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The Situation Room
Biden In Geneva Just Hours Before Putin Showdown; New E-mails Show How Trump And Allies Pressured DOJ To Consider False, Outlandish Claims The Election Was Stolen; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA): Holocaust Museum Visit Was My Decision; Interview With Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA); Biden Met With Russia Experts To Prep For Summit With Putin; California Fully Reopens Economy 15-Plus Months After. Aired 6- 7p ET
Aired June 15, 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: We're breaking down emails that show how Trump and his allies pressured the U.S. Justice Department to embrace the big lie about the 2020 election.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin this hour here in Geneva where last-minute preparations for the Biden/Putin summit are now underway. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is here in Geneva with us.
Kaitlan, both of these leaders have an agenda when they meet face to face in a matter of hours.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And it's the first time that they've come face to face as counterparts. They have definitely met plenty of times before but this is the first time they're meeting as coequals, as both leaders. And, of course, the question is, is what it's actually going to look like when they come face to face.
And right now, the White House is expecting it to be tense. They want it to be tightly choreographed. The big question is what are the outcomes going to be, because right now, they're not expecting a lot, Wolf.
COLLINS (voice over): President Biden arriving in Geneva tonight for the main event. In less than 24 hours, he'll sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the world will be watching.
REPORTER: Are you ready for tomorrow?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. COLLINS: White House officials are already lowering expectations for the outcome, telling reporters they aren't expecting a big set of deliverables.
The White House says the notoriously late Russian leader will arrive to the venue before Biden and the two will at first meet with just one staffer each in the room before being joined by a larger delegation. The venue for the historic summit, an 18th century villa, a reminder of this 1985 meeting also in Geneva between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
But if this was Reagan's mantra --
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The maxim is Doveryay, no proveryay, trust but verify.
COLLINS: -- Biden is offering his own version.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'd verify first and then trust. In other words, everything would have to be shown to be actually occurring. It's not about trusting. It's about agreeing.
COLLINS: Although it will be Biden's first meeting with Putin since taking office, it is far from their first face to face.
BIDEN: I have met with him. He's bright, he's tough and I have found that he is, as they say, when we used to play ball, a worthy adversary.
COLLINS: Biden has met with three Soviet leaders and two Russian presidents in his career. Then-Vice President Biden took aim at Putin in Munich in 2015 after Russia illegally seized Crimea from Ukraine.
BIDEN: America and Europe are being tested. President Putin has to understand that as he has changed, so has our focus.
COLLINS: White House aides are confident that this summit with Putin will be nothing like the last one the world watched with a U.S. president.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have president Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.
COLLINS: Then-President Trump sided with Russia over U.S. intelligence on election interference.
TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
COLLINS: Sources say Biden plans to confront Putin over election interference, ransomware attacks, detained Americans and human rights.
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 cybersecurity and some other activities, then we will respond.
COLLINS: But in his first interview with a U.S. outlet in three years, Putin is already telegraphing his own response.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: We have been accused of all kinds of things, election interference, cyberattacks and so on and so forth, and not once, not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence.
COLLINS (on camera): And, Wolf, we should note, this meeting, the White House says they believe it's going to last around four to five hours. They say when it comes to topics, nothing is off the table. But we should note, nothing will be on the table either because the White House says there are no planned meals between the two delegations. And I think that really speaks to the level of formality that they are treating these talks with.
BLITZER: Good point. Kaitlan Collins reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Our experts are here Geneva. Joining us now, CNN's Jim Sciutto, Natasha Bertrand and Jeff Zeleny.
What does it say to you, Jim, that they're going to be talking for four or five hours here?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it means they have a lot to talk about, right? I mean, in the category of disagreements on cyberattacks, Russia's disagreements via cyber warfare, disagreements over Ukraine, disagreements over Russia's treatment of its dissidents, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
On the good side, if you could call it that, there are areas where the U.S. and Russia have shared interests, one being the Iran nuclear deal. They both signed to it here in Geneva six years ago, the Biden administration trying to resurrect that deal. Russia is on board with that. We'll see if it's possible on climate change as well, and Afghanistan, because both Russia and the U.S. have experience with Afghanistan in terms of how bad it can be when you pull out from there.
