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The Situation Room

New Filing in Trump Classified Documents Case; DOJ Details Excessive Force, Racial Bias by Minneapolis P.D.; Federal Jury Convicts Killer of 11 in Synagogue Attack; First Lady Jill Biden: Trump Brought U.S. "Chaos"; "Climate Kids" Activist Group Asks Court to Force State of Montana to Go Green. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 16, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a new legal filing in the U.S. government's case against Donald Trump suggests the special counsel doesn't trust the former president. We're getting new information right now on the multiple fronts in this Trump investigation.

Also tonight, the U.S. Justice Department details systemic violations by the Minneapolis Police Department, saying the problems of excessive force and racial discrimination led to the murder of George Floyd.

And dozens of guilty verdicts against the gunman behind the 2018 massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Now that a federal jury had its say, will the killer be sentenced to death?

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

We begin this hour with a new request by the special counsel in the classified documents probe. The filing reflects prosecutors' fears Donald Trump might go public with information about the investigation.

CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is joining us right now. Paula, walk us through this protective order, as it is called, this request.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a request from prosecutors that we would very much expect in a case like this. They are asking the judge to approve some ground rules that both prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to in terms of how both sides will handle some of the sensitive evidence that's going to be shared throughout this case.

And we're not talking become classified information. We will get to that in a minute. But, soon, prosecutors are going to have to start sharing some of their evidence or all their evidence with defense attorneys as this moves closer to trial. So, they are asking that defense attorneys do not share any of that information with the public and they also have some ground rules for the defendants, former President Trump and Walt Nauta.

Now, among restrictions that they're asking for, they don't want Trump or Nauta to have any of these materials to take them out of the room to be given copies, even if they take notes, they need to be stored by the lawyers. They are effectively saying that their lawyers should be supervising any and all interactions that Trump or Nauta have with this sensitive evidence.

Now, there's another sentence that might catch some people's eye. It says the materials also include information pertaining to ongoing investigations, the disclosure which could compromise those investigations and identify uncharged individuals.

Of course, we know, Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating the former president and many of his associates for their alleged roles in the events leading up to January 6 and whether the former president should be charged criminally in relation to what happened leading up to the election, leading up to January 6th and in the days following. So, we also know that many of the witnesses who were interviewed in the Mar-a-Lago probe were interviewed in that case. So, that's really what's being referenced there.

And in terms of classified information at the heart of this case, over 30 documents the former president allegedly took, well, they haven't quote gotten there yet, because the defense attorneys need their security clearances. And yesterday, the judge has told the attorneys, look, let's get that process started so you can get your clearance. They are going to need active clearances, Wolf, in order to view those classified documents. And the attorneys for former President Trump, Chris Kise and Todd Blanche, have both reached out to the Justice Department begin that process, which could take weeks.

BLITZER: It certainly could. And, Paula, we have also just learned that the U.S. Justice Department just doubled down on its refusal to share information about the Trump probes with the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. Why this back and forth? What's going on?

REID: Well, it's pretty standard. The Justice Department does not share information about active and ongoing investigations with Congress. Jim Jordan and others have tried to get information about the ongoing investigations into former President Trump and the investigation into President Biden, possible mishandling of classified documents and the Justice Department just does not share this kind of information.

Though, it was interesting in this particular round of correspondence, they did share a little bit of information, including the fact that about 26 special agents have worked either full-time or part-time in Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigation, and they also said we should expect addition updates on how much that investigation has cost.

Now, of course, that's not exactly what Jim Jordan was looking for but it's the standard practice of the Justice Department not to share this information. So, they continue, though, to go through sort of a political exercise of requesting it, going on the record that they want it and even threatening to subpoena the special counsel.


BLITZER: Paula, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in some of our legal experts to discuss these latest developments. Norm Eisen, let me bring you in first. Let's start with the special counsel's request for a protective order. What are their concerns?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, whenever you have a criminal investigation, you are always worried about things like protecting identifying information about witnesses, personal information they may have. Here, they use the term sensitive but unclassified information. That is a category of government information that is entitled to heightened protection. But given some of the allegations that have been made over the years about Donald Trump and how he reveals information, addresses witnesses, they have a heightened concern here.

Now, Trump and Nauta have consented to this protective order. And, to me, the biggest message is, things are moving very quickly. That's the reputation of this Southern District of Florida. It's known in legal circles as a rocket docket. DOJ is clearly ready to turn over information and get moving with the case.

