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Trump's Bond Slashed; Trump's Hush Money Trial Starts April 15th; Federal Agents Raid Sean Diddy Combs Properties; Homeland Security Official Confirms Raids At Diddy's Homes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 17:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: And in our "Money Lead," fair warning, this story is ripe for a bunch of bad puns. There's one right there. The price of a banana at Trader Joe's has increased for the first time in 20 years.

Say goodbye to the 19-cent banana. It is now 23 cents which is a more than 20 percent increase. The 19-cent banana is to Trader Joe's with the $1.50 hotdog is to Costco, a brand staple. Here's hoping the 23- cent banana has just as much appeal.

Did you see what we did? Appeal. It's a -- puns. If you ever miss an episode of "The Lead," you could listen to the show (inaudible) you get your podcast. The news continues on CNN right now

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Donald Trump's first criminal trial is set to begin April 15th after the judge in the hush money case rejected his latest delaying tactics. This, as an appeals court just handed Trump a significant win in the New York civil fraud case by drastically reducing his bond.

Also tonight, witnesses share horrific new accounts of the concert hall massacre in Russia as the death toll rises and four suspected attackers appear in court. We'll get an update from Moscow.

And new tensions right now between Israel and the United States over the war in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly scraps a delegation to Washington after the U.S. abstains from a vote at the United Nations Security Council, clearing the way for a ceasefire resolution to pass.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "The Situation Room."

Our top story tonight, Donald Trump fails to further delay the first of potentially four criminal trials he's facing while getting a lifeline in the civil fraud case threatening his finances. CNN's chief legal affairs correspondent, Paula Reid, is in New York covering it for us. Paula, two different courts and two different outcomes for Trump.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's exactly right. Well, if it's win some, lose some for Trump in the New York courts today. He was in the courthouse right behind me earlier today when he learned that an appeals court had dramatically lowered that bond that he had been struggling to post. But then just over an hour later, he was told by the judge overseeing his first criminal case that that will go forward on April 15th.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): Tonight, former President Donald Trump narrowly spared from possibly having his assets seized by the New York attorney general.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A lot of things happened today. This is all about election interference.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Today an appeals court granting Trump 10 additional days to post a $175 million bond, less than half the original amount, to cover his appeal of the $454 million judgment against him and his company in the New York civil fraud trial for inflating the value of his assets.

TRUMP: I greatly respect the decision of the appellate division and I'll post either $175 million in cash or bonds or security or whatever is necessary very quickly within the 10 days.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): The temporary reprieve coming just in time for Trump, who had seemingly been unable to come up with the nearly half billion dollars originally due today. If that bond is posted, any enforcement of the financial ruling against Trump, his sons or their company will be on pause until after the appeal is decided this fall. Trump today blasting the judge who oversaw that fraud trial.

TRUMP: Why should I let a crooked judge make a decision to give $450 million? That allows me to spend very little money on my campaign if I so choose.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Now Trump has not spent his own money on his campaign since 2016.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): But he was not successful in further delaying his first criminal case. Judge Juan Merchan today ruled the New York hush money case will begin on April 15th. Trump faces 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump's former attorney and so-called fixer, Michael Cohen, a key witness in the case, claims Trump reimbursed him for payments made to Daniels to keep the alleged affair secret.

TRUMP: They're running all of these different cases, so ridiculous, the cases, every one of them is ridiculous.

HANCOCKS (voice-over): Before the trial date was set, the judge heard arguments from Trump's lawyers accusing the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, of widespread misconduct.


The judge, however, seemed skeptical of the allegations, and at one point even raising his voice, saying, "you are literally accusing the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the people assigned to this case of prosecutorial misconduct and of trying to make me complicit in it, and you don't have a single cite to support that position?"

Trump has long denied having an affair with Daniels and has pleaded not guilty. Trump today claimed he would have no issues testifying in the case.

TRUMP: I would have no problem testifying. I didn't do anything wrong.


HANCOCKS (vice-over): Trump is required to attend this trial. It'll go four days a week with Wednesdays off and is expected to go for about six weeks. Now, if it wraps in early June, that still leaves five months for the other three criminal cases to get underway. But, Wolf, at this point, it's unclear if any of them will start before the November election.