So the hope is that in those areas, a potential agreement, you have a path forward at least. The difficulty is that you only have difficult messages to deliver on the other stuff. Biden is going to say, we're not going to tolerate cyberattacks. Russia is going to continue to deny they're behind them.
On Ukraine, Russia is not going to give ground on Ukraine. And, by the way, as there's talk of possibly bringing Ukraine closer to membership in NATO, that is a nonstarter for Russia. So how do you balance things? Big picture, I would say this, is that both sides have an interest in developing and delineating red lines so that on those issues of disagreement, they don't get to a point where escalation gets out of control. Because, remember, the genesis of this summit was, a few weeks ago, when Russia has had mass forces on the border of Ukraine, genuine concern from the U.S., Russia was going to invade, and when Russia was denying medical treatment to Alexei Navalny, the U.S. genuinely concerned that he was going to die, right, in Russian imprisonment. That was the level of things it was just a few weeks ago.
So, the hope going forward, right, is that you don't get to a precipice like that again.
BLITZER: Yes, that's the hope.
Jeff, the summit comes after President Biden's meetings with leaders of the G7, NATO, the European Union. Is it safe to say right now that the president of the United States is in his element?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no question about it. I mean, President Biden has spent a lifetime steeped in foreign affairs, of course, in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee as chairman, where he traveled around the world, really, for three decades or so, as vice president where he traveled around more than any sitting vice president. So he is the most traveled American president in our history.
And you could see it in these meetings he's been having really over the last several days, starting at the G7 in Cornwall, England, continuing to NATO and the E.U. and now here in Geneva. He is comfortable in this club. He has been contemporaries with many of these counterparts but he finally is a full member. He finally is able to set his own foreign policy.
So, Wolf, when I was watching him at the NATO headquarters yesterday at in Brussels, he literally was the last world leader to leave. The sun had come down in the evening, everyone had left, he was still there and holding court. And it was a sense that he was meeting with so many world leaders talking, first and foremost, about Vladimir Putin. He was really having -- trying to get some buy-in from leaders of democracies in this part of the world about what he should speak to Putin with and also trying to steer the conversation.
Now, it's way too early to see what accomplishments, if any, will come out of his first foreign trip as president, but there's no doubt that he has steered the conversation both at the G7 and at the NATO Summit towards China. For the first time NATO in its history has made a strong statement against the rise of China.
So, President Biden already having an influence on foreign policy on the world stage. Of course, tomorrow is a very open question. Much preparation has gone into the meetings, but the expectations really are pretty flat or low in terms of what will actually come out of it. But it will set the term of the relationship for Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden. And we should remember, this is the fifth American president, fifth in a row, that Mr. Putin has sat down with. So we'll see if President Biden can have a different approach.
BLITZER: We'll see how he does.
Natasha, I know you've been doing a lot of reporting on this. Elaborate a little bit on what Jim said. Where are they potentially going to find some common ground?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So, there are several areas, Wolf. There's, of course, nuclear security. The Biden administration signed with Russia an expansion of the new START treaty, an extension of that treaty, that limits the amount of nuclear capabilities that both countries can deploy. But they want to go further than that. And that's one area where they could discuss a potential expansion of that treaty.
Another is in Syria, the question of humanitarian assistance. The U.S. and the U.N., in particular, they have been fighting for the U.N. to be able to use this keyboarder crossing between Syria and Turkey to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 4 million people in Northwestern Syria. And the Russians have the potential to block that next month in a vote at the U.N. Security Council, because Russia, of course, is a member of the U.N. Security Council.
So, there's going to be talks likely about humanitarian assistance in Syria and keeping that port open. There's also the Iran nuclear deal. Of course, as Jim mentioned, Russian delegation and U.S. delegation actually met to discuss the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna on Monday. Talks were apparently very positive in that setting.
