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Trump Pleads The Fifth In New York Probe Amid Growing Legal Peril; Violent Threats After FBI Search As Florida Moves To Protect Judge; John Bolton On Iranian Charged With Trying To Assassinate Him; Biden Says Inflation Is Starting To "Moderate"; Ukraine: Seven Killed Of Residential Area In East. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 10, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This as a Florida court is going to new lengths to protect the judge who reportedly signed off on the search warrant.
And first right here on CNN, former National Security Adviser John Bolton joins us live this hour with his reaction to new criminal charges against an Iranian accused of trying to assassinate him. I'll also ask him about our new reporting that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also targeted as well.
Welcome to our viewers right here and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Just days after criminal investigators landed on his doorstep, former President Trump spent hours at a deposition in New York today refusing to answer questions in a civil case against his company. Tonight, a spokesperson confirms that New York Attorney General Letitia James took part in the deposition.
CNN Political Reporter Sara Murray has more on all these developments. She's got new details on the FBI search of Trump's Florida home as well.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Donald Trump wrapping up his appearance after nearly six hours at a New York deposition where he pleaded the Fifth, which the former president once said was a move for mobsters.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
MURRAY: Today, Trump changed his tune in a deposition led by Democrat New York Attorney General Letitia James' office, part of a three-year civil probe into whether the Trump organization misled lenders, insurers and tax authorities by providing false financial statements.
D. TRUMP: Well, for years they've been going after my company. MURRAY: I once asked if you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment, Trump said in a statement. Now I know the answer to that question. He claimed everyone in his orbit was a target, adding if there was any question in my mind, the raid of my home, Mar-a-Lago, on Monday by the FBI just two days prior to this deposition wiped out any uncertainty. I have absolutely no choice.
The deposition coming just days after Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence was searched. A source told CNN authorities came to suspect Trump's team was not being truthful, and may have been withholding sensitive documents that he allegedly took with him when he left the White House.
ERIC TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S SON: My father has worked so collaboratively with them for months. All of the sudden, on no notice, they send 20 cars and 30 agents?
MURRAY: The perilous week highlighting Trump's mountain of legal troubles.
D. TRUMP: They want to put me in jail.
MURRAY: A constant frustration for Trump as he eyes another presidential run.
D. TRUMP: The outrageous civil and criminal harassment in New York and Atlanta of a person known as Donald Trump. Have you ever heard of him?
I just want to find 11,780 votes.
MURRAY: In Georgia, Trump faces an investigation into whether his efforts to overturn the 2020 election there were criminal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going look at everything until that investigation is complete.
MURRAY: And federal investigators are probing efforts to block the transfer of power in 2020, including Trump's attempts to try to stop the election certification and seat fake electors.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: No person is above the law in this country. Nothing stops us.
REPORTER: Even a former president?
GARLAND: No -- I don't how to -- maybe I'll say that again. No person is above the law in this country. I can't say it any more clearly than that.
MURRAY (on camera): Now, we are learning tonight there are some Justice Department officials who believe the department should make some kind of a public statement about the search of Donald Trump's home at Mar-a-Lago, but Attorney General Merrick Garland has really limited the public statements the department makes on investigations, and particularly anything to do with Donald Trump. And there is little sign that that view at the top is changing, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Sara, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, our Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig.
Elie, what's your reaction, first to all, to all this reporting?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, first of all, on the Fifth Amendment question, I think it's a moment of historical shame that Donald Trump had to take the Fifth Amendment. But I think it's also important to note it is not correct to say that only guilty people take the Fifth. We just heard clips of Donald Trump saying it years ago he was wrong. People who say it now are wrong. The Fifth Amendment is an important protector of our individual liberties.
And there are certainly guilty people take the Fifth, certainly people who have been accused of crimes and may be innocent take the Fifth, and people whose conduct may fall in a gray area at times do take the Fifth as well. And when you look at Donald Trump's scenario here, he has got a parallel criminal investigation on the same topics he was questioned about. So, it was the right move tactically for him to take the Fifth.
