.
Because, one of the things that, you need, in a search warrant, is to have current information. It cannot be stale. You need something from the last 30 to 45 days that indicates that yes, there's evidence of a crime, in this particular location.
So, I don't think it's any surprise that there is some insider, who has provided the probable cause that ultimately led to this search warrant.
SIDNER: John, can I just quickly ask you, how different is it now, compared to your experience, with Watergate? Watergate was the biggest thing that ever happened, in the political realm, in this country, if you're going to argue about criminality. What do you make of this?
DEAN: Very, very different. It's very different, today. The whole atmosphere, the polarization, the treatment of people, who are involved in the process, it's much rougher today, because they're playing rough.
And there was a lot of courtesy given, during Watergate, assumptions, people would follow the norms, and do the right thing that their lawyers would, that there wouldn't be lying and there was trust. So, things were resolved in a much different way.
SIDNER: Nick Akerman, and John Dean, I thank you both, for coming on, and sharing your expertise, with us.
AKERMAN: Thank you.
SIDNER: More now, on the Republican uproar, over the Mar-a-Lago search, ahead. What House Minority (ph) Leader Kevin McCarthy is calling on all elected Republicans to do now, about what he is calling abuses of power? That's coming up.
SIDNER: House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is sowing further distrust, in the Justice Department, after the Mar-a-Lago search.
He posted this, on Facebook, today. "If you are an elected Republican, and you are staying quiet while Democrats in Washington are abusing their power--you are the very reason they think they can get away with it. NOW is the time to speak up and be LOUD!"
Joining me now to discuss is former federal and state prosecutor, Elie Honig, former Republican congressman and Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, and our Senior Political Analyst, John Avlon.
OK. So, you just saw what Kevin McCarthy put out. What is this? Is this a - I hate to use the word, "Call to arms." But what is he asking Republicans to do? What does he expect to happen?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, AUTHOR, "WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL": Well, first of all, it's the game of project and deflect that he learned from Donald Trump, right?
I mean the idea that after standing by, and defending Donald Trump, after politicization of the Justice Department, constant abuse of power, culminating an attack, on the Capitol, that somehow the Democrats are the aggressors, and Republicans are the victims, is a willful flipping of the script. It's a hall of mirrors.
But it's also necessary precondition, in his mind, to keep in Donald Trump's good graces, which he sees the path to speakership. And clearly, power is more important than principle in this man's case.
SIDNER: Mr. Sanford, when you look at something like that, and the questioning of the FBI and the DOJ? And it has been pretty heavy all day long, from both those, who are in elected positions, and those, who are big talkers, on the right. What are they trying to do?
MARK SANFORD, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I'd go back to--
SIDNER: What are they trying to say?
SANFORD: --I'd go back to what John says. The name of the game for all too many, in politics is a game with self-interest.
And so, the name of the game, to John's point, for Kevin, is "I want to be Speaker, and I don't want to do anything to disrupt my path to the speakership." And staying in Donald Trump's good graces, whatever that means, is, I think, paramount to his belief, in him climbing that particular mountain.
More importantly, though, what you see at play is a continued degradation of the institutions that have held the American system in place. And that's the bigger danger. Not whatever happens next with regard to Trump or not. But, frankly, people's continued growing distrust, in the institutions that had been part of the fabric of our Republic for 200-plus years.
SIDNER: I'm going to get to you, in a minute, Elie, because I want to talk about something that has been on a lot of people's minds. This is not just Republicans.
The FBI's integrity? There has been, in the past, there have been things that have come up, and in the recent past. I want to get to some of them.
You had the Peter Strzok situation, who criticized Trump. As this investigation was going on, they found the text messages.
You had Comey's actions with being called "Extraordinary and insubordinate."
According to one report, you've got the roles of the FBI and informants that were - that went very wrong, in Michigan, with the plot to kidnap the governor, there.
And then, the FISA court came out and said, when it came to Carter Page, and the surveillance there that, the FBI conducted, saying it was outrageous.
So, you do have instances, where people can actually look at them, and say, "These things did happen. This is why." Is that a fair idea that "Look, there have been some things to question, and they should be able to question this?"
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It is absolutely fair. People absolutely have the right to criticize and question the Justice Department, the FBI, your local police.
