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The Situation Room
1/6 Panel Gears Up For Next Round After Explosive Prime-Time Hearing; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), Is Interviewed About January 6 Hearing; Americans See Spikes In Food, Energy & Housing Costs; Senior Officials: U.S. Seeks Full "Reset" Of Relations With Saudi Arabia; Putin Compares Himself To "Peter The Great" As He Defends Invasion. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 10, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And I'll be back tomorrow night at 6:00 for CNN Newsroom. Until then, you can follow me on Twitter @pamelabrowncnn or tweet the show @theleadcnn. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now after an explosive primetime hearing, the January 6 select committee is now gearing up for round two, with the promise of more damning testimony and disturbing video aimed at proving former President Trump was at the center of a conspiracy. We'll break down what we learned and what happens next.
Also, tonight, inflation here in the United States hits a 40 year high fueled by skyrocketing gas prices and rising costs for food, energy and housing. The Biden administration is clearly on the defensive as the financial pain felt by Americans keeps growing.
And the embattled Uvalde School Police Chief speaks out for the first time about his response to the massacre. He's reportedly denying he was the scene commander and rejecting many of the main criticisms of his performance.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we begin our coverage this evening with fresh fallout from last night's blockbuster January 6 hearing and new indications of where the committee plans to go during its next round of testimony. CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has all the latest details.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the impact being felt from the first hearing of the January 6 committee as they set the stage for what's to come.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a breach, so be careful.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Some Republicans are working to discredit the findings. While the former president is reacting to this stunning allegation.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Aware of the rioters' chants to hang Mike Pence, the President responded with this sentiment, quote, "maybe our supporters have the right idea." Mike Pence, quote, "deserves it."
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Today, Trump responding I never said or even thought of saying hang Mike Pence. This is either a made-up story by somebody looking to become a star or fake news.
The committee's first hearing focused on Trump's central role encouraging the rioters and his month-long efforts to discredit the election. Leading to what the committee called an attempted coup.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Donald Trump was at the center of this conspiracy. And ultimately, Donald Trump, the President of the United States, spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The committee is making its case with a parade of Trump administration officials and family members who have given depositions over the past year. Former Attorney General Bill Barr spoke forcefully about how he told Trump the election was clean. And the president's daughter agreed.
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff which I told the president was bullshit. And you know, I didn't want to be a part of it. And that's one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did.
IVANKA TRUMP, SENIOR ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP: I respect Attorney General Barr. So I accepted what he was saying.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): But today Trump is downplaying his daughter's involvement, writing on his truth social platform, "Ivanka Trump was not involved in looking at or studying election results. She had long since checked out and was, in my opinion, only trying to be respectful to Bill Barr and his position as Attorney General. He sucked."
And one Republican is denied he asked for a pardon from the president after Vice Chair Cheney said this.
CHENEY: Representative Perry contacted the White House in the weeks after January 6 to seek a presidential pardon. Multiple other Republican congressmen also sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Congressman Perry tweeting, "The notion that I ever sought a presidential pardon for myself or other members of Congress is an absolute shameless and soulless lie."
And President Biden weighing in on the hearings saying the future of democracy is at stake.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's important to American people understand what truly happened and to understand that the same forces that led January 6 remain at work today.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SCHNEIDER: And the committee has already laid out a roadmap for what's ahead. There are three hearings next week starting on Monday. Those will focus on Trump's months long effort to spread false information about the election even though he and his advisers were repeatedly told that Trump had lost. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica Schneider reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's discuss what's going on with our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borgia, CNN Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt, and former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, as well as CNN's Michael Smerconish. Guys, thanks to all of you for joining us.
Gloria, this committee is telling a story to the American public, indeed to the world right now. What do you expect? Do you expect to see more powerful video emerge?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: More witnesses?
BLITZER: New details --
BLITZER: -- woven throughout these next several days?
BORGER: Absolutely, and weeks. This is a long, complex story. It's not just that a bunch of people decided they should march to the capitol and break in.
And I think what the committee started to do last night, they will do in more detail and talk about how this was a huge, coordinated effort to undermine the election. And they believe that all roads lead to Donald Trump, and they're going to prove that. And at the end of the hearings, and I think this is really important, they are going to say this is an ongoing threat and it could happen again. And get the American public to understand that the guardrails were off, not just because of Trump, but because anybody could do this again.
