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Ukraine: Rescues Under Way After Kramatorsk Strike; Putin Puts On A Show Of Strength After Mutiny; Putin: Wagner Has Had Full Funding By Russia; Will Investigate How The Money Was Spent; Trump Insist "I Did Nothing Wrong" In First Reaction To Audio Obtained Exclusively By CNN; Belarusian President In The Spotlight Amid Turmoil And Revolt In Neighboring Russia; CNN Obtains Audio Of Trump Discussing Classified Docs; Supreme Court Reject Right-Wing Legal Theory That Would Have Had Major Impact On Elections. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 27, 2023 - 17:00   ET


BIANNA GOLOODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And don't miss tonight, my colleague Erin Burnett's full interview with the Ukrainian foreign minister about that revolt in Russia and what it means for the war in Ukraine. That is tonight at 07:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for watching. I'm Bianna Golodryga in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in the "Situation Room."


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, rescues are underway after another deadly Russian missile strike in eastern Ukraine. Local officials accusing Russian forces of deliberately targeting crowded civilian areas right in the center of the city of Kramatorsk.

In Russia tonight, Vladimir Putin is attempting to show strength after the mutiny by Wagner mercenaries. This as we have a new satellite image suggesting the Wagner chief is indeed in exile right now in Belarus.

And Donald Trump is now responding to the audio obtained exclusively by CNN in which he acknowledges having secret documents he did not declassify. Stand by to hear the recordings and what Trump is saying now.

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

We begin in Ukraine with the new Russian missile strike on a very crowded city center. The death toll now up to at least four, including a baby and more than 40 injured. CNN's Ben Wedeman is joining us no live from Kramatorsk, where it's obviously very dangerous right now.

Ben, give us the latest. BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand from the authorities that the death toll now stands at four, with a 17-year-old girl among them, as well as 42 injured among them, and eight month old baby. Now, this happened at 7:32 in the evening when this -- the restaurant that seems to have been the target was full of people, full of soldiers, full of civilians. There are also indications that perhaps in the basement dining room of that restaurant, there was some sort of party there as well. So, all expectations are that the casualty numbers are going to rise.

Now, when were at the site, we had to leave suddenly because there was word that an air raid might happen, and therefore the rescue workers and everybody else who was around had to leave the area and all work had to halt. Now, we believe the work has resumed, but there's a lot of work to be done, Wolf. We actually managed to get inside the most damaged area. What we saw were rescue workers digging desperately in the rubble. They also brought a crane in to try to lift these huge slabs of concrete that had fallen.

And it was a huge explosion. We're not quite sure if it was one missile strike or two, because the extent of the damage wasn't just around the restaurant, but in the entire area. I saw, for instance, one car engine that was actually thrown across the street. We saw one woman who was desperate to find out about what had happened to her, two adult children who were working inside the restaurant. Lots of people just trying to find news of loved ones who were either patrons or workers there.

So, this is obviously not the first time Kramatorsk has been struck, but it was struck at a time and in a place that was full of people. Wolf.

BLITZER: Civilians, indeed. Was there legitimately any kind of military target that could have been the target right now? Because this looks -- the images that you're showing our viewers right now and you're there in Kramatorsk for us, Ben, the images are so awful. These buildings completely destroyed. Looks like civilian areas, almost completely residential or retail.

WEDEMAN: Yes, it's a civilian area. The restaurant had soldiers who went there, but it was a civilian restaurant. It's a residential area, really right in the middle of Kramatorsk, just down the street, there's the city's main supermarket, there's a post office nearby, there was a jewelry shop around the corner. So this was a busy area of the city. And this is a city which, for instance, I was here in April and March of last year, the city was a ghost town.

But now, because this is very close to the front line, there are lots of soldiers, but also the situation has stabilized to such an extent that many people have begun to return. And it's the middle of summer, it's nice and warm, so people are out enjoying themselves, going to restaurants, going to shops, just enjoying the warm summer weather. So, yes, this is -- there's nothing really legitimate about targeting

the middle of a town, regardless of whether there are soldiers or civilians there. Wolf.


BLITZER: Good point. Ben Wedeman, be careful over there. Thank you very, very much.

