Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Hutchinson Told January 6 Committee Trump World Tried To Influence Testimony; New January 6 Testimony Sparks Questions About Possible Trump Charges; Satellite Images Show Russian Forces Abandoned Snake Island; DHS Will End Trump-Era Immigration Rule As Soon As Legally Possible. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 30, 2022 - 19:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, allegations of intimidation. Sources telling CNN, Trump's allies tried to influence the January 6th's committee's star witness, Cassidy Hutchinson. And Liz Cheney says those messages are something the Justice Department should look at.

Plus, President Biden tearing into the Supreme Court, now urging Congress to change the rules over the abortion decision.

And the mother of an American captured in Ukraine speaking to her son today. She's our guest.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan, in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, witness tampering. Sources tell CNN, Cassidy Hutchinson told the January 6 Committee someone in Trump's world tried to influence her testimony to the panel and we know now that one of the two examples of possible witness intimidation presented to the committee in that blockbuster hearing was, in fact, sent to Hutchinson, Mark Meadow's former aide.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): What they said to me is as long as I continue to be a team player, they know I'm on the right team. I'm doing the right thing, I'm protecting who I need to protect. You know I'll continue to stay in good graces in Trump world.

And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts, and just keep that in mind as I proceed through my interviews with the committee.

Here's another sample, in a different context. This is a call received by one of our witnesses.

Quote: A person let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know he's thinking about you. He knows you're loyal and you're going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.


BOLDUAN: Do the right thing. He's thinking about you, and he knows you're loyal.

Vice chair of the committee, Liz Cheney, also telling ABC News today that these messages offer real insight in her view into the extent that Trump's orbit thinks they can influence the people being called to speak to the committee's investigators.


CHENEY: It's very serious. It really goes to the heart of our legal system. And it's something the committee will certainly be reviewing. It's something we take very seriously. And it's something that people should be aware of. It's a very serious issue and I would imagine the Department of Justice would be very interested in and would take that very seriously as well.


BOLDUAN: Cheney went on to say the committee is considering making a criminal referral to the Justice Department over this.

This all comes as the committee is trying to compel Trump's former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, to testify. Cipollone, according to Hutchinson, warned that there would be serious, legal consequences if Trump joined protesters at the Capitol.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT for us at the Capitol on Capitol Hill tonight.

Manu, how many more witnesses does the committee may think have been subjected to these intimidation efforts?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the committee has not disclosed that information, but based on what they are signaling, they are suggesting this is a fraction of what some witnesses have endured. They had said at that hearing that this is a common question that is asked at the end of every single witness interview, whether or not anybody has tried to influence their testimony in any way. And according to what some of the members have suggested is that there is more evidence that the committee has not yet shared but are now discussing behind closed doors how to proceed on this issue.

Now, we have learned that Cassidy Hutchinson is one of them, but who the others are, the committee has not disclosed. Adam Schiff, who's one of the members of the committee, suggested it's a broader pattern by President Trump, saying he's certainly seen the history of the former president trying to influence witnesses or intimidate them. Now, this all comes as the committee gone a bit behind closed doors, not expected to have public hearings next week, we do expect public hearings in July.

But there have been behind-the-scenes depositions taking place, including one by Donald Trump's former secretary of labor, Eugene Scalia, who came to the committee behind closed doors today, potentially to discuss one issue the committee is still exploring, the extent of the discussions that took place in the aftermath of January 6th to invoke the unprecedented move of the 25th Amendment of the United States to potentially remove Donald Trump from office. The committee said they have learned that information already and that is one topic in which they want to discuss with the former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who have been subpoenaed by this committee.

And, Kate, it remains to be seen if Cipollone, in fact, will come before the panel. It seems that he could be open to some limited discussion, a transcribed interview, but those negotiations continue as this committee presses forward -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: I mean, clear evidence today that even after -- even after that blockbuster hearing, they are pressing forward with another deposition, another meeting today.

Good to see, Manu. Thank you so much.

OUTFRONT with me now, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, Elie Honig, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Alyssa Farah Griffin, who's the White House communications under President Trump.

Thank you, guys, for being here.

