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CNN TONIGHT: Sources: Committee Believes Meadows Intermediary Pressured Hutchinson; SCOTUS Abortion Ruling Ignites Battle Over State Bans; WNBA Star Appears In Russian Court As Trial Begins. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 01, 2022 - 21:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: If you don't have plans for the Fourth of July, CNN has you covered.

Starting at 7 PM Eastern, CNN will celebrate the 246th anniversary, of our nation's independence, with our special "THE FOURTH IN AMERICA," right here, on CNN, until 1 AM Eastern.

In the meantime, that's it for me. Thanks for watching.

The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Sara Sidner, and CNN TONIGHT.

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you. Good to see you.

BLITZER: Good to see you.

SIDNER: I am Sara Sidner. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

We're tracking two major developments, related to the testimony, from a 26-year-old former top aide, in the Trump White House. Cannot be overstated how impactful Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, to the January 6 committee has been.

Proof? The ongoing campaign, to discredit her, by Donald Trump himself, and his allies, since she went under oath, to describe what she saw, and heard, on and around January 6.

Now, they've been taking aim at her secondhand account, calling it hearsay, when she testified that, on Insurrection day, an angry Donald Trump demanded his Secret Service detail, drive him to the Capitol, lunging at them, and the steering wheel.

But tonight, Hutchinson has new corroboration, from Secret Service sources, on part of her testimony.

CNN spoke with two Secret Service employees, including a longtime member. Both say, they also heard, about a confrontation, in the Presidential SUV, after the rally, a story, they say, spread widely, around the agency, in the weeks and months, after January 6. Though, neither source heard the part about Trump, trying to grab the steering wheel, or any physical altercation, with a security agent.

One source did hear, from agents that Trump indeed demanded to be taken to the Capitol, shouting something like, "I'm the effing president," and lunging forward, in the vehicle, then berating his protective detail, when he didn't get his way.

The second source said, they heard the account, directly from the driver, of that SUV.

The most important detail corroborated? Trump wanted to join rioters, at the Capitol, even though he allegedly knew some, who came from his rally, were armed.

The other concerning development, is the new information, about who may have been pressuring Cassidy Hutchinson, ahead of her sworn testimony.

The January 6 committee, showed two messages, on Tuesday. Sources have since told CNN, both were directed, at Hutchinson, from people inside Trump's circle, who could have been trying, to intimidate her.

One at the bottom, of the screen there, said, "[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know that 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."

So, who is that person? According to multiple sources, an intermediary, contacted Hutchinson, on behalf of her former boss, then-White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows.

Meadows spokeswoman - spokesperson, however, is denying that he or anyone in his camp, ever tried to intimidate her, or shape her testimony.

All right, that's a lot to go through. Let's turn, to a former Trump insider, for her take. Alyssa Farah Griffin, until December 2020, she was the White House Communications Director, under President Trump.

And Alyssa, you were also friends with Cassidy Hutchinson. Thank you for being here.


SIDNER: So, we've talked about this before. You worked directly with former President Trump's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows.

From your experience with him, would it be uncharacteristic of him, to try to do something, like this? He's being accused of, someone in his camp trying to intimidate a witness, in this testimony. That witness, obviously, your friend, Cassidy Hutchinson.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Listen, the Mark Meadows of maybe half a decade ago, when I first worked for him? This would be unheard of. But the Mark Meadows that, I think, began to come out, when he was in the West Wing, and really revealed itself, in those final months? It completely tracks with the kind of behavior he was engaging in.

I mean, beyond just obviously the direct things that apply to Cassidy, this potential intimidation, he was bringing in some of the worst of the worst conspiracy theorists, to give them an audience, with the President.

He was downplaying, reports of violence, as her testimony stated, knowing that there were going to be people, who would be in harm's way, at the Capitol. So honestly, it perfectly tracks, with his judgment, and his lack of concern that we saw, in those final months.

SIDNER: If indeed, and it's been denied, but if indeed someone in Meadows' orbit or Meadows himself, or at his behest, tried to influence her testimony, would former President Trump know about that, in your estimation?

FARAH GRIFFIN: So, that's kind of - that's an important question. I could see it being either way, to be honest. It's very in line with kind of the history of how Trumpworld operates, to really push loyalty, and punish those, who aren't loyal.


I've talked a lot about the disparaging comments, and smears, on her character that Cassidy is now facing. I faced them, when I spoke out against Trump. That's kind of textbook Trumpism.

But I could also see this being Meadows, on his own. He knew there was one person, who could probably reveal his wrong actions, more than anyone. And it was Cassidy. And frankly, in recent months, he's been out of the good graces, of the former President's. So, I think, the last thing he wanted was testimony that was going to put him, in an even worse spot, and put them both in front of even more legal exposure.