And there is also climate change and the pandemic. Climate change, of course, affects Russia just as much as the rest of the world, so that is an area where they can cooperate. And the pandemic as well is an area of global concern.
BLITZER: Do you think he's going to set some red lines, the president, in this conversation with Putin on areas where they disagree?
SCIUTTO: He will try right on cyber and on Ukraine. The trouble is that Russia may not accept those red lines, right, because Russia has its own. Mentioned before was Ukraine with, right, Ukraine's movement towards possible membership in NATO, that's certainly a red line for Russia.
So, it's expectations management at this point, because neither side is going to come to agreement that solves those issues, right? But if you could get to a point where you establish it so that you don't escalate beyond where you are today, they might call that success.
And I think the other thing we should note is this. Biden follows a president in Trump, right, who apologized for Russia on issues like Russia's interference on the 2016 election. We saw in Kaitlan's piece the Helsinki moment. To have a U.S. president say, that's not me, right, I will call you out on this behavior, as well as behavior like attacking dissidents in your own country, that's a marked difference.
You may not move Russia, you're not going to turn Putin into a Democrat overnight, but to have a U.S. president state very clearly, we will not stand for this, that is a substantial change from the previous administration.
BLITZER: Jeff, go ahead. I know you have another point you want to make.
ZELENY: There's no question that President Biden has been preparing for this, not only talking to world leaders, as he's made his way here to Geneva, but also having a lot of private sessions with Russia experts from the Obama administration, the former ambassadors and others, and from the Trump administration. So he's prepared to really anything that Vladimir Putin can do is very well known for turning the tide against us. So he will be bringing up what is going on in the U.S.
So, all of this is really coming full circle here. But the first president after the Trump era and some are wondering why is he meeting with him so early in his term, Wolf. We should point out that both George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden, all either opened conversations with Vladimir Putin in the first six months of their terms. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, we'll see what happens on that front. All right, guys, we're going to have extensive live coverage throughout the day tomorrow on this historic summit.
Just ahead, emails document how Trump allies brazenly pressured the U.S. Justice Department to investigate false, truly outlandish allegations of election fraud.
Much more on the Biden/Putin summit coming up here in Geneva.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're live here in Geneva, Switzerland, the site of the summit meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin just hours from now.
There's also very important news back in Washington where newly- released documents reveal how President Trump and his top aides pressured the Justice Department to investigate Trump's bogus claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Let's go straight to CNN's Paula Reid. She's working the story for us. Update our viewers, Paula, on what is going on.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these newly-revealed documents prove the former president and his allies were pressuring the then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to weaponize the Justice Department and pursue false claims of voter fraud.
REID (voice over): New emails from Justice Department and White House officials reveal just how former President Trump and his allies pressured then acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to pursue false claims the 2020 election was stolen.
TRUMP: It was a rigged election. You look at the different states. The election was totally rigged.
REID: The emails released Monday by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee show how White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows pressured the Justice Department at least five times to investigate conspiracy theories.
In one exchange, he wanted Rosen to arrange an FBI meeting with an ally of Rudy Giuliani, who was pushing a conspiracy.
RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: As a friend of mine says, I don't believe in conspiracies, but I also don't believe in coincidences.
REID: Rosen would not, emailing his deputy saying, I flatly refuse, said, I would not be giving special treatment to Giuliani or any of his witnesses.
The emails also reveal how the president directed other allies to press Rosen to join the legal effort to challenge the election results. On December 29th, Kurt Olsen, a private attorney, emailed the Justice Department a draft of a lawsuit to challenge the election, claiming he had been directed by the president to meet with Rosen to bring a similar action, writing, I have been instructed to report back to the president this afternoon after this meeting. The emails indicate Rosen talked to Mr. Olsen and asked him for more information.
The new documents also reveal how on December 31st and January 3rd former President Trump met with Rosen and other top justice officials and pressured them to challenge the election results. On January 1st, Meadows sent him a YouTube clip, pushing a theory Italy used satellites to move votes to Biden. Rosen forwarded it to a deputy who replied and called the clip pure insanity. On the same day Meadows emailed about signature matches in Georgia.
