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Friday Deadline In Play As DOJ Moves To Unseal Trump Search Warrant; Accusations Of Secret Service Impeding January 6 Investigation Were Scrapped From Report To Congress; Account Bearing Name Of FBI Standoff Suspect Claimed He Was Present In DC On January 6, 2021. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 11, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, a bold move from the Justice Department today, and we could now a lot more by this time tomorrow.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The judge who is overseeing this case is now given a deadline of 3:00 P.M. -- giving a deadline until 3:00 P.M. for the Justice Department and the Trump lawyers to decide whether to unseal these documents.
Now, the documents that the attorney general said he wants now to be -- to be unsealed would be the search warrant as well as a document that says exactly what was taken from the Trump property during the FBI search on Monday.
What we are not going to see in this release, Wolf, is what's behind this investigation. We are not going to know a lot of the details of what is going on in this investigation, but the attorney general really addressed the unusual nature of this. It was essentially because Donald Trump went out and told the world that the FBI had done this search of his property in Palm Beach on Monday.
Listen to him address exactly why he did this today.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Since I became attorney general, I have made clear that the Department of Justice will speak through its court filings and its work. Just now, the Justice Department has filed a motion in the Southern District of Florida to unseal a search warrant and property receipt relating to a court-approved search that the FBI conducted earlier this week. That search was of premises located in Florida belonging to the former president.
The department did not make any public statements on the day of the search. The former president publicly confirmed the search that evening as is his right. Copies of both the warrant and the FBI property receipt were provided on the day of the search to the former president's counsel who was on site during the search.
The search warrant was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause. The property receipt is a document that federal law requires law enforcement agents to leave with the property owner.
The department filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt in light of the former president's public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter.
Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy. Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.
All Americans are entitled to the even-handed application of the law, to due process of the law and to the presumption of innocence. Much of our work is by necessity conducted out of the public eye. We do that to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to protect the integrity of our investigations.
Federal law, longstanding department rules and our ethical obligations prevent me from providing further details as to the basis of the search at this time.
There are, however, certain points I want you to know. First, I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter.
Second, the department does not take such a decision lightly. Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken.
Third, let me address recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors. I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked. The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants.
Every day, they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves. I am honored to work alongside them.
This is all I can say right now. More information will be made available in the appropriate way and at the appropriate time. Thank you.
Thank you all for your questions, but as I said, this is all I can say at this time.
PEREZ: And, Wolf, you can tell what reluctance the attorney general had to making this public statement, but a lot of it was in response to some of the charges, some of the accusations that Donald Trump and some of his allies have been making in the last couple of days, including claiming without evidence that the FBI may have planted evidence.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of evidence. All right, Evan, I'm going to get back to you, stand by.
Right now, I want to get to President Trump's response to this dramatic and new move by the U.S. Justice Department. White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is working this part of the story for us. Kaitlan, what are you learning about whether Trump will actually oppose the Justice Department's request to unseal the search warrant?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, that's what everyone wants to know and, of course, the former president and his legal team have until 3:00 P.M. tomorrow to tell the Justice Department what they decided. And they really just have two options here. One is they cannot object to unsealing this warrant, and then if a judge agrees, that information is going to become public, or they can fight it, Wolf, and they can object.
As it writes in that motion today that was filed by the Justice Department, it says that they favor releasing that warrant absent the objection of the former president. And I am told right now that he has not made a decision about how to proceed with this. He is consulting attorneys about this, not just the ones who work for him but outside attorneys as well as how to go forward, what to do.
I think this decision today by Merrick Garland caught the former president and his orbit off-guard by making this announcement, by making this aggressive move to try to push forward and unseal this warrant, because, all week, you've really seen Trump and his allies driving the narrative after this search happened on Monday with people like Senator Ted Cruz calling on the attorney general to release the warrant, to unseal it. And now he is moved to do so. And so it's essentially up to Trump to make the decision about what the next move is going to look like. So, we're waiting to see what he is going to do here. We'll likely find that out by tomorrow at 3:00 P.M.
