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Trump's Third Arrest and Arraignment Set For Tomorrow; Secret Service Says, Security Preps Underway For Trump In Court; GOP Scrambles To Defend Trump After Third Indictment; Pittsburgh Synagogue Mass Shooter Sentenced To Death; Judge Assigned To Trump Case Has Been Tough On January 6 Rioters; Russian Drone Strike Damages Ukraine Port Infrastructure. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 02, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can tweet the show @theleadcnn.
Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Donald Trump set to be arrested and arraigned right here in Washington, D.C. on the most serious criminal charges yet against the former president of the United States. Stand by for new details on his court date tomorrow, less than 48 hours after his January 6th indictment was unsealed.
Also tonight, we're tracking new security concerns and potential threats just ahead of Trump's expected court appearance here. CNN is over at the courthouse where by federal and local law enforcement officials are now under way.
And many GOP lawmakers are still defending Trump tonight, even after his third indictment. I'll speak with a vocal critic of Trump and his actions, Republican Presidential Candidate and former Congressman Will Hurd.
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 with Donald Trump on the brink right now of being arrested and arraigned for a third time. The former president is set to respond to that grave new federal indictment accusing him of orchestrating a plot to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Let's go right to our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid, she is here with me in The Situation Room. Is it your understanding that Trump will appear actually physically at the courthouse here in Washington tomorrow?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That is our expectations now, Wolf. This is also what he did for his initial appearance and arraignment in Manhattan and Florida. What's interesting about the D.C. federal court is that it is very accustomed to dealing with VIPs and people with security details. So, it's not clear if we'll even get to see him at all because he has the option to enter through an underground garage.
Now, once he's inside the courthouse, he is effectively under arrest. He'll be processed like any other defendant. But we don't expect that there's going to will be a mug shot. He's one of the most famous people in the world. If he was to go on the lamb, they know what he looks like, so they don't need that.
When he's in the courtroom, he'll have the charges against likely read to him. He'll have the opportunity to enter a plea. We would expect that to be not guilty. This is a pretty quick procedural hearing in front of a magistrate judge. And he knows what to expect. He's been through it twice already this year.
BLITZER: What more, Paula, are we learning about the actual charges that Trump is facing?
REID: It's interesting. When you read the indictment, there are some new revelations, most of them coming from information they gathered from former Vice President Mike Pence. But there's really an emphasis on mindset and intent. Because in order to successfully prove the conspiracy to defraud the United States, they have to show that he was acting with deceit, which is why prosecutors continue to emphasize how Trump knew that these claims of election fraud were false.
I want to point to one instance where they talk about a meeting that he had with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this was on the evening January 3rd. They're discussing a national security issue, but they suggest Trump hold off on doing anything because inauguration day is coming, and the defendant allegedly said, yes, you're right, it's too late for us. We're going to have to give that to the next guy. Just one example of how they're trying to show that he knew these election fraud claims were untrue.
Now, the special counsel has said that they want a, quote, speedy trial and it's unclear if they'll be able to do this before the election. They may be able to but it will be up to the judge.
BLITZER: We shall see. The special counsel, Jack Smith, he noted yesterday in his public remarks, and we had it live right here in The Situation Room, he said this. He said, our investigation of other individuals continues. That's a direct quote. What more do we know about these other individuals?
REID: So, we know there is a list of co-conspirators there. We've identified five of the six. Those are people who have not been charged but it is possible they could be charged.
We know from our reporting that the special counsel has at least two more interviews scheduled over the next few weeks, the first one next week, former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. He was working closely with co-conspirator number one, Rudy Giuliani, in his efforts to overturn the election. So, investigators likely have questions for him.
There's also at least one other former Trump attorney who is going to go in and speak with investigators. As we saw in Florida, they filed charges then they did a superseding indictment. We understand from our sources that that is a very likely possibility here as well.
BLITZER: We'll see if these co-conspirators are eventually charged with a crime, too. None of them yet have been charged. We shall see what happens.
Paula, stay with us. I want to bring in some more of our correspondents and analysts. And, Kaitlan Collins, you're doing excellent reporting on all of this. I know you're getting some clues as to how the Trump defense team is shaping up and what they're planning on doing.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're making it very clear what they're going to argue on this, and that starts with John Lauro. He is just recently added to the Trump defense team, but he is going to be the attorney along with Todd Blanche, who is heading up the January 6th defense.
