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The Situation Room
Sources Say, Trump World Sought To Influence Hutchinson's Testimony; Biden Backs Dropping Filibuster Rules To Pass Abortion Rights Law; Ketanji Brown Jackson Becomes First Black Woman On Supreme Court; New Satellite Images Show Russians Abandoning Snake Island; New Scrutiny Of U.S. Train Crossing After Deadly Amtrak Derailment. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 30, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage now continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, new information about potential witness intimidation in the January 6th investigation. Sources tell CNN that a Trump ally tried to influence Cassidy Hutchinson's explosive testimony. This as the panel is awaiting a response to its subpoena of Trump's former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone.
Also tonight, President Biden says he now supports dropping seven filibuster rules to clear the way for passage of an abortion rights law. He's facing growing political pressure over the end of Roe versus Wade.
And at a pivotal moment for the divided U.S. Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson just became the first black woman sworn in as a Supreme Court justice.
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.
We begin with new evidence that at least one Trump ally attempted to influence the January 6 committee's star witness, fearing what Cassidy Hutchinson would reveal to the panel and to the nation.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is working the story.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New information tonight about the January 6th committee's star witness, Cassidy Hutchinson. Sources tell CNN that Hutchinson was one of two examples that Vice Chair Liz Cheney used to show Trump allies were putting pressure on former staff members to stay loyal to the former president.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Our committee commonly asks witnesses connected to Mr. Trump's administration or campaign whether they have been contacted by any of their former colleagues or anyone else who attempted to influence or impact their testimony.
NOBLES: Witness intimidation among a growing list of potential crimes the committee believes Trump and his top advisers could be at the center of.
CHENEY: It's a very serious issue. And I would imagine the Department of Justice would be very interested in and would take that very seriously as well.
NOBLES: But Trump appeared his allies are pushing back, attacking Hutchinson and questioning her credibility, all because of a dispute over one aspect of her testimony. The Secret Service arguing the details she recounted being told about Trump lunging at his detail inside a presidential suburban are not accurate. The former president clearly backing the Secret Service members who were part of the story, Tony Ornato and Bobby Engel.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: These are great people. They have devoted their lives to it and I think they were very embarrassed by it because it makes them sound terrible.
NOBLES: But members of the committee saying that Ornato's story doesn't add up and they need to make it clear what he knows under oath.
REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Mr. Ornato did not have as clear of memories from this period of time as I would say Ms. Hutchinson did.
NOBLES: Congressman Adam Kinzinger taking it a step further saying in a tweet, quote, there seems to be a major thread here. Tony Ornato likes to lie.
Meanwhile the committee issuing a subpoena to former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, a key figure members believe has a lot to share.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): There were quite a few things that he could tell the committee that would not be subject to privilege. And I think it's important.
NOBLES: Cipollone already signaling that he may be willing to sit for a transcribed deposition. As for others fighting who are subpoenas, frustration is mounting from the lack of action from the Department of Justice.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino have refused to come in and talk to Congress. We have the power of subpoena similar to what a court has and the Justice Department has failed to indict them for that. And so all it does is send a message, you just have to resist the select committee and you may be able to resist all penalties. That's been a frustration. NOBLES: And Wednesday night at the Reagan Library in California, Cheney using the work of the committee to make a case that it's time for the party to move past Trump.
CHENEY: To the little girls and to the young women who are watching tonight, these days, for the most part, men are running the world and it is really not going that well.
NOBLES: And the committee continuing their work today, spotted at the location where they hold their depositions. Eugene Scalia, the former labor secretary during the Trump administration, Scalia reportedly part of that cabinet secretaries that discussed invoking the 25th Amendment in the days after January 6th, his testimony a crucial part of this investigation by the January 6th select committee. Wolf?
BLITZER: Ryan Nobles reporting from Capitol Hill. Thank you very much.
We're joined now by CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams and Defense Attorney Shan Wu, guys, thanks very much for joining us.
Dana, Cassidy Hutchinson clearly was among the people that was under pressure from Trump's orbit. Were they afraid of what she might say under oath?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It seems that way. And now that we've seen her testify publicly, it's understandable that they were afraid. And I think the key is that, based on our reporting, one of the messages that Liz Cheney put up in the hearing earlier this week was to Cassidy Hutchinson, but it's not the only one, according to the committee. There are others.