BLITZER: Dave Aronberg, you are with us as well. As Norm just mentioned, the special counsel's team says they are ready to provide unclassified discovery but this is still very, very sensitive information, isn't it?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: It is, and Norm is spot on. You have got a client here, Donald Trump, a defendant, who has loose lips, and he is liable to put sources on the social media site that he has, and then you have witness tampering, you have all these potential issues, and so you can see why there's an order here.

Now, this is not unusual. They are doing the same type of thing, Wolf, in New York, in the state case. There's a protective order similar to this. I think the crucial thing here is the words from Jack Smith that there's an ongoing investigation, that's Jack Smith talk for, I ain't done yet. And he can also, I think, bring additional charges in D.C., in Bedminster, and then there's January 6, which he is also investigating. And I think an indictment there is coming too.

BLITZER: Paula, how will the discovery process unfold from here?

REID: Well, first of all, with the sensitive information, the unclassified information in the weeks and months ahead, the prosecutors will have to share what they have gathered with the defense attorneys. So, they are trying to set up protections so that that information doesn't get out, like my colleagues mentioned, on Truth Social or that none of the witnesses are pressured.

Because, remember, almost everyone who was subpoenaed in this case worked for former President Trump. They subpoenaed everyone, from the I.T. worker all the way up to the chief operating officer. So, they want to make sure that their witnesses are protected, that their evidence is protected, there's no effort to interfere with what is arguably one of the most high-profile cases.

Now, then they will go into a more unusual phase, which is the classified materials. But before that happens, all of the defense attorneys need active clearances. Now, we know his current lawyers are in the process of getting those clearances, but I'm told as of this morning, they are still looking for an additional lawyer, an additional defense lawyer in Florida. That could take days, it could take weeks, and then it will take that individual weeks to get clearance before they can begin to review any of those classified documents.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. And Shan Wu is with us as well, former prosecutor. As Paula just mentioned, Shan, Trump's lawyers are already in touch with the U.S. Justice Department to at least start the process of getting these security clearances to work and to try the case. Walk us through how that works.

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They are going to be seeking a hurry-up process known as an interim clearance. There won't be time to finish a full background, which is quite exhaustive. They will interviewing neighbors, people that they had gone to school with, et cetera. But to get the interim in place, the FBI can work pretty quickly on that.

And as Paula said, I would expect them to be able to complete that process within a few weeks, assuming that Trump's lawyers get all their paperwork in, which is primarily a laborious listing of where you have lived, where you have worked, who could they interview to learn more about you. And I think that can happen very quickly. But it is more time, absolutely, because of the nature of the case.

Now, I do think it will be important for the special counsel to try to put in these guardrails of protecting this information, and that's the way that they can protect their case and even hold Trump accountable if he violates those rules.

BLITZER: Yes, good point, indeed. The sensitive documents, classified documents, they have to have security clearances to even look at them right now. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, the U.S. Justice Department's report on grave violations within the Minneapolis Police Department and how that led to the murder of George Floyd.


And guilty on all 63 counts, the reaction in Pittsburgh after a federal jury delivers a powerful verdict against the synagogue mass shooter.


BLITZER: Tonight, new evidence from the U.S. Department of Justice that the police murder of George Floyd was not an isolated incident. The attorney general of the United States releasing a very disturbing report on serious violations by the Minneapolis Police Department.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has more on the report and the reaction.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We found that the Minneapolis Police Department routinely uses excessive force.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): the attorney general and the Justice Department unleashing a scathing report Friday on Minneapolis Police failures, detailing systemic problems leading up to the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

GARLAND: The Minneapolis Police Department and the city of Minneapolis engaged in a pattern of practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

BROADDUS: Three years after Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, the DOJ findings reveal multiple examples of racial discrimination, excessive and unlawful use of force, First Amendment violations and a lack of accountability for officers within the department.


Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara now pledging major improvements.

CHIEF BRIAN O'HARA, MINNEAPOLIS POLICE: We will change the narrative around policing in this city.

BROADDUS: But longtime activists say the problems are deeply rooted and need more than transparency.

NEKIMA LEVY ARMSTRONG, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I'm unsure how far the DOJ will go in terms of pulling the curtain back on the horrific behaviors of Minneapolis police officers. As a matter of fact, the city has put out tens of millions of dollars in paying excessive force settlement agreements over the years, and this was before George Floyd was killed.