I think we need to keep in mind the big picture here. I can name more failures than that. There are many more. But there are tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of cases that DOJ and FBI and local prosecutors handle correctly, ethically and effectively, every day.
Where I draw a line, and I think we're seeing here, to both Governor Sanford and John's point, is one, where you're fomenting or encouraging active resistance, resistance to law enforcement. We've seen where that can lead. Civil unrest. And we know the code words. One thing the January 6 committee has done really effectively is expose that that they call it the siren call.
And the other thing is how do people think they know already, if this is a perfectly good search, or a horrible search? And we see it both ways, right? I'm not saying it's equal.
But you see Republicans saying "This is an abomination. This is a violation." And you do see people saying, "This is airtight and perfect." None of us know that! There's 10 people, in the world, who maybe know that right now. And they're all inside DOJ, or a courthouse. So, I think there's a lot of premature jumping to conclusions here.
SIDNER: That is - that's a lot of speculation, John. I know you have some insight.
AVLON: Look, it's particularly, I think, rough to see a party that calls itself and prides itself on being a party of Law and Order, demonize law enforcement. I mean, I'm not just talking about the absurdity, of some folks, saying "Defund the FBI!" who are members of Congress.
AVLON: So, let's take the chat rooms out of this. Let's talk about elected officials, who have an obligation, and who really ought to know better.
It is about the degradation of our democratic institutions, about the weakening of the guardrails, systematically and cynically. That's where the danger comes in. And that's what we're watching, in real- time, again.
SIDNER: You talked about the fact that there's this degradation going on. But you're hearing calls to action. Not necessarily - I mean, you heard McCarthy, right, saying "You better do something." But you're also hearing violent rhetoric that has come off of that.
SIDNER: Because, online, there's a lot of that. But that is exactly the kind of rhetoric that led up to January 6th. So, how concerning is it, when you hear something, like that, from McCarthy, telling Democrats to do something, "People should rise up, this could happen to you," do you see there's going to be violent fallout to this, ultimately?
AVLON: Of course. God, I hope not, as an American. But this is what happens, when you play with fire.
History is real clear. Look, we've been through far worse periods than this, in our past. It's important to keep that perspective. It's important to keep your sense of optimism. And remember that the screamers and the shouters on the outer reaches of politics are a comparatively small number of folks.
Where it gets dangerous is where people, who hold elected office, give credence to, and pour fuel on that fire, from that rarefied position, because then people can start internalizing it, and feel like they have permission, that they're being encouraged.
That's the story of January 6th. And here we are within, two years of that attack, and the learning curve seems to be close to zero. And that's where the danger comes in.
SIDNER: They've learned that it works--
SIDNER: --to rile up, and they're fundraising off of it.
I do want to get to you, Elie.
AVLON: Fundraising, yes.
HONIG: Yes. SIDNER: The informant. This reporting, from "The Wall Street Journal," now, we also heard this, from Farah, who was on, saying, "I bet you, I would put money on the fact that there's probably somebody, who was pointing out that, 'Hey, they have more than you think they have, and more than they are telling you.'"
HONIG: Yes. So, there's this air of mystique, or mystery, or intrigue, around the word, "Informant," right? What do you think of, Whitey Bulger secretly providing information--
HONIG: --to the cops or Bubbles in The Wire, right?
The reality is informants, are just people, most of the time, just like me, and you. They are normal people. So, we have no idea, who this person is. It could well be a run-of-the-mill staffer. And people provide information to law enforcement, for all good reasons - all different reasons, some good, some bad, some, a little bit of both.
And I will tell you, the one thing that separates the best cops, law enforcement agents, FBI agents, from the rest is how good their informant network is. That's how you learn things. That's how you get inside of these organizations.
And it's really not a surprise, because I saw reporting, earlier, from Tom Foreman, saying that Mar-a-Lago is 100 rooms. And these are glitzy rooms, with all sorts of chandeliers, and closets, and all that. They would still be searching that today! And I mean that not hyperbolically.
They would still be searching that today, if they did not know where to look. And so, it's not at all surprising that they had specific information, "Look here," got what they needed, and were out of there, in a few hours.
SIDNER: We have one more thing to talk about. And that is the case that's here in New York. The former President sat down. Although his children have talked, he pled the Fifth.