BLITZER: All right, Paula Reid reporting for us. Paula, thank you very much. I want to bring you CNN's Kristen Holmes right now. She covers the Trump campaign for us. Kristen, what more can you tell us about how Trump views these major legal developments today?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when it comes to setting that trial date, Trump was very angry. You could hear him ranting, lashing out. He said this was election interference. He once again blamed Joe Biden, saying that all of these different trials were linked together through Joe Biden trying to interfere with the November election because he was running for president.

Obviously, as we have reported, there is no connection to President Biden in any of these cases, particularly in a case in New York, an alleged hush money cover-up scheme. But Donald Trump still continuing to play that line, to say that it was, in fact, election interference, to say he was angry.

But what was really strange about this is that they were fully expecting for him to go to trial starting today. In fact, his team had planned for it. They were pleasantly surprised when they did get this original extension. But clearly, Donald Trump, knowing that that trial was going to come, was angered by that.

But on the flip side of the coin, there was a lot of relief within not only Donald Trump, but within his entire orbit over the fact that they had lowered that bond to $175 million and given him this 10-day extension.

Now, you heard Donald Trump really going on and on about how much cash he had, in fact, saying that he didn't want to have to use his cash for this bond, instead wanted to use it for his campaign. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I have a lot of cash. But I would also like to be able to use some of my cash to get elected. They don't want me to use my cash to get elected. I might spend a lot of money on my campaign.


HOLMES: And Donald Trump has not spent, as Paula said, on his campaign since 2016, when he pledged, he would spend $100 million and then spent $66 million. We also had no indication that he was going to spend his own money on this campaign.

In fact, he spent the last several weeks courting donors to try to raise the millions of dollars in order to fund his campaign. But Donald Trump says this, he was even asked, point blank, are you going to, now that the bond has been lowered, use this money in your campaign? He said, yes. Then he said, it's none of your business.

So, clearly not giving a direct answer here on where he's going to use the money. But it does appear he will be able to pay this, at least this is what they are saying right now, this $175 million bond in cash.

BLITZER: I'm anxious to hear what you're hearing, how all of these legal developments today, for example, will influence Trump's campaign strategy.

HOLMES: Well, Wolf, just keep this in mind, Donald Trump hasn't been on the campaign trail almost at all in the last several weeks. He's done two rallies since Super Tuesday, whereas, just for example, his rival, President Joe Biden, has been in almost every swing state except for one.

So, it's not going to necessarily hinder his campaign, and in fact, his team was already, as I said, planning on him starting this trial on Monday, meaning that they were looking ahead to the next coming months, planning for Wednesdays and Saturdays to be campaigning events because, as we have reported, the trial is not in session on Wednesdays and not over the weekend.

So that will continue. But right now, they are really focused on what he is doing behind closed doors. A lot of that is fundraising and, as we reported last week, some playing golf as well.

BLITZER: Interesting. Kristen Holmes reporting for us. Kristen, thank you. Let's get some more on all of these major developments. Our legal and political experts are standing by. Norm Eisen, I'll start with you. You were inside the courtroom today. What stood out from the interactions that you saw between Judge Merchan and Trump's attorneys?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the judge was extremely sharp in his words directed at Trump's attorneys. He said it was not what he had been led to believe, that the presentation was disconcerting. He warned them, be careful where you go. He said they were somewhat misleading.

He asked why they hadn't brought this up sooner. But his body language and his tone and the things you can only see when you're in court, the way he lifted his eyes and glared at the former president's lawyer, Todd Blanch, when hammering some of these points home.


Judge Merchan is a very even-tempered individual. He's angry. And that matters not only for today, but because this is the man who is going to sit as the judge in this trial, and if Trump is convicted, who will sentence him. So, Trump's lawyers burned a lot of capital in this futile effort to delay the trial further.

BLITZER: Interesting. Jessica Roth, you're a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York. Was it irresponsible for that office to wait so long before turning these documents over?

JESSICA ROTH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, I mean, from what was represented in court today, it appears that the office did follow the procedures that it normally follows for considering a request from the defense for the production of information. I wasn't in the courtroom, but I didn't hear anything that went toward any sort of sinister bias on their part or dragging their feet purposefully.

It sounds like what was produced was largely duplicative and there wasn't much that was new. So, again, I wasn't in the courtroom, but from the reporting, I haven't heard anything that suggests that there was anything that was untoward here.