BROADDUS: The findings based on hundreds of police body cam videos and incident reports as well as complaints outline the use of dangerous techniques and weapons, from minor or even, quote, no offenses, including unjustified deadly force and that the MPD used force to punish people who made officers angry or criticize the police.

The mayor admitting the DOJ report echoes complaints the city has heard for years and that there needs to be fundamental change.

MAYOR JACOB FREY (D-MN), MINNEAPOLIS: Our success will be defined by the people of Minneapolis feeling safe. We are not going to stop.

BROADDUS: The report says Minneapolis Police, quote, patrolled neighborhoods differently based on their racial composition and discriminated based on race when searching, handcuffing or using force against people during stops.

GARLAND: MPD stopped black and Native American people nearly six times more often than white people.

BROADDUS: Local activists are cautiously optimistic. The report will not just inspire but require police to do better.

JEROME RICHARDSON, MINNESOTA TEEN ACTIVIST: Minneapolis is only a microscope of a huger issue.


BROADDUS (on camera): So, many might be wondering now what's next. A federal judge will appoint monitors to oversee and help implement some of the changes that were outlined in the report. That's called a consent decree. But this is something that could take up to three months or even a year before it is fully implemented and rolled out, Wolf.

BLITZER: Adrienne Broaddus in Minneapolis for us, thank you.

And let's get some more on all these developments. Joining us now, is Civil Rights Attorney Areva Martin and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Chief Ramsey.

Chief Ramsey, you've led two police departments in Philadelphia and here in Washington, D.C. What's your reaction to these very disturbing cases of deadly force against innocent people, one woman, just because she was spooked, she's supposedly spooked a police officer in Minneapolis?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, obviously, my reaction is the same as most people. I mean, it is a scathing report. There's no question about that at all. We noted they have very deep-seeded problems in that department.

The culture of that department needs radical change. A consent decree is going to help but it's got to go beyond a consent decree. They need strong leadership from first line supervision all the way up to the top. They have got to take a serious look at that union contract. It's very difficult to get rid of a bad police officer, so you have to do that. And they have got to start at the ground level trying to gain the trust of people.

It's not going to happen overnight because they are going to be working initially with the same people that are in the department right now, some of whom put them in the position that they are in. And so they are going to have to really take a look at the department. There are some people that just need to go and they need to be very careful in screening those new people that are coming in.

BLITZER: Areva, according to this new U.S. Justice Department report, Minneapolis Police targeted black people at higher rates than white people and treated neighborhoods differently based on their racial makeup. Just how pervasive is this discrimination?

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY AND LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes. Wolf, I wish I could say that this is an isolated situation and that this is an anomaly, but this is something we hear all too often with police departments around this country. There are 17 police departments now that are under consent decrees because of pervasive racist policing policies.

And what has been unearthed in Minneapolis is despicable, the kind of constitutional violations that have been outlined in that report. But I think what's even more troubling for me, Wolf, is that activists on the ground in Minneapolis have been alerting its city leadership about these problems for years. These problems aren't new, the community knew about them.

And like the activists in the piece earlier said, it seems like the police department in the city, they were more comfortable paying out millions and millions of dollars in police brutality settlements than making the real changes needed to provide constitutional policing to people of color. But this is not a new issue. Black people have been disproportionally negatively policed in this country for decades.


BLITZER: What do you think, Chief Ramsey? What's your reaction to that?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, there's a lot of truth to that, but I also think that we have got to also deal with the reality of crime that occurs in some communities more than others. And, usually, that's based on just poverty, poor people and so forth. There's no reason to police any differently, absolutely not. But we do have to deal with the reality of crime.

And as far as this issue of racism goes, is there racism? Yes, absolutely. There's racism in everything. But just because they found systemic racism within that department doesn't mean every single police officer in that city is racist, because that's just not the case.

But having said that, they have a serious problem that has to be addressed but it's going to take everybody, including the community, working together to deal with the serious issues that plague our communities, our neighborhoods and our police departments and our cities in general.

BLITZER: Good point. Charles Ramsey, Areva Martin, to both of you, thank you very much for joining us.

I want to go to Pittsburgh right now and the new verdict against the gunman in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, a federal jury finding the shooter guilty of all 63 counts, including crimes that can be punished with the death penalty.

