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Biden Calls Tough Putin A Worthy Adversary Ahead Of Summit; Unanswered Question About Trump DOJ Subpoenas As Target List Grows; Rep. Taylor Greene (R-GA) Apologizes For Comparing Mask Mandates To Holocaust After Secretly Visiting The Holocaust Museum In D.C.; FBI Warning Lawmakers QAnon Conspiracy Theorists May Become More Violent After January 6 Insurrection; Netanyahu Attacks New Israeli Government, Vows Return To Power As Naftali Bennett Replaces Him As Prime Minister. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 14, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. After talks with NATO leaders, President Biden sidestepped a question about calling Vladimir Putin a killer.
Also tonight, he's laying out areas of potential cooperation and conflict with the Russian leaders just ahead of their summit here in Geneva.
Attorney General Merrick Garland says important questions must be resolved about the Trump administration's subpoenas to get data on political opponents. Why are many of the key details still so murky?
And Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is on the attack after being ousted as Prime Minister, ending his 12 years in power with slaps at the new government in Jerusalem and President Biden.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
Here in Geneva, Switzerland, we are two days out from the critical Biden/Putin summit. We're covering that and the president's important talks with NATO leaders in Brussels.
Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is on the scene for us in Brussels. Phil the president says the NATO meeting was productive, but his upcoming summit with Putin is clearly very much on his mind.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, over the course of the last several days, meeting after meeting with U.S. allies, one thing has been clear. While there's a significant agenda the president wanted to address both the G7 and here in Brussels at the NATO Summit, the meeting with President Putin is an ever present piece of every conversation that he has, Wolf.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have found that he is, as they say, when used to play ball, a worthy adversary.
MATTINGLY (voice over): Tonight, President Biden now deep into preparation for his high-stakes sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
BIDEN: I'm going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate if he chooses. And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cyber security and some other activities, then we will respond.
MATTINGLY: Even as he seeks to reestablish and tighten U.S. bonds with traditional allies at the NATO summit in Brussels, the Russian leader never far from his mind.
BIDEN: I'm hoping that President Putin concludes that there is some interest in terms of his own interests in changing the perception the world has of him in terms of whether or not he will engage in behavior that's more consistent with what is considered to be appropriate behavior for head of state.
MATTINGLY: And responding this way when told Putin laughed at Biden referring to the Russian leader as a killer.
BIDEN: To answer the first question, I'm laughing too.
The answer is, I believe he is the past essentially acknowledged that he was, there were certain things that he would do or did do. But, look, when I was asked that question on air, I answered it honestly.
MATTINGLY: A lengthy list of items on the agenda in Geneva, forewarnings (ph) on cyberattacks, political prisoners and aggression in Ukraine, to areas of potential cooperation, like Afghanistan, arms control and the Iran nuclear deal.
BIDEN: We should decide where it's in our mutual interest and the interest of the world to cooperate and see if we can do that. And the areas where we don't agree, make it clear what the red lines are.
MATTINGLY: Biden meeting privately with Baltic and Eastern European leaders over the course of the day, soliciting their positions in advance of the meeting and reassuring allies, officials say, their answers factored into weeks of preparation for the famously unpredictable Russian leader, one who thirves of hijacking substantive conversation, including continued denials of hacking efforts confirmed by U.S. intelligence.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: Where is the evidence? Where is proof? It's becoming farcical. We know this well.
MATTINGLY: Biden's preparation has included an emphasis on ways Putin may try to pull the meeting off track, official tells CNN, as the Russian leader preview those potential lines in his recent interview.
PUTIN: U.S. is a high tech country, NATO has declared cyber space on area of combat. That means they are planning something. They are preparing something. So, obviously, this cannot but worry us. MATTINGLY: But Biden looking into enter the meeting with more than just his agenda in hand, spending his first full day in Brussels seeking to rally leaders in a show of unity heading into the Geneva sit down.
The intended message to Putin, officials tell CNN, western democracies are once again aligned against Russian malign activity.
MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, over the course of the last several weeks, White House officials have pushed back hard on criticism that perhaps this meeting was coming too soon in the administration or the president didn't have clear lines for an outcome coming out of this meeting.
The president sought to address that today, including concerns from world leaders and allies about the timing of the meeting. He said every leader he has spoken to here in NATO has found the meeting and the idea for it to be, quote, thoroughly acceptable, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Phil, stand by. I also want to bring in CNN's Natasha Bertrand and CNN's Fred Pleitgen.
