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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Judge Unseals Some Mar-a-Lago Documents, Sets up Possible Affidavit Release with Redactions; Donald Trump Pushing for Affidavit Release Publicly, but not in Courts; 18 Former Top Trump Officials Tell CNN They Believe A "Standing Order" To Declassify Documents To Be Patiently False; Former Trump Official Say His Claim Of "Standing Order" Declassify Is Nonsense; Afghans Outside Kabul Reflect On The Long, Bloody War; Good Samaritans Help Driver In Rollover Crash. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 18, 2022 - 20:00   ET


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So it does look like that enforcement strategy is working even though consumer advocates say much more needs to be done, especially, Erin, with telemarketing laws.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So pretty amazing though, because when you -- as I'm watching your report, I was realizing I haven't gotten that auto warranty call in a while.

So you know, maybe we can all notice that it really is working what they're doing.

Thanks so much for that report, Gabe.

And thanks to all of you. Time for Anderson.



We are one step closer tonight to knowing what the government's criminal case may be against the former President, and we may get closer still because the Federal Judge who signed off on the Mar-a- Lago search warrant signaled his intention to make public at least portions of the government's detailed affidavit in support of it.

He unsealed a number of documents today, and we're going to have details for you in just a moment.

Also ahead tonight, what some of the former President's top White House officials make him of his claim that he had a standing policy of declassifying documents by default, and there is also new reporting tonight and why he has been calling for all Court papers and the case being made public, but not doing so in the one place that it matters most, the Courtroom.

Also CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Afghanistan and her harrowing return to a place deeply affected by the war and what she found when she got there one year after American troops departed.

We begin though with the search at Mar-a-Lago and the fight in Court today over unsealing documents. CNN's Jessica Schneider has that.

So Jessica, walk us through what the Judge ordered today.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so Anderson, the Judge telling DOJ to really go back to the drawing board and find a way to at least release some of this information from the affidavit.

So the Judge is telling prosecutors, two things: Propose redactions, but also better explain why they need to keep large sections of tis secret. So the Judge has set a deadline. He wants their recommendations next Thursday at noon.

And after that point, the Judge says he might have additional confidential discussions with DOJ before he makes that final decision about what to release.

So you know, parts of it are likely to get publicly released, but you know, maybe not big portions, and certainly not the juiciest and most consequential details. However, the Judge did release several filings related to the search today.

They were mostly general information, but we did get some insight into this criminal investigation. So for example, the application for the warrant, it really better details the potential offenses being investigated. You can see there it says willful retention of National Defense information, also concealment or removal of government records, also obstruction of a Federal investigation.

That willful retention that you see there, Anderson, it is key because legal experts are telling our Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz that it is that language that points directly to the former President as a possible subject of the criminal probe.

Something else that was released was the motion to seal and it has Federal prosecutors expressing their concern that as you can see there, evidence might be destroyed.

And you know, Anderson, that could explain why FBI agents were really compelled to move in and spend hours taking, you know, 11 sets of classified documents in the end.

COOPER: If you could just explain that what the DOJ's main argument against releasing the affidavit is.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, they've been arguing this in their papers. They also argued it forcefully in Court today. They are warning here and they are saying this to the Judge that the release of the affidavit, it's not only going to derail their investigation, which is still ongoing. But more crucially, Anderson they're saying it's going to endanger witnesses, even the investigators working on this probe.

The lead prosecutor today in Court, Jay Bratt, he talked about how those very revealing information in the affidavit that would make very clear who is talking to the Feds about this, and he talked about the fact this has been a volatile situation ever since the Mar-a-Lago search just about what -- two weeks ago, people have been threatening FBI agents. So he is saying that these witnesses could be in danger if these crucial details in the affidavit come out.

So we'll see what the DOJ proposes next week, because at this point, Anderson, they've already argued in their papers and in Courts that -- and in the Court proceeding that any redaction that they'd suggest, they say it would be so extensive that there would be nothing left of substance, but the Judge here is pushing them to find some way to get some information out to the public.

We'll see in maybe just about a week or so.

COOPER: All right, Jessica Schneider appreciate it. Good details. Thank you.

Perspective now from CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero, whose specialty is national security and the law. She is also a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security. Also with us, former Federal Judge, Nancy Gertner who is currently a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School.

