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Feds Seize Phone Of Trump's Election Attorney John Eastman; Chaos, Confusion Amid New Patchwork Of Abortion Bans Across U.S.; Zelenskyy Calls Kremenchuk Strike One Of The Most Daring Terrorist Acts In European History; Russia Extends Detention For WNBA Star Brittney Griner Pending Outcome Of Trial; Missouri: Highway Patrol: Three Dead In Train Derailment. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 27, 2022 - 18:00   ET



Let's get straight to the breaking news on former Trump lawyer John Eastman now revealing that federal agents seized his phone as they investigate his role in efforts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election here in the United States.

Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining us from Capitol Hill. So, Ryan, tell our viewers what you are learning.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. This marks an increase in the Department of Justice investigation into the former president, Donald Trump, and his allies' efforts to overturn the election results by -- they are investigating John Eastman, the conservative lawyer who is at the center of that effort to try and pressure the former vice president, Mike Pence, to stand in the way of the certification of the election results.

Now, Eastman is claiming in a court filing that a group of federal investigators from the inspector general's office of the Justice Department and the FBI stopped him as he was leave a restaurant with his wife and a friend, they searched him and then asked for access to his phone. They were able to seize the phone, and that means the information that was on that phone is part of their investigation.

Now, Eastman believes that that seizure was illegal. He is complaining about it. That's how we learned of this through a court filing. Now, Wolf, this information about the Department of Justice's interest in Eastman comes as the January 6th select committee, which has had a heavy focus on Eastmamn, has announced plans for a surprise hearing that is scheduled to take place tomorrow.

You will remember that last week, the committee had said that they were going to take a break in their hearing schedule and not pick up again until the middle of July. Well, that all changed this afternoon when they announced that they had a witness that they wanted to bring to the public to share information about what they know about the investigation. At this point, Wolf, we do not know who that witness is, but the fact that the committee is rushing to bring this out into the light of day suggests that the information is significant. Wolf? BLITZER: Is there a sense, Ryan, that this newly obtained evidence by the select committee could be time-sensitive?

NOBLES: It certainly seems to have all the markings of that, Wolf. As we said before, the committee had plans to take a step back. They were collecting new information that had come in as a result of their first round of hearings. They weren't planting to have anything additionally be done in public until the middle July and most of the members had left town. The July 4th recess is now effect for members, so there was no reason for them to be in Washington.

We are now told that these members are making their way back to Washington, D.C., to be part of this surprise, what many might even describe as an emergency hearing. It makes it seem as if though the information that they want to deliver in tomorrow's hearing does have a degree of time sensitivity to it. Wolf?

BLITZER: It certainly does. It's pretty dramatic, indeed.

Ryan, I want you to stand by. I also want to bring in former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, he's a CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, and CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, the Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.

Andrew, so these FBI agents, and you're a former FBI director, the FBI agents seized Eastman's phone as he was walking out of a restaurant, made him unlock it. What does that say to you about this investigation?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's yet another signal that this investigation is well-developed and then still in a very dynamic stage. So, let's remember, Wolf, that in order to get a search warrant, which they had, to seize this phone, those agents had to first go to a federal judge ask convince a federal judge that they had probable cause to believe that there was evidence a crime on that phone.

The execution of that warrant on Mr. Eastman as he left a restaurant is a little bit conventional, but let's remember the reason getting your hands on the phone is so important right now is because we know that Mr. Eastman and others involved in this conspiracy utilized encrypted messaging platforms, like Signal and WhatsApp and things like that. So, the only way to get the content from those messages is to have an actual phone that the messages were sent to. So, this could potentially give the prosecutors a great degree of visibility into Eastman's actual communications with other people who may have been involved in a conspiracy to overturn the election.

BLITZER: Yes, it's very dramatic. It happened on the same day, last Friday, that a senior Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, his home was raided by the FBI as well.

