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Federal Investigators Raid Giuliani's New York Apartment; Biden's First Joint Address to Congress Caps off First 100 Days. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 28, 2021 - 13:00   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We begin with this breaking news. Federal authorities today raided Rudy Giuliani's Manhattan apartment. Prosecutors obtained a search warrant as part of their criminal investigation into the personal lawyer for former President Trump. The search was first reported by The New York Times, now confirmed by CNN.

I want to bring in CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and Laura Coates are with us as well.

Paula, first to you, just get to us up to speed. What do we know?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Ana, truly an extraordinary development in this ongoing investigation, looking at whether Mr. Giuliani was lobbying on behalf of officials into Ukraine while serving as former President Trump's personal attorney.

Now, if you are lobbying on behalf of foreign entities, you have to disclose that with the Justice Department. Historically, federal prosecutors haven't really gone after people too aggressively for this kind of crime. But under the Trump administration, this really took on new significance, particularly with the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. And here, they are looking at whether Giuliani, again, failed to disclose lobbying activities in Ukraine.

But, Ana, I have to note, it is so unusual for federal investigators, for federal agents to execute a warrant against a lawyer, never mind a personal attorney for a former president. But what we know about this case so far, these questions, are mostly about whether he failed to disclose the fact that he was lobbying, but, again, it doesn't necessarily line up with the type of action that's being taken here.

A lot of questions now about whether this investigation has expanded and exactly what prosecutors were looking for in this home and on the electronic devices that they seized.

CABRERA: Everybody stay with me. We have a reporter now on scene, so I want to go live to Kara Scannell. Kara, what are you seeing and what have you learned?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Good afternoon, Ana. So, the FBI has executed a search warrant on Giuliani's apartment just behind me. There's not much activity here right now, but this is part of this ongoing investigation where the federal prosecutors in Manhattan have been investigating Giuliani in his dealings and his efforts to help swing the election in Donald Trump's favor in 2020, where all the activities that Giuliani was engaged in in Ukraine, involving those associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who have been charged with campaign charges. This investigation has all kind of grown out of that.

And there were big questions about whether this investigation would move forward. Prosecutors have been investigating Giuliani for about two years. And their efforts seemed to have slowed down. They conducted a lot of interviews last year, but then the pandemic hit, also impacting the prosecutor's ability to work, and then they went beginning in the fall, they went to the Department of Justice in Washington then under Bill Barr, who is very close to the former president, where they said that they wanted to execute the search warrant, they wanted to obtain electronic devices belonging to Giuliani, but they were turned down by the top officials in Washington.

A search warrants on an attorney is something that always has to receive approval from the deputy attorney general. When you want to do that upon an attorney who is also an attorney for president of the United States, that even raises the stakes. And that was picked down. That was pushed back on by main justice at that time. They had denied the Southern District's request for that subpoena, kind of leaving it open but not allowing them to execute it. Then we had the change in the administration.

Now, we are seeing that the Department of Justice under Biden is green lighting this ability for a search warrant but it still remains to be seen whether there's going to be enough here to bring charges against Giuliani, this warrant, so they can obtain evidence and records as part of this investigation that all had to do with Giuliani's efforts to try to oust the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine to swing the election for the former president, Trump. Ana?

CABRERA: Okay. Kara, we will come back to you as you get new information.

Let me bring back the rest of our guests who are with me this hour. Eli, executing a search warrant, we just look at that piece specifically, what does that signal to you? Does it give you any sense of where they are in their investigation?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It does, Ana. It tells me this is a big deal. It tells me this investigation is live and it's ongoing.

So, three things have to happen here. First of all, prosecutors have to make a case, have to put together a document explaining why there's what we call probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and there will be evidence of the crime found in the location here in Rudy Giuliani's residence.

Second of all, this would have to be approved by the highest levels of DOJ, up to and including the deputy attorney general, possibly the attorney general, because this involves the search of an attorney, which is very sensitive, and a sensitive person, who was the attorney for the prior president.


And as Kara said, the reporting is that the prior DOJ under Bill Barr said no.

And then, finally, that document asking for approval has to go over to a federal judge in the SDNY, who has to review it and agree, yes, prosecutors, you established probable cause that there was a crime committed and that you will find evidence of that crime in Rudy Giuliani's residence.

CABRERA: Laura, what do you think they could be specifically investigating? What crimes could be in play here?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the world is their oyster at this point in time. We're talking about the idea of looking through all of these documents, electronic devices as well, they could have a very expansive investigation. We know about the idea of failure to register as a foreign agent as being a possibility.