Judge Gertner, was it surprising to you that the Judge in this matter set up the potential release of the redacted affidavit?

NANCY GERTNER, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: It was very surprising, and I think that he must be feeling that pressure from the public to find out what's going on. I'm still not convinced that anything material will be released here.

The Department of Justice is on the horns of a dilemma. I would imagine that this is an affidavit even more exhaustive than most because they knew what the target was and they knew that there would be pushback, and so now having laid it all out and more in an affidavit to have the risk that everything that they're doing become public is really -- you know, it must be very, very troubling to them.


GERTNER: So I'm withholding judgment until I see whether their redactions really leave anything left of substance for the public to look at.

Also bear in mind, there's an appeal to the Judge. This is a Magistrate Judge's decision, and there is an appeal to the Judge. So I wouldn't hold my breath about seeing this anytime soon.

COOPER: Carrie, the procedural documents that were released today, which listed the potential offenses being investigated by the Department of Justice as Jessica was mentioning, willful retention of National Defense information; concealment or removal of government records, obstruction of Federal investigation -- does any of that sharpen the focus on the former President's possible subject of a criminal probe?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that willful retention piece, so that's part of what's known as the espionage statutes. It is the collection of statutes were really serious breaches of unauthorized disclosure or retention of classified information are usually prosecuted.

And so because he was the person who had originally authority to retain these documents, but then when he left office and went back home to Mar-a-Lago, he no longer had authorized access. And then the willful piece, so then that's that -- this is one particular provision of those espionage statutes.

So I think that points to his role in having had access to the information and then no longer having appropriate lawful access to it, and then keeping it and not returning it.

COOPER: Judge Gartner, what do you make of that willful retention of National Defense information?

GERTNER: Well, I think if you get to step back and look at the timeline, the timeline here was he leaves the White House. Stuff is put into boxes -- okay, well, maybe that was an inadvertent putting stuff in boxes that he shouldn't have.

Then the National Archives gets on the case and he returns 15 boxes. Then there is one subpoena, and then there is another subpoena, and then there's a visit to Mar-a-Lago, and now this search.

It's very hard under those circumstances to say, whoops, I accidentally slipped in a top secret document.

So the intentionality to some degree looks different in August of 2022, than it might have 18 months ago.

COOPER: Carrie, obviously CNN and other news organizations have been pushing to try to get this affidavit out to the public, I understand their argument. Certainly, the counter argument, what the Justice Department is making today, which they laid out today is that letting the public read it would provide a roadmap to the investigation is what they said, and that it would indicate the next steps in the probe.

If some of the information is released, if true, that would possibly severely hinder the investigation, wouldn't it?

CORDERO: And that is -- you know, so from my perspective as a former Justice Department national security lawyer, and what the current National Security Division lawyers are arguing to the Court is that first of all, it will reveal things about the current investigation.

So based on the arguments Justice is making, this investigation is ongoing. They have witnesses who have provided information. If this information in the affidavit is released, it is going to expose that. It is going to shorten the investigation, it's going to disrupt it, it is going to cut it off before they are ready and before they feel like they have completed it.

And also importantly, Anderson, it would set a potential precedent for other counterintelligence cases where classified information is at risk. I mean, one of the things we have to keep in mind is that even though

this is a former President, the Justice Department needs to apply the law equally amongst people.

And so if in this circumstance, a Court says, well, yes, there's a high public interest, so we're going to order the release of the affidavit. The Justice Department has to think about the equities in other investigations, all sorts of national security investigations potentially have a fairly significant public interest. There are highly classified documents. There are important national security cases. So I would think the Justice Department is really concerned about the precedent that this might set.

COOPER: Judge Gertner, if the Judge does end up releasing portions of the affidavit, I mean, it is likely a lot would be redacted, and we've talked to Elliot Williams, a former DOJ official last night, he said, it would basically just be a giant black box, because of all the redactions.

GERTNER: No, I think that's right. One other thing related to what we've been talking about, by the way, is that whereas the Judge asked Trump's -- asked the government to check with Trump about the release of the warrant, he has not asked Trump's lawyers about the release of the search warrant affidavit. And my understanding is that Trump's lawyers were present today, but didn't say anything.