But understand, he will pay a price. He will pay a price politically, historically. And if you take the Fifth in New York State, it can be used against you not in a criminal case, but in a civil case. So, he's entitled to take the Fifth, but he will pay the price.
BLITZER: Elie, what do you make of some Department of Justice officials who want a public statement on the Mar-a-Lago search?
HONIG: I disagree with that, Wolf. I understand why it may sort of satisfy some of the immediate curiosity. It is a bad idea in terms of principle and policy for DOJ. A couple of reasons. First of all, when you take the podium and make a statement about a pending investigation, you compromise that investigation. You tip people off who may be targets, who may be witnesses. And once you start doing that, where do you stop doing that?
And, second of all, Wolf, the reason prosecutors don't comment on pending investigation is to protect the rights of people who are under suspicion who are accused. You don't stand up behind a microphone and say, we think this person may have committed a crime but we've not charged them yet. So, as much as it may help satisfy the immediate hunger for information, it's a very bad idea.
BLITZER: And, Gloria, how high are the stakes politically for how the Justice Department actually navigates this?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, they're in a no-win situation. I mean, I think that they don't want to give away anything, as Elie is saying, nor should they. I mean, remember what a happened with Jim Comey and Hillary Clinton when he talked publicly about an investigation, and I think Merrick Garland is probably very tied to this.
But as a result, what has happened in the country is that Republicans have rushed in to fill the void. Remember, we know about this search because Donald Trump trumpeted it. And so they rushed in and Trump's people are filling this void, talking about the Justice Department, saying, look, if this happened to Donald Trump, it's going to happen to you, et cetera, et cetera. And as a result, what the department has done is unite the Republican Party defending Donald Trump and giving him something else to talk about other than 2020. So, it's a very difficult situation but the Republicans are making the most of it.
BLITZER: Yes. Melanie, you're up on Capitol Hill. How is the House Republican leader trying to rally the GOP in reaction to that FBI search of Mar-a-Lago?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, that is exactly what Kevin McCarthy is trying to do, which is use this moment as a rallying cry for his party. In fact, he went out today and encouraged Republicans to be speaking out forcefully against the FBI search. He said in a Facebook post, if you are an elected Republican and you are saying quiet while Democrats in Washington are abusing their power, you are the very reason they think they can get away with it. Now is the time to speak up and be loud.
Now, we also know that McCarthy has said both publicly and privately that Republicans are going to pursue investigations into the Department of Justice if Republicans win back the House. And it's notable because he is getting some praise right now from Republicans, including from some of his critics for how he has handled this situation. And so, clearly, McCarthy sees an opportunity here to unite his party while also earning some points with Trump world.
But I think it's worth pointing out it's a slightly different story in the Senate where Republicans have been far more measured in their response. They have focused on calling for transparency and a full accounting of what happened. But they've been far more reluctant to directly criticize the DOJ or the FBI or to threaten them with investigations or defending the agencies. And so I do think there is a recognition, at least among some Republicans, that there could be other shoes to drop. They don't know everything investigators know. And so there is some risk to just full-throat defense of Trump here.
BLITZER: Sara, the former president seems to be unfazed by the search of his home in Florida. Does he see any political opportunity here?
MURRAY: Well, you know, I don't think that he actually is unfazed. I think he wants people to think that this is all political upside for him. And certainly there could be some political upside. But I think they were legitimately surprised that this was -- these were the steps the FBI took, that they felt like they were negotiating with lawyers and didn't necessarily see this coming.
That doesn't mean that there is not a political upside for him, though. He has heard from House Republicans who are supporting him. He has heard from other Republicans across the country who are supporting him, and he has also been blasting out fundraising emails it feels like almost hourly about this search at Mar-a-Lago, trying to rile up his base and trying to capitalize on this moment, Wolf. BLITZER: Elie Honig, for all the Republicans railing against the FBI
right now, demanding information, isn't it the former president himself who could actually answer a lot of these questions?