And so, I think it's going to be kind of a long and winding road. Important thing, you're going to hear information from the mouths of people who worked in the White House with Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of clips, a lot of --
BLITZER: -- sound bites will be released. That's what we're told.
The vice chair, Liz Cheney, as you know, Kasie, she described the former president, former President Trump's, quote, "seven point plan to remain in power."
KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: Does that give us an idea of what else we're about to see unfold?
HUNT: I think that's exactly the roadmap for the following hearings. I think you should think about and you can see on the screen how she laid it out here, false election claims, planning to replace the AG, pressuring the vice president, state officials, asking those state officials to lie, then actually playing a key role in summoning that mob together. And then of course, ignoring pleas to stop to stop the violence. And she laid that out last night as essentially an opening statement in a prosecutorial way.
Now, one of the things I think is most important about how she did that is that they very clearly tied together what they described as criminal elements. So the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers, two extremist groups, they described the former President Trump as the leader of this criminal conspiracy. They separated that out from the supporters of Donald Trump, from the American public, from the people who they described as being misled by leaders.
And I think that's an important distinction because, while yes, many Americans are already in their political camps about what happened on January 6, there are others who are, you know, alienated from our political system, but who may come back and show up to vote in 2024. And there's still a good chance sitting here right now today that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee in 2024. And in our two-party system, that makes it entirely possible he becomes president of the United States again. And I think that, at the end of the day, is what these hearings are trying to prevent.
BLITZER: That's certainly hovering over all of this right now.
Michael Smerconish, the committee did reveal former President Trump was essentially cheering on the mob, while his vice president made calls to stop the violence. What will you be listening for in the upcoming -- from upcoming witnesses from Pence's inner circle, because they will be very, very significant?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: There's one game changer in this process, it's Mike Pence. How could the former vice president hear what we heard last night and not himself want to be a part of this process? He stands the prospect of being the John Dean in all of this. And instead, it's a story that's going to be told through aids, unless something changes. We're still learning things about the vice president.
Within the last hour, Politico reported that the vice president was provided a legal memo in the days before January 6, where they were meticulously monitoring all of the election charges that were being made by the president and his supporters. They weren't finding merit in any of them.
If he would decide to come forward and participate, I think that would blow the lid off this process. I don't expect it but you have to wonder why wouldn't he. It has to be only that he's fearful of alienating the base because of his own future aspirations.
BLITZER: You know, we were just showing, Michael, the video of the former vice president being escorted out on January 6 for his own security. There were threats. We all remember, "Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence." We all remember those cheers that were going on.
You know, John Dean, you pulled back the curtain on the Nixon White House during the Watergate hearings. Who do you think has the potential to be the John Dean of these January 6 hearings?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I start, and I think that the former Vice President Pence could do that as Michael suggested.
There are other aides, though, that might well come forward. I think that somebody like Cipollone, the former White House Counsel, he was all over this and threatened to resign, apparently, on multiple occasions, which Jared Kushner thought was just whining. But I suspect it was more than whining. You don't really do that. Legally, you can't do that.
So I think there are several people who could take the role I took. It's not a pleasant route, but it's one that is necessary and could certainly expedite the findings, if you will.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect there will be bombshell after bombshell coming up during this next round of hearings.
BORGER: Wolf, can I just say, you know, there are, you know, John Dean White House counsel well-known involved in that conspiracy and paid for it, I don't have to tell you that, John, but there may also be some people.
There may just be some, some people you've never heard of, such as a woman and Cassidy Hutchinson. And she's an unknown to the American public. She was an aide to Mark Meadows. She was present in a lot of meetings, has been a very, very valuable witness. Every source I talked to on the committee has said that to me.
And we're going to hear from her, I believe, if they can work it out, at the committee, not only on her tape testimony, but also before the committee. And I think she may turn out to be somebody who becomes the truth teller in the John Dean way.
BLITZER: We will find out. What do you think?
