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Trump Back In Florida On Eve Of Historic Arraignment; Mounting Security Concerns At Miami Courthouse; American Detained On Drug Charges In Russia; Indicted Aide Walt Nauta Traveling With Trump; Officials: I-95 Collapse Repairs Could Take Months. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 12, 2023 - 18:00   ET




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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. I will see you after the town hall with Chris Christie, which is tonight at 8:00 with Anderson Cooper. See you then.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Donald Trump is on the ground in Florida on this, the eve of his historic arraignment on 37 federal criminal charges. The former president and his team making a last minute scramble to hire more lawyers to defend him against grave allegations of mishandling classified documents and concealing him from investigators.

Also this hour, authorities are raising new concerns about security right now at the Miami courthouse as Trump and his allies are encouraging supporters to protest there tomorrow. The mayor says the city is prepared but are federal and local law enforcement officials doing enough to keep everyone safe?

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

All right, let's get right to all the new developments tonight just ahead of a federal criminal arraignment unlike any other. The lead defendant, Donald Trump, is holed up right now at his golf club outside of Miami with his high stakes court appearance less than 24 hours away.

CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is on the ground for us in Miami, just outside the federal courthouse there. Paula, how is the former president preparing for his arrest and arraignment tomorrow?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the former president is expected to meet with his team this afternoon to discuss legal strategy. Right now, the team is being led by Todd Blanche, but we know they want to bring on additional attorneys after the departure of pretty much all the lawyers who represented Trump in this case so far. Now, it's unclear, though, if he will have his final legal team in place tomorrow.

We're also learning that the special counsel is bringing in two prosecutors from U.S. Attorney's Office down here in Miami, but, again, Wolf, tomorrow is just the first step in this historic case.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The documents whole thing is a witch hunt. It's a disgrace. It should never happen.

REID (voice over): Tonight, former President Trump in Miami ahead of his historic arraignment tomorrow in federal court. With him was his personal aide and co-defendant, Walt Nauta, who has been with him in Bedminster since the indictment came down. Trump will be staying at his Doral golf course, where he is expected to meet with his legal team currently being led by white collar defense attorney Todd Blanche after the departure of his lawyer top lawyers over the last few weeks.

TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: There are things in here that I think if they have back up for are certainly problematic.

REID: Trump is looking to bring in additional attorneys to handle the Florida-based case, but he has had trouble in the past hiring lawyers amid concerns about him paying his bills and firms worrying about alienating other clients by taking him on.

In the court of public opinion --

WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: If even half of it is true, then he's toast.

REID: -- Trump's former attorney general, Bill Barr, who helped spin the Mueller special counsel findings in Trump's favor, said the indictment alleging his former boss mishandled classified information is damning.

BARR: He's not a victim here. He was totally wrong that he had the right to have those documents. Those documents are among the most sensitive secrets the country has and he kept them in a way at Mar-a- Lago, anyone who really cares about national security, their stomach would churn.

REID: But his staunch allies on Capitol Hill, like Senator Lindsey Graham and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, jumped to Trump's defense.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Espionage charges are absolutely ridiculous. He did not disseminate, leak or provide information to a foreign power or the news organization to damage this country. He is not a spy.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): If he wants to store material in a box in a bathroom, if he wants to store it in a box on a stage, he can do that.

REID: On Tuesday, the former president will surrender to authorities, be arrested and booked before his arraignment where he's expected to plead not guilty. The case landed in Florida where the alleged crimes were committed after a year of prosecutors collecting evidence with a Washington, D.C.-based grand jury. The Florida location poses challenges. The jury pool is likely to be friendlier to Trump.

TRUMP: It's called election interference and they're doing the best they can with it.

REID: And even before trial, Trump's lawyers are likely to try to suppress key evidence from one of Trump's own attorneys. Evan Corcoran, who testified to the grand jury in D.C., and whose own notes are used in the indictment to make the case that Trump tried to hide incriminating documents.


He made a funny motion, Corcoran noted, as though, well, okay, why don't you take them with you to your hotel room, and if there's anything really bad in there, like, you know, pluck it out.

Trump will make his first appearance Tuesday before a magistrate judge, but then the case will be heard before a federal Trump appointee, Judge Aileen Cannon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sincere thanks to the president for the honor of this nomination.

REID: She was previously criticized for a ruling in another matter related to the Mar-a-Lago documents case. That decision was ultimately overturned.