So, I could see it being either directions, unfortunately.

SIDNER: Can I ask you about Cassidy? First of all, have you talked to her, since her testimony? And has she gotten any more pressure, or has anyone, from her former boss' world, or Mr. Trump's world, reached out to her?

FARAH GRIFFIN: So, I've talked to her. She's doing very well.

All things considered, she went into this, knowing her life was going to change, overnight. But, of course, the magnitude of that doesn't really hit you until afterward. And she walked into it knowing she was going to be smeared, she was going to be defamed.

But I think she has a strong support system around her. There are so many people, who are so proud of what she did, and who are ready to support her. She's not told me anything about any outreach, from Trumpworld. I would be shocked if they would do it. She's got a really strong team of attorneys, around her, as well as just supportive people, who believe in what she's doing.

SIDNER: Can she, by any chance, did she say anything to you, about the potential of other people, coming forward? Or have you heard anyone, say to you, "You know what? After hearing from her, and the way that she presented evidence, in this case, it's time for us to come forward."

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well - right. So, Cassidy herself, I think, is lying low. She really wants to let her testimony stand.

Because the initial aftermath, of course, there were these discrepancies. And even as the days have played out, as your reporting showed, there's been more corroboration of everything, she said.

I stand by what she said. She stands by it. The committee does. And, I think, it's only a matter of time that there's going to be more that comes out, to show she was telling the God's honest truth.

But, to your question, I do think it's very likely more witnesses will come forward. And not - I don't have special knowledge of it. But anecdotally, I've had even mid-level and more junior people come to me, and say, "You know, if I can help, I would like to."

I don't know, if I know something. It's not necessarily a bombshell, like Cassidy. But people, who I thought were probably squarely, in Trumpworld that are saying "No, this woman did something brave. She exposed what we feared was happening," and they want to be on the right side of history.

So, it's a testament to how much her testimony, is breaking through, with people, honestly.

SIDNER: We talked about this, this week. You had said that perhaps the January 6 committee had almost opened a trap, because they did not go to the Secret Service, and tell them what they knew, or what they knew, she might testify to.

Now, you've got these sources that have come to CNN, and others, from the Secret Service, saying that they too had heard, part of the story, about Donald Trump being very angry, and trying to go, to where the rioters were, to the Capitol, knowing that some of the people may have been armed.

What might this mean, for the Secret Service? Because, they have denied this, saying they're going to let their agents testify, denied what Hutchinson's account, in front of this committee was.

What does this mean for Tony Ornato, the agent she said, she heard this from, and the other agents, who now are saying they also heard this?

FARAH GRIFFIN: So, to be clear, I hold the United States Secret Service, in the highest regard.

And having myself been a spokesperson, at one point, for the Department of Defense, I understand how these agencies probably respond, almost en masse, on behalf of the agency, on behalf of U.S. Secret Service. They had to come out and say something.

I worry that they're going to look back, as they get more information, and realizing, Tony Ornato, who yes, is a Secret Service agent, but was a political appointee, and acting as a political actor, when he was in the Trump White House, may have put them in a bad situation.

And I think some of the - there's been obviously the reporting that's come out, of people, hearing rumors of this, at the time. I even since have heard, from journalists, at the time, who were chasing the story, but just didn't get quite enough, to corroborate it. So, I think, it's a tough position, for them to be in.

But, I think, the committee has been meticulous, to this point. They do everything deliberately. Honestly, as a former congressional staffer, I've never seen a committee, work so methodically. So, I don't think they would put up one piece of hearsay, in a 90-minute testimony, if there wasn't a broader purpose to it.

It's speculation, on my part. But I do think they realized it was an important story, and this would pressure somebody, who's otherwise been largely uncooperative, and members have come out and said Tony Ornato was not forthright? This is going to pressure him to come, once again, under oath, and answer tough questions.

SIDNER: All right, thank you, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

Now, to our panel.


The pressure on witnesses, like Cassidy Hutchinson, has come, with the context of committee member, Zoe Lofgren, saying this.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): As you know, in a prior hearing, we talked about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the former President raised. Some of that money, is being used, to pay for lawyers, for witnesses. And it's not clear that that arrangement is one that is without coercion potential, for some of those witnesses.


SIDNER: Let's discuss, the legal and the political implications, with Michelle Cottle, from The New York Times, former RNC Communications Director, Doug Heye, and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Elliot Williams.

Thank you all for being here.

Michelle, I'm going to start with you. We'll get to the legal stuff, in a minute.

But just what you just heard, Zoe Lofgren said, about money being used, to help pay for the lawyers, for those who are being contacted, or may testify, in front of the January 6 committee? Is it something that looks bad, but is legal? Or is there something really wrong here, with that?

MICHELLE COTTLE, EDITORIAL WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I'm not going to address the legal issue.

