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Giuliani Informed That He's A Target Of GA Election Meddling Probe; FBI & DHS Threats To Law Enforcement Spike After Trump Search; Officials: Russian Presence In South Complicated By Ukraine Attacks; Wyoming Voters Set To Decide Rep. Liz Cheney's Political Fate. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2022 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It's a brand new hour on CNN NEWSROOM. Good to have you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

Rudy Giuliani has just learned that he is the target of these Georgia special grand jury investigative efforts to overturn the 2020 election. His lawyer confirmed that to CNN saying that a prosecutor from the Fulton County DA's office informed him of that today. Giuliani is expected to go before the same grand jury on Wednesday, and it's not clear if he will invoke the Fifth Amendment.

BLACKWELL: Giuliani met with Georgia state legislators three times in December 2020, this is right after the election. And during those meetings, he spread conspiracy theories about widespread irregularities, fraud and also the fallacy that two Atlanta election workers smuggled fake Biden ballots in with suitcases, again, none of that was true.

Let's bring in our former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti to discuss. Renato, your view of the legal exposure that Giuliani faces - he now obviously is a target of this investigation.

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's very big news, bigger than it might seem at first glance, Victor, because the term target has a very specific meaning in the context of criminal investigations. It actually means that the prosecutor believes that they are likely to indict you. That's essentially what that means. It's different than being a subject of an investigation.

So Mr. Giuliani and his attorneys now know that they need to be preparing for an indictment and that - I suspect that they were told that news, partly to see if they were interested in cooperating, but at the very least, they're going to need to prepare for charges.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's what I was wondering, Renato, why would prosecutors tell a target that they are the target?

MARIOTTI: There's two reasons, Alisyn, one is because they want to give you an opportunity to cooperate. In fact, there were times when I was a prosecutor where we would send a target letter to someone who didn't have an attorney basically saying you are the target of a grand jury investigation and you should get a lawyer and the idea being that the lawyer would encourage them to cooperate in that situation.

It also, though, gives the target an opportunity to come in and try to explain why he shouldn't be charged and so on. In this context, I think, it really could go either way.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Renato, stick around, if you would, because we want to get your thoughts also on our next story.

BLACKWELL: There's now a bipartisan call for more information about the FBI's search former President Trump's home a week ago. Democrat Mark Warner, Republican Marco Rubio, the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a private letter to the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General. They want to see on a classified basis here, the specific documents removed from Mar-A-Lago and no word yet on a response from the Justice Department.

CAMEROTA: And we're learning more about what investigators were facing before the search of Mar-A-Lago. Sources say one of Donald Trump's lawyers signed a letter sometime in June, this is more than a month before the search saying there was no more classified information stored at Mar-A-Lago.

And yet, as we now know, from the release of the search warrant, the FBI removed 11 sets of classified documents from the Trump estate, including some marked top secret and SCI, which is one of the highest levels of classification. So let's turn now to CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider. So Jessica, you're learning that law enforcement, including the FBI, are under a high alert for threats in the wake of all of this, so tell us about that.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they absolutely are, Alisyn. So the threats against FBI employees, FBI buildings, they have really intensified in the past week, of course, since that search warrant was executed. So that's actually prompted the FBI security division right here in Washington to notify the nearly 40,000 FBI employees. They want to alert them to remain vigilant.

On top of that, there was a joint bulletin from FBI-DHS that was also released that lays out the threat landscape here.


And this bulletin is saying in part that it includes a threat to place a so called dirty bomb in front of FBI headquarters and issuing general calls for civil war and armed rebellion. And probably because of that barricades are now up surrounding FBI's headquarters right here in Washington.

And our team is told that the FBI is in fact investigating an unprecedented number of threats against FBI employees. And those threats include two against special agents who are listed on those court records that were released on Friday. The Agents were involved in the Mar-A-Lago search and they were blacked out in the official copy released by the by the court, but their names actually were listed in the leaked copies that was put out by conservative media outlets earlier on Friday.