Fred, you covered Putin for a long time, been to Moscow many times, working this story. How do you think Putin is going to respond to what we just heard from President Biden?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Especially that the remarks about him being a worthy adversary, I think that certainly is something that Vladimir Putin wouldn't be very happy to hear.
And I think one of the things that we've heard from Vladimir Putin, especially in run-up to the summit is he's also trying to take some of the edge of this as well. He sort of brushed aside the remarks about him being a killer. He said essentially he knew that this was showboating and this is something that happens in American politics for the Russians and for Vladimir Putin.
You could tell this in the run-up to this summit. The fact that the summit is happening one-on-one between President Biden and President Putin in a neutral location, Putin already believes is a victory for him. It shows how important he is, how important he is to the United States. What a big role he plays as well.
And I also think, and this is something that the Russians have indicated, that they already feel that they've already gotten some things out of this before the summit has even started. The fact for instance that the Biden administration has said that's it's not going to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
That was big deal. That say it's a really positive thing that they heard from the Biden administration in the run-up to this summit. Vladimir Putin already using that at the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum, when he said, look, the gas is going to be flowing through that fast, of course, big deal for America's allies in Eastern Europe, also for Ukraine as well
And also some of the more subdued language as far as the Navalny case is concerned, I think that's also something that the Russians really viewed very positively. I talked to a senior member of Navalny's team just a couple of days ago. And he said the U.S. had said that they wanted quiet diplomacy on all of this. They said they really haven't seen very much of that yet. They certainly do hope that, that's going to be also brought up in this meeting between the two.
BLITZER: We'll see how quiet the diplomacy is going to be when they all gather here in -- you know, in just, what, two days.
Right now, Natasha, what did you think of this time, President Biden shying away from flatly calling Putin a killer even though a few weeks ago he did?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN REPORTER: I think it was a sign that he's really trying to cool tensions ahead of this summit. Obviously, Russian relations and U.S. relations are at an all-time low right now, especially after the Biden administration issued those sanctions on the Kremlin. And there is, of course, the jailing of Alexei Navalny that the Biden administration has said is a violation of human rights.
So I think going into the summit, Biden realizes he has to not make Putin feel like he is weak. He needs to go into the summit saying he's tough, that he's a worthy adversary and not wag his finger at Putin and not chest thump at Putin, because Putin does not respond to that and he never has in the past.
And so, these kind of subtle remarks that he's making show that he understands the psychology here of Vladimir Putin. But I have to say that critics of this meeting have warned that these kinds of concessions that Fred just laid out about Nord Stream 2, for example, about certain language surrounding Alexei Navalny, those are not sitting well with some critics of this summit.
And the sitting U.S. ambassador to Russia actually told senators in a closed-door briefing that he is concerned that the Biden administration could make the same mistakes of its predecessors if it does not go into this clear-eyed about who Vladimir Putin really is, about the really low possibility of getting any kind of breakthroughs here and realizing that any concessions and anything that the U.S. gives to the Russians, they probably will not give us anything substantial in return.
BLITZER: Yes, we know that President Biden is doing a lot of preparation for this historic summit that's going to take place. You know, Phil, the president asked other world leaders for input just ahead of this face-to-face with Putin here in Geneva. So what message will Biden be delivering on their behalf?
MATTINGLY: Well, I think the goal in having the discussions, bringing up the meeting with President Putin particularly with allies in the Baltic Region, those in Central and Eastern European region as well, was to try and make sure that everybody had a stake, kind of end the game in this process going forward.
I think the president is keenly aware that those often nations are the most threat are the closest to Russia, they are often the nations, they're most hawkish on Russia and when it pertains to NATO. And the president wanted to make clear to them that he heard them, he wanted to hear their concerns. They wanted to hear how they thought that he should approach things.
Now, they are going to define how approaches things and I think the U.S. has been quite clear about the general outlines that the president is going to take into the meeting.
But the idea of having heard everyone out and making clear that he believes their opinion matters is all part of what we've seen over the course of the last five days, starting at the G7 and now here in Brussels with NATO, which is the president doesn't want to go into this meeting alone, the president doesn't want to go in this meeting and just view this meeting as an isolated sit-down.
He wants all of the western alliances to be at his back to some degree. It was large piece symbolically of why these meetings were scheduled ahead of the sit down with President Putin.
This idea that maybe institution that look like they're a little bit shaky over the course of the last four years are now back re-aligned and perhaps back stronger than ever. Whether or not that's the case, obviously, there's plenty of things going on underneath the surface that suggest it's not going the case.