How significant, Maggie, is all these developments knowing Eastman, for example, was in direct contact with then-President Trump in these key moments around January 6th? MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look as Andrew said, you know, this is showing that there is an active investigation involved. Where it goes remains to be seen, but the fact that there was such an aggressive step taken to get hold of this device while, according to him, he was leaving a restaurant, paints quite a scene of a sense of urgency.


Again, where it goes, whether it stops here, how much of a focus they are putting on former-President Trump, I don't think we are going to know that for a little bit of time but it certainly makes clear that the Justice Department has enacted at least one active investigation going into events related to January 6th.

BLITZER: It certainly does. You know, Andrew, this comes as select committee suddenly today added a hearing tomorrow when, originally, they were supposed to be taking a break until next month. So, what new evidence or testimony would warrant a sudden announcement like this?

MCCABE: It's a great question, Wolf, and I wish I had the answer for it. But I tell you what we do know. We know that the committee has been very focused on telling a story in a compelling and engrossing way. They have done that so far. We also know that they created a fair amount of momentum with their last hearing, last Thursday, about the pressure that the Trump administration exerted on the Justice Department.

My guess, and it is purely a guess, is that rushing this hearing onto the schedule now indicates that what they are going to present tomorrow, either in the form of an evidence or witness testimony, is relative to what they presented on Thursday, a continuation of that same story. It's like they want to keep that momentum going to kind of close out the story in its finality.

So, that makes you think that it could be a piece of evidence relative to what we heard last week or potentially a witness, someone who maybe was talked about at the hearing last week and now has changed their mind and decided to come in and be questioned. It's really hard to say but I would say it's probably related directly to last week's testimony.

BLITZER: It could be very, very dramatic, indeed.

And you've done a lot of reporting in all of this, Maggie. Given the methodical way this committee, the select committee, has approached all this so far, are you surprised they would announce a new hearing on such short notice?

HABERMAN: I think we all were surprised, Wolf, that they were announcing this hearing in such a dramatic fashion. And I think it will be obviously very interesting to see what they present tomorrow. There is one other piece of information that wasn't discussed just now that the committee got hold of last week, and that is these 11 or so hours of film from a documentary filmmaker who was spending time around the Trump family and sometime around former President Trump himself in the immediate lead-up to the election and then in that period afterwards.

And they were looking at all of that film, looking at the interviews. There were three that the filmmaker, Alex Holder, did with former President Donald Trump, and a number of interviews with some of his family members. So, it also could relate to that. There are a number of options, however this has been a very dramatic build up, and so it will be interesting to see what emerges.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly will be, and we'll be watching every moment of that.

Ryan, does announcing a hearing on such short notice raise the stakes for the committee to actually deliver? You are up there on Capitol Hill.

NOBLES: Yes. I don't think there is any doubt about that, Wolf. The way that this has gone, especially when they made such a big deal about taking such a big break raises the stakes for this hearing tomorrow, and they really do have to deliver, because a big part of what this committee is trying to do is win in the court of public opinion and also try and convince and put pressure on the Justice Department to take action with what they have uncovered in their investigation.

And I do think part of this, Wolf, is that I think the committee, to a certain extent, has been surprised by the amount of new information that has been generated by witnesses and other people who have been watching these hearings and it's either jogged their memory or perhaps convinced them that they need to be a part of this investigation and contribute what they know.

So, there is also a distinct possibility that what we see tomorrow is someone who has come forward after seeing what has already taken place in these hearings and saying, I have an important piece of information to add and I want to be a part of this.

So, again, Wolf, they are keeping such a tight lid on it. It is still very much a secret. We may not know until they gavel in tomorrow at 1:00 Eastern.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect we won't know until the hearing actually begins, but I could be wrong.

Andrew, what do you make of the flurry of activity now coming from the U.S. Justice Department at the same time that the select committee is holding these public hearings? Is there anything to that timing?