Let's go to Russia right now where President Vladimir Putin had more to say today about the mutiny by Wagner mercenary fighters. The future of his regime under intense scrutiny right now, indeed, around the world as well. CNN's Matthew Chance is joining us live from Moscow.

Matthew, what did President Putin say to his security forces?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He basically expressed his gratitude to them, showed his appreciation for the fact they didn't join the military uprising led by Wagner against them. At the weekend, the chief of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, of course, begun he's exile now, according to the country's president in Belarus -- in the neighboring country of Belarus. Meanwhile, here in Russia, Vladimir Putin has been embarking on a series of formal appearances to try and sort of bolster or stabilize his shaken authority.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

CHANCE (voice-over): This is Kremlin damage control in full swing, using the trappings of the Russian presidency to patch up Putin's battered image and to portray a deal ending the armed Wagner rebellion here as a feat not of weakness, but of national unity.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): You have defended the constitutional order, the life, security and freedom of our citizens, saved our motherland from upheavals, and actually stopped the civil war.

CHANCE (voice-over): The Kremlin insists Putin's biggest challenge in 23 years of power is actually bringing Russia closer together. The problem is that's not entirely true.

MULTIPLE SPEAKERS: (Chanting) Wagner, Wagner, Wagner, Wagner.

CHANCE (voice-over): Images of Russians cheering Wagner forces will have sent chill through the Kremlin. Not all Russians welcomed the mutiny, but few turned out to resist it either, despite what the Kremlin said.

And what of the man who exposed this serious crack in Kremlin authority? Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner leader has now arrived in neighboring Belarus, according to its officials, after charges of insurrection against him and his fighters in Russia were dropped.

It's possible Wagner fighters could now work alongside the Belarussian military, suggests Aleksandr Lukashenko, the country's leader, though he said no camps for them had yet been built. The Russian Defense Ministry says the mercenary group must first surrender its heavy weapons. And the Kremlin, which now admits fully funding Wagner, says it will investigate how more than a billion dollars recently paid for salaries and bonuses was really spent.

Back at the Kremlin, a minute's silence for the Russian pilots killed in Prigozhin's uprising. Putin may find it hard to forgive a man who shattered his image of control and who he says stabbed Russia in the back.


CHANCE: Wolf, and I have to tell you what's happened to some of Putin's enemies in the past poisoned, jailed, even killed. There's not been any confirmation from Yevgeny Prigozhin tonight about what his status is, but I have to say it's hard to imagine he's got real security guarantees in a country which is where Vladimir Putin has such a powerful influence, Wolf.

BLITZER: Point indeed. Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you very much.

I want to bring in our Russia experts right now. Jill Dougherty is joining us and Dmitri Alperovitch is joining us as well.

Jill, Russia launched this deadly strike on Kramatorsk and the images are awful. What picture is emerging so far about how Putin will approach this war in the wake of the Wagner mutiny?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: You know, Wolf, I think the war continues as the war will continue. Whatever their strategy is, they will continue. But I think back home in Russia, that's where we have to keep watching because we are really still in the midst of this entire debacle, this -- whatever it was that took place over the last few days, and the significance for Putin, and also what happens to Prigozhin.


I mean, I think today when, as Matthew mentioned, Putin talked about the billion dollars given to Wagner in just one year. Putin also said, kind of as an aside, I hope they didn't steal too much. So that might be an indication that, you know, the Kremlin could take action against Prigozhin on economic, financial basis. So there's still a lot to happen in this story.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

And Dmitri, to Jill's point, why did Putin openly admit that the Russian state fully funded the Wagner group?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, RUSSIA AND GEOPOLITICS EXPERTS: Well, to Jill's point, I think at this point he's still seething about this mutiny. He's still thinking about what he can do to go after Prigozhin. And I wouldn't be surprised if they open up a case, a criminal case, not necessarily for the mutiny itself, because he promised them amnesty for that, but certainly theft of state resources, corruption, tax evasion, all the things we know that Prigozhin has been involved in are all on the table here from Putin's perspective to try to go after him. And by the way, Belarus extradites people to Russia, so he's not that safe in Belarus. BLITZER: That's an important point as well.

Jill, following up on that, now that we're seeing these new satellite images suggesting that Prigozhin is in Belarus, what do you think lies ahead for this exiled Wagner chief?

