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The Situation Room

Giuliani Testimony Ends After Six Hours Before Georgia Grand Jury; Pence To GOP, Stop Attacking FBI After Mar-a-Lago Search; Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) Weighs Potential 2024 Face-Off With Trump After Primary Defeat; Trump's Long, Strained Relationship With The FBI; White House: Updated COVID Boosters Available Next Month. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 17, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. We actually read them. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to "THE LEAD", all two hours of it, from whence you get your podcasts. It's just sitting there like a delicious summer watermelon.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM. See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, six hours after entering the courthouse, Rudy Giuliani wraps up his appearance before a grand jury in Georgia. We'll have the latest on his testimony in the probe of former President Trump's attempts to overturn the state's 2020 presidential results.

Also tonight, former Vice President Mike Pence is urging fellow Republicans to stop attacking the FBI after its search of Mar-a-Lago. This comes as a federal judge is preparing to decide if secret information about the search is made public.

And Liz Cheney is vowing to prevent Trump from returning to power after her landslide GOP primary defeat that will oust her from Congress. She says she's considering a 2024 run for the White House in a potential showdown with the former president.

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 Rudy Giuliani facing the Georgia grand jury knowing, he is a target of a criminal investigation. The former Trump lawyer questioned under oath about the ex-president's potentially illegal attempts to stay in power.

CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray has more from Atlanta.


RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP'S PERSONAL LAWYER: We will not talk about this until it's over. It's a grand jury and grand juries, as I recall, are secret.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Rudy Giuliani keeping a tight lid on the six hours of grand jury testimony that just wrapped here just days after prosecutors told him he is now a target in the criminal investigation here into efforts to subvert the 2020 election results. Giuliani is the closest adviser to Donald Trump to be named a target in the Georgia investigation, raising questions about Trump's own criminal exposure here.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.

FANI WILLIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: The Trump investigation is ongoing. As a district attorney, I do not have the right to look the other way on any crime that may have happened in my jurisdiction.

MURRAY: Ahead of today's appearance, Giuliani's attorney warning, if they want to play hard ball, we know how to play hard ball, and saying prosecutors are delusional if they think Giuliani will discuss his conversations with Trump.

GIULIANI: They ask the questions and we'll see.

MURRAY: For well over a year, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been running a criminal investigation focused on efforts by Trump and his allies to look at overturn the 2020 election.

WILLIS: We will look at everything until that investigation is complete.

MURRAY: She is looking at potential crimes, including make false statements to state and local government bodies, solicitation of election fraud and conspiracy.

Giuliani was among the loudest voices spreading falsehoods about the election in Georgia.

GIULIANI: The recount being done in Georgia will tell us nothing because these fraudulent ballots will just be counted again.

MURRAY: Investigators have been scrutinizing Giuliani's three appearances before Georgia lawmakers and other state officials, where the former New York mayor spread conspiracies in the wake of the 2020 election.

GIULIANI: You can see them counting the ballots more than once, two, three, four, five times. You would have to be a moron not to realize that that's voter fraud.

MURRAY: Giuliani's efforts to delay his testimony due to a medical procedure falling flat with a judge.

JUDGE ROBERT MCBURNEY, SUPERIOR COURT OF FULTON COUNTY: This is not the first discussion that I've had to have with the District Attorney's Office and lawyer and lawyers for someone who has been called to appear before the special purpose grand jury.

MURRAY: Like Giuliani, the 16 Trump-backers who agreed to serve as fake electors are also targets of the Georgia probe.

DAVID SHAFER, CHAIRMAN, GEORGIA REPUBLICAN PARTY: The president's lawsuit contesting the Georgia election has not been decided or even heard. We held this meeting to preserve his rights.

MURRAY: This week, 11 of them, including Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Schafer, went to court asking a judge to disqualify Willis from the investigation.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, Wolf, there has been a flurry of activity surrounding this investigation tonight. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was ordered by judge to testify before the grand jury next week. He has now asked the judge to stay her decision and essentially delay his appearance so that he has time to appeal on her decision. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp filed with a judge today asking the judge to quash his subpoena to appear before the grand jury. And John Eastman, who was another one of those Trump campaign attorneys, was before a judge in New Mexico. He was trying to have his subpoena for testimony before this grand jury quashed.


The judge did not go along with it. She says, even if it turns out that he's a target of this investigation, even if he needs to show up and plead his Fifth Amendment rights, he needs to show up. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lots going on indeed. Sara Murray on the scene for us, thank you very much.

