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Trump Slams FBI Search As GOP Allies Threaten Probe Of Justice Department; Unprecedented FBI Search Of Trump Unleashes Legal And Political Storm; Biden Signs Bill Boosting U.S. Chip Manufacturing Amid Winning Streak; Police: Suspect Charged With Homicide In Killings Of Two Muslim Men; How Trump May Have Broken Rules Surrounding Presidential Documents; Explosions Rock Area Near Russian Base In Crimea. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 09, 2022 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin this hour with the growing legal peril for former President Trump after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago and the Republicans' very angry reaction.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is here in THE SITUATION ROOM following all these developments. And you've got new information. What are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Just breaking right now, Wolf, we've just learned that the Secret Service actually only had one hour heads-up before the FBI executed that search warrant. And we know that the Secret Service actually validated the search warrant, met up with FBI agents as they arrived and ensured that they had uninhibited access. But, in fact, Secret Service agents themselves did not help in the search, all of this as we're learning even more tonight.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Tonight, new details about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago are emerging as Republican congressional leaders cry foul about the target and the timing.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I know doing this 90 days before an election wreaks of politics.

SCHNEIDER: House Minority Kevin McCarthy tweeting, the Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization, warning about investigations if Republicans take the House in November, writing Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Merrick Garland, Chris Wray, come to the House Judiciary Committee this Friday and answer our questions about this action today, which has never happened in American history. What was on the warrant? What were you really doing? What were you looking for? Why not talk to President Trump and have him give the information you're after?

SCHNEIDER: Trump was in New York at Trump Tower when the search began Monday morning. His son, Eric, said he alerted Trump about what was unfolding in Florida.

ERIC TRUMP, SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: The purpose of the raid from what they said was because the National Archives wanted to corroborate whether or not Donald Trump had any documents in his possession. And my father has worked so collaboratively with them for months. In fact, the lawyer that has been working on this was totally shocked because I had such an amazing people with these people, and all of the sudden, on no notice, they sent 20 cars and 30 agents?

SCHNEIDER: The National Archives asked the Justice Department earlier this year to investigate Trump's handling of White House records after the Archives recovered 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago and discovered some of the presidential records had been torn up or contained classified information. Sources tell CNN Monday's search was focused on Trump's office and personal quarters at Mar-a-Lago, and it included examining where records had been kept to make sure everything had previously been handed over to the Archives.

CNN has learned four federal investigators visited Mar-a-Lago in early June. Sources say Trump's attorneys met with the investigators and took them to the basement room where boxes of material were stored with the investigators later leaving. However, a source says some of the documents had top secret markings, and Trump's attorneys later received a letter asking them to further secure the room where the documents were stored.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I really don't believe that the department would have taken such a significant step as getting -- pursuing a search warrant for the president's residence about information that they already had back. There had to be a suspicion, a concern, and indeed specific information that led them to believe that there were additional materials that were not turned over.

SCHNEIDER: Trump releasing a lengthy statement. These are dark times for our nation as my beautiful home Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a president of the United States before. Also noting, they even broke into my safe.

Trump later called in to a virtual rally for Sarah Palin where he referenced the raid again.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: That's right, another day in paradise. This was a strange day.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And tonight, Trump has released a new statement on a social media page, Truth Social. He is saying this in part, a horrible thing that took place yesterday at Mar-a-Lago. We are no better than a third world country, a banana republic. It is a continuation of Russia, Russia, Russia. Then he continued on to say, it is all in my opinion, a coordinated attack with the Radial Left Democrat and state and local D.A.'s and A.G.'S.

Now, Wolf, our team has actually learned that Trump was well aware of these investigators probing the potential classified documents at Mar- a-Lago, and that's because Trump actually stopped in to some of those meetings earlier this year that his attorneys were having at Mar-a- Lago about this investigation.

Now in the meantime, we still have not had a comment from the attorney general, Merrick Garland, or the FBI director, Chris Wray. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.

Let's dig deeper right now with our legal, political and law enforcement experts. Preet Bharara, how high is the bar to execute a search warrant, a search warrant on a former president of the United States?