DOUGHERTY: You know, I think at this point, Wolf, he's going to try to make sure that he preserves his empire. That means money. So, whether he gets money from, let's say, the operations in Africa, whether he'll be allowed to keep those, whether he gets any more money, I doubt it from the Russian government, but I think it's really preserving what he can and maybe not ending up either dead or in prison.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, as usual, thanks very much. Dmitri Alperovitch, thanks to you as well.

Let's get some more on all these dramatic developments that are unfolding right now. I want to bring in retired U.S. General David Petraeus. He's the former CIA director of the former commander of the U.S. military's Central Command.

General Petraeus, thank you so much for joining us. As we see these devastating images from this latest deadly Russian strike on Ukraine, how do you expect the Wagner mutiny will influence Putin's approach to this war in Ukraine?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. CENTCOM: Well, I think the central issue here is that Putin and his military have lost quite a capable force. Keep in mind that the only success in the winter offensive that was concluded a couple of months ago was that achieved by the Wagner group when they took Bakhmut, terrible losses in doing so. But again, they did actually achieve the objectives set out for them. That force has now been withdrawn from the battlefield and now it's no longer an option of bringing it back into the fold.

And depending on how large you assess that was, the numbers go as high as 25,000, some also a good bit lower than that. Those forces are no longer available. Prigozhin himself is no longer available. For all of his thuggish acts and so forth, he was on the front lines, he was with his soldiers. And by the way, that thuggish approach had some appeal to those in the ranks and also, frankly, to some throughout Russia.


PETRAEUS: So, again, that's the biggest single issue right now. The question beyond this is, does this undermine Russian morale? Prigozhin's criticisms of the minister of defense, chief of the general staff, the decision to launch the war the way the war was being conducted, all of which, of course, enraged Putin in the end, when this gets to the soldiers, will it cause them to question what it is that they're doing?

And then, can the Ukrainians capitalize on this? They've been conducting all of these probing attacks, reconnaissance and force positioning these new armored brigades that are full of the Western tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, can they then capitalize on this? Crack the Russian lines, force the Russians to start moving in response to that, and then really build on that and generate momentum that could ultimately allow them to cut that ground line of communication from Russia through southeastern Ukraine to Crimea.

BLITZER: I thought it was interesting today, General, that Putin, in his remarks, his public remarks, he tried to shore up his hold on power, but he also admitted that the Russian state funded the Wagner group to the tune, he said, of about a billion dollars just in the last year. How significant is that? And could it actually wind up backfiring on Putin?

PETRAEUS: Well, I'm sure he mentioned, again, as Dmitri suggested, this could be grounds for an investigation. By the way, I'm not sure that that was necessarily funding for the Wagner group per se in entirety, I think some of it also was literally that the Wagner group, that Prigozhin himself had contracts for life support for the Russian forces. So this denies him that part of his revenue.


Of course, the decision by the minister of defense to force the Wagner group soldiers to sign contracts with the ministry rather than to stay under the Wagner group, that was another essentially existential threat to Prigozhin that angered him and forced him, led him to impulsively decide to conduct this mutiny until of course he was two hours away from Moscow with his forces and realized this wasn't going to turn out very well. And he took the deal that was offered to go into exile in Belarus.

One additional point here, I'm sure that there's a lot of uncertainty in Putin's mind about whether he still wants Prigozhin to be the head of the Wagner Group, albeit outside Russia and Ukraine. The actions of Wagner, as you know, have been very helpful in Syria to a degree, in North Africa, certainly in West Africa. It's also enriched, again, Prigozhin and enabled him to fund the Wagner Group. But I don't think that without a succession plan that they necessarily want to take Prigozhin out of that for fear that that would undermine those particular activities which are part in the sense of the Russian Federation's foreign policy.

BLITZER: Yes, very important points indeed. General David Petraeus, thanks so much for joining us. We'll, of course, continue this conversation down the road.

Coming up, we're going to have much more on the impact of the Russian mutiny, including out there on the battlefield in Ukraine. Much more coming up on that.

And also coming up next, Donald Trump's response to that audio obtained exclusively by CNN. It's key evidence in the classified documents case and Trump's criminal indictment. Stay with us. You're in the Situation Room.


