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Judge: Friday Deadline Trump To Clarify "Special Master" Request; Biden Announces $3B In New U.S. Military Aid To Ukraine; Biden Orders Airstrikes On Iran-Backed Groups In Syria. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 24, 2022 - 12:30   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: What impact do you think this will have on the other part of this, which is the judge who is overseeing the potential release of this affidavit and has asked the federal government to tell us what kind of redactions do you want? What impact do you think that the Trump team's filing and lawsuit will have on that other?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think they're different issues. So the other judge is looking at the issue of whether or not he should unseal the affidavit that provided the facts of the investigation, making the probable cause, so providing the basis for probable cause for that search to be executed. And in that case, I think the Justice Department, of course, I am a national security lawyer from, you know, used to be at the Justice Department. I think they have strong arguments, because this is a case that involves classified information.

They have an extensive investigation that is underway, and they have to think about the precedent, the judge has to think about the precedent this would set for other cases involving classified information, involving the espionage statutes, and whether in other types of cases, we would want those affidavits to come out before the investigation has moved along.

PHILLIP: And to that point, "The Washington Post" writes this about what was in these documents at Mar-a-Lago. Some materials recovered in the search is considered extraordinarily sensitive, two people familiar with their search said, because it could reveal carefully guarded secrets about the U.S. intelligence gathering methods. One of them said, the information is quote, among the most sensitive secrets that we hold. That is extraordinary.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And look, this is why it's been so curious to see the reflexive Republican defense of Donald Trump through this whole process, saying that, you know, the FBI overreached, that the, you know, some going as far as likening it to the Gestapo. You know, this is -- what they don't -- nobody really knows what Donald Trump possessed in these boxes. We don't know the contents of it. We don't know his exact interactions with the FBI with the Justice Department before the search occurred at Mar-a-Lago. There are so many questions that we have yet to learn, which is why defending what he did is a bit curious because they could end up with egg on their face if it looks, if it turns out pretty bad for the president.

PHILLIP: I want us to just, you know, Maggie Haberman and her team, you know, the team at "The New York Times" wrote about why this might have even happened that Mr. Trump is to some extent walking on the phantom limbs of his expired presidency, claiming executive privilege still applies to him, even though he's out of office and maintaining that he has a sweeping standing order to declassify some documents, which his aides have declined to produce. There is this error of all of this, that Trump just cannot let go of the presidency and wanted to hold on to these documents, even though he probably knew he shouldn't have them.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We see that also in those around him who refer to him as president, not former president, those --

PHILLIP: He uses the presidential seal.

BARRON-LOPEZ: He uses the presidential seal. Exactly. He will do that at events because potentially, in his mind, he thinks that he still exert some of this power, which he does not. You know, to Manu's point about the Republicans that are deciding to rally around him and deciding to defend and attack the FBI, you know, verbally and they -- we've seen the very real world consequences of that, this fervor that was, you know, drummed up after the search where then an extremist went and attacked an FBI office in Ohio. And the Republicans, some Republicans have continued to say that the FBI should be defunded or destroyed. So this growing distrust of government institutions is another whole aspect of this.

PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely.


Coming up next for us, though, Ukraine bracing for an onslaught of Russian attacks, six months after the country was invaded. We are going to be live on the ground of Kyiv, next.


PHILLIP: Today President Biden announced the late -- largest round of American security assistance to Ukraine, the price tag is roughly $3 billion. And it comes exactly six months into the unprovoked Russian invasion. And then another sign of international support, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a surprise trip to Kyiv today to meet with President Zelenskyy, this as Ukraine marks its Independence Day, commemorating 31 years since the country officially left the Soviet Union. But the celebrations are prompting urgent warnings about potential Russian attacks.

Joining us now from Kyiv is senior -- CNN senior international correspondent David McKenzie. David, the State Department wants Americans to get out of Kyiv immediately. Tell us about the situation on the ground today, six months into this fighting, how dangerous is it really in Ukraine's capital?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, it's a conflicting answer to that question, because if you look behind me, it doesn't look particularly dangerous. There's our families taking selfies, wandering around this extraordinary line of tanks and armored personnel carriers that the Ukrainians placed here. You know, Ukraine said that when Russia attacked, they wanted to have a parade here when they took over the country. This is Ukraine's version of that. These burnt out tanks from this grinding conflict particularly when Russians tried to take Kyiv those months ago. So how dangerous is it. Well, people ask to stay away, well asked to go into shelters if they heard air raid sirens. But throughout the day, the air --

PHILLIP: I think we've lost David there. But we'll be back with David in just a minute. We're going to discuss with -- we're going to -- were discussed with retired Air Force Colonel. Actually I think we've got David McKenzie back. David, are you there?


