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Brittney Griner Testifies, Faces Questions In Russian Court; Biden Out Of COVID Isolation, Says He's "Feeling Great"; Decision On Whether To Support Trump Splits GOP; Officials Lay Out Risks Of Pelosi's Potential Taiwan Trip. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Thank you so much, Norm Eisen and Elie Honig. It's great to have you both with us.


CABRERA: Still ahead, Brittney Griner makes her case. The WNBA star is on trial in Russia and testified in her own defense just hours ago. What she said, next.



CABRERA: Welcome back. WNBA Star Brittney Griner testifying today for the first time in Russian court more than five months after she was detained.

The two-time U.S. Olympic basketball gold medalist was arrested for having cannabis oil in her luggage. She says her rights were not read to her when she was stopped at the Moscow airport in February.

She pleaded guilty to drug charges and now faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the State Department for us.

Kylie, what else are we hearing from Griner?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Some really interesting news from Griner today as she was providing context to us about what happened when she brought this cannabis into Moscow.

Saying that she actually had no intention of bringing it there, that it ended up in her bags because she was packing in a rush. She said she was "stress packing" in her words.

She had just been recovering from COVID, she was trying to get ready to go to Russia, and that is how this cannabis ended up in her bag.

But she end described what happened at the airport when she was detained in Moscow. She described the fact that she was given no rights, there were no rights read to her when she was told to open up her bags to the authorities.

She was also a bit confused about what was happening. She had to use Google Translate at times to really try to understand the documents that she was forced to sign, that she didn't know exactly what was in them.

And we also learned a little bit more as to why she used medical cannabis in the first place. She talked about her ailments from being a professional athlete. Her knees and her ankles, and even being in a wheelchair for a period of time.

And that is why she had used medical cannabis here in the United States. Though she did reiterate that she had no intention of bringing to Russian.

There's no sentencing yet for Brittney Griner. And that's a big thing that we'll wait and watch for. But of course, it is very challenging to know where the Russia judicial system will go with this one -- Ana?

CABRERA: Kylie Atwood, thank you for bringing us that reporting.

Up next, new polling shows President Biden in trouble with members of his own party looking ahead to 2024.

Plus, primary voters in Michigan head to the polls in less than a week. Could one Republican's vote to impeach Donald Trump sink his House career?



CABRERA: A new CNN poll shows a major lack of enthusiasm for President Biden from voters in his own party. According to our survey, three out of four Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters want the party to nominate someone else in the 2024 presidential race.

Only one in four of those voters want Biden. And that number was 45 percent at the beginning of the year.

President Biden has been battered by dismal approval ratings largely because of the economy, the nation's highest inflation in more than four years.

And a silver lining for Biden today, he is now out of COVID isolation. The president tested negative and spoke from the Rose Garden just a bit ago.

Let's get out to White House correspondent, M.J. Lee.

M.J., what did the president have to say?

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we just saw President Biden emerge from almost a full week of isolation. He said that he is feeling great. And literally had a pep in his step. He talked about the fact that his causes was quite mild, he was able

to recover quickly all thanks to the fact that there are a number of treatments available to him and the rest of America.

He really just talked about himself as almost the poster child for all of the progress that we have seen in this pandemic. He talked about vaccines being available, booster shots.

And also of course treatments. We know that he took a full course of the antiviral medication, Paxlovid. And he said that he would urge and continue urging all Americans to take those kinds of precautions.

But notably, he said that particularly given that the BA.5 variant is so contagious, there are still going to be lots of people who still test positive for COVID. And that if you do test positive, you are not doing anything wrong.

Now, at one point in his remarks, he did bring up his predecessor, former President Trump, who you'll recall got COVID in October of 2020. And President Biden said that was a very different time.

Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here is the bottom line. When my predecessor got COVID, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered.

When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs in the White House and the offices upstairs and for that five-day period.

The difference is, vaccination, of course. But also three new tools, free for all and widely available. You don't need to be president to get these tools to use for your defense.


LEE: After those remarks, President Biden walked directly to the Oval Office where, of course, he has not been in days. The president making it very clear that he is happy to be getting back to work out of isolation -- Ana?

CABRERA: M.J. Lee, thank you. Good to see the president healthy again or healthier.

This coming Tuesday, primary voters in Michigan head to the polls. And one race we're watching is a tale of two Republicans, one backed by Donald Trump and one who voted to impeach him after the insurrection.


CNN's Manu Raju shows us how this election reveals the factions forming within the GOP.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days into Congressman Peter Meijer's freshman term, pro-Trump riders attacked the Capitol.

A week after that, he voted with just nine other alarmed Republicans to impeach Donald Trump over his role. Now he could lose his job because of that vote.

(on-camera): Was that a concern of you? Is that you got to find by those?

REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): I think you always have a moment where you say I can take the easy way or I can actually follow where my conscience is. If you're one -- number one job in office is to stay in office, you should find another job.

RAJU: You don't regret that vote?

MEIJER: Not for a second.