Now to the January 6th investigation and potential testimony by the former vice president, Mike Pence. CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is following this part of the story for us.

Jessica, Pence was at a political event in New Hampshire today and he was specifically asked if he would appear before the select committee.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And what's interesting is he left the door open to this possibility, but, notably, he didn't commit to anything. And s source is actually telling our Gloria Borger not to read too much into it because when it comes down to it, the former vice president would really have strong constitutional concerns about any agreement to testify before Congress. In fact, here's how the former vice president framed it.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it.

Any invitation to be directed to me, I would have to reflect on the unique role that I was serving in as vice president. It would be unprecedented in history for a vice president to be summoned to testify on Capitol Hill. But as I said, I don't want to pre-judge. If there is every any formal invitation rendered to us, we would give it due consideration.


SCHNEIDER: But to note, though, Wolf, it is actually not completely unprecedented. The Senate website actually lists all of the presidents and vice presidents, both current and former, who have, in fact, testified before Congress. It's eight in all, and that includes the president, Gerald Ford, who, in 1974, testified, voluntarily testified before Congress to talk about his decision to pardon Richard Nixon.

BLITZER: Yes. So, there is a precedent. There is some history there, very important indeed, Jessica.

The former vice president also weighed in on the FBI search at Mar-a- Lago, the former president's home down in Palm Beach, Florida, and the threats now being made against the FBI. Tell our viewers what he said.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. And it was interesting because the former vice president was actually quite forceful pushing back his Republican colleagues, really, and their attacks against the FBI, all part of this search at Mar-a-Lago last week. The former vice president, Pence, really saying, look, we can call for a full accounting from the attorney general, Merrick Garland, but please don't attack the rank and file. Here he is.


PENCE: I also want to remind my fellow Republicans we can hold the attorney general accountable for the decision that he made without attacking a rank and file law enforcement personnel at the FBI. The Republican Party is a party of law and order, and these attacks on the FBI must stop. Calls to defund the FBI are just as wrong as calls to defund the police.


SCHNEIDER: And this pushback against the attacks on the FBI not just coming from the former vice president, but also we're hearing today from the former FBI agents who are saying these attacks absolutely need to stop.

And, Wolf, we are hearing from the former vice president just one day before what will be a crucial hearing in federal court in Florida. A judge down there will ultimately decide whether or not to release this affidavit publicly. The affidavit, of course, served as the basis for the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago last week.

The DOJ is adamantly opposed to this, saying that it would just derail their investigation, since it would release sensitive in details about their investigation and also highly sensitive information about the witnesses they've interviewed. So, we're expecting a filing from the Trump team tomorrow morning. That hearing will be at 1:00 P.M. BLITZER: Yes, which I want to point out that several major news organizations have also appealed for the release of this affidavit, including CNN, by the way.

SCHNEIDER: That's right.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Jessica Schneider reporting for us.

Let's break all this down with our legal and political experts.

Preet Bharara, first to you. Can the grand jury there really expect to get much out of Giuliani after he was informed that he is a, quote, target, a target this criminal investigation?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I don't know. It depends on what the strategy was. Sometimes people like Rudy Giuliani, because of their public reputation and because of their belief that they can talk their way out of situations, like I've seen him do on this show and on other programs on cable news, they want to talk and they want to explain.

On the other hand, you sometimes see people who are in the position of being able to talk their way out of things, like former President Trump recently sitting for a deposition over the course of four and a half hours apparently with Attorney General Tish James of New York, the former president showed incredible discipline for him in asserting the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination again and again and again.

The reporting is that Rudy Giuliani was there for six hours.


Did he invoke attorney-client privilege and the Fifth Amendment for six hours? I don't know. But my bet is it's a mix of obfuscation, evasion of answering questions, invocation of privilege with some information because he probably can't help himself.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Shan Wu is with us as well. Giuliani was subpoenaed back in July as a, quote, material witness but he was informed on Monday that he is a, quote, target of this criminal investigation. So, what could have changed?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE LAWYER: Probably other evidence, Wolf, possibly a testimony from other witnesses began to focus the prosecutorial eye on whether he is simply an important witness versus now, we have so much evidence that he may have been part of the potential wrongdoing that, in fairness, they need to inform him of that, and that gives him the opportunity, as Preet was saying, to take the Fifth when it comes in, which, in my opinion, is the only words that should have been coming out of his mouth, but we'll see.