MCKENZIE: Oh sorry about that, Abby. Yes, it shows the resilience of the Ukrainian people just getting out here despite these threats, Abby.

PHILLIP: And David, yesterday, you spoke to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy about his biggest fear. What is his message to the Western alliance now?

MCKENZIE: Well, what they want is support. And they worry, Abby, that this grinding conflict, which hasn't seen much of a movement on the front line, means that people forget about Ukraine, forget about their fight. I asked him, what does it mean, if that happens, here's his answer.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): We need to be clearly aware that as soon as the world becomes tired of this war that's going to be great threat to the whole world and verge of annihilating Ukraine. So we are grateful for any kind of assistance we need more offence, that's true.


MCKENZIE: So that $3 billion assistance announced by the White House certainly will be welcome here in Ukraine. Abby?

PHILLIP: David McKenzie, thank you so much for all that reporting.

Let's discuss now with retired Air Force Colonel and CNN military analyst Cedric Leighton. Colonel Leighton, good to see you. So we are six months into this. And Putin clearly had been banking on the West not having the stamina to stay in this. But is fatigue starting to be a problem?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It definitely is Abby. You know, the good news for the Ukrainians is that there's a lot of aid still coming, you know, this 2.98 billion, almost $3 billion that was announced today makes a big, big difference. But let's kind of review where things have been, you know, this is the map as it stands right now with Ukraine. You have the Russian forces, obviously, in red, the Ukrainian gains in yellow. But that doesn't tell the entire picture here. And if we take a quick look at a time lapse that shows where things have been, you know, you go through March, you see all the Russian in red, you see the Ukrainian in yellow, you see how much gains the Ukrainians have actually made.

But there's still some dangers here. You have this area in the east where the Russians are making progress. They have been making progress over the summer. But there's some worries for them here in the south. And when you go to today, you see that the Ukrainians are really on a line in the south, and that this area is quite different from what it used to be. And it really does make sense that, you know, we have to be very careful not to lose sight of what is at stake here. Because in essence, we've got static battle lines that really need some kind of movement if there's going to be progress for the Ukrainian.

PHILLIP: Yes, the Ukrainian foreign minister, defense minister, I'm sorry, said that the battlefield is stabilizing. I mean, is that what you see? And what could change the dynamic either for or against the Ukrainian?

LEIGHTON: So, Abby, the battlefield is stabilizing for the moment. But the issue is this. So let's take a look, for example, at the Donbass region right here. So when you take a look and see what's happening in the east, this is the far eastern part. This is the area that the Russians and their proxies have controlled since 2014. And then they've moved out into this area that's in red eyes. So these towns like Bakhmut right here, Kramatorsk, where there was this big train station destruction that occurred earlier in the war, Sloviansk. All these areas, the Russians are -- have a basic access that goes this way.

What they're trying to do is they're trying to cut this area off from the rest of Ukraine. And down in the south when you look at the Kherson region, you have similar type situations here. Ukrainians have made some gains here and here. But they have to be careful here because that's the nuclear power plant.

PHILLIP: That's the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant that we've been talking --

LEIGHTON: Exactly. And those kinds of areas become very, very important. But here's another thing to think about. The Ukrainians have to continue to protect this area right here, the port of Odessa being the main one. But Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi are two of the other grain ports that the Ukrainians have. These grain ports become really important for Ukraine's lifeline, the Russian goal is still, is still Odessa.

PHILLIP: And to cut them off from the sea. I do want to go back briefly to our military aid. We're talking about $13 billion total. That is a huge sum of money. What does that mean for Ukraine? And what does this additional three $2.8 billion mean for them going forward, potentially?

LEIGHTON: So it can mean several things. First of all, they're getting replenishment for their ammunition. They're getting new weapons systems. They're getting weapons systems that they've used before, plus weapons systems that they haven't used before. And that makes a big difference, especially in the area of drones, which means reconnaissance as well as armed drones. These kinds of things will help you equalize the battlefield for the Ukrainians but it won't necessarily give them what they need in order to carry out offensive operations.


PHILLIP: And before you go, I mean we just spoke to our reporter who is over here in the city of Kyiv. It's quiet, it's peaceful today. But the warnings have been that Russia could try to retaliate against civilian infrastructure, including as far as Kyiv. How concerned if you are Ukrainian and you are in this part of the country where it used to be extremely dangerous and what hasn't been recently? How concerned should you be?