On top of that, we've learned that the FBI has noticed an uptick in what's called doxing. This is where people online publicly post personal information of FBI employees that can then be used by people across the country if they want to target those employees. So Alisyn and Victor, an extremely heightened threat environment that we're actually seeing in real time here in Washington with those barricades up around the headquarters right downtown, guys?

CAMEROTA: Okay. Jessica, stay with us, if you would. Also, we want to bring back Renato. Renato, this is vile. I mean, vile stuff, everything that Jessica is talking about. The idea that Breitbart would put out the names of these FBI agents, knowing we have to assume, given this climate, what would - all the threats that would be incoming to them. I mean, I know that these are law enforcement agents, but having to worry about dirty bombs, civil war rebellion, I mean, this seems to be on a scale different than the normal threats that they encounter.

MARIOTTI: Absolutely. I actually have been in touch with folks in the Justice Department. There's a lot of concern there right now, understandably, about some of this. I have to say the timing here on very suspect, you have a leak to a Breitbart reporter puts out a - puts out the names of those agents. And then there's a truth social alerts that led to that article - readership to that article, very, very concerning. I wouldn't be surprised if it was something that department looks at.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring it also into the conversation Daryl Johnson who served as senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security. He's also the author of Hateland: A Long, Hard Look at America's Extremist Heart. Daryl to you, am I oversimplifying things by saying that we just live through an example of where this heated rhetoric, vilifying government employees with no evidence where it can lead on January 6th 2021. Is that too close of a comparison considering what we're seeing now coming from the former president again?

DARYL JOHNSON: Well, this is just another example of how words matter and can actually inspire people to violence. So I don't think you're overreacting one bit. We need to take this threat seriously and politicians in particular, need to understand that when they labeled the FBI, a rogue agency and characterize this court authorized search warrant as a raid or a break in or an attack, this could inspire someone to go over the edge and actually mobilize and carry out violent acts.

CAMEROTA: And Daryl, does this change any way that they operate at the FBI or DHS right now, given that we're in this incredibly violent and heated climate now that their names are out there and that there's all of this rhetoric from even - we've seen the so called Freedom Caucus, some Republicans on there saying destroy the FBI. Are they changing things today? JOHNSON: Absolutely. But they've been in a heightened security

posture for quite some time now, because this threat just didn't appear overnight. It's been growing and increasing over the past decade. We saw similar calls of violence towards another law enforcement agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in the immediate aftermath of Ruby Ridge and Waco standoffs back in the early '90s.

So this is not unfamiliar territory for the police. They're just going to be increasing their posture and being more vigilant now than they've ever been.

BLACKWELL: Renato, you've written in recent days that espionage, obviously, the statute got the most attention once the search warrant was unsealed, is not the strongest case against the former president that it's simpler than that, explain.

MARIOTTI: Well, really the - we talked about the Espionage Act, but that act covers a number of things and really kind of, I would say, the very strong straightforward case that the Department of Justice has against the former president is that he kept classified materials and conceal them from the United States government even though they were demanding their return. As you mentioned, a moment ago there was actually, of course, reports that his attorneys lied to the Justice Department about it.


And I think that's a very straightforward charge and I think that's more along the lines with what you would see here if the DOJ actually goes forward with charges.

CAMEROTA: Renato, I want to ask you about another bit of breaking news that we're getting, which is that the White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, who was one of the people who pushed back on the efforts of former President Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election, that the federal grand jury is now subpoenaing him, Eric Herschmann, and that follows, as you know, from Pat Cipollone, and all the people on the screen here, so the significance?

MARIOTTI: Well, Alisyn, it's really further confirmation that the Justice Department is going full speed ahead. On the investigation of Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman. Anyone who watched those January 6 hearings remembers the colorful testimony of Mr. Herschmann regarding John Eastman, telling him to get a criminal - very great criminal lawyer, telling Mr. Clark that he was preparing to commit a crime in his first day as attorney general. I'm not surprised that the Justice Department wants to speak to him now that they're focused on that investigation.