HUNT: You know, I do think that there are going to be twists and turns throughout this in the way that Gloria describes. Because I think one thing the committee does know, and they've been pretty savvy about this. I mean, they used a very high profile T.V. producer to put together last night's presentation, they know what is demanded to keep attention on these hearings. And that means that they need to continue to reveal information that we haven't seen before.
And one of the things I think also -- keep in mind, we just saw clips of what Jared Kushner had to tell the committee last night, what Ivanka Trump had to say. I mean, that has led of course to her father now going out in public and saying she was checked out during counting the election results. I mean, doesn't seem to be a lot of love lost in that family right now. It's pretty remarkable. But there's going to be more there that we are going to learn from those very famous faces in addition to the unknown ones Gloria was talking about.
BLITZER: And I think we can all agree, it was very well produced last night, this hearing, the way they use the actual statements, the chairman and the vice chairman speaking and throwing a sound bite, I can relate to that. So I know exactly --
BORGER: You know how to throw a sound bite.
BLITZER: -- what they were trying to do.
A note to our viewers, this is important, tune in to CNN this Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern for the CNN original series "Watergate, Blueprint for a Scandal." You'll hear a lot more from John Dean about his experience with the scandal that brought down the Nixon presidency.
Also, be sure to watch Michael Smerconish every Saturday morning, including tomorrow morning 9:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Now let's bring in Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. The Select Committee argues that former President Trump was at the center of this, quote, "sophisticated seven point plan to overturn the presidential election." How do they build that case over these upcoming hearings starting Monday morning?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, Wolf, I think they build it doing exactly what they did last night, which is to basically offer incontrovertible, irrefutable arguments. So, when you see a video of Bill Barr, the attorney general, when you see a video of Ivanka Trump, President Trump's daughter, when you see videos of President Trump's campaign people saying we told him that he had lost, President Trump had heard that over and over again. When you use that video -- now, by the way, my Republican colleagues are doing it or trying to do it, how do you say it's fake news? It comes straight out of the mouth of Bill Barr and 10 other people.
So, I think you're going to see the committee in a sophisticated way. Understand that if Jamie Raskin or Liz Cheney says something -- it's pretty easy to say they've got a political agenda. But what they did last night was to use President Trump's own people's words to begin the process of at least metaphorically convicting Donald Trump. BLITZER: Yes. And Bill Barr, the former attorney general did not mince any words talking about the allegations of election fraud as BS. He actually spelled it out, he didn't say BS.
The committee chair, Bennie Thompson, he tells CNN, Congressman, that future witnesses will speak about communication between extremist groups and people in Trump's orbit. But can the committee prove that Trump was aware of this risk for violence that day?
HIMES: Well, you know, he was one of the prime movers of that violence. I mean I will never forget the quote that he said that morning in the rally in front of the White House, you need to fight, you need to fight, or you won't have a country anymore. Those are strong words coming from anyone. They're very strong words coming from the Commander in Chief, the president of United States.
So, you know, when you asked me whether he knew he was the source. And, you know, sadly, and what worries me in this moment, Wolf, at the end of the day this is not fundamentally any more about Donald Trump. This is fundamentally about something that happened six hours after we were forced from the chamber. After I was under heavily armed guard taken out of the chamber.
Seven hours or so later, we went back to the chamber to finish our constitutional duty. And even though police officers were in the hospital, blood was on the ground, broken glass was everywhere. One hundred and forty-seven Republicans after the riots, the insurrection, voted to overturn the election. And remember, this is a point in time when President Trump himself knows or at least has been told by all kinds of people that the election was lost. This is after 60 court cases have said nonsense to the notion of this election result.
A 147 of my elected colleagues went back and voted to overturn the election. And what worries me about that, Wolf is that that instinct is still very much out there alive and ready to go.
BLITZER: It certainly is. Congressman Jim Himes, thanks as usual for joining us.
Coming up, President Biden says he knows who's to blame for rising costs here in the United States. And he says it's not him.
Plus, the gas in your car, the coffee in your cup, how the latest inflation report impacts your wallet. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Staggering new numbers on the economy today showing U.S. inflation rose 8.6 percent last month from a year ago. That's the fastest pace since 1981. President Biden reacted to that truly disappointing number saying bringing down prices is his quote, "top economic priority." CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us from Los Angeles right now. That's where she's traveling with the President.