REID (on camera): There are not many visible security preparations underway down here at federal court. You can see some sort of flimsy police tape behind me. We've seen a few officers on patrol but nothing like you would expect for a historic hearing like this. One source tells CNN that the mood is changing about law enforcement and they may now begin preparing for the worst. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Paula Reid in Miami for us, thank you.

I want to bring in our team of legal, law enforcement and political experts right now, and I'll start with Andrew McCabe. What more do you believe, Andrew, law enforcement should be doing right now just ahead of Trump's arraignment?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, anytime you are responsible for protecting an event where you expect there could be disruptions from people exercising their First Amendment rights, some of the standard procedures that you see are dividing up the area, controlling the space, creating a space around the building in which protesters of any side cannot get through and can't get close to the building.

Typically, you also see specially designated areas for groups to be able to air their -- make their voices heard and exercise their First Amendment rights but in ways in which they're not conflicting with others and leading to conflict. It's shocking to me that we haven't seen that sort of hardening of a facility yet, although it sounds like law enforcement might be rethinking the yellow police tape and hopefully opting for more substantial barriers to people.

BLITZER: Interesting. Beth Sanner, you worked in intelligence obviously for a number of years, deputy director of National Intelligence. How do you think authorities are assessing from an intelligence perspective the potential threat here?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I mean after January 6th, there really is no excuse for them not to be able to figure out how to go through this information. There's been investigations about what went wrong there. They had the information. They weren't connecting it. Now, you know, we know enough that this group of people in Miami, the law enforcement, both federal and local, should know what's going on. And as Andrew said, it would be really good if we could see the reaction on the ground that reflects what we're all hearing here of the warning signs going off.

BLITZER: Clearly, they've got to do something more instead of just putting some tape around that building. It's a very sensitive situation unfolding right now.

Elliot, you're a former federal prosecutor. Walk us through what you anticipate will happen tomorrow.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure. And you hear the saying, nobody is above the law. Whether that's true or not, everybody gets the same basic procedures on a really simple court proceeding. The point of this initial appearance is really just to advice the defendants of the rights he has. He has the right to a trial, he has the right to an attorney, he has the right to the counsel of his choice and so on. The conditions of his release will be set. So, how long, whether he would be incarcerated before trial, he will not. I can assure you of that fact. And that's really it.

Then the judge may set a date for future hearings. He may not even enter a plea tomorrow. He can and cannot. There may be a separate hearing in which he sort of is advised of the charges really in full and then enters a plea. But it's quite simple. It's a very straightforward initial appearance.

BLITZER: We will see how that unfolds tomorrow.

Robert Ray, you're with us. You represented Trump in his first impeachment trial. Now, he's looking for more lawyers to join Todd Blanche, who you know well. Does Trump face an uphill battle to build out his legal team?

ROBERT RAY, FORMER WHITEWATER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: I don't think so. I mean, obviously this is only the space of the first week that we are aware of, the pendency of an indictment. It would be expected that Todd Blanche, even if he's lead counsel, would be assisted, just as the government is getting lawyers from the Justice Department who are with the Southern District of Florida, you would expect the legal team to be filled out with a trial team that includes criminal defense attorneys who have done cases in the Southern District of Florida, whether in Miami or in West Palm Beach.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger is with us as well. You and I have covered Trump for a long time. He's not exactly well-known for following the advice of his legal team.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he's well-known for doing the opposite, in fact. I was speaking with a former Trump attorney, and I want to tell you what he said, which is that Trump puts immense pressure on his attorneys. And he said, no one has ever turned lawyers into witnesses faster than Donald Trump. And we see that that's happened in cases with Evan Corcoran, that Evan Corcoran's notes are a key part of this indictment.

And Donald Trump pushes his attorneys, pushes them, doesn't listen and we see in this indictment how he apparently, according to the indictment, pushed Evan Corcoran to sort of maybe pluck some bad documents out of the pile. And that is another reason why many attorneys do not want to work were Donald Trump because he thinks he's running the show legally as well.

BLITZER: You can't blame them, those attorneys, for not wanting to work with them.