BLACKWELL: And Jessica, the Justice Department has been gearing up to prepare for the legal fight to try to get answers from White House employees, namely Pat Cipollone who - there were some negotiations before he went in to speak with the 1/6 committee, are they expecting any pushback from Herschmann or others considering how forthcoming they were in those depositions and the testimony before the House Committee?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. We know that our team has reported here that prosecutors with the Justice Department, they are preparing for what could be an executive privilege fight that will play out in the courts and could go all the way to the Supreme Court. So no doubt it's a lot different maybe than sitting for a deposition with the January 6 Committee, maybe refusing to answer certain questions.

We saw Pat Cipollone in particular, refusing to answer certain questions about his direct interactions and communications with the president. So they the committee gave them a lot of leeway in that respect. But it does seem with more and more of these Trump officials being summoned to the grand jury that prosecutors are, in fact, sort of priming for what will be a fight over executive privilege and how much information they can get out of, especially Eric Herschmann, a former White House lawyer. He's right on the same plane with Pat Cipollone and the other counsel there; Greg Jacob, Pat Philbin as deputy White House counsel.

So this further adds to the evidence that the Department of Justice is going full speed ahead while also prepping with how to fight and deal with this executive privilege issue.

CAMEROTA: But Renato, to your point, given, as you said, colorful interactions that we heard about, in the last January 6 hearing where he's basically calling out Jeffrey Clark and saying these guys are fairly incompetent. Do you think that - does that make you think that he is primed and ready to talk and willing?

MARIOTTI: Absolutely. I mean, I think Mr. Herschmann based upon what we've heard is not going to be concerned about his own liability. I mean, he's actually doing the right thing by saying to both of these gentlemen; Mr. Eastman and Mr. Clark, you are proposing to commit a crime, you need to get lawyers. You're doing something foolish.

And as a lawyer, that's exactly what he shouldn't be telling them and so it is, I think, the testimony that Mr. Herschmann won't be reluctant to give and it's a testimony that, I think, would potentially bury both of those two gentlemen, very strong evidence of their state of mind.

CAMEROTA: I'm glad that one of you has a guard dog. I mean--

BLACKWELL: I think it's Jessica's dog in the bureau.

MARIOTTI: That is mine (inaudible) ...

CAMEROTA: Renato confesses. All right. Jessica Schneider, Renato Mariotti and Daryl Johnson, thank you all very much for all the insights.

BLACKWELL: Authorities are looking for answers after a man shot and killed himself near the U.S. Capitol building. Police say the 29-year- old man from Delaware crashed his car into a barricade early Sunday morning. CAMEROTA: The car caught fire, police say the man got out and then

shot himself when authorities approached. No one else was injured in this episode. Officials say the man had a criminal history from over the past 10 years or so. They say there's no information right now to indicate a motive or a political ideology.

BLACKWELL: Well, as kids head back to school, some districts are dealing with a dramatic teacher shortage. The Labor Department says 300,000 teachers left the field over the past two years. Ahead, what's being done to try to stop the exodus.

CAMEROTA: And new worries about a nuclear power plant in Ukraine why dozens of countries are asking Russia to remove its troops from there immediately.



BLACKWELL: Ukrainian officials say that Russia's presence in the southern Kherson region has become more tenuous because of Ukrainian attacks on Russian supply lines and bridges.

CAMEROTA: Concerns are growing over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, 42 countries and the European Union have called on Russia to withdraw its forces from the plant over fears of a potential radiation leak. CNN's David McKenzie joins us now from Kyiv. So David, what's the latest?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, this is very worrying and we've been speaking about this for a few days now, but it continues to be a concern. This massive power plant in the south of where I'm standing has been under Russian occupation since at least March. And in recent days, you've had accusations and counter accusations of strikes right there close to this power plant, leading to worries of a fallout or leak of some kind, both because of a direct strike but more likely because of a lack of power to that site to cool those reactor rods.