HONIG: Yes, Wolf. So, Donald Trump himself should have certain pieces of information in his possession now. He does not have the affidavit, which is the big detailed document where prosecutors lay out the probable cause. That's in the hands of prosecutors and judges. But he does have two other documents. One is called the return. One is called the search warrant itself, which do give some detail about the place to be searched, the items to be seized, and potentially it varies a bit jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but, potentially, the suspected crimes that DOJ is trying to prove. That's in Donald Trump's possession. He has every right not to produce it, but he has every ability and right to turn it over and make it public as well.
BLITZER: Gloria, this is one of many investigations into Mr. Trump's misconduct.
He also refused to answer questions today in the New York civil case. What do you make of that?
BORGER: Well, I agree with Elie. Look, I think it was probably a smart, legal move because there are other investigations. And you have the D.A. in a criminal case looking at him. And if he had slipped up or if he had lied, that could be used against him.
And so, you know, I've dealt with lawyers who have represented Donald Trump in the past, and they were always very reluctant to have him testify because they knew that could happen, that he would slip up or lie. And if you remember during the Mueller case, they ended up doing written answers to questions. So, I think if I were his lawyer, that probably would have been my recommendation, to take the Fifth.
Politically, that's a little bit more difficult. But since he's made himself the victim in all of this before he took the Fifth, he may have muted that, at least among his base.
BLITZER: You know, Melanie, do these developments, and they're very dramatic, actually present a challenge to Republicans who were hoping to focus on the issues ahead of the midterm elections in November and move on from Trump?
ZANONA: Yes, I absolutely do think that is the case, Wolf. As much as we've talked about the potential political upside for some of these Republicans, and they see this as an opportunity to help defend Trump, that doesn't necessarily help them in the midterms, because now the focus is on Trump. They're sucked back into talking about his grievances, and the focus is not on the issues that they feel are slam dunks for them, such as inflation, gas prices, crime, the border. And so, obviously, November is a long ways away, especially in terms of news cycles, who knows what we'll be talking about in a few months, but I do think it's going to be a challenge for these Republicans that were hoping to keep this a referendum on president Joe Biden and his party and not Donald Trump.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, amid all the new threats against officials connected to the Mar-a-Lago search, we're learning about new efforts to protect a federal judge in Florida. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Tonight, there is new evidence of the growing threats against law enforcement and court officials connected to the FBI search of former President Trump's Florida home.
CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent Whitney Wild is joining us with new reporting right now. Whitney, what do are you learning about the threats made to a Florida judge and the steps now taken to protect to try to protect him?
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the posts on social media are simply alarming and they are calling for, for example, publication of the judge's home address. Experts at CNN I have spoken with say that there has been a massive surge in threats targeting this judge since Monday, and, alarmingly, Wolf, that includes on the very same message boards that played a very critical role, a very notable role in the lead-up to January 6th.
In terms of what's being done to protect him, well, so far, records reviewed by CNN show that at least the web page with the judge's information has been removed from the official website of the U.S. district court where he works. That occurred sometime between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, more than a day after the search warrant was executed, Wolf.
BLITZER: It's interesting because this is part of an uptick clearly in violent rhetoric from some of the pro-Trump internet supporters out there following the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. What's being done to police these kinds of threats?
WILD: Well, Wolf, it's a challenge. Because when we see this many social media posts all across the country, law enforcement has a difficult challenge. They have to identify the potential for real violence behind the social media threat. So, what I can tell you is law enforcement is taking this very seriously. They are monitoring this very closely.
The FBI director, Christopher Wray, told reporters earlier today that threats made against law enforcement, including some of the ones we've seen on social media that are calling for violence against members of the FBI as well as for violence against the attorney general, he said that any threats against members of the FBI are simply deplorable and dangerous. Again, Wolf, federal law enforcement monitoring this very closely.