Elie, first on the possible witness tampering. The more we are learning about it, the worst it sounds. I mean, how much trouble could this now mean for the people around Donald Trump and Donald Trump himself if they were trying to influence Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Kate, I've done obstruction of justice and witness tampering cases. I've certainly done my share of them. And often, the communications that you're looking at are vague and ambiguous and you sort of have to read between the lines.

That is not the case here. The strongest line in what we see is you have to protect who you need to protect. That is about as straight forward as it gets when it comes to witness tampering.

Now the committee, it sounds like, according to Manu's reporting, they've been asking everybody, has this been communicated to you? They need to get their arms around how many people heard this kind of threat and they need to enlist the United States Department of Justice, as Liz Cheney suggested, because the committee frankly is defenseless here. They can't bring obstruction of justice charges, only DOJ can.

DOJ needs to do that. They need to get on that to protect the committee's investigation, to protect DOJ's own investigation, which apparently is ongoing, and to send a message to people around Donald Trump, this is not tolerated. There will be real consequences. Only DOJ can impose those consequences. BOLDUAN: Yeah. Alyssa, you're close with Cassidy Hutchinson. I mean,

you said today that you helped her when she had reached out about wanting to say more to the committee and also in doing so, needing a new attorney to do -- to kind of move forward as we've seen play out.

So based on what you know, are you surprised to hear that she was one of the people on the receiving end of these messages?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I wasn't surprised. In fact, I kind of expect happened when Congresswoman Cheney read through those that at least one had gone to Cassidy. When we spoke, and I don't want to betray her confidence but the sense I got was somebody who didn't feel empowered to share what they knew in their knowledge and there was a level of intimidation there.

And one thing I want to know, you know, Elie's a lawyer and I think he laid out beautifully what the actual issue is as far as witness tampering is, but Cassidy Hutchinson is now facing a smear campaign and what is really -- the Trump world trying to make an example of her right now in the public eye to scare other witnesses out of coming forward.

Some of what's been pushed about her and luckily, credible sources aren't publishing a lot but she is coming under an onslaught from Trump world. And that's just another way, the sort of thuggish way in which they try to keep people from telling the truth.

BOLDUAN: I think that's a really important point. Maybe it's not just efforts leading up to, it's during and after, as you're laying it out now. It's ongoing still, no matter who it is, where it's coming from. It's coming with the motivation of exactly what you're saying, a smear campaign.

You know, Gloria, members of the committee have suggested as Manu was laying out, there is evidence of more witness intimidation. Just -- what does your gut tell you where this goes? The committee has so much they're focusing on now, not just obviously questions and concerns of witness intimidation.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it knows to the Justice Department and I think that what they have to do with the committee is figure out who is doing the witness tampering here, where did these calls come from or emails come from, and to whom and was it the same person? And did they do it at the behest of someone like Donald Trump, for example? Or did they do it on their own? And did they do it multiple times?

I mean, I think this is something that clearly needs to be investigated. And if they have asked needs questions to every witness, then they can collate all this information and I think Liz Cheney is right. I mean, this is not -- this is not for the Congress to decide, but I think they can hand this over, either as a referral or just hand over the information to the Justice Department and let the Justice Department investigate.


Alyssa I do want to ask you, because you're talking about a smear campaign. Donald Trump himself is -- not just in statements but he is now out there responding to Cassidy's testimony and unsurprisingly at all, he's attacking her personally, trying to attack her credibility. I want to play just some of what he said and I say this with the caveat of, I want to play this not to have it out there, but because this is what those who may speak to the committee, this is what they are seeing.


This is what they have to consider, because this is what Trump is putting out there in terms of attacking these people. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This lady, yesterday, there's something wrong with her. The woman is living in fantasy land. Some whack job. She's got serious problems, let me put it that way. Mental problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you make of Fox News?


BOLDUAN: What do you say to that, Alyssa?

GRIFFIN: Well, it's classic Trump playbook. He, after I've spoken out against him, he's put two statements out against me using very similar language, calling me a clown, a loser, a nobody, says he doesn't know me.

BOLDUAN: You're absolutely right. Almost -- almost absolutely the same language, I now remember that. That -- it's striking. I didn't think of that now.

GRIFFIN: Exactly. Exactly, and it's actually quite lazy and it's -- I mean, listen, I've been in Air Force One, the presidential cabin with Cassidy Hutchinson and Donald Trump. So, it's like this is just, it's an absurdity.