But, clearly, when you talk to leaders of both the G7 and they NATO, they are very confident that the president is back at the table and so is America. And I think the president is going to try and parlay that once he sits down in Geneva.
BLITZER: Yes, we're going to have much more coming up on the historic moment we're about to witness here in Geneva. Guys thank you very, very much.
There's other important news just ahead as well. The U.S. attorney general vows an independent investigation of the Trump department of justice's seizure of data from the former president's political targets. So why are so many key questions unanswered?
And a very, very chilling new warning that QAnon conspiracy theorists may actually carry out more acts of violence after the January 6th attack. Stay with us here in The Situation Room, we're live from Geneva, Switzerland.
[18:15:00] BLITZER: Tonight, the Biden Justice Department -- once again, we're here in Geneva, I just want to remind our viewers. It's a beautiful city, indeed. We're getting ready for the summit, the summit between President Biden and President Putin that takes place on Wednesday. Look at this live pictures coming in from Geneva, much more on that coming up.
But we want to report other important news happening back in Washington. The Justice Department is promising to get to the bottom of the Trump Department of Justice abuse of power to target political opponents of the former president. There are so many significant questions unanswered as the list of those targets clearly is growing.
CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid has our report.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Attorney General Merrick Garland says, important questions must be resolved about the Trump Justice Department's efforts to obtain phone records of Democratic lawmakers and their staff. This comes as CNN has learned that the top national security official, John Demers, is stepping down.
The Justice Department insists that his departure has been in the works for months but it comes just a day after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for him to testify about efforts to target Democratic lawmakers.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Demers is one of them because he was the Assistant Attorney General for National Security. But would occur any of them who might have been involve to these subpoena.
REID: And CNN has also learned that former White House Counsel Don McGahn and his wife had their records secretly obtained by the Trump Justice Department in February 2018, when he was still the top lawyer representing the presidency. Apple was barred from reviewing the request until May of this year. It is not clear at this point whether McGahn was being investigated or his records were swept up in a request related to someone else.
McGahn's info was obtained the same month the department swept up Apple data related to dozens of phone numbers and email accounts connected to the House Intelligence Committee, including Chairman Adam Schiff and Representative Eric Swalwell.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): What I hope troubles people, especially Donald Trump supporters, is they themselves probably fear abuses by Big Brother, and now you see that the biggest brother the United States government has ever seen is Donald Trump, who would go after his enemies.
REID: A source familiar with the matter tells CNN that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were unaware of the requests for McGahn's records or those for Democratic lawmakers. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN Sunday she does not believe top officials were unaware.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is about undermining the rule of law. And for these attorneys general, Barr and Sessions, at least two, to say that they didn't know anything about it is beyond belief. So we will have to have them come under oath to testify about that.
REID: Right now, there are more questions than answers about the unusual investigation. Today, Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the attorney general demanding more information about the legal basis for this probe and who on the Hill was targeted.
Executives from CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post seen here entering the Justice Department late Monday, met with the attorney general about why the justice department also demanded records from journalists.
REID (on camera): The Justice Department's independent watchdog is reviewing whether the Trump Justice Department followed existing policies in obtaining records from lawmakers and journalists. Now, that is expected to take some time.
So while that is happening, the attorney general is expected to issue a memo affording additional protections to journalists and he's also ask his deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, to review the existing policies for obtaining records from lawmakers and their staffers. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Paula, thank you very much, Paula Reid, reporting for us.
Let's get some more on this. Joining us now, the former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, he's also our CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst. Andrew, thanks for joining us.
Once again, we're still waiting for the justice department to answer critical questions about these leak investigations. Why haven't they provided that information, at least to Congress?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that's a great question, Wolf. I would assume part of the answer to that question is wrapped up in Justice Department efforts to get their hands around exactly what happened here. But let's remember that there is a lot of information that they could be providing to Congress right now even before the I.G., the inspector general conducts their more broad-based investigation.
The department certainly knows what they were investigating and we know that that case, at least one of them, has already been closed, because they've notified Chairman Schiff of that. They know whether some of these people, like the folks on the committee or Don McGahn were actually targets of the investigation or if they were just incidentally swept up in this legal process. And they also know critically who was overseeing this investigation,
who was in the chain of command who would have been authorizing these steps, how high up in the chain of command was it briefed. So that's all information that I think Congress should very rightfully demand right now.
BLITZER: If lawmakers weren't the actual targets, and that word is very specific, targets of these investigations, shouldn't the Justice Department at least come out and say so?