Just a short time ago, the U.N. Secretary General said they had a conversation with the Russian defense minister to try and ensure safety there and then also an unusual move. The UN has said that it's denying that it's tried to stop the Atomic Energy Agency from going to inspect that site. They say they can help facilitate that. But still, there's fighting ongoing there and these fears are not going away. Alisyn? Victor?

BLACKWELL: David, also there appears to have been a strike on the Wagner Group based in Russia there, Russian-occupied Ukraine, I should say, what can you tell us about that?

MCKENZIE: Well, this is intriguing. You look at these pictures of a devastating strike on a building that appears to have been the headquarters are at least the base of the Wagner Group. Now this is a mercenary group with very close ties to Vladimir Putin, something he denies, that has played a shadowy role in this conflict.

And now it appears there might have been some kind of intelligence lapse that allowed Ukrainians to strike that site. They say there were casualties, unclear how many. Also, something worth noting in the southern part of this campaign, Victor, there have been strikes by Ukrainians beyond over those Russian positions, onto key bridges crossing the Dnipro River in Kherson region.

Why is this important? Well, it could mean they are able to isolate, cut off a large contingents of Russian troops. I think the next few weeks in this conflict, this grinding conflict are going to be very critical to see if they can encircle those Russian troops and what impact that will have. Victor? Alisyn?

BLACKWELL: David McKenzie for us in Kyiv. Thank you, David.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, lawyers for WNBA star Brittney Griner are appealing her nine year prison sentence handed down by a Russian judge.

BLACKWELL: Griner was sentenced this month on drug smuggling charges for carrying cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage. Now, the U.S. says Griner is wrongfully detained. State Department officials have offered a potential prisoner swap with Russia to try to bring Griner home safely.

The suspect in a weekend shooting that killed a Texas youth football coach has just turned himself in. Police say the suspect who's the brother of a former NFL star pulled out a gun after the two teams' coaches, their coaching staffs had a disagreement over officiating.

CAMEROTA: Now one of the coaches was shot and killed, 43-year-old Michael Hickman was a grandfather and father of three from Lancaster, that's near Dallas. The alleged gunman's attorney says his client will claim self-defense.

BLACKWELL: A forensic report from the FBI is revealing some new details about that the fatal shooting on the Rust movie set, the one starring Alec Baldwin. Investigators say the gun could not have been fired without pulling the trigger. Now Baldwin was holding the gun when it went off and the film's cinematographer as you know was killed. The director was injured. Baldwin has publicly insisted he did not pull the trigger. His attorney says the FBI's report has been 'misconstrued'.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney faces a political reckoning tomorrow when voters in Wyoming decide if she gets to keep her job. Our live report is next.



BLACKWELL: Well, tomorrow, voters in Wyoming will head to the polls to decide whether Congresswoman Liz Cheney will serve another term in the House and she's one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump after the January 16 insurrection. She's also a vice chair of the House committee investigating the attack.

Cheney's criticism of Trump could cost her seat in a state that Trump carried twice by more than 40 points. CNN's Sara Murray is in Cheyenne for us. Sara, so where do things stand just one day before the election?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, Victor, I think as you laid it out there, it's obviously not looking great for Liz Cheney in the state of Wyoming. I mean, this is a state where Donald Trump has come and he's campaigned for Harriet Hageman, the woman running against her. He's told voters to fire Liz. He carried this state with 70 percent of the vote.

And of course, Liz Cheney is hoping that there may be will be Democrats, independents who cross over to carry her over the finish line. But frankly, there just aren't that many of those voters around here. My colleague Kasie Hunt recently asked her, what happens if you do lose, and Liz Cheney laid out the stakes as she sees them. Take a listen.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Look, I think that this - we're in a situation where former President Trump has betrayed the patriotism of millions and millions of people across our country. And many people here in Wyoming. He's lied to them and it is a really dangerous situation. And what I know to do is to tell the truth and to make sure that people understand the truth about what happened and why it matters so much.


MURRAY: Now, Cheney, of course, has been making this argument to voters but it just does not appear to be right resonating with the Republican base here.


Still, she of course is not willing to say that she believes that she's going to lose, she's still a political candidate after all, Victor.