I will say that Trump is responding on his social media website, and he is not indicated which direction he is headed in, Wolf, but he is instead talking about his team, he says they were fully cooperating with the federal government with the lead-up to that search being conducted at Mar-a-Lago on Monday.
Of course, we know, Wolf, that they had had that June 3rd meeting where investigators went down to Mar-a-Lago and met with Trump's attorneys, but what happened in between that two-month period of then and when the search warrant was executed still really remains to be seen, because we know a subpoena was involved at this point.
And so Trump is also going after the FBI, criticizing them, of course, describing this, Wolf, as politically motivated, something that Garland pushed back on today, and also saying -- adding today that they went through Melania Trump's closets while they were on foot at Mar-a-Lago on Monday. That is something we have not heard from the Justice Department, but that is something that the former president is alleging tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you very much for that report.
Let's get some more with our correspondents and our analysts right now. Prett Bharara is joining us.
Preet, the attorney general calling Trump's bluff, for all practical purposes, by making this public statement and moving to unseal these documents. What's your reaction?
PREET BHARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I think it was a wise and smart move wrapped in integrity. The Justice Department speaks through its documents, through its work. That's what he has said, that's what other people who work at the top of the Justice Department have said. There was a lot of outcry and a lot of false, I think, information thrown into the public square about the FBI, about their motivations and everything else, as was pointed out with the prominent senator, Senator Ted Cruz, asked that the search warrant be made public.
So, the Justice Department decided, I think, wisely and smartly that it would make a motion, it can't just release it even though a United States senator asks for it, and the motion is very short and deliberate and measured, just like the statement by the attorney general, it was short and deliberate and measured, saying, if there's no objection by Trump and his folks and lawyers, then a judge could see clear to releasing a limited amount of information. We're not going to learn what the underlying investigation is about and what the evidence is and what the perhaps confidential informants are telling them, but we'll get the warrant, we'll get the attachments to the warrant and we'll understand the kinds of things that were seized, and the ball is in the former president's court.
And we see him reportedly deliberating about what to do but it will be hard for them to criticize the Justice Department for doing what they did and for keeping things secret if they don't -- if they object to making those things public. And so I think it's wise and smart and we'll know the answer very soon.
BLITZER: We will know by 3:00 P.M. tomorrow. Phil Mudd as someone who has seen the Department of Justice and the FBI, for that matter, politicized to a certain degree over the last three years, what do you make of this move by the attorney general?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, it's been called bold, including in the introduction to this show. I would not call this bold. This is a pro move. This is a chess set, Wolf. This is not the movement of a pawn, this is a movement of somewhere between a rook and a queen. Let me explain why I say that.
Number one, the Justice Department didn't reveal anything. They didn't talk about the search yesterday. A private U.S. citizen, that is the former president of the United States, chose to speak. Once the former president burst the bubble, the Department of Justice can then go to a judge and say, since the private citizens spoke, maybe it's appropriate to release the document. The DOJ won't release the document, the FBI won't, pro move.
The second and final thing I would say was the Department of Justice isn't on the hook now to speak any more unless they wish to. They didn't talk about the investigation. They didn't talk about progress in the investigations, marked contrast to James Comey a few years ago. They don't have to talk about closing the investigation. All they ask is that another element of government, that is a judge, respond to a private citizen who has spoken. This is a pro move. This is somebody with a lot of experience, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, you're right.
Abby Philip, the clock is clearly ticking right now for the former president to either fight to keep these documents secret or allow the public to see exactly what the FBI was looking for. Is the ball now in his court?
ABBY PHILLIP: It absolutely is, Wolf, as it has been frankly from the very beginning of all of this. And as Phil just described, the only reason we really know about this raid and the search of Mar-a-Lago is because the former president put out a statement saying that it happened.
And because of that, the impetus is now on him to share what information he's had now for several days. His attorney was given a copy of the warrant and a copy of an inventory of the documents that were taken, and they could have revealed that information. But the reason that they have not is because it is politically advantageous to them for this to be perceived as something that is secret, for this to be perceived as something that they can spin however they want to while the public is without more concrete information.