MCCABE: Well, they should. They should. They should explain how they got to lawmakers' email addresses and phone numbers. They could easily do that without even publicly identifying the original target of the investigation so they could explain how they dropped a subpoena on one person and it led to all these other contacts and they were just trying to understand who that initial target was connected to.
I should also adhered here, Wolf, it's been curious to me there hasn't been much talk about the FBI in this process. As we know, it's the FBI agents and FBI leadership that actually conducts this investigation, that direct where subpoenas would be served next, that works with the Department of Justice to get that done. So I think there are important questions to be answered on the FBI's side of the street as well, particularly from Director Wray and the former Deputy Director David Bowdich.
BLITZER: I think your right. Andrew McCabe, thank you very much for joining us. We'll stay on top of the story for sure.
Coming up, controversial Lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene, listen to this, just delivered a mea culpa about her stunning comparison of mask wearing to the Holocaust. We'll update on that.
You're watching the Situation Room, we're live from Geneva, Switzerland.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're live here in Geneva, Switzerland, as this city prepares to host the first Biden/Putin summit, that will take place here on Wednesday. Tonight, President Biden is setting the stage for that historic meeting and acknowledging the challenges he will face when he sits down with the Russian leader.
CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is covering the president in Brussels right now, where he met with NATO leaders today. Clarissa, I know, you're heading to Geneva. You'll be here with me fairly soon. President Biden called Putin bright, tough, a worthy adversary. What do you make of his tone just ahead of his summit with Putin?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly felt, Wolf, like he was upping the ante somewhat, making it clear that there were certain red lines that the president will be sharing with President Putin, and also teeing up what the main areas of confrontation might be, one of those, unsurprisingly being Ukraine, Russian aggression inside Ukraine, President Biden making it very clear that he will be talking, talk about that.
He also said that he had the support of every member state of NATO who he had spoken to during the day. But the number one issue that he mentioned in terms of an area of confrontation with President Putin is Alexei Navalny. This is the Russian opposition leader poisoned with Novichok back in August who is now serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in a Russian penal colony, President Biden making it very clear that he will be raising the issue of Navalny with Putin.
He also said that if Navalny was to die in Russian custody, that that would be a tragedy and will make it very clear that President Putin has no interest in abiding by international norms. That was apparently in response to President Putin's comments in an interview with NBC, where he essentially said that he was not the one who was responsible for whether Navalny lives or dies in prison, although he did say that he doesn't have any worse of a situation than anyone else in those prisons, again, refusing throughout the course of that interview to mention Alexei Navalny by his name.
It appears, Wolf, that this could certainly be one of many issues of tension between the two leaders with the Russian president being very clear that he sees Navalny as being a domestic political concern, not something that the U.S. should be meddling with. Wolf?
BLITZER: Good point. Clarissa, thank you very much, I look forward to seeing you here in Geneva.
There's lot to discuss with our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and CNN Contributor Evan Osnos. He's a Staff Writer for The New Yorker, also the Author of the book, Joe Biden, the Life the Run and What Matters Now. Evan, thanks so much for joining us.
Does any success on the international stage translate back home, because President Biden's sweeping domestic agenda seems to be pretty much right now in potential peril?
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is always helpful at the moment when things are rough in Washington to go overseas, as we know. Look, the connection here and it's a clear one, between what you hear him talking about abroad, and what he's talking about at home is the idea that the United States and, in fact, democracies generally are in, as he puts it, a contest with autocracy.
And the way we win that contest with places like China and Russia is by investing in ourselves. He's trying to rally support at home behind things like infrastructure, behind revamping our democratic infrastructure, in a sense. And part of this visit is about making that crystal clear.
And you heard some of the language of his domestic politics show up in some of the international meeting. They're talking about a build back better for the world program, which would be an alternative in a sense of a rival to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. So there's a clear attempt to try to situate what he's doing there in the context of what he's trying to achieve at home.
BLITZER: You know, Gloria, foreign allies, they seem to be wary right now that Biden won't necessarily be able to deliver on the promises he's making at the G7 and NATO summits. Does all of the stalled legislation in Congress right now undercut his political capital on these critical global challenges?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, I don't think they're so much concerned about whether he gets what he wants on infrastructure. I think what they're worried about is what Evan is talking about, which is the reliability of American democracy itself. And I think everyone was shaken when they saw what occurred during the insurrection on January 6th.
