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Unsealed Affidavit Reveals Level Of Top Secret Intel At Mar-a- Lago; Affidavit Shows There Could Be Evidence Of Obstruction At Mar-a- Lago; Dow Falls 1,000-Plus Points As Fed Chair Warns Inflation Fight Will Bring Some Pain; Ukraine: "Radiation Disaster" Averted At Nuclear Plant. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 26, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Erica Hill in for Jake Tapper on this Friday. Thanks for joining us. Our coverage continues right now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the newly unsealed Mar-a- Lago search affidavit reveals the level of top secret intelligence that was taken to former President Trump's home, stored in an unauthorized location, and at a risk of falling into the wrong hands. The affidavit released with the U.S. Justice Department's redactions also shows the FBI believed its search might uncover, quote, evidence of obstruction. We're breaking down all of the new information this hour.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, the Mar-a-Lago affidavit is providing more clarity about why the Justice Department authorized the unprecedented search of a former president's home. The affidavit underscoring the FBI's fear that highly sensitive material might still be on the premises after dozens of classified documents already had been retrieved.
Here's CNN's Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Startling new details about the hundreds of pages of documents former President Trump kept at Mar-a-Lago for months as the National Archives tried to get them back.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The top secret stuff and compartmental can get people killed. It is completely alarming.
SCHNEIDER: The now unsealed affidavit revealing 14 of the 15 boxes the Archives revealed in January of 2022 contained classified information, 184 unique documents in all, 67 marked confidential, 92 marked secret, and 25 marked top secret. Prosecutors said of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly identified. Plus, some documents had HCS markings, particularly alarming to intelligence experts.
STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA RUSSIA STATION CHIEF: The HCS stuff basically means that there's information in those boxes in the basement of Mar- a-Lago that pertain to or possibly came from human sources. They usually get imprisoned. And if it's in a place like Russia or any other authoritarian society, were oftentimes simply executed. That type of information is just incredibly sensitive.
SCHNEIDER: The Justice Department redacting pages of information from the affidavit in order to protect witness information and other key details from the ongoing criminal investigation into classified material at Mar-a-Lago. In particular, prosecutors writing in their legal memo to the judge, information in the affidavit could be used to identify many if not all of these witnesses. If witnesses' identities are exposed, they could be subjected to harms, including retaliation, intimidation or harassment, and even threats to their physical safety.
ROBERT LITT, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: At the end of the day, this is probably a net plus for the government. The judges found that they have excised all information that would compromise sources and methods or that the Justice Department would be concerned about.
SCHNEIDER: But left unredacted is an email Trump Attorney Evan Corcoran sent to the National Archives in May claiming that Trump had the authority to keep the papers at his Florida home after he left office, saying Trump has absolute authority to declassify documents and presidential actions involving classified documents are not subject to criminal sanction.
But DOJ investigators weren't deterred. There was probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified NDI or national defense information, or that are presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at Mar-a-Lago, and there is probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found.
HALL: What is a good explanation for why really anybody, but certainly a former president included in that group would want that stuff or have this stuff stored in the basement?
SCHNEIDER (on camera): And this is a 38-page affidavit. And out of it, about half of the pages are actually blacked out and redacted. And, you know, Wolf, that's because the Justice Department still has this as an ongoing criminal investigation.
And we previously learned from them that they're looking into violations of the Espionage Act, concealment of government records, as well as obstruction. So now, the next question is, will anyone ultimately be charged in this? And if so, who? Could it be even the former president?
BLITZER: Those are good questions, and we'll find out probably sooner rather than later. Jessica Schneider, thank you very, very much. Let's bring in our legal, political and national security experts. Let's start with Preet Bharara. What are your main takeaways, Preet, from this heavily redacted document?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, we've learned some things and are not able to learn other things, which is a very obvious thing given the coverage that has been going on with respect to the affidavit.
In some ways, I'm disappointed, as a very, very curious person. But on the other hand, I'm not, because as a former prosecutor and someone who wants to be as sure as the government is that their investigation is not under undermined, I understand the nature of the redactions. The court itself agreed with the redactions after some discussion and debate.