And I will leave it to my friend, who is a counsel across the way, but just as a layman, it's untoward, never mind potentially illegal, but it also speaks to the reality of what we have seen with a lot of these witnesses, particularly the younger ones who can't afford high-priced attorneys or maybe any attorneys. And so they have been offered help from people who are in and around Trump world.
BLITZER: So, what do you think, Elliot? do you think the Justice Department will launch some sort of witness intimidation investigation?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I think they can. In order for there to be witness tampering or intimidation, you don't need to put a horse head in somebody's bed. It's literally the language of the statute is pretty clear. If somebody corruptly intends or to influence, prevent, hinder or delay someone's testimony. I see corruption here and I see attempting to delay someone's testimony. So, that's it right there at least to open an investigation. So, certainly, Wolf, at a minimum there doesn't need to be violence or actual physical threat. It's merely intending to put pressure on someone testifying and there's a case here.
BLITZER: We shall see if that case is actually made.
Shan, the committee also, as all of us know by now, is issuing a subpoena for the former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, to come forward and testify. What could this limited interview, as it's being described, actually eventually look like?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it depends on how limited it is, Wolf. It's hard for me to comprehend how there could be topics that they could cover which he would agree are not privileged. They wouldn't be that worthwhile. So, a lot of negotiation has probably gone on. I mean, personally, if I was representing him, I'd be seeking some kind of immunity for him.
He's got a tough argument in terms of privilege. He's already talked about it before. He's been interviewed by them and he's also -- there are statements he made to people which arguably could waive the privilege. But the big problem is there's no time to fight over it, and that's what the concern is.
So, the committee, in some ways, really has to bargain with him over the parameters of it because they can't afford the time to take it to court and litigate the issue.
BLITZER: Elliot, how much is Cipollone potentially limited as far as executive privilege to this legal issue is concerned?
WILLIAMS: Right. So, executive privilege being a privilege over the conversations that happened with the president or others in the senior White House staff. There're a lot of conversations that are going to be outside the scope of executive privilege. We're going to have blood on our hands or you're going to have blood on your hands. There's no plausible argument that that -- a statement like that ought to be protected and what was behind your thoughts when you said that. Or we could be arrested for every possible crime. I don't want to get the wording wrong, but those kinds of statements.
So, what they would do is negotiate with the committee over the terms of his appearance, limit it, don't get into any business that he talked about with the president, about his actual job as White House counsel, and get productive testimony, and I think they ought to get there.
BLITZER: Big picture, Dana, how forcefully is the committee moving right now on these issues?
BASH: Well, just on this particular issue, but those negotiations that Elliot and Shan were describing that they would be engaged in if they were part of an attorney in this, they're happening. They're happening right now in a very aggressive way.
And the point that Shan made about the clock running out on this committee is really important because I have been in touch with a lawyer who is familiar with the Cipollone negotiations. They know that. They have, in many ways, even though he has a subpoena at his doorstep, they have the upper hand when it comes to the calendar and the clock.
BLITZER: They certainly do. Shan, the committee is clearly frustrated that the Justice Department isn't moving on these subpoenas for people like Mark Meadows quickly enough. The Department of Justice is frustrated it's not getting interview transcripts from the committee. How are they supposed to figure all this out?
WU: Well, I think I'm siding with the committee here. I mean, the Justice Department was free much earlier, maybe they did but we see no evidence of it to have moved forward, interviewed people, subpoenaed them to the grand jury themselves. And if they're a little bit late to the party at this point and trying to piggyback on the Jan. 6 committee's work, I get why they're doing that. But I see why the committee who negotiated their own terms for witnesses does not want to act as simply an arm of DOJ nor do they want to be seen as simply as an arm of DOJ because that hurts the bipartisan legislative nature of their inquiry.
I mean, there is a separation of powers concern here and I think that's what the problem is.
Now, it's very normal for a criminal prosecution reach out to the Congress -- and they know there's a hearing going on -- try and coordinate some things there. But I think the problem here is Jan. 6 is so far ahead of DOJ, as far as I can tell, that it's really problematic for them because they've just assembled so much information. DOJ is trying to play catch-up, it looks like.
BLITZER: They have obtained thousands of documents, interviewed hundreds by now. So, they are clearly ahead of the Justice Department investigation.
Guys, stick around. Don't go too far away.