Why didn't they just issue a subpoena?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the legal bar and threshold is the same for everyone in the United States of America, and that's probable cause. I take from your question the implication that maybe the bar should be higher, and I think some people in the real world appreciate that if you're going undertake a law enforcement action like that that is very fraught, it's going to be scrutinized heavily, that involves the former sitting president of the United States, your proof better be higher than mere probable cause and that every T has to be crossed, every I has to be dotted.

Why they didn't issue a subpoena is a mystery at this moment. Clearly, something happened between the early part of June that the report talked about and the early part of August that we're in now during which time there must have been a belief, I got to think, that the president and his people were not going to cooperate, or they got new evidence from testimony from somebody that indicated some more malevolent activity hiding material. We just won't know until we see more of the information relating to the affidavit.

But, ordinarily, you could ask for information. If you don't get it, you subpoena it and then get a search warrant. They had to have a reason, I think, that a subpoena was not going to be good enough.

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Jonathan Wackrow, you're a former Secret Service agent. And as you just heard, the Secret Service did get an hour heads-up from the FBI before that search begins. What stands out to you from how all of this was conducted, from your perspective? JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, Wolf, I am happy that the Department of Justice and the FBI did coordinate in advance with the Secret Service. The point here is you want to deconflict law enforcement and clearly define roles and responsibilities. And we heard that from the reporting, right?

There was a search and seizure team by the FBI that had clear roles and responsibilities to find items of evidentiary value in support of a potential criminal investigation. The Secret Service, their role and responsibility in this was to secure the Mar-a-Lago, the residence of the president of the United States. I mean, I think we have heard now over the last 24 hours how unprecedented this was. But, you know, at least we saw coordination between law enforcement agents.

And remember, Secret Service agents are criminal investigators. They swear out every single day these same types of search and seizure warrants. They provide the exact same affidavits as their law enforcement counterpoints at the FBI. So, they understand the process that is necessary to search a residence, so they could be additive, not detractive from this type of situation. So, coordination between these two key entities was essential to make this process almost seamless.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly was. And, Melanie Zanona, I know you're getting new reporting right now on what all this could mean for a potential Trump 2024 presidential run. What can you tell us?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. So, my colleagues and I have learned that there is a new effort under way to try to get Trump to speed up his expected presidential bid, including from allies who previously wanted him to hold off until the November elections. We're told he has been fielding calls all day on this, including from a senior House Republican who encouraged Trump to announce ASAP.

And this is notable, Wolf, because, previously, there had been a real divide in Trump world over when Trump should announce, with some advisers concerned that if he announces too early, it could actually drag down GOP candidates in November.

But that thinking has rapidly changed since the FBI church last night because Republicans see this as a political opportunity to paint Trump as a victim, they're accusing the Justice Department of overreach, and they think this could help inoculate Trump, at least from a P.R. perspective, against a potential indictment.

And I want to read you this quote that Marc Caputo, a long-time Trump confidant, told my colleague, Gabby Orr. This is someone who used to tell Trump that he should wait until after November to announce a presidential bid. But now he says my advice that we should wait until after the midterms was based upon a rather standard landscape. The Justice Department set off a nuclear bomb on that landscape yesterday. This is no longer a business as usual campaign, not even close.

So, Wolf, this is just a very clear example of how Republicans are rallying around Trump and trying to use this to their political advantage. BLITZER: I'm anxious to get Michael Smerconish into this conversation. Michael, what do you make of all of this? How much potentially could all these developments actually end up benefitting the former president?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We're speculating as to what this is about. But former President Trump, he knows what this is about because, arguably, his attorneys and he have seen the warrant. So, he can assess this damage far better than we can. If it's about the Presidential Records Act, then unless there some stunning documentation in those 15 boxes, I think he can derive great political benefit from him, from this. I think he'll probably announce sooner than he otherwise would have.

And here will be the tell, Wolf. Look not only at his fundraising, but for what cause he is fundraising, because, largely, the $121 million that he has raised up until now can't be used for a presidential race.


I don't think he is going to see the opportunity bypass him where there is passion on the right, people will write checks for this. I'm sure he is going to want to channel this to a presidential race if he is really going to make the run.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Everybody stand by. We have much more to discuss, including what happens if the FBI search leads to criminal charges against Trump and a conviction. Would it disqualify him from running for president of the United States again?