And he is making clear they are going to say this has to do with Trump's First Amendment rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LAURO, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Our focus is this is an attack on free speech and political advocacy. And there's nothing more protected under the First Amendment than political speech.
Donald Trump had every right to advocate for his position.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: You don't get to violate people's First Amendment rights, smith, no matter who the hell you are or no matter how sick you are with Trump derangement syndrome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Notwithstanding that Rudy Giuliani, who you see there, is co- conspirator number 1 and could potentially be charged in this case. He says he hasn't still gotten a target letter yet. They are pointing back to free speech and saying that what Trump said is not something you can criminalize.
But, of course, when you look at this indictment, what he is being indicted for is not for what he said. It's for this scheme and how he used the levers of the government and the office of the president of the United States to try to overturn the election results, to try to subvert Americans' votes. And so that is what is at the heart of the indictment. And Jack Smith clearly knew they were going to make this argument because he addresses it in the indictment.
BLITZER: Very important. Andrew McCabe, you're the former deputy director of the FBI. The 45-page indictment is really important reading. I recommend everybody get a copy and read it. The indictment says this, and I'm quoting, the defendant had a right to speak publicly about the election and even to claim falsely that there had been outcome determinative fraud. But it then goes on to say this, and I'm quoting once again from the indictment, the defendant also pursued unlawful means of subverting the election results. So, I take that is potentially a deliberate strategy from the special counsel.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. That's the special counsel trying to defuse in some ways this First Amendment argument that you've heard from Mr. Trump's lawyers. And had he only said that he thought the election had been stolen and publicized his issues with that, filed court cases in an effort to institute recounts and those sorts of things, we would not be here today.
This indictment is not charging him for simply what he said. It's for what he did, and his speech was a part of that. The criminal law in this country has long penalized people who committed crimes by saying things for the purpose of stealing things. It's called fraud. It's been against the law in this country for decades and decades. That is what this indictment is about. He used those comments, that speech in order to steal the results of the election, and that is a fraud against the American people, according to the indictment.
BLITZER: Yes, unlawful means of subverting the election results, serious charge indeed.
Jamie, you're watching all this unfold. The indictment also quotes White House deputy counsel, the then-White House deputy counsel, and I'm quoting now, warning that there would be, quote, riots in every major city in the United States if Trump didn't respect the election results. How significant is that?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL COUNSEL: It's very significant because it speaks to something, and we saw this first with the January 6th committee. They cited it over and over again, the indictment does again, that Donald Trump was warned about violence and the danger. And instead of listening to the people around him, his attorney general, his White House counsel, his vice president saying, this is illegal and it's going to be dangerous if you go down the road.
Let's just point out for a minute, all those people would have liked to stay in power if he had really been duly elected. They were not. They were being honest with them. And at every turn, he picked a path that led to violence.
BLITZER: Yes, really an awful situation. It's interesting, Paula, the six co-conspirators, they are co-conspirators but they haven't been charged. Do we anticipate that they will be charged? And if so, when?
REID: It's unclear if they'll be charged. But they're probably not sleeping very easy tonight because we know the investigation continues. Like I said, Bernie Kerik, that was one of Rudy Giuliani's closest associates, they are likely going to ask him, the special counsel prosecutors, about Rudy Giuliani, about some of their activities.
We saw down in Florida that they filed a case and have very quickly filed a superseding indictment. It's unclear if any additional charges will be filed that quickly because we know for the next month they will continue to gather evidence. But it was probably one of the biggest surprises from this indictment, is that the former president's name is the only one listed as a defendant. He's the only one charged, because it remains to be seen if what he did was illegal.
But it is clear that what he did, he did not do it alone. He was working with several other people, which is laid out in there. So, the fact that he's the only one that has been charged, that is a strategic choice by the special counsel, unclear if that's about timing, but wait and see.
BLITZER: We will wait and see. Kaitlan, what are you hearing about how Trump may actually handle his arrest and court appearance tomorrow?
COLLINS: Well, I mean, they're happening a lot. I mean, it's certainly not his first time. It's kind of remarkable that you will see him come here in Washington. He'll be arraigned. And it's not the first time we've seen it obviously in recent months. It happened in Miami and it happened in Manhattan. And now, it's going to happen here as he returns from not far from that courthouse that he is going to be at tomorrow afternoon, when he spent four years inside the White House.