That's all going to change once we know a little bit more about what this is all about, and I think it will make it harder for him to claim that this is just some kind of political witch hunt that's designed to attack him and weaken him politically.
BLITZER: Evan Perez, Mr. Trump continues to claim he was fully cooperative. We take that obviously with a certain grain of salt. But does your reporting on this previous grand jury subpoena for documents actually refute that?
PEREZ: Look, I think it does call a little bit of B.S. on some of the claims that the former president has been making. Look, there's a lot that he's said that has just not been true. And among the things clearly that were not true is the level of cooperation.
The attorney general said today that they essentially tried less intrusive means and that didn't work. So, clearly, they decided to carry out this search, which they did, actually, by giving him a lot of -- a lot of politeness, really. They didn't show up with FBI raid jackets. They showed up around 10:00 A.M., not the way you do so- called raids, Wolf. And we know the fact that they had this earlier subpoena, they carried documents out of Mar-a-Lago at that June meeting and then they had to come back to do this search, it tells us that this became a breakdown, that this became a confrontational conversation between the two sides a lot earlier than Monday.
So, the idea that they were shocked, really -- I don't that that really is true. The fact that they were claiming to be shock is really not true. They had to know much earlier than now that this was going to happen, Wolf.
BLITZER: Preet Bharara, how likely is it that we'll actually see this search warrant and the list of items seized and what could they potentially reveal?
BHARARA: Well, that's up to the former president. So, there are two scenarios, right? The Justice Department has said that it's willing to unseal the documents if the judge agrees, and if the president doesn't object -- so, if the president doesn't object, we're going to see all of it. If the president and his team do object, I think there's still a possibility if the reasons are not particularly persuasive, that the judge may find, as the attorney general put it, the substantial public interest in this matter outweighs the concerns that the president and his team may have and may yet, over the objection of the president and the judge's discretion, they reveal the search warrant and the inventory.
So, as I said earlier, we're not going to learn everything there is to learn about the underlying investigation, the evidence they have of what the probable cause was but we'll learn, I think, probably quite a bit about the nature of what they were looking for and not only of what they were looking for but what they found. That's by definition what inventory is. And I think that's important. And I'm curious and excited to hear what that information is myself.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of us are.
Phil Mudd, we know of two Justice Department investigations connected to the Trump orbit, January 6th and the handling of classified documents. What stands out to you from the details we know so far?
MUDD: Boy, there's one piece in this that you have to look at and you can't understand unless you've been doing this forever, and that is who was involved in this piece of this investigation.
Let's contrast this to January 6th, Wolf. There's a mention in the press reporting about this that the head of counterintelligence from the FBI was involved. The head of the counterintelligence doesn't deal with stuff like political corruption, January 6th, tampering with the electoral process, as was done in states like Georgia. The head of counterintelligence at the FBI deals with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea. That suggests to me, and I'm curious about what the documents say if they come out, that this investigation relates to something the president was involved in overseas. Was it Putin? Was it North Korea? That to me is one of the real clues here, and I can't wait to see it.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of us want to see it. Abby, the former president has, for years, as you well know, primed his supporters to disrupt these investigations. How powerful is it to now hear the attorney general of the United States push back on that narrative?
PHILLIP: I think it is very important for Merrick Garland to do that, but he's also not the first to be put in this position by Trump. I mean, Trump has forced even his own appointees to the Justice Department and the FBI to defend their workforce from his attacks. This has been a constant since the very beginning of the Trump administration.
And so, you know, the thing about all of this is that many Republicans at the moment seem to be saying that the FBI is corrupt if they are investigating their political allies and corrupt if they are not investigating their political opponents, and that doesn't work. That's not how these investigations operate. But Trump is really the person who at the nexus of all of that. He is the one who popularized, lock her up, when it came to Hillary Clinton. He is the one who urged publicly his Justice Department to pursue his political opponents. And so now, it should be no surprise that he is using his bully pulpit to attack the FBI from a post-presidential position and Merrick Garland has no choice but to defend his workforce against that.