But, I think, in terms of, how bad it looks? It's completely sketchy. I mean, you're investigating the Soprano crime family, and you find out that the witnesses coming before you, are having their legal bills paid, by people close to the Soprano crime family? I think that's a real problem!

So, I can't imagine that this is a good situation for them.

SIDNER: Elliot, I want to ask you the same question.


SIDNER: Because you'll look at this from the legal perspective, as well.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Funny! Look, at the end of the day, there's nothing wrong, on its face, with paying someone else's legal bills. Think about all the GoFundMes you see, when people have a legal defense fund, or literally a legal defense fund? That's OK.

Now, when you start putting conditions, on the money, you're giving somebody, or conditioning, the advice you're giving them? Then, of course, that is a problem. It runs into ethical laws, and it could be witness tampering, too.

So, like, on its face, it's fine. But it can carry some other bad stuff, depending on what's behind the money.

SIDNER: But couldn't somebody not have the word said to them which is--

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

SIDNER: --and still feel that pressure that if they're being paid for, by the folks that are in and around Trump's world, that if they say the wrong thing, then they're on their own?

WILLIAMS: Yes. And even Sara, you don't even need to say that much. It doesn't need to be that explicit. It could be "Here's $50,000. You're on the team, right?" And that, I think, starts getting you into the ethical trouble with, frankly, with the bar, or even with the law. It could be criminal.



SIDNER: Doug, where is the Republican Party that used to get really upset about any appearance of impropriety? I mean, law and order, worried about moral decay? What do you make of this? Is this technically a problem for them?

DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, FORMER DEP CHIEF OF STAFF, COMMS FOR FORMER MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR, FELLOW, HARVARD INSTITUTE OF POLITICS: Politically, it may not be a problem. They look to have a big political year, certainly, in the House of Representatives, potentially in the Senate.

But obviously, the Republican Party has morphed, over the past few years. And the party that by and large said, "We can't elect this guy," overwhelmingly, every person, who was running--

SIDNER: Right.

HEYE: --for president, in 2016 said, "This guy's terrible," until they stopped doing that. And, as that happened, the Republican Party changed.

And it's one thing I'd take issue with what Alyssa said, about Mark Meadows is, this is exactly the Mark Meadows that I met in 2013, and dealt with in 2014. This is the Mark Meadows that everyone, who worked in House leadership, knew.

If you read John Boehner's book, he has very personal stories, about Mark Meadows, where he won't say it's Mark Meadows, but it's very clearly Mark Meadows. This shouldn't surprise anybody that this is where a lot of this is being pointed to now.

SIDNER: Do you think, from the Mark Meadows that you know, that he would be capable of doing something, like--

HEYE: Without question.

SIDNER: --trying to intimidate a witness?

HEYE: Without question. Look, he is somebody, who John Boehner, in his book, talks about a story, of an unnamed member of Congress that everyone knows is Mark Meadows that literally got on his knees, in the Speaker's office, and said, "I beg you to forgive me." That's Mark Meadows.

SIDNER: Wow! All right.

HEYE: It's a good book!

SIDNER: Yes. Clearly! I better go pick it up!

Doug, I want to talk to you about limits. You said that you are proud to take part in the Brooks Brothers riot, right?

HEYE: Yes.

SIDNER: That was - that was a while ago. 20 some odd years ago.

HEYE: I'm old, yes!

SIDNER: I'm right there with you!

Where Bush supporters, entered a government building, in Miami, to stop the vote count, back in 2000. Everybody remembers 2000, the hanging chads, and so on and so forth. Where does the line get drawn?

We're looking at some video, from back there and - back in the old days, in 2000.

HEYE: Yes.

SIDNER: But where is the line drawn, between that, and what happened, in January 6? Do you draw a line?

HEYE: Yes, very clearly.


In 2000, and some of my Democratic friends will disagree with me, on this, but we were, on the 19th floor of the Stephen Clark Center, in Miami, and we were chanting - we were chanting "Count Every Vote!" And a colleague of mine, pulled a sign that said "Voter Fraud" with the 1- 800 number, and we chanted "Call Now! Call Now!"

There's a very real difference, between that, and then what we saw, not just on January 6, but in the run-up to the election. "If I lose, therefore it's going to be stolen. I have lost, it was stolen."

And what Donald Trump has done, and others have too? And we've seen this in other elections as well. But the President United States has more power. We call it the bully pulpit. It's much more than that. And it's what we broadcast to the world. Has really weakened what we believe, and everybody now believes in both parties, in the efficacy of our elections. And that's a real problem, moving forward, in America, and throughout the world.

WILLIAMS: And it wasn't just the 2016 election - the 2020 election. He started making those claims, as early as 2016 that there's--

HEYE: Iowa caucuses.