And so we are told that he will be here tomorrow afternoon. We'll likely see John Lauro, his attorney, and Todd Blanche, the other one, go in there into the courtroom with him. And so that is the prediction from there.
Obviously, the question is, what does he say after. We've seen him make remarks every time after he's been indicted, pushing back and previewing his defense. It's expected that that's he'll also probably do tomorrow.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very, very much. And be sure to join Kaitlan later tonight for more on the Trump indictment on her program, The Source, 9:00 Eastern. Among her guests, the former attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr.
And just ahead, we're getting new reaction to Trump's third indictment from his rivals out there for the Republican nomination. Which candidates are still defending the former president even as he faces the most serious charges yet? I'll discuss that and more with Republican hopeful Will Hurd. He joins me live right after the break.
BLITZER: We're getting new reaction to Donald Trump's historic third indictment from his Republican rivals, Mike Pence coming out today with more tough words for his former boss. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Sadly, the president was surrounded by a group of crackpot lawyers that kept telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear. And while I made my case to him of what I understand my oath of the Constitution to require, the president ultimately, ultimately continued to demand that I choose him over the Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But some Republican presidential hopefuls, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, are clearly lining up to defend Trump against what they call the weaponization of the federal government.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): When I'm president, we will bring accountability, we will end weaponization, and that regards to new leadership at the FBI, DOJ.
A D.C. jury would indict and convict a ham sandwich if it was a Republican ham sandwich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss this and more with Republican Presidential Candidate Will Hurd. He's been very critical of the former president, Donald Trump. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
By echoing Trump's talking points, are candidates like Ron DeSantis actually boosting Trump's 2024 chances?
WILL HURD, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course, they are, Wolf. What doesn't make any sense to me is how someone like Ron DeSantis thinks that kissing Donald Trump's butt or licking his boots is going to help him win an election. This guy is your opponent.
And let me be clear, Wolf, this is not about the weaponization of the government. This is not about citizens of D.C. that serve on grand juries. This is about Donald Trump losing an election, trying to overturn that election, failing to be able to do that and then running again in order to stay out of prison, right?
This is what this is about. Donald Trump would not have to be arraigned tomorrow if he would have accepted the counsel of all the folks around him. And what's even more shocking to me is that a lot of Trump's defenders today are using the Donald Trump is dumb defense to explain his efforts and his activities.
This makes no sense to me, and we are better than this. America deserves better than this. We have a lot of generational-defining challenges we have to address, the Chinese government trying to surpass us as a global superpower, A.I. is going to impact every single industry. These are the issues we should be talking about, not the continued baggage of Donald Trump.
BLITZER: His lawyers are already suggesting that he won't be able to get a fair trial here in the nation's capital in Washington, D.C. What do you say? HURD: I say, you know, the American people are resilient, and you're going to find 12 people that are going to do their job and take their job seriously. This is what's great about this country, and it's one more excuse from Donald Trump and his people about protecting his negative behavior.
Guess what? Don't hold secrets in your bathroom. And then don't lie about having those secrets. And then don't try to destroy evidence that you had those secrets. Don't lie about losing an election and try to force states to go against the law. Don't try to get people to march down the street and hang Mike Pence. If you don't do these things, you wouldn't be in this position.
And this is why we need to make sure we elect somebody else. The GOP cannot elect Donald Trump to be our nominee, because if we do, we're giving four more years to Joe Biden. And, Wolf, if the folks on your show want to see me say this at Donald Trump's face, go to hurdforamerica.com, donate at least $1 and help me get on that debate stage.
BLITZER: That debate coming up in about three weeks in Milwaukee.
If Trump, Congressman, were to win another presidential term and winds up putting a stop to these cases or actually pardons himself, what would it mean for American democracy?
HURD: Well, it would be the end of American democracy. And that's why I'm running for president to prevent Donald Trump from being the Republican nominee.
And let me be clear. The best way to stop Donald Trump is to beat him in an election. Only 23 percent of Americans vote in primaries. So, those other 77 percent, I need you all. I need you all to get engaged. I need you all to vote this time in order to make sure that we have a real competition of ideas in November and make sure for the next 247 years America is able to do what we've done for the last 247 years, and that's uplift humanity.
BLITZER: Before I let you go, Congressman, one final question. Fitch Ratings has now downgraded the U.S. credit rating citing what it calls erosion of governance. The White House blames Republican extremism for that. How do you respond to that?