CNN's Danny Freeman has been covering the trial for us in Pittsburgh. Danny, today was an emotional day for so many people impacted by this horrific shooting.

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Wolf. An emotional day and it really follows an emotional several weeks and years waiting for this day in court, this moment of justice and so many families who have been watching and impacted by the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

I want to just describe some of what happened in court today as the judge is reading out those convictions, those 63 federal charges, found guilty. The courtroom was silent, Wolf. You could hear a pin drop. And is should that Robert Bowers, the defendant, he was fairly emotionless in the court as those verdicts were being read off. But then once the 22 capital offense charges were read, and, again, the verdict was guilty, then a little bit of the air was left of the room and you could hear some of the family members and survivors start to sniffle and really feel the emotion of that moment.

But, again, Wolf, I just want to go over those charges specifically. I said 63 federal charges, Bowers found guilty of all of them, including the 22 capital offenses that we have been talking so much about. And the primary one here is the obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death.

Basically, the jury found Robert Bowers guilty of killing 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue back in October of 2018 while they were exercising their religious belief. And we actually heard from some community members today and got their reaction to the verdict. Listen to one of the presidents of one of the congregations that was impacted all those years ago.


JO RECHT, PRESIDENT, DOR HADASH CONGREGATION: I am feeling a sense of relief that after 4.5 years, the world has heard again about the horrific acts on October 27, 2018, and the shooter is being held accountable for those awful acts.


FREEMAN: Now, Wolf, at this point, we are all eyes towards the penalty phase of the trial. Jury will be back June 26th to discuss the death penalty. And I should say, Wolf, that we heard the prosecution call 60 witnesses during the guilt phase of this trial. The defense called zero people to the stand. We are waiting to see if they put up more of a defense now that the gunman's life is at stake. Wolf?

BLITZER: Danny Freeman at Pittsburgh for us, thank you.

Coming up, we will go live to a Texas town devastated by a deadly tornado. Tens of millions of Americans still under severe weather threats tonight.

Stay with us. You are in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Tonight a disaster has been declared in Texas after a deadly outbreak of tornadoes and severe storms.

CNN's Isabel Rosales is joining us now live from Perryton, in Texas, which suffered extreme damage during last night's twister. Isabel, so, what are you seeing on the ground there right now?

ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Well, this tornado certainly packed a punch. According to the fire chief, the trail of damage runs about a mile-and-a-half long straight through the downtown. Right behind me you can see what remains of some of the most vulnerable structures, mobile homes, now really just twisted metal.

But since the sun rose we have really seen a flurry activity, neighbors, volunteers all offering to lend a hand. This is a small town of 8,500 people. So, there's certainly that desire to help one another out.

Let me give you a bird's eye view of that destruction. You can see heavy machinery, power crews, all of them working to clean up and eventually rebuild. And, of course, the most precious factor of all human life, the death toll, three people dead, including an 11-year- old little boy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tornado just went through town.

ROSALES (voice over): A severe weather threat continues for parts of the U.S., just one day after storms cut a deadly path across Texas and Florida. The small town of Perryton, Texas, devastated by a tornado.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just devastated this area.

ROSALES: At least three people died and up to 100 more were sent to the hospital when the storm hit Texas panhandle community, leveling parts of some neighborhoods.


JAMIE JAMES, PERRYTON RESIDENT: The tornado formed and it just dropped on us. It came out of nowhere. There was no sirens, no time to get to shelter.

ROSALES: Jamie James was forced to ride out the storm in her truck near her home.

JAMES: And I just laid down in my seat and turned my head towards the back of my seat.

ROSALES: Her home is standing but other buildings destroyed.

Another man said he is just grateful his family is still alive.

VICTOR MUNOZ, PERRYTON RESIDENT: I'm just happy my brothers are alive. I mean, I know all the property and everything, accessories can be replaced but a life can never be replaced.

ROSALES: And take a look at these photos posted on the Perryton Fire Department's Facebook page. The department said it took a direct hit. The fire trucks and ambulances are still drivable. The first responders are working with federal emergency teams as residents try to salvage their homes or businesses. And a local high school has been opened its doors to those seeking help.