BLITZER: Right now, we're back with our experts. We're breaking down all the legal and political implications of the FBI's unprecedented search of former President Trump's Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.

Preet Bharara, it's unclear at this point if any of this will actually lead to criminal charges for the former president. But if he is convicted of a crime potentially, what does the law say about whether he would be disqualified from running for office?

BHARARA: Well, it depends on which law is used. There are various statutes that relate to the destruction of presidential records, government documents, removing classified material.


We don't know exactly which statutes they're looking at. We don't know which statutes he might be charged with or what statutes he might be convicted of.

There's one statute has gotten a lot of attention in the last couple of days, 18 USC 2071, destruction of government records does have a provision that suggests -- not to suggest, it says straightforwardly that it causes removal from office and you shall not be able to enter upon federal office again. That seems straight forward, and scholars have been arguing about it. I think there is a pretty powerful and decent argument that that conflicts with the constitutional requirement that only the Constitution sets forth what the threshold things that you have to meet to become president of the United States, your age, 35, certain other provisions that are in the Constitution.

It's not really been tested. This came up when Hillary Clinton was being investigated and people thought she might be subjected to that statute, 2071. It is theoretically possible and there is a legal statute that addresses the issue of continuing in office or not being able to continue in office. I think that's -- it's tough given what the Constitution says, and I think most experts agree with that.

BLITZER: But do you think, Preet, that this is limited to the handling of classified documents by the former president, because as you know, presidents do have the authority to declassify government information?

BHARARA: Yes. I mean, those are two separate things. Yes, presidents have the ability and authority to declassify records and documents. But there is a process you have to follow, and you have to do it while you're in office. And there is a theory going around that in the final minutes or days of the administration, Donald Trump waved a magic wand in the mirror and declassified the very same documents that he secreted or had other people secrete to Mar-a-Lago. It doesn't work that way.

The question of whether or not there is more going on here is a real one, because it was a very substantial, extraordinary step, as you asked me in the first round of questions, why didn't the Justice Department just issue a subpoena, they took an aggressive posture. I think it's appropriate to wonder what happened here. I think we'll find out in due course. The department can't say much about it now. It's not appropriate to talk about it now but it's unclear, and it's a big deal, and we'll see.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Michael Smerconish, as you and I well remember, Trump supporters were once chanting, lock her up, when Hillary Clinton was accused of classified mishandling material. But now, some of Trump's allies are calling to defund the FBI. What do you make of that?

SMERCONISH: I make of the fat that consistency is in short supply both among elected officials, politicians and in the media. Everyone instead is suiting up in their usual partisan armor. I am kind of surprised at the number of Republicans of prominence who so quickly rushed in to take a position without knowing what this is all about. And at the top of the list of those who surprise me is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. I mean, why not just keep his powder dry for 24, 48 hours to see if there are more revelations about what is really driving this? Just listen what Preet just said. There is more to this story that we don't know.

And so I think many people are in over their skis and have taken risk in coming down so clearly on one side or the other. BLITZER: Yes, good point. Melanie Zanona, the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, he is now publicly vowing to go after the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, if the GOP wins back the majority in the midterm elections coming up in November. What's your thought on that?

ZANONA: Yes, Kevin McCarthy is not being shy here. He has made crystal clear that they want to investigate the Justice Department over the FBI's actions here if Republicans win back the majority. He tweeted last night, when Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight. Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.

Now, I'm also told this was discussed in a private House Republican conference call this morning where a number of top Republicans, including Jim Jordan and Mike Turner, vowed rigorous oversight and said they are going to get to the bottom of this and demand answers.

But this is notable because it's very different than what we've heard from Senate Republicans who have been far more measured in their response and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell so far declined to weigh in, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we'll get reaction to the Mar-a-Lago search from Biden -- from the Biden White House and from a key member of the January 6th select committee. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is standing by live. We'll discuss. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Right now, we're getting new information about the FBI's search of former President Trump's Florida home.

CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us right now along with CNN Senior Washington Correspondent and Anchor Pamela Brown.