Nia-Malika Henderson, for Trump, there's the political battle that's always unfolding and that seems to be more important to him than the legal challenges he's facing.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And we've seen him over these last days go out and talk about this in very political terms. And this is a playbook he has run since the beginning of his presidency. If you think about the way he talked around the impeachments, sort of talked his way out of getting impeached. But, listen, that was a different audience. That was a jury of peers, of like-minded or Republicans. This is something very different.

But still he is doing the same sort of playbook, of saying that he's the victim, that this is a witch hunt, that it's a hoax, that there's a double standard. He's calling the Department of Justice the Department of Injustice. And he's really, in that way, I think, been able to hold on to his base, rally fellow Republicans as well. But, listen, at some point, this will be before -- this will be in a courtroom. We'll see on Tuesday, of course, the beginning of these proceedings. At some point, it will be before jurors who are very different than the kind of audiences he's used to rallying, whether it's Republicans in Congress or at a rally. But he's going to stick to this same playbook that we know --

BLITZER: I'm sure he will. Andrew, one of the prosecutors joining the special counsel's team oversaw the case of a Chinese national who trespassed over at Mar-a- Lago. What does that tell you?

MCCABE: Well, tells us that Jack Smith's team is being very strategic and thinking about the experience and background they're drawing into this effort. She has a unique experience having litigated or prosecuted issues involving Mar-a-Lago. She's probably very up to speed on the facility and the processes there and the way things work, and the understanding of how the place is laid out. Those are all going to be very important to Jack Smith's team as they get ready, prepare themselves to air these accusations out in court and back them up with facts.

BLITZER: You know, I just want to get, Beth, your thoughts on this. You used to give Trump his daily presidential national security briefings. So, when you see all of this unfolding, does it ring true to you based on what you read in this long affidavit, indictment?

SANNER: You know, well, I don't talk too much about my briefings with him. I do try to protect that relationship. But it's clear that the president understood that he had declassification authorities when he was in office. And I think that when he was in office, it's quite different than this circumstance, right? It's been made very, very clear in this circumstance that he's outside of the White House, outside of protected areas where information was held secret and protected by many layers of defense.

Instead, this is a circumstance where he took these boxes, he packed them himself knowingly, if this indictment is correct, and put them in ballroom, in a bathroom, in a storage closet, in a place where we know foreign intelligence has and President Trump knew that foreign intelligence had tried to penetrate on multiple occasions. So, to me, it's a very different circumstance than in the little closed environment where we lived.

BLITZER: Yes. And he can't just think about declassifying something. There're procedures you've got to go through, even if you're the president of the United States.

SANNER: Absolutely, Wolf, and that did not happen here.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, Beth and everybody else, stand by. We have a lot more to assess. Coming up, we'll discuss the biggest challenges the government now faces in prosecuting Trump down in Florida and how all of this could factor into the 2024 presidential race.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're back with our experts on this, the eve of Donald Trump's arraignment in the classified documents investigation. The former president returned to Florida just a little while ago where he stands indicted on 37 federal criminal charges.

Robert Ray, what do you see as the biggest challenges for the government on trying this case in Florida, for example, rather than here in Washington, D.C.?

RAY: Wolf, it's obviously a very different jury pool. It may not necessarily be a jury panel that's exclusively Republican but it's obviously going to be a decidedly different panel than what otherwise have been the case with the District of Columbia. And my guess is that the journey panel will be drawn from the vicinity of Mar-a-Lago, meaning in the Palm Beach and West Palm Beach area. So, that's obviously a significantly different looking trial than what otherwise would have been the case in Washington.

And I suspect the reason the prosecution brought the case in the Southern District of Florida is because their alleged obstructive conduct that they charged Donald Trump with occurred in that venue, meaning in the Southern District of Florida.

And as far as their case is concerned, I mean, they're going to have to make a great effort to try to distinguish this as serious from other situations, and we've mentioned other presidents, other conduct involving the vice president, then-Vice President Biden, Hillary Clinton, Mike Pence and so forth.


I think if, you know, absent a showing of harm to the United States, even if one acknowledges that the conduct here in terms of how you handle classified information was anywhere from negligent to reckless, it does raise the question about the merits of the government's case from the standpoint of jury appeal that the interest of the United States, while they might have been at risk in some eyes, if the government is unable to show before a jury that any harm came to the United States, I don't think that that's a particularly persuasive case. And it doesn't distinguish it, at least many my mind, meaningfully from other situations regarding others who have been careless with classified information.

BLITZER: What do you think, Elliot?