Remember, he has two associates who have already been indicted. So there may be statements that they have provided. Perhaps they are now cooperating in some extent with the SDNY to give them information to say here is why you have that probable cause to believe that these particular documents will be there.

And, remember, this has been a long time coming in a sense at what Kara has been reporting, that there has been an amount of opportunity for Rudy Giuliani to perhaps try to do away with the information, if he's been aware of it. Of course, he is, himself, an attorney. So I would like to extend the benefit of the doubt to a fellow colleague, an attorney, to say that he would not try to do away with evidence that might in furtherance of a crime. But the idea here, they're going to look for everything.

And Elie is absolutely right. A judge is not going to just sign off because there's a hunch. There has to be some specificity about a particular document or set of documents, particular evidentiary objects as well, and they can always take his cell phone, other laptops or computers and look for the things that perhaps other people, through their own testimony or statements with the SDNY have said will be there.

At this point in time, the next thing to look out is whether the former president will try and step in in some way with his counsel and assert some sort of privilege if he believes that anything that is on those documents or on those devices might implicate him or attorney/client privilege. CABRERA: And, Elie, you just wrote a book about Bill Barr. So to learn that there was a blockade, essentially, from this search warrant being conducted or executed under the Trump administration and then Attorney General Bill Barr, and we don't know exactly why, whether it was the strength of the evidence that they had or whether there was something more than that. But what is your reaction to just learning that information?

HONIG: Not surprised at all. If the prior DOJ under Bill Barr said no to this search warrant, it would be very much of a kind of what we saw Bill Barr doing when he interceded to try to save Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, two other people who were both close to the president personally and politically, and potentially in position to give DOJ evidence implicating the former president.

And keep in mind, by the way, we have a brand-new DOJ here and the key decision-makers, obviously the attorney general is the top decision- maker, but the deputy attorney general. Lisa Monaco was just sworn into that position a couple weeks ago. So if this tells me anything, it tells me there's a new DOJ in town that's at least willing to look at things on their merits and not to play politics in the way we saw with the prior DOJ did under Donald Trump and Bill Barr.

CABRERA: Okay. Everybody please stand by. I want to go live now to Jake Tapper, who is joining us at the White House. He's just left a background briefing ahead of the president's joint address to Congress this evening. And so what can you share with us, Jake, from your conversation?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, so just to set the scene for you, what happens is normally before a State of the Union Address or a joint address to Congress, the president will invite a number of individuals from the major cable news networks and T.V. networks and talk to them about his intentions for the speech. It's usually an off the record conversation, and then sometimes we get something on the record that we can share. And so I'm just looking at my notes now from what he said.

And some of the more interesting things President Biden had to say had to do with how he sees the challenge of the 21st century as whether or not democracy can thrive versus the kind of autocracy we see in China. And he's betting on democracy being able to succeed, but that, in his view, needs a number of things, including is consensus, but also a number of big investments.

He's talked that even though -- we're talking about the first 100 days, which ends tomorrow, he's thinking about his presidency beyond that. But in terms of the first 100 days, when he came to office, he knew that it was incredibly important to work on the coronavirus pandemic and get vaccines out as soon as possible. Although he said he didn't have all of the access they needed to where the government was because, of course, of the reluctance of the Trump administration to allow for the normal transition process.

He knew he had to do something about COVID-19. He knew he had to take care of all the people hurting economically. [13:10:00]

And he knew that it was important that their first legislation and that their COVID efforts succeeded. They could not fail coming out of the gate. They needed to succeed for any number of reasons having to do with COVID, having to do with the economy, but also having to do with providing the nation a sense of hope. And that's why he focused, like a laser, he said, on the American rescue plan, on that very sizeable legislation that passed on a Democratic party line vote in the House and Senate. And he said that those $1,400 checks were very important. 85 percent of the households in the country benefitted from them and a number of jobs had been created, 1.3 million, in the first 100 days of his presidency. But he kept emphasizing this idea that we had to demonstrate that they were on the case, we were not going to fail.

In terms of whether or not there will be consensus allowed in future legislations, such as the infrastructure bills or the American family plan that he's proposing, which provides for child care and elder care and the like, he said he's willing to work with the Republican Party. But the truth of the matter is that he needs a Republican Party to deal with. He needs it unified and he needs it to be not a completely splintered party. But easing the pain and saving lives was his plan right out of the gate and now he's looking in terms of bigger picture, the major kinds of investments, $2 trillion he's proposed in infrastructure spending, more than $1 trillion in elder care and daycare and paid medical leave and the like. He says he sees this nation at an inflection point where these kinds of investments are necessary, and that's the basic message we're going to hear from the president tonight.