And I think echoing what Norm said, it sounds like what the judge heard was largely that the defense claims about how they had been prejudiced here by the late production really weren't supported by the facts. And that most importantly, the DA's office had also -- had not engaged in any misconduct that would warrant the extreme remedy of dismissal of the indictment or even further delay of the trial.

BLITZER: Yeah, good point. Gloria Borger is with us as well. Gloria, Trump claims he would have, in his words, no problem testifying at the trial. Do you buy that? And would his attorneys actually allow him to testify?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: How many times have we heard that, Wolf, that I'd have no trouble testifying and then his lawyers talk him out of it. I've spoken to plenty of Trump's lawyers and not one of them would look forward to having him testify at a trial because he has, to say the very least, a strained relationship with the truth.

And in this particular trial, Wolf, don't forget what it's about. It's about, at the very least, an affair he had with a porn star. And so, the whole subject matter is very tawdry. He would say, look, I never had this affair, but would he deny ever knowing her? And of course, then he would take on Michael Cohen. But if I were his attorneys, there'd be little to be gained and a lot to be lost. And he always promises he'd like to talk and then he doesn't.

BLITZER: Yeah, you make good points. Ankush Khardori is with us as well. Ankush, you're a former federal prosecutor. Trump has been very successful in delaying his criminal trials, at least so far. Does he have any avenues left to delay this? Or is this trial definitely starting next month, April 15th?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I mean, he is very creative at identifying new and innovative ways to try to delay legal proceedings. It would not surprise me if he attempts to go take this up on appeal. I wouldn't expect it to be successful. It would not surprise me if he files more motions, last minute motions saying something unfair happened and he got some new documents or some new information and trying to push it off again. None of that would surprise me.

And in fact, I think we should expect that there will be more efforts to delay this case. I do not think that the odds of a further extension are particularly good, unless that there is a really, really serious development. And I'm talking about, you know, one of the lawyers, an essential lawyer falls ill, someone suffers a very serious personal loss or something like that, something that really takes a key player in the trial out of commission.

Short of that, it appears that the judge is very keen to have this trial move forward, to have it take place at a time when there are no significant overlapping problems with the political calendar and to move this to trial next month.

BLITZER: Norm, what do prosecutors need to prove in order to secure a conviction against Trump?

EISEN: Well, they'll need to show that Donald Trump was intentionally involved in falsifying business records. They have 34 examples of that in the repayments to Michael Cohen that prosecutors allege were misclassified as legal fees, when in fact they were repayments of these hush money funds that were made. This is the other thing they'll have to show, that they were made with intent to conceal, aid or commit another crime.


And the prosecutors will attempt to prove here, and they have substantial evidence to do it, that Donald Trump knew that these payments created issues under federal and state campaign finance law and New York state tax law. That's what they'll have to show.

BLITZER: All right, everybody stand by. We're going to dig deeper into that huge reduction in Trump's bond in the New York civil fraud case. What might have motivated a state appeals court to give Trump a break?

And later, the Kremlin on the defensive as more witnesses share chilling details about the concert hall terror attack in Moscow. Stay with us. You're in "The Situation Room."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We're back with our legal and political experts breaking down two significant court rulings for Donald Trump today, including the very dramatic reduction in his bond in the New York civil fraud case. Ankush, let me start with you this time.


Why is the New York state appeals court reducing the bond now by more than half to $175 million?

KHARDORI: It's a good question because the order that they issued on this is quite brief and it doesn't provide much in the way of an explanation. So, I guess, you know, we're essentially left to try to fill in the gaps ourselves. It was a very short order. But my guess is that there are a couple of reasons that motivated them here.

One is this was legitimately a very large sum for someone, an individual in a closely held business, to have to come up with on this timeline. And two, I think that there may be some actual concern and anxiety among some of the judges above Judge Engoron about the size of this fine. And their willingness to reduce the amount of the bond that he has to post, I'm sure, is going to be giving some of the folks in the A.G.'s office some concern that maybe the award may be vulnerable on appeal.

BLITZER: The original bond was $464 million. It's now down to $175 million. Jessica, Trump's attorneys calls -- his major attorney, calls the appellate ruling a great first step toward a reversal of the judgment. Is there reason to think this decision could actually be reversed?

