Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Trump's Home Searched For Violation Of Espionage Act, Other Crimes; Landmark Bill Heads To Biden To Sign In New Win For Democrats; Gunman In Ohio Standoff Previously Known To FBI Due To January 6 Link; Author Salman Rushdie Attacked In New York After Years Of Death Threats. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 12, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking new, we are digging deeper into the released warrant used to search former President Trump's home, the top secret material seized by the FBI and the revelation that Trump is under investigation for possible violations of the Espionage Act. Could the evidence that was uncovered lead to criminal charges?

And the House has just sealed a critical win for the Democrats just ahead of the midterm elections, giving final congressional approval to a landmark climate, health care and tax bill and sending it to President Biden to sign into law.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following major breaking news right now, a federal judge unsealing the Mar-a-Lago search warrant just a little while ago at the request of the U.S. Justice Department. There's a lot to unpack this hour.

Let's go to our Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz right now. Katelyn, so, what does the FBI say they found in their search?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, I'm looking here at this itemized list that was handed to former President Donald Trump's lawyers whenever the FBI left and it is 33 items ultimately that were seized from Mar-a-Lago as possible evidence of crime.

Among that list, there are 11 sets of documents that appear to be classified or confidential at some level in the U.S. government. In one them, there is a leather-bound box of documents noted here that has various classified documents, including TS/SCI. That is the very top level of secrecy that the U.S. government uses. It means top secret/sensitive compartmental documents.

So, you're seeing there on your screen the different levels, all of those levels are represented in the documents that were taken out of Mar-a-Lago on Monday in this search. There's also a few other curious things on this list, including the executive grant of clemency, so either a pardon or commutation of Roger Stone, who was convicted for lying to Congress on behalf of the president, also some information about the president of France. We don't really know what that is yet.

But this full list does represent what is being collected, this evidence in this ongoing criminal investigation.

BLITZER: Katelyn, agents said they wanted to look for evidence of potential crimes.

POLANTZ: Right. Wolf, that is the piece of information we were most interested in seeing and the Justice Department did deliver. They did write out exactly what Donald Trump or others at Mar-a-Lago who may have touched these boxes would be investigated for.

First and foremost, there is a criminal code listed as there being probable cause to investigate the Espionage Act. That would be gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, so, sensitive information for the national defense that could be harmful to the United States if it got into the wrong hands, not necessarily classified information.

There's also another statute that's being investigated regarding records, the concealment or mutilation of records. There's also an obstruction of justice statute under investigation here. That is that statute that Donald Trump has previously been investigated for in the Mueller investigation, was not charged. It carries a steep penalty, a possible maximum prison sentence of 20 years. None of these have been charged at this time but they are quite important and that they cover both information that would be national defense information and also they cover what happens to documents if they were mistreated.

And we already know in boxes that were removed from Mar-a-Lago back in January, there were torn up records from the presidency that had been taped back together by White House staffers in those boxes. And on this search, when they did go back to Mar-a-Lago, do the search on Monday by the FBI, they were searching the office of the former president, the 45 office, and other areas that he would have used at his beach house.

BLITZER: Yes, lots of really important details just released in this search warrant, that this document that was just released.

Katelyn, stay with us.


I also want to bring in our legal, political and law enforcement experts right now. Andrew McCabe, what does it say that federal authorities had what they call probable cause to believe they would find evidence of these crimes, particularly espionage?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it is a remarkable set of circumstances we have here. So, we know that they were able to convince a federal judge that there was probable cause to believe two things. One, that a crime has been committed, and, two, that there would be evidence of this crime in this location, Mar-a- Lago.

And we don't have the actual affidavit that lays out all the facts upon which they base that finding of probable cause but you can imagine probably a lot of that information came from the interactions with the Trump team to include, of course, the meeting in June when representatives from DOJ and the FBI went down to Mar-a-Lago, they allegedly went into the storage room in the basement and were able to see and review documents and we're told may have even taken some of those documents with them on that day.

