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CNN Tonight

CNN Obtains Tape Of Trump's 2021 Conversation About Classified Documents; Can Putin Hold On To Power?; What Does Wagner Mercenary Rebellion Mean For Ukraine? Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 26, 2023 - 23:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to "CNN Tonight." We continue with our breaking news. CNN exclusively obtaining the audio recording of Donald Trump discussing highly classified documents at his golf club with people who did not have security clearances.

You're about to hear Trump in his own words explain that he no longer had the power to declassify the documents, and you will hear him shuffling through papers.

This conversation is a critical piece of evidence in Special Counsel Special Counsel Jack Smith's indictment of Donald Trump over his mishandling of classified information.

We've got CNN's top legal political and intelligence analysts here tonight. Let's start with CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid and former federal prosecutor Laura Coates. Ladies, great to see you. Paula, I will begin with you. Let's get straight to that exclusive audio tape. What do we hear Donald Trump saying?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: All right, so remember, this back in the summer of 2021 at his New Jersey golf club, and in the room alone with him are two of his states who he knows are recording everything he says because during that time, he was in the habit of having his staff record him any time he talked to journalists, members of the media or anyone working on a book.

The other people in the room are two people working on an audio biography of former White House chief-of-staff Mark Meadows. At the time, it appears that the former president is quite agitated about comments made by General Mark Milley regarding Trump's feelings and his desire to attack Iran.

I am going to let him take it from here. You can hear him in his own words, what he had to say about that.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): These are bad sick people, but --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): That was your coup, you know, against you. That --

TRUMP (voice-over): Well, it started right at the --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Like when Milley is talking about, "oh, you were going to try to do a coup." No, they were trying to do that before you even were sworn in.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): That's right.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Trying to overthrow your election.

TRUMP (voice-over): Well, with Milley, uh, let me see that, I'll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran.


Isn't it amazing? I have a big pile of papers. This thing just came up. Look.


This was him. They presented me this. This is off the record. But they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Wow.

TRUMP (voice-over): We looked at some. This was him. This wasn't done by me, this was him. All sorts of stuff-pages long. Look.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Hmm.

TRUMP (voice-over): Wait a minute, let's see here.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Oh, my gosh.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.

TRUMP (voice-over): I just found, isn't that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Mm-hm.

TRUMP (voice-over): Except it is like, highly confidential.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.


TRUMP (voice-over): Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this. You attack and --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Hillary would print that out all the time, you know.

TRUMP (voice-over): She'd send it.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Her private emails.

TRUMP (voice-over): No, she'd send it to Anthony Weiner.


UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.

TRUMP (voice-over): The pervert.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Please print.

TRUMP (voice-over): By the way, isn't that incredible?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.

TRUMP (voice-over): I was just thinking, because we were talking about it.


And you know, he said, "he wanted to attack Iran, and what." These are the papers.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): You did.

TRUMP (voice-over): This was done by the military and given to me. Uh, I think we can probably, right?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): I don't know. We'll have to see. Yeah, we'll have to try to --

TRUMP (voice-over): Declassify it.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): -- figure out. Yeah.

TRUMP (voice-over): See, as president, I could have declassified it.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.


TRUMP (voice-over): Now, I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.


Now we have a problem.

TRUMP (voice-over): Isn't that interesting?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.

TRUMP (voice-over): It's so cool. I mean, it's so -- look, her and I, and you probably almost didn't believe me, but now you believe me.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): No, I believed you.

TRUMP (voice-over): It's incredible, right?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): No, they never met a war they didn't want.

TRUMP (voice-over): Hey, bring some, uh, bring some Cokes in, please.


REID: Really remarkable there, the casual nature of that conversation where he is clearly claiming to be discussing some of the nation's most sensitive secrets. Now, in a statement tonight, the former president spokesman said that this in part clarifies that the former president did nothing wrong.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Laura, I want to get your take on that. You hear the former president say -- quote -- "These are the papers." He calls them -- quote -- "highly confidential secret information." So, here is a question for you, does Special Counsel Jack Smith need to prove that they really were what Trump was claiming they were?