Rosen emailed the deputy writing, can you believe this? I'm not going to respond.
The pressure campaign ramped up as the president tapped Rosen to replace outgoing Attorney General Bill Barr, who stepped down in December 2020. Barr, one of the president's closest allies, said publicly in December that he did not see evidence of widespread voter fraud. (END VIDEOTAPE)
REID (on camera): Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows declined to comment today when asked by CNN whether it was appropriate for him to be emailing the acting attorney general about claims of alleged voter fraud. He's also been asked to sit down for an interview with the oversight committee he was once part of, but today, he would not commit to testifying about his pressure campaign. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Paula, thank you very much, Paula Reid reporting for us.
Let's get more on all of this. Joining us now, John King and Abby Phillip, the anchors of CNN's Inside Politics and Inside Politics Sunday.
John, then-President Trump's top aides wanted the Justice Department and the top law enforcement officer in the United States to tell his big lie. Just how outrageous is this?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, on a scale of one to ten you'd have to give this about a 50. A, it's outrageous, B, it's an abuse of power, and, C, the timing is what is critical. The electors had met in the states on December 14th. They had said, yes, Joe Biden won the election by a fairly lopsided margin. January 6th was the day the Congress was going to receive those results and certify it.
So, what you see in that three weeks in between is the president using his aides to pressure the attorney general of the United States to essentially use his government, abuse his power to knock the train of democracy off the tracks. That the electors and their votes were essentially coming to Washington, there was that delay in between. The president had nothing else. Almost all of these specific claims, including the lunacy of the Italians using satellites to flip votes to Trump -- I mean, from Trump to Biden, they all had been run out in courts, state courts, federal courts.
So the president was running out of time. He was trying to use his government and, thankfully, it failed.
BLITZER: Including the U.S. Supreme Court.
Abby, to their credit, these top Justice Department officials were able to withstand this pressure campaign. They called it pure insanity. Well, what if they had bowed to this pressure?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that's the big question that faces the entire country. We came so close to a sitting United States president flouting the traditions and the laws of this country, pressuring his own Justice Department to investigate completely invented, in their words, insane claims of fraud. And the only thing standing in their way was these officials saying basically saying, this doesn't make any sense.
But now, what you're seeing, and I think what makes this all the more dangerous, is you're seeing Republicans basically saying, you know, we're going to use the premise that Trump utilized to send all these emails, whether it's the Italian conspiracy or any of these other conspiracies to pass other laws that are intended to undermine the will of the people in elections. I think that is why all of this matters.
And, you know, it was an attempt the last time around, but the next time around, it may not be an attempt. It may actually succeed because of the efforts being made to change the voting laws around the country to make all of these scenarios so much easier for a president, a sitting president or a former president to actually try to overturn the will of the people.
BLITZER: John, those top Justice Department officials called it pure insanity, but the former president and his supporters, they continue to fully embrace that insanity, don't they?
KING: Yes, they do. Almost every day or at least every other day you get a statement from the office of the former president where he continues to say he won the election, he continues to say there was fraud, he continues to support these quacky audits in Arizona and efforts in states -- other states to copy them.
He continues to do rallies around the country. He's now back on the rally trail saying he was cheated. That, to me, Wolf, is the continuing crime and the bigger piece of it is that so many Republicans still refuse to stand up to Donald Trump about it.
He wants to make this an issue. He wants to make it a litmus test for Republican candidates in the 2022 campaign and not enough Republicans, way too few Republicans will stand up and say, Mr. President, no, you lost, get over it, bye.
PHILLIP: And, Wolf, I think one of the things that we need to keep an eye on is what else is there out there. Democrats are now collecting these emails about this period of time but there's a whole period of time from the time the election was declared for Joe Biden all the way up until January 6th, where there could be more interactions between the White House and the Justice Department.