Just ahead, President Biden now comes out in favor of setting aside the filibuster to protect abortion rights for women here in the United States. Can he persuade key senators to codify Roe versus Wade with only 50 votes? Stand by.
BLITZER: President Biden now says he would support making an exemption -- exception to the filibuster to put abortion rights and the right to privacy into law after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe versus Wade.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has the very latest from Madrid, Spain, where the president has wrapped up his meeting with NATO leaders.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I believe we have to codify Roe v. Wade into law.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, President Biden escalating his response to a Supreme Court decision reverberating nearly 4,000 miles away from Washington.
BIDEN: If the filibuster gets in the way, it's like voting rights, it should be we provide an exception for this -- require an exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision.
MATTINGLY: and ramping up his already scalding rhetoric toward a Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade.
BIDEN: The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States on overruling not only Roe v. Wade but essentially challenging the right to privacy.
MATTINGLY: Both at least in part a reflection of the rapidly intensifying pressure on the White House from national Democrats to do more.
BIDEN: I'm going to do everything in my power, which I legally can do in terms of executive orders, as well as push the Congress and the public.
MATTINGLY: The scale of the political fallout from the Supreme Court decision hanging over a dramatic gathering of western leaders in Madrid as NATO allies grappled with unyielding Russian aggression and a war now in its fourth month. At a moment, the economic and political repercussions are challenging western resolve and drawing questions about the sustainability of the U.S. role.
BIDEN: The bottom line is, ultimately, the reason why gas prices are up is because of Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia. The reason why the food crisis exists is because of Russia, Russia not allowing grain to get out of Ukraine.
MATTINGLY: More than eight in ten U.S. adults say the country is on the wrong track and just 28 percent approve of Biden's handling of the economy, according to a new Associated Press poll. But Biden unyielding in his support despite the economic costs.
BIDEN: Russia cannot, in fact, defeat Ukraine and move beyond Ukraine. This is a critical, critical position for the world.
MATTINGLY: Months into a grinding and horrific war, it's clear it's become a catalyst for an alliance reinvigorated by Putin's actions and on the path to add two new members.
BIDEN: He's getting exactly what he did not want. He wanted the Finlandization of NATO. He got the NATOization of Finland. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, President Biden returned to the White House a short while ago where the latest court decisions will certainly be top of mind and one of the primary issues he'll be focused on.
But he was also focused on the newest member. His nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson, was sworn in earlier today as the newest associate justice on the court. The president called it a profound step forward for the country, the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, Wolf.
BLITZER: A historic moment indeed. All right, Phil Mattingly reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's get some on all of this. Joining us, CNN Political Director David Chalian, CNN Anchor and Correspondent Audie Cornish.
And let me start with you, David. It's obviously a big deal for the president to support dropping the filibuster to deal with abortion rights for women and girls but this doesn't necessarily do anything to change the reality in the U.S. Senate, easier said clearly than done.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Without a doubt. Just like it was a big deal last fall when he told Anderson Cooper at our town hall, he wanted a carve-out of the filibuster on voting rights. Now, he's adding on privacy rights and on abortion rights to this.
But here's the problem. It's the math. He doesn't have the votes right now in the Senate and he knows it. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema's offices today made clear they still do not support even a carve-out for the filibuster, Wolf.
So, the question for the president, what are you going to do now? Are you going to put muscle into really trying to twist the arms and sway these two moderate Democrats to actually get this done or are you just going to hope that Democrats increase their numbers in the Senate in a very tough political environment? That seems like a tricky proposition. It's not at all clear beyond just calling for it what the president is willing to do to actually try and get it done.
BLITZER: An important point. Audie, how hungry are Democrats right now to actually see President Biden at least try, try to fight for abortion rights?
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's not just about abortion rights, it's about the idea of if you're asking your activist base to get out and vote, right, just please vote any time something goes wrong. There're some activists who are starting to hear that cry and think it's the equivalent of saying, thoughts and prayers in another scenario, when, in fact, they want to see action. If you're asking them to vote for you in the midterm elections because you can take action but then when you are in power, you don't ever seem to take the actions that they're interested in, that's when you start to see disillusionment and disinterest. [18:20:07]
One question I had for David is when it comes to something like the filibuster, it seems like it's death by a thousand cuts. I mean, it has its power or it used to be even referred to as the nuclear option, getting rid of it. And i think now it's becoming more and more common. How come there hasn't been any effort to reform it, so to speak, get rid of pocket vetoes, get rid of these other ways that could kind of, quote/unquote, gum up the system?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
CHALIAN: Yes. No, and we have seen some proposals out there about ways to not completely eliminate it but try and find, as you used the term, Audie, reform. The issue is the base of the party, as you're talking about, is demanding for sort of wholesale change to this. They want to, quote/unquote, go nuclear. Joe Biden, as we know, is a man of the Senate, an institutionalist. I don't think he's willing to go as far as to say just get rid of it entirely. And, again, the math simply isn't there for it right now.