So, the facts that they used to make the arguments for probable cause were very strong. A lot of them were likely based on their own observations.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, at issue here are documents at the highest classification levels. The former president says he actually declassified these documents before he left the White House. Why would any president want top secret documents that were related to national security to be declassified?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is very hard to understand that, although with Donald Trump, if you recall, during the Russia investigation, there was a point at which Donald Trump tweeted that he wanted all documents related to this investigation declassified. That did not occur. A judge got involved, and as we know, that never happened.

Kash Patel who -- somebody who worked for Donald Trump, who, as all, been designated by Trump, to handle these issues for the presidential records, also said today that, look, if the president says it's declassified, it's declassified. This doesn't go to the point about why the president would want such documents declassified.

We know there is controversy over that, that that is not the case, that there is a process that has to be followed for declassifying these kinds of top secret documents, and I'm sure that is going to be litigated, Wolf. The question is why would he want these documents to be classified? We can't answer that right now.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a good point.

David Aronberg, even if these documents were declassified, would that have an impact on the specific statutes being investigated here?

DAVID ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: That's an important point, Wolf. It would not. And that is what I think was the most damning part of the release today, is that the three statutes that are implicated in the search warrant, none of those statutes require the documents to be classified. So, if Trump's defense works that, yes, he actually declassified all these things, it still would not help him when it comes to a case, a charge under these three statutes.

BLITZER: Good point. Katelyn Polantz, we have now seen the receipt of the FBI search, which says they seized 11 sets of highly classified documents. What can you glean from this document?

POLANTZ: The biggest thing that is the takeaway of today of looking at this is that there was substantial evidence collected in this ongoing criminal investigation. We don't have that affidavit. That would describe the narrative of exactly what led up to the search, why the search was needed, why it was needed now, why the seizure was needed right now and what information the Justice Department has gotten through the course of this investigation, including in recent days to prompt them to take this really, really significant action against a former president.

But what this all is, is it's part of that ongoing case. Any subpoenas that would be issued before would also be part of this ongoing investigation. And at this time, we don't even know who exactly is being investigated here. There clearly is an issue here with records. There's clearly an issue with presidential records, national defense information, classified documents but we are still waiting to see if there would be an affidavit.

There are news organizations, including CNN, who have asked the court to also unseal the affidavit in this. But absent that, what we would need to wait for to learn more is for an indictment, if anything, or another type of charge, a plea deal, something like that, that would explain exactly what happened.

BLITZER: Andrew McCabe, now that the FBI has released -- has all the materials, I should say, in its possession, what happens next?


MCCABE: Well, there's a lot of work for the FBI agents here. You, of course, have the investigators who are on this case. So, they'll be going through all of this material very closely to figure out whether or not there was actually evidence in here that supports any of the charges. And I should say, Wolf, any other charges.

So, the investigation is not limited to the three statutes they've cited on the search warrant. If they find evidence of other crimes or if they find evidence that fits a different statute, they can certainly pursue that and ultimately pursue an indictment, if that's the way they go.

But in addition to that work, they're conducting a very careful damage assessment to understand what sort of information was included in these records, whether or not that the leak of these records into an area where they are not authorized to be stored might have exposed them to other individuals who could do damage to our national security. So, they're going to be looking at sources. They're going to be looking at methods, classified technologies, things like that that may have been exposed either intentionally or inadvertently through the mishandling of these documents.

BLITZER: Gloria, the former president, he clearly has been critical of the FBI search, insinuating that it was disrespectful of his home down there in Florida. As we learn more about the search though, is that criticism holding up? BORGER: No, it doesn't hold up. I mean, this is not a group of people that went in like gangbusters to Mar-a-Lago and tore the place apart. In fact, really, Wolf, it is just the opposite. They went in at 10:00 in the morning. They could have gotten in at 6:00 in the morning. They decided not to. This was carefully and quietly done.