We did learn, however, that the government seems to have been very, very concerned for specific reasons about both retaliation against witnesses and about obstruction. We've also learned, which I think is significant, as the documents portray, there were several or multiple civilian witnesses who brought evidence to bear in support of probable cause that a crime has been committed. Not one witness, not two witnesses, but multiple witnesses.
The one slightly disappointing thing, I suppose, is that there has been a report now, in fact, I think Maggie Haberman had the byline on this, that discussed the fact that, at some point over the summer, a Trump lawyer had attested to the fact that all classified marking -- all information had classified markings on it had been returned to the government. And it would have been interesting to see that in the affidavit. I presume it is somewhere in the affidavit, it's just in the redacted part, because it would have told us something about how important the fact that that seems to have been false and misleading led to the aggressive action to take the matter to a court and get a search warrant.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, let's continue this conversation. The affidavit, the heavily redacted affidavit states that FBI agents observed markings indicating highly classified documents were indeed kept at Mar-a-Lago. Can you explain what these classifications are and just how serious this is?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I can, and it's information, because we already knew there was top secret information, but what we now know is that there was, in that top secret category, some of the most sensitive classifications of information.
So, let's begin with ORCON, as it's known. This means originator control. This means it was intelligence gathered by a particular agency, say, for example, the CIA, which that agency only could give permission for it to be released or seen by a user of that intelligence because of the sensitivity. HCS, and this is drawing perhaps the most attention here, this involves what we'd known as human intelligence control systems. That means we're talking about clandestine foreign intelligence sources. They are people at tremendous risk, often in denied areas, countries that are very dangerous, as you heard Steve Hall talking about in Jessica's piece, the most sensitive intelligence. They're hard to get those sources. It's hard to keep them safe. And often time, that ORCON and HCS classification will come together because it will be one agency's most sensitive human sources abroad.
NOFORN is something you see a lot on defense department top secret documents, and that means that it cannot be shared with any foreign national, and that means including a foreign ally, right, that this information is so sensitive, you keep it within the family, as it were, just to the U.S., again, because of the sensitivity.
The final one here, also important, SI, that actually stands for special intelligence control system. And that speaks to signals intelligence, intercepted communications, again, one of the most sensitive categories of intelligence. Why? Because it's hard to intercept foreign communications, you don't want to reveal to the other side or to anyone, one, that you have that capability, for instance, say, you could intercept communications going to the Russian president. You don't want folks to know that and you don't want them to know how they're doing that. So, those four categories there, it's a special class of top secret information.
BLITZER: And this document, Katelyn Polantz, it lays out why so much of this text simply needs to remain under seal and is blacked out. Can you walk us through the very serious potential consequences that are listed?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Wolf, this is all about protecting the ongoing investigation and protecting the people who are working on the ongoing investigation. So, there are five reasons that the Justice Department lays out for their reasons to redact, as much as what is redacted here. Two of them are fairly common. They want to protect privacy interest. They want to protect grand jury information, which is, by law, secret, confidential, until there would be an indictment.
And then they also say they want to protect witnesses. They are concerned about the witnesses and the safety that those people may have and they also, as Preet mentioned, that there are here a significant number of witnesses. Multiple civilian witnesses is the wording that the Justice Department uses.
In addition to that, they want to protect the investigative avenues and techniques because this is an obstruction of justice investigation, not a hypothetical possibility for obstruction of justice but probable cause that there could be obstruction of justice found at Mar-a-Lago.
They say that providing information about investigative avenues and techniques here could provide a roadmap for potential ways for people to obstruct the investigation. So, that's protecting the ongoing investigation.
Also, there's an interest in protecting law enforcement safety. There are law enforcement agents, they say, that have repeatedly received threats of violence from after their names were associated with this search. And even in court, when we were there last week, usually, you see lower level line attorneys in court, you see their names on papers. That is not the case here. The people that were in court, the people whose names are associated with are very high-ranking officials at the Justice Department, a career official for counterintelligence, and the acting U.S. attorney from the Southern District of Florida himself.
BLITZER: Yes. The stakes clearly are enormous.
