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At This Hour

Trump Getting Outside Legal Advice From Conservative Activist; Zaporizhzhia Power Plant Reconnected To Ukraine's Power Grid; NASA Says Artemis One Mission Is Ready For Launch On Monday. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired August 26, 2022 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are standing by right now for the release of the Justice Department's redacted affidavit used to obtain the search warrant of Mar-a-Lago. It is expected to come at any moment. But we're also, in the meantime, learning new details about who former President Trump is listening to the legal advice they're giving him, and how much it's concerning his inner circle right now.

CNN's Gabby Orr is here with that new reporting. It's good to see you, Gabby. You're reporting about the influence -- the real influence that some outside voices have had on Donald Trump when it comes to his handling of these presidential documents. Walk us through this.

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Kate, we're learning that earlier this year, right around the time that those 15 boxes were initially given back to the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago, the former president started hearing from Tom Fitton. Now Fitton is the head of the conservative legal activist group, Judicial Watch. And in the course of his conversations with the former president, he would tell him that he made a mistake by even giving those presidential records back to the National Archives in the first place. And that if the Archives came knocking again, he should not give anything further back to them.

Fitton seems to believe that the former president had full authority over presidential records that he had taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his presidency. And I want to read to you what one person close to former President Donald Trump told us in describing the influence that Fitton had. Here's what they said. The moment that Tom got involved in -- got in the boss's ear, it was downhill from there. So we know that Trump didn't totally heed this advice from Tom Fitton because, of course, as CNN and others have reported, his attorneys did turn over further documents to federal investigators in June of this year.

[11:35:02]

But our sources do tell us that around the time that Fitton started calling him and delivering these arguments to him, he began to break down his willingness to cooperate, Kate. BOLDUAN: And, Gabby, you're also reporting that Trump appears to be prioritizing kind of a political strategy around this whole situation over any legal strategy. How are people in his orbit kind of reacting to that?

ORR: I will tell you. This really split his camp. There are some allies and advisors to the former president who think that he's never been in a better position politically. They claim that this allows him to portray himself, of course, as the continued victim of a witch hunt, but there are others who say that this really feels different. This feels like a moment when Donald Trump is in danger and possibly on the brink of being indicted.

And you know, even as the former president and his allies try to continue to spin this politically in a way that they think is beneficial for them. One good example of this is that letter that we saw earlier this week from the National Archives to Trump attorney Evan Corcoran that was sent in May, in which they described through the back and forth about out allowing FBI investigators to access those records that were turned over to National Archives.

Now, Trump's team has claimed that this backs up their version of events and that President Biden knew and was basically pulling the strings. But that's not what Bradley Moss, a national attorney -- National Security attorney told CNN. Here's what he said. If anything, the Biden White House went out of its way to not get involved in whether or not this became a truly criminal matter. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Gabby, I really appreciate it.

Still ahead for us, a Ukrainian nuclear power plant on the brink of disaster still, even though it has been now reattached to the power grid, the very dangerous situation still playing out in the midst of this war in Ukraine. We're going to be -- we're going to give you a live report next.

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[11:41:46]

BOLDUAN: In Ukraine, a nuclear power plant controlled by Russian forces has now been reconnected to the Ukrainian power grid. This is the largest nuclear power plant in all of Europe and it is on the brink of disaster still. CNN's David McKenzie is live in Ukraine for us at this hour. David, what is happening with this now?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, there was a very, very serious situation when that power was stopped going into and out of that huge nuclear power plant. Now, why is that worrying? It means that if at least one nuclear reactor did not have power going to it from the grid, or out of it, and that means that if there is a station blackout, as they call it, you could have those nuclear reactors melting down or at the very least there being a leak. This is perhaps what everyone's being worried about despite maybe the option of a direct strike among those reactors. Now, the good news is, Kate, that they managed to have reconnected at least one of those reactors to the Ukrainian grid. But if you look at the satellite pictures, you see the smoke rising from that area. We spoke to someone who's working at that site anonymously. They said that it's been hell, that there are fires. There's ongoing shelling. Both sides have blamed each other, Kate, for the shelling and the insecurity. It's worth remembering, though, of course, that Russia was the one that occupied that site back in March, Kate.

BOLDUAN: David, thank you so much for that update.

Coming up still for us, a new mission to the moon. CNN getting a behind-the-scenes look at NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission ahead of the big launch.

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[11:47:46]

BOLDUAN: We're standing by for the release of the redacted affidavit used to -- use in the search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. A federal judge had ordered the Justice Department to release the document by noon Eastern today. Of course, just less than 15 minutes away at this point. As soon as the affidavit is released, we will bring you all the details.

In the meantime, we're also tracking a big mission by NASA. NASA says the Artemis 1 rocket is ready to launch for its inaugural flight around the moon and back. This mission is a key test of NASA's plan to put Americans back on the Moon by 2025. CNN's Kristin Fisher is live in Washington with the very latest on this. It's good to see you, Kristin, this is a big moment.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a big moment. And as of now, Kate, the weather is 70 percent favorable for launch. All systems go for launch. And the Vice President, Kamala Harris, has just announced that she's going to be attending the launch on Monday as well. So things are looking about as good as they can with three days to go until launch, but a lot can change between now and then. And that's why NASA is really stressing that this is only a test flight and an uncrewed test flight at that.