Clearly, if Trump weighed in, that would at least eliminate one concern, which is that concern that someone who has not yet been indicted if he is ever indicted this will be massive pretrial publicity and if he has waived those arguments by agreeing to this release, but they said nothing.

COOPER: Carrie, do you think -- why do you think that is, Carrie?

CORDERO: I think, two potential reasons which are very different of why the Trump lawyers might not have said anything. One, they really can let the media organizations do the work on this.

The arguments in the public interest are stronger from my perspective, as coming from the media organizations versus coming from the former President. There is also a possibility, so this is the second potential explanation that the lawyers representing the former President are potentially implicated, in particular on the obstruction angle that the Justice Department is looking at.

If they've been involved as an intermediary between the Justice Department and the former President and made assertions about documents having been returned, they might be potentially concerned about their own exposure here and need to be thinking through that.

COOPER: Got it. Carrie Cordero, Judge Nancy Gertner, appreciate it. Thank you.

Much more now on reaction among the former President and his allies, their Courtroom strategy versus their public statements and the money they've been making, ever since the FBI showed up at Mar-a-Lago, CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us with that.

So what is the former President's legal team official position on releasing the affidavit?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Officially, they haven't really made a position or taken one, Anderson. They are saying one thing publicly and another thing in Court and what they're saying publicly is that they want this full affidavit release. This is what justified that search of the former President's home and they say they want to see all of it. They say in the interest of transparency, there should be no redactions.

Of course, we've seen some of the comments from some of his attorneys, noting that it would obviously reveal potentially witnesses who helped justify this warrant, but then what they're saying in Court, Anderson, really isn't much of anything, because Christina Bobb, who is one of Trump's attorneys was there today in Court, as this proceeding was going on, but she said she was just there to observe it.

She didn't formally file kind of anything trying to say that they do publicly want to see that affidavit released in its full form. And instead, she was just there really observing.

And so it is notable, they are saying one thing publicly in social media and on cable television, and they are not really saying much of anything in Court yet, though I am still told by a source, they are reserving that option, and they may pursue that in the near future.

COOPER: Who are the President's lawyers in all of this? You mentioned one of them. I mean, compare -- and how do they compare to some of the kind of rather infamous attorneys he's had previously?

COLLINS: He is no stranger to attorneys. Obviously, he's had to deal with them when it came to the Mueller probe, when it came to his impeachment hearings, for several different cases, including the one in New York right now.

And so, right now what you're seeing basically is Evan Corcoran, is the lead attorney on the President's team. He's also got Christina Bobb. She was the one who was present at Mar-a-Lago when the search was actually going on, on that Monday.

She was also there when the investigators visited back in June, as was Evan Corcoran, who people may recognize because he has been the one standing behind Steve Bannon when he was in Court dealing with his legal difficulties. He was his lawyer there as well.

And so he's got a few others on his team, but I am told he is searching to add someone else because this is such a sprawling case. It is multipronged. It obviously involves the Justice Department. It is not just in Florida, but also in Washington.

And so they are looking to add someone from Florida. They have not yet announced who that attorney is going to be, but I am told that Trump has been on the phone with potential candidates for this just as recently as this weekend, Anderson, as they are trying to really figure out what their legal strategy is going to be here.

COOPER: And what sort of fundraising has the President -- former President doing off the search Mar-a-Lago?

COLLINS: A lot. He is bringing in a lot of money, Anderson, from this. And it's not a surprise if you get his text messages, which obviously reporters do because they want to see what he is saying to his supporters, and he has basically been fundraising nonstop off of this search, which he is referring to as a raid conducted by Democrats of his home instead of a lawfully executed search warrant of his residence because he had classified information there, according to the Justice Department.

He has been fundraising off of it and e-mail after e-mail and text after text has been about this search of Mar-a-Lago. And I am told by a source that actually in the days following the search initially right after it happened, two of those days, they topped over a million dollars in donations to his Political Action Committee, which is quite a lot of money, obviously. He has been raising money ever since he left office.

But it does speak to while you're watching how this little strategy is playing out, how he is using this to his benefit when it comes to fundraising.

COOPER: Wow. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it.

Whatever is unsealed and revealed about the government's case in the coming days might not answer the why question. Why would the former President take and try to keep classified documents he apparently was not entitled to?