But it does -- I do think how aggressive he's been in responding to this hearing in particular shows what a nerve her testimony struck. She -- he put out a number of posts on his Truth Social, I think half a dozen, the most he has after any hearing after Cassidy's testimony and then his aides made the decision to put him on Newsmax to talk about this.

I've also seen a sort of full force push back from some of the MAGA world loyalists, putting them on the airwaves of other networks, pushing back on social media. I think that he really feels the pain of this. I think he's realizing this is impacting people.

BOLDUAN: Gloria, can I also ask you? I want to play something just -- to bring this all together if you will. I want to play something that Liz Cheney said during her speech at the Reagan Library. Listen to this.


CHENEY: At this moment, we're confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before. And that is a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic. As we think about the choice in front of us, we have to choose, because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution. At this moment --


BOLDUAN: It's quite an interesting speech to give to a Republican audience in 2022, right, Gloria?

BORGER: Right. And to be met with a round of applause. I mean, let's just set the scene here, because it's truly remarkable. Here she is, Liz Cheney, daughter of a former vice-president, speaking at the Reagan Library, saying that the former president, who, by the way, is, right now, probably, the front runner for the Republican nomination in 2024, calling him a domestic threat and saying that he is a threat to democracy and she gets applauded by Republicans. It's remarkable.

BOLDUAN: The choice is the Constitution or following Trump.

BORGER: That's right.

BOLDUAN: It doesn't get more stark than that.


BOLDUAN: Elie, quick, before we go, I want to ask about Pat Cipollone, because he's now even more squarely in the spotlight now. CNN learned that he may agree to a limited transcribed interview with the January 6th Committee. He's received subpoena, as we now know.

If he can't talk about privileged conversations that he had with the president as White House counsel, which is understandable, how much of a difference do you think he -- this can still make?

HONIG: Kate, in an ideal world, with unlimited time and resources, you would go to court if you're the committee and try to force him to talk about everything. I don't think he has a valid executive privilege claim.

That said, they're under the gun here and I think they made the calculation that getting something is better than nothing. So even if they can't ask him about the most important thing, his conversations with Trump, he still had plenty of important conversations with other White House actors, we know about some from Cassidy Hutchinson. I would want to know what he discussed with Mark Meadows and with other key players, so they can still get something really valuable out of him.

BOLDUAN: It's interesting. It's good to see you all. Thank you so much. OUTFRONT for us next, I'm going to talk with former senior counsel to

Ken Starr during the Clinton Whitewater investigation. Why he says Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony makes it harder for the Justice Department to not charge Donald Trump now.

Plus, President Biden, pulling a 180 of sorts, now saying he now supports ending the filibuster when it comes to protecting a woman's right to an abortion. But will Democrats go along, which will be necessary?

And incredible new satellite images of the island that is playing a major role throughout Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Tonight, it's changing hands again.



BOLDUAN: Tonight, the push to charge former President Trump with a crime for his role in the January 6th insurrection.

A new poll by "The Associated Press" shows 48 percent of Americans believe Trump should be charged, 31 percent saying he should not be charged, 21 percent saying they don't know. Those responses, though, coming before the blockbuster testimony from former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

OUTFRONT now with some perspective is Paul Rosenzweig, former senior counsel to Ken Starr during the Clinton Whitewater investigation.

Thank you for being here, Paul.

You wrote a piece a few months back detailing the challenges Attorney General Merrick Garland would face if charged with the role on January 6th. But now, you say Hutchinson's testimony makes it much harder for Garland to not bring charges against Trump. Why?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL TO KEN STARR ON WHITEWATER INVESTIGATION OF CLINTON: Well, the committee has done a great job of, in effect, putting us in the room where it was all happening. We -- first, they had the two gentlemen from the Department of Justice, Mr. Rosen and Mr. Donoghue, testifying about the president's attempt to take over the Department of Justice. Then there was the video tape of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys conspiring to attack the Capitol.

And then this week, Cassidy Hutchinson puts us in the room where it happens when we actually hear the president say that he knows that the people in the mall are armed and that he wants the Secret Service to take away the mags, take away the magnetometers that are there to detect guns and he knows in advance they are going to march on the Capitol.