SIDNER: Right.

WILLIAMS: "The only way I would lose this election is if there's fraud." So there's a through line that went all the way through, again--

HEYE: Ted Cruz--

WILLIAMS: --yes.

HEYE: Ted Cruz stole the Iowa caucus, from Donald Trump, according to Donald Trump.

SIDNER: Right. So, no matter what happens--

HEYE: Donald Trump.

SIDNER: --the idea is he set it up that if he loses, it's been stolen. I mean, that was said many, many, many times. And people had asked him, reporters had asked him, "Well, if you win, was it stolen?" I mean, obviously, if you think of it one way, is it the other?

I want to ask you about Meadows because of--


SIDNER: --what we just heard. Is there a possibility? I mean, what happens next?


SIDNER: If you were looking at this case, from the DOJ's eyes, like what happens next, when you start hearing this kind of--


SIDNER: --language?

WILLIAMS: All right, witness tampering, it's corruptly persuading someone, with the intent to, I think, prevent, hinder or influence their testimony.

Like I said, Sara, it just doesn't need to be that much. You don't need to put the severed head of the horse, in somebody's bed. You just need to intend to get them to say something else. And this is - you could at least charge this here. It's getting there. And it's not as a baseless case, on its face.

COTTLE: Yes. And one of the things--


COTTLE: --Mark Meadows needs to think about is if this gets tracked back to him, Donald Trump's going to cut him loose, in a heartbeat.


COTTLE: He's not going to keep him--

HEYE: Donald Trump's loyal to Donald Trump.

COTTLE: He is not - he does not care. He will throw him under the bus, as quickly as he has thrown everybody under the bus.

SIDNER: He'll say, "It was that guy. I didn't have anything to do with it."

COTTLE: That's right. SIDNER: "And he's on his own."

All right. Thank you, Michelle Cottle.

And Doug, and Elliot, will be back with us, in just a bit.

It's been a week, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. And the battle is already raging, in the courts, on a state-by-state basis. We'll look into what's happening now, and what President Biden is doing, on his end, to try and counter the Supreme Court's decision. That's next.



SIDNER: One week, since the overturning of Roe versus Wade, at least 10 states have banned, or severely restricted, abortion, and many more are moving to follow suit.

But the map you see here is continuously shifting, as states and abortion rights advocates wage their own battles, in court.

Legal challenges are underway, in at least 11 states, right now. Temporary injunctions, to block strict abortion laws, are in place, in four states, Utah, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. A Florida judge is also expected to sign a temporary statewide injunction, next week.

President Biden, in the meantime, has vowed to protect abortion access, and the use of abortion pills, but acknowledged, the rest is up to Congress!


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Congress is going to have to act to codify the Roe into federal law. And, as I said, yesterday, the filibuster should not stand in the way of us being able to do that. But, right now, we don't have the votes, in the Senate, to change the filibuster.

This is not over. It's not over.


SIDNER: Joining me now, is Nancy Northup, the President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the advocacy groups, fighting these state bans.

You were also a part of that Supreme Court case that was decided against. Nancy, you recently wrote an Op-Ed, calling on President Biden, to declare a public health emergency, for abortion, immediately.

Why did you do that? And what are you expecting that to do, if he were to do so? NANCY NORTHUP, PRESIDENT & CEO, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Yes, well, in the weeks, since Roe versus Wade was overturned, we've seen states move quickly, as you said, to ban abortion, to put these trigger laws into effect.

And, as you said, we filed a 11 lawsuits. There have been injunctions, in various states. But the consequences are swift and severe, as in state after state after state, people losing the right, to make this decision.

And so, the Biden administration has the power, to declare a public health emergency.

And what that would allow is for the Administration to ensure that the FDA's approved medication abortion, which the agency has said can be used for telemedicine? So that you could be in Texas, and have a telehealth visit, perhaps with a doctor, in New York, and then have pills mailed to you, at your home, you would never have to leave your house? That that would be an important countermeasure, to this public health emergency.

Because the consequences, the health consequences, of denial of access to abortion, are well-known, because of complications, from pregnancy, and delivery, and unsafe abortion. So it's really, really critical, and to be able to get medication abortion, to people, in states, where abortion is banned, would be a very, very important counter response.

SIDNER: But the President hasn't done that. Why do you think that is? Obviously, there could be some legal ramifications. Couldn't there be?

NORTHUP: Well, I think that the Administration is still considering all of its options, to be able to bring into effect, what the President has said, which is that access to FDA-approved drugs, meaning medication abortion, should be as available as possible, and states shouldn't be able to block it.


So, I think, the Administration is still thinking about what are all the possible ways to do it. And the one that I just talked about, with the public health emergency, is one of the ways available, to the administration.