All of that needs investigating and Congress is still deadlocked on this issue of whether they even want to continue investigating the things that led up to the January 6th insurrection and riot. It really highlights that this is not a closed case.
There's a lot more there that we can find out about.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Abby Phillip, John King, guys, thank you very much.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, what Vladimir Putin wants to gain from his showdown with President Biden.
Stay with us. We've live from Geneva. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're live here in Geneva, Switzerland, where U.S. and Russian flags, take a look, they are now flying in honor of the Biden/Putin summit. It's after midnight Wednesday local time, the big day for this highly anticipated faceoff between two of the world's most powerful leaders.
CNN Moscow Correspondent Matthew Chance is with us here in Geneva right now. We've spoken a lot about what President Biden hopes to achieve, but you're getting some new information about what President Putin wants out of this summit.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN MOSCOW CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's definitely difficult to read. But you know, look, what the Kremlin say is, you know, like the White House does, there are areas of common ground where they want to cooperate, talking about climate change. We're talking about regional conflicts where it would be appropriate and the Kremlin want cooperation with the White House and with the Americans on those issues.
There's also a sense in which the relationship is like a runaway train. There aren't even ambassadors in each other's countries. And so the Kremlin want to apply the brake of it to that. But without doubt, what the Kremlin wants more than anything else is the symbolism of this summit.
They've already got that, the fact that it's being staged, it shows Vladimir Putin at the top table, diplomatically, you know, sharing dialogue with the president of the United States. That's going to play immensely well back at home and, of course, around the world, you know, people watching this.
And, of course, he's going to want to show his domestic audience and people around the world that he can stand up to the Americans. So don't expect any compromises on the issue of cyber warfare, no compromises on the issue of military threats to Ukraine or on the crackdown on opposition figures inside Russia. I'd be shocked if Putin gave an inch on any of those issues.
BLITZER: Yes. They're going to have four or five hours of conversations, so we'll see what emerges. We're going to be busy all day tomorrow. Thanks very much, Matthew, for that.
Let's bring in CNN's Fareed Zakaria who's watching all of this very closely. He's the Host of Fareed Zakaria GPS.
As you know, Fareed, President Biden framing this trip and the summit as a fight for democracy against authoritarianism, how critical do you believe this mission is?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: I think what he's trying to do here is establish some kind of workable relationship with Russia that is essentially one about deterrence and occasional cooperation. The first order of business has got to be to make the Russians understand they've got to stop with the rogue activity. Russia is, as far as we could tell, the principal sponsor of all the kind of cyberattacks, cyber crime networks that we've seen.
It's also, let's not forget, the only country in Europe that has annexed another country by force, part of another country Crimea. It's been doing things in Syria that have made American interests more vulnerable. So all these areas, we're trying to make sure we can deter Russian action, that with the Biden administration is. And then on arms control, on perhaps climate change, on areas like that he's looking for cooperation.
But you're right, it's all part of a larger theme, which is really about Russia but mostly maybe about China, the fear that democracies seem weak and inept and inefficient and the autocracies seem to be moving on. That's not so true of Russia. It's more true of China. And so he's trying to navigate this complicated order while at the same time finding a way to do business with Vladimir Putin.
BLITZER: How much, Fareed, do you believe the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, how much of that shaped global confidence in the American democracy?
ZAKARIA: Oh, I think it's had a real impact. Because, look, part of the challenge that these authoritarian regimes pose is they, say, look, we're stable, you know? And if you think particularly in a place like the Middle East, which you know well, Wolf, you look at the messiness in the Middle East over the last 10 years -- 15 years, Iraq in chaos, Syria in chaos, Libya in chaos, Egypt was in chaos and then the Sisis of the world, the Xi Jinpings of the world, the Putins of the world say we can give you stability, we can give you some measure of prosperity, we can give you predictability.
And when you contrast that with the leading democracy in the world, the oldest constitutional democracy in the world, having a violent assault on its Capitol, it doesn't look good. And people I think even in Europe think very highly of Biden. What they worry about is, is Biden the aberration or was Trump the aberration? You know, are we going -- after Biden, do we get back to this crazy politics, the circus-like atmosphere?