What does that say? Because in a civil case, it's different. Let me go to you, Elie. In a civil case, it's different when you plead the Fifth than in a criminal case. And this is a civil case.
SIDNER: What does it mean?
HONIG: So, practically, technically, legally, that can be used against Donald Trump, in a civil case.
You can stand up in front of a civil jury, if Letitia James, the Attorney General does bring a civil lawsuit, which seems increasingly likely, and say "He took the Fifth, jury. You're entitled to assume the worst."
You cannot use that against the person in a criminal case. Period!
HONIG: I do want to say this. It's not quite right, for people, to say, only guilty people take the Fifth. Trump said that, years ago. He's wrong. And people say it, even today, a little bit glibly. It's not true. It's not the way our principles are built. It's not the way our Constitution is built.
Sure, plenty of guilty people take the Fifth. Innocent people, wrongly accused, take the Fifth. People, who commit a conduct where, maybe we don't know, maybe they're in a gray area, maybe they're being investigated? They can take the Fifth.
Trump has that right. But we as the public also have the right to say, that is a historic blight (ph) for a former President to be put - to end up putting himself in that situation.
SIDNER: All right, Elie Honig, and Mark, and John, it's always an interesting conversation, with you, gentlemen. Please stick around.
Just ahead, charges by the Justice Department, in an alleged Iranian plot, to assassinate former National Security Adviser, John Bolton. And he's not the only former Trump administration official, said to be targeted. The details on that, coming up.
SIDNER: Welcome back. We're learning the murder plot, made public, today, against former Trump National Security Adviser, John Bolton, is only one of several recent threats, against U.S. officials, by member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
Today, the DOJ announced criminal charges, against a member of Iran's Guard, who allegedly tried to orchestrate Bolton's assassination. The suspects also allegedly tried to pay an undercover informant, to assassinate former Trump Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. That suspect is still at large, tonight.
U.S. officials believe these threats are retaliation for the U.S. killing of Qasem Soleimani, in January 2020, during the Trump administration. Iranian officials deny any involvement.
My next guest has followed Iran's Revolutionary Guard, during his time, at the FBI. CNN Counterterrorism Analyst, Phil Mudd, joins me now.
Phil, thanks for being here.
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Sure.
SIDNER: All right. Bolton was notified of this potential threat in 2020. Then, the Secret Service, he no longer had them protecting him. And he wasn't granted Secret Service protection until 2021. And then these charging documents come in 2022.
Why did the FBI go about it, this way? And was it the right way to do things?
MUDD: Well, I mean, I'm not inside the investigation. But I'm looking at this, saying you've just touched on one of the most fascinating things. And that is timeline.
If you're in the FBI, watching, this, and you have threats to two senior U.S. officials, and more important, two U.S. citizens? You have to control the operation, to ensure that there's no risk to those citizens. You would sacrifice the Intelligence, Sara, if you thought there was an imminent threat, to Bolton or Pompeo, who evidently was the second target, here.
So, what does that tell you? Let's cut to the chase. The fact that this case has been running, for a couple years, tells me that the FBI owned the case, from the start, that as they had the confidential human source, the informant, within the case. They're watching the case develop. The Iranians thought that they were running a case. In fact, the FBI was managing the case, from the outset.
And the reason that the FBI wanted it to run, the reason that I think, it was the right decision to let it run, is if you want to take that case, to a court, you've got to be able to say, "This wasn't just talk. This wasn't just guys, who were bragging. These were people, who had information, about U.S. officials, outlined in the indictment, willing to pay, willing to have conversations."
The FBI wanted to let it run, so when they went to court, a defense attorney couldn't tear the case to shreds. This is fascinating. The Iranians never owned the case. The FBI did, Sara.
SIDNER: I want to ask you, because you have long looked at, and had great knowledge, of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and how it sort of works. What's the endgame here? If they were to assassinate a U.S. official, what are they expecting is going to happen? World War III? I mean, what are they doing?
MUDD: Well, there's a couple things here. There's small, and there's big.
Let's go small. The simplest piece here is we assassinated Qasem Soleimani, the Head of the Revolutionary Guard. He is not just a General Ron (ph). That guy was a legendary figure. So, if you're sitting in the seat of Tehran, you can - I can see them saying, "Well, if they're going to take one of ours, we're going to take one of theirs."