And in the larger picture of things, we also have to understand that this occurred after months of negotiations with the National Archives and then we also understand and we know that the FBI went in in June and they took what documents they could that was provided to them under a subpoena, and that, after that, we know that they learned of more documents, and that is why they decided they had to go in under a search warrant and search again.

So, this is something that happened over a long period of time after negotiations with the Archives and then discussion again with the FBI. And so this is not something that came in under the dark of night or very, very early in the morning and that nobody should have -- nobody was prepared for. This is something that had been taken a long time for the FBI to decide what, in fact, they had to do.

BLITZER: Yes, a very delicate matter indeed.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: Everybody stand by. There's more a lot more we need to discuss, including what's next in the Trump investigation now that the Mar-a-Lago search warrant has been made public. Could criminal charges actually be in the works? Stay with us.



BLITZER: Newly released court documents show FBI agents left Trump's Florida home with a trove of highly classified material, including some marked top secret.

Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is joining us right now. Jessica, you're getting new information about actual threats against the FBI since the Mar-a-Lago search. What are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, a major uptick in threats against the FBI. In fact, a law enforcement source is now telling our Josh Campbell that the FBI is currently investigating an unprecedented number of threats against the bureau and against personnel, and that includes two of the special agents who were listed on these court records as being involved in the search at Mar-a-Lago.

These two special agents, their name was actually redacted in the court documents that were put out officially by the federal court in Florida. However, the search warrant and the documents connected to it actually leaked beforehand. And in those documents, the names of these two special agents are not redacted. So, some of the public have seized on these names and there are threats against these two agents. This comes after a week that the FBI has been bombarded with not only threats but also that attack in Cincinnati. There was an armed gunman who stormed the field office in Cincinnati just yesterday. He was eventually killed after a standoff with police. And, Wolf, the FBI, I have talked to them, they are not responding directly about these specific threats but they have issued a statement here encompassing all threats, saying the FBI is always concerned about violence to law enforcement and they go on say that they are work closely with law enforcement partners and they're urging the public to really help them and be vigilant and make any reports about any threats.

We did hear in a statement from the FBI director yesterday. He said the bureau continues to be vigilant, that they have stepped up the security posture. But this is something that the FBI has been dealing with since the search on Monday. And now, it appears these threats are only ramping, especially against these two special agents listed, their names listed in the court documents.

BLITZER: Well, let's met get Andrew McCabe to weigh in. Andrew, you're the former FBI deputy director. What goes through your mind when you hear this latest reporting from Jessica?

MCCABE: Well, first and foremost, Wolf, my heart goes out to these two agents and to their families. Having been in a, as you know, very high profile position before I left the FBI and having sustained these sort of attacks from the president and from many of his followers, I know how terrifying this can be.

And FBI agents live very open lives. They live under a true name in their communities. They are prepared to go into court at any moment to testify truthfully and in front of defendants and people who have been charged with crime. So, they're not shy. This isn't something -- danger is not something that's alien to them. But to be facing the brunt of this massive kind of national wave of politically-motivated anger and grievance, all of which has been egged on by the former president through his baseless lies about the bureau and about search warrant on Monday, it is just -- it's an incredibly regretful and frightening situation for these folks to be in.


BLITZER: Yes, it's pretty extraordinary. Just yesterday, the FBI director specifically said, let me also assure you that -- this is a statement to the FBI. Let me also you that your safety and security are my primary concern right now. It's pretty shocking that he has to issue a statement like that.

Katelyn, turning back to the specifics of the case against the former president, where does the Justice Department go from here?

POLANTZ: That's a great question, Wolf. Well, right now, we don't know if it is indeed a case against the former president or who it is, but one of the things that we are seeing here is that we know a lot more about this investigation and where it may be than the other investigation that Donald Trump and those around him may be facing, which is January 6. This is investigation was one we have not really been talking about at all in recent months, and even Trump's own lawyers thought that it had stalled out, that it was silent and were taken aback even by Merrick Garland coming out on Wednesday. And so just in the last few weeks, we have been learning so much more about the investigation around January 6.