Maggie Haberman joins us with her new reporting on just that question next.

Also, what the former Trump Organization, Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg pleaded to in court, and what he agreed to testify about in exchange for a lighter sentence at Rikers.



COOPER: Hanging over nearly everything that we've learned about the search at Mar-a-Lago and all we might learn if and when a redacted version of the search warrant affidavit is unsealed is the question of motive. What did the former President want with the documents in the first place? Why did he keep them when the government asked for them back?

Now the answer comes from our next guest, well, it could be a lot of different reasons. One of them could boil down to just two words, "me and mine." CNN political analyst, "New York Times" Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman has just written about his possible motive joins us now. So you raise -- I mean, there's a bunch of different explanations, but

you raise one possibility that this may be more about the President's -- former President's personality than anything else.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It could be and he was certainly known as somebody who likes to show things off. He liked to show off the accoutrements of being President.

COOPER: Tchotchkes you had called them.

HABERMAN: When he was when he was a businessman, he had tchotchkes in some corner of his office. Shaquille O'Neal's giant shoe, he would show off a lot to visitors and it was always the same tour. He liked showing off these Kim Jong-un letters when he was President.


HABERMAN: People would come to the Oval Office -- reporters, you know visiting dignitaries, you name it, and he would wave them around.

And we know that at least some of those were among the items that were at Mar-a-Lago. So that's one possibility.

We know that he was telling advisers when he was resisting giving these things back, you know, "They are mine. It's mine," and so forth. So that's always one possibility.

The other is that he, you know, sees -- and one other is that he sees some advantage, and whether that is something that makes him seem aggrandized or bigger, or whether it is that he could see it as leverage of some kind, you know, you have to consider that possibility.

There is a lot we still don't know, but Trump throughout his presidency acted as if there was no difference between himself and the government and his company. It was all one big brand.

COOPER: When I was -- we've talked about this before. When I went to his apartment to interview him long ago, I was obsessed he had this fake Renoir painting. It's a famous Renoir painting, Renoir two sisters, it's a very valuable painting, if it's real, this is the fake he had in his house. And it's a pretty bad fake because I pulled up the original and I looked at the original right next to it, the real one is in the Art Institute of Chicago.

But he swears that is the real one. He has continued to push that for a long time. Is that sort of in that same vein of like, he just like to show off stuff that he has?

HABERMAN: Yes. I mean, look, again, part of the "me" aspect of this is self-aggrandizement. And so claiming, a Renoir that you're able to pretty easily tell looking at the internet is not real is real, is part of that self-aggrandizement. That could absolutely be what this was --

COOPER: These are real documents. HABERMAN: Right. These are real documents and we don't know why he

had them and we do know that he was being told to give them back repeatedly. And it took many, many months in 2021, and then he finally sent back some, but not all and so there was a much longer fight.

I don't want to sound as if we're minimizing the potential harm or potential law breaking or anything else in saying that he simply treated this all as if it was about himself, and then where it went from that, we don't know.

COOPER: You've also reported on how this is sort of emblematic of, in general, how he dealt with documents, I mean, flushing them down the toilet, ripping them up.

HABERMAN: Yes. I mean, he was sloppy. I mean, there was -- you know, documents would be ripped up. There were people who would have to go through his trash or go through the floor and tape them back together and give them to the staff secretary, so that they could be looked at to see whether they had to be preserved under the Presidential Records Act, which has existed since, you know, after Nixon when Nixon wanted to leave the White House with documents and tapes, and then it became law and Trump is supposed to be abiding by that.

He never wanted to. He would take classified material or try to up to the residence. John Kelly, the second White House Chief of Staff tried really hard to keep him from doing that. I think that some of those constraints that Kelly tried putting in place, Trump definitely bristled at and it's not sure -- it's not clear to me what it looked like by 2020.

COOPER: Politically, what is the former President to gain or lose if the affidavit is released?

HABERMAN: So it depends, Anderson, because we don't know what's in it and obviously, several media outlets, including my own have argued that it should be released, the Justice Department is arguing against it. Trump's folks, I think gain more by arguing, see, the Justice Department won't unseal it because if they thought there was advantage to this, to him in a real way, I think he would be getting into this fight himself.