BLITZER: So worrisome, indeed. All right, Whitney Wild, thank you very much.
Let's take a deeper dive right now into the rise in violent threats linked to the Mar-a-Lago search. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, what are you learning from law enforcement officials?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as Whitney mentioned, law enforcement officials are concerned and are tracking the spike in threats since the Mar-a-Lago raid. The violent rhetoric is coming on different platforms, including some directed at federal officials and members of Congress.
TODD (voice over): Tonight, multiple law enforcement sources tell CNN they're closely monitoring violent rhetoric and threats that have spiked in online forums and other platforms since the FBI's raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago compound on Monday.
Shortly after the raid, in an online forum dedicated to Trump, the phrase, lock and load, was one of the top comments posted. Another post said, Attorney General Merrick Garland needs to, quote, be assassinated, simple as that. One user posted, kill all feds.
JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: We have never seen anything like this. As soon as the news broke about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, we saw angry cries from radical supporters of President Trump, from a range of right wing extremists.
TODD: One post at CNN found called for violence against FBI agents. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is now worried about agents' safety.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Potentially, each one of those people, as they go through communities, as they knock on people's doors and show up at businesses, talk to sources of information and witnesses and victims of all sorts could potentially be a target.
TODD: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, a frequent target of the far-right, today, posted on his Twitter account a recording of a threat against him and his family, which he says came in after the Mar-a-Lago raid.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cut his (BLEEP) head off. Swalwell is a worthless piece of (BLEEP). Cut his wife's head off, cut his kid's ahead off.
TODD: But other members of Congress, hard line Republicans, have contributed to the violent rhetoric since the raid on Trump's Florida home.
GREENBLATT: We've seen Paul Gosar, an elected member of Congress, suggest we need to, quote, destroy the FBI.
TODD: The extremist online postings after the Mar-a-Lago raid were found by CNN Correspondent Donie O'Sullivan, who tracks extremism online. He said this about that online forum supporting Trump where some of those threats popped up.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That website is one of the very same websites where many people were talking about plans for January 6th in advance of the attack on the Capitol, people discussing how to attack police officers.
TODD: In fact, one reply to the lock and load threat came from an account run by Capitol insurrectionist Tyler Schleicher, according to the group, Advance Democracy, which investigates cases like this. The reply said, quote, are we not in a cold civil war at this point? Schleicher's lawyer did not respond to CNN's request for comment. The Anti-Defamation League worries about what comes next.
GREENBLATT: It could be the lone wolf who now feels impelled to commit an act of violence against the law enforcement official or against some other person. It could be an organized group.
TODD (on camera): A congressional security official told CNN that shortly after the news of the Mar-a-Lago raid broke on Monday, the U.S. Capitol police began discussions about monitoring and planning for potential violent rhetoric. That official is saying they have particular concern about the possibility of violence being directed at members of Congress or federal law enforcement. The Capitol police would not comment on security plans. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very much for that report.
Coming up, former National Security Adviser John Bolton joins us live to discuss a newly revealed Iranian plot to assassinate and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard member who has now been charged.
BLITZER: Just in to CNN, we've now learned that multiple current and former U.S. officials have been given extra security due to Iranian threats. This comes after the U.S. Justice Department charged a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard member with trying to assassinate former National Security Adviser Ambassador John Bolton. A source revealing to CNN that former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was targeted by Iranians as well.
CNN National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood has our report.
(END VIDEOTAPE) KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over) : This is the man the FBI alleges tried to hire an assassin to kill former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, Shahram Poursafi, allegedly a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The FBI says that in 2021, say Poursafi tried to get an informant to hire someone for $200,000 in order to eliminate someone. That number eventually grew to $300,000. Poursafi even sent screen shots of Bolton's home address and photographs of stacks of money to the informant. Poursafi allegedly said the killing should happen in Bolton's office garage with the informant noting it was a high traffic area.