That conversation has really died down because we're talking so much about this but we know that Donald Trump has a lot of legal issues potentially on his hands now. He's going to need a lot of lawyers to be untangling exactly what may be lying down the path for him. We know that people around him, their phones seized, John Eastman, who was an elections lawyer for him, Jeffrey Clark who was at the Justice Department, who wanted to make him to be attorney general. We know there's a privilege fight brewing in court regarding his presidency after people have been called into the grand jury form the White House Counsel's Office, the Vice President's Office. That's all just January 6, and then there's this.

So, there's still this question of where the FBI might be. They have all this evidence. Now, the question is how far along in this are we? Will they be interviewing more people? Are we very close to an indictment on this front at the very least?

BLITZER: Good questions, indeed. Gloria, so, do you expect we'll be hearing more from the former president as the investigation progresses?

BORGER: Yes, absolutely. And we're going to hear more from the president on January 6 and other investigations. The president has already posted on social media that this is a hoax. He's called it un- American, unwarranted and unnecessary. He has asked the question planting information, anyone, you have seen that echoed among lots of his supporters. He has asked the question about why his lawyers weren't allowed to be present when they were searching documents.

So, this is a president, of course, who fights back and who likes to portray himself as a victim of every investigation. And so you can be sure we're going to hear more of that, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We're going to have a lot more coming up on the threats now being leveled against the FBI.

Also, other major news we're following, the House of Representatives has just passed truly landmark legislation, including the biggest investment ever to combat the climate crisis, the biggest investment ever in U.S. history to deal with climate. We'll discuss the significance for Americans and for Democrats with the midterm elections just around the corner.



BLITZER: Just a little while ago, Congress sealed a very, very critical win for the Democrats, the House of Representatives approving a landmark climate, health care and tax bill and it now heads to the White House for President Biden to sign into law.

Our Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona is joining us right now. Melanie, this is a significant accomplishment for the president and for his party just ahead of the midterm elections in November.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Wolf, this is such a huge moment for President Joe Biden and his party and a long time coming. This is 19 months of negotiations. There were fits and starts, but they ended up getting here.

And I really want to point out that the vote tally, every Republican voted against it and every single Democrat voted for it. That is a big deal for Democratic leadership who are working with really slim majorities.

And so I think it's really important to point out just how much Democrats have rallied around this bill even though it is not everything that they wanted. But ultimately decided to take what they could get and what they got, Wolf, was pretty substantial and including a number of key Democratic priorities.

I want to remind viewers at home just what is in that bill. It includes a historic investment in the climate, nearly $370 billion worth of climate and energy provisions. It would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices. That's something that's huge that Democrats have been trying to achieve for many years. It would cap out-of-pocket Medicare at $2,000. It would extend Obamacare subsidies for three years that is set to expire in the fall And, finally, it would impose a 15 percent corporate minimum tax.

Now, some of these benefits, Wolf, will be immediately felt, like the clean energy manufacturing and electric vehicle tax credits, but other benefits are going to take a little bit longer to kick in. I mean, a $35 cap on insulin for Medicare won't start until the beginning of next year, and the power to negotiate drug prices, that won't start until 2026.


And so, really, for Democrats, this comes down to the sales job that they are going to have to do on the campaign trail. The White House is wasting no time on that front. They have already started an August messaging push talking about how Democrats have delivered for the American people. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. They are starting to sell that, indeed. All right, Melanie, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss this and more with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She is the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

After months and months of negotiation, what is your reaction to this victory for the Democratic Party and for the president?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Wolf, I am so excited. Congratulations to President Biden for putting forward this bold economic vision and to every Democrat that voted for this bill in the House and the Senate. We are unified in saying we are tackling the climate crisis, we are making sure we're bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, we are saving money for the American people and energy and health care costs, and, Wolf, it's all paid for through taxes on the wealthiest corporations.