BLITZER: Yes. And these other -- I got some other numbers --
CORNISH: But he gets to say it, right?
BLITZER: Go ahead. Audie, go ahead.
CORNISH: Yes, he gets to look at progressives and say that. I was going to say he gets to look at progressives and say, hey, I tried but look at this senator and that senator, they're the holdup, not me. It's the equivalent of what you heard today, the problem is Russia, Russia, Russia. The problem is someone else.
BLITZER: And these numbers in this new Associated Press poll are pretty devastating as far as the president and the Democrats are concerned. Take a look at these numbers. Is the country headed in the right direction or the wrong direction? Among all adult Americans, 85 percent now say the country is headed in the wrong direction. 92 percent of Republicans, 78 percent, David, of Democrats think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
If you speak with political consultants and advisers here in Washington over the years, they always say going into an election, they look at this number, right direction versus wrong direction, even more than do you approve or disapprove.
CHALIAN: Which isn't good for the president either, by the way. You can't find a good poll number right now for this White House, but it is so important that you note 78 percent of Democrats say the country is in the wrong direction. That's a high watermark for Democrats saying that in the Biden presidency. And that overall number of 85 percent, just in May, that was at 78 percent. So, we're seeing an increase in the number of Americans who think the country is going in the wrong direction over time, precisely in the direction Democrats and the president don't want it to go.
BLITZER: We're only a few months away from the midterm elections. Not encouraging numbers from the democrats, as I've heard from many of them in recent days as they look at all these numbers.
Audie, despite all of this, the country did mark a historic day today with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as the first black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court. How momentous do you think this is?
CORNISH: Well, I mean, it is certainly the kind of moment that it's hard to take that time to step back and pause because of all the different news stories that are swirling around, in particular around the court. I mean, she's not just getting a new gig, she's getting a new gig at an office where there are some pretty seriously intense politics, some very serious scrutiny, the possibility of someone picketing or being outside of your home or worse, security threats. So, it is obviously a kind of delicious time for her and her family. And I think we all want to applaud that moment and what it represents. But also be clear-eyed about what the challenges are ahead.
BLITZER: Taking a long time for this moment to occur but it's important.
CHALIAN: Without a doubt. How can it not be? I mean, even with all these important decisions that have come down, looking at that swearing-in today, this is a moment in American history. And, by the way, probably the last really good political day that this administration has had was when they were in the White House in April celebrating Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation, success at getting confirmed to the Supreme Court. That was probably the last really good, easy political day this White House has had.
BLITZER: David Chalian, thanks very much. Audie --
CORNISH: And just to --
BLITZER: Go ahead. Finish your thought.
CORNISH: I was just going to add one last thing. I've covered Biden for a long time. I would not have pegged him for the guy who would have been the vice president to the first black president who would have had a black vice president and would have named a black woman to the Supreme Court. So, there are always surprises in the world of politics.
BLITZER: Audie, thanks very much for joining us. I think this is your first time here in THE SITUATION ROOM, first of many times to come down the road. Welcome to our team. Thanks very much, Audie, and thanks, David Chalian, of course, as usual.
Coming up, a really critical moment in the January 6th investigation, former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone subpoenaed by the select committee. What will he reveal to investigators? Stand by.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:25:00]
BLITZER: Tonight, former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone is likely weighing his response to the January 6 select committee now that the panel has slapped him with a subpoena.
Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, tell us more about Cipollone and what led him to this truly critical moment.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what led him here was his critical work where Donald Trump at some very important junctures, from Trump's first impeachment trial to the most tense moments of the January 6 attack. A lot to deal with for Pat Cipollone, a man who never sought the spotlight.
TODD (voice over): Donald Trump said this about Pat Cipollone when Cipollone was preparing for Trump's first impeachment trial.