MCCABE: Wolf, I actually think the timing was a bit of unfortunate circumstance for DOJ because people quite naturally try to link the two. The search warrant on Jeffrey Clark's home and, of course, now we know that the search warrant on Eastman's phone and it all happening right around the time of last week's hearing.

It is more likely that they are just at that point in their investigation, where they are ready to take some overtsteps, like executing search warrants, which, at that point, the gig is up, right? The public knows that these people are under investigation and that signals a very profound turn in the investigation. I think that timing probably just happened to coincide last week's hearing but, you know, we'll never know.

BLITZER: It's always sensitive to get a search warrant for a high- ranking former Justice Department official or for the president's lawyer in this kind of matter.


That's not an easy decision to make for the Justice Department. We will see what happens tomorrow. Guys, thank you very, Maggie Haberman, Andrew McCabe, Ryan Nobles.

Just ahead, a nation divided over the end of Roe versus Wade is now struggling to navigate a patchwork of different state bans on abortion. Stand by for that.

Also stand by for a CNN exclusive. Vice President Kamala Harris, her first interview since the ruling.

Stay with us. You are in The Situation Room.


BLITZER: Tonight, Americans are grappling with the new reality that Roe versus Wade is gone and abortion bans are taking effect in states across the nation.

CNN's Nadia Romero has more on the unfolding consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court decision.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Chaos and confusion after Friday's Supreme Court ruling allowing states to immediately begin to set their own abortion policy, leaving women across the country with varying levels of access. At least ten states have effectively banned abortion. They are among more than two dozen states which are certain or likely to ban abortions once Roe is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute. That includes Mississippi, where this morning, the state's attorney general certified a trigger law.


It goes into effect in ten days and prohibits abortion with few exceptions.

ATTORNEY GENERAL LYNN FITCH (R-MS): The task now calls to us to advocate for the laws that empower women, laws that promote fairness and child support and enhance enforcement of it.

ROMERO: The decision prompting Mississippi to take a hard look at its current laws to protect women and kids. It ranks 50th, dead last, for overall child wellbeing, based on several factors, including health and education.

STATE REP. OMERIA SCOTT (D-MS): It has been surprising to me actually to hear the leadership, the governor, the speaker, the lieutenant governor, talking about what they are going to do for women's health when they won't even expand Medicaid, which would give women healthcare in this state.

ROMERO: A trigger ban in Texas will go into effect 30 days after Friday's ruling. But the state's attorney general already announced that local prosecutors can begin enforcing a six-week ban passed last year before Roe was overturned. Providers in Oklahoma, which has implemented a trigger ban, say they are worried about the resources for underprivileged women.

ANDREA GALLEGOS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TULSA WOMEN'S CLINIC: We gave resources to all of the patients with other clinics, names and phone numbers out of state, as well as resources that could help pay for the abortion and help pay for travel to get to those states.

ROMERO: In other states, things are less clear cut. In Michigan, the governor filed a motion urging the state Supreme Court to review a lawsuit to protect abortion rights. A 1931 law on the books there would ban abortion without exceptions for rape and incest.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): There is a lot of confusion about what this means for IVF, for practitioners.

ROMERO: And an appeals court is set to rule on Georgia's fetal heartbeat law, which would ban abortion about six weeks into a pregnancy.

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: As the next governor, I'm going to do everything in my power to reverse it.

ROMERO: Meanwhile, some Republican governors are signaling they will take action to block access to FDA-approved abortion pills.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): We have already had a bill passed that's set on telemedicine abortions that we don't believe it should be available because it is dangerous situation for those individuals.

ROMERO: Nationwide, protests were peaceful with a few exceptions Police made several arrests in Oregon and Arizona. The LAPD also clashed with protesters over the weekend, knocking Full House Actress Jodie Sweetin to the ground as a group of officers tried to block access to the freeway. And in Iowa, a protestor was hurt when a truck pushed through a crowd crossing the street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He grabbed, ripped my side and pushed me down, drove off.


