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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Judge Orders the Release of Redacted Search Warrant Affidavit by Noon Today; Georgia Prosecutor Ramps Up Trump Election Probe; Russian-Held Nuclear Plant Still Disconnect from Power Grid; Where Six Months of War in Ukraine Leaves Markets. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 26, 2022 - 05:00   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is August 26th. Happy Friday. I'm Omar Jimenez.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Friday. I can confirm it's Friday.

JIMENEZ: We made it.

ROMANS: We made it. It's been great to have you here this week. I'm Christine Romans.

In just hours we'll get a small but perhaps revealing glimpse of the legal jeopardy facing former President Donald Trump. A just has ordered the Justice Department to release by noon today a redacted version of the affidavit it submitted to get that search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.

JIMENEZ: In between the blacked out lines, we may learn more about what convinced the judge there was a probable cause a crime had been committed in connection with the classified material Trump was keeping at his Florida resort.

More now from CNN's Jessica Schneider in Washington.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We could see the Mar-a-Lago search warrant affidavit in redacted form at any moment and that's because the federal judge in this case, Bruce Reinhart, has ruled that the Justice Department must make public the version they submitted to him on Thursday.

Now this is a version that is likely significantly blacked out, but it could still reveal a few procedural details about why the search at Mar-a-Lago happened on August 8th. The judge wrote that the DOJ must unseal their version of the affidavit by noon on Friday, and we saw that the judge did agree that the DOJ does need to black out substantial portions of the affidavit since the judge said it could reveal the identities of witnesses, law enforcement agents. It could even reveal uncharged parties who might eventually be charged

with crimes related to this ongoing criminal investigation into classified information. The judge also said that the DOJ could blackout details relating to the sources and methods and grand jury information since we know of course the grand jury has been hearing evidence for months. They even issued a subpoena to Trump for return of some of this material.

So the public will soon see a bit more detail but probably not a lot more about what prompted a federal judge to approve this unprecedented search at former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago home and resort. That will be by noon on Friday.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right, Jessica. Thank you for that.

Let's bring in former federal prosecution and criminal defense attorney, Katie Cherkasky.

Thanks for getting up bright and early with us. There is so much going on in the legal world. We need your advice here. So by noon today, we're going to have access to this affidavit, although it could be heavily redacted. What should we be looking for? How much more clarity do you think we're going to get about why the DOJ went in with the search warrant?

KATIE CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it's interesting that we're getting to see really any part of this affidavit, but I think the judge saw that this was such a significant move to search a former president --

ROMANS: Unprecedented raid.

CHERKASKY: Of course. So I think that he is trying to balance what can be released while this is still pending. I don't think we're going to see a lot of substance regarding the specific evidence obviously ongoing interviews with other witnesses, but perhaps we'll see more about the jurisdictional basis and some of the big questions about why the DOJ really believed they could proceed with an indictment of President Trump or former President Trump as it were.

JIMENEZ: Well, and obviously this isn't the first investigation that has at least -- the very least circled President Trump. And CNN is reporting that President Trump has -- or former President Trump has been increasingly concerned about this, asking his inner circle about the possibility of potentially being indicted. And some of the people close to him have said this time feels different. But from your perspective how concerned should he actually be?

CHERKASKY: Well, the fact that there was a search warrant issued as we all know at this point means that there was some sort of probable cause that was put forward by the DOJ, and probable cause is the same standard that would be required to indict. So essentially what the DOJ is saying by requesting this warrant is that we believe we have probable cause that President Trump committed a federal offense.

So does that mean that they will indict? Usually that's a good indication that they feel that they could. This is the bigger question here obviously because of his status as the former president. There's many more questions about the practicality of a prosecution but I think the idea that there was probable cause that was found by this federal judge is very concerning. That's a significant difference from anything in the past really.

ROMANS: If the DOJ Proceeds with an indictment, again, there are a lot of ifs here. There's a lot we just don't know. But if the DOJ proceeds with an indictment, how far do you see that going? I mean, is this like something that goes all the way to the Supreme Court?

CHERKASKY: Well, if I were a prosecutor looking at charging President Trump at all, I think the big question is how are you going to get past any of these jurisdictional issues meaning constitutionally how do you justify prosecuting a former president?


Because that's going to be the hugest challenge here. There's going to be challenges by President Trump all the way up to the Supreme Court to any sort of prosecution that's connected to any part of his presidency, so I think that's going to be the biggest hurdle. Not so much the facts of the actual criminal offenses when you look at some of the things that they're saying happened, with anybody else, we could say, yes, we could issue an indictment, and we could do that because we believe we can secure a conviction.

But with a former president there are so many more things that have to go into that analysis that I think is really going to be the big question here.

ROMANS: So Merrick Garland says no one is above the law but maybe someone is above the law.

CHERKASKY: Maybe it's a different analysis of the law.

ROMANS: Right.

CHERKASKY: Is the thing, so, yes.