First to you, Kaitlan. I know you're learning. This really caught the president and his team over at the White House behind you by surprise.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly had, Wolf. They say no one in the White House was aware that this search warrant was going to be executed on the former president's primary residence yesterday until it was reported in the media. That is how they say President Biden and his senior aides found about this. They say that they were not briefed in advance by the Justice Department on this matter. And I should note that beyond answering really those basic kinds of questions, the White House now really is largely declining to comment on much of this at all, Wolf.

And it also comes as we are learning new details about the context leading up to this search, including that some members of former President Trump's orbit had largely thought that this investigation into how he handled classified information and potentially mishandled classified information had largely stalled before this search warrant was executed on his property yesterday by the FBI.


Of course, that was something in development that Trump himself concerned.

And it's not exactly clear why his attorneys were under the impression, or his orbit as well, was under the impression that this investigation had stalled, Wolf, but we do know that they had that remarkable meeting with investigators just a few months ago where investigators came to Mar-a-Lago. They met with Trump's attorneys. They were shown a room where these documents were being held, and they later sent them a letter from the Justice Department telling them to preserve those documents until further notice. They added a padlock on the door to make sure the documents were secure, I'm told.

And so that is some of the remarkable moments that led up to now the search warrant being conducted, and, of course, these major questions about what was leading up to this as we are now told that people in Trump's orbit really had thought the investigation had stalled. Clearly, Wolf, it had not given this search warrant.

BLITZER: Very interesting. And, Pamela, the FBI met with Trump lawyers down in Florida in June and saw where those documents were being stored at Mar-a-Lago. Why did they feel like it was necessary to execute a search warrant?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Wolf, talking to a source familiar with this that the FBI believed that former President Trump and his aides had not turned everything over that belonged to the government.

And we know that back in June, as Kaitlan pointed out, the FBI was there, had the meeting with Trump aides and Trump himself actually saw them, and then went to the room where these documents were being held, where some of these documents were being held, and then the FBI later sent a letter asking for the room to be padlocked. So, what I'm told from a source familiar is that the FBI was concerned that some of these documents that remained at Mar-a-Lago had national security implications.

Now, we know that the National Archives took away 15 boxes of documents that the former president took to Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House. But, clearly, there were other documents that remained there at Mar-a-Lago, including classified documents.

But beyond just the markings, Wolf, I'm told by this source that there was concern that these documents, some of them at least had national security implications and also that there was concern that Trump and his lawyers were not being fully truthful about what exactly was being stored there at Mar-a-Lago, and so the FBI, after more than a year of investigating, decided to take this next step, escalating the investigation, going to a federal judge and getting the search warrant. Wolf?

BLITZER: Pamela, thank you very much. Kaitlan, thanks to you as well, excellent, excellent reporting.

Let's get some more on all of these developments. Joining us now, a key member of the January 6th select committee, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me quickly get your reaction to this new reporting we just heard from Kaitlan and Pamela that the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago came after suspicions that materials had been withheld.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, the committee doesn't know anything about this. I was as surprised as everyone else when I heard the news that there had been execution of this warrant at the former president's estate there at Mar-a-Lago. So, all I know is what I'm reading and hearing in the news. It's very interesting, of course, but not really within the committee's purview.

BLITZER: Has your January 6th select committee, Congresswoman, shared any information about Trump's handling of documents with the Department of Justice?

LOFGREN: I don't believe that we have a lot of information about classified documents. The focus of the committee are the events leading up to January 6th and all of the plot that occurred. The -- you know, if he stole documents and took them to Mar-a-Lago, that's really not within the scope of the January 6th committee per se. Obviously, we would like to be cooperative in any way we could, but I think there are parallel investigations.

BLITZER: I know your committee interviewed former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today. Was he cooperative?

LOFGREN: Well, as you know, we can't discuss the testimony, but I would say he came in willingly, and he did answer questions for quite some time. So, we do thank Secretary Pompeo for his willingness to come in and answer the questions that we had.

BLITZER: Well, I know you can't comment on the specifics of the Q&A, but did the committee learn anything from Pompeo today that you didn't know before?