ROMERO (on camera): And there are legal challenges underway. Just this afternoon, a Louisiana judge blocked the trigger ban -- trigger laws on abortions in that state. The lawsuit argues that they are unconstitutionally vague. A hearing is set for July 8th.

Here in Mississippi, the state's last abortion clinic, the pink house behind me, well, they are pushing forward with their lawsuit arguing that the state guarantees individual rights to privacy, separate and apart from the U.S. Constitution, further asking the court to ban the state's abortion ban. And, Wolf, we will have to keep a close watch on both side sites as both cases move forward.

BLITZER: Excellent reporting. Nadia Romero for us, thank you very much.

Coming up, CNN's exclusive interview with Vice President Kamala Harris. She is speaking out about the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Roe ask whether Justice Gorsuch and Kavanaugh told the truth during their Senate testimony.



BLITZER: Tonight, a CNN exclusive. The highest-ranking woman ever to serve in U.S. government is sharing her take on the end of Roe versus Wade. Vice President Kamala Harris sat down with our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash for her first interview since the U.S. Supreme Court decision.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There will be women who have babies who don't have the means to support the babies. Will the federal government act at all to increase support there?

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I'm so glad you raise that point because I am going to say this, and here is the abject, obvious hypocrisy. Those people who say that they do not want to allow a woman to choose, to make the decision with her priest, with her rabbi, with her pastor, that instead the government is going to interfere and make the decision for her, those same people are the ones who voted against the extension of the child tax credit, the same ones who voted against a tax cut for families to pay for childcare, the same ones who are voting against paid family leave, the same ones who vote against putting resources into public schools.

I just -- I said I was doing work on maternal mortality. We are pushing to say that, for example, Medicaid should be extended for postpartum care from 2 to 12 months. These are the same people who reject the notion of expansion of Medicaid.

BASH: Can the president do any of what you just talked about with his pen, without Congress?

HARRIS: Listen, we have, as a democracy, invested in Congress an incredible amount of power, and specifically the power to create laws. And so we are going to require and depend on Congress to see this through, which means we do need to have the numbers in Congress who are willing to say that they stand for supporting women in every way, including women and men as parents and all of the costs of being a parent.

BASH: So, let me ask you about that. You are saying now the president said that this fall, Roe is on the ballot.


But what do you say to Democratic voters who argue, wait a minute, we worked really hard to elect a Democratic president and vice president, Democratic-led House, a Democratic-led Senate, do it now?

HARRIS: But do what now? What now? I mean, we need -- listen, what we did, we extended the child tax credit for the first year --

BASH: Well, I'm sorry, when I say, do what, do it now, act legislatively to make abortion rights legal.

HARRIS: We feel the same way. It -- do it now, Congress needs to do it now in terms of permanently putting in place a clear indication that it is the law of the land that women have the ability and the right to make decisions about their reproductive care and the government does not have the right to make those decisions for a woman.

BASH: So, one of the ways you can do it, obviously, one of the only way that is legislatively, procedurally possible is doing away with the filibuster on this issue.

President Biden told my colleague, Anderson Cooper, he would be okay with eliminating the filibuster to pass voting rights and, quote, maybe more. Would you support eliminating the filibuster in order to pass federal legislation for abortion rights?

HARRIS: Right now, given the current composition of the Senate, the votes aren't there.

BASH: But do you use the bully pulpit to say, yes, I support it?

HARRIS: Well, here is the thing, I understand what -- why you are asking me the question, but the reality of it is we don't even get to really answer that in terms of whether it happens or not if we don't have the numbers in the Senate. And, again, that's why I keep coming back to the importance of a election that is only 130-odd days away because it really does matter.

I sit as the vice president there, for the president of the Senate. I was in the Senate for four years representing state of California. And if you don't have the votes, you can't move anything. We have seen countless examples, sadly, of that. This Senate, in the current composition, would not pass voting rights legislation.