But if it is successful, it will pave the way for Artemis 2 and Artemis 3, which is when NASA plans to land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon, hopefully, by 2025. And when they land on the moon, the NASA administrator, Senator Bill Nelson was on our air earlier this morning explaining why this time, unlike during the Apollo program, this time, the plan is to leave a lot more than just flags and footprints.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: Yes, we're going back to the moon in preparation to go to Mars. That's the difference. 50 years ago, we went to the moon for a day, a few hours, three days max. Now we're going back to the moon to stay, to live, to learn, to build. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FISHER: To build. And when he says build, he is referring to building lunar bases someday on the moon. And that's important because China also has plans to build bases around the same place on the moon as well. So some real geopolitical implications here as well, Kate, but really, I mean, this is the first time that NASA has had its own human-rated rocket to launch since the space shuttle -- the last space shuttle launch 11 years ago.

[11:50:09]

So this is a really big moment for NASA and really all the taxpayers who have spent billions of dollars poured billions of dollars into this rocket, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. This will be exciting -- every launch is exciting, but this is definitely going to be exciting to watch. It's good to see you, Kristin, thank you so much.

Coming up for us. We are moments away now from the release of the redacted affidavit used in the search of Donald Trump's home. We'll be right back.

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[11:55:15]

BOLDUAN: Any moment now, you will see the redacted affidavit used in the search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence. A federal judge ordered the Justice Department to release the document by noon Eastern today. As soon as the affidavit is released, we will bring you all of the details.

In the meantime, joining me is CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. He's a former federal prosecutor. Ellie, just kind of setting the stage for people in its complete form and an unredacted affidavit, what would you have? What would you find?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So this is going to be completely different than the documents that we've seen so far, Kate. The documents we've seen so far have been two -- three-page documents that are largely worksheets checklists. The affidavit, however, is going to be many multiples longer than that. This is the document where the FBI and DOJ get together. And you write out in the narrative form in a detailed manner, here's our probable cause, essentially, you lay out your case for the judge. So this is going to go into way more detail than anything we've seen before if we got the whole thing.

BOLDUAN: That's right, exactly.

HONIG: Yes.

BOLDUAN: But the judge here clearly saw -- clearly saw a need to get some information out to the public, right, because so to the argument of it's going to be just black boxes only. The judge clearly saw a public need for transparency, that there's something in there for the public to see. So what could it be?

HONIG: Yes. I think there are really important things we can learn. To be sure, the most sensitive stuff will be blacked out will be redacted. But we could learn things like more specifics about what criminal law DOJ is looking at here. The documents we've seen so far just have the numbers of the laws. But in this, they'll have to be some explanation of what subsections of those laws and why they're looking at those laws.

We can learn more about the year-long -- year-plus-long negotiation between archives, DOJ, Trump lawyers, and what documents they got because we know they had documents before the Mar-a-Lago search. So those may be laid out. And there could be parts of the investigation that are not sensitive, that are not Grand Jury materials, that are sort of over and done with, we could see those as well.

BOLDUAN: Could we learn more about the actual documents themselves?

HONIG: Yes, absolutely. Because remember, 15 boxes were obtained by the Archives. And there was a subpoena that DOJ used to get other documents. We have no sense of what's in those documents yet but they could well be described in the affidavit. And if so, they may not even be redacted. So we may learn that as well.

BOLDUAN: Phil Mudd, there is something that he was -- he's interested in looking. If there's anything that we see suggesting that people lied. He said that could be really important.

HONIG: Yes. I mean, look, one of the charges that was listed was obstruction. Lying would certainly be that. And I do want to say that I'm also interested to see if they have any evidence from the surveillance video of people going in and out of Mar-a-Lago that may or may not be in there. But yes, absolutely, I'd be looking for that.

BOLDUAN: Does it -- would this document get into speak to intent?

HONIG: Sure --

BOLDUAN: Foundation?

HONIG: Sure. It could. I mean, remember, you have to establish probable cause as a prosecutor or a judge.

BOLDUAN: Right.

HONIG: We know a judge found that. And part of the crimes is showing intent, motivation, bad, you know, knowledge, and bad intent to violate the law. You don't have to show that beyond a reasonable doubt. That's for trials. But you still have to show probable cause. So it has to be in there. Whether it will be redacted it's not particularly sensitive in terms of an ongoing investigation. So look for that as well.

BOLDUAN: A lot of -- I mean, it didn't say -- needless to say, there's a lot to look for, and we were standing by for that.

HONIG: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Elie, thank you so much.

HONIG: All right, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it. Thank you all so much for being with us "AT THIS HOUR." I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to "INSIDE POLITICS," I'm Abby Phillip. John King is off. Thank you for joining us on a significant news day.

Any moment now, we expect the Justice Department to submit its redacted version of the Mar-a-Lago affidavit used to justify the search of Donald Trump's Florida home. We're going to get straight to CNN's Jessica Schneider. Jessica, while we are waiting, what can we expect to learn when we finally see this document?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we'll find out just how much the Department of Justice was successful in keeping blocked from the public and what the judge and the Department of Justice is allowing the public to see here. Now, in just the past few minutes, we've actually been seeing a lot of activity on the court's docket, most of it is been under seal. But this indicates that something should be coming very soon. You know, we're just about one minute from noon.

The thing is a lot of people are checking the court docket right now all across the country all over the world, and that might actually lead to somewhat of a delay in downloading this information. So what we do know from the Department of Justice, what they previously said at a court hearing, this is a lengthy document. It has many, many details about multiple witnesses that they've spoken with, their investigative techniques, sources, and methods. However, it has been quite clear from the judge in this case that that information will, in fact, be blacked out. It will be redacted.

The judge issued a two-page order yesterday basically saying he agrees with the Department of Justice, that there was just too much at stake to release a lot of disinformation into the public sphere