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST AND SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, special counsel and the team is probably salivating a little bit of the fact that this audiotape, when you look at the written transcript, is so much more rich in this instance. It gives you the full context. It shows maybe the motivation in part, the idea of wanting to show off and somehow in his mind prove, it seems from a statement, he didn't believe me at first, now I bet you do.

It is probably part of a greater contextual discussion about the reasons why he wanted to retain and ultimately revealed certain documents. But it does fatally undermine the claims that he has made in the past, including at a Fox town hall and other times, talking about the idea of these weren't actually paperwork assigned or associated with the Department of Defense. These were newspapers or magazines clippings. That negates that very wholeheartedly.

But, of course, if you are the special counsel, you are well aware of this audio and you know that every person in that room with whom he was speaking, the voices that you heard, the people who actually had the tapes, they are now all witnesses to this and can be called in front of a grand jury if they haven't already been, Alisyn, or they can actually testify about what specifically he was in fact holding.


It gives greater color to the overarching claims. But remember, the bulk of these claims in this indictment relate to the conspiracy, the idea of obstruction as well. And so, now, this paints a clear picture, but the conduct that is indicted happens primarily, according to the indictment, in South Florida. CAMEROTA: Okay. So, Paula, who are those other voices that we hear?

REID: So, we know Trump's staffer, Liz Harrington, one of his spokespeople, and then also Margo Martin. Margo Martin is a longtime aide and that is significant because when she went into the grand jury, they played this recording for her, and that was actually how Trump's lawyers back in March of this year found out that this recording existed at all. Prior to that, they were unaware of this key piece of evidence.

I'll also emphasize that there are multiple versions of this recording because the staffers were not the only ones recording. The autobiographers were also rolling on this meeting. So, they had notes.

Now, it is unclear exactly how the special counsel obtained the recording that was played in the grand jury, but it is notable, March, March, that is when Trump's lawyers learned about this incriminating piece of evidence.

CAMEROTA: So, Laura, as you know, Donald Trump has claimed that he could declassify whatever he wanted. But on this tape, we hear him admitting he had not declassified those and cannot declassify them now that he is out of office. Is that a problem?

COATES: Yes, and the plot also thickens on that very notion. I mean, this idea that he was able to declassify with the waving of a wand was always legally ridiculous. Remember, this complaint, this actual criminal indictment, deals with the willful retention of documents that should have been returned as well.

The Presidential Records Act does not play the most prominent role in this conversation, but the notion of classified material or defense- related information as is defined in the Espionage Act is centerstage here.

And so, the knowledge that he does not have the power to declassify what is in front of him, the nature of the conversations surrounding General Milley and, of course, the documents and the substance of it, also gives further credence to the claims that these were documents that fall under the category of defense-related information, which remember means things that would be close to the best of the United States, that would be something that our allies would not want to have out or those who wish to do us harm would love to have.

And so, think about all of that context of the evergreen nature of the material. We are not creating new defense plans and war plans every day. They are mostly things that have already been decided. Of course, they will be renewed in some form or fashion. These are very sensitive materials.

And so, he is fatally undermining his own defense. I will be curious to see what his lawyers ultimately articulate in the court of law. This will be the motion practice, Alisyn. We are all looking for the pre-trial motions, what comes in, what is excluded, and why.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Thank you very much for explaining all of that to us, Laura and Paula.

Let's bring in former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. We also have CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, and John Miller, our chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. Gentlemen, great to have you here. Okay, Elie, your thoughts as you hear Donald Trump's own words there.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: There are tapes and then there are tapes. That is a really damaging and devastating tape because what it does is allows the prosecutors to put the jury in the room to hear what Donald Trump says, to hear him use these documents to make a point to try to persuade someone, to hear him paging through to talk about classified top secret.

Even here, his aide at one point, whose let's just say obsequious, says this is a problem. She is chuckling a little. But even his aide, who is telling Trump everything he wants to hear, has to acknowledge, oh, this is a bit of a problem.

And as Laura just said, it undermines the core component of his defense, which is I declassify. Here he is saying, I could have, but I didn't, and I can't now. So, I don't even know what the defense is. Maybe this is a very smart team. So, we have been kicking this around. How do you defend this? I don't really know.