I think there is a bigger game afoot here that Americans would struggle to understand. The Revolution in Iran is not that old. That's 1979, meaning that people in power, in Iran, were around during the Revolution. Whom do they view as the biggest threat to the Revolution? The Americans. Who are the biggest hardliners, among Americans, about Iran? Mike Pompeo is one. The former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, is another.
So, it's not just about a vengeance for Soleimani. It's about saying to the Americans, "Don't threaten our Revolution. We know you want to overturn our government, and we will warn you about doing that." To me, as somebody who did this, for decades, it's perfectly understandable, Sara.
SIDNER: Right, considering what happened before, with the installation of the Shah.
SIDNER: Do you think that we will ever see the suspect? In other words, in your mind, a lot of people might say, he's probably going to be a ghost.
MUDD: No, we will - I don't think ever. Why would you, if you were he, ever leave Iran? I presume that's where he is now. But that's not the sole point to running the case here.
You're going to look at this, and I think, from the outside, you might say, "Why do you ever charge him if he's never going to leave Iran?" Well, first of all, we don't know if there's anybody else involved in the case. It looks like not. But we're not certain.
Second, and this is really interesting, if you're sitting in his shoes, you can never move again. You can't go to Europe. You can't go to a beach in the south of France. You can't go to Germany. You can't go to Latin America, you can't go to Asia.
The message is also to the Iranian leadership, and to people executing the orders of the Iranian leadership, "You can stay in Iran forever. But if you ever want to leave that country, we're going to get you."
I think this is significant. And it's not only whether they - he gets pulled into a U.S. court. It's the message that says "You'll never travel again."
SIDNER: Phil Mudd, thank you so much, for your insight.
MUDD: Thanks. Sure.
SIDNER: Coming up, Trump supporters are furious, about the Mar-a-Lago search. But that's just one source of simmering anger, in this country, across the political spectrum. Can anything be done to defuse things? That's coming up, next.
SIDNER: As you know, January 6th, became a flashpoint, for violent, politically-fueled anger, in this country. That rage has not disappeared. It shows up in other ways, once again, threatening violence.
An example? Less than 48 hours, after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago, threats and other online rhetoric, against the magistrate judge, believed to have signed the search warrant. One commenter writes this, "I see a rope around his neck," next to a picture of the judge.
CNN has not independently confirmed the judge's identity, and we are not naming him. The judge has also been doxxed and subjected to far more disgusting and violent comments than the one we just showed you.
In response, an official government webpage has been changed completely, removing the judge's contact information. As this all unfold, a number of prominent Republicans are fiercely condemning the FBI, for that search. Some are making outlandish comparisons, and spewing conspiracies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): This is what happens, in places like Nicaragua, where last year, every single person that ran against Daniel Ortega, for president, every single person that put their name on the ballot, was arrested and is still in jail. That's what you see, in places like Nicaragua.
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): This should scare the living daylights out of American citizens.
The way our federal government has gone, it's like what we thought about the Gestapo, people like that, that they just go after people.
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: You really are now seeing the ugly face of a tyranny.
We have no idea whether or not they planted evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: That is the former House Speaker baselessly suggesting the FBI planted evidence.
And, to all this, add this, a long history of some current and former local law enforcement officials, militias, and other citizens, who have long wanted to see an end, to federal law enforcement.
Just last week, I got an earful, from a former sheriff, in Arizona, who runs the Sheriffs Association. He made this comparison, about the role of the FBI, after the January 6th attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MACK, FOUNDER, CONSTITUTIONAL SHERIFFS AND PEACE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION: But what the FBI has done, and the way they've been going after people, and people are still sitting in prison, without charges, and without trials, and what they have done? Oh my Gosh! It proves that the FBI will do anything they're told. They're a bunch of Nuremberg officers. They just follow orders, instead of following proper law enforcement protocol.
SIDNER: You just compared the Federal Bureau of Investigation officers?
SIDNER: The rank-and-file?
SIDNER: To Nazis.
MACK: They just do what they're told.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: John Avlon and Mark Sanford are back. And we welcome Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona, to the conversation.