Maggie Haberman, you've reported and brilliantly, I must say, extensively on Trump's habits over the years. Is it at all surprising to you to learn that these highly classified records were actually intermixed with other records and were not properly identified even?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. That's the least surprising thing here, Wolf, you know, and it's also not surprising that Trump dug in and was refusing to give documents back, when he was told to, and thinking of things that were government property as his own.
What was striking to me today, in part, about the release this affidavit, and I should make clear, The New York Times was among the news organizations that wanted the full thing released, so I understand the Justice Department has a position about an ongoing investigation, you know, this is obviously a huge public interest to see as much as possible, and we saw part of it, but not all of it today.
But what you saw was the Trump people have been sort of painting this picture of, we've been cooperating. They've been saying this over and over again. The Justice Department laid out in no uncertain terms that that is not their experience and that their experience is that there was a year-and-a-half of trying to get information of the Trump team asking for delays and the FBI reviewing material. And so it's as if you are dealing with two different universes. You have the Trump folks saying one thing, but you have the DOJ saying absolutely none of what they're saying is accurate.
I do think it's important to note, Wolf, that a lot of what is now made public, I think, about witnesses, is really important, because Trump has a history of talking about people who are witnesses in investigations and DOJ is obviously very concerned about that. I think beyond that, in terms of the details, we have all been reporting so much over the last couple of weeks that I think that for the general public just absorbing this, I'm not sure how much minds are swayed in either direction.
BLITZER: Preet, let me just follow up with you on something that you said. Is there anything in this 38-page affidavit, redacted affidavit, I should point out, that you're disappointed you didn't see or learn?
BHARARA: Yes. Going back to what I said before, you know, there are some details that I think they could have provided. I don't know. I haven't seen it. I'm actually, frankly, surprised given my experience in this area that anything was revealed at all. But I guess the judge found that there was an overwhelming public interest.
You have some sections of the affidavit that are unsealed that are merely preamble. You have some section headings. And it may have been the case, I don't know, so disappointment is maybe too strong a word, that there were some details that would not have affected the safety of witnesses, that would not have given a roadmap to the investigation, such as representations made by Trump and his lawyers and other members of his staff that would indicate to us further to what Maggie said a second ago how obstreperous they were, how non- cooperative they were, because I think that would give people a greater understanding of why it was necessary in the minds of people at the Justice Department to take, you know, an admittedly very, very strong, aggressive step by executing this search.
So, you know, I don't want to second guess judge or the Justice Department, but as someone who both as a former prosecutor and now comments about things in the national media, it would have been nice to see maybe a little bit more.
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. Just ahead, we're getting some new reporting right now on Trump's legal strategy, as he's lashing out about this affidavit release. We'll discuss this and more. That's next.
BLITZER: Now that parts of the Mar-a-Lago search affidavit are public, former President Trump is clearly lashing out.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, what are we learning about Trump's defense?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's new insight into the Trump team's legal strategy in this case today. First, our Kaitlan Collins now reporting that, in recent days, Trump huddled with his legal team at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, because he also faces a deadline to refine his request for a third party attorney to oversee materials in the Mar-a-Lago case.
But also revealed today in the affidavit itself a letter reflecting Trump's strategy regarding his handling of classified documents and his team's private discussions with the Department of Justice. The letter was sent from a Trump lawyer to the DOJ on May 25th.
Now, in that letter, the Trump attorney claims, quote, a president has absolute authority to declassify documents. And he argues, quote, presidential actions involving classified documents are not subject to criminal sanction. Now, after the Mar-a-Lago search, Trump and his allies claimed that Trump had a, quote, standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken to the residence were deemed to be classified the moment he removed them. But what's consistent from that letter in May until now is that neither Trump nor his aides or allies have ever produced any evidence of any standing order to declassify documents. And CNN's Jamie Gangel, Elizabeth Stuart and Jeremy Herb reports that 18 former Trump administration officials say they never heard of any such order being issued during their time at the White House and they believe that claim, Wolf, is patently false.
BLITZER: So, overall, Brian, how did Trump and his team react to the unsealing of this document?
TODD: Very quickly and very forcefully, Wolf. Now, on his social media platform, Truth Social, Trump referenced the so-called -- all of the redactions in this affidavit.