CABRERA: Wow, you just wrapped up a whole lot there. I know you just stepped out of the background briefing, and I am so grateful you are able to give us the news first. Thank you, Jake Tapper, and we will see you again for The Lead starting at 4:00 this afternoon. Much appreciated, friend.

Up ahead, more on our breaking news today, the raid of Rudy Giuliani's apartment. Stay with us.



CABRERA: Back to the stunning developments here in New York right now involving the former New York City mayor, the former President Trump personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is with us now.

Evan, you have some reporting on the back and forth over this search warrant of Giuliani's apartment. Explain.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was a big issue in the closing months of the Trump administration at the Justice Department, Ana. One of the things that the Southern District of New York wanted, they wanted to do this raid, they believe that they had enough evidence to seize his devices, to go to his office, to go to his home to get documents, and they believe that just issuing a subpoena to him, to his lawyer, was not going to get them what they needed for this investigation.

And they went to the Justice Department at the time, the deputy attorney general, Jeff Rosen, and some of the other officials at the Justice Department decided that there wasn't enough evidence, and there were a lot of other issues they thought with this case, they thought that there was not enough evidence to sign off on this. And as a result of that, Rosen even issued a new memo in December that required any U.S. attorneys around the country who wanted to do something like this, that they needed to get sign-off from the deputy attorney general. That's the level of attention this request got.

And o so we see now that Lisa Monaco, who is now the deputy attorney general, is now sitting in the seat, we see a different result. And the question is did the prosecutors in New York come up with new evidence? Did they produce additional information to get a different result, or was it just fresh eyes from Lisa Monaco and her team at the Justice Department that finally got the approval that the prosecutors were looking for? Again, that's something we are asking at the Justice Department.

This is a difficult case, Ana. This is essentially a case looking into the violation of FARA, which is the Foreign Agents Registration Act. And the accusation that prosecutors are looking at is whether Rudy Giuliani violated that law when he was working with these Ukrainian officials to get dirt on Joe Biden and his family.

And so that has been the big question that has been pursued by these investigators. We don't know what else is part of this, but that's one of the central parts of this investigation.

CABRERA: And we know this has been a years' long investigation now. Evan Perez, thank you for your reporting.

Let me bring in CNN Global Affairs Analyst Susan Glasser, CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood and CNN Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip. Thank you all for being part of this conversation.

And, John, obviously, politics may play a role here in the sense that people are looking at this being the former president's personal attorney, and now we're learning that it was the former president's DOJ that had initially denied a search warrant. And so for those reasons, there's a lot of scrutiny on this. And I'm just curious what you glean from all of this when it comes to how Biden's DOJ is approaching this, what it tells you, the fact that they have, in fact, moved forward with this search warrant?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple things, Ana. First of all, I think that Joe Biden has insulation on this by virtue of the fact that this was an ongoing investigation, and the question about whether to execute this search warrant is one that has been percolating within the Justice Department since before he was ever elected.


Clearly, Joe Biden, in his public approach to the job since taking office 99 days ago, has tried not to go out of his way to inflame Republicans, Donald Trump's base. He's pressing aggressively for his priorities, but he doesn't talk about the former president much. And he has made clear that he's not looking to go after the president. But that's a different thing from stopping the Justice Department from pursuing a criminal investigation that goes to the heart of the Russian interference into our democracy.

And so did Joe Biden's Justice Department go after the former President Trump? No. They stepped out of the way and stopped blocking, as Evan's reporting and as The New York Times has reported, stopped attempts to impede the search warrant to facilitate this investigation. And I think that's a fundamentally different thing.

CABRERA: Susan, this is extremely sensitive. It's an extremely sensitive probe for Joe Biden and his administration. So, for federal prosecutors to move forward with it, what does it tell you about the political calculations, the risk reward there in the DOJ and White House on this?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think you are right to bring that up, absolutely. The bottom line is that everybody involved clearly understood the political stakes here, especially because the warrant was previously blocked by the previous administration. So nobody is under any illusions that Rudy Giuliani is a private citizen here. He brings the story directly into the Oval Office and into the former president. He wasn't just some outer ring adviser.

And for me, always the question was, Giuliani is the guy who arguably got Donald Trump impeached not once, but twice. And in the Ukraine, where they had the impeachment, the question was always, was Giuliani acting on the behalf some Ukrainian interests, in addition to Trump's political interest. And that comingling and lack of transparency, I think, is why it has always been mysterious. Why was Rudy Giuliani pressing so relentlessly to have the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed, which was at the heart of the beginning of this sort of whole plot that led to Trump's first impeachment. And this case may well end up shedding some light on that, because that, to me, is always a key question.