COLE UNDERWOOD, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR, PERRYTON HIGH SCHOOL: We moved pretty quickly to make this a safe haven for people to get to here in town. The shock is still setting in. The sadness, the anger, every emotion that people can be going through, they are going through.


ROSALES (on camera): And according to Xcel Energy, they had to turn off the power to the city due to safety reasons with so many power lines and transmission lines that are down.

Now, at last check, 6,800 customers in this county are without power. And through Texas, it is over 185,000 customers without power.

I also wanted to make reference to a big hit in this community beyond the residential, industrial areas, the downtown that has been devastated, but also the fire department, such a crucial resource. The tornado took -- did a direct hit to that facility. So many of the trucks, according to the fire chief, have been damaged but are still, those trucks and ambulances, drivable at this point. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Isabel, thank you very much, on the scene for us, Isabel Rosales in Texas.

For the latest forecast, let's bring in our Meteorologist Chad Myers right now. He is joining us from the CNN Weather Center. So, what are you seeing right now, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We still have big storms in parts of Virginia and Maryland right now, a couple across parts of Alabama and into Colorado. But, yesterday, 13 tornadoes on the ground, there was one in Michigan, three in Ohio, one in Florida, in Alabama, one as well, and, of course, Texas and Oklahoma.

The Texas storm that did hit Perryton was now rated as an EF-2. That's up to 135 miles per hour. But they continue looking at it to see if they see any stronger winds than that.

And just for some reference, because I did hear someone say that they didn't hear any sirens, the warning was put out four minutes before the town was actually hit, four minutes. That's how quickly the storm spun up. The radar caught it. The weather service from Amarillo did put out the warning. But, boy, for some people, that was just too late, didn't have time to go anywhere. So, four minutes from just a severe thunderstorm to a tornado on the ground. That's why you need to be so diligent when you hear some kind of a warning, if your phone goes off, it's time to move now.

There's the weather now in Hampton Roads, could see some flooding from this as well, some flash flood warnings being issued here. Some storms around Memphis all the way back down just to the west of Birmingham, and this is the weather I'm talking about in Colorado. And they will take the rain in Colorado because it's been so very dry.

We move ahead, though, to tomorrow. And what's going to happen with this heat index, these warnings that are out. Heat index across parts Texas will be 115 degrees tomorrow afternoon, big numbers, humidity high, temperatures over 100 degrees. And look at Austin. This is not the heat index. This is the temperature, 104 all the way through the weekend into the beginning of next week, every single day, talking about the power grid there for sure. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Chad, thank you very much, Chad Myers at the CNN Weather Center.

Just ahead the personal data of millions of Americans compromised by a massive cyberattack. What you need to know about the hack, that's next.



BLITZER: As Ukraine claims slow but steady progress in its new counteroffensive, Russia is hammering the region around the capital city of Kyiv with new missile strikes.

Our Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is joining us now live from Kyiv. He's got details. What's the situation where you are now, Sam?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Excuse me, Wolf. Well, just as the -- as it's now predictable almost, Kyiv came under a sustained attack with Kinzhal missiles, six of them, six of the caliber cruise missiles in a very targeted effort to try to break through the defenses of Kyiv, which is yet another sign that the Russian president, in fact, he even said as much, could, he said, have targeted Kyiv in a more aggressive way but are choosing not to. That is not our experience here on the ground where these 12 missiles were shot down. But it wasn't for the want of trying of these missiles to get through. And, possibly, as a consequence of the success of the Ukrainian air defenses, Vladimir Putin has re-upped his nuclear threat. This is what he said.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: The use of nuclear weapons undoubtedly is theoretically possible for Russia. For Russia, it's possible if there's a threat to our territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty, to the existence of the Russian state.



KILEY: Now, the future existence of the Russian federation could mean anything. And I think that ambiguity is deliberate, Wolf. Because, really, what he is saying is not to Ukraine, it's not a threat to Ukraine, so much as a threat to Ukraine's NATO partners, particularly those Baltic states close to Belarus now will be within danger of being hit with these tactical nukes once they are established there, trying to get the NATO states to back off, Wolf, from their supply of weapons to this country as it prosecutes its counteroffensive, particularly surface-to-air missiles to try to counter the overwhelming dominance that the Russians still have in the air. Wolf?

BLITZER: Sam Kiley on the scene for us, stay safe over there. Thank you very much.

More news we are following in The Situation Room, very disturbing news, a sprawling cyberattack has compromised the personal data of millions of Americans.