So all of a sudden, a case that three months ago, looked like a case of inference and circumstantial evidence, and a politician just giving a fiery speech on the mall, is now a case involving direct testimony of, apparently, the president's engagement in what seems to be a premeditated plan to disrupt the electoral count and prevent the peaceful transfer of power.


It's a very powerful -- it's a much more powerful case now, and that makes it much harder for Attorney General Garland to decline to prosecute.

BOLDUAN: I have to say also, in your piece, you also made a very compelling case for even if charges were brought, success in any criminal case against Trump would be slim to none. And again, but after, you know, the Hutchinson moment, if you will, do you feel differently about that as well?

ROSENZWEIG: Well, I'm afraid I don't. The politics of this haven't changed enough yet. I mean, your poll that you mentioned at the top -- 31 percent of people still think Trump should not be charged. That means there's a high likelihood that some of the people who have that view will be on the jury that actually has to try the case.

And if you are the attorney general looking at that, you have to recognize there's a really, unfortunately, a high degree of likelihood that some people will disregard the evidence, bring politics to the table. We call it jury nullification, and it's a very real prospect in any high profile political case and especially so in any punitive case against President Trump.


I want to play for you something, another facet of everything that's going on. I want to play for you something that Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger said just last night, really -- he's kind of making the case and suggesting that Justice Department is risking undermining his committee's -- their committee's work as they have so far been unwilling to charge Trump's top aides in contempt of Congress for refusing to appear before the committee.

Listen to what Kinzinger says.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino have refused to come and talk to Congress. We have the power of subpoena similar to what a court has. And the Justice Department has failed to indict them for that. And so, all it does is send a message, you just have to resist the Select Committee and you maybe able to resist all penalties. That's been a frustration.


BOLDUAN: He calls it a frustration. But do you think -- do you think he's right here or agree that the Justice Department is sending a message to other uncooperative witnesses?

ROSENZWEIG: Well, it's probably not a deliberate message but it is an inferential message, that is the message they would take from the decision to decline the prosecution of Meadows. One sort of understands the Department of Justice. They are in favor of executive privilege, executive confidentiality.

I am afraid that what's really the problem that underlies this is that Congress has systematically undercut it is own authority. You can't really rely on the Department of Justice to protect. Certainly couldn't if this were, say, a Trump Department of Justice. So it's been a long time since its had its own mechanisms for enforcing its subpoenas and sad to say, probably time for them to try to find a way to revive that and maybe go back to the times when we send the sergeants in arms out to arrest Mark Meadows or something like that.


ROSENZWEIG: Then we can have the Habeas case and see if he can get out of the prison in the basement of the Congress.

BOLDUAN: Well, despite -- despite the mental image of seeing all of that happen, I have to say, let's see, if -- with Congress can't agree on anything, let's see if they can agree on something like that.

It's good to see you, Paul.


BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for coming and I really appreciate it.

OUTFRONT for us next, President Biden takes on the Supreme Court, now saying he supports a carve-out to filibuster rules in order to protect abortion rights. But is that a dangerous move?

Plus, we've been following the story of American Alex Drueke captured in Ukraine. His mother was able to speak with him today and she's our guest.



BOLDUAN: Tonight, President Biden vowing to tackle climate change by any legal means available after being hit with what he called a devastating decision by the Supreme Court to restrict the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This as Biden also seized a moment on the world stage today to forcefully attack the court for overturning Roe v. wade, calling on the Senate now to make a change to its filibuster rules over it.

Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Most important thing to be clear about is we have to -- I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law and the way to do that is to make sure that Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way, it's like voting rights, it should be, we provide an exception for this, require an exception to the filibuster for this action.


BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT now, Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and David Urban, he was an adviser to Trump's 2020 campaign. Both are CNN political commentators.

It's good to see you, guys.

So, Paul, you called the filibuster indefensible, but still, to do anything here, they need support from Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema, and they are not here on this. So, is this a dangerous game they're playing?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it's dangerous, but I also think it's not going to happen, as my kids say, NHD, not happening, dude. So, I don't think -- and Biden's called for it. You know, Joe Biden is a creature of the Senate. He served in Senate since Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton. So, like 183 years he's in the Senate.