And he said, it's a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI and the Department of Justice, and he said, quote, we gave them much. Now, in an interview he posted earlier this week on Truth Social, Trump claimed he did nothing wrong, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you, Brian, very much.
Let's get back to our analyst. Katelyn Polantz, the affidavit does include a letter from Trump's counsel asking the Justice Department to consider the claims that the president has absolute authority, that's a quote, absolute authority to declassify documents. But, so far, they've provided no proof he actually took steps to do any of that, right?
POLANTZ: That's right, Wolf. And really, Wolf, there's classified documents, there's declassified documents. The difference here, it doesn't really matter. Because what's under investigation is the handling of national defense information, the retention of national defense information that cannot be kept somewhere where it is not secure.
And one thing that comes out loud and clear whenever you read through this affidavit is that there are two situations. There was the situation in January where these 15 boxes that had been with Trump's world for a full year, the National Archives got them and the papers in there were national defense information and they were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, otherwise unproperly identified, so not properly kept. And then as this information comes back, the investigation continues, they find that Mar-a-Lago is continually not secure and that there is reason to believe that there is more information there.
And one thing to point out that I really thought was a striking line in this is that as the Justice Department writes about why they need to keep this investigation going and they need to keep it under seal, they say that the FBI has not yet identified all potential criminal confederates, so all of the people that may need to be investigated, nor have they located all evidence related to this investigation. So, pretty strong words there.
BLITZER: Very strong, indeed. Maggie Haberman, Trump previously said he actually wanted this document to be made public, but now he's calling its release a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI and the Department of Justice. So, how do you square those two things?
HABERMAN: The way we always square conflicting statements sometimes made in the same sentence by the former president. I think the former president has made a lot of statements about this legal case, but many of them have been made from the sidelines. He filed a legal action with a different judge trying to get a -- claiming he wanted to get a special master to review material that was seized, to guard against any privileged material. I actually think the affidavit today even made some reference to that, suggesting that they would already be on guard for that. But he has basically visited this as something of a bystander.
I do want to make one point, Wolf, that we have not said, regardless of this claim about a standing declassification order, which, as we've said, there's been no proof offered up, Evan Corcoran's letter to DOJ, the one in the affidavit, Trump's lawyer, doesn't say he declassified material, it just makes the claim that he has this broad ability to do that. I think that for all of the people who are criticizing both the media and suggesting that this is unfair to Trump should ask themselves how they would react if President Obama's name had been in front of the same fact set.
BLITZER: That's a good question, indeed.
Preet, we do know that the FBI told this judge there is, quote, probable cause to believe that evidence of obstruction will be found at Mar-a-Lago and wanted that portion of the affidavit unsealed. So, tell us why that is so significant.
BHARARA: Look, you have something that was a completed crime, potentially, the mishandling of national defense information, perhaps classified information. That's one thing, and that's incredibly serious. But as we come to understand in this country, it's not just the crime, it's also the cover-up. And sometimes that gets you in more trouble than the underlying crime or investigation of that crime.
And it just seems to me in reading the affidavit, even the parts that are unredacted, something happened or a number of things happened along the way in the back-and-forth between the National Archives and the FBI and the Department of Justice, on the one hand, Trump and his people on the other hand. And it was so significant, these events, that the department, I think, engaged in something very, very aggressive that it didn't want to do, that it held off doing for a long time. There was a long period, it seems, of accommodation and sensitivity and patients from the part of the government, but something happened that was obstructive. And when that happens on an ongoing basis, it can't be tolerated.
SCIUTTO: And, Wolf, to Maggie's point, we've been through something perhaps not to this degree before but that did raise similar questions, the handling, that, of course, the handling of classified information on Hillary Clinton's private email server, when there were very public questions, this network, and you and I covered this extensively in 2016, about what level of classification were in those emails, who could have seen it, what programs did it relate to.
And as I remember at the time, given Maggie's point, there was quite deal of outrage and some from the former president himself about that handling.
So, these questions have been run through that partisan kind of churn before. The fact is that the FBI in both circumstances has looked at the handling of classified information very critically.
BLITZER: Good point, indeed. All right, everybody, stand by.