RAJU (voice-over): Despite hailing from a store, Michigan family and maintaining a conservative voting record. Republicans see Meijer as the clear underdog in next Tuesday's primary.

JOHN GIBBS, (R), U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE FOR MICHIGAN: Oh, yes, I think it was the biggest career ending move in history, possibly for him to do that.

RAJU: John Gibbs is trying to unseat him. A former Trump administration housing official who has the support of the former president, Gibbs is embracing false election claims.

(on-camera): Do you think the election was stolen?

GIBBS: I do think there's enough shenanigans to change result. Yes.

RAJU: So what do you say to folks who say that kind of rhetoric is dangerous?

GIBBS: Don't blame the messenger.

RAJU: There was never -- it was never proven. There was never widespread fraud. What do you say to the fact that that never really materialized?

GIBBS: I think one analogy that you could look at here is a mafia. For many years, you can never rest them. You know, they're throwing guys off roofs and stuff. But I think we will get there just like you did with the mafia.

RAJU (voice-over): It's that kind of rhetoric that has Democrats hoping to face Gibbs in November, with the House Democrats campaign arm propping him up with this ad.

AD NARRATOR: Handpicked by Trump to run for Congress, Gibbs called Trump the greatest president. RAJU: Part of a national strategy to boost far-right Republicans in primaries, even as they call them a threat to democracy.

HILLARY SCHOLTEN, (D), U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE FOR MICHIGAN: I think that Gibbs has certainly fired up a certain portion of the electorate over those claims and I think it's dangerous.

RAJU: Democrats could flip the seat with a boost from redistricting.

SCHOLTEN: This district is so winnable. We can do it this, this time.

RAJU: Moving the district nearly 12 points in the Democrats direction.

But Democrat Hillary Scholten will first have to overcome President Biden's sagging approval and concerns over inflation.

(on-camera): Is the President helping or hurting you in this race?

SCHOLTEN: You know, President isn't in this race.

RAJU (voice-over): Yet both Biden and his predecessor loom large.


RAJU: Like the former president, Gibbs downplays a January 6th attack by the Trump-inspired mob.

(on-camera): And Trump supporters, do you blame them? You know, who were there? Were they the ones who came into the Capitol?

GIBBS: I don't know. But my understanding of the pictures that I've seen the vast, vast majority people there, were just standing around and holding flags and things like that. So, those people obviously didn't do anything wrong.

RAJU (voice-over): Meijer, though, lived through the deadly riot of that day.

MEIJER: For three hours, the President did nothing. And I think that was a shameful dereliction of duty.


CABRERA: That was Manu Raju reporting.

And now to an update on the investigation in Uvalde, Texas. The city council has promised to look closely at what each and every police officer was doing inside Robb Elementary School as that has carry was unfolding.

Law enforcement has been widely criticized for taking nearly 80 minutes to approach and kill the gunman. He murdered 19 children and two teachers.

New on CNN, some national security officials think that it is too risky for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make that trip to Taiwan. Details next.



CABRERA: President Biden is set to speak with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, tomorrow as tensions rise amid reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering a visit to Taiwan.

CNN has learned that Biden administration officials are quietly working to convince Pelosi of the risks her potential trip could pose during a highly sensitive moment between the self-governing island and China.

Let's go to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Barbara, what's the big risk here? What does the administration fear could happen?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, right now, the Pentagon wants to see some of this rhetoric toned down and things to cool off a bit, if you will, because the concern is essentially miscalculation.

I don't think anybody has any reasonable thoughts that there's going to be any kind kinetic, any kind of shooting action between any of the sides.

But what the Pentagon will tell you is that China has increasingly and more aggressively been flying its aircraft, sailing its ships in the region.

And when you start getting a lot of military activity in the same place, you can get confusion. You can get miscalculation.

And nobody wants that when someone as powerful as the speaker of the House, in line after the vice president, of course, for the presidency, when they're traveling in the region.

All efforts are to keep her safe and secure if she decides to proceed and decides to go.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin talked about this a short time ago.


GEN. LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I remain concerned, and you've heard me say this before, about the aggressiveness of the PRC and the kinds of things that we've been seeing in the region lately. And so I think we have to be vigilant.


STARR: And Secretary Austin did say that he has spoken to Speaker Pelosi about her potential trip to Taiwan, but the defense secretary did not reveal any details of that call -- Ana? [13:55:03]

CABRERA: Barbara Starr, thank you for are your reporting.

And now to the number everyone is talking about, $1 billion and change. That is the Mega Millions jackpot now because no ticket matched all six winning numbers in last night's drawing.

The next chance at this growing fortune is Friday night. If someone wins, it will be the third-largest Mega Millions prize in the game's 20-year history.

Good luck. You can't win if you don't play.

Before we go now, what is the true impact of wildfires? W. Kauma Bell is in California to understand why these catastrophic fires are happening and how we can prepare for them. An all-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" airs Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

That does it for me today. Thank you so much for joining. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. A reminder, you can always join me on Twitter, @anaCabrera.

The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor right after this.

Have a great afternoon.