[17:20:57] BLITZER: Donald Trump is on the defensive tonight about audio obtained exclusively by CNN recordings related to his indictment for retaining classified documents. The former president insisting once again that he's done nothing wrong. CNN's Sara Murray is joining us right now. She's here with me in the Situation Room. She's got details.

Tell us more about these recordings and how they potentially go to the heart of the Special Counsel Jack Smith's criminal case against the former president.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I mean, CNN has reported extensively on the existence of this recording, but to hear Donald Trump in his own voice talking about this very sensitive government document, he's in a meeting with a bunch of people who don't have security clearances, people who are working on a book by Mark Meadows, former White House Chief of Staff, and a couple of his own staffers. And Trump acknowledges in this tape that he does not have the ability to declassify the document he's talking about. Take a listen to the tape.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was done by the military given to me. I think we can probably, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know, we'll have to see. Yes, we'll have to try to --

TRUMP: Declassify it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- figure out a -- yes.

TRUMP: See as president I could have declassified it.


TRUMP: Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, now we have a problem.

TRUMP: Isn't that interesting.


TRUMP: It's so cool. I mean, it's so -- look, her and I, and you probably almost didn't believe me, but now you believe me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I believed you.

TRUMP: It's incredible, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they never met a war they didn't want.

TRUMP: Hey, bring some cokes in please.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MURRAY: Wolf, you can hear this very jovial, you know, almost joking tone, the way they're talking about this document. You know, he notes that he can't declassify it anymore, and his staffer says, oh, now we've got a problem, and everyone's laughing at the end, Trump calls for someone to bring in cokes. That kind of gives you an idea of sort of how he viewed these things, Wolf.

BLITZER: And also replaced some sound we just got in of Trump responding a bit more. I want you and our viewers to listen to this.


TRUMP: I had a whole desk full of lots of papers and mostly newspaper articles, copies of magazines, copies of different plans, copies of stories having to do with many, many subjects. And what was said was absolutely fine and very perfectly. We did nothing wrong. This is a whole hoax.


BLITZER: He loves to say that, this is a whole hoax.

MURRAY: He says it's a whole hoax. I mean, he said so many excuses. He said he declassified everything. Well, we can tell in the tape that that is not true. You know, he said previously that this document, and again, he says, you know, there was no document, these are just magazine newspaper clippings.

But when you listen to the tape and the way he's talking about these papers, he's rustling, he says, I'll show you an example. He says, these are the papers. You know, he keeps talking about these pieces of paper as if they're there. And in the Meadows book that these writers are working on, they describe this document. You know, they describe it as a four page document.

They leave out the part that it's a very sensitive government document. So you get an idea of why prosecutors are so interested in this, why they put it in the indictment.

BLITZER: Yes, sharing very classified, highly classified information with people who don't have security clearances, and that's a serious problem for him.

MURRAY: Right.

BLITZER: And he's openly acknowledging that in this audio tape. Thanks very much, Sara, for that report.

Let's get some more on the legal and the political ramifications of this audio recording. Andrew McCabe, you're the former deputy director of the FBI, this recording really gets to Trump's intent and his knowledge about these tapes, just how potentially damaging is this tape, this audio tape, to his defense?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Wolf, I think it's devastating. I think it's always very powerful for the prosecution to be able to put a recording of the defendant in front of the jury. A recording in which the defendant is essentially committing the crime that he's been accused of here. He is acknowledging that he has possession of these documents. He's showing that he knows he has possession of those documents, so the intent element is there, and then he describes them to the people in the room who he knows are not authorized to receive them.

It is very powerful evidence. It's almost impossible to imagine an effective defense to this interaction. If this tape gets in front of the jury, which I think it will, they'll fight over that a bit, but I think it gets in front of the jury, ultimately, it's going to be very impactful.


BLITZER: Yes, I think you're absolutely right.

Carrie Cordero, we don't know whether the prosecutors have the actual classified document that Trump is describing on this recording, but how crucial is that document to the prosecution's case?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think they at least will have to show the existence of the document that he's describing, and it's likely that some version of that document exists in other places in government. So, I would imagine that if they were not able -- and we still don't know if they were not able to recover the specific document that they believe he is referencing that was on his desk at that particular moment, then they at least would have to demonstrate the existence of the document of what he's describing.