ROMANS: That's a good way to put it. All right, Katie Cherkasky, stick with us because we want to talk to you again more. We have a lot more to discuss in the legal troubles surrounding the former president.

JIMENEZ: Well, and there's a significant development this morning in the Georgia criminal investigation of efforts by former President Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election results. The prosecutor is looking to compel testimony from a key figure in the Trump White House.

CNN's Evan Perez explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is calling on Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump's White House chief of staff, to testify before the special grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. In a new court filing the D.A. calls Meadows a material witness in her ongoing criminal investigation and she is seeking his testimony on September 27th.

Meadows was on a call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in January 2021 in which Trump called on Raffensperger to find exactly 11,780 votes that Trump needed to win the state. Meadows also made a surprise appearance at a location in Cobb County, Georgia, in December 2020 where officials were conducting an audit of absentee ballots. Additionally, Meadows reached out to officials at the Justice Department pressing officials to find -- to examine allegations of fraud none of which was supported by evidence.

Politico is also reporting that the D.A. is seeking testimony in the coming weeks from Trump ally Sidney Powell, one of his attorneys, and retired Army Colonel James Phil Waldron.

Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: Thanks, Evan.

JIMENEZ: Evan Perez, thank you so much.

And we told her to hang tight, and for good reason, let's bring back former federal prosecutor Katie Cherkasky.

All right, so even more to talk about at this point. The Fulton County D.A. is obviously looking for testimony from Trump's former chief of staff. It's pretty close to the center of his orbit at least while he was in office. What do you think this tells us or signals about the state of where her investigation is?

CHERKASKY: Well, that investigation has been pending for a while and it does look like they're really honing in on people close to Trump's orbit there. And really the D.A. in Georgia is looking at specifically violations of Georgia criminal statutes related to election interference, conspiracy, racketeering and things of that sort. So indictments could issue just based on violation of Georgia of those folks close to President Trump.

Now same situation in terms of an indictment coming from a state prosecutor against a former president for issues related to his president, you're still going to have so many of these constitutional challenges. So again, if they really are looking at potentially even indicting Trump in Georgia, I would start looking at some of those defenses that are going to be raised all the way up through the Supreme Court. But these are concerning developments I think for President Trump and those very close to him.

ROMANS: In that Georgia probe, how concerned should President Trump be? They're getting closer and closer to him, it seemed.

CHERKASKY: Well, they're really seem to be, and I think they do have some good arguments about why his behavior was in violation of the Georgia criminal code. But again, that's going to have to be followed by any sort of analysis of how they're going to legally be able to pursue a prosecution if they get there. It's going to be a long road but certainly you could see an indictment issue. I think that would just be the first step in a very long legal battle needless to say.

But absolutely, it looks like there's a lot of criminal interest in a lot of his behavior in the state's side and on the federal side.

ROMANS: All right. Katie Cherkasky, it's so nice to have you here today. Thank you. Have a great weekend.

JIMENEZ: Thanks for waking up.

ROMANS: And a great rest of your day.

JIMENEZ: All right. Just ahead, we've got more news. A fired President Biden hits the campaign trail, blasting MAGA Republicans for turning toward semi-fascism. Plus financial markets bracing for a speech this morning by Fed chairman Jerome Powell.

ROMANS: And new safety concerns at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the largest in all of Europe.



JIMENEZ: This morning the Zaporizhzhia power plant in Ukraine remains disconnected from the power grid, creating a potentially very dangerous situation. It's the largest nuclear plant in all of Europe. The backup power supply has been restored through diesel generators. That's according to its nuclear operator. The plant currently held by Russian forces was disconnected from the grid for the first time in its history yesterday.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): If the diesel generators hadn't turned on. Yet the automation in our staff on the plant had not reacted after the blackout, then we would already be forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident. Russia has put Ukraine and all Europeans in a situation one step away from a radiation disaster.


JIMENEZ: A lot of developments to follow. CNN's Scott McLean has been on top of it all and joins us live from London.

Good to see you, Scott. I mean, it's still a volatile situation, but how dangerous was it before the backup power was restored and how crucial is it for the plant to be reconnected to the grid? SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Omar. Yes, so the

plant is offline right now which means it's not supplying any electricity to the grid. Two of its six reactors are still working. And these are the two that they are trying to reconnect at the moment, and that is especially important because this power plant provides 20 percent of all of Ukraine's electricity.


So it's especially important to reconnect it and keep it connected especially as we move into the winter months. Now, even with the plant offline, it's important to remember that the plant still needs to draw in energy from the grid. Normally it has four separate sources that it can do that from. But because of fighting earlier on in the war, it's down to just one, one that was taken out yesterday due to a fire at a nearby thermal power plant.

You can see even the smoke from satellite images. And so that is what they are having issues with right now, that external power supply which keeps the cooling system working which keeps the plant from going into a nuclear meltdown. Now the head of Ukraine's state nuclear operator says that the Russians are actually trying to cut the power on purpose because they want to take the power from Ukraine's grid and put it on Russia's grid.