You'll notice his lawyers have not filed anything in this case. His lawyer was there observing the proceedings today, but it is allies of Trump who are going about arguing the same case as the media.

I think he sees more advantage in being seen as somebody being victimized because as we saw with the warrant when the warrant was unsealed, it was not unalloyed good news for Trump as a lot of people around him had been intimating; if not good news, at least neutral news that the you know, the statutes there are problematic for him and so I suspect that the warrant or the affidavit would have similar issues.

COOPER: Yes. We should point out CNN, "New York Times," other news organizations have been pushing for the release. Maggie, appreciate it, thanks very much. Because this former President unlike any before him is often connected

to more than one Court case at a time, there is this tonight. Allen Weisselberg, his former longtime Chief Financial Officer standing up in a New York Courtroom today pleading guilty to multiple felony counts that went on for years.

For more on that and what the plea deal he agreed to entails, we are joined now by CNN's Kara Scannell.

So what details were revealed in the Court today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Weisselberg pleaded guilty to 15 felonies and admitted his involvement in a decade's long tax fraud scheme with the Trump Organization. He admitted under oath before the Judge that he knowingly did not pay income tax on a number of corporate benefits he received including a corporate apartment, Mercedes Benz, and private school tuition for two of his children. Weisselberg also said he hid those benefits from his accountant.

Now as part of this deal, he is required to testify against the Trump organization where he has worked for more than 40 years when it goes on trial, unrelated charges in October, Weisselberg has agreed to do this.

The Manhattan District Attorney who has brought this case said that Weisselberg's testimony will be invaluable.


SCANNELL: Now in exchange, Weisselberg will receive a five-month sentence. The Judge has okayed that, but he warned him today in Court that if he fails to meet any of the obligations he faces, he could receive a stiff sentence in State Prison.

Now one thing that Weisselberg will not do, he will not implicate the former President or any of his children at the tax fraud trial and he is also not cooperating with the Manhattan District Attorney's ongoing criminal investigation into the Trump Organization's finances -- Anderson.

COOPER: And has the Trump Organization responded?

SCANNELL: Yes, so there is clearly no bad blood between Weisselberg and the Trump Organization despite his guilty plea today. They put out a statement calling him a fine and honorable man, saying that he was threatened and unfairly prosecuted.

The Trump Organization also said that it will not plead guilty to the charges it is facing, 10 counts, and said that they will go to trial in October -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kara Scannell, appreciate it.

Next exclusive new CNN reporting on the claim of the former President made that he could declassify by standing order anything he took out of the Oval Office. More on that ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The former President and his supporters have floated any number of explanations for having boxes and boxes of documents at Mar- a-Lago, some highly classified that he apparently shouldn't have had.

The most brazen perhaps is that they're not classified anymore because they say he had a standing order to declassify anything he took from the Oval Office back to the residence.

Joining us now, CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel who has been checking that claim the top officials from the previous administration; also CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger and what her sources are telling her.


Jamie, how many former Trump administration officials did you ask about this claim of a standing declassification order and what did they say?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Anderson, we reached out to 18 former and these were senior Trump administration officials, White House National Security, Intelligence, Justice Department, including his former Chiefs of Staff. Many of these people served in positions where they either would have been included in the declassification process, or at the very least aware of such orders. And here's what we were told, each and every one pushed back, dismissed, the claim that Trump had a standing order to declassify documents that left the Oval Office and were taken up to the residents.

In fact, many of them laughed when I called them. Something that doesn't happen all the time with former Trump officials, many of them went on the record, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, told us quote, nothing approaching an order that foolish was ever given. And I can't imagine anyone that worked at the White House after me that would have simply shrugged their shoulders and allowed that order to go forward without dying in the ditch trying to stop it. We also spoke to Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, he flatly dismissed the idea and told me quote, not aware of a general standing order. And we also spoke to former national security adviser John Bolton, and he said, quote, it was a complete fiction.