BLITZER: We'll see indeed.

Kaitlan Collins, our Chief White House Correspondent, is joining us as well. Kaitlan, just two days ago, Giuliani reiterated that he was in Georgia working as then-President Trump's attorney. Were they working hand in hand at that point?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rudy Giuliani was certainly there on behalf of Trump. And I think that's what's important to remember here is, as he was going before the state panels where he was making all of these baseless claims about ballots being smuggled in through suitcase or underage people voting, which, of course, both things that when they conducted these audits, some of them by hand, they did not find any evidence of those notions, of those conspiracies that Giuliani was pushing.

He was doing that a lot of times at the direction of Trump or at least with his blessing, certainly. And maybe if you speak to people who were talking to Trump at the time, Trump did not always like how Rudy Giuliani was doing things but he certainly endorsed what he was doing and what he was saying and the larger idea that he was pushing about election fraud. And that is not something that really anyone around Trump has disputed.

And you heard him at the time. He says he was Trump's attorney of record. That is what he has used to say why he can't divulge much information, but he is also making clear why he was there and on whose behalf he was there on as it was then. And so I think that's what likely what a lot of the questions today had to do with, which, of course, is not just what he said and what he was basing it on but what he was doing it at the behest of.

BLITZER: We can't forget, Dave Aronberg, that Giuliani is now what is called a target of this criminal investigation, and he was doing the bidding of then President Trump. So, how likely, Dave, is it that the former president could also himself become a target of this criminal investigation?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, he could. Rudy has the most criminal exposure in Georgia because he blatantly lied to the legislative committees. But Donald Trump did make that phone call that's recorded where he said, find me 11,780 votes, so that's really bad, and Georgia is investigating a number of things, the fake elector scheme, the lies and the district attorney there, Fani Willis, who is my counterpart, is known for racketeering cases. And so she could bring them all in on a racketeering case.

But I do think Donald Trump will be at the top of the pyramid, the last person they end up indicting, but it could still happen there.

BLITZER: We will see sooner rather than later, I'm sure.

Everyone, stand by. We have more discuss. We'll talk about tomorrow's really important hearing on whether to unseal the affidavit behind the Mar-a-Lago search, what secrets about the investigation might -- repeat, might be revealed.


[18:15:00] BLITZER: We're back with our legal and political experts on this, the eve of a very closely watched and critically important hearing down in Florida. A judge will consider a request to unseal the affidavit behind the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.

Preet Bharara, considering the U.S. Justice Department's argument that releasing this affidavit would actually harm their investigation, what do you anticipate from tomorrow's hearing?

BHARARA: I think the court is going to want to assure itself that that argument being put forth by the Department of Justice, which is a routine argument, they make in circumstances where a search warrant affidavit is sought to be unsealed. But because there's a lot of public scrutiny and a lot of public interest and a lot of news organizations want to see the document and there's a lot of confusion about what the nature of the search was, what statutes are at issue, what conduct is being looked at, how appropriate it was, you had members of Congress talking about it, I think it will get a closer look from the court than usually in motions like this. But at the end of the day, I expect this is almost always the case that the concerns that the Department of Justice raises about, impugning the integrity of the investigations and the inquiry and chilling future cooperating witnesses in revealing information, about confidential informants and others who have been providing information that provided the probable cause for the search, that those arguments will win the day, but I expect it to be a robust hearing, nonetheless.

BLITZER: We shall see.

Dave Aronberg, The New York Times is now reporting that that former President Trump actually responded to the effort to retrieve documents from Mar-a-Lago by saying, and I'm quoting from the article right now, it's not theirs, it's mine. That's a direct quote from the article. How telling is that?

ARONBERG: It's telling, Wolf, that he keeps changing his defenses. So, yes, first, he said the FBI planted it, and then he said, well, he declassified it, now he's saying it's mine and not yours anyway. Well, it's the government's property, it's not his, and I think that's what led him to this situation.

People are wondering why would he risk all this to keep these documents? Now you see it, because he just believes it's his and he never thought he would get caught. But the fact that he keeps changing his explanations surely raises the eyebrows among prosecutors who pay attention to these things, because, at least in my mind, it shows consciousness of guilt.

BLITZER: Yes, and that's an important point indeed.

Shan Wu, The New York Times is also reporting that officials, quote, saw something that alarmed them on security footage from Mar-a-Lago. What could that footage have actually reveal potentially?