Coming up, stocks tumble here in the United States as the Federal Reserve chairman warns the fight against inflation will cause what he calls pain, he calls it pain, for many Americans. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Stocks falling sharply, more than 1,000 points today, as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned that many Americans will feel what he called the pain of the fight against inflation.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has the latest.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The economy is looking good.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the White House hailing a monthly drop in consumer prices.
BHARAT RAMAMURTI, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: A lot of good news in the economy. Our focus here is to support households, keep our eye on the ball on inflation and hopefully come out the other side with steady and stable growth.
MATTINGLY: With inflation still at a four-decade high, and this warning from the Fed chair.
JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: While higher interest rates, slower growth and softer labor market conditions will bring down inflation, they will also bring some pain to households and businesses.
MATTINGLY: The deceleration presenting a glimmer of optimism for White House officials, buoyed further by a nearly seven-point jump in August consumer sentiment, signs of progress President Biden has pledged to deliver, capping a whirlwind month of legislative victories.
BIDEN: We've done all this, but then our critics say, inflation. You mean the global inflation caused by the worldwide pandemic and Putin's war on Ukraine? We're making progress.
MATTINGLY: And right as the White House hits the gas on Biden's midterm campaign effort, Biden traveling to reliably blue Maryland to unveil a fiery and aggressive new approach.
BIDEN: In 2020, you and 81 million Americans voted to save our democracy. That's why Donald Trump isn't just a former president, he is a defeated former president.
MATTINGLY: After 19 months beset by a crisis and his own COVID precautions, a true campaign-style rally and a clear effort to harness early signs of Democratic electoral energy sparked by the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade.
BIDEN: The court and its opinion used the phrase that women have a right vote to change this. Well, guess what, MAGA Republicans don't have a clue about the power of women. Let me tell you something. They are about to find out.
MATTINGLY: But Biden also laying out the stakes in dire terms at a reception before that rally, pointing to the, quote, entire philosophy underpinning former President Donald Trump's political power, as, quote, like semi-fascism, but the rally included only a single mention of Biden's latest seismic policy decision on student loans.
BIDEN: Thanks to our historic deficit reduction, we can afford to cancel $10,000 in student debt and $20,000 if you're on a Pell Grant for tens of millions of Americans making under $125. Now, this is a game changer.
MATTINGLY: As officials continue to grapple with political backlash and continued questions over the cost.
BIDEN: Look, people need help. This is not going to cause inflation, number one. Number two, it will generate economic growth.
MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, White House officials are keenly aware that one week or one month of good economic numbers is not going to change the reality. There is a long and potentially bumpy path ahead. They only needed to look at those markets you were pointing to at the very start of this.
Based on that speech from Fed Chair Jerome Powell, very clear that the Fed is going to continue to tighten, continue to be aggressive. The market reacting down more than 1,000 points, the sharpest drop, Wolf, since May.
BLITZER: Yes. Phil, stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN Business Correspondent Rahel Solomon and CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend. Rahel, you just heard the Federal Reserve chairman, Powell, admit that the fight against inflation here in the U.S. will, quote, bring some pain. How concerned should we be by those words?
RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Wolf, this was the strongest language we've heard from the Federal Reserve chairman. No talk here, no mention here of a soft landing, very clear messaging from Chairman Powell that they must fight inflation. And that pain that you mentioned, Wolf, will look like higher borrowing costs that have already gone up but will continue to go up.
It will look like a changing labor market, less demand for American workers, possibly a rising unemployment rate, and less consumer spending. But Powell saying that is the only way to get to the other side of this inflation equation, saying, without price stability, the economy does not work for anyone, adding, that these are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation, that pain.
BLITZER: Yes, important, indeed.