That was difficult to hear. And we did have a back-and-forth, because once I brought up the fact that "When you say, Nuremberg, you were talking about the massacre of 6 million Jews?" And he said, "No, no, no, I didn't mean that." I said, "But you made the comparison." And then, he kind of said, "Well, yes, because they only follow orders."
I want to go back to what we heard, from those, who are in office, who are in power. And I will start with you, Governor. What did you make of the things that you just heard, from people, who are in the Republican Party, and are currently serving, and have been put in positions of power, talking about the FBI, in those terms?
SANFORD: That a lot of people out there still want to be relevant. And so, I was listening to Newt Gingrich. I mean, he's not a dumb guy. Whether you like him or dislike him, he's--
SIDNER: Former Speaker of the House!
SANFORD: --Speaker of House, and he's - has an amazing historical context, in terms of understanding history.
So, it's just reckless, what he's saying. But he wants to be relevant. I mean, he sees that sort of - he's at the end of the game. And the Trump wave is - the way, to stay, on the bandwagon, "I'll play along," and I think it's unfortunate.
And I think it underscores the importance of all of us, as regular citizens, making our voices heard. At the end of the day, the political system is a responsive system. And the people you see in office will do what they need to do, to hang on to power.
But the drivers of the agenda, at the end of the day, are you and me, as regular citizens. And that's where all of us need to speak up, and make a little bit more noise, from the standpoint of sanity, for a change, because we've gotten away from that.
SIDNER: Just in terms of what they've said, have they chosen party, and power, over the country?
SANFORD: Yes. But welcome to - welcome to Politics 101. I mean--
SIDNER: But not - but not everybody's doing that.
SANFORD: --I don't like it. I don't like it. I don't agree with it.
But, right now, we're living in a uber-politicized environment, wherein people have circled the wagons. And there's the red team and the blue team. I don't believe in it. I don't think anybody on this panel believes in that. But in terms of what's happening, in the political world, right now, that is what's going on.
And so, in that kind of, I mean, and that's why the Founding Fathers set up the system, of checks and balances. They didn't want to see folks circling the wagons, based on political tribes. It's why George Washington, warned against factions, as he called them political parties.
SIDNER: But that's where we are.
SANFORD: I mean, that's the world we're living in, now.
SIDNER: That's where we are. But you did make this point.
SIDNER: And I know, Maria, you want to jump in there.
SIDNER: Because the Republicans have been particularly prone to this. Not as much the Democrats. They're not doing the exact same thing.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well--
SIDNER: It's not exactly the same.
SANFORD: There'd be a lot of--
CARDONA: No. That's - that's exactly right, Sara.
Now, you are absolutely right, Governor, when you said that these leaders are saying those things because they want to be relevant. But why do they want to be relevant? That - what they're saying is for an audience of one. It's for Donald Trump.
And why is it for Donald Trump? Because he is still the leader, of the Republican Party, and they are speaking to his base, who they believe - and I don't think that this is correct, because I still believe that Trump's extremist MAGA base, is still a minority in this country.
But they are loud. And they scare the bejesus out of what normally would be commonsense Republican leaders, who have now drank that Kool- Aid from that extremist base, and believe the only way to stay relevant, is by saying those kinds of outlandish things, which 10 years ago, they would have been laughed out, of any real relevant political circles.
SIDNER: But some of the primaries have shown that those who are saying these things are winning in the primaries, Republican primaries.
I want to address, because you are really good on these issues, when it comes to militias, when it comes to citizens, or former or current law enforcement that believe that the federal government should be abolished. And this has been a long-standing thing. This didn't just happen now.
AVLON: Yes. So, you interviewed Richard Mack.
AVLON: And he has been a long-standing sort of Sheriff-avatar for the militia movement, and people, who believe, consistent with what's called sovereign citizen beliefs that the federal government doesn't really exist, the highest officialdom is the sheriff. Now, there are a lot of problems with this, most particularly reality.
But the anti-government impulse, in American politics, of course, goes to at least the Civil War--
AVLON: --and Reconstruction, and then manifested, I think, on pretty consistent grounds.
The same spirit of aggressive defensiveness that was used, Joanne Freeman shows us, in her book, "Field of Blood" that the sense of that they were victims, they have to preemptively attack. And that's the justification that is so often used.