WU: Potentially, it would reveal the manner in which the documents were being handled, and also perhaps most importantly, who had access to them.


And given the supposed sensitivity of these documents at the highest levels of classification, there's really no good reason, there's no innocuous explanation for having them there, not in a skiff, which is this secured facility where normally they would be. So, if it was something from surveillance, it probably goes to just how at risk those documents were.

And while I understand the department had to cross a lot of Ts, dot a lot of Is to get to the search warrant decision, it also concerns me that they took this long, because, frankly, the reporting that they were asking a better lock to be put on it really begs the question. I mean, if you think there's something that's so important that it needs to be locked down, you need to get to it quickly.

BLITZER: They certainly do.

Kaitlan, after the search at Mar-a-Lago, you heard former Vice President Pence actually defend the FBI. But isn't there one person who can turn down the temperature right now, and it's very, very hot?

COLLINS: Well, and it seems very clear who Pence was speaking to when he made those comments, Wolf, saying, yes, you can question as a Republicans, and so many Republicans have done, the actions that were signed off on by the attorney general, Merrick Garland, without going after the rank and file members of the FBI. Because, of course, Republicans have long had this argument and criticism against Democrats and the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, who argued about defunding the police. And now, they have the slogan, including people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, talking about defund the FBI. And he came out in this steadfast defense about them today, saying that attacking them is wrong and going after these rank and file law enforcement officers is not what the Republican Party stands about.

That was very clearly directed at some members. Sure, you can say of the Republican Party, but very clearly also at Trump himself, who has raised so many questions about this and knew some of his typical allies, whether in the media or on Capitol Hill, have also encouraged him to say that, yes, law enforcement was doing its job. That is not how they framed it, Wolf. We have seen them say that it was Democrats who raided his home instead of FBI agents carrying out a lawfully executed search warrant on his residence because he took this classified information with him. And so it seemed like that message from Pence today was very clearly directed at someone who he served in office with for four years.

BLITZER: Good point, Kaitlan. Guys, thank you very, very much, much more coming on all of this.

Also coming up, Republican Congresswoman and fierce Trump critic Liz Cheney plots her future after losing her primary race to a Trump- backed candidate. Will she challenge the former president for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney is now vowing to do, and I'm quoting her now, whatever it takes to keep former President Trump from returning to the White House after a landslide loss to a Trump- backed candidate in Wyoming's GOP primary.

CNN's Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny looks at what might be next for Cheney, including a possible 2024 war face-off with Trump.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Now, the real work begins.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Liz Cheney is eyeing a new chapter tonight in her fight against Donald Trump, openly considering a run against the former president in hopes of blocking him from ever returning to the White House.

CHENEY: I have said since January 6th that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office, and I mean it.

ZELENY: But a punishing defeat on Tuesday --


ZELENY: -- is only the latest sign of Donald Trump's unparalleled influence on the Republican Party. His endorsed candidate, Harriet Hageman, running away with a 37-point landslide as voters resoundingly rejected the Cheney family's storied Wyoming brand.

For Cheney, the defeat was expected.

CHENEY: No House seat, no office in this land is more important than the principles that we are all sworn to protect.

ZELENY: But the massive margin was not, raising questions about whether losing an election, even in principle, offers a realistic roadmap for a political future.

Cheney's advisors tell CNN she intends to wait until next year to make any decisions, when she's no longer in Congress or serving as vice chair of the January 6th committee, at timeline she explained on NBC's Today show.

CHENEY: But it is something I'm thinking about and I'll make a decision in the coming months.

ZELENY: Yet Cheney wasted no time turning the page, opening a new political action committee today with the Federal Election Commission. She's calling the group The Great Task, a nod to the final line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, to which she drew comparisons in her election night speech.

CHENEY: The great and original champion of our party, Abraham Lincoln, was defeated in elections for the Senate and the House before he won the most important election of all.

ZELENY: Yet she now joins the ranks of the House impeachment ten, the Republicans who voted to remove Trump from office. She's the fourth to lose her primary with four others retiring, leaving only two congressmen on the ballot this fall.

TRUMP: Liz, you're fired. Get out of here.

ZELENY: For Trump, Cheney was the biggest prize of the midterm election season. He crowed about her defeat writing, now she can finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion. Cheney insisted she had no intention of doing so. She confronted the latest conspiracy theory from Trump about the recovery of classified materials from Mar-a-Lago, saying Americans have an obligation to fight against misinformation.