CAMEROTA: How do you do it, Harry?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: There is no defense. There has never been a defense. But it has got two really significant aspects. One, just as Laura and Elie said, it puts the light on all he has been saying. Of course, he has had 12 different versions.

But we have known all along or at least we've known for a couple of months that this tape was pivotal in the United States decision to seek a search warrant. There were people who were a little bit on the fence. This is the thing that actually persuaded them.

And if you listen it, you know why. He is asserting true or not a conversation from the chair of the joint chiefs of staff about how we are going to attack Iran. That is radioactive. You can't even imagine sort of a higher level. So, it was at that point that they had to go in.

Another point, though, it seems as if and this is what the indictment says, he is flirting with dissemination.


Dissemination would be a whole another crime under the Espionage Act, a whole another level. We are talking, you know, the Rosen --

CAMEROTA: But does that mean he has to actually hand over something? It appears that he is showing something.

LITMAN: The short answer is no, but they've got to know it is, and that is why I suspect they haven't charged him. It is in there mainly for atmosphere to say this is the kind of guy -- this is what he would do. He is so indifferent to the national interest. This is the highest national interest.

So, paragraph six here is really put in there for sort of atmosphere rather than charging dissemination. We will see if they have the goods to charge that down the line.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So, John, they've laid out the legal case. Let's talk about the national security implications of this. How dangerous is it?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, it is extraordinarily dangerous and it crosses over into the legal also because it is -- it is pure to the charge, which is 18 USC 793, which is defense information. Doesn't matter if it is classified. When they made that law in 1917, there was no such thing as classified. But it's defense information that could be injurious to the security of the United States.

When you have a hostile foreign power, let's take Iran, which apparently is the subject of this document, we understand, and you have a contingency plan, if we had to attack Iran, there was a situation that came up and we had to put that into -- disseminating that information, not protecting that information, could actually undermine the entire attack plan.

This goes back to World War II. loose lips sink ships. So, I think it is a stunning example based on the charge that they chose.

CAMEROTA: So, there is this moment in it and we will play it again, I think we have it, um, where the listener, one of the people react to what they are seeing. Okay? So, listen to this. Oh, basically they say --


CAMEROTA: -- wow.


HONIG: Yeah. This is one of --

CAMEROTA: Is that a big deal?

HONIG: One of the questions will be, is there an actual document, what is Donald Trump actually showing? In an odd way, it doesn't matter because this indictment that we have before, that we live with before us, now charges 31 specific documents. Whatever this document is, it is not one of them.

So, you don't necessarily need to prove there was a document there in order to carry your charges. As Harry said, it largely is atmospheric but a very important piece of atmosphere because this is the one time we really see -- one of two times in the indictment where Donald Trump is actually doing something.

So, what I think you'll see happening is people trying to piece together the clues. Okay, he's clearly showing them something. Right?

MILLER: Elie, you know --

HONIG: Yeah.

MILLER: -- because you have prosecuted these cases. When they get into court, they are going to play the tape and the jury is going to be following along with the transcript. And then they are going to put on those witnesses.

HONIG: Yeah.

MILLER: They are going to play it again.

HONIG: Exactly right.

MILLER: And they are going to say, when this was happening, what happened in the room? He held up a piece of paper. What did you see?

HONIG: What did you see?

MILLER: I saw a red cover and the word "secret" on it. Did he peel back that first page? Did you see a document behind it? Did it also say "secret?" They will unfurl --

HONIG: Yeah.

MILLER: -- layer by layer what they saw and what they were exposed to. Did they discuss giving it to you? Yes, they did. They said, well, maybe we can declassify. So, I mean, all of that is going to come out. Transcript was damning. Tape brings it to life. Human witnesses bring it home.

HONIG: And even --

LITMAN: I'm sorry, the main person who could rebut it, Donald Trump, he won't testify.

HONIG: Yeah.

LITMAN: So, all of these things will be effectively unrebutted.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Standby, guys. We have many more questions for you because we have much more of CNN's exclusive audio tape of Donald Trump talking about secret classified documents.