What's fascinating, and I think, important, to get perspective on, is the anti-government movements in America that have been particularly violent, in the late 1960s, when there was a lot of anti-government violence, it was predominantly from the left. But those folks--
SIDNER: Yes, there were assassinations (ph). There were bombings.
AVLON: There were bombings, all over this country--
AVLON: --which we've largely forgotten about.
SIDNER: Yes. [21:45:00]
AVLON: But they were not remotely affiliated with the Democratic Party. They were protesting the Vietnam War.
AVLON: And they had their own rhetoric of race and class struggle and whatever.
In the late 1990s, culminating at a time, with the bombing of Oklahoma City, we saw the militia movement, embrace Christian nationalism, and take part on the Right.
And then, after Oklahoma City, it dissipated for a time. Militias grows enormously, in reaction to the election of Barack Obama, but then continued under Donald Trump. People, you and I have interviewed, people in the Oath Keepers and elsewhere.
AVLON: And that's what's so particularly troubling is that these groups said they were formed, to stop a tyrannical government, from taking over, but then rallied around a president, who was head of that government.
CARDONA: That's exactly right.
AVLON: That's the dynamic that's so troubling, is when these groups become paramilitary organizations, dedicated to a person, that's what's different.
SIDNER: And I--
SANFORD: But I think what's interesting is the fuel behind it, which is there are just a lot of people, on the right, who have gotten tired, of the promises, of many, on the right, "We're going to limit government, we're going to limit government," and it keeps growing, keeps growing, it seems entitled that--
AVLON: This isn't about the side of government, Mark.
SANFORD: I know. But that's the base of the fuel that started it, because it really began with the Tea Party movement.
CARDONA: I disagree. I--
SANFORD: And it morphed into - yes.
CARDONA: I disagree completely.
CARDONA: I think what is fueling it is what Donald Trump did, when he first announced for President, using those extremist views, those, the politics of resentment, the hatred, the biases. That's what he uses, as fuel, for that fire. And he continues to use it, and Republican leaders are following him, in that path.
AVLON: He's given them license.
SIDNER: Maria, Governor, John?
SIDNER: He said he's given them license.
AVLON: More to come.
SIDNER: We are going to end on that for now. Stick around, everyone.
It's not exactly a scene out of Ellis Island. The Republican Governor of Texas is bussing more migrants, to New York City, with no return ticket. How the Democratic mayor of the Big Apple is responding to this, next.
SIDNER: Texas isn't letting up sending a busload of 100 additional migrants, into New York City. You're looking at video, right now, from this weekend, of a previous bus, traveling into New York, from Texas.
New York's Mayor, Eric Adams says, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, is being cruel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS, (D) NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: It's just a mean and cruel thing that he's doing.
There were some who wanted to go to other cities where they have families. And they just packed them, on a bus, without any direction. And we learned that many people had to be re-ticketed, they wanted to go somewhere else. But they just specifically targeted New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: But Abbott says migrants are traveling willingly, and he sent a copy of the consent waiver that travelers are asked to sign. You can take a look at that. It only lists Washington, D.C., and New York City, as available destinations. Both cities say the influx of people is overwhelming agencies.
Let's discuss this with John Avlon, Governor Mark Sanford, and Maria Cardona.
I'm going to start with you, Governor. I want to talk about what is this? Why is this happening? What is the point that Abbott is trying to make?
SANFORD: He's trying to make the - again, another cardinal rule of politics is that all politics are local, Tip O'Neill's old saying, and it's true.
And so, 4,000 immigrants a day are coming across the border, in Texas. And to give New York a little taste of what they're experiencing, down in Texas, to send 100 folks? And we're talking again, 100 versus 4,000 a day. I don't think it's that big a deal. I think, it's great politics.
I think, from a Texas standpoint, it's going to play very well, for Abbott. And I think it can make it just a touch more real, to folks that are saying "We're a sanctuary city." But now we're saying, "Maybe we're not so sanctuary, because we don't let your immigrants from Texas."
SIDNER: I think what you're hearing from Adams is "We're overwhelmed." What are your thoughts on this?
CARDONA: I think what Abbott is doing is cruel. Mayor Adams is right about that. It's inhumane. It is using migrants, to be a political football, to play these political games. It is insulting, as an immigrant myself.