ROTH: Well, I mean, the fact that the court was willing to lower the amount of the bond could indicate that they see some vulnerability in the judge's ruling. But at the same time, it could also reflect the fact that the Court of Appeals thinks that the state's interests are adequately protected by the other measures that are already present in the case, including significantly the monitor who is going to be pursuant to a recent order of the court overseeing the Trump Organization finances going forward and also any arrangements to secure the bond.

So, if Trump were to try to sell any of his real estate assets, for example, the monitor would have oversight over that. And so, it just couldn't happen. And so, to the extent that the bond is supposed to maintain the status quo pending resolution of the appeals to make sure that the state will have its remedy once the judgment is final and upheld.

And the court may have thought that that was adequately serviced by the lower bond and the monitor's actions or control in this case.

BLITZER: As you know, Gloria, Trump will now have to post the bond by April 4th, that's 11 days before the New York criminal trial actually starts on April 15th. And 10 days after that, 10 days after April 15th, the U.S. Supreme Court here in Washington will hear his immunity case. This will be a rather remarkable month for Trump, right? BORGER: Oh, we've never seen anything like it. And don't forget the

cases in Florida and Atlanta. First of all, we've never seen a former president being tried in a criminal case before. And we are waiting for the Supreme Court to make a very important and historic decision on the question of presidential immunity.

And so, it's not only remarkable for Donald Trump, but it's remarkable for the country. And it's also going to be remarkable for this presidential election, because Donald Trump will be campaigning from a courthouse. And we really don't know the impact of that yet.

We know that the indictments helped him during the primaries with his supporters, but we don't know how all of this is going to come down in a general election context.

BLITZER: Yeah, we certainly don't. All right, guys. Thank you very, very much. Thanks to all of you. Up next, Israel scraps a trip to Washington after the U.S. allows a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire to pass. We have details on the growing tensions and what it means for a possible hostage deal.



BLITZER: Breaking news, the Department of Homeland Security has just confirmed to CNN that federal law enforcement agents have raided properties owned by musician and producer Sean Diddy Combs. Let's bring in CNN security correspondent Josh Campbell and CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson.

Josh, let me start with you. What are these raids by federal agents in multiple locations tell you about the seriousness of this investigation?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, a very significant development here seeing this law enforcement action taking place. I'll point out just to be clear at the outset, we don't know that Sean Diddy Combs himself is the subject or target of a federal investigation. So, it's just worth pointing that out at this hour.

But what we do know is that two properties associated with him, we saw the feds descend on those properties. We saw an aerial footage, federal agents both here in the Los Angeles area as well as in Miami at those residences.

Now the Department of Homeland Security, they're what's called HSI, Homeland Security Investigations, gave CNN a statement. I'll read you part of that. When asked about what this activity is. They say that, "earlier today, HSI New York executed law enforcement actions as part of an ongoing investigation with assistance from HSI Los Angeles, HSI Miami and our local law enforcement partners."

That is, it, confirming that they are conducting what they're deeming law enforcement action, which could indicate search warrants being conducted there. It could indicate arrests being conducted. We just don't know at this hour specifically what that law enforcement action is.

It is worth pointing out, though, that Combs himself obviously has faced significant legal woes in recent months.

I'll give you just a kind of a high -- the highlights of what actually occurred. In November, he was sued for rape and abuse by a former partner that settle -- that lawsuit was then settled very quickly. But in December, he faced sexual assault allegations in a complaint filed in the Southern District of New York. The suit was brought by a woman referred to as Jane Doe who said that she was 17 at the time when these allegations took place.


And back in 2003, he was accused of sex trafficking and gang rape among other allegations. Also in that suit, naming two of his associates of course, Combs denied any wrongdoing there. And then just last month, a former employee of Combs filed a suit also in the state of New York accusing him of sexual assault, of sexual harassment and, quote, grooming that former employee stated that he had worked for Combs between 2022 and 2023.

Among those allegations is former employee, a male employee, said that Combs did not compensate him for his music production work and forced him to procure and interact with sex workers, threatened him with serving alcoholic beverages laced with drugs to guess at parties at Combs home. And then Combs son, Sean, Justin Combs or his son, Justin Combs, was all also accused of soliciting prostitutes and underage girls at his father's homes. Again, the Combs have denied any wrongdoing but just a series of allegations that we've seen taking place.