Eva, you heard the president -- you just heard the president once again doubling down tonight on his comparison of the Trump MAGA philosophy to what he called semi-fascism. When you look at the speech as a whole, did President Biden hit the mark on terms of seizing on some momentum for his Democratic Party?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, some Republicans are dismissing it as divisive, that he should be doing more to sort of bridge build. But, actually, if you listen to his words at the speech, not at that event that he had prior, sometimes I think that politicians forget that all the comments they make are on the record, but in the speech itself, he said that those of you who love this country, Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans, we must be strong, it almost seemed like he was trying to call in some Republicans by delineating between MAGA Republicans and mainstream Republicans, and trying to bring them into the fold, saying, you may not like all of our policies, but we are unified against anti- democratic measures, this anti-democratic stance that he's sort of characterizing, and saying, that's somewhere where the right has moved. Listen, Wolf, he wouldn't continue on this message of MAGA Republicans if he didn't think it was working.
BLITZER: Yes, an important point.
Phil Mattingly, the White House, as you well know, has clearly struggled to explain how it's going to pay for its loan forgiveness program, for example. How serious of a problem do they have on their hands right now?
MATTINGLY: Well, there's no question it's resonated. There's now it's resonated with some of their frontline Democratic members for the midterms, including critical Senate races, some frontline House races. I think that where you've seen them move over the course of the last 24 hours to start putting concrete numbers into play today, saying 75 percent of those eligible for the program end up signing up for the program, it will cost about $24 billion a year, in terms of reduced receipts that were scheduled to be paid.
They'll be putting out more documents potentially tonight, also in the coming weeks to try and detail how things would work here. One thing to keep in mind, there's just a lot you don't know about a program and you don't know how many of the 43 million people that are eligible are going to sign up, but this is going to be a question they're continuing to ask and one they're going to continue to need to try to answer, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, they certainly are. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much. Rahel Solomon and Eva McKend, thank you to both of you as well.
Just ahead, the implications of the redacted Mar-a-Lago affidavit for the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, has he outmaneuvered former President Trump? We'll talk about that and more with a Harvard constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe.
BLITZER: More now on our top story, new insight into the investigation of former President Trump's handling of classified White House documents.
Joining us now, Laurence Tribe, a renowned constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School. Professor, thanks so much for joining us.
What's your analysis of the new information we learned from this heavily redacted 38-page affidavit.
LAURENCE TRIBE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: Wolf, it's redacted, but much less heavily than most such documents. In fact, in about 50 years of teaching and practicing law, I've never seen an affidavit as thoroughly exposed as this on any serious criminal matter.
Normally, the Department of Justice would release nothing. That was Merrick Garland's initial preference. He didn't want to release anything. But thanks to you and the media, he was challenged and he was told, you know, you really could release some of this stuff without compromising national security or sources or endangering anyone, and reluctantly, although I'm sure in hindsight, he's rather glad to have been forced to do it, reluctantly, Merrick Garland kind of had to lift the curtain a little bit.
And what we saw today in the unredacted portions of the affidavit, and the redacted parts would only have made it look worse for Trump, what we saw in the unredacted portions was not just probable cause but overwhelming evidence of three serious federal crimes, one of which was espionage. And in footnote two of the --
BLITZER: Go ahead. TRIBE: -- affidavit on age 22, in footnote 2, the affidavit explains that all of this stuff about the president's declassifying the material is bogus. Not only was there no standing declassification order, but the espionage law doesn't make anything turn on whether something is called classified or not.
What this does is point directly to Donald Trump in a way that will make it impossible for Merrick Garland not to seek an indictment. Because unlike the complicated issues involved in the attempted coup and in the insurrection, where Trump did his very best to keep he has fingerprints off of the actual manipulation of the electoral slates and all the rest, here, not only his fingerprints, but his distinctive handwriting is on the top secret documents.
You can't say that he didn't know that they were there. He has been bragging that they belong to him. And the department has no choice now but to pursue the clear culprit, the person who was guilty, if you are to believe anything in this affidavit, guilty of obstruction of justice as well as violating the espionage law. Because he had documents, he had them in a place where they were insecure.
BLITZER: And those are potential crimes, obviously, if convicted.
So was this a win, do you believe, Professor, for the Attorney General Merrick Garland?
TRIBE: Well, it was a win for the country. Certainly a win for Merrick Garland in the sense that now you really have to be off your rocker to think that they didn't have a basis for going in with this search warrant after they had tried to get the material in every cooperative way and were lied to.
It was clearly a loss for Donald Trump, because he thought he could be really clever by having it both ways. He kept saying, we want this material to be released. But then he actually never authorized his lawyer to file a motion to release it.