I sat in the chair when the Women's Health Act was on the floor for a vote and we didn't have the votes to get it passed, on the issue of Roe, of reproductive health care. So, the numbers are not there and we can't de-emphasize the significance of that.

BASH: But as the vice president, as the president of the Senate, do you have a position on -- I know you don't have a vote on it but do you have a position on whether the filibuster should be eliminated?

HARRIS: I think the president has spoke spoken on that issue and --

BASH: Well, he said it more. He kind of left the door open. Is this where he was leaving the door open to?

HARRIS: I think that he has been clear about where we stand on this issue of reproductive health and what the president and our administration have within our toolkit to do. And so, so far, that's what we've been pursuing.

BASH: You were a senator when now-Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh testified about many issues, including obviously Roe at their confirmation hearings. Now, Gorsuch said it had been reaffirmed many times, Kavanaugh called it precedent on precedent. At that particular hearing, you were there. Some senators say that they intentionally misled the public and the Congress. What do you think?

HARRIS: I never believed them. I didn't believe them. That's why I voted against them.

BASH: Do you think that there is anything to be done now? I mean, there is no -- they were under oath.

HARRIS: I think that -- listen, it was clear to me when I was sitting in the chair a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that they were not -- that they were very likely to do what they just did. That was my perspective. That was my opinion. And that's why I voted like I did it.

BASH: Big picture, do you worry about two Americas now because of the patchwork of different states having different laws now that Roe v. Wade is no longer law of the land?

HARRIS: I don't believe we have two Americas. I believe that when you look at an issue, for example, like abortion and Roe, a majority of Americans support right of woman to make decisions about her body. When you look at something like the issue of the need for reasonable gun safety laws, the majority of people, including one of the numbers I have seen the majority of gun owners agree we should have reasonable gun safety laws.

So, I don't know buy into the idea that we have two Americas. What does concern me is that the rhetoric you see among certain elected officials is actually not representative of where the people actually are and we need to listen to where the people actually are.


The vast majority people, I think, have so much more in common than what separates them and they want us to lead in terms of those of who hold elected offices in a way that is reflective of their daily needs and their priorities.

So, for example, supporting parents with a tax cut, for childcare expenses, which we have done as an administration, extending the child tax credit, so that as we did in the first year, we brought down child poverty by almost half, doing the work of saying we are going to focus on an issue like maternal mortality because rural women, black women, native women, are almost equally impacted in terms of the disparities of those outcomes. That's what people want.

BASH: Speaking of disparities and just overall anxiety, I want ask to you about the economy.


BASH: There is a lot of anxiety about the economy. People's wallets are really being hurt right now. Gas prices, as you well know, are still near about $5 a gallon. The president said he wanted a gas-tax holiday. It doesn't seem like it's going anywhere in Congress.

What else is in your toolbox? Is there anything else you can do to help bring down the cost of gas?

HARRIS: Yes. Well, first of all, let's just say that this is a very real issue and we have to do something about it. And it's one of our highest priorities as an administration. So, there is the piece that is about gas and bringing down the cost of gas, which, in large part, has exploded because of Putin's war in Ukraine. The president is in Europe right now talking, as he has, been to bring allies and partners together so we can have a common defense around what we believe to be democratic principles around sovereignty and territorial integrity. But there are other things we need to do.

And so, for example, bringing down the cost of prescription drugs, one that we are fighting to say something like insulin should cost no more than $35 a month. We are fighting to say that we should have affordable childcare so that families -- working families shouldn't pay more than 7 percent of their income in childcare.

BASH: But that has -- you have been fighting for that since day one.

HARRIS: And we are going to keep fighting for that.

BASH: But now, inflation is really high. Are you concerned about a recession? The administration said that they weren't that worried about the -- about inflation, and then that changed.

HARRIS: I think that there can be no higher priority than what we have been clear is our highest priority, which is bringing down the cost and the prices as much as we possibly can, and we stay focused on that.

BASH: I just want to ask you quickly about January 6th.