Final point, Wolf, I'll note is that while we don't know the specific allegations, or why the feds are at these residences, it is worth pointing out the agency that is conducting this law enforcement activity. It's not the FBI. It's not the DEA or the ATF. This is HSI, Homeland Security Investigations. For those unfamiliar, this is an agency that has long been the forefront specifically had human trafficking investigation. So although we don't have the specifics yet, we're starting to, you know, we can glean just based on which agency has the lead the direction this might go.

But again, we don't yet know that Combs himself was the target of the investigation, Wolf. We do know that the -- at this hour that federal agents were at two of his homes, both here in Los Angeles and in Florida, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, important points.

Joey Jackson, let me repeat, we don't know Sean "Diddy" Combs himself is under investigation. But clearly, Joey, it's not good if your homes are actually being raided?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's not Wolf. And I think, you know, whatever conclusions can be drawn remains to be seen, right. There's not an indictment that we're talking about. That means that we're not speaking of a grand jury having rendered or conclusion, not as to guilt. That's not what grand jurors do. But that's the reason to believe that a crime was committed and he committed them. Having said that, whenever you have a raid and an investigation, these things need to be really predicated upon, right, the precursor for this to happen would be some probable cause.

What is that probable cause? We don't know. But let's go back to what Josh Campbell talked about, which are those various lawsuits. Now lawsuits or civil actions in nature, they're not criminal at all. But what they do is they give authority some guidelines and guideposts with respect to alleged conduct that was engaged in with regard to who it was engaged in, what activities there were, what it involved in, so that if there is an investigation could serve as a source of plentiful information, that information could be further investigated, right, by certainly the Homeland Security Agency.

And as a result of that they can work with their local law enforcement partners. What does that mean? It means that they collectively, law enforcement try to determine whether there's reason to believe that crimes were committed. And, you know, what those crimes carried out and associated in any way we don't know, you know, with Sean Combs. And so that remains to be seen.

But before authorities will can get into the home or property of anyone, you have to establish some firm basis to do that. And that is what at least we can conclude that they had reason to believe that there were crimes involving sex trafficking, apparently, and that these areas potentially can give more information with respect to the specifics. And I think they would be looking for computer devices and other devices, which would seem to indicate or give information as to whether there was any criminality very early in the process. But certainly we know that these have been carried out and we'll see what if any information is glean to be suggestive of any criminality.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Josh, let me get back to you, you know, the FBI very well, under what circumstances would raids like these be conducted?

CAMPBELL: Well, this would require if it is indeed a search that's being conducted, and would require federal officers in this case with Homeland Security Investigations going to a judge and seeking a warrant indicating that we believe that evidence of a crime or it could be located in these residences. And then this third party and independent judge has to prove that warrant and then you see take place what's happening now on our screen, particularly what to focus on you see that large RV looking vehicle there. This is the mobile command posts that federal agencies will send whenever they're going to be somewhere likely for a long time.


I mean if you look at these residences, we're talking about very large estates. And so as Joey was mentioning something as simple as a thumb drive or anywhere where electronic media could be stored. If it's on that warrant, authorities can search that residents top to bottom looking for any type of device, any type of storage mechanism that fits within the four corners of that search warrant.

Now, again, I'll caution we don't know specifically why they were there. It does tell us I think that, you know, just because you see that large posture of all of these federal vehicles that are there, including this mobile command, cook posts, this is likely not something as simple as an arrest where you show up and you take, you know, find a person that you're seeking, but likely more along the lines of a search warrant, which falls in line with what HSI told us in that statement when they say law enforcement actions, that's, you know, something that we often hear from federal agents as a euphemism for conducting some type of search.

But again, both of these residences both where I am in here in L.A., it's just a few miles here from the CNN L.A. Bureau where this search is taking place. Also, in Miami, you see this large cadre of federal agencies descending on those homes. Again, the big question now, what are they looking for? We're waiting for specifics on that, as this search continues.

BLITZER: And Joey video shows, also shows heavily armed agents entering Diddy's home. How unusual is that?