LEIGHTON: You should be concerned not a, you know, super paranoid, but you should definitely be concerned, Abby, because the Russians still have positions here in Belarus. They have positions in Russia. They have positions and weapons in the Black Sea. They can in essence, attack any part of Ukraine from any of these areas. And if they do that, they can at least target individual targets that way. They won't destroy the country that way, but they can certainly wreak havoc.

PHILLIP: And certainly create a lot of civilian collateral damage as they have already. Colonel Cedric Leighton, thanks for joining us here at the magic wall.

And coming up next for us, Iran is condemning actions by the U.S. after President Biden ordered airstrikes on an Iranian backed group in Syria.



PHILLIP: Iran is now condemning Tuesday's U.S. airstrikes in Syria ordered by President Biden on Iranian backed groups. Those strikes come a week after rockets hit near a military base in Syria that housed U.S. troops. Now Iran denies any ties to those groups. Video obtained by CNN reportedly shows the strikes. Authorities tell CNN they monitored bunkers used by those groups for ammunition storage and logistic support. Let's bring in CNN's Oren Liebermann, who is at the Pentagon. Oren, what can you tell us about those strikes?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We've learned quite a bit more about not only the strikes themselves, but also the process that went into them. The U.S. military struck a series of nine bunkers in northeast Syria, all of which run a complex. The military says those bunkers were used for ammo storage, as well as for logistic support. Not specifically for the strikes carried out or the attacks carried out against the U.S. on August 15th. But in general, U.S. Central Command, CENTCOM, says these bunkers were used by Iranian backed groups as support infrastructure, further attacks for their operations.

And it was a week after those attacks carried out on August 15th, there was a drone strike in the taunt garrison and a rocket attack on another base that houses not only U.S. troops, but troops of the U.S.- led coalition to defeat ISIS. The U.S. deciding it would respond, and we saw that response carried out in hitting these nine bunkers. It is worth noting that the initial plan called for an attack on 11 bunkers, according to a spokesman for U.S. Central Command. But two of those bunkers were waved off right near the end there when the U.S. saw that it might target or it might hit, people that were standing nearby, so it chose to narrow that attack down to nine bunkers. The U.S. says there were no casualties in the strikes. Worth noting, Abby, that two activist groups say there were some between six and 10 casualties in these attacks. We're looking for some clarity there.

PHILLIP: And Oren, what does this mean for the nuclear deal negotiations that are ongoing? What -- how does this impact those negotiations going forward?

LIEBERMANN: It's an excellent question, because the U.S. has, in general, viewed actions by Iran's proxies in Syria, as related to Iran's larger goals, either a way of increasing or decreasing pressure on the U.S. and the West. But in this case, the U.S. says not so. The U.S. sees them differently. A senior Administration official telling CNN, in view of the nuclear negotiations as separate from these most recent attacks and the need to respond, the U.S. says it will continue to respond to attacks and to defend U.S. facilities and U.S. personnel and equipment in Syria as it sees fit.

In terms of the nuclear negotiations, those are ongoing and they are making progress. The State Department confirming that the U.S. has responded to Iran's latest response on the latest nuclear proposal on the table.

PHILLIP: Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thanks so much for that update.


And up ahead for us, updated COVID vaccine boosters could be headed to Americans next month.


PHILLIP: Topping our political radar, the IRS is launching a nationwide review of safety and security measures. That moves comes as some congressional Republicans and far right activists have upped their rhetoric about the agency. The President's Inflation Reduction Act is set to provide the IRS with $80 billion in new funding, some of which will help hire thousands of new staffers.

The Biden administration is planning to roll out new COVID-19 booster shots soon. "The New York Times" reports that the booster campaign could come soon after Labor Day for people 12 years and older.

And we are learning that the January 6th Committee investigators traveled all the way to Copenhagen to watch documentary footage involving a key Trump ally, Roger Stone. It's important that Stone was tracked by a Danish documentary crew for two years, including on the day the riots took place. Stone says though, the investigators may find the footage entertaining but they won't find any evidence of wrongdoing.

The federal government announcing today it's extending waivers and rebates for some baby formulas from September until the end of the year as the nationwide shortage continues. The move is meant to give some families and government assistance programs more options when they go to the store.

And a quick programming note, they risked their lives to bring us the biggest headlines from around the world. No Ordinary Life, a CNN film shares the remarkable story of five female photo journalists who made their mark by braving the front lines to capture images from Tiananmen Square, conflicts in Iraq, Somalia, and so much more. No Ordinary Life premieres Monday September 5th at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN.


And thanks for joining INSIDE POLITICS. I'll be back here tomorrow. Bianna Golodryga picks up our coverage right now.