Also, still to come, an update from the ground in Moscow. I will speak to a top ambassador about whether Putin can hold on to power.




(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.

TRUMP (voice-over): See as president, I could have declassified it.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.


TRUMP (voice-over): Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.


Now we have a problem.

TRUMP (voice-over): Isn't that interesting?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Yeah.

TRUMP (voice-over): It's so cool. I mean, it's so -- look, her and I, and you probably almost didn't believe me, but now you believe me.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): No, I believed you.

TRUMP (voice-over): It's incredible, right?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Nom, they never met a wary they didn't want.

TRUMP (voice-over): It brings some, uh, bring some Cokes in, please.


CAMEROTA: CNN has exclusively obtained the audio recording of that 2021 meeting at Donald Trump's golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The recording of this conversation is a critical piece of evidence in Special Counsel Jack Smith's indictment of Donald Trump over the mishandling of classified information.

Let's get right to CNN's Katelyn Polantz, who is in Miami, where Trump aide, Walt Nauta, is expected to appear in court tomorrow. Okay, so Katelyn, tell us how will Special Counsel Jack Smith's team use this audiotape?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Alisyn, we know that it is something that he wants to use and it is something that he has described in the indictment, he has quoted it in the indictment document, and that is all very much expected to come to life at the trial whenever that trial happens. Right now, we don't have a final date on it, but the Justice Department wants this trial to happen in December.

And when they do bring it to life, there is still going to be questions around exactly how it becomes part of the story that prosecutors tell in the courtroom to the jury. Is one of these documents that Trump is speaking about on the tape about Iran, a plan to potentially attack Iran from Mark Milley, is that one of the 31 documents that he is charged with retaining in this case?

We don't know. It is not clear either whether that will be something that is explained to trial, but it quite possibly could be because we know just from the indictment alone that this is the type of document that prosecutors can use not just to explain the charges but to explain the intent Donald Trump allegedly had in wanting to keep these things and the attitude he had towards these documents after he left the presidency.


CAMEROTA: But Katelyn, just so I am clear, that document, whatever it was that he was showing there, do we know the status of that now? Where it is? Was it returned to the National Archives?

POLANTZ: Yeah, Alisyn, that is a huge question and it is going to be a question that we are watching a lot for as we move through this case towards trial and all the discussions before trial because what we did know happen is that after the Justice Department got a hold of this audio and made it known to Donald Trump's team that they had this audio recording in this case in the final months before they brought the indictment against him, we knew that they had subpoenaed these types of documents, either this document specifically that might have been in Trump's possession still or any copies of it that would remain, and his lawyers were unable to find the exact document that was responsive.

And so, it is plausible that the Justice Department found it in that search of Mar-a-Lago last August and we just don't know that part of the story yet. But it is also possible that maybe it was a copy of something or maybe it was just a document that is lost in the ether. That is really going to be a big question to watch for, whatever we had, towards this trial.

CAMEROTA: Okay. We are going to talk more about that. Thank you very much, Katelyn.

Let's bring back Harry Litman, Elie Honig, and John Miller. What about that? What if they don't have that document?

HONIG: So --

CAMEROTA: Does that weaken the case?

HONIG: Uh, yeah, I think, as a prosecutor, you rather have the document and able to show the jury here, what he is talking about. But even if they don't have it, this recording is still completely relevant, and I think admissible and I think really important because it shows exactly what Donald Trump's intent was. It shows why Donald Trump kept these documents and what he actually did with them.

So, you want the document, but even if you don't have it as a prosecutor, it is still valuable.

CAMEROTA: Do you agree, Harry?

LITMAN: Yes, but there are couple uses of the document in addition. You can try to sort of go for the home run, but I think Smith is smart enough not to do that. So, at a minimum, here's what you can do with that document.

First, it totally puts the lie to his various defenses about how he classified everything when he left. He realizes he doesn't have that power. Second, it is one of what? A dozen shifting explanations by Trump of his reasons. That in and of itself -- you know, two days ago, he tells Bret Baier the exact opposite. Oh, there wasn't any document there. You play those (INAUDIBLE) and you've got a liar on your hands, and the jury knows it.