SIDNER: I got to ask you about this. The Supreme Court has left it up to the states, to decide the legalities of abortion. Isn't what is happening exactly what the Supreme Court intended? And if so, I mean, what you're doing, to fight this, do you think, it's kind of a moot point? They have made their point that the states get to decide.

NORTHUP: Well, the states still need to comply with their own state laws, and constitutions. So, the lawsuits that we have filed, along with colleague organizations, have been under the state constitutions.

And everyone, in the United States, of course, has two levels of protection. The federal constitution, which unfortunately, the Supreme Court just said, doesn't protect abortion rights, as a personal liberty.

But they've also got every state, which has a constitution. And some of those state constitutions have already been held, to protect abortion rights. And some were asking, for the court, to find that, in their state constitution.

And we also have other claims, in some of the cases, like Louisiana, where they have not one, not two, but three trigger laws. It's vague, which one is even in place.

So, there are other legal and good grounds, for challenging these laws, and the fact that the Supreme Court said, that Roe versus Wade was overturned doesn't mean the rule of law is over, in every single state.

SIDNER: This is though what conservatives, for a very long time, have been fighting for. And they were overjoyed, to see the court overturn Roe. And you mentioned the states, like Kansas that have abortion rights, as part of their constitution. But other states don't have those laws, necessarily.

What makes you think that your lawsuits have a chance, in reversing any of this, in states that are going forward, trying to ban or severely restrict abortion?

NORTHUP: Well, let me start with the fact that, I mean, our immediate concern, is to be able to keep clinics open, and abortion providers, to be able to provide the services, to the people, in their communities, for as long as possible.

So, states can't move with expedition without making sure they're complying with their own laws. And it's really important.

I mean, in Louisiana, abortion services are back, being able to be provided. And that makes a huge difference, for the person, who's sitting in the waiting room, who's made their appointment, who's made their decision. It's a huge change for their own life.

And so, it's very important right now that we're able to keep clinics open, as long as possible. And, in some states, where we're challenging, under the state constitutions, they may well prevail, in the long term, of keeping abortion access, in those states.

SIDNER: Nancy Northup, thank you.

It's not the decision - that Roe decision widening America's divide. The new makeup of this Supreme Court, is handing down all kinds of rulings, reshaping American life, as we know it.

We'll dig deeper into that, and what else could be coming from the court, next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SIDNER: The impact of this term, for the Supreme Court, will be felt, for decades. They may be legal decisions. But those decisions place the court also smack dab in the middle of America's culture wars.

As some, in this nation, cry out about excessive force, and the number of young Black men killed by police? Twice, the High Court ruled in favor of police officers, limiting the circumstances, in which excessive force claims, can be brought against police.

The deadly smuggling incident, in San Antonio, Texas, this weekend, reminds us all of the horrible price, some will pay, for a chance to call America, home.

The court allowed President Biden, to end former President Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy. But it limited legal options, for those, who are here, and made it harder, to hold Border Patrol officers, accountable, in some cases.

Citizens of Puerto Rico, were denied, equal access to protection, in terms of disability benefits, while Native Americans saw the court weaken their tribal rights, while also stripping them of double jeopardy protections.

Basic tenets of our justice system, like habeas corpus, and Miranda, were watered down, while those in power, namely Senator Ted Cruz, were given more freedom, from campaign finance rules.

In the midst of global crises like a pandemic, and global warming, the court stripped power from the very agencies designed to protect us. The federal vaccine mandate was struck down. And the EPA lost the ability to regulate power plant emissions.

As school board meetings become battlegrounds, the court stepped right into the heart of that fight, by weakening the separation of church and state, and allowing prayer, on school grounds.

The court solidified the neighbor versus neighbor nature of our politics, by upholding Texas' abortion bounty system. The court wiped out 100 years of established gun regulations, and the 49-year precedent, for the constitutional right to an abortion.

But all of this may be a precursor for what's to come!

With me, to discuss, the court's new reality, are Bakari Sellers, Doug Heye, and Elliot Williams.

Gentlemen, welcome back.

Welcome back from last night.


SIDNER: All right, Doug, I'm going to start with you.

When we look at the next term, there are a lot of things coming down the pipe that a lot of people are concerned about. Voting rights, LGBTQ discrimination. These things are all on the docket, for the court, to look at, in the next term, in October.

If you look at SCOTUS, and what they did, already, how far will they go, do you think?

HEYE: I don't think we know yet. What Republicans have talked about, on the issue of abortion, they've been very clear on. They've been very clear and consistent, for years.

SIDNER: For decades.

HEYE: This is what they've always talked about doing. And it's why making - judging what the politics of this are, I think, are slightly difficult.

Going that step further, on something, like gay marriage? Maybe easy for the court to do. Maybe hard to do. If you're talking about Clarence Thomas? Well, then what do you think about the Loving decision, right?