This is a governor that not just does not understand the issue of immigration, and what actually needs to be solved, and how to solve it. But he doesn't care. He has no idea, and no willingness, to try to figure out how to really resolve this, for Texans. It's a waste of Texas taxpayer money. It is not on the path for a real solution.
I commend Mayor Adams, and my mayor, in D.C., Mayor Bowser, for welcoming these immigrants, and for doing what they should be doing, what the federal government needs to do, which to actually adjudicate their asylum cases, if there are those cases, and then to figure out, what to do, in terms of their court cases, if they can stay, if they need to go.
We need changes to our immigration system. And we hope - we wish that Republicans could join Democrats, to make that happen.
AVLON: Well, that's the real issue here, right?
AVLON: Look, I mean, this is the politics of trolling masquerading as policy. You want to talk about sanctuary cities in the roots? Largely, it was actually a public health issue, right, if you have, undocumented immigrants, afraid to come forward? That's one. That's a major public health issue, going back to when these things were started.
AVLON: The larger point is this. Too many politicians would rather demagogue this issue than actually take steps to solving it. And we know what a broad outline would be. And folks on the far-left and far- right wouldn't like it. But we could come to some agreement, strengthen the border, ease the path to a citizenship, and reduce the burden these cities and states are feeling-- CARDONA: Exactly.
AVLON: --when they're feeling overwhelmed.
AVLON: So, how about we stop demagoguing this issue and start dealing with it?
SIDNER: Do you--
SANFORD: But, in fairness - again, I was in the political process, for 20 years of my life. And it was talked about for all 20 years. And, at some point, people were like, "We got to try something else." So, I mean, I get where Abbott's coming from. They get 4,000 people a day coming across the border.
CARDONA: It's not an excuse to use human beings for that kind of political football. It just isn't.
SANFORD: But it's de facto open border.
CARDONA: There - there--
SANFORD: And an open border has never worked in the history--
CARDONA: It is not a - no. It is not an open border.
SANFORD: Come on!
CARDONA: That is a Republican MAGA talking point that is just untrue. And it - and it uses--
SANFORD: You think 4,000 people a day--
CARDONA: It goes to--
SANFORD: --coming through border (ph).
CARDONA: --it goes to do more harm than good, because it pits people against each other, instead of really trying to come together, for a solution. Democrats had a solution on the table. Republicans said no.
SIDNER: Ultimately, though, you've had Democrats and Republicans in power. And, as you said, for many decades, this issue has not been fixed, solved, even impacted in a big way.
AVLON: Well we had the Gang of Eight bill around a decade ago that then the Republicans couldn't pass through the House--
AVLON: --because they blamed Eric Cantor losing his primary--
CARDONA: That's what I was talking about.
AVLON: --on immigrations and issue.
AVLON: So, I mean, if you really want to do the genealogy, on this stuff. But look, we--
SANFORD: But he really did lose that seat, and immigration was--
AVLON: But not - not--
SANFORD: --a part of it.
AVLON: No, I think that was actually--
AVLON: --that was overhyped.
But look, people, right now, you see sometimes, saying "Well, look at the record number of apprehensions at the border." They're missing the word "Apprehensions," right?
AVLON: We do have border enforcement.
CARDONA: That's right.
AVLON: We need to strengthen our border security.
CARDONA: More than we've ever had.
AVLON: We need to find ways to bring people out of the shadows and mention them. We need to be doing all of the above. And the activists won't like it.
AVLON: But let's actually start to solve this. We know what to do. And most--
SIDNER: You also have the issue of the DREAMers, right?
SIDNER: And that has been one--
SIDNER: --that I think most - most people can agree on.
CARDONA: We're at full employment. SIDNER: And yet, we're not there.
CARDONA: We can use them.
SIDNER: Yes. All right, John Avlon, Mark Sanford--
CARDONA: We can use them (ph).
SIDNER: --Maria Cardona, thank you so much, for this lively conversation.
SIDNER: And we'll be right back.
CARDONA: Thank you.
SIDNER: Thank you so much for hanging with me. I will be back, tomorrow night.
But now, you get the greatest. Laura Coates sitting in, for "DON LEMON TONIGHT." I know you're digging deeper on all of the twists and turns, of what's happening with the former President. And that show begins right now.