WILLIAMS: Yes. So, to this question of where you get the, quote/unquote, friendliest jury pool, it is a fact, a documented fact, that the jury pool from the county in which it would be charged, whether that's Miami or Palm Beach County, is on a couple of points within 50 percent, 50/50 Trump to the Democratic Party, right? So, it's a far more Republican-leaning jury pool than you would have in the District of Columbia, which I think voted 5 percent for Donald Trump.

Now, that doesn't mean any jury would necessarily vote for or against a defendant, but the simple fact is you have a politician on trial and 45 or 50 percent of the people from which the jury pool will be drawn may well have voted for him.

So, the complexities here extend far beyond the makeup of the jury pool. There are some very thorny legal questions about, number one, how you get classified information in front of a jury in a way that doesn't damage the national security. Number two, again, even venue, whether it's proper to even try in Florida, it is, but that's something the defendant has a right to raise. So, there's a lot of things -- and the judge, whether you ask to have the judge recused or kept on the case. So, there's plenty of questions open here.

BLITZER: They certainly are. All right, guys, stand by for a second.

Andrew McCabe, how likely is it Trump's team will be able to delay this trial until after the 2024 presidential election?

MCCABE: I think it's highly likely, Wolf. We know that the New York, the case of Manhattan has a trial date of March. So, that takes you through the first couple of months of 2024. It would be unreasonable for the court in this federal case to require former President Trump to go to trial in this case immediately after the New York trial, because he needs a certain amount of time in order to prepare his defense. So, as you start looking at the calendar, you get later and later into next year. It's also unlikely that they try to put this trial on I think during the last few months of the election.

So, when you add all those things together, plus all the many motions that Trump's team is likely to raise, many of which could appeal if they don't go the former president's way, that slows things down even further. I think it's unlikely that this case in its current format would go before the election of '24.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Beth, some Trump allies say a trial would be too divisive right now and they're suggesting that you've got to be careful about that. What message does all this send to the world for that matter, allies and adversaries about protecting U.S. National security secrets?

SANNER: It sends a message about protecting national security secrets and also it sends a message about how vulnerable our country is to election influence and interference. And we're in a situation now where our country is so polarized that people who haven't even bothered to read the indictment absolutely refuse to even think about what he's done as a challenge to national security. And I think that that's hugely problematic.

And you look at where we are now in terms of the active efforts of our adversaries to influence our elections, plus you add in A.I., we're going probably half a million Deep Fakes on our system this is year and you have the DeSantis campaign using Deep Fakes as part of campaign literature. How in the world is our system not vulnerable to misunderstanding and manipulation, either internally or externally? It gives me great pause.

BLITZER: Indeed, it does. All right, guys, everybody stand by. And this note to our viewers, stay with CNN tonight for the town hall with GOP Presidential Candidate Chris Christie. Anderson Cooper moderates the event with the former New Jersey governor live from New York, and that begins 8:00 P.M. Eastern tonight. Coming up, what local officials in Florida are now saying about security for Trump's arraignment and whether protests by his supporters will remain peaceful. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Tonight, all eyes are on Miami where Donald Trump is just hours away from being arrested and arraigned on the most serious criminal charges against him to-date, 37 federal counts stemming from the classified documents investigation, security, a critical concern right now as Trump urges supporters to protest outside the Miami courthouse tomorrow.

CNN's Carlos Suarez is over at the Trump Doral golf club just outside Miami, where the former president is spending the night. Carlos, os local law enforcement ready for tomorrow's arraignment and what are they expecting?


CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, the city of Miami and its police chief says that they are ready for whatever protests might take place at that federal courthouse in Downtown Miami on Tuesday. The chief of police for the Miami Police Department says that they have enough resources, enough officers for crowds, up to 50,000 people.

Now, the chief was pressed for specifics on where all of these resources, where all of these officers are going to be deployed tomorrow, the chief of police said that that is something that his department is not going get into at this hour.

There is some concern going into Tuesday whether law enforcement really is ready for a possible crowd of not only Donald Trump supporters but also protestors of the former president. Few barricades have been set up in and around the courthouse around Downtown Miami and it is still unclear at this hour whether police plan on separating both supporters of the president as well as protesters. The chief of police, he had a news conference earlier this afternoon where he detailed some of these plans, though kept them in general terms. Here's a bit of what he said.