CNN National Security Reporter Natasha Bertrand is gathering new information for us right now. Give us more detail on what these hackers obtained and how it might actually affect so many millions of people.

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. This is a really sprawling global cyberattack, cyber campaign that has impacted hundreds of companies across the U.S., seen millions of people have their personal data, including social security numbers, exposed, and has actually impacted federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, as well as universities, including Johns Hopkins and Georgia's statewide university system.

Now, it is still unclear exactly what has been taken from the federal government agencies, but U.S. officials did tell us that they don't think the hackers were able to actually obtain anything significant. But the hackers are being extremely aggressive in their demands of the people that they are trying to extort. They are posting online threatening the victims, saying they want their money essentially in order to release their data before they post it elsewhere on the web and expose it further. In one instance, a source told my colleague, Sean Lyngaas, that they have demanded $100 million from one corporate entity to try to get their data back.

And so we are told these hackers are Russian-speaking hackers who are basically specialists in this kind of ransomware. And while they have not contacted any federal agencies and insisted that the pay to get their data back, it is still unclear, of course, whether they obtained anything that could be significant and could potentially expose U.S. government information, of course, that the government doesn't want out there.

So, it remains to be seen how this plays out, but it really goes to show how one software vulnerability used by such a wide swath of entities can create such a devastating situation, because what appears to have happened is that this was a software that was widely used by many corporations, entities, state and local governments, that was a file transfer software. It's fairly mundane, while the company that owns that software says that it has discovered not just one but two vulnerabilities. So, this could actually expand into an even a bigger hack than we thought, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, so disturbing, indeed, so worrisome. All right, Natasha, thank you very much.

Coming up, the first lady, Jill Biden, wading into political waters. What she's saying about former President Trump's classified documents case and its impact on the GOP. That's next.



BLITZER: First Lady Jill Biden is slamming former President Trump and praising her husband in a new interview. Listen.


JILL BIDEN, U.S. FIRST LADY: I thought that the last administration was filled with chaos and confusion. And in my husband's administration, I feel that he has offered Americans strong, steady leadership. And I think that's why he was elected. And I think that's why they will elect him again.


BLITZER: I want to bring in our national correspondent Kristen Holmes.

Kristen, it's unusually to have the first lady of the United States take the lead in attacking a political opponent.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and it's particular unusual because we know the White House themselves have really embraced this kind of strategy of silence when it comes to talking about Trump's legal issues. Now, this is also coming at a time where we know Jill Biden has been trying to raise money for the Biden campaign. So, clearly, she's going to play a prominent role in the campaign and taking a prominent voice in attacking Republicans.

But I do want to point out one interesting note here. While Jill Biden is taking on Trump and kind of painting this as a choice between Biden and Trump, this is also what the Trump team is doing. They want to paint this as a choice between Biden and Trump. I reported earlier that this is part of their legal strategy, trying to shift the public opinion by changing the narrative.

They want this to be political. They want to say all of his legal problems are political. They do that by saying Biden doesn't want to run against Trump, essentially, bypassing the primary. He has not become the nominee yet. It's interesting that they are taking on almost a similar tactic in terms of making this a choice between the two candidates.

BLITZER: And interestingly that Ron DeSantis has joined many of his 2024 Republican rivals in floating a potential pardon for Trump. I want our viewers to listen to this. Listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Part of it is using your Article 2 powers to redress wrongs, including potentially pardons. And so, we said even before this happened with Trump, we have people who have been wronged before we come into office apply. We will look. If there was a different standard, we will be inclined to grant clemency in those situations.


BLITZER: Has this issue, Kristen, become a litmus test for the Republican candidates who are out there? Is Trump likely to respond?

HOLMES: We will likely not going to hear from Trump on this because I said, he doesn't want to be engaging his primary opponents. He wants to paint this as a competition between him and Biden, essentially saying that his polls are so high, he doesn't need to engage.


However, when you talk about a litmus test, this is clearly an issue that these candidates are going to have to answer for and something they're going to have to figure out how to craft their answer for. It goes to show you just how powerful Trump is in this race, as we talk about, how much oxygen he steals in this race.

They don't want to be talking about Trump and pardoning Trump and his legal issues. They want to talk about their vision, their policies. Yet, here we are at another turn of the wheel, and this is likely not to be the final legal battle that they are asked about. Just interesting to note that they are going to have to continue to answer questions about this as we move forward in this 2024 race.