JACKSON: So it's not unusual. I mean, I think that what law enforcement does is certainly they want to be protective of themselves, potentially to deter any type of activity that could occur of a criminal variety, not that there would be any but you never know. And so as a result of that, once they are armed, not only armed literally, but armed with respect to a warrant, you know, that would suggest that they have reasons to be there that there's criminality that would be afoot.

Potentially, they go law enforcement does, and they made sure that the areas secure such that they can get any information from that warrant, so that they can continue to investigate. Very important to note, Wolf, that these investigative stages, warrants are typical in any type of investigation, right? This is the United States of America, everyone has right. But you don't get into someone's home without establishing that there may be some what we call indicia of criminality.

They now, law enforcement will evaluate whatever they find in connection with this search. And if that search bears fruit with respect to any potential criminality on any computer devices, any cell phone devices, any, you know, thumb drives or anything else, then they will connect the dots and if it's appropriate, they'll move to the next level. And that could lead to something more serious, again, all speculation at this point. But we know now that they certainly had enough information to be in California and Miami. What stems from that remains to be seen.

BLITZER: All right, Joey Jackson, Josh Campbell to both of you, thank you very, very much. And we'll be right back with more news.


[17:42:05] BLITZER: We're back with our breaking news right now. The Department of Homeland Security has just confirmed to CNN that federal law enforcement agents have raided properties owned by musician and producer Sean "Diddy" Combs. I want to get back to our legal analyst, Joey Jackson, who's monitoring what's going on? Does the fact that Homeland Security the Department of Homeland Security was involved in these raids on his homes in Los Angeles and Miami? What does that tell you about the nature of this investigation?

JACKSON: Yes, it would tell me, Wolf, that it would be certainly related to various states, right? And what does that mean? You know, Criminal Investigation is very jurisdictional. If it was limited to specifically perhaps an individual state, maybe it was just, and again, I'm going off of what information we have now would just be relevant to that state, you might see a state district attorney's office involved or a county attorney.

To the extent that there are multiple raids, at least we know in Miami and in California, it would suggest that there would be alleged federal offenses that would have been engaged in there would be alleged interstate activity at this point limited to these areas but we don't know. We do know that there were various lawsuits against Mr. Combs. And as a result of that lawsuits, a civil in nature, they're for monetary damages, but they can give critical information with respect to allegations.

And sometimes when lawsuits are out there. You can have federal authorities investigating in this case, they did. And at least it was determined, again, we don't know where they got their information or how they got their information. We just know that federal authorities do have information, how do we know because you don't get to go into someone's home based upon the rights that we have in this country, right, Fourth Amendment freedoms against unreasonable searches and seizures, unless you have specific information that would establish that there's reasonable cause to believe, right, probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. And it in fact, right was committed by the source of whatever that particular warrant was.

And so we'll see what if any information, Wolf, is gleaned from these investigations, what authorities take, they'll evaluate what they take, they'll see whether there's any indicia of criminality there, and that would heighten it to the next step, maybe there's nothing there. But that's the whole essence and purpose of an investigation. It would seem to suggest that, again, there's federal crimes and there are multiple states involved.

BLITZER: We'll let me bring back Josh Campbell. He's doing a lot of reporting on this as well. Josh, what more are you learning right now about these two raids on Sean "Diddy" Combs homes in Los Angeles and Miami?

CAMPBELL: Well, we know from HSI that's the Department of Homeland Security's -- Homeland Security Investigation Agency, that they are the lead agency on scene right now with both of these residents, both here in Los Angeles, also in Miami. Again, it's worth pointing out that we don't know the specific allegation right now. The alleged crime that authorities believe may have been committed or evidence thereof at either of these residences. But it is telling that HSI is the lead because they have been at the forefront of particularly human trafficking investigations.


Now, HSI may not be a household name, but these federal agencies -- agents work across the country, indeed have people who are posted around the world with a large focus on human trafficking, ensuring that people aren't traffic for purposes of work for purposes of, you know, sexual work. And so they launched investigations whenever they believe federal crimes may have been committed. So again, we don't know the specific allegation. But right now, they are the lead investigative agency.