Just to go on and on, Olivia Troy, who was a former Homeland Security Adviser to Mike Pence, she called the notion ludicrous. Another very senior intelligence official laughed, said it was ridiculous. And a very, very senior Trump administration official Anderson called it quote, bullshit. He was not the only one who said that to me today, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. So Gloria, what are your sources telling you about how declassification actually works compared to what was happening, the Trump White House?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Should work. Yes. Well, the source that I spoke to who's familiar with this process in the Trump White House said that, look, the President can say, I want something declassified, that's fine. But what has to happen is it has to be memorialized, there has to be a record of it. It has to be run through the paces of various agencies. And this source said to me, so as a practical matter, you know, the President has to be able to prove if he's saying he asked for things to be declassified, that he did ask for things to be declassified otherwise, he says, it's like a tree falling in the forest, with no one there to hear it. So he says it's ridiculous.

COOPER: Yes. Jamie, as Gloria was saying, there would be a paper trail with other agencies who are involved in this process as well. Were any of the people you talk to aware of anything that Donald Trump is now claiming?

GANGEL: No. As one said to me, where is his signature, prove it to me. This can simply be an idea in his head. He can't -- several of the sources said to me, he can't just wave a magic wand and make it so. There is a process. It is a complicated process. And it frequently involves many of the agencies, because it could impact the CIA, it could impact the Department of Justice. So -- and certainly, let's just make the point not after the fact can a former president declare --


GANGEL: No, it's not.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: And there's a standard way Gloria to declassify documents?

BORGER: Sure. Yes. I mean, I was told that there is a handful of attorneys inside the White House who actually had this kind of top clearance. But the National Security Agency really kind of controlled this. But as Jamie was saying, it has to go through assorted agencies, like the Defense Department, the State Department, the CIA, who were all going to be affected. I was also told by a source that the President himself was told this, that you can't just routinely declassify something and say, it's done. And then I was told he was counseled, that's not the way it works. But he believed he could do it any way he wanted.

COOPER: Is -- Jamie, I mean, is it clear to you if there's a strategy of the former president making this claim, or is this just making as many you know, they've made a bunch of different claims and just seeing what sticks and you know, make as many different claims as they can?

GANGEL: So one sort of said to me, if Trump did this, this was his best kept secret. Look at the timing. What's going on now? Where all of a sudden he wants to do this? Several sources said to me it is a defense strategy. He is trying to have a defense for why all these documents were at Mar-a-Lago that shouldn't have been there.

[20:35:15] COOPER: Yes. Jamie Gangel, fascinating. Gloria Borger, thank you.


COOPER: We're going to have more on Jamie's new story with someone who quoted in it. You just saw. We'll talk the former President's National Security Adviser John Bolton who joins us with his assessment of Trump's claim about a standing declassification order.


COOPER: So we were just discussing the new exclusive CNN reporting quoting, 18 officials in the previous administration to say they don't believe the former president's claim for why he had classified and top secret information as Florida residents and how they say there was no standing order to declassify documents taken from the Oval Office.

So, wanted to get perspective now from one of the people quote in that piece, former National Security Adviser, John Bolton was previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the UN. He's also the author of a Memoir Of His Time At The White House, The Room Where It Happened.

Ambassador Bolton, you've been saying for awhile that the notion there was a standing order to declassify documents is what you call the complete fiction and that you were never briefed on anything like that. CNN has now spoken with 17 other former members of the Trump administration who say the same thing no such order existed to their knowledge. If you had been aware that there was such a policy, would you have argued against it?


JOHN BOLTON, FMR NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Absolutely. It makes no sense whatsoever. Number one, there's no real danger if the President takes documents from the Oval Office to the living quarters, in the main White House, if there were people up there with access to those documents that were problematic, we'd have a much more serious issue that the safety of the President himself would be at stake. Moreover, it would be a logistical nightmare, because the only way you would know what to declassify would be to take down information on every document that he took up there every night, and then transmitted around I mean, the paperwork to do that alone would be overwhelming.

And moreover, I think what shows that this is a fabrication is that -- is the focus is on Donald Trump as opposed to the rest of the government. When you declassify a document, it wouldn't be declassified just as to Donald Trump, the entire government would have it declassified. So that at least in theory, most organizations could request production under the Freedom of Information Act of every single document he declassified.

COOPER: So there'd be a paper trail?

BOLTON: And (INAUDIBLE) flood. So -- it -- beyond yes, there has to be a paper trail. Now, to be clear, some people interpret this as saying that, that the subordinates of the President can countermand his order in effect. And that's not true. I mean, it's very clear the President does have plenary authority here. But sensible, prudent, normal government administration has documentation. And if people believe that there's some very strong reason why documents shouldn't be declassified, they ought to be able to speak to their cabinet secretaries and they may want to speak to the President.