So this is not just some purely bureaucratic matter of filing lobbying document. It strikes me that it goes to some key questions about the presidency of Donald Trump.

CABRERA: Abby, do you expect Merrick Garland to have a big public role in this or do you think he will stay on the sidelines?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I really don't expect that Merrick Garland will have a big role in this. He definitely is not the type of attorney general to want to insert himself in these kinds of debates. And as Evan laid out and as John discussed, what the Biden Justice Department is trying to do is get out of the way of this investigation, which is contrary to what the previous Justice Department was doing, which was blocking the search warrant from being carried out against someone who was a close political ally and attorney of the president. So, Merrick Garland understands, I think, the political nature of this investigation and the need for him to stay on the sidelines of it.

It's clear that this administration does not want a sort of repeat of the kind of, you know, whether it's sort of a James Comey perception that you are getting out in front of an investigation and being too public about things that are currently under way. It's important for this to play out and I expect that you will see the Justice Department really staying out of it as much as possible and saying very little about it as the investigation unfolds.

CABRERA: Gloria Borger is also with us right now. And I have to remind our viewers, Trump was impeached already over Ukraine, and, of course, this is where we're weeping and weaving back into, Gloria. How do you think he is reacting to the news today?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I am sure he's unhappy about it, because Rudy Giuliani is a very close friend and ally of his and his personal attorney. And one thing I want to point out to give a sense of how serious this is, the last time that we saw a president's lawyer's apartment raided was Michael Cohen. And Michael Cohen was, at one point, the president's defender, just like Rudy Giuliani is, he was also the president's attorney, just like Rudy Giuliani is. And so there had to be some reason they would take this extraordinary step, as we saw like with Michael Cohen, when they felt they needed to, there had to be some good reason to do this.

And as my colleagues have been pointing out, the previous Justice Department was very reluctant to do this. This is a different Justice Department.


So when you ask me how is Donald Trump reacting, I am sure he's in a rage about this because Giuliani remains one of his last defenders, not only personally but also politically in terms of the rigged election and et cetera, et cetera. I mean, Giuliani was out there on January 6th on that podium promoting the big lie.

CABRERA: Yes. And so, john, given that Giuliani played a key role in Trump's big lie about the 2020 election, right-wing unified around that conspiracy, do you see the same thing happening here? Will this be painted as a deep state hit job?

HARWOOD: Yes, but I think the force of that argument grows weaker over time. I want to step back for just a second and remind everybody the context here. Remember that Donald Trump's 2016 campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had been a political consultant to a Putin-aligned leader of Ukraine, who then was ousted.

The issue with Ukraine, Donald Trump pressing Ukraine for dirt on Joe Biden and all of the issues that related to that, that Rudy Giuliani was in the middle of, that was part of an effort to absolve Russia of having interfered in the 2016 election and try to make the case that actually it was Ukraine that interfered, as we heard that testimony in the impeachment from Fiona Hill, that was Russia misinformation. So that's why it goes to the heart of the attack of the integrity of American democracy.

And I also think the tie in, as you indicated with January 6th, is very significant as well. Jake talked about his meeting with other anchors with President Biden, and I've written about that that this week too, that he wants to raise the stakes and say this is about whether democracy can succeed against autocracy. The threat to democracy is not just a challenge from China abroad, it's also the threat within the United States that we saw violently on January 6th, and that we saw from President Trump in trying to pressure Ukraine to get involved in the 2020 election. It didn't end up working, he got impeached, but that all of these things are connected in terms of the challenge for American democracy.

CABRERA: And, Abby, the fact that this is a new DOJ, that some of these people were only confirmed a few weeks ago, how does that impact this investigation, do you think?

PHILLIP: Well, it seems to indicate that there has been a changing of the guard that is allowing this investigation to move forward at a pace that the U.S. attorneys in Manhattan perhaps wanted it to months ago after the election, after, you know, that had basically been settled. So it's a new administration, it's a new set of eyes looking at this evidence, looking at these cases and saying, we're going to get out of the way and we're going to move forward.

But it's not a coincidence, I don't think, that this is happening after some of these high level DOJ positions have been newly confirmed, they are in their jobs, they have had a few weeks to take a look at the situation and they are acting, and that's a very significant thing for this case.

CABRERA: Abby Phillip, Susan Glasser and John Harwood, as well as Gloria Borger, my thanks to all of you for being with us.

Much more on this breaking news just ahead.

Also, breaking moments ago, a judge in North Carolina has just denied the public release of the body cam footage in the deadly shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. That's next.