I also think, Wolf, that the corroborating testimony of the other individuals who are in that room with him on the audio will be really important because they are the people who, if this does end up going to a jury trial and the former president doesn't plead out between now and then, they are the people who will be able to make the connection between yes, what we're hearing on the audio is him saying, here's a classified document, and yes, I, the witness, am observing that it is a classified document.

BLITZER: Yes, very important.

Beth Sanner, you're the former Deputy Director of National Intelligence. Trump seems to indicate that he was holding a secret Pentagon document with plans to actually go ahead and attack Iran. Just how sensitive is a document like that?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think it is incredibly sensitive. I've heard some people say that some of these documents aren't sensitive anymore because they're out of date. You know, after time passes, it's no longer sensitive, but you cannot put this document in that category. We know that Iran currently is enriching uranium like crazy well above what they were entitled to under the JCPOA, and President Biden has said that we have to keep all options on the table for dealing with that, including the military option. So, if Iran gets this document, we lose our deterrence effect against Iran and literally American lives are at risk. So, I really -- it's hard for me to imagine a document that isn't more relevant to today than to U.S. national security.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, the transcript of this tape, transcript was already known, but do you think actually hearing the audio could change the dynamic in the Republican primary?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in the short term, I think no. Talking to a variety of Republicans today, the reality is a lot of this is already built in. The Republican Party is very split right now. About half would like to see someone else nominated, about half would like to turn the page. The other half would like to stick with the former president.

But all of this is built into sort of this ongoing campaign. I was speaking with an evangelical minister in Iowa who would desperately like the party to nominate someone else. He told me, look, I don't think this moves the needle much at all. He was sort of regretful about that because he believes that some people view this as a badge of honor, his words, other people simply are ready to move on.

So, I think even hearing these sounds from the former president, we've heard so much over the last eight years, voters have just been inundated by so much information. Even though Republican voters are likely to render judgment on him before jurors ever will, there's just not a sense that a majority, a large majority of the Republican Party will turn against him. But, Wolf, you just never know. There is an opening in the Republican Party among Republican voters to turn the page, again, half the party. But he doesn't need half the party to win the nomination, he can do that by 25 percent or 30 percent.

So, even though these recordings are damning legally, politically, that is not necessarily the case, at least as of right now.

BLITZER: That's an important point. Guys, thank you very much.

Up next, we're going to have a closer look at the man who played a key role in crushing the Wagner rebellion, the Belarusian president, Aleksandr Lukashenko. Stay with us. You're in the Situation Room.


BLITZER: After a turbulent weekend in Russia, the president of neighboring Belarus is suddenly in the spotlight for his role in quashing the Wagner rebellion. CNN's Brian Todd has a closer look at Aleksandr Lukashenko.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The embattled Russian president had words of thanks for a man he's been more used to ordering around.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): I'm grateful to the president of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, for his efforts and his contribution for this peaceful resolution.

TODD (voice-over): Meet the newest and maybe most unlikely peace broker in the Ukraine war, Aleksandr Lukashenko, the 68-year-old strongman who's ruled his country with intimidation and repression for nearly three decades. Lukashenko is giving new details on his efforts last Saturday to stop Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner forces from making their way to Moscow, a deal which likely prevented considerable bloodshed. Belarus's longtime dictator says he was blunt with Prigozhin when Prigozhin claimed he was ready to proceed toward Moscow.

PRES. ALEKSANDR LUKASHENKO, BELARUS (through translator): I said halfway. You will be just crushed like a bug.

TODD (voice-over): Lukashenko says early in the standoff, he spoke with Putin on the phone, and the Russian president complained that he could didn't get Prigozhin on the phone. Lukashenko says he had to talk Putin out of moving to crush Prigozhin's forces.


LUKASHENKO (through translator): I also realized there was a harsh decision taken to destroy. I suggested to Putin not to hurry. Let's talk with Prigozhin, with his commanders.

TODD (voice-over): Lukashenko says he negotiated with Prigozhin all day, but first had to get past Prigozhin's salty language.

LUKASHENKO (through translator): We talked for the first round of 30 minutes in a swear language exclusively. There were 10 times more swear words than normal vocabulary. Of course, he apologized in advance and began to tell me everything using these obscene words.