LOFGREN: I think we fill in a few pieces here and there each time we interview someone. Obviously, we've had testimony from others about what he said and did. And so it's just a matter of filling out the entire picture, especially on that day in the events subsequent to that day where cabinet secretaries had concerns about the president.


BLITZER: There are some reports tonight, Congresswoman, that your committee has quietly, quietly been investigating Trump's trail of documents regarding pardons, and that the committee is probing whether or not any private pardon papers exist. Are those reports accurate? LOFGREN: Well, I'll tell you, we have more than 150,000 documents that we're looking at, and we have in the public hearings raised the issue of those who sought pardons. That's really part and parcel of the events leading up to January 6th. And I think for those who were seeking pardons, it does show something about their state of mind as to the nature of what they had been engaged in. So, yes, we are interested in that.

BLITZER: Interesting. On Sunday, you told our Jim Acosta that Trump's former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, actually burned documents in his fire plays.


BLITZER: What does your committee know about this very serious allegation that you raised?

LFOGREN: Not as much as we would like to know but that is testimony that we've received. And, you know, looking at the evidence that is no longer with us, I mean, the Secret Service texts, they were -- Secret Service was told to keep them. And 11 days later, they erased them. Now, we've learned that the brass at the Pentagon, the acting members, they also erased their texts. And, of course, we know from other reporting about the former president's flushing documents. We know from the National Archives that he ripped them up. We know from the testimony that Mr. Meadows was burning things.

This is not normal behavior and it's of some concern to us. Concern also that the inspector general of the selective service found out about these erasure and sat on that information for a year. We didn't learn about it. And then when we did, we subpoenaed documents instead of just asking. We had been led to believe that they were collaborating with us. And as soon as we issued subpoenas, hundreds of thousands of documents started rolling in. So, that's of concern as well. And then, of course, the inspector general ordered the Secret Service to stop their forensic analysis of the phones that could give us the capacity potentially to get the lost text messages.

So, put all together, it's not a good look. Obviously, coincidences can occur, but it sure seems like a lot of them, doesn't it, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, serious revelations, indeed. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

LOFGREN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, announce they'd arrested and charged a 51-year-old man with the murder two of Muslim men.



BLITZER: President Biden has sealed another legislative victory tonight, signing legislation boosting U.S. manufacturing of semiconductor chips. This comes as the House is expected to give final approval later this week to the Democrats' economic package, a key piece of the Biden agenda.

And joining us now, Senator Bernie Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. I know you previously called this a, quote, incredibly tepid bill. You said you were disappointed by its scope and said it goes, and I'm quoting once again, it goes nowhere near fear enough. So, why did you ultimately vote for this bill?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Because the pluses outweigh the negatives. You know, Wolf, in the real world, our people in this country are hurting. Half of the people are living paycheck to paycheck. We pay the highest prices in world for health care. We got 18 million families spending 50 percent of their limited incomes on housing. We have people who cannot afford child care or pre-K. We have a home health care crisis in this country where people who are elderly or disabled are forced into nursing homes because they don't have the home health care that they need. We have millions of seniors who don't have any teeth in their mouth, they can't afford hearing aids, they can't afford eyeglasses. In other words, the working families of this country, the senior citizens, the children -- we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country. And what my understanding of what politics and government is about is to address the needs of ordinary people, not just big money interests.

So, the bottom line is this bill that we brought forth on Sunday had zero Republican support. We couldn't find one Republican who was prepared to stand up for working people, and you had two corporate Democrats who were not prepared to sign up for working people, and that's where it was. But if you are asking me, am I disappointed that we did not address the major crises facing the working class, the middle class, lower income people, I am. This is a very modest step forward. And I think the lesson to be learned here is that we need to elect two, three, four more Democrats in this midterm election so, in fact, we can go forward in a bold way.


BLITZER: Well, let me follow up on that, Senator. Let me follow up. Because you clearly believe there is a lot lacking in this bill when it comes to supporting working families across the country, many of whom feel abandoned, as you know, by Democrats. How concerned are you, senator, that this won't be enough for them to show up for Democrats in November's midterm elections?