Now he got his wish, but as is so often the case, you have to be careful what you wish for, because what was released, despite his complaint that it doesn't use the word nuclear or that there's a lot of redacted material, what was released makes the most convincing case that I've ever seen in seven years of teaching evidence law and over 40 years of teaching constitutional law, the most convincing case of serious crime at this stage in an investigation.
So I think Merrick Garland certainly won, the country won. The one big loser, and he doesn't like to think of himself that way, is the former president.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens next. The constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.
And we'll have much more right after this.
BLITZER: In Ukraine right now, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says a radiation disaster has been averted as besieged nuclear power plant.
CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is on the scene for us.
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ukraine's biggest nuclear power plant is making history that no one wants to read. Its six reactors are the first ever to have fallen into enemy hands, and the first to have the main power source for their cooling systems cut during combat. They're also the first to have triggered the emergency cooling system, to avoid meltdown and a radioactive disaster because of war.
PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): If the diesel generators hadn't turned on, if the automation had not reacted after the blackout, we would already be forced to overcome the consequences of a radiation accident.
KILEY: Its only source of mainline electricity from government-held territory was cut. The government here says by Russian shelling. Russia captured the plant in March and has been using it as an artillery fire base for a month. It has been hitting civilian towns west across the Dnipro River.
Civilians have been fleeing to the town closest to the plant in fear of war and of a radioactive disaster brought on by it. Russian troops, they said, were ill-disciplined and dangerous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We tried to keep away from them. It was scary. They walked around with machine guns and who knows what they could do? At night they would get drunk, shoot in the air. People were scared.
KILEY: The power to cool the systems was restored yesterday, and the reactors eventually reconnected to the Ukrainian grid on Friday, supplying up to a fifth of the country's electricity. But key fears that Russia may cut powers to the cooling system again as part of the alleged plant to steal its output, and that would risk a meltdown.
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is only about 20 mile away from where I'm standing. There's a powerful easterly blowing at a moment. If there was a disaster there, radioactive material would be carried into the sun and into Europe.
International demands that Russia removes its forces from the plant and allow nuclear inspectors in are increasingly strident. In Ukraine, nuclear decontamination drills are just another part of war.
(END VIDEOTAPE) KILEY (on camera): Now, Wolf, we understand from the IAEA that they may be able to get inspectors in in a number of days but that won't solve the issue of this being a military zone as well. They've demanded demilitarization in Russia. It has actually increased the number of troops there, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sam Kiley, thanks very much.
Up next, a preview of my CNN special report, inside the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
BLITZER: Tonight, I'll take our viewers inside the holocaust museum as the son of holocaust survivors and the grandson of four holocaust victims who were murdered by the Nazis, sharing that history is deeply important to me. At a time when anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are on the rise, it is vitally important, something my late father taught me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, sir, can we begin? Would you please tell me your first name.
DAVID BLITZER, WOLF'S FATHER: David Blitzer.
W. BLITZER (voice-over): That's my dad, David Blitzer. He survived the Holocaust, met my mother, another survivor, and they got married and came to manager after World War II. He recorded his very personal, very powerful survival story for future generations.
D. BLITZER: I'm originally from Oswiecim, which is actually the name of the city of the Auschwitz before the war.
My wife did not believe that she would have children at the concentration camp. But 10 months after we were married, she would.
BLITZER: Like so many survivors, he knew he had to speak for the millions who couldn't. And now I'm carrying on his legacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: My parents were extraordinarily fortunate to survive the Holocaust and build a new life right here in the United States. But the cars of the Holocaust clearly remain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What is this all about? You see the names of all these towns.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this glass bridge, you see etched the names of just a few of the thousands of Jewish communities across Europe that were destroyed. These were communities where Jews had lived for hundreds of years and they were obliterated overnight.
BLITZER: I saw the name of my mother's home town in Poland, Suchedniow. I was thinking of my mom, she was such a strong woman. During the war, she survived and she help her two brothers, her younger sister survived. And then when they came to Buffalo, New York. She really built a life. It brings back so many memories.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: "Never Again" airs later tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.
Thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.