BLITZER: An important point, indeed. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, we're going to get reaction to all of these dramatic developments from former Nixon White House counsel and Watergate star witness John Dean. He's standing by live.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're getting new reaction to the Justice Department's move to unseal the warrant used to search former President Trump's Florida home.
Joining us now is CNN Contributor and former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean. John, thanks very much for joining us.
This is truly an extraordinarily rare move by the Department of Justice. In your decades of legal work, including serving as President Nixon's White House Counsel, have you ever seen anything like this?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Nothing. It was actually a brilliant move given the circumstances. What Trump did is he took his right of privacy about what was going on, just as he was served a subpoena he told nobody when he had a search at his property. He could have told nobody but he decided the opposite. He put out a really dubious press release where he attacked the institution, where he laid doubt about the process, and I think it was a foolish move and it's going to come back and bite him, Wolf.
BLITZER: Trump says his attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully with the Department of Justice and the FBI. But does their refusal to unseal this warrant lead you to believe that's the truth?
DEAN: Well, that could not be the truth. The attorney general, Merrick Garland, is not the kind of man who would go to this extreme measure, as he said in his speech. He would use a more friendly process to get the job done, but they were clearly not responding to a friendly process. So, that's why they took the extreme action they had to take.
And from what the reporting is, it indicates this was probably top secret information that Trump had squirreled away and refused to turn over.
Top secret is really important. It isn't classified that way unless there's an expectation that it can cause exceptional damage to the national security. Wolf, that's serious and that's why they obviously moved to get the property in their custody.
BLITZER: Former President Trump has tried to draw parallels, as you know, between the search of Mar-a-Lago in Florida and the break-in at Watergate, a subject you know well. As we learn more about this search and the Justice Department's desire for these documents to be unsealed, does that comparison hold up?
DEAN: It's pathetic. It shows he has no knowledge of what happened with Watergate. Watergate was much more than a break-in, of course. It was a cover-up and, really, it built more the evidence of Nixon's abuse of power.
But you know something, Wolf, Nixon was an institutionalist. He wouldn't attack the FBI or the Department of Justice in just the blatant and blind way that Trump is. He knew those people. Maybe it's because Trump has never been in Washington, never worked with the people or really known them, but these are hardworking people who really have the best interest of the country in mind. So, I think Trump's attacks are so far off base, as are the Republican Party.
BLITZER: How do you see this playing out, John? Any chance the federal judge doesn't grant the Department of Justice's request?
DEAN: Well, if Trump makes a strong case on privacy, the judge might hear him out, but I think that's a bad position for Trump to be in to make all these claims and then keep it secret. So, he's between a rock and a hard place today. And I think the judge would obviously like to release it since the government is the one who asked that it be sealed and now they're asking unseal it.
So, again, this is an extreme nod because Trump is who he is, a former president, that they're giving him this option, but it's not an attractive one for him.
[18:25:03] BLITZER: Yes, truly extraordinary developments. John Dean, thanks very much for joining us.
Coming up, the January 6th select committee talks with a former member of the Trump cabinet and others may be next. Stand by for new information.
BLITZER: First on CNN, we are learning about former Trump cabinet members who already have or may meet with the January 6th select committee.
CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray is following the story for us. What can you tell us, Sara, about the former transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, and her plans?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, me and my colleagues, Zach Cohen and Jamie Gangel, have confirmed that Elaine Chao, the wife of Senator Mitch McConnell, has already appeared before the January 6th select committee and she's one of a number of high- level of officials that we are hearing have been in touch with the committee. We've also heard that Betsy DeVos, a source there telling us, is in talks with the committee. She's the former Trump education secretary. As well as Robert O'Brien, he's Trump's former national security adviser. He's actually scheduled for a virtual appearance before the committee tomorrow.