SANDERS: Well, that's a legitimate concern. But I would remind those people we had zero Republican support. You think the Republicans are going take on the pharmaceutical industry and lower the outrageous costs of prescription drugs in this country? Do you think the Republicans are going to take on the insurance companies who make tens of billions of dollars ripping off the American people in health care every single year? Do you think the Republicans even understand the existential threat of climate change or the needs of our children? They don't. So, the answer is did the Democrats do enough? No. Do we need to elect more Democrats to do the right thing? Absolutely. But if you think the Republicans are going do it, I think you are very mistaken.

BLITZER: Do you want to see President Biden, Senator, run for a second term?

SANDERS: Well, what I want to see right now is that the Congress of the United States working with President Biden next year, develop an agenda that says to working families and the elderly and the kids we understand your pain and that we have the guts to take on the big money interests at a time when we have more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on the Earth.

Wolf, you've heard me say this again, and I think recent events point this out. This country is moving toward an oligarchic form of society, where you've got three people on top who own more wealth than the bottom half of American society. You've got three Wall Street firms that have control assets of over $20 trillion. That's the GDP of the United States. Unbelievable wealth and power at the top while the middle class is in decline and lower income people are really suffering. We need to work right now, next year with President Biden on it to address -- on an agenda that addresses those issues.

BLITZER: Well, let me rephrase the question. Do you want to see him run for reelection?

SANDERS: Look, right now my concern is electing more Democrats in this midterm election so we can finally address the needs of working families. That's where my mind is right now.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, Senator, on this unprecedented FBI search of former President Trump's home down in Florida, do you fear this could potentially backfire politically, riling up Trump and his supporters and pushing him towards a 2024 presidential run?

SANDERS: Look, Wolf, I wish I could give you a good answer. I just don't know. I mean, all I know is what I read in the papers. So, I have no more knowledge about it than the average person. I can't comment on it.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, as usual, thanks so much for joining us. Let's continue this conversation down the road.

SANDERS: Good. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Coming up, there are new developments right now in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where authorities have just charged the suspect in the killings of two Muslim men.


[18:47:42] BLITZER: In New Mexico tonight, police have arrested a 51-year-old man who is considered to be the primary suspect involved in the brutal murders of four Muslim men. We learned just a little while ago that he has been charged with homicide for two of the killings, at least so far.

Our senior national correspondent Ed Lavandera is on the scene for us in Albuquerque right now.

So what are police saying about the suspect, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they said that after they released -- investigators, after they released the images of that gray Volkswagen Jetta, they received more than 230 tips. One of those tips leading them to 51-year-old Muhammad Syed, who lives here in the Albuquerque area.

Investigators say late last night they were watching his house, and they noticed he left the scene there and started driving away from Albuquerque toward Texas. And they said along that way near the town of Santa Rosa, which is about 50 to 60 miles east of Albuquerque is when authorities pulled him over and arrested him. Investigators talked about a little bit more about the evidence that led them to arrest this man.


DEPUTY COMMANDER KYLE HARTSOCK, ALBUQUERQUE POLICE: As we were getting ready to execute that search warrant, we saw him load into a vehicle. As a matter of fact, a vehicle that we believe was used in the homicides that we put out on the poster, and we followed him.

With the help of state police, we were able to stop that car near Santa Rosa, New Mexico. And at the same time, our SWAT team executed a search warrant safely on the occupied home.


LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, I can tell you, it's a real scene. Hours before this arrest was announced, were inside Muhammad Syed's home. His family allowed us inside. We could see all of the searching that investigators had done in there. We spoke with several family members, who had told us that he had left the house late last night on his way to Texas because he was planning on moving the family there. And he left several hours before investigators showed up and executed the search warrant.

Investigators here say, wolf, that they believe they have evidence that shows that several shell casings at two different crime scenes are connected to a gun owned by Muhammad Syed. The district attorney here says they will work to continue filing murder charges in all the cases involving the four murdered Muslim men -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, on the scene for us, thanks for that update. More now on the truly extraordinary FBI search of former President

Trump's Florida home. Sources now telling us agents were looking for classified documents.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with a closer look at how presidential documents must be handled.

Brian, there are very specific rules, even for unclassified papers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESOPNDENT: That's right, Wolf. We have been talking to former White House officials and other experts who say generally every piece of paper generated by a president should remain in the government's possession, from top secret, classified documents to scribblings on Post-It notes.