The problem is to actually do that, you'd have to shut the plant down and you'd have to run it on those diesel generators for a period of time and he says that is particularly dangerous because they're not meant to run for a long period of time and frankly they're not all that reliable.

So this morning, Omar, you have Ukraine's Energy minister saying that Russians' occupation of the plant is a constant trigger of possible nuclear disaster. Not exactly reassuring.

JIMENEZ: Scott McLean, obviously a lot hanging in the balance there. Thank you.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, after six months of war, uncertainty still dominating global markets as supply chains are disrupted, inflation skyrockets putting major stress on the global economy.

CNN Business senior writer Julia Horowitz joins me this morning from London.

Nice to see you, Julia. Thanks for dropping by. The war in Ukraine six months on, how is it still reverberating through global economies?

JULIA HOROWITZ, CNN SENIOR WRITER: So when Russia invaded Ukraine six months ago, investors were just being as shocked as much of the rest of the world. The big concern with what this would mean for key exports from Russia and Ukraine like oil and grain. And for investor this was another reason to be worried. They were already on edge about inflation and the Federal Reserve's plans to start hiking interest rates. Fast forward six months and things are looking a little bit better.

Oil prices are down about 19 percent since the beginning of June. Wheat prices are also down sharply. And the S&P 500 is up about 15 percent from its June low. But the war in Ukraine continues to loom really large and investors tell me that it's a big reason that the mood on Wall Street is still extremely shaky. There are worries that a recession could already have arrived in Europe and that the U.S. could be close behind. The euro, the common currency in the bloc, fell to a two-decade low against the U.S. dollar this week.

ROMANS: Yes, any Americans traveling through Europe know that it's, you know, the best value for their dollar in 20 years but for a really scary reason.

Oil prices, you mentioned oil prices, they spiked to $139 a barrel in early March, right, after that February invasion.


ROMANS: But they have dropped back since then. In fact, I'd point here, below pre-invasion levels. But look at natural gas, that's a real problem here. Soaring prices. There's Russia plays with the supply to Europe. How worried should we be into the fall and winter? What's the natural gas sort of problem that -- or weapon that Putin can wield here?

HOROWITZ: So European natural gas prices have been hitting record highs all week. That comes after Russia's Gazprom said it was going to cut flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany for three days starting later this month. That's sparking a lot of concerns about what it means for energy prices this winter.

The U.K. government actually announced today that it's raising the energy price cap for households. That means they could be paying 80 percent more. Some households may be spending $350 a month just to heat their homes. And social aid groups are worried that this means that some folks on lower incomes may have to choose between heating and eating when the weather gets cold.

ROMANS: Wow. That's really stark. All right. Julia Horowitz, thank you so much for that. Come back soon.

All right. Still to come, nearly a thousand dead in a monsoon flooding in Pakistan. Plus --

JIMENEZ: A joint practice turns into a helmet swinging brawl between the two Super Bowl teams.



JIMENEZ: All eyes will be on Serena Williams at the U.S. Open on Monday. Aren't they always? As she plays what could be her final match. So especially, truly the end of an era for an icon.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report." Good to see you, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, good morning, Omar. So, yes, Monday could potentially be the last time we see the greatest women's tennis player of all time on the court. Earlier this month Serena announcing that she's going to be evolving away from the game. The U.S. Open will likely be the final tournament of her stellar career. And yesterday we learned she'll be playing the world number 80 Danka Kovinic in the first round.

Serena has never faced her before and it's 20-0 in the first round at the U.S. Open. The match time has not yet been announced but it will likely be in primetime in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night.

All right. Novak Djokovic meanwhile will not be playing next week. The 21-time Grand Slam champion remains unvaccinated against COVID and is not allowed to travel to the United States. This is going to be the second Grand Slam event he's going to miss this year because of his vaccination status. Back in January, Djokovic was deported from Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open for the same reason.


All right, and finally things got ugly yesterday in a joint practice between the two teams from last season's Super Bowl. Rams star Aaron Donald, he got a hold of two Bengals helmets that was just whaling away at Cincinnati players before being knocked down. This was actually the third fight of the day and the coach has just said, all right, that's enough for this joint practice. We're going to head to the locker room. They called it after that.

Omar, Bengals coach Zach Taylor said it just got a little scuffley out there. I'd certainly say that was a little scuffley.

JIMENEZ: Yes, I mean, I don't think I would be -- I don't think I'd want to be the other person on the other side of Aaron Donald coming at me with two helmets, so --

SCHOLES: Right. The biggest, strongest man in the NFL whaling helmets. I'm getting out of there.

JIMENEZ: Andy Scholes, good to see you.

SCHOLES: All right.

JIMENEZ: All right. President Biden stumping for midterms says Trump is leading Republicans into semi-fascism. Plus investors bracing for Fed Chair Jerome Powell's Jackson Hole speech? What they should expect, ahead.

ROMANS: And the White House announcing its $10,000 student loan forgiveness plan. A college grad with $65,000 in debt doesn't think the plan goes far enough? He joins us live.