HURD: Well, a lot of leading economists thinks that Fitch made a poor decision. But, ultimately, this is a problem that both parties have contributed to over these years. We shouldn't be going up to the cliff every time to fund the government.
I think, and one of the things I will work for when I'm president, is to have at least two-year appropriation cycles. I would even push for four years so that we have a level of consistency and continuity. That's going to improve fiscal responsibility of the government. Everybody knows in the government if you don't use the money, you're going to lose the money. That's the wrong incentives to have in the government. And so this is a problem that both parties have had. And now, in order to solve this complicated problem, we need commonsense.
BLITZER: Will Hurd, thanks so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation for sure down the road.
HURD: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And let's bring in our political commentators right now, Van Jones and Alyssa Farah Griffin.
Alyssa, similar to Will Hurd, your former boss, Mike Pence, is speaking more boldly against Trump right now. But Republican voters aren't likely to reward them for it. How do candidates successfully criticize Trump when he so clearly commands, at least for now, the Republican Party?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, Wolf, I give tremendous credit to the former vice president for his very strong and steadfast words that he gave today and the statement he put out yesterday. Will Hurd, Asa Hutchinson, Chris Christie, those in the race who have been just unquestionable about the fact that Donald Trump is unfit for office.
But my concern is that some of these criticisms came a bit too late. I think that if Mike Pence had been more firm from the outset and talked about the unfitness of Donald Trump, that's something the field start to litigating at the very beginning. Will Hurd, your former guest, has been doing that since he's been in the race, but he was the most entrant to the race.
And what I worry is voters are starting to just rally around Donald Trump because the other candidates are not definitively telling them why he should not be the nominee.
BLITZER: Van, another Republican presidential candidate, Senator Tim Scott, is echoing these Republican talking points about Trump's indictment, saying, and I'm quoting him now, I remain concerned about the weaponization of Biden's Department of Justice and its immense power used against political opponents. What we see today are two different tracks of justice, one for political opponents and another for the son of the current president. What's your reaction to that? And is President Biden eventually going to have to deal with all this out there on the campaign trail?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he will eventually, but that's a long time from now. I think Tim Scott knows better. He knows we do have a two-tier justice system in this country, and the poor people, people who are not billionaires, people who are not celebrities, are the ones that suffer the most. And people who can pay for lawyers, like you've seen all day on T.V., these paid-for Trump lawyers, are the ones that benefit from this two-tiered system.
Trump is not victim. Trump is not a victim at all. The American people are the victims of his attempt to disregard our vote, to throw our vote in the trash can so that he could stay in office even though he was lawfully voted out. But I think that Tim Scott is at his best, frankly, when he's sticking up for the best in his party and the best in the country. He's got an incredible biography. But he continues to pull his punches against Donald Trump even when democracy itself is on the line. I think it's unfortunate.
BLITZER: Yes. Alyssa, I want you to listen to more of Governor DeSantis' message on this indictment against Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: We need to put all this stuff behind us by fixing the government, by reconstitutionalizing it and not have all the unnecessary stuff swirling around dividing our country all the time. That's my focus, is to look forward on all this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: His case is clearly about American democracy itself, in 2024 and beyond. So, can Republicans really put it behind them?
GRIFFIN: Well, they need to if we want to be a party of the future and one that could be a majority party in this country. I think Governor DeSantis' statement was widely panned among the Republican field. He put it out saying he didn't even read the indictment, which is just irresponsible if you're running to be commander-in-chief.
And, listen, there's a legitimate conversation we as a country can have about if politicization creeps into any of our institutions, but I would remind you, DOJ is the chief law enforcement arm of our government. It prosecutes domestic terrorism, human trafficking, tax offenses.
This is an important institution and sort of wading into creating deep distrust in it is very damaging both to democracy and our future institutions.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Van, according to The Washington Post, former President Barack Obama warned President Biden at a private lunch earlier this summer that Trump is a stronger candidate than many Democrats actually realize. Is he right? And should former President Obama start getting this message out publicly on that campaign trail?
JONES: He's certainly right. And Obama still has that touch. He understands where regular people are coming from. The reality is, on any given Sunday, you put two teams on the field, and any team can win. Anybody who gets the nomination of their party in a 50/50 country has a real chance to win.