Now, one of the things that they really wanted to hear from these folks is what the discussions were like around the 25th Amendment. We know Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos were both part of conversations about potentially removing Trump from office using the 25th Amendment after January 6th. They were essentially told it was implausible, and both of them submitted their resignation on January 7th, Wolf.
BLITZER: The 25th Amendment, it gives an opportunity for cabinet members to vote and decide if a sitting president should leave office.
MURRAY: Exactly. And they were essentially told that Mike Pence was not going to go along with it and, therefore, it was unlikely to succeed. Both of them tendered their resignations.
BLITZER: Any other cabinet members about to testify as well before the committee?
MURRAY: Well, what's sort of stunning is the number of these cabinet members and senior officials who already had. Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, was just in front of the committee this week. We've also seen Steve Mnuchin go before the committee. We've seen Eugene Scalia, the former labor secretary, go before the committee.
Now, John Ratcliffe, who is the former director of National Intelligence, he is still in discussions with the committee about potentially appearing. Obviously, he dealt with a lot of classified information. So, they had to reach some negotiations in order to clear his appearance, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very dramatic developments, potentially. Thanks very much, Sara Murray reporting.
Right now, we're also getting more new information about the January 6th investigation, information just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent is working this part of the story for us. What are you learning, Whitney?
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a document detailing how investigators believed the Secret Service was impeding them from obtaining key information about the agency's response to January 6th was significantly altered, and in the end, removed references to nearly all of the accusations by DHS inspector general investigators that the Secret Service was basically stalling their investigation. That information was supposed to go into a final report that would have been presented to lawmakers in June, but the information was not.
This memo was obtained by the project on government oversight and it was shared with CNN. And, again, it contained detailed accusations that the Secret Service delayed giving the I.G. records, refused to identify the people who were reviewing the records for the I.G., so the Secret Service employees, they would not identify those people. And, Wolf, at times when they did hand over the records, they were heavily redacted.
The draft memo was approved in April, so more than -- about two months prior to when this report was sent to Congress. But in that time, it was scrapped and replaced with two sentences containing just a very brief reference to the challenges investigators faced in obtaining information. It didn't give any details about what the roadblocks were and basically said nothing about this other major issue here, which is that the Secret Service lost text messages. That was another roadblock that the I.G. investigators were running into and they did not tell Congress in a timely fashion.
What is not clear is why these detailed descriptions of all of these roadblocks were not included in the final report that Cuffari sent to Congress. And the timing here is so significant, Wolf, because this information was approved in April, the report went out in June. A month later, Cuffari had a dramatic about-face and ended raising these very issues to Congress. So, question has always been what precipitated his decision to go to Congress in the end.
In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for the Secret Service said that the agency is cooperating fully with all inquiries into the events that occurred on January 6th. The DHS inspector general did not respond to our requests for comment, Wolf.
BLITZER: Excellent reporting, Whitney Wild, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin joins me live. We'll discuss this unprecedented search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. That's next.
BLITZER: Tonight, CNN has joined other news media outlets here in the United States asking a court to unseal documents connected to the FBI search of former President Trump's Florida residence.
Let's go to our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, what are you learning?
PEREZ: Well, Wolf, the media organizations, including CNN, are asking a court to release perhaps a redacted version of the affidavit which supports the Justice Department's search of the former president's home.
Now, this is a highly unusual situation, obviously, because we know that this search is unprecedented and the media organizations point out that not since the Nixon administration has the public -- has the federal government taking an action like this, seizing records like this from a former president. And so that is really why the media organizations are asking a judge to at least release a redacted version of what the government used to support its case for doing this unusual action on Monday at Mar-a-Lago, Wolf.
BLITZER: Significant development, Evan. Thank you very much.
I want to bring in Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin right now. She is the author of the very important book, Leadership in Turbulent Times. There's the cover right there. Doris, thanks so much for joining us.
The country never has seen anything like this before, I think you'll agree. Can you put these incredible events of the past several days into historical perspective for us?
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think the only thing you can say is it's unprecedented that this search took place. It's unprecedented, however, that we had a president who was unwilling to accept the loss of an election, unprecedented that he tried to figure out how to change the results, unprecedented now that we have the search being potentially opened up to the public.