And I think that a lot of them want to make sure, because they did not like Donald Trump, a lot of them want to make sure that Joe Biden succeeds, and because they're not sure what would come after him. So in so far, as his domestic policy, and if things get out of congress shows that he can be a success, I think, there kind of looking at that. But, generally, there's a larger issue here and a larger problem which is if Biden does not succeed, then what?
BLITZER: Yes, good question. You know, Evan, President Biden has been, we're told, preparing intensively just ahead of his face-to-face meeting with Putin here in Geneva. Does that line up with how he's approached other high stakes moments throughout his career?
OSNOS: Yes. I mean, he believes intensively in the power of personal interaction, whether it's diplomacy or domestic politics. As Gloria knows, he will mark up his individual notes. He'll write his speechwriters hard to try to make sure he's got every detail secured.
He also, and this is, in a curious way, one of the things he has in common with Vladimir Putin, he might like to put his counterparty off balance a bit. He'll say something. He'll challenge them on something that has been asserted. He often will say don't try to lie to me if I know how to do it myself.
You know, in a way, there's already in advance we hear the makings of what the Russians might try to do here. The foreign minister the other day said if the United States tries to challenge them on the subject of democracy or human rights, they may raise the matter of January 6th, the insurrection at the Capitol. If that the case, you know, what Joe Biden is in the position to say is, that's the man I beat, that's the government that I replace.
And I think you can expect him to try to go toe to toe, but ultimately he's trying to build a relationship. This is the first meeting they're going to have, not the last, and it's one that's been a long time in coming.
BLITZER: All right, Evan, Gloria, stand by. We have some breaking news that breaking right now back in Washington on Capitol Hill about the controversial pro-Trump Republican member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining us. He's got details. Ryan, Representative Greene just spoke after secretly visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Tell our viewers what she said.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. This comes after Greene made comments on a conservative television show a couple of weeks ago where she compared the mask mandates in the House of Representatives to the beginnings of the Holocaust. Greene was roundly criticized for those remarks.
She actually doubled down on those comments in a couple of interviews after the fact, but today she made an abrupt turn of course. She said that she visited the Holocaust museum here in Washington, D.C. and those comments were a mistake. Take a listen to some of what the congresswoman had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I have made a mistake and it's really bothered me for a couple of weeks now. And so I definitely want to own it.
The horrors of the Holocaust are something that some people don't even believe happened and some people deny. But there is no comparison to the Holocaust and there are words I have said and remarks I have made that I know are offensive. And for that, I want to apologize.
Anti-Semitism is true hate. And I saw that today at the Holocaust museum. And I think it's something that we should all remember and never forget. So I just wanted to come here today and say that I'm truly sorry for offending people with remarks about the Holocaust.
There's no comparison. There never ever will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Now, to say this was a surprise is an understatement. Greene has made her mark in her short time in Congress as being someone that never apologizes for anything and usually doubles down and defends her controversial remarks.
Now, we should also point out that while she emphatically withdrew those comments comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust, she didn't go as far as to take back some of the other more controversial things that she said. She was pressed on comparing the modern Democratic Party to the nationalist socialist party of the Nazi era.
She refused to take that back. And we also pressed her on former President Donald Trump's comments around the Charlottesville riots, where he suggested there were both people are good people on both sides. She refused to condemn the former president that her remarks, they weren't about him. And I also specifically ask her about some of the comments and information that has spread amongst the QAnon followers that a disinformation group that she at one time was affiliated with. She said she had no idea what people talk about in Q forums. So, Wolf, surprising to say the least, Marjorie Taylor Greene apologizing for those comments.
BLITZER: Yes. As far as that's concerned, she did obviously the right thing.
Ryan, stand by, I want to bring in Gloria with us as well. Also, Gloria, what do you make of this apology from Marjorie Taylor Greene?
BORGER: Well, I think what we saw today was the congresswoman without the snark that we are used to and she was clearly schooled in some history that perhaps she wasn't aware of when she made those remarks or maybe she was. I think she's under a great deal of pressure both from her leadership in Congress and other Republicans around the country to retract what she said. And I think that's what we saw today.
I think we'll have to see how she behaves in the future. But it was clear to me watching her that perhaps she just wasn't aware of what occurred during the Holocaust until she walked into that museum and got a firsthand look. It's hard for me to believe that but who knows that that may be true, because she certainly was singing a different tune today.
BLITZER: Because it's not like this was a one-off from her, Gloria, she actually doubled down on it --
BORGER: Yes, totally.
BLITZER: -- before wearing a mask, Star of David the holocaust. So how hard is it to believe the apology we heard today is actually genuine?