So, it's a big deal --

BOLDUAN: The White House loves hearing that, by the way.

BEGALA: I know. It's a big deal for an institutionalist like Joe Biden, to call for this reform. I happen to think he's right. I think most Americans, not just Democrats.

But he's also doing a lot of other stuff. He's instructing Health and Human Services to make sure the patient's privacy is protected. He's instructing the FDA and HHS, to make sure that medications that can terminate a pregnancy, which is now most abortions happen now, not in an invasive procedure, that they're still legally protected and available to women.

He's moving on a host of fronts to support family planning, the right to travel, which some states are talking about restricting. He does have a lot of power as president. He is using it and he's doing all that he can.

BOLDUAN: But it's still unclear how much he can do, even though he talks about taking all executive action possible but I guess we will still see.

But, David, are you surprised? I mean, Biden knows the Senate math. He's refused to go here in the past when it comes to the filibuster. Were you surprised he went there today this time?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, Kate, and, you know, Paul's point about most Americans want to see this -- most Americans don't understand how the government works, right? Most Americans don't understand many things about our government, so the intricacies of the cloture rule in the U.S. Senate, probably, you know, if they explained to them, they might -- they might not be so quick to dismiss it. But, look, I don't think the president -- I'm not surprised by it. Eighty-five percent of Americans yesterday, I think in the poll that came out, said that America's on the wrong track. President's numbers, his numbers are the lowest of any sitting U.S. president in recorded history, according to FiveTwentyEight, somewhere in the low 30s.

I take that back. I think Harry Truman had some lower numbers in the beginning of his presidency. So, anything to change the narrative, anything that would not talk about the failure of this administration, and to seem like he's taking action, to seem like he's doing something is I think what this president is trying to do.

And look, if you want to have the votes to change the rules, just have Democrats run some good candidates that win. You need two more votes. They just need two more votes.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, it's so easy. It's just two more votes. Just as easy as that. Okay --


URBAN: Well, it's easier than changing the rules.

BEGALA: Here's a very simple explanation of the cloture, majority rules. What's wrong with that? That's the element of democracy. The founders put a super majority into the Constitution for the Senate only for things like treaties and removing a president from impeachment. So, they knew what they wanted. This is not what the constitution wants.

BOLDUAN: You might be right, but I'm going to -- I'm helping, I don't know why I'm helping David Urban out here because he doesn't need my help, but if they go here --

URBAN: Because you know I'm right, Kate.

BOLDUAN: No comment. If they're going there on this, can't Republicans just do the same if and when they come back into majority?

BEGALA: Of course, they will, they already broke the Senate to -- in order to break the Supreme Court. Of course, they will.

URBAN: No, no.

BEGALA: So, wait, so the Democrats are supposed to say --

URBAN: It was Harry Reid. It was Harry Reid.

BEGALA: -- the Democrats are supposed to say -- I helped Harry Reid do that and he did the right thing because Republicans were blocking hundreds and hundreds of judges. So, the fact -- get this, the fact that the Republicans will break the Senate if and when they take charge is a reason for the Democrats not to reform it today? No.

BOLDUAN: I really, I have -- I want to jump ahead even though I love history lessons, because some -- because a lot happened today and this week with the Supreme Court, but just today, the court agreed to hear arguments next term in a case that could upend how federal elections are conducted in almost really every way. I mean, in taking this case, the justices could give almost unchecked power to state legislatures, partisan lawmakers to set the rules of how elections are conducted, potentially unchecked by state courts.

And this gets to, like, the legal doctrine that Trump and allies tried to push to the extreme extent after the 2020 election.

I mean, Paul, from your perspective, this is coming next term. How worried should people be?

BEGALA: Oh, I think they ought to be panic-stricken. I am a faithful, practicing Catholic as many members of the court are. Catholics have this doctrine of papal infallibility in special cases.

The court is looking to install politician infallibility. So, state legislature's actions on their elections, the people's elections, the state legislature's actions would not be reviewable by their own state's courts? That's dictatorship. That's madness.

Courts have reviewed state actions since the founding of the country, and now, all of a sudden, next year, take it up next year, but you hide in wait. The Republicans seem to believe that democracy doesn't work for them, so they're trying to end it any way that they can. Supreme Court is at the tip of that spear.