The FBI also alleges that Poursafi had a second job for $1 million. The target of that job, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to a source familiar with the investigation and a source close to Pompeo. The Department of Justice said this about the motivation behind the Bolton plot.
MATT OLSEN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, NATIONAL SECURITY DIVISION: This assassination plot was undertaken in apparent retaliation for the January 2020 killing of Qassem Soleimani.
ATWOOD: Pompeo was secretary of state at the time of the assassination.
MIKE POMPEO, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We saw that he was plotting further plans to take down Americans, in some cases, many Americans. We took the right action to defend and protect America.
ATWOOD: And though Bolton was no longer in the administration when the airstrike was carried out against Soleimani, a top Iranian general the Trump administration said was planning on attacks on Americans, Bolton has long advocated for more hawkish U.S. policy towards Iran.
After the Soleimani assassination, Bolton tweeted, quote, congratulations to all involved in eliminating Qassem Soleimani. Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran. And after today's news, Bolton thanked the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Secret Service, and said that Iran's rulers are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States. The suspect has not been arrested but is wanted by the FBI after seeking to carry out this plot.
OLSEN: This was not an idle threat, and this is not the first time we uncovered brazen acts by Iran to exact revenge against individuals on U.S. soil.
ATWOOD: The plot against Bolton is just the latest allegation of Iran planning attacks on U.S. soil. In 2011, U.S. authorities said Iran was planning to bomb a D.C. restaurant to kill then-Saudi Ambassador to the United States and current Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.
MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN ACTIVIST: This is happening in America.
ATWOOD: And just last week, Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, a U.S. citizen who lives in New York, blamed the Iranian regime after a man carrying an assault rifle was arrested in her neighborhood, coming a year after U.S. authorities say the regime was planning to kidnap her. Alinejad delivered this message on CNN.
ALINEJAD: Go to hell. I'm not scared of you.
ATWOOD (on camera): Now, today, Wolf, we are hearing from the current national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who said that any action against any U.S. citizen by the Iranians will be met with severe consequences. We're also hearing from the Iranians with the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson warning against any action against any Iranian citizens based on what they say are baseless accusations. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Kylie, thank you very much, Kylie Atwood reporting.
Let's discuss all of this and more with the former national security adviser, John Bolton.
Ambassador Bolton, thanks so much for joining us.
The suspect put a $300,000 price tag on your head. What goes through your mind, Ambassador, hearing the details of this plot as explained today in great detail by the U.S. Justice Department?
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I was embarrassed at the low price. I would have thought it would have been higher. But I guess maybe it was the exchange rate problem or something. I read the document with great interest. I had not seen it before. I was not aware of many of the specifics in it, although, obviously, I had long had a general understanding of what the threat was.
And I think it's quite correct to say many other Americans are in the targets of this regime. It tells you what the regime is. It tells you about its character. And, frankly, from my point of view, the regime's terrorist activities are just the other side of the coin of its nuclear weapons program. And any idea this regime will adhere to its commitments on anything is just a terrible delusion.
BLITZER: We now know the second job was for $1 million, and that involves Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, former CIA director. Did you know he was also being targeted? Have you spoken with him, Ambassador?
BOLTON: I have not spoken with him. I was not aware that he was targeted, as referred to in the charging document that was unsealed today. I've seen the press reports. And, again, it wouldn't surprise me. I think there are substantial number of people who are vulnerable to these Iranian efforts. And, unfortunately, I'm afraid we may learn more, not just former public officials, but as you just indicated, the private American citizens who disagree with the regime.
BLITZER: CNN has, in fact, learned there are multiple current and former U.S. Officials who are now already getting personal security due to these Iranian threats. Do you have a sense of who some of those officials are?