Kaitlan, what did the President specifically have to say about all this?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he certainly didn't try to sugarcoat these numbers. Really, there's no sugarcoating these numbers. And you saw White House officials had been hoping that these numbers would moderate in the month of May at least maybe not come down dramatically but stay pretty much in the neighborhood of where they were and instead, prices only accelerated. And that has caused a new round of concern for this White House that has been dealing with this inflation blowback for the last several months now.
And one thing that you had heard from President Biden in the past was predictions that inflation would come down, you would start to see the prices lower some. And that is not something you heard from President Biden today. And instead, he really sought to empathize with Americans who are feeling the pain from these higher prices.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Economics, think about it, I understand inflation is a real challenge to American families. Today's inflation report confirm what Americans already know. Putin's price hike is hidden in America hard. Gas prices at the pump, energy and food prices account for half of the monthly price increases since May.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now the President didn't also seek to attribute these higher numbers just to President Putin, but also blamed the supply chain issues that we've seen happened since the COVID-19 pandemic. He blamed oil companies, Republicans as well, he was very critical of today.
But at the end of the day, the White House, Wolf, is well aware that voters are holding the President responsible for these numbers, they want him to do a better job on the economy. You've seen that poll that was out earlier this week showed only about 29 percent of people were confident in his handling of the economy. And so, you've heard the President say he is going to try to do everything in his power to bring these prices down.
But really, the White House is often turning this back on the Federal Reserve saying it is going to be up to them to try to moderate inflation. Of course, these numbers say do make it seem more likely that the Federal Reserve is only going to increase interest rates potentially as soon as next week. And so that is something that the White House is paying attention to, as they are seeing if they can achieve this really tough challenge of bringing down inflation but also not sending the economy into a recession, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that's the number one fear right now, this inflation could potentially lead to a recession and White House officials deeply concerned about that. Kaitlan Collins in Los Angeles, thank you very much.
For a deeper look at these new inflation numbers, let's bring in CNN is Matt Egan. He's joining us from New York right now.
Matt, will Americans see relief anytime soon? Or could prices soar even higher?
MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Wolf, every time it looks like inflation might cool off, it comes back hotter and hotter. It's like a heatwave that just won't end. And for families, that means the cost of living keeps going up and paychecks are not going as far as they used to.
Moody's says that the average American family is paying $347 more per month to buy the same goods and services that they did last year. That really adds up.
Now hopefully prices start to cool off and we look back and we say May 2022 was the worst of the inflation crisis. But some economists that I'm talking to, they fear that may not be the case, that prices in June may actually stay high or go even higher. And that's in large part because today's inflation report does not capture the fact that gasoline prices keep going up as the war in Ukraine rages. The national average is now on the cusp of hitting $5 a gallon for the first time ever, record high for the 31st over the last 32 days and food prices are going up at the fastest pace since 1981.
Wolf, it's hard to see how families get any relief on the inflation front until food and gas prices come down.
BLITZER: And so at point, Matt, for people out there who are watching right now and thinking about maybe buying a home or taking out a car loan, could even higher borrowing costs be out there on the horizon?
EGAN: Absolutely, Wolf. Borrowing costs almost have to go up. And I think that's one of the things that's unnerving investors on Wall Street. You know, the fears that this inflation fire is spreading and that the Federal Reserve is going to have to call in reinforcements to put the fire out. So that sets the stage for what could be an historic Fed meeting in Washington next week.
Two Wall Street banks are now predicting that the Fed is going to have to do something that it hasn't done since 1994, raise interest rates by three quarters of a percentage point. That's a big deal, because that means higher borrowing costs on mortgages, credit cards, student debt, all of that is going to go up. The problem here, Wolf, is the more the Fed does to try to slow the economy down, the greater the risk that it accidentally causes a recession.
BLITZER: Yes, that's what they're afraid of, the -- this recession that's looming out there. Matt Egan, thank you very, very much.
Up next, the Uvalde school police chief is now defending his response to the massacre. Does his side of the story actually hold up to the scrutiny that's out there? More on that right after a break.