BORGER: You know, Wolf, we'll have to see. I mean, I think there's a great deal of pressure on her. As I was saying, I think she politically had to do this and I think going to the museum was a good idea. But we'll just have to see how long lasting this is and whether she gets others to follow her and say, you know, if we agreed with Marjorie Taylor Greene in those ridiculous comparisons, then maybe we too ought to take back our words, but because she's a leader now among a certain group of people.
So her words today ought to have some meaning and let's see how long they last and let's see what comes next.
BLITZER: Ryan, has there been any reaction so far up on Capitol Hill where you are?
NOBLES: Wolf, it just happened a very short time ago and it was a surprise when this press conference came together. Her office announced it only about a half hour before she appeared in front of the microphone. So we haven't had a chance to get a response from members of Congress, including the Jewish members of Congress that were particularly offended by her remarks.
But, you know, to Gloria's point about her knowledge of the Holocaust, we pressed her about that. You know, how could you not understand the horrors of the time? And she said that today was a good reminder for her, that she did know how terrible the holocaust was. And she said, Wolf, that she even visited the Auschwitz Concentration Camp when she was 19 years old, so she was aware of just how terrible that period of time was.
But the excuse she gave was that she was concerned about the slow creep of control through the COVID crisis that she thought was a big problem, but she said that she understands now making that comparison was a bad decision.
You know, but Wolf, at the same time during this press conference, she was asked about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who's been very -- have been very -- people have been critical of the comments that she's made comparing the U.S. government and the Israeli government to Hamas and the Taliban. And she jumped right in attacking Congresswoman Omar and saying that everything that she was saying was incorrect and that she should be punished for it.
So, you know, while she was very contrite, I do have to say that, you know, she also made it clear that she was not going to back down from the things that she finds to be the most important and the things she's going to fight for, and that includes loyalty to the former President Donald Trump.
BLITZER: You know, Gloria, let me play this clip of what Marjorie Taylor Greene actually said last month about the Holocaust and wearing a mask.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREENE: You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GLORIA: exactly the type --
BLITZER: And then she doubled down on that, you know, Gloria, she double down on that on a tweet a few days later.
GLORIA: Yes, she did. I mean, you know exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about, vaccine, passports, and mask mandate, create -- I mean, it was ridiculous and absurd and everybody told her this, Wolf. And I think she was putting her political career in Washington in some jeopardy. I mean, leaders were backing away from her saying her words weren't their words. And I think privately they probably told her she needed to get out there.
Now, as Ryan points out, the statement was clearly contrite. It was. But I think we have to see what happens from now on. I mean, her words have meaning to an awful lot of people, were very offensive to an awful lot of people and, again, I just wonder why she could not understand that sooner before she took a tour of the Holocaust museum.
BLITZER: Everyone should take a tour at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, especially members of the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. It is so important never ever to forget what happened. Gloria, Ryan, guys, thank you very much for those thoughts.
Just ahead, Benjamin Netanyahu is already plotting his return to power as the ousted prime minister's replacement gets to work. So what will it mean for Israel's future?
Stay with us. You're watching the Situation Room. We're live from Geneva, Switzerland.
BLITZER: We're here in Geneva, Switzerland. We're getting ready to cover the historic Biden/Putin summit takes place this week here in Geneva. Much more on that coming up.
But there's other important news we're following as well, including a story that broke first on CNN about the ongoing threat of violence from QAnon conspiracy theorists in the wake of the Capitol riot.
Our senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt has details for us.
Alex, tell our viewers what you're learning.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is an unclassified report from the FBI that was first obtained by our colleagues Zach Cohen. And what it essentially says is that some followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory, the virtual cult, if you will, are threatening to become more than digital soldiers, as they call themselves. They've become disenchanted with a lack of progress and the lack of delivery on the promises that they feel have been made to them. Essentially what they believe has not come true.
One of the big ones was that President Trump would take office again after the inauguration, that he would reassume the presidency back in March. Of course, that didn't happen. Wolf, we should remind our viewers at its core QAnon followers believe this conspiracy theory is about global elites. A deep state they call it, who have organized a satanic international child sex trafficking ring, a cabal they call it.
So, essentially, what the FBI is saying here is because of the little progress, the little that they have seen in terms of delivery on those promises, that they may instead turn to violence in the real world. I want to read you a bit of this unclassified report from the FBI.