BOLTON: Well, I do have a sense. Some have told me. I don't think I ought to be the one divulging it on television. But as I say, I think the nature of the regime drives it to this kind of action. And I think it's a big mistake for the administration to continue to show weakness to Iran by begging to get back into the 2015 nuclear deal. I think it encourages Tehran to engage in just these kinds of terrorist activities.
BLITZER: I know you've said publicly that the former president, Donald Trump, actually lifted your Secret Service protection after you left the Trump administration, and you had to renew your request for protection under President Biden, which was, in fact, granted. What can you tell us about this process?
BOLTON: Well, the day I resigned, the Secret Service protection was withdrawn. The agents were pulling the bells and whistles off the outside of my house. Normally, a detail would continue for another three months or something like that, just out of a sense of precaution but that was not the way things were done.
As the FBI warnings to me grew more severe as time went on, and the FBI was doing this pursuant to their process called duty to warn when they learn of a foreign threat against an American, eventually by the late fall of 2021, I asked if it's this serious, perhaps the Secret Service should be involved. And, ultimately, President Biden made that decision, and I appreciate it obviously.
BLITZER: Yes, as you should. Does something like this, Ambassador Bolton, create fear in you, or is this part of what it means to be a public official?
BOLTON: Well, it's not something I volunteered for, that's for sure. It goes with the territory. I feel I'm in very good hands with the Secret Service. Look, I think everybody that I've been in contact with who has been involved in this, the attorneys at the Department of Justice, certainly, the outstanding work done by the FBI and the work equally outstanding by the Secret Service, I'm not worried.
BLITZER: Do you believe today's developments should put the nail in the coffin on the efforts that are ongoing right now to try to revive that so-called Iran nuclear deal?
BOLTON: Yes, absolutely. Look, I think the deal was a mistake in 2015. It hasn't gotten any better with age. The administration has been on its knees in Vienna begging to get back into the deal, which sends signals of weakness not just to Tehran but around the world. There is no indication that the regime in Tehran is willing to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Our allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel clearly see this danger, and now in the United States, if this doesn't show anything about Iran's willing to try and intimidate its adversaries, I don't know what else to say. I think we ought to put the kibosh on these negotiations and deal with the growing threat that Iran poses and not try to appease them.
BLITZER: While I have you, Ambassador, I want to get your reaction to the FBI search of former President Trump's Florida home related to his handling of classified documents, some highly classified. As his former national security adviser, do you believe a crime may actually have been committed?
BOLTON: Well, I think this is a very uncertain area. And I think although the past couple of days have been filled with commentary by all kinds of experts, the reality is that we really know very little about what's going on here. We certainly, at this point, know almost nothing about the Department of Justice's thinking in authorizing this search.
I know and, as an alumnus of the Department of Justice, fully appreciate that it's contrary to normal practice to talk about an ongoing investigation for very, very good reasons. Nonetheless, given the circumstances we're in now, I think Attorney General Merrick Garland would be very well advised to say something on this score. I think he's got explain to people before distortions about how the Department of Justice normally works get into the bloodstream of the body politic. It's already well on the way. I wish he had spoken today, but sooner rather than later.
BLITZER: Ambassador John Bolton, thanks so much for joining us. And be careful out there. We'll stay in touch with you.
BOLTON: Thanks, Wolf. Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, was just asked about the search over at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and accusations being made by former President Trump. You're going hear what he had to say. That's next.
BLITZER: New developments just in to CNN on the FBI search of former President Trump's Florida home. The FBI director, Christopher Wray, reacting to Trump's accusation that agents planted evidence at Mar-a- Lago, saying it's not something he can talk about. He also discussed threats in the wake of the search.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: As to the issue of threats, I will say that I'm always concerned about violence and threats of violence against law enforcement. Any threats made against law enforcement, including the men and women of the FBI, as with any law enforcement agency, are deplorable and dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Meanwhile, there are new developments tonight in the killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
CNN's Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera is in Albuquerque right now for us. Ed, so, what are you learning?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, 51-year-old Muhammad Syed made his first court appearance today. He was basically told of the charges against him and what the possible punishment could be for that. He'll also learn in a few days he'll have a more extensive detention hearing.