So there's no question America has -- and for the right reasons, which is we are going through troubles.
This is not an imaging problem and communications problem. This is a real problem in American democracy. We're a transparent society. The world sees it.
BLITZER: As you know, President Biden spoke today, Fareed, about what he called the threat of phony populism. How big of a threat does that pose both in the U.S. and in Europe for that matter?
ZAKARIA: Oh, I think it's very real, Wolf. Think about this. 2020 was a bad year for Donald Trump. It was not such a bad year for the Republican Party, which at the state level did well. It gained a net ten seats in the house. It lost those two Georgia seats very narrowly. If you look in Europe -- if you look at Europe, Macron, who was the kind of anti-populist candidate, has I think his lowest approval ratings. Justin Trudeau in Canada is struggling.
I mean, on the whole, what is striking is that the forces of populism, despite the fact that whenever they're in par, they govern pretty badly, as Trump did, but they still have an appeal. There is an appeal to a group of people in each of these countries who feel left behind, who feel looked down on, who feel as though globalization, technological change, multiculturalism all produces a country they don't like. Those people are around and they vote. They vote a lot.
BLITZER: Fareed Zakaria, helping us understand what's going on right now, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, controversial Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene sheds light on her visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and her rare apology.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're live from Geneva.
BLITZER: We're live here in Geneva, Switzerland, for the upcoming summit meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin, lots of coverage coming up on that.
Meanwhile, back in Washington today, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia insisted it was her own decision to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. yesterday. As you know, that led to a very rare apology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): And 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 that I have said and remarks that I have made that I know are offensive, and for that, I want to apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles. He's up on Capitol Hill. Do we know, Ryan, what the motivation was behind her rather surprise appearance yesterday?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if you talk to Greene herself, she said this was a decision she made all on her own because she felt as though she had to atone for a mistake, but the timing of this apology is pretty coincidental. That's because Republicans this week are ready to go on the attack against Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar for comments she made comparing the U.S. and Israeli governments to the Taliban and Hamas.
They may put a resolution on the floor to kick Omar off the Foreign Affairs Committee. It's difficult to do so when you have someone in your own conference who made controversial comments the way that Marjorie Taylor Greene has.
Listen to what the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, said this morning about Omar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think Nancy Pelosi should remove Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee. This is an individual that has not once but on numerous occasions been anti-Semitic. Her entire own Congress had to rebuke her in the last one. But she's not just anti- Semitic. She's anti-American now. She's equating America to Taliban, to Hamas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Now, we don't exactly know how Republicans will make their next step as it relates to Omar, but we know at this point her Democratic colleagues seem to be satisfied with the clarification that she made about those comments.
Still, Wolf, it's very difficult to not draw the comparison between what Marjorie Taylor Green had to say and what Omar had to say and the fact that Greene decided to apologize right before Republicans decide to go on the attack.
BLITZER: As you know, Ryan, Marjorie Taylor Greene voted against legislation to honor the Capitol and D.C. Police officers who defended the Capitol during the January 6th attack. Tell us why.
NOBLES: Yes. Wolf, this came as a big surprise. It wasn't just Marjorie Taylor Greene. A total of 21 Republicans voted against this legislation to honor those brave heroes who defended the Capitol on that day. We caught up with Greene after the vote and this is how she explained the decision that she made.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREENE: This is not a temple, that is for sure.
REPORTER: Is that the only piece of language you have an issue with in this bill?
GREENE: I wouldn't call it an insurrection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: And Greene isn't alone. Several other members of Congress have said they aren't comfortable calling the Capitol a temple of democracy and they don't like that it was called an insurrection on January 6th, despite the fact that many of them lived through that day, 21 Republicans voting against this bill, Wolf.
And what was interesting is that, it was about to be passed with unanimous consent. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat, called for the roll call vote. That's how we saw so many Republicans vote against it.
BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Ryan, thank you very much, Ryan Nobles reporting.
Let's discuss this and more. Joining us, Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. She's a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
So, Marjorie Taylor Greene is refusing to honor Capitol Police because she rejects to calling the January 6th insurrection an insurrection. She says Congress is not a temple of democracy.
What's your reaction?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Well, you know, she is a blister on the Republican's feet that will be there until she leaves.
Everything's a mistake. It was a mistake that she was embracing QAnon. It was a mistake that she didn't appreciate how serious the Holocaust was.
Is it a mistake that she's calling the Democratic Party a Nazi organization? I mean, she is a train wreck. I think that the less time spent on her, the better, because frankly, she doesn't deserve our attention.
BLITZER: What about the apology we heard from her yesterday for comparing mask mandates here in the United States to Jews being forced to wear stars of David during the Holocaust? Should she still face a censure vote?
And to Kevin McCarthy's point, should your Democratic colleague Ilhan Omar also face censure for her comments?
SPEIER: So, I would say that at this point, Mr. McCarthy should worry about his Republican minority and let the Democratic Caucus worry about its Democratic majority.
I think that this can only get worse and worse and less deliberative in terms of the work we need to do if we keep throwing up these motions. You didn't see the Democrats put up a censure motion for Ms. Greene. And I would suggest that it's really time for us to do the work of the American people and let those who want to have these extreme views stand alone.
BLITZER: Well, let's turn to another critically important issue. The -- I want your thoughts on this highly unusual issue of subpoenas of your Democratic colleagues, Democratic lawmakers serving on the House Intelligence Committee during the Trump administration.
Are you any closer right now, Congresswoman, to getting answers from the Department of Justice precisely what happened?
SPEIER: We have not. And that in and of itself is troubling. I do think the fact that, you know, five months after a new investigation takes office that Attorney General Merrick Garland came forward and made that public was important, but it speaks volumes once again about the Trump administration and how it was an autocracy in the making. That's what banana republic countries do. That is not what democracies do.
I think that --
BLITZER: Congresswoman? Go ahead.
SPEIER: -- the fact that we're finding out now it may not have even gone to a judge, it may not have even gone to the grand jury. That it was just done by the subpoena authority of the deputy assistant U.S. attorney suggests that you need a higher bar if you're going to investigate members of Congress. Otherwise, you're going to have witch hunts going on constantly. So we need to change that in the law.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Speier, thank you so much for joining us. We'll obviously stay on top of these developments.
But we have more news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We have more on the big summit that's coming up in the next few hours here in Geneva. We know President Biden has studied intensely for this moment to avoid the pitfalls faced by his predecessors.
CNN's Brian Todd reports.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Helsinki, July 16th, 2018, it was well into their news conference when Vladimir Putin showed just how good he was at playing Donald Trump, gifting the president a custom soccer ball in front of the media.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Mr. President, I will give this ball to you and now the ball is in your court.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
TODD: When the ball was in his court, Trump in the minds of many dropped it. He inexplicably let Putin off the hook for Russia's 2016 election meddling.
TRUMP: I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
TODD: Trump's intelligence leaders had repeatedly told him that Russia had aggressively tried to interfere in the 2016 vote at Putin's direction, but Trump seemed cowed by the former KGB lieutenant colonel.
TRUMP: People came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.
I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be.
MASHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, "SURVIVING AUTOCRACY": That looked pretty awful. And, you know, we could see sort of the master liar next to the spontaneous not terribly experienced public liar.
TODD: Putin is a master at playing mind games during these meetings, from his own imposing body language, to making his counterpart cringe. In 2007, knowing German Chancellor Angela Merkel was terrified of dogs, Putin brought his black Labrador Koni into the room.
Putin smirked. Merkel put on a brave face.
ANNETTE HEUSER, OTTO BEISHEIM FOUNDATION: She did not blink because she understands the Russian mindset. She knows that the Russians and in this case, Vladimir Putin wanted to play Russian chess with her which means the person who blinks the first has lost.