BLITZER: Tonight, the Uvalde School District Police Chief is speaking out defending himself and deflecting blame for the massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead. CNN's Rosa Flores has our report from Texas.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new revelations as embattled Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo is now speaking out about law enforcement's delayed response more than two weeks after the school shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead. In an interview with the Texas Tribune and statements given through his attorney, George Hyde, Chief Pete Arredondo claims he never considered himself the incident commander. Telling the paper, "I didn't issue any orders."
State officials have previously pinned the widely criticized decision to not breach the classroom on Arredondo.
COL. STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Of course it was not the right decision, it was the wrong decision, period.
FLORES (voice-over): That chief says he arrived at the school around 11:35 a.m. and intentionally left his two police radios outside believing they would slow him down. He wanted his hands free to hold his gun. Fourteen minutes later, the school district e-mailed parents saying students and staff are safe in the building. By 12:03 p.m., as many as 19 officers were in the hallway, officials have said.
Arredondo said he was not aware of 911 calls being made about the shooting because he didn't have his radio and says no one in the hallway relayed that information to him.
On Thursday, a Texas House Committee began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
(on camera): Do you feel confident in the testimony from Texas DPS, Texas?
JOE MOODY, (D), VICE CHAIR, TEXAS STATE HOUSE INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE: I'm not going to go into the testimony that we received today. I do feel confident in the process. I respect this process.
And an investigation like any investigation is one that you do, you do diligently and as hard as you can and you lay the facts bare. That's our job.
FLORES (voice-over): According to our review of investigative documents and body camera transcripts by the "New York Times" law enforcement officers were aware there were injured people still trapped inside the classroom when they were deciding how to enter. At around 12:30, the transcript viewed by "The Times" shows Arredondo said, "We're ready to breach," but that door is locked.
Arredondo told The Tribune, school lockdown measures were working against them. The classroom door was reinforced with a steel jab which officers were unable to kick down. At some point, The Tribune reports a janitor provided six keys that were unable to open the door and another key ring with as many as 30 keys was brought to the chief later, but those were unsuccessful as well. Each time, I tried a key I was just praying, Arredondo told the paper.
At 12:50 p.m. a tactical team breached the classrooms using a key from a janitor and fatally shot the gunman CNN has reported. Arredondo told The Tribune he and his team responded to the information they had at the time. Not a single responding officer ever hesitated even for a moment to put themselves at risk to save the children, he said.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
FLORES: Now, about Arredondo not being the incident commander, not giving orders. It's curious that he also told the paper that he ordered officers to break the windows in the school to evacuate the students. So which one is it?
Now I'm here in Austin, Texas, because this is where Arredondo's attorney is. We requested interviews with both of them, those requests were denied. And his attorney sending us a text message saying that Arredondo, quote, need some time as this has been very difficult for him. Wolf.
BLITZER: Rosa Flores reporting for us. Excellent report, Rosa. Thank you very much.
For more on the push to reform gun laws here in Washington, let's turn to our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju. He's up on Capitol Hill for us watching all of this unfold.
Manu, the Senate negotiations on a guns package have been going on all week. Are they close to an agreement tonight?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the negotiators met this morning virtually. They're settling optimism that they can reach a deal. In fact, they are working on a statement to detail the progress that they have made. That statement could come out as soon as tonight. I'm hearing it was more likely it's going to slip into early next week.
And that they hope to agree on an overall framework of what this would -- package would entail. And that will eventually lead to them to draft detailed bill tax that could take up several days to come up with. Now this overall agreement deals with potential red flags legislation, in other words, to incentivize states to enact laws to allow authorities to take away guns from individuals who are deemed to risk money for mental health facilities in 50 states. As well as school security measures, and also new background checks to allow for juvenile records to be searched for 18 to 21 year olds.
Now the top Democratic negotiator, Chris Murphy, spoke at a rally earlier today for gun control advocates and indicated he was optimistic they were getting close to a deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SE. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): That is the work that we're engage to right now, trying to find if the art of compromise is possible. My hope is that we'll be able to deliver good news to you, transformative news to you soon, because this country needs it. This country needs to know that Washington is listening to them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now what this package will not entail is what allows those advocates want. It will not increase the age from 18 to 21 to purchase of semiautomatic rifles, even though in so many of these massacres we've seen 18 year olds like in Uvalde access a semiautomatic rifles.