BASH: You are a prosecutor by training and by lots of experience. Based on the evidence presented so far in the January 6th hearings, would you bring criminal charges against the former president, Donald Trump?

HARRIS: As a former prosecutor, I never comment on another prosecutor's case.

BASH: I understand that.

The former vice president, Mike pence, has your opinion of him changed?

HARRIS: Well, I think he did his job that day and I commend him for that because, clearly, it was under extraordinary circumstances that he should not have had to face. And I commend him for having the courage to do his job.

BASH: Last question. I know we are out of time.


BASH: Your friend, the congressman, Jim Clyburn, said last week that if President Biden doesn't seek re-election, you would be first on his list in 2024. Have you talked to President Biden about re-election? And what do you say to Congressman Clyburn.

HARRIS: Joe Biden is running for re-election and I will be his ticket mate.

BASH: Full stop?

HARRIS: Full stop, that's it.

BASH: Madam Vice President, thank you.

HARRIS: Thank you, Dana.


BLITZER: Very strong interview, indeed. Dana is with us in The Situation Room right now. Dana, thanks so much for doing that really important -- she also, I understand, told you that, from her perspective, the U.S. Supreme Court is not done by any means.

BASH: No. It was really interesting. We talked about that concurring opinion that Clarence Thomas wrote last Friday, and where he said pretty specifically that the court should reconsider other cases that deal with things like same-sex marriage, contraception, intimacy issues, and she answered, I definitely believe this is the not over. She said that Thomas said the quiet part out loud. I think that's why he all must really understand the significance of what just happened and she called it profound.

BLITZER: Very important interview. Thanks very much, Dana, excellent work, as usual. Dana Bash helping appreciate what is going on, as she always does.

Just ahead, the death toll is now climbing after Russia launches an airstrike at a shopping mall in Central Ukraine.


What President Biden and other G7 leaders are pledging to do in the wake of this brutal attack.


BLITZER: A truly devastating attack in Ukraine today. Russia launched an airstrike at a Ukrainian shopping mall that left at least 13 people dead. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calls it, quote, one of the most daring attacks in European history. It happened as G7 leaders were gathering in Germany.

Our White House Correspondent M.J. Lee is traveling with President Biden in Europe right now.


M.J., Ukrainian President Zelenskyy addressed G7 leaders during a virtual meeting earlier today. What was his basic message?

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. One of the big takeaways from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's meeting with the G7 leaders was how he laid out, how he sees the trajectory of the war, namely that he would like to see the war end before the end of this year. He said that he would like Ukraine to regain momentum in a matter of months, not years, and that he really wants to maximize the use out of the next couple of months.

Now, we also know that the president, President Zelenskyy, asked the leaders for more help particularly when it comes to air defense systems, of the variety that can shoot down Russian missiles while they are in the sky. And we also have reported, of course, on this front that the U.S. is getting ready to announce that it has purchased an advanced medium to long-range surface-to-air missile defense system for Ukraine.

But, overall, Wolf, there was a collective message that we heard from all of the G7 leaders, and that was that they are willing to help Ukraine for as long as it takes. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. It could be a while.

As you know, M.J., Russia made a point of launching these new strikes at targets in Ukraine, including the capital of Kyiv, as well as the shopping mall in Central Ukraine as these G7 leaders were meeting. Was this designed by the Russians to send a direct message?

LEE: Yes. First of all, let me just quickly note because this tweet just came out from President Biden. He sent a message saying that this attack is cruel and that we stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. But just to your point just now, it is difficult to ignore sort of the overlapping timing of these two events at the same time that we have President Biden meeting with these G7 leaders to essentially talk about how to bring this war to an end.

We are seeing these horrific images coming out of Ukraine at this shopping mall where there were many, many people inside. We don't even know yet what the actual death toll is going to be. Certainly, this is going to be one of the driving factors, not just for President Zelenskyy but for these G7 leaders, because they have talking so much about the human suffering and the toll that it has taken on the Ukrainian people.