SIDNER: Right.

HEYE: Where he has obviously a very personal stake, in that.

SIDNER: A lot of people notice that he didn't mention that one.

HEYE: Exactly. So, I think, it's really hard to tell.


Obviously, Democrats are going to say, "This is what the Republicans, or Republicans, on the court, are going to do," and define it as extreme, as often as they can. It's also a great base motivator, for them. But I just don't think we know fully yet.

SIDNER: Elliot, what do you think? From what we've seen already?


SIDNER: I mean, the court's been very clear. And they have you know erased--


SIDNER: --a lot of precedent, here.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Look, the court has - the Supreme Court has shifted to the Right, over the last couple of years. There is no question about that fact.

But, I think, we need to step back. And everyone focuses on the six conservative appointees, on the Supreme Court, when the federal courts across the country, have shifted to the Right.

Just by way of a little quick history lesson? At the end of President Obama's term, there were 105 judicial vacancies, right? Now, President Trump came in, and said, "Barack Obama left me all these." Well, it was because Mitch McConnell, and Senate Republicans, didn't confirm judges, for the most part, for Barack Obama's entire final last two years. That had a huge impact, on shifting the courts, to where they are today.

It's been an animating principle, for voters, on the Right, for the last 40 years, ultimately ending and culminating in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. But shifting the courts to the Right, has been something that quite successfully, led by Senator McConnell, Republicans have done.

SIDNER: And this is what Republicans have wanted.


SIDNER: So there is - there are group, a large number of Americans, who like what they're seeing.

Bakari, Democrats, for decades, have known that Republicans, are working towards their - this aim, particularly with Roe versus Wade. Have they been doing enough? Did Democrats - they could have codified this into law. Have they been doing enough?

SELLERS: Well, I mean, so, look - well, codifying it into law, we have to go back and remember, many people think about the 44th President of the United States, and Barack Obama. But he only had a - that supermajority, for 72 days--

SIDNER: Right.

SELLERS: --before the passing of Senator Kennedy. So, that's just a little footnote.

The fact is, though Democrats have not done enough. Whether or not it was Rahm Emanuel, who pretty much said, "F the courts! We have other things we need to be doing," to use Rahm Emanuel language? When you think about the fact that RBG should have retired, when Barack Obama was President of the United States? My liberal friends get mad at me for saying actual facts.

Or you look at the one of the things that conservatives did, when you talk about Roe v. Wade, was organizing, to block Harriet Miers, from the Supreme Court, and replacing her with Alito, whose mission in life, has been to overturn Roe v. Wade, or McConnell, and his blocking of Merrick Garland.

It's very clear to see what this Court is doing. I mean, this is a fact. All you have to do is look at the concurring opinion, by Justice Thomas. Of course, he didn't put his own marriage there. But would he vote for it? I don't know. But do they need him to vote? No.

They're coming after privacy rights. They're coming after substantive due process, and everything, every line that you can draw from that. Now, I will tell you that I didn't make any As in law school. You know, what they call somebody who finishes last in their law school class? WILLIAMS: Counselor!

HEYE: Lawyer!

SELLERS: A lawyer.

SIDNER: Lawyer. Yes!

SELLERS: That's what you have here, OK? So, I ain't a legal scholar. But I will tell you that I can read an opinion and tell you what I can see next.


SELLERS: And what you can see next is gay marriage.


SELLERS: What you can see next is many of the laws that come from substantive due process, IVF, birth control, contraception, same-sex marriage, intimacy with a partner of your choosing. And then you get to the things that people don't want to talk about, Brown versus Board of Education, et cetera.

SIDNER: Right. Yes--

WILLIAMS: There's a reason - well, sorry, go ahead.

SIDNER: Go ahead. Go ahead, Elliot.

WILLIAMS: No, I was just going to say, dissents are written to disagree with the majority opinion.

SIDNER: Right.

WILLIAMS: But they're also written for history.

SIDNER: Right.

WILLIAMS: And they're written to, for future courts that might take those issues up, and might pull the court, in that direction. So, I actually think Clarence Thomas, was aiming for the fences there, with the hope that he might get a future more--

SIDNER: Pushing forward.

WILLIAMS: --even more aggressive Supreme Court, yes.

SIDNER: But since Republicans, have - they have gotten what they have wanted, for many, many, many decades. But they have been working towards that, and working towards that.


SIDNER: And they finally got what they wanted. And you cannot blame them. This is what they wanted. And they are celebrating this. What should Democrats do?

SELLERS: Well, first of all, the President of the United States has to organize. And I'm not sure, what he's doing. I can tell you what he ain't doing, all right?