CHENEY: Donald Trump knows that voicing these conspiracies will promote violence and threats of violence. This happened on January 6th and it's now happening again.


ZELENY (on camera): It's an open question of whether there is an appetite inside the Republican Party for such a message that is so focused intently on the former president, or would she consider running as an independent? All of those questions are going to be resolved next year, I am told, by her advisers.

For now, she is going to be focusing on the congressional committee ahead. Don't forget, she's still in Congress until early January. Wolf?

BLITZER: Good point. Jeff Zeleny in Jackson, Wyoming, for us, Jeff, thank you very, very much.

Let's some more on all of this. Joining us, CNN Senior Commentator John Kasich, he's former Republican governor of Ohio. Also with us, CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel, who is doing a lot of reporting on what's going on.

Jamie, how do you expect Cheney to chart this new course following her primary loss?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think what we're seeing is Liz Cheney unleashed, not that she was pulling punches before but she still has a huge platform with the January 6th committee. There are going to be more hearings in September.

And I would tell you this, if you're Donald Trump, you're Kevin McCarthy, you're one of the Republicans who may have been involved in some way with January 6th, I think you should be more worried today than you were before she lost her primary. Add to that that she is leaving the door open for a presidential run, as she said, the work has just begun, Wolf, and I think that's what we are going to see.

BLITZER: We will see. And, Governor Kasich, is there a lane for Cheney in the 2024 Republican presidential primary after losing in Wyoming, what, by 37 percentage points? Can she realistically expect to win any deep red states?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, first of all, it all starts in Iowa, but then it goes to New Hampshire, which is a very independent place. That would be really interesting to watch.

In order for her to run, there are kind of three things she needs. One is the ideas. Now, her ideas are consist with the traditional Republican brand. Secondly, she will also need to have money because money is the mother's milk of politics when you run for president. And, thirdly, it's how she carries herself and how she projects. Those are the three things that she would have to have in order to be effective.

Wolf, as to whether that lane is open or not, I'm really not sure it is. And I think she has some other options, though. She can run her PAC, her political action committee, to make a statement, and she could be a candidate or, you know, there's some wild ideas out there that she would join the Biden cabinet. I don't think that will happen because Biden has been a disappointment so much to the things that she believes in, but, hey, who knows? The thing we love about politics is what we know today ain't what we know tomorrow in many cases

BLITZER: Yes, that's true, as a lot of us know.

Jamie, what do you think? Do you think Cheney will actually end up running?

GANGEL: Yes, I think it's interesting what Governor Kasich just said about New Hampshire. I remember someone who did very well in New Hampshire, and I met him down in South Carolina. So, I think New Hampshire is very interesting.

Look, Liz Cheney does not say anything by accident. And we heard her last night say, as Jeff Zeleny said, that she would do anything to stop Donald Trump from getting near the White House again, and then she said, and I mean it. She said exactly the same thing this morning. She's also said she's thinking about it, so that door is really, I think, wide open. I would take her at her word.

If Donald Trump runs and we are hearing that he is seriously considering it or has decided to do it, I think you will see Liz Cheney get in, in some way.


KASICH: Wolf, if she's going to run, though -- one point I want to make, if she's going to run, her campaign cannot just be about, I don't like Donald Trump. She would have to present her vision and her ideas for what she wants to do, which is a person who stands on principle and acts on the basis of her conscience. But she can get to Trump later, but in the beginning, it has to be framed in terms of her vision, not just an anti-Trump campaign.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. John Kasich and Jamie Gangel, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, a deadly explosion rocks a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan. We are now learning new details of the casualties. We'll go there next. Our Clarissa Ward is standing by live.



BLITZER: Right now, we're following a deadly explosion inside a mosque in Kabul one year after the city and indeed all of Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is on the scene for us tonight. Clarissa, tell our viewers what you are learning.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, we are just starting to get a picture of what exactly happened in this mosque. It's in the northern part of the city in an area called Kherkhana (ph), apparently just an ordinary mosque filled with ordinary people. So far, we know that at least three were killed, but I want to stress that that is likely to be a very conservative estimate and you can expect that death toll to rise significantly.

We are getting that information from an NGO called Emergency that runs a hospital here.


They said that they had 27 people brought to them. Three died upon entry. And that among those injured, there are at least five children, including one seven-year-old boy.