And by the way, if it is admissible, it is admissible. Every statement of Trump as long as it is relevant out of court under the rules of evidence will be admissible. And as I suggested, he won't be rebutting them. So, those two things at a minimum and that is a lot already.

CAMEROTA: Let's play that Bret Baier moment because that is how Donald Trump tried to explain whether there was -- what that document was that he was showing off. Let's listen to that.


TRUMP: There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers and everything else talking about Iran and other things. And it may have been held up or may not. But that was not a document. I didn't have a document per se. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles.


CAMEROTA: So, he claims he wasn't holding up a document.

MILLER: So, that is where the transcript doesn't help us. It's where the tape is suggestive. It's where the witness is going to win the day or lose the day on the witness stand which is, did he hold up a document? What did it look like? Did you get to see the document? Could you read it?

But I suspect if they put it in the case that way, they are going to do that. And then they will put on an expert witness from the director of the office of, you know, office of director of National Intelligence. What is the classification? What are the various levels? Can the president classify or declassify it? Yes, he can.

If you're the former president, can you? No, you can't. Is Donald Trump's statement here showing that he has a clear understanding of the rules as you understand as an expert? Yes, he does. I mean, they will build around this.

HONIG: And he says in the tape, it says "secret." It says "confidential." I mean, unless he is just completely fabricating this, it appears, I think you argue with jury, the best inference is that he is reading that off the documents that you can hear him shuffling about.

CAMEROTA: But as we have already established, whoever was in this room does sound obsequious, as you said. These were his longtime staffers. So, when you put on them on the witness stand, Harry, isn't it possible that they say, um, yeah, they back up his story?

LITMAN: And by the way, I think maybe the most repulsive moment of the whole tape is where they are falling with him at the very thought of a confidential document about attacking Iran, ha, ha, ha.

The short answer is yes, and I think if you are a prosecutor, you use it conservatively. As I said, you could go for the home run, but it really doesn't matter in terms of it's going to his veracity and blowing out the water all his defenses kind of whatever they say. But I agree, I wouldn't put them in thinking they're going to make the case against their old boss.

CAMEROTA: Um, John, as we know, Donald Trump was indicted in Florida because of the boxes that we see at Mar-a-Lago and that they were mishandled.


But this happened in Bedminster, in New Jersey. So, is that a different case? It that all part of the same case? How does that work?

MILLER: I think it is going to stay a part of the same case. The reason I think that is, you can see that the prosecutor here, Jack Smith, has gone to great lengths as he has developed this case to not argue about the judge who was controversial, not argue about presenting it in Palm Beach. He is going to great lengths not to play it too cute, but to go with the cards he is dealt. So, I doubt they would bring a charge in Bedminster just to get the advantage of a different jury pool.

HONIG: I agree with that. There was a theory going around for a while that maybe the DOJ has the second set of charges that will drop in Jersey based on this. That is not how DOJ plays and if they are playing this straight. As John says, they have played it straight right now.

CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much for all of the help.

LITMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So, with two indictments, Donald Trump's future depends on winning the upcoming presidential election. We talk about what that means for the campaign, next.




CAMEROTA: More on our exclusive reporting tonight. The audio recording obtained by CNN of former President Trump at his gold club in New Jersey talking freely about what he calls highly classified secret documents about a possible attack on Iran.


TRUMP (voice-over): These are bad sick people, but --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): That was your coup, you know, against you. That --

TRUMP (voice-over): Well, it started right at the --

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Like when Milley is talking about, "oh, you were going to try to do a coup." No, they were trying to do that before you even were sworn in.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): That's right.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Trying to overthrow your election.

TRUMP (voice-over): Well, with Milley, uh, let me see that, I'll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran.



CAMEROTA: All right, let's talk about what this means for the 2024 race. Presidential one, of course. We have pollster Lee Carter, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson, and our senior political analyst John Avlon. Great to have all of you here. Lee, your reaction when you heard this tape?

LEE CARTER, POLLSTER: So, when I heard this tape, it is one of those moments -- it is not what he said that matters as much as what people are going to hear. And my big reaction here is, I am not sure it is going to move the Republican primary voters all that much.