They write, some domestic violence extremists, adherents of QAnon likely say they do not trust the plan referenced in the QAnon post and they have an obligation to change or from serving as digital soldiers towards engaging in real world violence, including harming perceived members of the cabal such as Democrats and other opposition, instead of continually awaiting Q's promised actions which have not occurred. Those actions, Wolf, they say, have not occurred.
We saw some of this turn into violence on January 6th. There were at least 20, according to the FBI, adherents of QAnon who have been arrested in the wake of January 6th. Of course, Wolf, you can imagine that there were a few more out there.
And what the FBI is now saying is also that some may leave that movement because they have realized that Biden is the real president, that he won fair and square and that QAnon materials and supporters have been deplatformed off of major social media platforms.
So, it's essentially a fork in the road, Wolf. Some will leave, but some, the FBI fears, will become more extreme and possibly violent, Wolf.
BLITZER: A very worrisome FBI report indeed.
Alex Marquardt, thanks very much for that.
Other news we're following tonight, Israel's ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not going quietly. He's attacking the new government led by Naftali Bennett and vowing a comeback after more than a decade in power.
CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem following it all for us.
HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a new era of Israeli politics, the man dubbed King Bibi dethroned after 12 years. As Netanyahu's allies hurled accusation of liar and shame --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The results of voting, 60 for the new government.
GOLD: The new coalition government, sworn in on the thinnest of margins, now led by Netanyahu's former chief of staff turned rival, Naftali Bennett. Bennett promising the Israeli public a government that actually works, after more than two years of political dysfunction.
NAFTALI BENNETT, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: And now, the citizens of Israel, all of them are looking up at us and we must deliver. We will act together in partnership and responsibility to heal the rift.
GOLD: The most politically diverse coalition in Israeli history, from the left wing to Bennett's far right party, sitting alongside the first Arab Israeli party in government, with such a wide swath of views making it a fragile alliance. The first order business simply to survive and stay together. As Netanyahu, now leader of the opposition, vowing on Monday to bring down what he calls a fraudulent government and return to power.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI OPPOSITION LEADER: And so, we will face them in a strong united opposition, we will overthrow this government at the first opportunity. It will be faster than you think.
GOLD: Netanyahu claiming that the new government is a threat to Israeli security, and then Prime Minister Bennett won't be able to stand up to and say no to the American administration.
President Biden for his part, moving on from Netanyahu, calling Bennett after he was sworn in. The two vowing to work closely on their new relationship, a reboot after the Netanyahu era at least for now.
GOLD (on camera): And, Wolf, Netanyahu is not going graciously. Earlier today foregoing a public handover ceremony, very reminiscent of Donald Trump not meeting Joe Biden at the White House. Netanyahu choosing instead to meet Naftali Bennett behind closed doors for less than 30 minutes. A clear message and rebuke -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Hadas Gold in Jerusalem for us, Hadas, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Aaron David Miller, former State Department Middle East negotiator, CNN global affairs analyst.
Aaron, this is a rather Trump-like transfer of power by Netanyahu. How damaging is it to the success -- the potential success of this new coalition?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, the truth is, Wolf, that paradoxically, the more Benjamin Netanyahu behaves the way that he does encourages his right-wing supporters to behave that way. Paradoxically, this is going to serve I think as an adhesive to keep his government together.
The reality, Wolf, is that that government is coming together for only one reason, it's already accomplished a great deal, which is to dethrone Benjamin Netanyahu after a dozen years, and I think it's interesting that the more he agitates, the more he complaints, the more he accuses the government of being fraudulent and weak. I think it actually helps solidify.
This government knows, and almost every member knows, that if they don't make it work, chances are Netanyahu his affective skilled politician, there is no Israeli Mar-a-Lago. He's going back to the Knesset to lead the opposition, and they have to figure out a way to deliver to make sure that the government maintains its cohesion.
BLITZER: As you know, Aaron, the so-called alternate prime minister, the new foreign minister, Yair Lapid, is urging the new government in Jerusalem to fix the damage done by Netanyahu, and improve relations with Americans, particularly with the Democrats. How big of a priority should this be for Israel?
MILLER: I think it should be a huge priority. Between Donald Trump, and I voted for Democrats and Republicans and worked for both of them, Wolf, but between Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, the last 4 years, they have eroded to an adhesive that have kept the relationship, and given its resilience and that is partisanship.