We will also now ban high capacity magazines or renew the so called assault weapons ban all because of Republican opposition. And Wolf, the big question here tonight is that if a deal is in fact reached among this bipartisan group of senators, will that be enough to win over Republican support in the Senate? Getting 10 Republicans at least to break a GOP led filibuster, that will be the big question in the days and weeks ahead. Let's see they can finally break a stalemate over gun legislation on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: Yes, the stakes are clearly enormous right now. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Just ahead, from a pariah to pals, once again, President Biden wants to hit reset with Saudi Arabia. And the flashy new tour shaking up the world of golf.
BLITZER: A very dramatic about face for President Biden in the Middle East, senior U.S. officials now tell CNN he's prepared to move forward with what's being described as a full reset of relations with Saudi Arabia. CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is joining us right now.
Alex, I know you've been doing a lot of reporting on this with your colleagues. As you and our viewers remember, during the campaign, then candidate Biden said to Saudi Arabia was a pariah over the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And now he seems to be moving away from that.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That comment calling Saudi Arabia pariah really set the tone for the relationship that has continued really until this day. You'll remember, Wolf, that shortly after President Biden took office, his head of intelligence put out a report saying that the Crown Prince MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, was responsible for the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and that he would be held responsible. The Biden administration saying they wanted to recalibrate the relationship. That has now turned into a reset. They want to get the relationship back to a more conventional place.
One senior U.S. official telling our colleague Natasha Bertrand that the relationship needs to move past the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and it cannot be held hostage by his killing. But I want our viewers to take a listen to a little bit of what then candidate Joe Biden had to say just a few weeks after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After the cold blooded murder of a journalist, giving the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt, look, look at the example this sets around the world. Forget what it does here, think what it does around the world. People wonder what has become of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: So now the realities of the world have really set in, Wolf, and perhaps nothing more so than Russia's war in Ukraine. We have seen a major impact on the global economy. We have seen gas prices and inflation spike.
The U.S. needs Saudis help on a number of different fronts. They need Saudi to produce more oil, which Saudi Arabia recently announced that they would be doing. So much of this is based on economic factors. A U.S. official telling me that the fear and the anxiety in the White House over the global economic outlook is making them throw their principles out the door.
But it's not just about the economy, it's also about nuclear Iran. It's about the war in Yemen. Thankfully, there's a truce right now, but the U.S. wants Saudi help ending that war there. But also bringing Israel closer to its Arab neighbors and working with Israel on Palestinian issue. So it's all of these different factors that the Biden administration now wants to get reset this Saudi relationship on.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a big deal, especially if the President has a meeting with MBS which is very, very possible. Thank you very much for that Alex Marquardt. Good reporting.
In the world of golf, yet another star golfer Bryson DeChambeau has announced he's joining the controversial Saudi backed LIV Golf series. This after the PGA Tour suspended 17 golfers for participating in the new league scene. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now.
Brian, what are you learning about how this new league works?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it works by offering golf stars, fewer tournaments and much more money. But tonight, the Saudis are again being skewered for their human rights record and some of golf's biggest names are being accused of selling out.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): Top sports figures again converging with politics tonight in drawing controversy. The PGA Tour has suspended some of golf's biggest stars who've decided to play in a new breakaway golf series called LIV Golf, backed by a Saudi wealth fund chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the man who you U.S. Intelligence said approve the operation which led to the murder and dismemberment of "Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, which bin Salman has denied.
DANIEL RAPAPORT, STAFF WRITER, GOLF DIGEST: These are significant names in the world of golf, who are making this jump to this new entity. And the PGA Tour finds himself in a really, really precarious position right now.
TODD (voice-over): The biggest names to jump to the Saudi series, former world number one player Dustin Johnson, former U.S. Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau, and the player whose jump has caused the most controversy, six time major tournament winner Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson and Johnson are each reportedly getting a nine figure payout to take part in the Saudi series. Earlier this year, the author of a biography on Mickelson quoted the golfer as saying of the Saudis, "They're scary motherfers (ph) to get involved with. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates."