I think independents and Democrats are going to be outraged. In many ways, they are going to hear that this is the proof that we have been looking for. This is the felon -- you know he is a felon at this moment.

I think Republicans have an opposite reaction. If you think about it, 18% of Republicans were more likely to consider Donald Trump post- indictment. They hear this kind of thing and think there is a double standard that applies to Donald Trump. When you look at polling around what they say about Hunter Biden versus Donald Trump, they think that Donald Trump --it is all politically motivated. They don't think that what he did was dangerous.

CAMEROTA: Right. But, I mean, this is the first time they -- I understand what you're saying, but they think it is a witch hunt. But here, you hear him offering up what he says are classified secret documents. Is that different? CARTER: I think everybody knows that he had classified documents. I don't think anybody was debating -- I really don't think most voters thought that the classified documents weren't there. I think the question is, are they secret that will be damaging?

And that is how a lot of Republican voters are looking at it. I'm not saying that is -- I'm looking at it.


CARTER: I think a lot of the Republicans are saying, look, he had these documents, he knew the secrets anyway, and they're not that concerned.

CAMEROTA: But the people around him didn't -- who didn't have any classification. John, your consternation?

AVLON: Yeah, I am not buying that. I mean, for several different reasons. We have seen a poll just a few weeks ago showing that his support had softened in the wake of just the news of the indictment, let alone this audio evidence. Over a quarter of Republicans said that they would not -- that he should drop out of the race on the basis of the indictment alone.

And, you know, while he is leading the pack by a lot, you saw some upward momentum by other candidates in the single digits.

Here, you have got the audiotape that has been reported before. The deals with national security, right, this is the kind of stuff that can get people killed if it falls in the wrong hands.

And if you look line that up with the lies that he has told consistently, that is the wrong word for Donald Trump, the different lies he has told about this, including to the Brett Baier, you just played the clip, you can splash all those together and say, look, he is lying. He is lying about holding on to national security secrets.

Now, the hard-core supporters may not affect him. But to anyone with an inch of being fair-minded or independent-minded, that got to be damning.

CAMEROTA: Joey, this is interesting because as a defense attorney, you would lean into what Lee is saying in terms of appealing to people for who still have, you know, a shred of doubt.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. So, trials are about campaigns. Same thing. And what you want to do is you want a message. And part of that messaging has to be trust. And a lot of cases, right, from a defense perspective or predicated upon whether or not people trust the government, can you trust what people are telling you, what they're representing to you, the information they are providing to you, what motivations are for getting and gathering that information?

What makes this different, though, is it is in his words. There is an indication that it is secret. There is an indication that he said many times, I could have declassified this as president, I am not president anymore. He is owning the issue of knowledge. He is sharing it with other people across the table.

Why do I raise that? Because when you are arguing as a defense attorney, don't trust the government, don't trust what they are telling you, fabrications, lies, et cetera. Now, we have your own voice, sir, and that own voice cuts against the notion that it is just don't trust the government, they're evil, they're out to get everyone, I am innocent.

CAMEROTA: Let me ask you this. Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden by more than seven million votes.


Does all of this, the audiotape, all of these indictments, does that help him pick up some of those seven million? I mean, how is he going to get more votes time around with all of these?

CARTER: So, I think this really impacts the general election and that is the bottom line. When you look at the impact on polls, it has a huge impact on independent voters and it has a huge impact on Democratic voters.

They are going to be more energized, more likely to vote against Donald Trump than they would before. And in fact, many independents who are considering him are going to be less likely to know as a result of it.

But I do think that this actually is -- you know, in many ways, there is a sort of opposite day thing that applies to Donald Trump. And with Republican voters in the primary, this seems to have given Trump energy and really adds fuel to the fire about the narrative.

These tears of justice that he talks about, the witch hunt, things seem so unfair, you hear a lot of contrast, I am sure about Hunter Biden's text messages versus the treatment of --

CAMEROTA: Sure, you already hear that on other networks for sure. Will his other -- will his opponents in the republican primary seize on this somehow?