We have also reached out to worth pointing out to Combs attorney to Combs PR person regarding these searches at both locations. We have not yet heard back from them as well. But, you know, one thing is you and Joey, were just talking there about the process of getting a warrant and going to these locations, it's, you know, worth pointing out that authorities will leave behind a receipt of what if anything they seized. And so Combs himself and his representatives will get some indication of what type of property may have been seized pursuant to this warrant that may have been conducted there.

Again, you look at some of the imagery. We're talking about dozens of federal agents at both locations, bringing in a large scale response as well as the mobile command vehicles. It's worth pointing out again, wolf, that just due to the size of these residences, you know, have been part of searches in the past and residences big and small. You know what surprised no one that the larger residences take longer, because authorities have to go looking in any possible location where an item in a search warrant may be located.

And sometimes that's in plain view, sometimes that's, you know, think about all of our houses where we store certain things in closets and cabinets, going through all of those areas. But sometimes, and I'm not saying that this is the case here. But the individuals, you know, may secrete items in different places where authorities have to do a little more work in order to fight it. Now, if we're talking about electronic medium, the sophisticated technology used by federal agencies this day and age is really something to include, you know, people might not be familiar, but they're actually canines, dogs that are trained to sniff out electronic medium.

So much as though you would see the TSA at the airport with an explosive canine, federal agents and officers have canines that can search through a residence for that telltale indication that these dogs are trained to search for any type of electronic medium, so all of that would take time, again, if that's part of this warrant. But obviously a very significant development here, Wolf, seeing federal agents at the home of Sean Combs, both here in L.A. and also in Miami, we don't know he himself was the target of any particular investigation, Wolf, but certainly his residences, both of those locations. We now see federal agents in his driveway conducting what authorities are calling law enforcement action, Wolf. BLITZER: And the video also shows many of these agents are heavily armed right now, what does that say to you?

CAMPBELL: Well, so this is all part of the process, whenever you prepared to conduct a law enforcement action. Again, we don't know the specific nature of why they are there. But because of the number of personnel, this leads me to believe that it's likely some type of search warrant that they're conducting, because you wouldn't have this number of personnel that are still left behind if they were there simply to try to find someone and arrest someone.

But nevertheless, authorities will do their due diligence, I've been part of these planning operations where you have a concept of operation where the lead case agent will gather the team, if they think that there could be a potential danger for officers going in, you know, that you will see the so called pointy end of the spear, those SWAT agents that are there as well. Oftentimes, that's just precautionary, to have them on standby just in case they are needed better to have and not need to need them in some type of moment, where things turn dangerous, and they're not there on site.

So they are part of that complement that package before officers launched these large scale search warrant efforts. And then they have to methodically go through whatever is in the warrant, if it turns out to be a search warrant. You know, cataloging what officer search, they will often -- they'll oftentimes conduct a grid of that residence, which is likely done in advance, if authorities have the blueprint blueprints of the home, dividing the agents into teams, you know, you take this bedroom, I'll take this area.

Anyone who comes in and out of that residence is actually logged because this is now, you know, something that potentially has to stand up in court if they are gathering items that are then going to be used in some type of criminal prosecution and so a very, very concerted effort underway. Again, this is practiced it's planned. And law enforcement officers do this every day of the week by the way, across the country. Of course, this notable because of who we're talking about here, residents is associated with musician and producer, Sean Combs.

So significant development, Wolf, we're just waiting to see specifically was in that warrant, if it turns out to be a warrant what actually kicked off this investigation. As I mentioned earlier, you know, Combs himself has been subject to several legal woes, particularly in the civil arena, with people accusing him of uh various things all of which that he has denied but some of that includes trafficking sex and underage individuals who were at some of these gatherings.


And so again because HSI now the lead, they have a heavy focus on human trafficking, sex trafficking, we can't connect all the dots just yet. But that is telling which agency here is the lead. And of course, time will tell what is specifically in that warrant, why they're actually at these residences today, Wolf. WHITFIELD: It's interesting. It's not an FBI raid. It's a Department of Homeland Security raid. And that's a specific -- it sends a specific message, doesn't it?

CAMPBELL: Yes, no, it sure does. You know, these agencies work in partnership. You know, it's never one agency that's doing something in fact, in the statement to CNN, HSI indicated that they're working with law enforcement partners in order to conduct this investigation, but in various investigations, you will have a lead agency, depending on what type of federal violation you were talking about. So for example, if it's some type of financial fraud, you know, you can imagine that IRS federal investigators would be the lead.