So, if in fact, the new government and I think Joe Biden caught a break here, he's navigating a fine line between a Republican Party that seeking established itself as a go-to party in Israel, and a divided Democratic Party, which is increasingly pressuring him to pressure Israel to do more in the Palestinian issue, this will be a respite for Biden, and Lapid is the guy I t think who will carry that water to Washington, in an effort to reestablish the trust and confidence that they can bipartisanship in this relationship
BLITZER: We'll see how that works out. Aaron David Miller, thank you so much for joining us.
I want to get back to the Biden-Putin summit, as the president is acknowledging the challenges he faces in confronting the Russian leader here in Geneva one on one this week.
Our Brian Todd is taking a closer look at their relationship.
Brian, these two leaders have some history.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have a very contentious history, Wolf. You know that moment today when Biden seemed to backtrack on his characterization of Vladimir Putin as a killer, it's very much at odds with Biden's tough guy approach toward Putin in the past.
TODD (voice-over): It was 20 years ago after then President George W. Bush met with Vladimir Putin for the first time that Bush uttered this now infamously naive take on the encounter.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I was able to get a sense of his soul.
TODD: Bush called the Russian president, quote, straightforward and trustworthy almost immediately.
Then Senator Joe Biden reacted by saying, I don't trust Putin.
THEN-SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE): I caution the administration against being excessively optimistic about Mr. Putin, and his intentions.
PROF. KEITH DARDEN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Joe Biden is one of the American politicians who identified very early the type of man he was dealing with, with Vladimir Putin. He did not trust Putin.
TODD: Ten years after his initial warnings about Putin, Biden met the former KGB lieutenant colonel in Moscow face to face. Biden told journalists he said to Putin during that 2011 encounter, quote, I'm looking into your eyes and I don't think you have a soul.
Biden claimed Putin smiled and replied, quote, we understand one another.
Putin was asked about that a new interview with NBC.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I do not remember this particle part of our conversation to be honest with you. He probably has a good memory.
TODD: But Putin does remember Joe Biden visiting Georgia in 2008 to show solidarity with that nation after Putin invaded. Putin probably remembers Biden being among the leaders of America's efforts to punish Russia for its first 2014 invasion of Ukraine. Biden was asked three months ago on ABC, if he thinks Vladimir Putin is a killer?
BIDEN: Uh-huh, I do.
TODD: Asked today if he thinks Putin is a killed, Biden was less emphatic even awkward.
BIDEN: I believe he has in the past, essentially, acknowledged that he was -- there's certain things he would do or did to. But look, when I was asked that question on air, I answered honestly.
TODD: But Biden also today, called Putin bright, tough and a worthy adversary. Biden has also said recently that no matter how tough he gets with Putin, he doesn't necessarily expect Putin to change his behavior.
SUSAN GLASSER, CO-AUTHOR, "KREMLIN RISING": I think there is absolutely no illusions that Joe Biden has about Vladimir Putin at this time. There is no starry-eyed hopes of a new reset here.
TODD (on camera): But even with their levels of mistrust at new highs, and the U.S.-Russia relationship overall seemingly at new lows, analysts say both men will still benefit from this meeting in Geneva, however cold it might be. Joe Biden gets to look like he is not Donald Trump, and is tough on Russia, according to one analyst, and Vladimir Putin gets to look like a world statements statesman which he so desperately craves -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thank you very much. We look forward to covering the summit here on Wednesday.
Finally tonight, we are wishing a full and speedy recovery to our good friend and colleague, CNN's chief international anchor, Christiana Amanpour. She disclosed she is battling ovarian cancer, discussing her condition on her program on CNN International.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I'm Christiane Amanpour, back in the seat from London. I want to first thank Bianna Golodryga and the whole team for holding down the fort so well over the last 4 weeks, which has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me, because during that time, like millions of women around the world, I've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
I've had successful major surgery to remove it, and now I'm undergoing 7 several months of chemotherapy, with the very best possible long term prognosis, and I'm confident.
I'm also fortunate to have health insurance who worked, and incredible doctors who are treating me, and a country underpinned by, of course, the brilliant NHS.
I'm telling you this in the interest of transparency, but in truth really mostly as a shout-out to early diagnosis, to urge woman to educate themselves on this disease. To get all the regular screenings and scans that you can, to always listen to your bodies and, of course, to ensure that your legitimate medical concerns are not dismissed or diminished. So, that's my news, now let's get to the news.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Christiane, our thoughts obviously are with you and we also join you in encouraging timely cancer screenings and early detection for women, indeed for everyone. Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention. We wish you a speedy, speedy recovery. Thank you very much for that.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're live in Geneva, Switzerland, right now. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer, the tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
I'll back here in Geneva tomorrow.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.