TODD (voice-over): The historic FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago was related to Donald Trump's possible mishandling of presidential documents, potentially even some that were classified that he may have taken to his Florida home. A move that experts say would be way out of bounds.

NORM EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: A former president should not have classified and top secret documents unless the current president and the current administration have authorized it.

TODD: Even unclassified White House documents, experts say, are supposed to be handled through a certain process and are not supposed to leave the government's possession, even when the president who generated those documents leaves the White House. CNN previously reported that the National Archives earlier this year recovered boxes that Trump took with him that not only contained documents but also personal mementos like a so called love letter he gotten from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I just got a great letter from Kim Jong-un.

TODD: But taking even personal correspondence when a president leaves the White House without clearing it first is not usually allowed, experts say.

EISEN: It was addressed to an American president. Those originals have to be preserved by law. Now, that is the kind of thing where a president could say, gosh, I would love to make sure you have a copy and borrow the original. I would like to frame it for my post- presidential office. Or for an exhibit in my presidential library, and you can have that conversation as long as the law is complied with.

TODD: CNN has also reported that some Trump White House documents were ripped up, thrown away, others flushed down toilets. Does even a short informal note to an aide have to be preserved?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Little posties, you have a hand written note to somebody. You're writing on a note card at a national security meeting. These belong to the American public. When Donald Trump took the oath of office, he agreed to this.

TODD: And there's a special process for handling classified presidential documents while the president is in office.

EISEN: They have to be specially marked. They often go in special folders. They have to be stored in special containers, safes, or other secure containers. You can't take them out of certain rooms normally, so you have rooms that are designated as what we call SCIFs, and there's rules on entering a SCIF. You're not supposed to bring your cellphone in.

TODD: Experts say a president can sometimes take copies of some documents with them when they leave the presidency, but that also has to be cleared by the White House and the National Archives. Something Donald Trump may not have done.

BRINKLEY: He was bull headed and wanted to say, screw you, they're mine.


TODD (voice-over): In response to the FBI search, former President Trump issued a statement saying his home at Mar-a-Lago was, quote, under siege, raided, and occupied. Trump claimed he was the victim of what he called the weaponization of the justice system by Democrats who want to top him from becoming president again.

Now, previously, a person close to the former president denied anything nefarious took place regarding the handling of documents and other materials -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Brian Todd, thanks very, very much.

We'll have more news just ahead. At least one person is dead and several others injured following explosions near a Russian military base in the annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.



BLITZER: A series of explosion shook the area of a Russian military air base in the annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea today. At least one person has died, several others were injured.

CNN correspondent David McKenzie is in Kyiv for us.

So, David, what do we know about these blasts?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know not that much at this point, but these extraordinary sights of these series of blasts that went off in the western shores of Crimea, Russian occupied Crimea, you saw the blasts going off at that air base, several people have been injured. One killed. People were moved out of that area, Wolf. Evacuated, as it were. Now the big question, of course, is whether Ukrainians are

responsible. So far, the Ukrainians say they have no information on the strike. And the question is, do they have the capabilities to make that long range kind of strike. Certainly, intriguing, and the first kind of blast like that we have seen in that area for some time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This comes as you know, David, amid continuing fears about the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant over there. Just how dangerous is the situation right now?

MCKENZIE: It's very troubling, Wolf, and the head of the IAEA, the atomic watchdog, just a short time ago saying almost all of the pillars of nuclear safety have been broken in recent days. Both sides accuse each other of the shelling that could have put those nuclear reactors at risk. So far, the good news is there isn't any sign of any breakage or any higher radiation levels.

But as this conflict goes on in that region of Ukraine, it's very worrying and they're asking for demilitarization of that zone, something I don't think will happen anytime soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very quickly, what's the overall state of this war, at least at this point?

MCKENZIE: Russia is pushing on the northeast, the east, and the south, but for many weeks now, the Ukrainians have been hinting at a major counteroffensive to the south of where I'm standing. So far, we haven't seen that materialize -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. David McKenzie on the scene for us in Ukraine, thank you very, very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.