So, again, these horrific images coming out of Ukraine overlapping with this major meeting of the G7 leaders just really brings home the urgency behind the situation, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly does. And President Zelenskyy says there were a thousand people in that Ukrainian shopping mall when the Russians launched that strike. M.J. Lee -- yes, just before the strike, more than a thousand people inside that shopping mall.

M.J. Lee, thank you very much for that update.

BLITZER: I want to bring CNN's Clarissa Ward. She is joining us now live. She is in London. Clarissa, does President Zelenskyy really have any say over how much longer this war will last or will that decision ultimately come from the man who launched this brutal invasion, namely Vladimir Putin?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I don't think there is any one party who will have the ultimate say in how long this war lasts. Obviously, much has been made of Russia's momentum in Eastern Ukraine. They have made significant progress there, but at the same time, it has been plotting, it has been incremental and there has been a high level of attrition.

It's not clear, while they have taken the vast majority of the region of Luhansk, whether they could push into Donetsk, whether they could encircle major cities, like Slovyansk, for example, remains an open question. But I think the reason that you are seeing Zelenskyy come out with this sort of timeline, if you will, is because he understands firstly the crucial nature of this moment with all these NATO leaders meeting together this week, the west coming together deciding how they are going to handle this coming forward, but also because he understands that there is a dangerous of fatigue creeping in with voters, particularly in Europe.

And it is no accident that he talked about, by the end of the year, by winter. Of course, many here are concerned that with rising prices, with oil and gas, and with temperatures plummeting, you are going to see patience dwindling and support potentially from ordinary Europeans dwindling as well.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned about this. He said, listen, we cannot fall prey to Ukraine fatigue, if you will, but, certainly, that will be in Zelenskyy's mind, as he tries to impress upon western leaders the importance of this moment.

BLITZER: U.S. officials, Clarissa, say Russia is stepping up these brutal missile strikes into Ukraine this week, including in the capital of Kyiv, as I said, and also today, earlier today, at this busy shopping small in Center Ukraine. So, what does that tell you about Russia's current strategy?

[18:45:01] WARD: Well, I think what it tells you quite clearly, Wolf, is that Russia doesn't have any intention of backing down. That it is going to keep on doing what it has been doing. It has consistently shown a flagrant disregard for civilians throughout this war. I understand that it's been a little quieter in Kyiv over the past couple months or few weeks certainly.

But it's important to remember when talking about missile strikes on Kyiv, when we're talking about a shopping mall in Poltava being hit by rockets, these nowhere near the frontline. And so, the message certainly to the Ukrainian people are still, you are not safe anywhere in your country and we are not going to take our foot off the gas or step down on the pressure.

And again, timing no accident -- 300,000. That is the new number NATO will be announcing for their rapid response team. That's up from 40,000. So, it's hard to believe that this is simply a coincidence as NATO leaders come together to participate in what the head of NATO has called a transformative meeting.

BLITZER: Yeah. Striking a shopping mall with maybe a thousand people inside, that's not a military target at all. That could -- looks to me like a potential war crime.

Clarissa Ward, thank you very much.

Coming up, Brittney Griner appears in a Russian court. Why that country says it's extending the detainment for the WNBA star for another sixth months, at least.



BLITZER: Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian court today. This comes as Russia has now set the trial for the WNBA star to begin this coming Friday. Griner has been the detained on allegations of drug smuggling but the State Department here in Washington says Griner is being, quote, wrongfully detained.

CNN's Brian Todd is here to break brown with everything suspected for the trial and all the latest information.

So, what do you know, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this trial not expected to go well for Brittney Griner, the Russian legal system simply stacked against her, but some believe the sooner this trial get started and can get resolved, the sooner the U.S. can strike a possible deal for Griner's release.


REPORTER: Britney, anything to say?