I think in 2016, we heard Trump can't win, Trump can't win, he's too damaged, he's done too many dumb things, he said too many dumb things, there's no way he can win. And you saw what happened in 2016. We talked ourselves into a defeat by talking our base down and laughing at somebody when we should have been taking it very seriously. If there's an economic slump next year, he's Biden is in trouble. If he has a major health slump next year, Biden is in trouble. If Democrat turnout slumps, Biden is in trouble. So, three slumps, you get a Trump. So, you need to make sure, if you're Barack Obama, that the country is aware there is a real and present danger of the restoration of Donald Trump.
BLITZER: We'll see if President Obama starts going out there on the campaign trail. Van Jones, Alyssa Farah Griffin, guys, thank you very much.
Coming up, we're going to take you inside the security preparations under way here in Washington for Trump's expected court appearance tomorrow.
Plus, legendary Journalist Bob Woodward joins me live right here in The Situation Room. I'll get his thoughts on the historic nature of the indictment.
BLITZER: Security preparations are now under way here in Washington just ahead of former President Trump's first court appearance on federal charges related to the 2020 election interference.
CNN's Brian Todd is tracking this story for us just from outside the courthouse, federal courthouse in Washington. Brian, it appears authorities here in D.C. aren't taking any chances at all. Give us the latest.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're really not, Wolf, and that's because the January 6th experience just a couple blocks away from here is never far from the minds of law enforcement officials. We were just told U.S. Secret Service agents have been conducting a walkthrough of this courthouse building behind me. And we have other new information tonight about the ramped up security measures here.
TODD (voice over): The nation's capital in an enhanced security posture ahead of former President Trump's arraignment tomorrow. D.C. Police saying they're, quote, working closely with our federal law enforcement partners to monitor the situation and plan accordingly. The U.S. district courthouse, at least temporarily being turned into a fortress.
MATT DOHERTY, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: They're going to have a surge of manpower around this building.
TODD: CNN is told multiple agencies are combining forces to secure Trump's appearance, including the Secret Service, D.C. Metropolitan Police, the U.S. Marshals, Capitol Police and Federal Protective Service. Sources tell CNN law enforcement has been looking closely at online platforms where threats could come from. CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Find out what's going on on social media, what are they hearing in the street, are they going to have protesters show up, all these kind of things. They'll be checking like bus companies to see whether or not buses have been rented to come into D.C., hotel reservations.
TODD: CNN is told federal law enforcement officers have been patrolling the area outside the courthouse this week, along with bomb- sniffing dogs and have stabbed a security perimeter around the building.
Trump's two previous indictments in Manhattan and Miami have seen more of a carnival atmosphere. But since these events have often drawn a mix of Trump supporters and Trump critics, tomorrow could still be a potentially volatile situation.
RAMSEY: You've got to keep those groups apart, otherwise you're going to have chaos on the streets.
TODD: This is a city well-versed in the highly charged atmosphere that Donald Trump can create. After the 2020 election, there were clashes and even violence between partisan groups at two Stop the Steal rallies in Washington. And the January 6th riot at the Capitol took place just a few blocks from the D.C. courthouse where Trump will appear.
What's the biggest lesson that law enforcement learned from January 6th?
DOHERTY: To do more than just send an email out, the old-fashioned, pick up the phone and talk to a body and let them know how operationally relevant it is, the information you have.
TODD: And there's the question of Trump's safety. One former Secret Service agent says he will likely not be brought in through a sidewalk entrance.
DOHERTY: When it's a very public event, you prefer cover the rivals (ph), as much cover as possible, less exposure to the public on the sidewalk.
TODD (on camera): So far, sources tell CNN there's nothing to indicate an active threat to this courthouse behind me where Trump is going to be arraigned tomorrow. The Secret Service pledging, quote, the highest level of safety and security for the former president while minimizing disruptions to the normal court process. Wolf, in about 24 hours, less than 24 hours, this is going to be a very busy place.
BLITZER: It certainly will be. Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thanks very much.
Let's get some more reaction to Donald Trump's historic indictment from Journalist and Author Bob Woodward, who is joining me here in The Situation Room. What's your reaction to this moment in history that we're all going through right now?
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, THE TRUMP TAPES: It's very important.
And there are technicalities in the indictment saying that Trump defrauded, worked to defraud the government of a process of certifying and saying who won the presidency.