COOPER: The New York Times Maggie Haberman recently said that the former president may have kept these documents because he loved tchotchkes and loves showing them off to people and that it could have been in her words, less nefarious than it was obstinate. Do you think there's -- that's a possible explanation?

BOLTON: Oh, absolutely. I think some of the charts and graphs and pictures and things like that, that that he accumulated were curiosities. They were cool things to have. And I know there are a lot of conspiracy theories about the plans to use it for blackmail and leverage. I can't rule that out certainly. President never indicated anything like that to me. I think he was just inquisitive. Some days, he wanted more French fries and other days he wanted documents.

COOPER: Wow. French fries and documents. Congressman Mike Turner, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee appeared on CNN today. He said the FBI would have to meet a pretty high threshold to the level of an imminent national security threat to justify a search warrant on the former president's residence. Do you agree with that, or with the fact that these, you know, top secret documents, code word documents were in an unsecured location, would that be enough reason to going in and get them in your opinion?

BOLTON: Well, I think there are a lot of potential dangers, actually, until we see the documents we can't tell. And I think what the Congressman may have been saying, and maybe not, but I'll say is when you go after a president in the political environment, we're in a former president like Donald Trump, you better be absolutely sure you've got no alternative. You can see the reaction that's been provoked already.

And as an alumnus of the Department of Justice, I'd like to thank that they went through all the political calculations that were involved. I think it's very unfortunate that they have to worry about it. But that's the circumstance we're in. And that's why the magistrate's inclination today, to release some of the underlying affidavit in the search warrant is potentially important.

I am entirely sympathetic with the Justice Department's arguments, but we're in a both a political fight and a legal fight. And unless the Department does better on the political side, I think they're going to be overwhelmed by the kind of emotions that Trump has stirred up.

COOPER: Yes. You said a couple of days ago on CNN that in the political battle between the former president and the Department of Justice, the DOJ was being quote, overwhelmed by Donald Trump. You compare them to lambs to the slaughter. Do you think the release of a redacted version of the document would change the political landscape when it comes to the investigation? BOLTON: We'd have to see what was redacted. But I'd urge the Justice Department and it goes against the grain to be creative on this. For example, there may be ways to handle this other than simply blacking out line after line after line of the affidavit, which is the normal course and redaction. For example, if the affidavit describes the kinds of documents that the Department of Justice felt was so very sensitive, it may well reveal information in the documents that in the hands of an adversary would be e very dangerous.

But instead of simply blacking that out, an alternative to think about would be to paraphrase it. So for example, they could say instead of quoting from the document or whatever they might do they might just say documents regarding U.S. nuclear capabilities, or documents regarding Chinese ballistic missile development, or something like that, some innocuous phrase that that signified the importance of the information without revealing it. And there may be other ways to do that in other parts of the affidavit dealing with the witnesses and the theory of the case that they're espousing. I think this is going to be very hard to do.


But I just think if the Department insist on the normal practice of, of complete confidentiality of the affidavit, it's going to take a terrible beating even from people in Congress who are trying to help it out.

COOPER: Ambassador Bolton, appreciate your time. Thank you.

BOLTON: Thank you.

COOPER: So just ahead, CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Afghanistan. Her harrowing journey into the heart of Taliban country what she found there a year after American forces left.



COOPER: Well 21 people are dead and another 33 injured in Afghanistan after latest explosion in Kabul. The attack occurred during evening prayers at a mosque which you see here along with mourners praying next to the grave of one of the victims. The Washington Post reports that children are among those killed. There's no claim of responsibility. But as the Washington Post also reports, Islamic State's local branch has claimed similar attacks in recent months. It comes days after the Taliban celebrated one year of rule with officials claiming that Afghanistan after years of fighting is now secure.

CNN's Clarissa Ward recently traveled outside Kabul into the Taliban heartland where residents there talk proudly their fight against Americans that have begun reflecting openly on the long and bloody war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There were no tears in the Tangi Valley when U.S. forces left Afghanistan. The landscape is awash with white flags, marking the graves of Taliban fighters killed in battle. Among them is the son of Nabi Mubaris [ph].