The question now, of course, becomes who was responsible for this? What was the motivation for this? So far, we haven't seen any sort of claim of responsibility, Wolf, but it is no secret that ISIS Kjhorasan, known as ISIS K here, has been waging an insurgency since the Taliban took power, Wolf.

BLITZER: What does it say, Clarissa, about the Taliban's promise, public promise to restore security after their takeover, what, just over a year ago?

WARD: So, for the most part, there's no question, Wolf, that Afghanistan is safer than it was just over a year ago. The U.N. estimates that three times fewer civilians have been killed in the seven months since the Taliban took over as opposed to the ten months leading up to that period. At the same time, though, this is still a relative statement, right? Emergency, that NGO who runs that hospital that I just mentioned to you, they said that in August alone, they have had six mass casualty events that they have had to respond to.

And, of course, because the Taliban has sort of used security as a way to try to win hearts and minds and has really tried exhibit it as an example of their success, they are all the more vulnerable when events like this happen.

Now, we're talking about this tonight because it looks like it could be a significant number of casualties, but I want to be clear, we have been hearing of blasts taking place in and around the capital on a pretty regular basis since we've been here. So, this is a major challenge that the Taliban faces and it is not clear how exactly they're going to be able to quash it, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Clarissa Ward, stay safe over there, Clarissa Ward reporting live from Kabul, in Afghanistan.

Coming up, former President Trump's the long war with the FBI. We're going to go inside the very contentious relationship that pre-dates his presidency.



BLITZER: The FBI's search of former President Trump's Florida home is just the latest incident pitting him against the bureau and its agents.

Trump has had a contentious relationship with the FBI since his time on the campaign trail.

CNN's Brian Todd has the story for us.

What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from pressuring the FBI to investigate Hillary Clinton in 2016, to the Russia probe, to the firing of James Comey, Donald Trump has according to analysts and historians, often viewed the FBI as his own political instrument to do with what he pleases and has often responded with rage when that didn't happened.


TODD (voice-over): Donald Trump's contentious relationship with the FBI dates back to before he became president.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Please, FBI, please go after Hillary.

TODD: The provocative days of the 2016 campaign when Trump was relentless in his badgering of the FBI to investigate his opponent's handling of her e-mails.

TRUMP: The FBI did not act. I have such respect for the FBI. I am so disappointed. How did they let that happen? She was so guilty. TODD: Then from almost the moment he stepped in the White House,

analysts say Trump seemed to view the FBI as his own personal instrument of power.

GARRETT GRAFF, FBI HISTORIAN: Donald Trump, you know, upended and tried to usurp the FBI in that spring of 2017, and that relationship has never been smooth since.

TRUMP: He's become more famous than me.

TODD: Soon after taking office, Trump pressured then-FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, that's according to Comey himself who claimed that Trump put the squeeze on him personally.

JIM COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I got the sense my job would be contingent upon how he felt I conducted myself and whether I demonstrated loyalty.

TODD: Trump denied asking for Comey's loyalty, but ended up firing Comey, later saying he was frustrated over the ongoing Russia probe.

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORIAN, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: He wanted that investigation shut down. He saw it as a political problem and this was what Comey was up to.

ANDREW MCCABE, BECAME ACTING FBI DIRECTOR WHEN JAMES COMEY WAS FIRED: The morale in the FBI definitely took a hit after the firing of Jim Comey. I think that was the watershed moment that made everybody focus on this issue of the possibility that the administration is really trying to have a direct impact on how we did our work.

TODD: Throughout the Russia investigation and afterward, Trump continued to berate the FBI for how that investigation played out.

TRUMP: These were dirty, filthy cops at the top of the FBI.

TODD: Trump complained that texts between two FBI employees investigating the Russia investigation were biased against him.

TRUMP: Look at these horrible FBI people talking about we have to get him out and insurance policies.

TODD: But one analyst says Donald Trump wasn't alone among presidents who believe the FBI should be beholden to them.

GRAFF: That is something that has long frustrated presidents going back to Nixon and Johnson and the even John F. Kennedy that the FBI was not necessarily loyal to them personally.


TODD (on camera): Trump might have softened a bit toward the FBI recently, telling Fox that the temperature has to be brought down. But many analysts worry that the latest battle between Trump and the FBI could be irreversible especially if it unleashes more violence against agents, Wolf.


BLITZER: Interesting. Brian Todd, reporting for us. Brian, thank you for that report.

Let's get some more on all of these developments.

Joining us now, CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.

Phil, thanks for joining us.