CHIEF MANNY MORALES, MIAMI POLICE: We're bringing enough resources to handle crowd anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000. We don't expect any issues, right? So, we appreciate the public. So, everybody going out there and expressing themselves in a peaceful and civil manner.


SUAREZ: All right. So, the chief went on to say that a lot of the decisions they're going to make between right now and tomorrow really will depend on the number of folks that turn out both in support of the former president as well as folks that are going to be out there to protest.

There was a gathering of Trump supporters outside his property in Doral earlier this afternoon and a few folks that we talked to said they plan on being there tomorrow.

Wolf, one final note, a number of law enforcement agencies across South Florida as well as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, they are keeping a close eye on posts that are being made on social media for any threats to the courthouse. They're also keeping a close eye on the Proud Boys after some communication surfaced of the group making travel plans to South Florida. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Carlos, thank you, Carlos Suarez over at the Doral country club.

Joining us now, John Bolton, the former national security adviser to President Trump. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.

How worried are you about the potential for violence, here particularly with Trump's allies fanning the flames right now?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I think we have to see what happens tomorrow. I don't travel in those circles, so I don't have anything to add to what presumably the police are gathering. It would be a huge mistake, I think, for Trump and his followers to do anything that tips toward the violence.

There were predictions there might be violent encounters in New York at the time of his first dime indictment and I believe it turned out in sum, the total number of pro-Trump and anti-Trump demonstrators were less than a number of media that were there. So, we'll see tomorrow, but if there's any evidence that Trump has been involved inciting them or whoever does, just more prosecution.

BLITZER: Ambassador Bolton, I know you say this indictment, in your words, is, quote, a rifle shot and should be the end, your words again, the end of Donald Trump's political career. What are you saying to Republicans, though, who are rallying around him right now, some even calling to defund the special counsel's office?

BOLTON: Well, the first thing to do is to read the indictment, which I don't think many have done. It's really a masterful piece of work, in my view. Obviously, the government has to prove it at trial to a jury. But if they do, it is devastating and it really should be the end of Trump's political career, let alone the beginning of his jail time.

I'm not so worried about the people. I don't think they -- the citizens, the voters, I don't think they've heard enough about it. I'm more worried about Republican leaders who are afraid to tell the voters what's in the indictment. So, it just falls to other people to try and do it. But, ultimately, I think people will see this behavior by Trump was a serious threat to national security.

BLITZER: Yes. This indictment, 49-page indictment of the United States of America versus Donald J. Trump, is very, very powerful reading, indeed. I recommend people read it. Before this indictment came out, Republican Presidential Candidate Nikki Haley called this a vendetta. Today, she says if this indictment is true, then Trump was, quote, incredibly reckless with America's national security. What do you make of that shift?

BOLTON: Well, she's moving toward the right position. She's still not there, but I think that's encouraging. I think, really, most Republicans in Congress don't want to have anything to do with Trump. They wish he'd go away. They don't believe he's the answer or should be the nominee. They're afraid to say it.


So, I think the more people who come out and get to the point of saying that Trump's conduct disqualifies him from being president, anybody who has behaved this way, forget the criminal liability, can't be trusted with the nation's secrets, among other disqualifications for federal office. And the more people who say it, particularly candidates for the Republican nomination, the greater the chance that we're going to educate the public.

I know what the polls say. The polls are not blocks of granite. Political leadership consists of moving people in the direction that helps the country best overall. And that's what Republican leaders need to start doing sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: You're also the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. How is the rest of the world watching all of this, especially America's allies with intelligence sharing relationships with the United States?

BOLTON: Well, I don't think most foreign leaders had a very high opinion of Donald Trump to begin with. He thinks they did, but they were just playing up to his ego. And I think they hope, as I do, that he's going to be a one-term president.

BLITZER: Ambassador John Bolton, thanks so much for joining us.

BOLTON: Glad to do it.

BLITZER: Coming up, stay with CNN for more on the historic federal indictment of former President Donald Trump, as he prepares for his first court appearance tomorrow.

Also ahead, we'll go live to Philadelphia for an update on the I-95 bridge collapse. What officials are now revealing about when repairs to the Interstate are expected to begin.



BLITZER: We'll have much more on the federal charges, the indictment of Donald Trump, just ahead right here in The Situation Room. This is truly historic arraignment scheduled for tomorrow down in Miami. More on that coming up here in The Situation. But there's other important news we're following right now as well, including another American, another American citizen detained in Russia on drug charges.