BOLDUAN: David, what do you think of this?

URBAN: Paul's really good, boy, I tell you. He's a formidable adversary. You don't need to help him.

So, listen, Kate, what the court is looking at is very narrowly defined, right? Basically, it's -- what they're looking at as a question, it says the way that you elect members of Congress, right, shall be determined by the state legislatures, right? That's what it says in the Constitution.

And so, what the court is looking at is whether or not, when a Supreme Court -- a Supreme Court in a state overrides that constitutional provision.


That's what they're examining.

BOLDUAN: It sounds simple. They could rule narrowly or --


BOLDUAN: -- you could, I don't know, throw out Roe v. Wade. You could be very vast, the Supreme Court of the United States --

URBAN: I think it's wait and see.

BOLDUAN: We always wait and see. We'll wait and see together. Good to see you both. Thank you very much.

BEGALA: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: OUTFRONT for us next, Ukraine saying it's now back in control of a key island seized by Russia on the first day of the invasion. But is it just symbolic?

Plus, a mother begging for the release of her son, American captured in Ukraine. She just spoke to him and she's our guest.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. Tonight, you're going to look at new satellite images of Snake Island. They were taken shortly after Russia abandoned the strategic outpost in Ukraine.

Now, Russia seized this island on the first day of the invasion and memorably, a Ukrainian soldier coined a national battle cry from there, as a Russian warship demanded Ukrainian guards on the island surrender, you recall one responded by telling the warship to, go F itself.

Scott McLean is OUTFRONT.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the battle for Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, the Ukrainians are losing ground slowly. The Russians continue bombard the city of Lysychansk, making escape for those who remain extremely difficult or even impossible.

Farther west, the search for bodies at that bombed shopping mall in Kremenchuk seems equally hopeless, as people lay flowers for those found dead and those who may never be found at all.

But Ukraine can claim one victory on Snake Island. The rocky outcrop in the Black Sea near Odessa, now back in Ukrainian control thanks to an overnight artillery assault that forced the Russian occupiers to flee.

NATALIA HUMENYUK, UKRAINIAN MILITARY'S SOUTHERN COMMAND SPOKESWOMAN (through translator): The Russians truly understood they had to do the right thing, gather their things and got out as soon as they could.

MCLEAN: Ukrainian military released this video, showing recently strikes in its week-long campaign to take back the island. New satellite images show the scars of war left behind, but no Russians. Russia claims it withdrew from the outpost as a goodwill gesture to Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This solution will prevent Kyiv from speculating on an impending food crisis, citing the inability to export grain due to Russia's total control of the northwestern part of the Black Sea.

MCLEAN: In response, Ukrainian foreign minister tweeted that the Russians always downplay their defeats this way. Partners should not be wary of providing Ukraine with more heavy weapons so that we liberate more of our lands.

Snake Island has played an outsized role in the war, from the very first day when a Russian warship ordered Ukraine troops stationed there to surrender and got this response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Russian warship, go F yourself.

MCLEAN: Since then, that defiant response has been immortalized in a postage stamp, reprinted on every souvenir and still a source of national pride.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will never give up, you know, like never, ever, like the people from Snake Island, they knew, this is like a fight they cannot win, right? They were still like, (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It would be great if the next Russian goodwill gesture would be Putin shooting himself in his bunker.


BOLDUAN: Scott joins me now from Kyiv.

Scott, Snake Island, it's such a tiny outpost compared to the massive battle lines that we've seen fought elsewhere and for so long, especially right now. How important is this win?

MCLEAN: I mean, Kate, consider that this island before the war had more sheep on it than actual people. Clearly, there is a huge symbolic value to this island, especially to the Ukrainians, but militarily, it provided, for the last few months, a launch pad for the Russians less than 100 miles from Odessa, a city they could not reach by land.


And, of course, economically, as well, whoever controls this island can easily control the shipping lanes in and out of this part of the southern coast of Ukraine.

Now the Ukrainians though, are not exactly rushing back to Snake Island to plant their flag. They want to make sure that the Russians haven't left behind mines or booby traps for them to step into before they go back there to eventually reestablish some kind of military outpost there, Kate.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Scott. Thank you very much for the update.