And the fact that we knew this was coming, for 30 days, and his White House, was sitting on their hands, and did absolutely nothing, is one of the more depressing things, for a Democrat, in this country.

The fact that we have Kyrsten Sinema, for example? And I hope she's watching tonight, because her cowardice is one of the reasons that were set back, in this country.

The fact that she is so hypocritical, that she will come out and say that "No, I will not eliminate the filibuster, to codify the rights of women, reproductive rights of women?"

SIDNER: Right.

SELLERS: But will send me an email, a fundraising emails, talking about how she's a reproductive rights champion?

I mean, this is the type of stuff that makes sure that Democrats stay in minorities. This is what's going to burn us in 2022. It's the talking out of both sides of our neck. It's the lack of fortitude. It's the lack of courage.

And Republicans, to their credit, had a 40-year vision, a 50-year vision.

Democrats can't get a seven-day vision!

SIDNER: Let me ask you a quick question. This is a yes or no? Will these issues bring Democrats to the polls, in 2020, and ostensibly, 2024?

SELLERS: Yes, maybe.

SIDNER: Republicans?

HEYE: Some Republicans.

SIDNER: They've got what they want.

HEYE: Maybe more Democrats. But the issues of inflation, and rising--

SELLERS: She said, yes or no?

WILLIAMS: Oh my Gosh!


SIDNER: I mean?

HEYE: I didn't-- (CROSSTALK)

SIDNER: There are.

WILLIAMS: You're sounding--


WILLIAMS: --you're sounding - you're sounding like--

SIDNER: He didn't go--

WILLIAMS: --a lawyer--

SIDNER: There are other issues.


WILLIAMS: I know. Maybe I don't know.

SELLERS: He didn't tell you (ph).

SIDNER: You were correct. There are other issues.

HEYE: These are in the right to object.

SIDNER: There are other issues. The economy is always a big one. It always has been a big one. We will talk about that in a bit.

Thanks to the three of you. I appreciate it.

SELLERS: Elliot, you didn't even get an answer.

SIDNER: Elliot?

WILLIAMS: Well Elliot's--

SIDNER: Yes, or no? Well, Elliot's the legal guy.

WILLIAMS: --Elliot is good.

SIDNER: He doesn't want to get into politics.

HEYE: It could be one for what he don't say (ph).

WILLIAMS: Obi-Wan Kenobi, I don't do politics.

SIDNER: Smart!

WILLIAMS: I'm saying that (ph).

SIDNER: Smart!

All right. Now, to our next story. American basketball star Brittney Griner, appears, in a Russian courtroom, after months in custody. The U.S. calls her detention, wrongful. Today's developments, near Moscow, and the fight, to bring Brittney home, that's coming up, next.


SIDNER: American WNBA star, Brittney Griner, will be back in a Russian courtroom, on Thursday, after her trial began, today, near Moscow.

She stands accused of bringing less than a gram of cannabis oil, into the country. She has been held since February. U.S. diplomatic officials were in court, today, watching some of the proceedings. Griner faces up to 10 years in prison, if convicted, there.


In a tweet, U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, wrote, "We - and I personally - have no higher priority than bringing her and other wrongfully detained Americans home."

So, what is the Biden administration prepared, to do to make that happen? Let's discuss with Steve Hall. He's a former CIA Chief of Russia Operations, and a CNN National Security Analyst.

Thank you for being here, Steve.


SIDNER: All right, let's talk first about Russia. Their system is different than our system, when it comes to the justice system.

In Russia, what is the likelihood that a trial, any trial, not just Griner's trial, results in an acquittal?

HALL: Well, I think you have to start with the fact that there really is no judicial system in Russia. What you have is a very well- developed theater, a Potemkin village, if you will, of some sort of idea that maybe there is rule of law, in Russia.

And this is, of course, not the case. You'll see things that many of us in the West, and especially in the United States, recognize. You'll see judges. You'll see courtrooms. You'll see lawyers. But all of that is drama.

This is - there is no legal system to speak up that is truly functional, in any Western sense. So, acquittals, whether they - how many there are, how many there aren't, it doesn't matter. The Kremlin is the one who decides, certainly on these high-profile cases, like Griner's case.

SIDNER: I do want to mention something. Because you talked about how these courts work.

We heard, from a member of the embassy, was in there, watching this. And obviously, they're trying to observe, to see if there is any potential fairness or anything that they can do and use. And, at one point, when a witness came forward, against Brittney Griner, they were told to leave. I mean, that would never happen, in our court system. So, it's an example of what you say that this is more theater than it is an actual judicial process.

What, at this point, do you think, Brittney Griner's best options are, right now?

HALL: It's really unfortunate that she doesn't really have any good options, at this point.


HALL: She is now under the wraps of the Russian government, of the Russian system. And the only thing that really that she can hope for is, is that what Vladimir Putin wants out of this, which is an exchange of prisoners.