But it's really important for democracy, I think, what Mr. Garland has done because public sentiment is the most important thing, Abraham Lincoln said. With it, anything is possible. Without it, anything will fail. And as a result, the false narrative are already beginning to develop in these last three days that this was really something packed that maybe they went in and they planted something, that it wasn't truly a search warrant, now the facts are going to fight with the false narrative.
What we saw when President Trump had the presidency, he used the bully pulpit to huge effect to create the false narrative about not having lost the election. We just can't let that happen again. So, I think it's really not just a brilliant strategy that he did, he's allowing the public, not just in their interest, but to begin the story that is true come out.
BLITZER: How essential is it, Doris, for Americans to have trust in the U.S. Justice Department to handle such a dangerous case like this?
GOODWIN: You've just hit on, I think, the most important, worrisome thing about our situation today, because any kind of false narrative about what the Justice Department did or what the FBI did is falling on fertile grounds because there's such a lack of trust in our institutions.
Way back in 1958, three-quarters of the people thought that the American government would do the right thing most of the time, and then you had Vietnam and then you had Watergate and then the weapons of mass destruction, you had Iraq and a whole series of other things, and you had President Trump for six years deliberately sowing distrust in the Department of Justice, FBI and a whole bunch of other institutions. And now, only two in ten people believe that the government is going to do the right thing most of the time.
I suspect I'm in that two of ten. I got to still believe it because the government is not some foreign body. It's us. We are the government. And unless we begin to trust in the institutions we build, then the foundation of democracy is undone. So, that's the scary thing right now.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Doris, that the FBI search down in Florida happened to fall on the 48th anniversary of President Richard Nixon announcing his resignation. How dangerous is it potentially for American democracy if presidents are treated as being above the law?
GOODWIN: That's the central idea when I talk about public sentiment, it doesn't just mean public opinion. It means a settled doctrine that settles over the country. Like Lincoln said, it was settled over the country that you couldn't have slavery coexisting with democracy.
We have to embrace the central idea that no one is above the law, that no president can be above the law. And that central idea, I think, was beginning to set into the January 6th committees. They're making a powerful case, when you saw The Wall Street Journal and you saw The New York Post beginning to have editorials that said this president's silence on not having done anything when the mob was attacking the Capitol is not right. The president stood still. He was silent. You're beginning a mark.
And I think -- I just hope that this knowledge now that we have, we've taken the whole distraction into the search for these records cannot take away from that important educational function that I think January 6th is doing brilliantly, because we've got to get that idea, we have to agree on that idea that no one is above the law.
BLITZER: The Washington Post, and I know you know this, is reporting that President Biden recently met privately with a bunch of historians who issued dire warnings on the current threats to American democracy. Would you echo that warning?
GOODWIN: I do think that there is threat to democracy when elections can be potential argue, when the person who lost doesn't accept the win. The peaceful transition of power is a central tenet of what democracy is and so too is voting. And that was one of the things we were talking about all spring and summer and then, again, get distracted, but voting rights are being restricted in places. There's a possibility that state legislatures may be able to overturn the popular opinion. Those are tenets of democracy.
What is a democracy? It says that people can choose who their leaders are and choose to let them go when they don't want them anymore. And if we don't have trust in that process, I think we're in peril.
I am so glad though that President Biden is meeting with historians. I met with him earlier in the last year to talk about domestic issues. President Obama did the same thing. In fact, I was helping to organize a series of dinners for him. Maybe it's just because I'm a historian but I think it's great for them to look at the past and learn from the past.
When we went to President Obama's dinners, we would come with all of our ideas, of our guise in our head, our presidents that we've studies. We didn't really dress up like them but we almost came with them so that we could give his advice from what our presidents might tell him at that moment in time whatever he was dealing with.
So, you've got to learn from your parents, grandparents, and I think you can learn from past presidents and history as well. I think this is a time when we truly need history.