This week, Mickelson said he doesn't condone human rights violations.
PHIL MICKELSON, SIX-TIME MAJOR GOLF CHAMPION: I'm certainly aware of what has happened with Jamal Khashoggi and it's -- I think it's terrible. I've also seen the good that the game of golf has done throughout history, and I believe that LIV Golf is going to do a lot of good for the game as well.
TODD (voice-over): Hardly satisfying to Mickelson's critics.
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: He knows where the money's coming from. And he's doing it willingly and he's helping MBS to burnish his image. He has really been bribed to be a part of the PR machine of the Saudis.
TODD (voice-over): Mickelson is not the only golf star who has been criticized for downplaying Saudi human rights abuses. Former world number one player, Greg Norman, now the CEO of LIV Golf was quoted recently as saying, "Look, we've all made mistakes and you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward."
Some critics accused the Saudis of so called sports washing, sponsoring lucrative sporting events in an effort to clean up their reputation. One analyst says that's only part of the kingdom's ambition.
DAVID SCHENKER, FORMER ASST SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: They want to go from 30 million tourists a year right now to 100 million in the next 15, 20 years. They're building golf courses, they're building beach communities, they've got a six flags amusement park they're building, they got Mariah Carey concerts.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: And one of the biggest questions here remains only partially answered. Tiger Woods has reportedly turned down a massive payday offered by LIV Golf. But many eyes in the golf world are still watching to see if Woods is going to definitively renounce the Saudi golf series, Wolf. Watch what tiger does here. That will be big.
BLITZER: We will be watching. Thanks very much. Brian Todd, reporting for us.
Coming up, Ukraine now says Russian forces believe they can continue their invasion for another year. Do Ukrainian defenders have enough firepower to hold off Putin's onslaught? Our report from the warzone is next.
BLITZER: We're following new developments in Ukraine right now where officials are warning the Russian military could keep up its brutal invasion for another year. Our Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is joining us from Ukraine. He's got details.
Matthew, what's behind this rather stark assessment from Ukraine?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it really is stark, isn't it, when you think there could well be another year of the destruction and of the bloodshed that we've been witnessing for the past four months. But that's the assessments of the chief of Ukraine's intelligence services. He was giving an interview to a British newspaper, which was published on the intelligence services website, as well as the newspaper.
And he said, look, you know, our assessment of Russian capabilities is that they can keep on going at this pace, they have enough military strength to carry on for another year. And the context of it is a warning that's being made by him and other Ukrainian officials as well that Ukraine needs more weapons. The defense chief, the intelligence chief, made the point in the same interview, that sometimes in battle, Ukrainians are outnumbered, 15 to one, in some instances, in terms of their artillery pieces.
And so, it was part of a broader call that we're hearing increasingly loudly coming from Kyiv, coming from government officials here for the United States and for its Western allies to step up even further from where they are now and provide even more weaponry at a much quicker pace to enable Ukraine not just to freeze the conflict, but to push the Russians back where they came from. Wolf.
BLITZER: And amidst all of this as you know, Matthew, Putin has likened himself now to Peter the Great. Explain to our viewers the significance of that and why Ukrainian officials are calling it a confession.
CHANCE: Yes, Peter the Great, you know, 17th century Russian monarch who expanded and founded the Russian Empire basically, by going to war with Western states and conquering territory that was controlled by them. It was within the context, remember, of a piece of the Great Exhibition, in fairness that Vladimir Putin made his comments and he was drawing parallels between the subjects of that exhibition and the situation now. And basically said, look, Peter the Great gathered Russian lands, that's kind of what we're doing. The West said at the time in the 17th century, that wasn't really Russian territory but we made it ours and it was ours we were getting back. He's saying the same thing is happening now with places like Crimea and of course it was an oblique reference to Ukraine as well.
Ukrainian officials and critics of Putin have said, ah, that reveals that Putin's real motives for invading Ukraine are imperial, and that he won't stop at Crimea and he won't stop at Ukraine.
BLITZER: Yes, they make a good point. Matthew Chance, thank you very much.
Coming up, former President Trump lashing out after his own daughter's testimony was used against him. How he responded and what the January 6 select committee is planning next. Stay with us.