Because, really what's happened, to Brittney Griner? She's been kidnapped, and she's being held now, in exchange for something that Putin wants.

Whether or not it's high-profile Russians that are held here, in the United States? Many people have spoken about Viktor Bout, who is a - he's just an arms trafficker, a horrible person, who's in jail, for 25 years, here in the United States.

It could be that that's what Putin wants, in exchange. They want a prisoner swap, or some other high-level prisoner. So really, that is her only hope, aside from a 10-year prison sentence, which is truly horrific, in Russian prisons.

SIDNER: Truly. And we should be clear, the Biden administration, and many administrations, are usually reluctant, to create that incentive, to say, "OK, if you get one of ours, we're going to give you one of yours."

And the person that you just mentioned, Viktor Bout, he's known as the Merchant of Death. I mean, Brittney Griner is a WNBA star player, who allegedly, is accused of having, a little tiny bit of cannabis oil. I mean, they're very different people.

What is the danger, to this case, and just, in general, to relationships, if they do carry out prisoner swap, which they have done before?

HALL: Yes, this is the - this is the part that is really, it's just really difficult, for really any administration, in the United States, because it's so galling.

So, they have somebody, they have a U.S. citizen. And, of course, the U.S. government's first and foremost interest, is looking after U.S. citizens, abroad. That's the primary responsibility of consular sections, in the State Department, everyone knows, why you say the charge d'affaires attending that court trial, the court appearance that you mentioned earlier. But the problem is, is that yes, you're going to incentivize more of this, not just by Russia. North Korea is another perfect example. These rogue states, these authoritarian states, who know that all they have to do is nab one American, whether it's a business person, a tourist, or a professional, like Griner, and then they can bargain, for whatever it is that they want, for us.

So that's - that puts the administration in a really difficult position, especially when the families begin to put pressure, on public figures, and saying, "Look, you got to do something, to get this American, my daughter, my wife, whatever, out of the Russian jail." It's a really difficult position, for any administration, to be in.

SIDNER: Steve Hall, thank you so much.

We did hear from Cherelle, her wife, yesterday, who did just that, put pressure on the Administration, and she said she will, and the family will, be putting more pressure on them. They want Brittney home.

I appreciate your time, Steve.

HALL: Sure.

SIDNER: All right. This country, it's Fourth of July weekend. Fun, right? But be ready! Traveling, this holiday weekend, is promising some serious headaches.

We'll look at what's leading the airlines to cancel so many flights, as a rush of travelers, like we haven't seen, in more than two years, are expected to crowd, into airports. That story, coming up next.



SIDNER: More Americans are expected, to fly, this holiday weekend than we have seen since the start of the pandemic. But are the airlines ready, for the rush? Delays and cancellations just might be in your future.

Natasha Chen, is at Los Angeles International Airport, tonight.

Nationwide, just give me a sense of how things are looking, right now.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sara, nationwide, there have been about 570 flight cancellations, today, more than 6,800 delays.

Here, at LAX, it's been pretty smooth. But we have seen some more serious problems, from the New York area airports. For example, LaGuardia, and Newark, each, more than 40 percent of their departures, were delayed today.

And why we're seeing these delays, and cancellations, is because of a number of factors, all happening at once. First, you've got some potential severe weather, this weekend, in pretty much every region except the West Coast.

And then, you have this surge of demand, from travelers. And you might have mentioned that this is really the most number of travelers, expected, since the pandemic began. TSA, last Sunday, screened the most number of passengers, through U.S. airports, since February of 2020.


Now I've been saying that same phrase, through a number of holiday weekends, throughout the last couple of years, at different airports, which just goes to show that demand keeps building. But the staffing with, on the airlines side, has not met up with that.

So, a lot of staffing shortages, high demand, and weather, this weekend.

SIDNER: A lot of people get frustrated, anybody would, myself included. Because the delays are a problem. The cancellations are madness.

But airlines received $54 billion, in federal assistance, during COVID's peak, to avoid involuntary layoffs. They now have fewer employees than before the pandemic, especially pilots, who are fed up because they say they're tired. I mean, what is happening on that front?

CHEN: We heard from the Chair of the Allied Pilots Association, today. And he gave an example of American Airlines, he said, that used some of those funds, to incentivize early retirement, when all the planes were grounded, in the beginning of the pandemic.

And he felt that there wasn't enough foresight, in keeping enough pilots, current. And so, there's this training backlog, now. He said, it's going to take some time, for the staffing, to come back to full speed, to meet this demand.

So, in the meantime, a lot of airlines say, to the travelers, please, be patient. They're doing everything they can, to make things smooth, this weekend, Sara.

SIDNER: All right. Natasha Chen, thank you.