TRUMP: He's the strong, silent type. Strong, he's very strong, silent. Great job you've done.
TODD: But a new account from former top White House Aide Cassidy Hutchinson portrays Cipollone as anything but silent as rioters attacked the Capitol on January 6.
Hutchinson told the House panel investigating the insurrection that Cipollone, then Trump's White House counsel, tried repeatedly to get Trump to stop the violence and to keep Trump from going to the Capitol, paraphrasing Cipollone's warning.
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMPWHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.
TODD: The 56-year-old Cipollone is now in the middle of a classic Washington political brawl as he negotiates with the House committee over how he will give testimony about his actions on and before January 6th. By all accounts, he's always tried to avoid the spotlight, described in a Washington Post profile as a, quote, Washington every man, always preferring to work the mechanisms of power behind the scenes.
Bill Nettles is an attorney who worked every day with Cipollone for a year-and-a-half on a prominent, white collar criminal case.
BILL NETTLES, ATTORNEY, WORKED WITH CIPOLLONE ON WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL CASE: I really admire lawyers who keep their head down, do their job and don't try to be a part of the circus. Pat is really good at setting himself aside and focusing on doing what's best for his client.
TODD: A forceful side of Cipollone did emerge as he defended Trump in his first impeachment trial.
PAT CIPOLLONE, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: End this ridiculous charade and go have an election. Thank you very much, Mr. Chief Justice.
TODD: Cipollone began his journey to Washington as the son of Italian immigrants born in the Bronx. He and his wife have ten children and he's active in the Catholic community, having served on the board of the Catholic Information Center, which is affiliated with Opus Dei, a conservative wing of the church.
JOHN ALLEN, AUTHOR, OPUS DEI: It is a place where conservative faith and values, movers and shakers, come together to sort of talk about how they can bring their faith to bear upon their political activity.
TODD: But while he may inject his faith into his politics and how he wields power, Nettles says Cipollone is not overbearing about it.
NETTLES: While it's very much a big part of who he is and what he stands for, he doesn't put it in your face all the time.
TODD (on camera): Bill Nettles says he's confident that Pat Cipollone will navigate his dealings with the House January 6 committee very deftly and that he will follow the law. We reached out to Cipollone for comment on our story. We did not hear back from him. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, excellent report. Thank you very, very much, Brian Todd reporting.
Joining us now, the former Nixon counsel and star witness at the Watergate hearings, John Dean. John, thanks very much for joining us.
Just before the news of this subpoena broke last night here in THE SITUATION ROOM, you were on our program urging the committee to take this very, very step. How should Cipollone, do you believe, how should he respond to this subpoena?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he should come forward and try to put the minimal restraints on himself. What I've always been concerned about in the back of my mind is the difficult position he finds himself in, is did he really get away from the conspiracy that is so conspicuous. Did he take the proper legal steps of getting himself separate from that and telling people, while it was wrong, making clear that he wanted no part of it and had no part of it.
So, if he hasn't, he's going to be invoking the Fifth Amendment in some of this if he gets pressed. Otherwise, he'll probably try to negotiate so that those issues don't even come up and he can give the committee what he want, what they need, but it's going to be hard on Trump if he tells the truth.
BLITZER: If Cipollone does agree to an interview, how much is he actually shielded by what's called executive privilege and how much can he actually limit the topics? DEAN: Well, executive privilege only covers the conversations that he had with the president. For example, his conversations with Cassidy that she testified to, those are not covered at all. The committee can explore why he told her such and such and when he told her and the circumstances and go there. That's not protected by executive privilege, only the conversations with the president.
But that's even gray, because the current sitting president has said this behavior on January 6th is not covered by executive privilege. He said, I think there is no privilege there and I won't invoke it and only the sitting president can really invoke the privilege. It's a very gray area, what happens with prior presidents, once they have left the office and no longer hold the power.
So, there could be some litigation. But, hopefully, that would not happen because it would delay the proceedings.
BLITZER: All right. John Dean helping us appreciate what's going on. Thanks very, very much.
Just ahead, Ketanji Brown Jackson officially sworn in as the newest U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
She joins a conservative court dealing major blows to President Biden's agenda, including today to climate change. We're going to have details on today's landmark decision gutting, gutting the president's plans.
BLITZER: As we noted, a historic moment for the U.S. Supreme Court today as an African-American woman joins the bench for the first time.
CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider reports Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is now a member of a court bitterly divided and battered right now by controversy.
JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT: I, Ketanji Brown Jackson, do solemnly swear --
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight the Supreme Court has a new justice.
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: I'm pleased to welcome Justice Jackson to the court and to our common calling.
BLITZER: Ketanji Brown Jackson, the nation's first black female justice, replacing her mentor, retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. Breyer leaves after nearly three decades on the court where he tried to bridge the partisan divide and recently urged the court to tread carefully.
JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, SUPREME COURT: If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts and in the rule of law itself can only diminish.
SCHNEIDER: Jackson joins a bitterly divided court at odds over controversial issues dividing the country. While abortion foes are elated at the court's consequential ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, protests against the ruling continue near low a week later.
The court closing out one of its most monumental terms with two final opinions, first, a 6-3 decision curbing the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate power plant emissions, a major defeat for the Biden administration as they try to tackle accelerated global warning. Chief Justice John Roberts writing that while capping carbon emissions so much that the nation transitions away from coal may be a sensible solution to the crisis of the day, a decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself.
The decision also signaling that actions by other agencies could be struck down if they're not specifically authorized by Congress. Biden saying in a statement the ruling is another devastating decision from the court that aims to take our country backwards.
But Biden did get a win from the court. Five justices led by the chief ruling that the president can end the Trump administration's controversial Remain in Mexico policy, which forced some migrants to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases were pending.
This term, the justices also issued major rulings, rolling back a strict gun law in New York that will have the effect of loosening gun restrictions nationwide and siding with a high school football coach who was suspended for leading prayers on the 50-yard line.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Justice Jackson is joining a court that will take on even more consequential cases in the coming term. The court is set to hear cases that involve election law and voting rights and affirmative action, and, Wolf, the court could also decide if some businesses can refuse services to same-sex couples, that all starts in October. Wolf?
BLITZER: Lots going on. Jessica Schneider outside the U.S. Supreme Court, thank you for that report.
Let's get some more on the court's decision curbing the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate power plant emissions across the United States. Our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin is with us along with CNN Legal Analyst, Supreme Court Biographer Joan Biskupic.
Jeffrey, tell us what this ruling against the EPA actually means for President Biden plans to try to fight climate change.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, Congress passes laws that are, by definition, general. They set out goals and objectives. But Congress is not an expert on every area, so they basically give the administrative agencies instructions to go implement the laws.
What today's decision says is that those agencies are very limited in how much they can go beyond the exact words of the statute. And it basically says they can't do much outside of their specific instructions, and that means they can't do much, period.
It's going to be extremely difficult, if not, impossible, for the EPA to regulate climate change and that's going to extend to the Securities and Exchange Commission, to the education department, to all sorts of areas where Congress passes general laws expecting the administrative agencies to fill in the details.
BLITZER: Well, let me get Joan to weigh in. Do you think future courts could use today's decision to gut regulatory powers that have been going on for a long, long time?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST AND SUPREME COURT BIOGRAPHER: Absolutely. The way Chief Justice John Roberts interpreted the situation here have ramifications for other public health situations, other environmental situations. It even recalls what happened earlier this year in that OSHA case whereby the same six-justice majority, the court struck down the Biden administration's vaccine requirement. So, it can go across the board.
The idea is that this six-justice majority thinks Congress has to speak with specificity but the dissenting justices said that's not how these things work. Congress delegates to agencies because they have specific expertise. They know how to handle environmental issues. They know how to handle carbon dioxide emissions much more than Congress.
So, this is, in effect, walking back authority for the federal government.
BLITZER: The ramifications are clearly enormous right now.
Jeffrey, today's decisions cap a truly momentous period for the U.S. Supreme Court from abortion to guns to climate change. What kind of impact will these rulings have on the U.S. for decades potentially?
TOOBIN: Epic, when you consider the gun case, the end of Roe v. Wade. I mean, these are not abstractions. These will affect people's lives.
It affects whether women can get abortions. It affects whether people are safe in their communities. And it affects the environment that we all live in. The Supreme Court has the last word and the six conservatives are really showing their muscle.
BLITZER: Six to three decision. All right, guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, Ukraine recaptures Snake Island, the scene of a dramatic encounter with a Russian warship on the first day of the Russian invasion.
BLITZER: Tonight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the strategic territory off the coast of his country known as Snake Island is free again with Russian forces expelled.