TODD (voice-over): In hand cuffs, flanked by guards in black vests, Brittney Griner is escorted into court today and learns her detention has been extended by six months and that her trial on drug smuggling charges will begin this Friday.

KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR UKRAINE NEGOTIATIONS: The justice system, if you can call it that in Russia, has nothing to do with justice at all. It is an instrument of the Putin regime's political power. And so, they have made a decision to keep her detained and want to do this probably to put pressure on the Biden administration.

TODD: The American basketball star has been detained more than four months in Russia after being arrested at a Moscow airport. She was carrying what Russian authorities said was cannabis oil in her luggage. They accused Griner of smuggling narcotics, punishable ten years in prison.

The U.S. government has classified her as wrongfully detained, meaning her case is the focus of U.S. special presidential envoy for hostage affairs,

CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan says even if Griner's trial is a sham, it could bring a positive development.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: They have to go through this, Russians can save face, convict her and then say okay, what do we get in return? So as sad as that is and it's strange and bizarre as it sounds, this actually means the entire situation as tragic as it is, is moving forward.

TODD: One scenario that is always coming up in public discussions now is the possibility of the Russians treating Griner or fellow American Paul Whelan or both, for Victor Bout. He is a notorious arms dealer known as the merchant of death, now serving a long sentence at the U.S. federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois.

VOLKER: He is a genuine criminal. He is a notorious figure. He has supplied arms to some of the worst conflicts in the world. So there's no comparison between the two.

TODD: Asked by CNN whether a trade for Bout is possible, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sidestepped it.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I got no higher priority than to make sure Americans being illegally detained in one way or another around the world come home, and that includes Paul Whelan. That includes Brittney Griner.

TODD: Jason Rezaian, "The Washington Post" writer who was held in Iran for nearly a year and a half, believes there's a good chance that both Griner and Paul Whelan have spent significant time in solitary confinement while in Russian custody.

So their mental health could be suffering.

JASON REZAIAN, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Their mental health is definitely suffering, as is the mental health of all other Americans who are being held against their will simply because they are citizens of the United States of America.


TODD (on camera): Brittney Griner's agent just tweeted that negotiations for Griner's immediate release should remain a top priority and they expect President Biden and Vice President Harris to do, quote, everything in their power now to get a deal done to bring her home -- considerable pressure on the Biden team tonight.

BLITZER: Let's hope she comes home, comes home soon.

Thanks very much, Brian Todd, for that report.

Just ahead, authorities just held a news conference on the Amtrak train that derailed in Missouri. We're going to tell you what we are learning about the crash. That's next.



BLITZER: There is new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM on that deadly Amtrak derailment in Missouri, check out these pictures.

CNN's Nick Valencia following the story for us.

Nick, authorities held this news conference just a little while ago. Can you update our viewers? What did they tell us?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just an absolutely terrifying scene, what you're looking at there. The Amtrak train collided with a dump truck that was blocking a public crossing two hours northeast of Kansas City.

And what we know is at least 50 people injured and three people were killed. The images from the scene are just harrowing, you can see multiple cars flipped over on their side, passengers having to sit on top. And just a short time ago from a press conference from highway patrol said this fatal incident occurred at an uncontrolled crossing.


MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL OFFICER: It's an uncontrolled cross intersection on a gravel road. So, no lights, no electronic control devices, things such as that.

VALENCIA: Pretty common to this area, though?

MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL OFFICER: A lot of rural intersections are that way, yes.


VALENCIA: There were at least 243 passengers on board as well as 12 crew members. This train was traveling earlier today from Los Angeles to Chicago when the fatal incident occurred, just horrifying pictures there. We did hear from eye witnesses who were clearly still in shock, saying everything started to move in slow motion.

What we can tell you also, this is the second Amtrak collision with a passenger vehicle in as many days, the other happening just yesterday in California. We are still gathering more details on this and we'll bring you those details as soon as we have them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Horrible situation indeed. Nick Valencia, thanks for the update.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.