Our Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is working the story for us. So, what are U.S. officials saying about this case and what's next?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is clearly very concerning, Wolf. This has echoes of the Brittney Griner case because of the drug charges. This is arguably more serious because Travis Leake is being accused of selling drugs.

The U.S. State Department still very much trying to figure out what happened here and get all of the details of the case. But they're clearly watching it very carefully. We know that U.S. officials from the embassy in Moscow went to his arraignment on Saturday. We know that they are trying to reach out to the family and offer whatever services, consular services the family may need. We did hear from Secretary of State Blinken earlier today speaking about Leake. Here's a bit of what he had to say.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're just seeking to learn more about the apparent detention of Travis Leake.

My number one priority as secretary of state is the safety and security of Americans abroad, and this is no exception. So, we're working to gather information, understand exactly what happened and, of course, we will be very focused on this.


MARQUARDT: And, Wolf, we have spoken to -- CNN has spoken to Leake's mother, who told CNN she has not heard from the State Department. She says, of course, she is concerned about her son who is in Russia.

We believe that Leake was arrested late last week. There was some video on Russian media of his arrest and of his mug shot. He then appeared for his arraignment in that Moscow court on Saturday. The court said that Russian authorities had taken a preventive measure, they called, because Leake was engaging in the narcotics business through attracting young people.

Now, we do believe that Leake has lived in Russia for quite some time as a music producer and music manager, a musician himself. He appeared on an episode of the Anthony Bourdain, Pars Unknown, back in 2014. He talked then about freedom of speech, the lack thereof in Russia. The impression that he gave to a producer on that episode was that he was a showman and that he was very much in love with Russia.

But the State Department watching this very carefully, obviously a huge amount of concern, lots more to learn about this. But, remember, Wolf, the U.S. State Department has been learning for quite some time, especially since the war in Ukraine started, that U.S. citizens should leave Russia immediately because of the tension between the two countries because the relationship between the two countries is deteriorating so quickly.

BLITZER: Certainly is, and it's about to get worse. All right, thanks very much, Alex, for that report, Alex Marquardt reporting.

We're also following developments right now in Ukraine where Kyiv's forces are claiming steady gains in their new counteroffensive against Russia.

Our Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is joining us with details. So, Sam, what are you hearing?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the latest statement on the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, saying that a very carefully planned and meticulously organized counteroffensive in Ukraine is underway. That is with a nudge and a wink the position that what we are now getting from the Ukrainian government.

But they are pointing out at that, at the moment, it is at a pretty low level. Most of the fighting concentrated in the Zaporizhzhia region between Zaporizhzhia City controlled by the Ukrainians and Donetsk, controlled by the Russians. That is the new fighting. The longstanding battle for Bakhmut and that area in the absolute east, if you like, has been continuing with some significant gains being made by the Ukrainians, some seven settlements they claim they have captured. We're not able to directly, independently verify that.

But this could be seen partly as the back and forth, the ebb and flow of the fighting there, but alternatively could be a tactical gain that could develop into having strategic significance if the Ukrainians continue to advance and able to exploit that and widen that salient, putting the Russians under yet more pressure.


But, clearly, the Ukrainians have stepped up the pace of this counteroffensive and I think we can anticipate a great deal more violence. And certainly, privately, Ukrainians are anticipating and indeed planning for, sadly, very significant losses for this campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sam Kiley reporting for us, Sam, stay safe over. Thank you.

Coming up, we'll have a closer look at Walt Nauta, the man indicted alongside former President Donald Trump.

Stay with us, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: More now on our top story, the federal indictment of Donald Trump. The former president arriving in Florida today with one of his key aides, Walt Nauta, who's also been charged by the special counsel.

Brian Todd is taking a closer look at this for us.

Brian, who exactly is Walt Nauta and how could he factor into the case against Trump?


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Walt Nauta is a personal aide to the former President who Donald Trump holds in high regard. He could be an incredibly pivotal figure in this case, especially if he flips on his boss.


TODD (voice-over): Standing by his man for, now, 40-year-old Walt Nauta, former President Donald Trump's personal aide, who was indicted along with Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, traveled with his boss to campaign stops in Georgia and North Carolina over the weekend. And to Miami, where they will both face court appearances tomorrow.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: His testimony would be important enough, because he had conversations with the former president the government does not know about, and does not have any other way to get. So, I think if he wants to, he can still cooperate.