But there was one interesting moment where Muhammad Syed tried to interrupt the court. He wanted to say something, but he was advised by the judge and his attorneys not to say anything. He distinctly answered, sounds good.
And then we've moved on to continuing to dig on to this story and exactly who Muhammad Syed is. We do know that he in the past had three different misdemeanor domestic violence charges. Those charges were dismissed.
But we also spoke, Wolf, today with two men who describe Muhammad Syed as extremely volatile and someone who harbored extremist religious ideology. We spoke with one of his caseworkers who helped him when he arrived here as a refugee in New Mexico.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAZIN KADHIM, FORMER CASE WORKER FOR SUSPECT: I mean, him, one time, he is happy with me ten times. I mean, nine times, he is angry, like for no reason. He is just angry. Like the way he was talking to me as a case manager, sometimes it was scary because you just don't know what's in his brain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, we also should point out there are court records that show that during an interrogation with police, Muhammad Syed said he was not involved with the murders and his family also told us that as well, that they do not believe he is guilty of these charges as well. Wolf?
BLITZER: CNN's Ed Lavandera in Albuquerque for us. Thanks very much.
Coming up, new numbers show inflation here in the United States is cooling off.
BLITZER: There's new hope tonight that America's struggle with record inflation may be easing. A new report showing prices rose at a slower pace than expected in July.
Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, the president was certainly upbeat earlier today, but prices are still sky-high, and Americans are still feeling the pain.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. And you did see the president upbeat earlier, talking about these latest numbers that have come out when it comes to inflation of Americans feeling some relief at the gas pump. But, of course, they still have a long way to go when it comes to inflation and a look at food prices alone, they are still incredibly high.
So that is something the White House is obviously keeping in the back of their mind. But for an administration that has been on defense when it comes to inflation for the last several months, really any step in the right direction is a welcome step for them, and it certainly was for President Biden earlier as he was talking this next positive indicator, but not quite ready, Wolf, to declare victory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we received news that our economy had zero percent inflation in the month of July. Zero percent. We're seeing some signs that inflation may be beginning to moderate.
The second point I want to make is we need to pass the inflation reduction act right away. It's far from done, our effort to bring inflation down, but we're moving in the right direction. So some good economic news today and some work ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Certainly something that the president wanted to talk about, Wolf. But I think the key comment there is that he thinks inflation is starting to moderate. Of course, the White House on predictions has been pretty short of late because they insisted for so long that inflation was likely going to be temporary. Of course, that was not ultimately the case. And it has now become their chief domestic issue that they are dealing with because when they look at President Biden's approval numbers, not just the general ones, but the ones when it comes down to how voters think he is handling the economy, they know he is not faring well.
And one of the main reasons is because a lot of households say inflation is their number one issue. So what they're looking for is a promising sign in this July report is that those numbers did not budge.
They did not go up as they have been doing for so many months now, Wolf. And so, that's what they're looking at.
Also in Congress, that Inflation Reduction Act, because that is what they are urging the House to now pass and then President Biden can sign it. Of course, the big question then will be how long it takes to help reduce inflation. Obviously, something the White House would like to speed up, Wolf.
BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks very much.
Turning to Georgia, where Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams tested positive for COVID today.
It comes as the state's race for governor between Abrams and the incumbent Brian Kemp is heating up.
CNN's national politics reporter Eva McKend is tracking the race from Atlanta.
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voice-over): It's the top issue for many voters across the country.
RADA MONROE, GEORGIA VOTER: Inflation and gas prices. I like to drive everywhere, but these gas prices are crazy.
KATIE CHILTON, GEORGIA VOTER: I think my number one issue is probably the economy.