AVLON: They should. I mean, I think, you know, Judge Luttig made a great point the other day. Republicans got to grow a spine at this point. You know, not just from the self-interest to the pointing of the candidates, but this candidate not only is under indictment for serious crimes, but he is a general election loser because he is even more kryptonite among independents than he was before and independent society who win general elections.

So, they got to start standing up and speaking out. They can do it by saying, look, he lied, and this is about national security.

CAMEROTA: Friends, thank you very much.

All right, next, we are in Moscow where Vladimir Putin finally broke his silence. What does the chaos mean for his grip on power?




CAMEROTA: Vladimir Putin finally broke his silence tonight at 10:00 p.m. Moscow time about the armed rebellion led by former ally Yevgeny Prigozhin. We do not know where Prigozhin is tonight, adding to the uncertainty about what might happen next.

Joining me now is CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance in Moscow. Matthew, as I said, we finally heard from Vladimir Putin. What did he say and do we know where he is or where Prigozhin is right now?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know where Vladimir Putin is. I mean, he is safely ensconced inside the Kremlin. But, yeah, you're right, for the first time since this rebellion came to an end, so we are talking about a good three days, Vladimir Putin appeared on state television addressing the nation.

And he was -- I mean, that was an angry president that we were watching on the television just a few hours ago, basically absolutely slamming what he called the traitors who carried out or who led this military uprising, the mutiny by the Wagner mercenaries against him. He said that they played into the hands of Russia's enemies by putting Russian against Russian, spilling Russian blood.

And he restated offer that he had been made before to the Wagner fighters that took part, saying they could either now sign military contracts with the Russian army or they could leave the country altogether and go to the neighboring country of Belarus.

Also, Putin tried to get back some of the authority that is certainly lost over the past couple of days by saying that it was only because of him that there wasn't more bloodshed, because he had ordered the authorities, he said, to make sure that there was as little bloodshed as possible. But again, this is a weakend Russian president and a very angry one indeed.

CAMEROTA: Matthew, you, of course, have spent a lot of time reporting in Moscow. Does it feel different tonight in the city after everything that happened this weekend?

CHANCE: I think it does. I mean, look, first of all, there is a lot of relief in the city that the Wagner forces didn't enter it because that would have led to a confrontation and nobody wanted to see that happen.

But, you know, there is also a lot of anxiety now as well about what this means. You know, what will Vladimir Putin do in order to shore up his authority which, as you say, has definitely been weakened. And will the fact that when mutiny has taken place against Vladimir Putin mean that others may follow in the future as well because what has been lost here in Russia and here in Moscow is this aura of invincibility around Vladimir Putin. He was always seen as a symbol of stability. It's where he drew his power from. Russians saw him as, you know, a consistent figure who would bring stability and had brought stability to the country. That is not necessarily the case anymore and that is very concerning to people across the country.

CAMEROTA: Matthew Chance, thank you very much for all of the reporting from Moscow for us. Great to see you.

Let's bring in the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine now, William Taylor. Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for being here. So many analysts, as you just even heard Matthew Chance say, that this whole strange episode has weakened Putin. But he did manage to quell a rebellion and dispatched Prigozhin to Belarus perhaps. So, is he significantly weakened?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I think he is. I think he is weakened. He blinked and Prigozhin blinked. They were both on a collision course. Prigozhin, of course, barreling up from the south towards Moscow. Putin blasting that morning, Saturday morning, the traitor, stabbing in the back and he is going to arrest him and crush him.


And what did he do? He called it all off. He said, no, actually, we are not going to arrest him, allow him to go to Belarus.

So, I don't see how that helps him at all. It indeed removes him from the area, from the league of great leaders. He was, as Matthew just said, he was seen to be a source of stability, making good decisions. Well, he has made some really bad decisions coming into this -- this whole conflict.

CAMEROTA: Hmm. As you know, Putin has no compulsion about having his enemies poisoned or jailed. So, what is going to happen to Prigozhin now?

TAYLOR: Prigozhin must be very worried. Why he would agree to go to Belarus? Belarus is part of the union statehouse and that is some combination of Belarus in Russia. And Lukashenko is not known to be a heavyweight. He is clearly beholden to Putin.