And what is rooted in all of this is the concept that it was a former president who is chief justice of -- a hundred years ago, Chief Justice Taft, who had been president, who wrote that defrauding the government -- the theme line is dishonesty. And if you read this indictment, it's about dishonesty, about what being straight. And people who don't like Trump or people who do like Trump should read it and ask this question. Do we want a president who is dishonest?
I've spent some time talking to people, to Republicans, and I think a lot of them don't believe that the election was stolen from him, but they like him. There's something about him.
BLITZER: You spent a lot of time interviewing Trump during his last year as president of the United States. I want you and our viewers to listen to two excerpts of that. Listen to that.
WOODWARD: Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There's nobody that's tougher than me. Nobody is tougher than me. You ask me about impeachment. I'm under impeachment. And you said you just act like you just won (BLEEP) race. Nixon was in the corner with a thumb in his mouth. Bill Clinton took it very, very hard. I just do things, okay?
I get people that come up with the ideas, but the ideas are mine, Bob. You want to know something? Everything is mine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, what lessons, Bob, do you learn from Trump's mindset now as he's going through what he's going through?
WOODWARD: Well, he really believes everything is his. And what I came away, not just from eight hours of interviews, but writing three books on him and spending seven years on Donald Trump and his presidency, he does not understand the presidency and the responsibilities. He just does not get it. He does not -- he looks at democracy as enemy territory, really. It's something -- it's about the people, them. He likes -- everything is about him. Everything is mine.
So, people are going to have to make that assessment, and I think the special counsel did a great job of marshaling facts. Some -- I've talked with you about two years ago when Bob Costa and I did the book, Peril. And you see the Giuliani memos, you see the deceit, you see the line, you see the denial, you see the pressure on Vice President Pence to do something dishonest. That's what this is about.
BLITZER: Curious, as somebody who loves history, you and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal story in The Washington Post. Having done that, did you ever expect we'd be going through as a country right now what we're clearly going through?
WOODWARD: Of course not. But what's so interesting about the Nixon crimes, the sabotage, the espionage, the burglary of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, 17 wiretaps on recorders, all this was done illegally before the election, which Nixon won. He won 49 states. It helped.
So, Nixon's crimes are before Election Day. As the indictment alleges of Trump, all the crimes are after the election. So, in a sense, they divided the world of electoral politics. Nixon would do the crimes before the election. Now, Nixon won 49 states and was helped with his criminality and his payoffs.
I remember Senator Irvin asked what was Watergate, an effort to destroy the process of nominating and electing a president, but Irvin also asked the very important question, why Watergate? Why did -- and Irvin, who ran that wonderful Senate committee and investigation of Nixon said, why Watergate?
It is a lust for political power. Now, that's the connection, whether -- I'm sorry, but in the case of Trump, it's not just political power. It's personal power. Everything is mine.
BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. Bob Woodward, as usual, thank you very much, thanks for being the excellent journalist that you are. We're grateful. I appreciate it.
And just ahead, the man responsible for a fatal mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue receives the death penalty. We'll have a report from Pennsylvania when we come back.
BLITZER: The Pittsburgh synagogue shooter was sentenced to death today. CNN's Danny Freeman is in Pittsburgh covering the trial for us.
He's joining us live. So, what's the latest, Danny?
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I want to talk about next steps in a moment. But, first, I want to talk about the impact that really has been felt in this Pittsburgh community after this death penalty sentence earlier today.
In the past few hours, we had a chance to hear from family members of some of those who were killed in this shooting and also from survivors of this attack. What I can tell you, Wolf, is that after more than nine weeks of trial, more than 100 witnesses called and nearly five years after the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, this community has felt relief, closure and a form of justice.
Now, Wolf, I had a chance to sit down exclusively with one of the survivors of the attack, Andrea Wedner. Her mother, though, 97-year- old Rose Malinger, she was killed in the attack. I want you to listen to what she told me about how she's moving on from this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA WEDNER, DAUGHTER OF ROSE MALLINGER: When you have a near-death experience, I think that changes you, and you see life differently, and I do. It's been hard without my mother, but I know she would want me to live on and take care of my family and be there for my family.
And that's what we do. We spent family time together. We talk about my mother. We share memories.
We laugh about my mother. She was pretty funny. And that's -- that's how we move on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FREEMAN: Just a tremendous amount of strength displayed by Andrea and all of the survivors and all the witnesses who testified over the course of the past few months now.