CNN's Scott McLean working the story from Kyiv.
Scott, tell us how Ukraine actually reclaimed this island and what it means for the war, both strategically, as well as symbolically.
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this island undoubtedly has huge strategic island, but perhaps above all else for Ukrainians, it has symbolic value and for very good reason.
Remember that it was taken by the Russians on day one of the war and really made famous by this radio exchange between a Russian warship and Ukrainian troops on the ground, on the island. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSSIAN WARSHIP: I am repeating. I am Russian military ship propose to put down arms or you will be hit.
UKRAINIAN SOLDIER: Russian warship, go (EXPLETIVE DELETED) yourself.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MCLEAN: So, that defiant message has since been immortalized on a postage stamp, also printed on every piece of merchandise you can really imagine and really become a rallying cry, and a really patriotic message, really inspirational patriotic message to a lot of Ukrainians as well amidst this war.
Ukraine has been trying to take back this island, Wolf, since May the 3rd and those efforts ramped up in the last couple of weeks, satellite images show Ukrainians managed to take boats off the coast of that island. They've also managed to flatten the buildings and right now, the latest satellite images show the island bears the scars of war but there are no signs of the Russians.
The Russians actually say they vacated the island voluntarily as a good gesture to Ukraine to help them to be able to export their grain. Well, the Ukrainians have dismissed that as pretty ridiculous, but it is true that whoever controls that island can very easily also control the flow of civilian ships along that southern coast of Ukraine.
The Ukrainians, Wolf, are not exactly rushing back to that island to plant the flag, though. They want to make sure there are no mines or booby traps waiting for them and as President Zelenskyy pointed out earlier today, there's also no guarantee that the Russians won't come back.
BLITZER: Scott McLean, reporting for us, Scott, thank you very, very much for that report from Kyiv.
Just ahead, after a deadly Amtrak derailment, new concerns about dangerous rail crossings throughout the United States. Experts say tens of thousands of intersections could pose a fatal potential risk.
BLITZER: There are new, very, very serious concerns tonight over tens of thousands of train crossings all across the United States after this week's fatal Amtrak train derailment in Missouri. CNN's Pete Muntean reports.
MIKE SPENCER, MISSOURI FARMER: This is a dangerous crossing.
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Missouri farmer Mike Spencer knew there was an accident waiting to happen in the middle of his field.
SPENCER: You see this.
MUNTEAN: It was just two weeks ago he posted this video on Facebook, warning of a dangerous railroad crossing. On Monday, it was here that an Amtrak train slammed into a dump truck, killing the driver, three train passengers and injuring dozens more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit a truck --
MUNTEAN: But this could have happened almost anywhere.
SPENCER: We'll start watching for trains way back.
MUNTEAN: Only a couple miles away, another example of what is known as a passive or uncontrolled rail crossing, meaning it is up to drivers alone to watch out for on coming trains.
There are tens of thousands of uncontrolled rail crossings nationwide, no lights, no electronic barriers, just a sign.
JENNIFER HOMENDY, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD CHAIR: It is very urgent, because it would save lives.
MUNTEAN: National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy says the agency has been urging better warnings on crossings like this since 1998.
HOMENDY: We continue to push for infrastructure improvements like gates, bells, whistles, and hope that those do get installed. There are many different ways of addressing safety at crossings, but doing nothing is not the right answer.
MUNTEAN: The NTSB says about half of all the rail crossings in the U.S. are passive or uncontrolled, about 130,000 nationwide. Last year, there were 812 collisions at those crossings, according to federal data. Last week, three women were killed when their car was hit by a train
at this uncontrolled rail crossing near San Francisco.
HOMENDY: Every single one of these are preventable. It's terribly tragic and heartbreaking.
MUNTEAN: Were you afraid of this intersection?
SPENCER: Oh, absolutely, afraid of it.
MUNTEAN: The crossing in Missouri where the crash took place was already identified by the state has needing improvements. The cost: estimated at $400,000.
SPENCER: May be that the price of fixing this was the cost of lives. You know, and you can't put a dollar amount on that. That's what's sad.
MUNTEAN: Mike Spencer says he hopes this crash leads to nationwide change, certain the outcome here could have been much different.
SPENCER: I just wish it hadn't come to this.
MUNTEAN: Pete Muntean, Mendon, Missouri.
BLITZER: And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
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