And, to me, this is the kind of moment to live for in Congress, frankly, something that is going to deliver real change where can say to young people, you are going to have a planet because we are going to cut carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030. It's really -- it feels fantastic. And I know we have got a lot more work to do. But also on that front, Wolf, we are so close to passing the rest of President Biden's economic agenda.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens on that front. As you know, Congresswoman, Democrats named this specific bill the Inflation Reduction Act, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the bill will have a negligible effect, that's a quote, a negligible effect on inflation this year and next year. So, when will the Americans who are feeling the pain of inflation right now begin to see some serious relief and just how much relief will they see?

JAYAPAL: Well, look, there's still a lot to do on this front because, unfortunately, we are still seeing high prices for things like housing. We know that food spiked. But we also know that gas prices are now down under $4. And with this bill, we will cut energy costs for the average American family by $1,000 a year. We will make sure that nobody has to continue to pay for health care without the subsidies that we passed in the American Rescue Plan and that we are extending now for another three years.

And, yes, it might take a little bit of time to show that we can bring down the cost of insulin and shame on the Republicans for refusing to extend that provision to all Americans that had private insurance, but at least we got the toe in the door.

So, I think we are starting to see the prices come down. We will continue to see American families have money in their pockets to be able to withstand what might be a couple more months, and at the end of day, we are making big, transformative change on health care and on climate.

BLITZER: You certainly did get a lot. You didn't necessarily get everything. Some environmental activists have voiced, as you well know, some mixed reactions to this bill, especially the fossil fuel provisions that were added to appease Senator Joe Manchin when it was up in the Senate. Would you like to see those provisions undone?

JAYAPAL: Well, look, we don't like the provisions. We've been very clear about that. But we also did look at the analysis that shows that the net effect, even with those provisions in here, is still 40 percent. And at the end of the day, Wolf, my belief is that if we can invest in these renewable energy technologies, electric vehicles, heat pumps, all the things that this bill really promotes, then what we are going to do is bring the cost of renewable energy technologies down below the fossil cost and that's ultimately what's going to get us there.

Would I like to see them undone? Absolutely, I would. I don't think we should be doing more leasing of -- and drilling of oil and gas lands. But I still think that even with those provisions, we're going to be vigilant all the way to the end, don't get me wrong. But even with those provisions, I think we are going to see a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions. And that's the end goal here, is we have got to deal with jobs, justice and de-carbonization. This bill also creates 9 million American jobs.

BLITZER: Certainly a lot in this legislation that has just been passed in the House, it was passed in the Senate. Now, President Biden just announced a few moments ago he will sign it into law next week. So, we'll stay on top of this.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, congratulations to you and to the Democrats. Thanks very much for joining us.

JAYAPA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, so what's next for former President Trump after a search warrant reveals an investigation for potential violations of at least three federal laws, including the Espionage Act?


The former attorney general of the United States under George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales, is standing by live. We will discuss. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Staying with the unprecedented of former President Trump's personal home. The just unsealed warrant shows the Justice Department actually looked for evidence of violations of the Espionage Act, among other crimes.


The former attorney general of the United States under President George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales, is joining us right now. Attorney General Gonzales, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me get your reaction to everything we've learned today, all these dramatic developments as these documents, the federal documents were unsealed.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, there were some dramatic developments today, Wolf, but I think it's important for your viewers to appreciate this is just the start of a case. This is about gathering information. Obviously, a search warrant was obtained but it was based upon probable cause, which is a lot lower standard than guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And so I think people need to just be patient here.

Certainly, people on -- allies of President Trump who have been critical of the FBI, the Department of Justice, I think we all just need to be patient and let the department do its work and we'll see where this goes. It may be that no charges will be issued, but who knows. This may be forwarded (ph) with some kind of prosecution but we just don't know yet.

BLITZER: Can you think -- Attorney General, can you think of any reasonable explanation why the former president of the United States would have actually taken these highly classified documents with him to Mar-a-Lago to his beach resort down in Palm Beach? Some of these documents were at the highest level of classifications, we learned today. Can you think of any reasonable explanation why he would do that?