BLITZER: Good point. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much.

This note to our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", right after THE SITUATION ROOM, the conservative activist who has Trump's ear. The sources say he told Trump to hold on to those classified documents, defending the former president tonight. That's coming up right at the top of the hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, young people of Montana are banding together to sue their state for failing to take action on climate change. We have details on this highly unusual court fight right after the break.



BLITZER: In Montana, a group of young environmentalist -- environmental activists is asking a court to force the state to go green. The so-called "Climate Kids" say Montana's reliance on the fossil fuel industry is violating their constitutional rights.

Our chief climate correspondent Bill Weir has a closer look at this first of its kind trial.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Big Sky Country, it's a story fit for a big screen. On one side 16 young people from ranches, reservations and boomtowns across Montana ranging in age from 5 to 22. On the other side, the Republican led state of Montana, which lost a three year fight to keep this case out of court.

But it is still determined to let fossil fuels keep flowing. Despite the warnings from science, that burning them will only melt more glaciers, black and more skies and ravaged more rivers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on the evidence you've seen. Does it point to harm for these you plaintiffs?

STEVEN W. RUNNING, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA: Climbed out and accelerating Harm in the future.

WEIR: And the whole plot pivots around the Montana constitution that promises the state shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment for present and future generations.

NATE BELLINGER, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY OF OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST: They filed several different motions to try and have the case dismissed. None of those motions have been successful.

WEIR: While the first week included scientists testifying to the data.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Stanford, has fishing for bull trout and native cutthroat trout already been impacted by climate change?


WEIR: The emotion has come from plaintiffs laying out their stories of loss.

SARIE SANDOVAL, PLAINTIFF, OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST: You know, it's really scary seeing what you care for disappear right in front of your eyes.

BELLINGER: How does it make you feel knowing that the state is not considering climate impacts in its permitting decisions?

SANDOVAL: Makes me feel like the state is prioritizing profits over people because they know that there is visible harm coming to the land and to the people. And they're still choosing to make money instead of care for Montanans.

WEIR: While the State's Attorneys briefly questioned the plaintiff's ability to connect her mental health to the climate, they've mainly saved cross examination for the experts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the judge ordered that we stopped using fossil fuels in Montana, with that get us to the point where these plaintiffs are no longer being harmed and your opinion?

RUNNING: We can tell in advance because what is been shown in history over and over and over again, as when a significant social movement is needed. That often is started by one or two or three people.

RIKKI HELD, LEAD PLAINTIFF, OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST: I know that climate change is a global issue, but Montanans take responsibility for our part in that. You can't just walk off into nothing about. It WEIR: Judge Kathy Seeley doesn't have the power to shut down any

extraction or usage of fossil fuels. But a judgment for the young plaintiffs could set a powerful precedent for Our Children's Trust.

BELLINGER: I think we're really at a tipping point right now.

WEIR: The Oregon nonprofit is also helping kids in Hawaii sue their state over tailpipe emissions. And they've revived Juliana v. United States, the Federal case that could end up before the Supreme Court.

CLAIRE VLASES, PLAINTIFF OF OUR CHILDREN'S TRUST: I just recently graduated high school but I think it's something everyone knows, is that we have three branches of government for a reason. The judicial branch is there to keep a check on the other two branches. And that's what we're doing here.

WEIR: Claire Vlases grew up in beautiful booming, Bozeman and like the other kids too young to vote, she sees the courts as the only place for someone like her to have a voice.

VLASES: It's hard knowing the power to make changes in the hands of other people, especially my government. And I hope that as a young person, we might actually have a chance to make a difference and for my life and for my kids life. You know, not all hope maybe lost.


WEIR (on camera): The plaintiffs just wrapped their case, the state has all of next week to mount a defense, Wolf, but they just told the judge they probably won't need it. They argue that while there is a lot of emotion from the plaintiffs, this is really a boring case about statues with no real teeth, but given the stakes, given the uniqueness of this, there are plenty of people watching on both sides of the climate debate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Young people are so impressive. Bill Weir, thank you very much.

This note to our viewers, my award-winning CNN documentary, "Never Again", about the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington, D.C., is now available to stream on Max.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Enjoy your Father's Day weekend.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.