MCKEND: With prices rising to the close to the fastest annual rate in decades, Republicans hope to ride the wave of inflation. Democrats are working overtime to address pocket but issues including in the Peach State, where Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, laid out her economic vision before business owners this week.
STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I personally understand how rising taxes hurt those that have the least. My plan relies on conservative economic principles to deliver for Georgia.
MCKEND: Abrams' plan largely involves using the states surplus to invest in small businesses and state residents.
ABRAMS: Medicaid expansion will create new jobs in every region of our state and we can afford it without raising a penny in new taxes.
MCKEND: Georgia ended its budget year with an estimated $5 billion surplus in June. That's on top of more than $2 billion surplus from the year before.
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: But here in Georgia, conservative leadership has worked tirelessly to put hardworking Georgians first.
MCKEND: But incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp argues that when the surplus funds run dry, Abrams' policies will ultimately require higher taxes. KEMP: Rent and car payments going up, small businesses are struggling
to source materials for their businesses and their products. Make no mistake: this is the Biden Abrams agenda for Georgia.
MCKEND: From Wisconsin to Michigan, Illinois and Nevada, too, at least four Democratic governors have recently launched ads reacting to high prices. According to campaign ad tracking group Ad Impact, in the past three months, campaigns and political groups have spent about $60 million on TV ads mentioning inflation.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: I can't solve the inflation problem. But we're doing things right now to help.
MCKEND: Democratic strategist Fred Hicks says candidates like Abrams knew to level with voters acknowledge their pain while arguing that supporting conservatives won't change their reality.
FRED HICKS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Gas prices and grocery prices, those are real life issues that are impacting folks, but that doesn't mean that they need to vote Republican if you're a Democrat.
MCKEND: Meanwhile, Republicans are confident that they can win in November with a heavy focus on the economy despite national concern about the recent decision to repeal Roe.
JAY WILLIAMS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I can tell you the enthusiasm for Republicans right now is off the charts.
MCKEND: We got a bit of good economic news today. The prices remain unchanged in July, inflation, the economy will be a key (VIDEO GAP).
Just a few hours ago, Governor Kemp wrapped an economic development event at the state capitol where he characterized Georgia as an economic success story. More than 50,000 jobs created in the last fiscal year. Stacey Abrams, of course, saying that this doesn't paint the whole picture and that not all Georgians are thriving -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Eva McKend in Atlanta for us, Eva, thank you very much for that report.
Up next, the casualty count is rising right now after an explosion at a Russian air base in Crimea. What this means for the front lines of the war in Ukraine.
BLITZER: New strikes across Ukraine with Russia targeting residential areas, leaving seven dead in the Donetsk region. It comes as casualties are rising after a dramatic explosion at a Russian air base in Crimea.
CNN senior international correspondent David McKenzie is joining us right now.
David, so what's the fallout on Ukraine's front lines after this Crimea explosion?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there have been scores of attacks, Wolf, in the east and in the southern part of the country and people are still trying to gauge what the impact of this dramatic series of explosion in Crimea, Russian- occupied Crimea is, because Ukraine is not speaking directly about what happened but people are asking now, were they able to strike deep into Russian control territory and likely destroyed large parts of munitions and possibly aircraft.
This could have a very big psychological impact on this conflict. The Russians have blamed it on an accident.
BLITZER: What about the latest fighting in the south, David, near that nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia?
MCKENZIE: It is very disturbing because more than 80 Grad rockets, we believe, according to the Ukrainian military, were fired across the river, right across from that large nuclear power station that we've been talking about. There are growing fears that the ongoing fighting in that southern part of this broader conflict could endanger those workers at that site and lead to a more serious issue with radiation.
The head of the IAEA is that the Security Counsel tomorrow at the U.N. to brief them about the dangers of that issue which has rattled a lot of people.
BLITZER: A continuing horrible situation in Ukraine unfolding right now.
David McKenzie in Kyiv for us, thank you very, very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.