GONZALES: Well, it may have been unintentional, Wolf, quite frankly, perhaps they were gathering up information. Someone may have sucked them into this box, perhaps without the president's knowledge. We just don't know yet.

I don't -- I don't want to try to speculate as to why he might take these documents intentionally. I think the president spends a great deal of time around classified information. He spends a great deal of time with individuals who are very much versed in handling classified information. And so he would have known better, quite frankly, to take this kind of information. But, again, I think we have to wait and see.

And one of the things in order to charge the president with a crime, the department will have to make a showing that there's a knowing violation here.

BLITZER: I ask the question, Attorney General, because over the many months the former president had ample opportunity to return the documents to the federal government, top secret SCI documents, they don't come more classified than that, and let them go back to highly secured areas where they need to be protected.

GONZALES: There's no question about that. Assuming that someone made him aware, did he have actual knowledge that the documents were there, Wolf, I just don't know. Clearly, the department has -- and the National Archives, has asked for all this information, including classified information. And I don't know if it's a question of just not getting around to it, intentionally wanted to hold on to the documents for some unknown reason, I just don't know.

Again, the question of the president's intent, the president's knowledge here, are all going to be critical with respect to a successful prosecution of any of these crimes.

BLITZER: As you know, Merrick Garland has proven himself to be a very, very deliberate attorney general of the United States. What does it say to you that he took this truly extraordinary step to authorize a search of the former president's home?

GONZALES: I would say extremely extraordinary circumstances that would lead him to that conclusion. I think there must have been some compelling reasons we may not know yet. As you may remember, Wolf, I was involved in authorizing an unprecedented search during my time as attorney general in connection with the Capitol Hill search of a congressman's office. It never had been in the history of our country. And I met with Bob Mueller and other senior officials at the department who impressed up on two things. One, it was absolutely legal to do this and, two, absolutely necessary at the time.

And after a great deal of hand wringing, based upon the recommendation of my senior team, I authorized the search. But it was not without a great deal of introspection (ph), thinking about how important this was and what a precedent it would set. And sure enough, it caused a firestorm, much like the firestorm that we are seeing today.

BLITZER: Yes. And I remember that incident very, very clearly. But it's important to remember, as Merrick Garland keeps saying, no one, including a former president of the United States, is above the law, the law of the land. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, thank you so much for joining us.

GONZLAES: Always a pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, authorities are investigating ties between the Proud Boys and the suspect who tried to breach an Ohio FBI field office.


Stand by, new information coming in.



BLITZER: CNN is now learning that the FBI is investigating a, quote, unprecedented number of threats against the men and women of the bureau in the wake of the search of the Mar-a-Lago residence of the former president of the United States. This comes as authorities learn more about the man who tried to breach an FBI field office in Ohio just yesterday.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with details.

Brian, the suspect's social media has been of very high interest to the FBI. Tell our viewers what they're looking for.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have some chilling new information tonight on what appear to be some threatening posts by the suspect after the Mar-a-Lago raid and before the Cincinnati attack as investigators scramble to learn more about him.


TODD (voice-over): On a social media account bearing the name of the suspect in Cincinnati, 42-year-old Ricky Shiffer, the user seemed to fixate on revenge for the FBI search of Donald Trump's home, Mar-a- Lago.

On Monday, the day of the Mar-a-Lago raid, the user wrote: People, this is it. I hope a call to arms comes from someone better qualified. But if not, this is your call to arms from me.

JOHN SCOTT-RAILTON, SENIOR RESEARCHER, CITIZEN LAB, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO: This was totally predictable. Not the person, not the place, but the fact that angry people would take up arms and do something violent was absolutely predictable. And the worst part is the people who are pushing that rhetoric, they knew it. They knew what would happen. And clearly, they made the decision to go forward.

TODD: Also on Shiffer's account, the user encouraged others to go to gun and pawnshops to, quote, get whatever you need to be ready for combat. When another person responded to the user, saying they would send his picture and information to the FBI, the user responded, bring them on.