TODD: Tonight, President Biden seems not to blink with Vladimir Putin in Geneva. Sources tell CNN, Biden has spent long hours over several days huddling with his top national security officials and aides in preparation, meeting with Russian experts from think tanks.
Experts tell us, how ever well Biden prepares, Putin will still tweak him.
JAMES GOLDGEIER, SENIOR VISITING FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: He's going to try to provoke Biden on the issues be devilling American society, polarization, the issue of systemic racism, the insurrection in the Capitol on January 6th.
TODD: What does Biden need to do to not get knocked off balance by Putin? One expert says don't back down on the issue of recent cyberattacks blamed on Russia.
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA: The best that President Biden can do is telegraph that he's full of resolve, his government is resolved to respond if the Russians continue, that there will be consequences.
TODD (on camera): Biden's dilemma, one analyst told us, is that he's seeking a stable, predictable relationship with the Kremlin so that he can concentrate on countering China. And Vladimir Putin, the analyst said, is determined to be just the opposite of stable and predictable. He's going to poke and prod Joe Biden and try to create more political division in America for the duration of Biden's term -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's see what happens. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you very much.
And we'll have more news just ahead.
BLITZER: We're live here in Geneva, Switzerland, covering the countdown to the first summit between Presidents Biden and Putin.
But back in the United States right now, there's a chilling -- a chilling new reminder that COVID-19 is still killing Americans. The U.S. death toll topping 600,000 today as the dangerous Delta variant is on the rise.
At the same time, we're seeing more major reopenings across the country as CNN national correspondent Nick Watt reports.
NORM LANGER, OWNER, LANGER'S DELI: It's coffee time.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The countdown to 8:00 a.m., Langers Deli prepping to open its dining room for the first time in more than 15 months.
LANGER: We'll be able to put a smile on all of my employees' faces and all of my customers' faces.
DANIEL SMITH, WAITER, LANGER'S DELI: I've been off since March of 2020.
WATT: Across California, no more capacity limits or social distancing in restaurants and stores, and most places, no mask required for the vaccinated. This, the most populous state in the nation, was the first to tell its nearly 40 million people to stay home, and that was more than 450 days ago.
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: We need to bend the curve in the state of California.
WATT: The grim-faced governor grinning now at Universal Studios.
NEWSOM: We are here, June 15th, to turn the page and move beyond wearing these masks.
WATT: And Disneyland once again welcoming visitors from out of state. Over in New York state --
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: This is a momentous day.
WATT: Seventy percent of adults have now had at least one dose.
CUOMO: It means that we can now return to life as we know it.
WATT: As of lunchtime, New York state COVID restrictions are no more.
The virus has now killed more than 600,000 in America. More will die, but how many? We watch the Delta variant ravage India, the CDC just changed from variant of interest to variant of concern.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: I'm extremely worried because the Delta variant is so aggressive in terms of transmission. Anyone who is unvaccinated right now is at very, very high risk, especially in the south this summer.
WATT: Roughly 55 percent of adults in America are now fully vaccinated, but the rollout is slowing and it's uneven geographically and demographically.
ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE: If you have half more than -- you know, roughly half of the population vaccinated, it's not as if half the people you know are vaccinated and half aren't, either you know everybody you know is vaccinated, or everybody you know isn't.
WATT: In these states as of this morning, more than 60 percent of those counted by the CDC were fully vaccinated. In these states, under 45.
SLAVITT: They're going to be really subject to potential outbreaks. And those outbreaks are not going to hopefully have quite the wildfire spread as we saw in 2020, they'll still impact the communities pretty strongly.
WATT (on camera): So, Langer's Deli here in Los Angeles been around since 1947. Norm, the owner, tells me he only remembers it closing once for a day because of a power outage. During COVID, this dining room was closed for 469 days. But, Wolf, now it's back.
BLITZER: Nick Watt reporting for us. Thank you very much.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. I'll be back tomorrow morning starting at 6:00 a.m. Eastern for CNN's special coverage of the Biden/Putin summit.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.