History will help us give a solace and perspective to know that we've been through these really tough times before, somehow we made it through we've got a strength because we are in a tough time, but if we have faith in ourselves and become active and not spectators, we'll get through this. I really believe that.
BLITZER: Yeah. Doris Kearns Goodwin, it's always great to hear your perspective. Thank you very much for joining us.
Coming up, there is more evidence right now in the sharp surge in prices, evidence that the prices may be easing up a bit.
BLITZER: Tonight, Democrats are touting a better than expected new report showing inflation here in the United States slowed in July.
I want to bring in Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He's a key member of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves as the Democratic Caucus chair.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
As you know, Democrats are touting economic winds right now, but many Americans, and you can testify to this, are still feeling the effects of inflation here in the U.S. What's your message to the American people who remain frustrated with the state of the economy right now?
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Well, the Biden economy is strong and continues to move in the right direction. Job creation is up, gas prices are down, and as evidence that inflationary pressures are easing. Of course, there is more that needs to be done, which is why House Democrats will pass the Inflation Reduction Act tomorrow, which is going to take decisive action with respect to climate change to save our planet, bring down energy costs, lower the high price of lifesaving prescription drugs and also make health care more accessible and affordable by straightening the Affordable Care Act.
BLITZER: So, how essential is it for Democrats to capitalize on the legislative momentum right now, including passage we expect tomorrow of this Inflation Reduction Act, as it is called, if they want to keep control of the House and Senate come to midterm elections in November?
JEFFRIES: Well, our focus right now is singular, make life better for every day Americans, put people over politics, lower costs, better paying jobs, safer communities. And so, we will continue to do the work that is necessary to address these issues, and we will take a substantial step in the right direction tomorrow with the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Then, of course, we will continue to monitor the situation. We passed significant bills over the last several months related to gun safety measures for the first time in 30 years. Of course, bringing back domestic manufacturing to the United States of America, building upon the progress that we have previously made with respect to the American Rescue Plan and infrastructure investment and jobs act.
BLITZER: While I have you, Congressman, I want to get your reaction to the justice department request to unseal the warrant used to search a former president's home at Mar-a-Lago down in Florida. Many of your Republican colleagues have joined the former president and voicing their outrage over the FBI search. Does the attorney general's action today, from your perspective, make it harder to criticize that move?
JEFFRIES: Certainly, the attorney general is a man of integrity. I expect that the Department of Justice will continue to follow the facts, apply the law and be guided by the constitution, and let the chips fall where they may.
Here in America, no one is above the law, not a president of the United States or anyone else. So, the Department of Justice has a job to do. We've got no visibility into that, but I think making the requests to be as open and transparent with the American people about what happened and why it happened is a really good step in the right direction.
BLITZER: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thanks so much for joining us.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We've got some breaking news coming in right now. I want to go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's working the story for us.
I understand there is new information on what had been a standoff involving an armed suspect who attempted to breach the FBI building in Cincinnati, Ohio.
What is going on?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Well, we can confirm from the Ohio state highway patrol that suspect is dead. Three law enforcement sources telling our colleagues Brynn Gingras and Josh Campbell that he is identified as Ricky Schiffer. The suspect was killed in a standoff with police, lasting several hours.
Now, here is what I can tell you from our reporting at this moment here about the suspect. An account bearing the name of the suspect in the standoff made a post on former President Donald Trump's social media platform, referencing an attempt to storm an FBI office and encourage others online to prepare for a revolutionary type war.
On the Truth Social account, that is President Trump's account, the user claimed he was present in Washington on January 6, but did not say whether he was on Capitol Hill or entered the Capitol at that time. Authorities have not yet confirmed that the account is the suspect.
But what we can tell you, Wolf, is that the suspect is confirmed, the name is confirmed, Ricky Schiffer and that investigators are combing through his social media presence as we speak, as we just told you about what they've been able to tell us about his claims to have been at the Capitol.
Now, we can tell you detail also about how this attack and pursuit played out. He entered the FBI Cincinnati field office at about 9:15 this morning, according to law enforcement.