TERRANCE GAINER, FORMER U.S. CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: I think a lot of their effort right now will be focused on who he was connected with and what others may do. So people who have been involved with this individual, either through social media or in day-to-day activities, I hope they're a little bit nervous.

TODD: Two law enforcement sources tell CNN Ricky Shiffer was previously known to the FBI because of his connections with the January 6th attack on the Capitol. His social media accounts user claimed they were in Washington that day but didn't say whether they entered the Capitol. Our sources say he also had associations with the far right extremist group the Proud Boys.

Since the Mar-a-Lago raid, CNN has found ramped up extremist rhetoric in online forums sympathetic to Trump.

One post CNN found called for violence against FBI agents.

ARIEH KOVLER, SOCIAL MEDIA EXTREMISM ANALYST: The thing I have seen people talking about and maybe fantasizing about is potential trigger might be a potential arrest or detention of Donald Trump.


TODD (on camera): And that means there is added tension among law enforcement agents tonight. Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer whose son is a retired FBI agent told us he has been speaking to several agents since the Mar-a-Lago raid. They are telling him that they are taking special precautions now for their own safety and for the safety of their families.

Wolf, a lot of law enforcement agents all over the country really on edge tonight.

BLITZER: Yeah. So, so worrisome indeed.

All right. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Just ahead, a celebrated author whose writings generated death threats

has been attacked. We'll have the latest on Salman Rushdie as police have now identified the suspect.



BLITZER: Tonight, police have identified the suspect in the attack on the author, Salman Rushdie.

At last word, Rushdie was still in surgery after being stabbed in the neck and abdomen before giving a lecture out in western New York state.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is following the story for us.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Salman Rushdie, the famed author who has endured decades of death threats, attacked in western New York Friday morning. Rushdie was scheduled to speak at a lecture series when witnesses say a man jumped onto the stage just as the event was getting under way and began punching and stabbing Rushdie.

One witness tells CNN she counted roughly seven to ten stabbing motions before fleeing for her own safety. Rushdie suffered stab wounds to the neck and abdomen, according to police. He was airlifted to a local hospital.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: It was a state police officer who stood up and saved his life, protected him.

PROKUPECZ: The suspect was quickly taken into custody and is identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, according to police.

JOYCE LUSSIER, WITNESS TO ATTACK: There was a lot of screaming and crying. People rushing from the audience up on the stage.

PROKUPECZ: News of the attack shook the literary world, with writers like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling tweeting well wishes. And Pen America, a prominent U.S. free speech group for writers, saying in a statement it is, quote, reeling from shock and horror at word of a brutal premeditated attack. We hope and believe fervently that his essential voice cannot and will not be silenced.

Rushdie is a former president of the group. The 75-year-old author is accustomed to living under threat. His controversial fourth novel, "The Satanic Verses" published in 1988 sparked public demonstrations all over the world. Some Muslims consider the book sacrilegious. In 1989, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, a religious decree on Rushdie, calling for his death.

Rushdie has been outspoken over the years about the impact of that on his life. SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR, "THE SATANIC VERSES": It is like trying to

lead a life with lead boots on. Everything that anyone else would take for granted becomes a problem.

REPORTER: Do you ever feel that you can let down your guard?

RUSHDIE: Actually, yes. As you were saying, I do. I've very much taken the decision in the last several years that the best way that I can -- what I can do to fight this is to show that in the way that a child shows a bully in the playground I ain't scared of you.

PROKUPECZ: Rushdie who was born in Mumbai and later moved to the U.K. lived under British protection for nearly ten years before the Iranian government announced it would no longer enforce the fatwa in 1998.

Rushdie wrote a memoir about that era of his life called Joseph Anton, the name he used while in hiding.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And, Wolf, the FBI is now part of this investigation and trying to help local authorities figure out more, obviously, about the suspect. They're also at his home in New Jersey. So we still have a lot more to learn here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Shimon Prokupecz, thank very much. I hope he's going to be okay.

And to your viewers, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.