TODD: Walt Nauta faces 6 counts including some related to obstruction and concealment of the documents. Prosecutors say Nauta lied to investigators when they asked if he knew where Trump's boxes of documents were stored before they would found in Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago. According to the indictment, Nauta said, quote, I wish I could tell you, I honestly just don't know.

But prosecutors say Nauta himself actually helped move about 64 boxes from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago at Trump's direction.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: As a navy man, he must've had, he must have some sensitivity to highly classified material. But yet he certainly did the president's wishes, according to the allegations in the indictment.

TODD: If Nauta flips on Trump, what kind of damage could he do?

JEFFREY JACOBOVITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, if he flips, he's very close to Trump. These are people close to Trump who have been with him every day almost, and probably know a lot.

TODD: Walt Nauta, a native of Guam, is a navy veteran who started his service to the then-president while in the White House mess hall. The indictment says he then became a White House valet to Trump. And, according to the "New York Times," was often, quote, bringing him Diet Cokes, ensuring the president's suit was pressed, and carrying hairspray or hand sanitizer to meet Mr. Trump's needs.

After his service at the White House, the indictment says Nauta served Trump at Mar-a-Lago as his, quote, body man. "The Times" citing co- workers who said that Trump trusted him and liked him immensely. On his Truth Social platform, Trump posted that Nauta is a wonderful

man being indicted by Justice Department thugs who were, quote, trying to destroy his life.

Walt Nauta now finds himself in the company of former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and former Trump organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, people who worked directly with Trump who were targeted by prosecutors.

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": Donald Trump, like most mob bosses, doesn't feel beholden to the people beneath him. So loyalty is a one-way street. And he never demonstrates loyalty to others.


TODD (on camera): If convicted on all or some of these charges, Walt Nauta faces significant prison time. His attorney has declined to comment to CNN about this case -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If he decides to plead guilty and get a reduced prison sentence, as is often the case in these kinds of matters, we'll see what happens on this. Brian, thank you very much.

This note to our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," former Trump lawyer Ty Cobb as well as Trump's former lawyer in the classified documents case, Tim Parlatore. That's coming up 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll have the latest on the I- 95 bridge collapse in Philadelphia. Our live report is coming up after a quick break.



BLITZER: Tonight, officials are releasing new information about the I- 95 bridge collapse in Philadelphia.

CNN's Danny Freeman is on the scene for us. He has an update on what's going on.

Danny, what more are we learning about how this happened and just how long it's going to take to repair this part of the interstate?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today, we're finally learning a lot more about exactly what did cause that collapse on I-95 behind me. In a press conference today, state officials explained that there was a tanker truck carrying 8,500 gallons of gasoline traveling northbound on I-95 early Sunday morning. That truck then tried to take the off ramp right here, it then lost control, crashed-landed on its side, and eventually ruptured. And that tanker caused the fire that ultimately caused the northbound lanes to collapse.

We also learned today that the southbound lanes behind me, they have to be demolished as well because they are no longer structurally safe. And I'll say that while there were initially no reported injuries, we did learn today from the Pennsylvania state police that one body was pulled from the wreckage, although the Philadelphia medical examiner has not confirmed the identity of that person at this time.

But again, to your big question, how long will repairs now take? Well, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, he said it will not be overnight. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said it should take some months.

But I want you to listen to what the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said earlier today about that time line.


MIKE CARROLL, PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: PennDOT's contractors will work 24/7 in an effort to try to speed up the solution set. And we continue to engineer the solution set that will come after the demolition is completed. And we expect that demolition to be completed in four or five days.


FREEMAN: So, again, four or five days to knock everything down, and then weeks and months still to clean everything up and fix it back up again.

Wolf, I can personally attest that traffic in this area was a nightmare throughout much of the day. A lot of big trucks on these side streets in this area. Government officials asking drivers to avoid this area and try public transportation if you can -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Keywords, if you can.

All right. Thanks very much, Danny Freeman, in Philadelphia for us. We'll stay on this story as well.

And, to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. And this note, I'll be back tomorrow earlier in the day 1:00 p.m. Eastern for CNN special live coverage of Donald Trump's court appearance. Until then, once again, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.