Obviously, the FBI has a wide range of federal violations that they also investigate, but HSI specifically in their remit human trafficking, specifically. And again, they are the lead agency in the searches that we're watching on our screen, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point. So Joey, what would you expect to be the next step in an investigation after multiple raids like these?

JACKSON: Yes. So you have to presume, Wolf, that there's some work in coordination being done with the U.S. Attorney's Office, right, the United States Attorney's offices, Department of Justice arm, and as a result of that, you would expect that whatever is gathered, as a result of this investigation is going to be analyzed very thoroughly in the labs that the federal government has, they'll make a determination as to what if any criminality, right, was found as a result of this, we don't know what they will find.

We do know, right, that they're looking for something and have reasons to believe that something of a criminal variety could be at these locations. That's a presumption, that's what warrants investigations are all about. It's the first step in the process. Once that process takes place, which it's taking place now, you gather and glean what information you have, you then go if you're one of these agents, and you assess that information to determine whether and what's there. You then of course, work closely with attorneys who are prosecutors to look at and evaluate what's there, what it establishes whether or not it's criminal, who with anyone would be depicted on any of these devices, what ages are, are they're on to age, et cetera, and then you take it from there. And if it's appropriate, you would get an indictment far away from that. But that certainly will be the process moving forward.

BLITZER: And Josh, what does it say to you that these two raids have been happening simultaneously in Los Angeles and Miami?

CAMPBELL: Yes, it's a great question, Wolf. I mean, that is a particular note that it's not federal agents going to one location. And the later I mean, these are happening at the same time, what that says is that authorities likely want to maintain or wanted to maintain the element of surprise, whenever they go in, you can imagine, you know, we don't know where Combs is right now at this hour, who actually lives in either of these residences. But if federal agents show up to one location, you can imagine someone then, you know, potentially placing a phone call to the family or others saying, look, you know, this is what's happening.

And by the way, that doesn't have to be something guilty in nature. That can be a simple, innocent, hey, the feds are here, what should I do? Should we call the attorney or the authorities particularly if we're talking about a criminal investigation, which this is now HSI confirming their law enforcement action, you want to maintain that element of surprise and plan this in advance and just shows you, you know, the work that goes on behind the scenes where now you have literally on either side of the country, federal agents that are hitting houses at the exact same time in order to conduct these searches.

Now, again, it's worth pointing out, as we said at the outset, that Combs himself, there's no indication that he is subject to the investigation. But it would not be uncommon in a situation like this for authorities to conduct surveillance on these locations before you come in with this large cavalry of federal agents. You want to establish what's called a pattern of life. Who lives in this location? Who is there?

Particularly if they're conducting an arrest, serving an arrest warrant, which we don't know is the case here. But that is something where you would want to set up, you know, in a way where there obviously the people couldn't see you in around the neighborhood, find out who's coming, who's going, whether it's aerial surveillance, that's also part of that. And then when the time is ready, when you have both of these teams that are in place, ready to launch. That go order comes from the lead executive there, HSI.

And then on either on either coast right now in either location, you have an on scene commander who's responsible for all of the resources that you see there, going through executing the purpose that they're there, if it's a search warrant, again, looking for items that may fall within the four corners of that search warrant. And then that then goes back to the investigative team that is ultimately responsible for this investigation.

Final point I'll make here, Wolf, is that at this hour we don't yet know from prosecutors, why they are there. Obviously HSI telling us it's an ongoing investigation. We did reach out to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. They're not commenting at this hour unsurprising. And these types of investigations, authorities try to keep things typically close to the vest. But what we're seeing on our screen now, it's really truly something where you see federal agents both in Florida and in Los Angeles at the residence of Sean Combs.


BLITZER: All right, Joey and Josh to both of you, thank you very, very much. We're going to continue to follow the breaking news right here on CNN. We'll take a quick break much more coming up in a moment.


BLITZER: Happening now the date is now set for Donald Trump to be tried on the first of dozens of criminal charges. The judge had Trump's hush money case ordering jury selection to begin on April 15th after accusing the defense of being misleading.


Also tonight, Trump gets a reprieve from a nearly half a billion dollar bond in the New York civil fraud case as a state appeals court now cuts the amount by more than half.