And as you say, people who crossed Putin, people who are accused of much less crimes than Prigozhin, have ended up dead, falling out of windows, poisoned, as you indicate. So, if I were Prigozhin, I would spend as little time as possible in Belarus.

CAMEROTA: Erin Burnett just spoke to former prime minister of Russia, mcgill cost, tonight. He said he thought Putin looked "pathetic," that's a quote, and "nervous " --quote -- in his speech. So, what's your assessment of how Putin appeared?

TAYLOR: He looked angry. He looked angry. He was not under control. He has prided himself on being in control. Never let them see you sweat. But he was clearly angry. He has been disrespected. He has been challenged, challenged not just by someone but by one of his own creations.

I mean, Putin made Prigozhin. There's no doubt. And perhaps Prigozhin, who Putin thought was loyal, turns out not to be so loyal. It turns out that he was on the way up to confront Putin and certainly to confront the ministry of defense.

CAMEROTA: So, Ambassador Taylor, how does Ukraine capitalize on this? How do they capitalize on the fact that it now seems that the Wagner group may not be fighting as ruthlessly there?

TAYLOR: You are exactly right. This is the time for the Ukrainians for a couple reasons. One is the one you mentioned. That is 25 to 50,000 of some of the best troops on the Russian side. The Ukrainians have even said that they thought that the Wagner folks were actually fighting better, fighting more competently than any of the ministry of defense forces.

So, the Russians don't have those. They are not on the line. They may not even be back in Ukraine. They may not even be available to act in reserve. They may be disbanded. So, there's that.

And the Ukrainian morale could not be higher. They were just watching the events over the weekend with amazement and amusement, and knowing that disarray in the Kremlin, disarray in the military chain of command on the Russian side gives them an advantage to their counteroffensive which, Alisyn, as you've been reporting, they've been preparing and starting the conduct of this counteroffensive for weeks and months.

So, they are ready. Now that the Russians are somewhat weaker, the military chain of command is clearly in disarray, the military chain of command has to worry about domestic issues.

CAMEROTA: Former Ambassador Bill Taylor, great issue. Thank you very much for all that context tonight.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Okay, more on what this means for the frontlines in Ukraine, next.




CAMEROTA: Russian President Vladimir Putin managing to survive a failed uprising by Wagner boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin. But could this power struggle still lead to trouble for Russia on the front lines of their war with Ukraine? That is the question for CNN military analyst Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: Alisyn, I think the answer to this is yes. And the reason I say it is yes is because what the Ukrainians have been able to do here. They started out at the village of Velyka Novosilka and moved in this general direction. So, they were able to capture several villages in this area, including the village of Rivnopil and the other village up in this area of Krasnohorivka.

The one -- this one is important because it was actually a village that was controlled by the Russians, has been controlled by the Russians or their surrogates since 2014. So, this marks the first time that Ukraine has actually been able to capture a village that was controlled by the Russians since the beginning of this effort back in 2014.

So, this marks a very different aspect of the war and means that the Ukrainians do have the capacity to take over not only areas that have recently been captured by the Russians but also areas that have been captured by the Russians all the way to 2014.

That spells trouble for the Russians because one of the things that they thought they could do is not only control this area but really all of Ukraine. The fact that they can't do that is evidenced by the fact also that they have a really weak defense effort inside Russia.


And the fact that they have a weak defense effort inside Russia was evidenced by what happened during the mutiny when Prigozhin's forces in the Wagner group were able to go all the way from Rostov-on-Don all the way to a point right about here, about 125 miles south of Moscow.

The fact that they were able to do this shows a lot of weakness within the Russian military structure and it could spell trouble for the Russians because they are not able to respond to these kinds of threats, especially if the threats have weapons from the west backed up against that. What they are able to do with those weapons on the Ukrainian side will then determine whether or not the Ukrainians can actually take over these areas of their territory. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Carl, thank you so much. Tomorrow on "CNN This Morning," Bank of America's CEO is going to join live to talk new recession fears and what is ahead for the U.S. economy. That all starts at 6:00 a.m. Eastern.

Thank you so much for watching tonight. Our coverage continues.