Wolf, this is not quite over yet. Tomorrow there is the formal sentencing. And we will hear even more victim impact statements. But that's the latest from here after again nearly five years since that deadly attack, some closure in Pittsburgh -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Danny, thank you very much. Danny Freeman reporting.
Coming up, we're digging into the record of the judge randomly assigned to preside over the new Trump case.
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, the judge assigned to preside over Trump's newest court battle is under heightened scrutiny.
CNN's Jessica Schneider has our report.
TANYA CHUTKAN, WASHINGTON, D.C. DISTRICT JUDGE: Impartiality is bedrock.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Judge Tanya Chutkan was confirmed 95-nothing by the U.S. Senate in 2014 after being nominated by President Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The nomination is confirmed.
SCHNEIDER: For nearly a decade, she served as one of about two dozen judges at the federal trial court in Washington, D.C.
CHUTKAN: The ideal judge has always been for me one who is open- minded, fair, and prepared.
SCHNEIDER: But now that she's been selected at random to preside over Donald Trump's criminal case, for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, her impartiality is being questioned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She worked for Boies Schiller which, of course, is Hunter Biden's firm of choice.
SCHNEIDER: In November 2021, Chutkan forcefully rejected Trump's attempts to block the January 6th Committee from accessing more than 700 pages of his White House records, writing: Presidents are not kings and plaintiff is not president.
Her decision was slammed by Trump but delighted Democrats, leading the congressional investigation into the Capitol attack.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): It's a big deal. We have a lot of information we've requested.
SCHNEIDER: Judge Chutkan has also overseen dozens of criminal cases against Capitol rioters and in the process implicated Trump on several occasions, telling one rioter during sentencing that he did not go to the United States Capitol out of any love for our country. He went for one man.
She also pushed back against claims that the protesters on January 6 can be compared to other people protesting against racial inequality in recent years, saying during one hearing in 2021: to compare the action of people protesting mostly peacefully for civil rights to those of a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and ignores a very real danger that the January 6 riot posed to the foundation of our democracy.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The judge has been strong in her rulings related to January 6. She has given many memorable entertainments, presidents are not kings and the like. So, good draw for the prosecution.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Judge Chutkan has come down very hard in this sentencing, those convicted Capitol rioters. She often references what she calls their disdain for the rule of law. Now, Wolf, tomorrow's arraignment will actually be before a different magistrate judge. But after that this case will be handed over to Judge Chutkan and she precedes -- presides over this criminal trial.
BLITZER: It's going to be historic indeed.
All right. Jessica, thank you very much. Jessica Schneider reporting.
Just note on our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," right after "THE SITUATION ROOM," the lawyer for John Eastman, the former Trump attorney who CNN has learned is co-conspirator number two in the latest Trump indictment. That's coming up 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
And we'll be right back.
BLITZER: A Russian drone strike damaged a key Ukrainian port city on the Danube river, which is very close to NATO member Romania.
Nick Paton Walsh is joining us live from Ukraine right now.
Nick, what can you tell us about this latest Russian attack?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, at the closest that Russia has so far got to potentially hitting a NATO member. Romania separated from Ukraine by the Danube River. And it was on the Ukrainian side how close this really was. It was on the Ukrainian side that grain facility, storage, ports, part of Ukraine's agricultural infrastructure, that feeds a lot of the world, frankly, is under attack from Russia as it's pulled out of the grain deal.
That's where some of the drones, 37 in total, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. I think it's fair to say a bid to perhaps rattle NATO members. We also saw comments -- stark comments from Polish top officials today saying they were deeply concerned by what they said was a Belarusian brief incursion by two military helicopters into Polish air space. Belarus, of course, a key Russian ally in this.
These two incidents possibly not coincidental, frankly. We maybe seeing Russian President Vladimir Putin finding himself certainly under pressure here in the south and maybe making escalatory steps like this to sort of feed the narrative that's being pushed inside Moscow that Russia's in fact at war with the entire NATO bloc. Not true, NATO is supplying weapons and training to Ukraine, but not in the fight.
Certainly, though, many concerned about another possible night of attacks by Russia inside Ukraine. We just heard sirens here, and this really part of the nightly fear of ordinary civilian Ukrainians -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Nick Paton Walsh, stay safe over there in Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine. We'll be in touch.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. This note, I'll be back tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern for CNN's special live coverage of Donald Trump's arraignment here in Washington. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.