He had a standoff there, some sort of confrontation with people at a security checkpoint there. Then he fled in a car and drove north on 71 from Cincinnati. He exited the highway at least once, he then turned at least once with the officers in pursuit, and they were firing.
He was firing at them, according to the highway state highway patrol. He was firing at them during that pursuit and after his car came to a stop. Not just a short time ago, Lt. Nathan Dennis talked about what happened after that standoff with police and what they try to move in and take him into custody.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. NATHAN DENNIS, OHIO STATE HIGHWAY PATROL: Less lethal tactics were utilized at that time. They were also unsuccessful. The suspect then did raise a firearm towards law enforcement and shots were fired by law when officers on the scene. At that point, the suspect was deceased. He succumbed to injuries at the scene.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And again, I'm going to reiterate to our viewers that the latest reporting that CNN has here, and account bearing the name of the suspect. He has been identified by our sources as Ricky Schiffer. An account bearing his name at the suspect made a post on former President Donald Trump social media platform, referencing an attempt to storm a FBI office and also encouraged others online to prepare for a revolutionary type war.
On the Truth Social account, the user claimed he was present in Washington on January six but did not say whether he entered the Capitol building. Authorities have not yet confirmed that the account is the suspects, Wolf.
So piecing to gather some details about possible connections between the suspect and January 6.
BLITZER: Yeah, very disturbing development indeed. Brian, standby for a moment.
I want to bring in Phil Mudd for some analysis.
What's your reaction, Phil, when you hear this report?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: A lot of discomfort, but as a citizen and former national security professional. Look, Wolf, we have a lot of history in this country about civil purpose that is Americans protesting President Trump, Americans protesting President Biden. But in the wake of January 6th and events like this, the FBI is going to be under tremendous pressure in this country to say organizations that are responsible for protests, that might have been involved in peaceful protest three years ago are transitioning to violence, whether it is in Cincinnati or whether it's in the U.S. Capitol.
My point is that the FBI is going to be asked increasingly to look at U.S. citizen groups and say, are you surveilling those groups? Are you looking at Americans who have political problems in the country, and can you prevent this kind of attack and the future? Boy, that makes me really incredible, but it is something that the FBI director talks about, Wolf, and it is something that the FBI has to do, surveil Americans.
BLITZER: Standby for a moment, Phil.
I want to bring in Brynn Gingras. She's been reporting on this since it broke earlier today. The suspect apparently tried to breach the FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio, heavily armed.
What are you learning, Brynn? BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, Wolf, the big
question here now is what was the motivation behind the suspect intentions going to the office today. We know that there were negotiations for several hours with FBI negotiators and the SWAT team, when he was sort of surrounded in this area in the rural part of Ohio. We know that there were no parameters literally around him, as they tried to talk to him for several hours.
What was disclosed and those conversations? Did he reference what we are seeing on the social media account with a similar username, again, that we are trying to confirm? That was his actual account.
We know also that they're in the past couple of days has been memo sent around to field offices within the FBI, we can sure that security posture was up to speed in light of what has been going on, all the violent rhetoric, after the search of Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.
Certainly, we cannot put those two things together right now, as far as motivation as to what this person was doing, but we know all the sort of things are adding up, and it is a frightening picture to look at.
BLITZER: Phil, I'll take it that buries FBI field offices around the country have heightened their own security right now. Is that what you are hearing as well?
MUDD: Yeah, I would go beyond that. If you look at where the FBI was in the past few years, looking at things like white supremacist movements or opposition movements, sovereign citizen movements across the country, you would have seen them in many and maybe all states across the America. In the wake of the (INAUDIBLE) this polarization and the violence we have seen in the country over the past couple of years, you've got to anticipate that there are a lot more than 50 FBI field officers in the country, virtually every single one of them, Wolf, is going to be looking at violent groups in their area of operations and ask, which of these groups have individuals that would do something like this?
This is not a local phenomenon. This is an American phenomenon, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is, and we're going to watch it very, very closely. A very significant development indeed.
Guys, thank you very much.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.