TODD (voice-over): After hours of tense discussions, Lukashenko says, Prigozhin accepted his terms. And when Prigozhin became concerned that Russian forces might still try to destroy his Wagner units, it was he, Lukashenko, who guaranteed Prigozhin's security.

LUKASHENKO (through translator): I say they won't. I guarantee you. I'll take it upon myself.

TODD (voice-over): Lukashenko says Prigozhin came to Belarus, where he remains. Putin seemingly willing to let a man who's long been considered his lackey to come off as the hero of this crisis, but why?

BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET.), GLOBAL FELLOW, KENNAN INSTITUTE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: I think in maybe some way, he's tossing him a bone. He's, you know, he's -- he needs -- he wants Lukashenko's loyalty.

TODD (voice-over): Loyalty Lukashenko has almost always demonstrated to the former KGB colonel. Today, Lukashenko said most of the tactical nuclear weapons that Russia planned to station in Belarus have already arrived, consistent with a deference to Putin that analysts say Putin does not show in return.

ZWACK: I think he looks at him as a subordinate and as such looks down on him. Lukashenko power been there a long time. It's heavy. He's the strong man. He's become useful to Putin.


TODD: Analysts say Lukashenko should be very wary of allowing thousands of Prigozhin's Wagner fighters to come into Belarus. For his part, Lukashenko says Belarus is not building any camps on its territory to accommodate the mercenaries. But he did say Wagner has been offered some abandoned land inside Belarus if they need it. Wolf, that could be a dangerous equation.

BLITZER: Certainly could be. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Joining us now, a top advisor to the Ukrainian president, President Zelenskyy, Ihor Zhovkva joining us. Igor, thank you so much for joining us from Kyiv. What can you tell us, first of all, about this deadly Russian strike today on Kramatorsk in Ukraine, apparently targeting Ukrainian civilians in a very busy city center?

IHOR ZHOVKVA, DEPUTY HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Once again targeting only Ukrainian civilians. No military objects in the area around. And unfortunately, right, you are in the busy hours. And unfortunately, as of now, four people are already reported dead, including one young person, a 17 years old, and almost 50 are wounded as of now, including eight-month child. So I mean the war almost 500 days of war we are having and the tactics of Russian armed forces is barbaric, awful tactics does not change having absolutely lack of any success on the battlefield that they are attacking civilian infrastructure and killing civilians.

BLITZER: Yes. Seen by so many as war crimes committed by the Russians. As you know, Putin says no combat units, Ihor, he says no combat units were pulled out of Ukraine around the mutiny. And the Pentagon says Wagner forces are still in Ukraine. Is that what Ukraine is also seeing?

ZHOVKVA: No, no. I certainly will not reveal you the disposition on the battlefield. But the first question which arose during these events of the weekend is really how the situation is changing or will be changing in the battlefield. I'm not ready to comment about whether these are their forces were withdrawn, but I will certainly commend you and we all can imagine what is the morale of the Russian armed forces after these very strange events amidst their country in the center of Russia.

So definitely these events would have an influence on the Russian armed forces, on their morale, on their ability to fight for they don't know want. They are fighting not for their land, but we are fighting for our land and we are destined to win.

BLITZER: Well, we shall see how this all unfolds. Ihor Zhovkva, good luck to you. As I always say, good luck to all the people of Ukraine. Thank you very much for joining us.

ZHOVKVA: Thank you.


BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll have more on Donald Trump. The audio recording obtained exclusively by CNN, the legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward standing by to join us live.


BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump is lashing out after the release of a recording obtained exclusively by CNN in which he's heard discussing holding secret documents he admits to not declassifying. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This was done by the military and given to me. I think we can probably, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know, we'll have to see. Yes. We'll have to try to --

TRUMP: Declassify it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- figure out a -- yes.

TRUMP: See as president I could have declassified it.


TRUMP: Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, now we have a problem.

TRUMP: Isn't that interesting?


TRUMP: It's so cool. I mean, it so, look, her and I, and you probably almost didn't believe me, but now you believe me.


TRUMP: It's incredible, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, they never met a war they didn't want.

TRUMP: Hey, bring some cokes in please.


BLITZER: Joining us now to discuss this and more, the author and legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward. He's here with me in the situation. Bob, thanks very much for joining us. What jumped, what jumped out at you? You've heard Trump audio recordings in the past on various issues. What jumped up to you listening to this?


BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, he's kind of telling the truth. He knows he can't declassify these documents. And from the book "Peril" that Robert Costa and I did, we recount in detail two NSC meetings in which Trump talks about the Iran top secret contingency plan for attacking Iran. And this is the most sensitive of sensitive documents.

And if you go through it, you realize that General Milley and General Mckenzie, who is the CENTCOM commander in charge of Iran, are going through. How do we attack? What would the casualties be? How many ships would be sunk? This is the kind of stuff that is at the top of the top secret chain.

BLITZER: This is not just top secret. It's top secret SCI, Sensitive Compartmented Information. It doesn't get more sensitive than that.

WOODWARD: And it's the detail about how we would attack. And it is Trump not, you know, it's Milley's plan. He's required to have these on the shelf contingency plans. But it is Trump Hussein who raises the issue. They -- it is on June 3rd, 2020, at the White House, they brought General McKenzie, the CENTCOM commander, to talk with Trump about withdrawing from Iran. And then Trump says, I'm sorry, withdrawing from Afghanistan. Then Trump says, well, what have we got for Iran?

And they literally go through it. And Milley is saying to the President, look, there is a bad side of this. What will the casualties be? How many pilots are going to go down? How long will this war take, three days or 30 years? And in the second meeting, General Milley is telling President Trump, don't do it. You will start a war that you cannot get out of.

BLITZER: You know, firsthand, based on all your reporting, all your interviews with Trump, his cavalier attitude towards these highly classified documents, right?

WOODWARD: It's not the documents. It's the responsibility of being commander in chief. And it is the most shocking thing that if you really get into this detail, you realize that's the last thing you want to be cavalier about. And, of course, Trump is focused on himself rather than the responsibility as to the country or the military. And I see now why the prosecutors put this in, why they included it. Now, are they going to be able to present this information to a jury, you know, we'll have to see.

BLITZER: Why do you think Trump was keeping all these classified documents lying around Mar-a-Lago?

WOODWARD: He loves trophies. In discussions, I had interviews with Trump in the Oval Office with pictures of him and Kim Jong-un. When he said, I'll give you one, it was like, give you one of these pictures. It was like I was going to get something that would normally go in the archives or the hall of fame. And I don't think and this is the problem, he understands the responsibility of the presidency, does not see that he's got to protect the people. He's got to protect the most confidential war plans that we're not planning to do. But you have to plan for what you may be required to respond to.

BLITZER: You got to protect sources and methods, as they say, to protect national security and the lives of individuals who are working in those areas. Bob, thank you very much for coming in.

WOODWARD: Thank you.


BLITZER: All right, we'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're tracking the fallout from a major ruling by the United States Supreme Court today that could have a significant impact on federal elections. Let's get the latest from our senior Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic. Joan, explain what this historic decision means.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Sure, Wolf. The Court rejected a very bold theory that would have given state legislatures complete control, complete and independent control over all election rules, redistricting maps, election rules at the ballot box, and taking it to its extreme control over presidential electors. And what the Court said is, no, state courts interpreting state constitutions must be a check on state legislatures.

As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote this opinion, he cited constitutional history, tradition, and court precedent. And here's a key part of what he said, state courts retain the authority to apply state constitutional restraints when legislatures act on the power conferred to them by the elections clause. But he added later in the opinion, state courts may not so exceed the bounds of ordinary judicial review as to unconstitutionally intrude upon the role specifically reserved to state legislatures.


So this is what happens. North Carolina Republican dominated legislature had said state courts should not control here. It involved a partisan gerrymander that its own state court had struck, had said was unfair to voters. And the Supreme Court said, yes, we need to have those kinds of protections in there, but federal courts are always going to be able to then assess state court judges, and this is how it affects 2024.

If the court had ruled in a different way, it would open up so much potential for state legislatures to do things that actually could be unfair to voters without any kind of constitutional check. And this was sort of a safe route for the U.S. Supreme Court to take Wolf.

BLITZER: Six to three decisions, very significant indeed. Joan Biskupic, thank you very much.

Coming up, Donald Trump responds to audiotapes obtained exclusively by CNN. What the former president has to say about a key piece of evidence in the special counsel's criminal case against him.