OUTFRONT for us next, I'm going to speak to the mother of Alex Drueke, an American captured in Ukraine. She spoke to Alex. She also spoke to the State Department today. We're going to find out what they told her.

And the Supreme Court giving President Biden one victory today, allowing him to end a Trump-era immigration rule.

We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: New tonight, the mother of captured American Alex Drueke, speaking with her son today as he is held in Ukraine for 19 days now. Alex was captured along with Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh on June 11th, while fighting with Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv.

OUTFRONT with me now is Bunny Drueke, Alex's mother.

Bunny, thank you so much for being here. It's really good to see you.

How did -- how did Alex sound today?


BUNNY DRUEKE, MOTHER OF ALEXANDER DRUEKE, AMERICAN MISSING IN UKRAINE: Most of the phone call sounded very business-like. He had information that he needed to tell me and then he had a chance to relax a little bit and talk about his dog.

BOLDUAN: What did he say about his dog this time? I know that seems to be a topic he likes to return to.

DRUEKE: Well, Alex doesn't have any children, and his dog is my granddog. In fact, I have a t-shirt with my grandchildren and Diesel is listed on it. So it is a dog that's very special to Alex and he had his yearly check-up yesterday and Alex wanted to know how it went, and how much Diesel weighed. And, for your information, it's 109 pounds.

BOLDUAN: Good, good to know.

How did he -- it's wonderful to hear laughter and happiness in your voice, because I know how -- I mean, how can you not, of course, be desperately concerned and scared and terrified for what's -- for what your son is enduring or facing or his circumstances.

Did he sound -- did he sound good? Did he sound well?

DRUEKE: He sounded very firm. He sounded business-like. Because his captors, not what he calls them, just say "they", but his captors wanted him to get out the news that they are very, very eager to negotiate Alex and Andy's release.

BOLDUAN: You were able, on that exact point, you spoke to the State Department today. What are they telling you?

DRUEKE: Well, they are telling me that all communication channels for negotiations are open and that they are, you know, ready to talk about it or, you know, it just seems like they have everything on the ball. And, of course, I'm not privy to what is going on behind the scenes.

But because of the way they have trusted us, to tell us information as we go along, I feel like I can trust them now when they say they are working towards the release in any way that they possibly can.

I did stress to Alex -- I know that there were people in the room with him, because I asked, was he alone? I stressed to them that this is a very delicate, diplomatic situation. The U.S. does not recognize the DPR as a country. We don't have diplomatic relations with them. So it makes it very tricky to try to do any kind of negotiation one-on-one.

And so, you know, a lot of what Alex and I were talking about was more for the benefit of what his captors needed to understand about our government and how it works.

BOLDUAN: Just as what you're describing, and what you are trying to convey to his captors, it's really just a reminder of what unimaginable circumstances you have found yourself in and what your poor son found himself in, of course.

Did the conversation -- did the conversation with Alex -- how did it make you feel? As a mother, did it bring you hope? Does it bring you comfort?

DRUEKE: Yes, it brings me hope. It brings me comfort. It brings me a bit of torment, because I'd rather be talking to him face-to-face and be able to reach out and touch him and know that he's safe.

I also am not sure how free he is to tell me about conditions, or how much he might be wanting to shelter me. I have to remember that. So, you know, I still have a lot of questions about it.

But overall, it's wonderful to take that phone call and hear his voice. It sounds strong. He is happy to hear my voice. And I have a chance to remind him how much I love him, and that I'm doing everything -- everything -- that I can to get he and Andy released safely.

BOLDUAN: And hearing that resolve and commitment in your voice I'm sure means everything to him in this moment. And there's also Andy. I understand Alex can't see Andy because they're both being held in solitary confinement, at least he believes, but Andy has not called his family since they were captured.

Was Alex able to tell you anything about that? Does he have a sense of why that is?

DRUEKE: No, in fact, I was able to tell Alex something about Andy.


There are videos that were released. I saw them yesterday. I think that's when they were released and I said I saw a video of you and you cut your hair. And Alex said yes, he had, and I said I saw Andy, too. How recent was that video? And he said two days ago. And he asked me then how did Andy look? And I said Andy looked tired

but good. And Alex said, I'm so relieved. Because he's quite worried about Andy, and wanted to make sure that he was okay.