(on-camera): This is your son.

(voice-over): He tells us he was killed during a U.S. supported Afghan Special Forces night raid on the family home in 2019. Video of the aftermath shows the scale of the destruction after a protracted gun battle the house was leveled killing a second son of Mubaris' as well as his niece and her daughter. There was a lot of blood spilled, the voice says off camera.

The rebuilds living room is now a shrine to the dead.

(on-camera): What was your reaction when American forces left a year ago?

(voice-over): I said the peace has come to Afghanistan, he says. There will be no more mothers becoming widows like our mothers and sisters who were widowed and our children killed.

Across this rural Taliban stronghold, American forces were seen as invaders who brought death and destruction with their night raids and drone strikes. Peace has brought a chance to air long held grievances at the local market were immediately surrounded.

Every household had at least one fighter this man tells us, and every house had people who were killed by the Americans and their drones. And we are proud of that.

Shahir Muhammad Hamas (ph) is treated like royalty here. His brother is believed to be responsible for downing a helicopter full of U.S. Special Forces.

(on-camera): So, he's taking me to the spot where he says his brother shot down a Chinook.

(voice-over): It was August 6, 2011, Hamas says his brother was hiding behind the trees and shot the Chinook down with an RPG as it prepared to land by the river. Thirty Americans were killed, the single greatest loss of American life in the entire Afghan war.

There were a lot of celebrations and not just here. He tells us. It was a big party.

(on-camera): I'm sure you can understand that it's hard to hear that people were celebrating about the deaths of dozens of Americans.

This was a heroic achievement because the people who were killed on this plane, they were the killers of Osama bin Laden, he says. And Sheikh Osama is someone who was the crown on the head of Muslims. So definitely the people were happy about this. Days later, the U.S. says it responded with a strike that killed Hamas' brother. Another white flag raised in a valley where murders were made and views hardened.


COOPER: Clariss Ward joins us now from Kabul. It's so interesting to see the attitudes of people there. What is the year under Taliban rule done for this area and those who live there? Has life improved?

WARD: Well, I think Anderson the main improvement in terms of their quality of life is just the security situation. Because even after American forces kind of pulled back and it was the Afghan army who were doing the majority of the fighting, that entire area was still incredibly kinetic, there was a lot of fighting, a lot of death and a lot of destruction. So now they definitely see that they can go out during the nighttime, they can let their children go to school, boys only of course, but at least their children or their boys can go to school now because it's easier to move around and it's safer.

At the same time it is still incredibly poor. It is still very difficult to get work. There is no part of this country that is not feeling the impact and the pinch of the economic crisis.


And one thing I thought was also interesting is that a couple of men that we talked to, even though in these rural areas, girls education has not really traditionally been a priority. They did say that they do want to see their girls get educated. Obviously, the Taliban has issued that temporary -- what they call a temporary suspension on girls secondary education. So I thought it was interesting to hear that they would like to see that lifted.

COOPER: Yes. And so, I mean, sickening to hear him talking about celebrating the downing of that Chinook with U.S. Special Forces on board. Earlier this week, you spoke to people in Kabul, who were -- and you were focusing on the women who are still trying to get secondary education despite currently being banned. How striking is it to see such different attitudes toward Taliban rule from these two places, which are less -- I mean they're less than 50 miles away from each other?

WARD: It's a two-hour drive, Anderson, and so it is a very stark contrast. One important part of that, though, is that the benefits that people reaped in Afghanistan during the U.S. presence here, the billions of dollars and investment in infrastructure and development, very little of that trickle down to rural communities like the Tangi Valley.

COOPER: Yes, billions of dollars. Clarissa Ward, appreciate it. Thank you.

Up next, a reminder of the good in our world. A daring rescue caught on video.



COOPER: Right now (ph) attend the program. Earlier this week in San Antonio group strangers rush to rescue a driver involved in a rollover crash. At least nine people work together flip over the car and get it upright according to our affiliate KNTV. A military veteran with a broken hand led the rescue. He then flagged down other drivers to stop and help and they did. The driver is rushed the hospital. NBC News says he's recovering. We wish him well and applaud those good Samaritans for their actions.

That's it for us. News continues. Want to hand over Alisyn Camerota in "CNN TONIGHT." Alisyn.