CNN has just obtained a statement from a group representing thousands of retired FBI special agents. Let me read a portion of it, and I'm quoting now from this statement.

Unfounded and reckless attacks on the men and women of the FBI as they pursue that mission is both dangerous and unacceptable. Recent threats to FBI personnel and facilities only serve to increase the potential for violence and must be denounced by this nation's leaders.

Phil, how much danger is the former president of the United States, Trump, putting FBI agents in right now with his rhetoric?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERORRISM ANALYST: I think I can give you a perspective on this, because in 2005, I shifted from a secret organization, that is the CIA where I worked behind a broad perimeter at Langley, that is the CIA headquarters. And we CIA employees were not identified nor were we responsible for dealing with the public.

So switch over from the CIA, an overseas organization, to a domestic organization, the FBI. The FBI has offices across the country, 50 plus major offices, many minor offices. Those offices include spaces that are in public buildings.

Those individuals are not only open to the public, they are required to deal with the public in conversations about things like cybersecurity and initiatives to educate the community how federal law enforcement works. Those organizations, FBI offices across the country, deal not only with political corruption, that is a tiny portion of what they do.

They deal with local officers and police departments and state officials, sheriffs across the country on stuff like organized crime, drug trafficking and child pornography. So, they're touching face to face with Americans every day.

And meanwhile, people who are armed and in camouflaged show up outside Phoenix, Arizona, and say we're going to guard this office because we're concerned about what President Trump is and we want you to feel safe walking in. How would you feel, Wolf?

When I transitioned from the CIA to FBI, if I had a bunch of people showing up saying I hate you, but I protect you, I would say I don't want to get in that building. I think this is really dangerous, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

What sort of toll does it take on the FBI to go through years of being a political punching bag?

MUDD: I think that there's a toll in terms of the workforce looking at how they do their jobs. How do we go into a political case and ensure we're not going to become a football? I do think just stepping back, there is sort of a toll in terms of the ethos of the organization, in terms of how they view their jobs. Step into how this would have been five years ago, six years ago.

If you're in the FBI doing organized crime like they had to do against the five families that organized crime families in New York. If you chase terrorists, if you chase organized crime in other cities, you would say I feel great about my job.

How would you feel today, Wolf, with what people say -- how would you feel today in terms of your morale?

BLITZER: I think the FBI does incredibly important work and we're all grateful to the FBI for what they do.

Phil Mudd, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, a big shakeup at the CDC right now aimed at fixing problems exposed during the pandemic.



BLITZER: Tonight, a sweeping reorganization is now underway over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, laying out plans to overhaul how the agency works to restore the public trust after some missteps during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let's talk about this and more with CNN medical analyst. Dr. Leana Wen.

Dr. Wen, thank you for joining us.

Will these proposed changes be enough to prepare the CDC to better handle future outbreaks?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I certainly hope so, Wolf, because there is urgent reform that's needed. We're seeing the same problems that plagued the COVID response happen once again with monkeypox.

And there needs to be this fundamental transformation of the CDC. There are great people working there. The problem is that the CDC is a peacetime organization. It needs to pivot to wartime footing.

It's really academic. There is a lot of research that happens, things take time. But they need to get a lot faster and be nimble. We can't be behind all these other countries as we have been during COVID and now monkeypox.

And there's a lot of work to be done to restore the CDC to become the premiere public health institution in the world as it should be.

BLITZER: Yeah, so important.

Let me also ask you, Dr. Wen, about something the White House COVID-19 response coordinator said only yesterday, specifically that tailored boosters for the new coronavirus strains will be available in early to mid September. How important is it that these updated shots are available before the fall?

WEN: Well, I'm very glad that the Biden administration is planning to make these updated shots available. These are shots that target the omicron sub-variants that are currently dominant. And also there's a component that targets the wild type variants. So, try to give us broad cover as possible.

Now, we don't know what variant might come next, but we know that immunity wanes over time, especially for older individuals, people with chronic medical conditions, and it will be important to have a new booster campaign in the winter, or cut to prepare for the winter, especially for those vulnerable to severe illness.

BLITZER: So, should someone who has already two booster doses get a booster when it becomes available?

WEN: I am -- we don't know exactly what the FDA and CDC are going to say, but I would imagine that they would say individuals for at least four months out from having their last booster would be eligible to get an additional booster shot.

BLITZER: All right. Dr. Wen, thanks as usual for joining us.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.