BOLDUAN: I can imagine that is on top of his mind just as I'm sure Andy feels the same about him.

Bunny, thank you so much for coming on to give us an update once again. Truly, truly thank you.

DRUEKE: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: We'll continue to check in.

DRUEKE: Thank you, Kate, so much.

BOLDUAN: All right. We will. And take care of that sweet dog. Thank you so much.

DRUEKE: I'm doing it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Also tonight, in just hour, WNBA star Brittney Griner who is under arrest in Russian, she will appear in a Russian courtroom. It is the start of her trial for drug charges and this has been delayed and delayed and delayed.

Griner was arrested back in February. Russian authorities claimed that she had cannabis oil in her luggage and that was why she was charged. They also accused her of smuggling significant amounts of narcotic substances, though the State Department does not believe any of that. If convicted, she could spend up to ten years in prison.

Our Abby Phillip just sat down with Brittney Griner's wife, Cherelle, and I want to play part of that interview for you.


CHERELLE GRINER, WIFE OF WNBA STAR BRITTNEY GRINER WHO REMAINS DETAINED IN RUSSIA: They definitely said, don't be quiet. That was probably the most consistent thing that I've been hearing and I met so many just amazing family members of wrongfully detained Americans and the first thing they said was do not be quiet about this.

Do not let them forget about your loved one. They will forget about your loved one. We are three years in. We are four years in.

And my heart was breaking hearing it because I pray to God, you know, three years does not pass by and BG is still wrongfully detained in Russia.


BOLDUAN: There will be much of that exclusive interview on CNN tonight. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN. OUTFRONT for us next, the Supreme Court allowing President Biden to

end a Trump era immigration rule, but will it stop an influx of migrants at the border?



BOLDUAN: And just in. The Department of Homeland Security is saying it will terminate the Trump era policy as soon as permissible. This after the Supreme Court ruled earlier today that Biden has the authority to end Trump's hard line program. But will it stop the growing migrant crisis already at the southern border?

Priscilla Alvarez is OUTFRONT.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A major victory for the Biden administration. The Supreme Court ruling that President Biden can end the controversial Trump era "Remain in Mexico" policy.

JENNIFER SCARBOROUGH, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: It's a relief. It's a program that should have never been started.

ALVAREZ: The unprecedented program forced non-Mexican asylum seekers to return to Mexico and wait there until their immigration proceedings in the United States. It's just one piece of a complicated set of border policies that have contributed to confusion and desperation among migrants.

Jennifer Scarborough, an immigration attorney in Texas, has been working with migrants for 12 years.

SCARBOROUGH: When people feel like they have no other option, when everything's been so confusing and so difficult, they just end up taking riskier and riskier and riskier routes to try and get here.

ALVAREZ: Those dangers came into sharp focus this week when at least 53 people died after being transported in a semi-truck in the sweltering Texas heat in what is being called the deadliest human smuggling incident in U.S. human history.

There are people who left wanting to achieve the American dream and wanting to be better people, says Jose Luis Castellanos, who lives in Honduras.

The Justice Department says four people have been charged in connection to the incident. But human smuggling remains a top concern for officials this summer with temperatures in the triple digits and as border crossings continue to rise.

In May, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped more than 239,000 migrants at the U.S. southern border according to the latest available data. That's up nearly 60,000 from last May. There's deep disagreement over how to handle the influx. Even some Democrats were not unanimous in agreement with the Supreme Court ruling on remain in Mexico.

Texas Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez represents the 15th district, part of which borders Mexico. He says the administration needs to implement policies that work to address migration further south.

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): It concerns me greatly especially at this moment in time because we don't have a policy in place that will prevent mass migration to our southern border.

ALVAREZ: But immigration attorneys and advocates say remain in Mexico is not the answer.

SCARBOROUGH: The things we saw happening to people and the way they were having to live was incredibly disturbing to see. It's just now how we treat -- how we should treat human beings.


ALVAREZ (on camera): While the Supreme Court decision today is a win for the Biden administration, human smuggling continuing to be an ongoing and urgent issue. In the last 24 hours, there have been three migrant smuggling cases in Texas resulting in the death of at least six migrants -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Priscilla, thank you very much for that.

And thank you all so much for joining us tonight. I'm Kate Bolduan.

"AC360" starts now.