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The Situation Room
Gunman's Father Speaks Out, Denies Any Wrongdoing; Critical Moment In 1/6 Probe, Ex-Trump White House Counsel Testifies Tomorrow; President Zelenskyy Opens Up About The Personal Toll Of War; Interview With Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 07, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, as the Highland Park gunman faces murder charges, his father is now speaking out, rejecting any responsibility for his son's deadly attack. This as we're learning about more warning signs, including nearly two dozen calls from the family's home to police.
Also tonight, a critical moment in the January 6th investigation, we're setting the stage for tomorrow's testimony by former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells me about the very personal toll the war is taking on his family and how his children are in danger. Stand by for much more of my exclusive interview with President Zelenskyy this hour.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with all the new evidence in the Highland Park mass shooting, including warning signs about the gunman's state of mind. And it's all raising more questions about the potential charges against his father.
Here is CNN's Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the mayhem of the shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, new details are emerging from a witness that provided key surveillance video, which helped identify the alleged shooter.
HAL EMALFARB, GAVE SURVEILLANCE VIDEO TO POLICE: You see people running, he's just walking.
LAVANDERA: it was a camera connected to a building owned by Hal Emalfarb that recorded that crucial moment. He says he has video that captured the alleyway the shooter used to reach the rooftop where authorities say he fired off more than 80 rounds on the crowd of parade-watchers. EMALFARB: We started looking at the camera here. He was on the film at 10:07 into the alley and 10:14:57 coming out. And when he comes out, he's holding an orange bag in the rifle butt, or something in the orange bag hits the guardrail and drops. And he looks at it and that's when we caught him on his camera. So, we knew who it was when he look back and then he left.
LAVANDERA: Newly released documents paint the picture of a depressed teenager with a history of drug use and a home life marked by domestic incidents. A report from an April 2019 well-being check noted he had attempted to kill himself using a machete and that mental health professionals responded to the call.
In September of that same year, another incident report noted that he had, quote, made a threat in the household. A person who is name is redacted in the report told officer that the man, quote, stated that he was going to kill everyone. Robert Crimo III admitted that he was depressed and had a history of drug use, according to the report, but told investigators he did not feel like harming himself or others.
After that incident, police removed 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword from his house. The father picked up the items later that day claiming they were his. Documents also detail a troubling 22 calls to police from the home, most of them domestic incidents between Crimo's mother and father. Questions now arise on how, despite this history, the shooter was able to legally purchase five firearms with his father's legal consent, which is necessary for any 18-year-old. The alleged gunman's father told ABC News he was not responsible for the purchase.
ROBERT CRIM JR., FATHER OF THE HIGHLAND PARK PARADE SHOOTER (voice over): I filled out the consent form to allow my son to go through the process. They do background checks, whatever it entails, I'm not exactly sure. Either you're approved or denied, and he was approved.
LAVANDERA: His father later told the New York Post that he believed his son was using the guns to go to a shooting range.
MAYOR NANCY ROTERING (D-HIGHLAND PARK, IL): My community is in absolute despair, grieving, feeling unspeakable pain due to the hands of his son. And he signed off on the FOID application and I will leave it to the authorities to address the rest of the question.
LAVANDERA: Authorities say the shooter purchased those weapons eventually using one to kill seven people and injure nearly 40 other victims.
One of those victims still fighting for his life is eight-year-old Cooper Roberts. A family friend says the little boy was shot in the belly and the bullet severed his spinal cord. Cooper was at the parade with his twin brother and parents. His mother and brother were also wounded but they have been released from the hospital.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Wolf, Cooper and his twin brother with the youngest of six children. We are told by a family friend tonight that Cooper Roberts, the eight-year-old, is in a hospital tonight. He is on a ventilator and sedated. And, obviously, his family extremely concerned that if he is able to survive, that he will remain paralyzed.
BLITZER: Heartbreaking, indeed. Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.
Let's bring in CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan along with Lynn Sweet, the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times, who was at the Highland Park parade on July 4th. Paul, should these red flags have prevented the gunman from getting his hands on a firearm?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they should have, Wolf, but the forms in question and the laws in question in Illinois, which is supposed to have tough gun laws, are pathetically inadequate. They only look for people who have been convicted of crimes or have actually been hospitalized for mental disease.
However, in this case, of course, you had someone who had threatened to commit suicide, had threatened to kill all the members of his family. Had 16 knives, a dagger, and a sword in his possession when he made the threat to kill his family and he just breezed right through the process and they gave him five handguns. It's just outrageous.
BLITZER: I know, Lynn, you've done a lot of reporting on this. Why is it so easy for someone with such a disturbing history to go out and actually legally purchase a firearm in this country?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, that is the subject that many people tried to solve. And if I could -- I don't know if I could give you the concise answer now. Part of it is that no one wants to pass a ban on getting these assault type weapons, much less the other things. It is a subject of intense reporting and scrutiny right now back in Illinois and at our paper over what happened and what the Illinois State Police did.
But this also throws a big spotlight though, Wolf, on not just how this person slipped through but that this weapon was available to be purchased. I think, in a sense, it also helps to keep an eye on the ball. The person slipped through, but where did we end up? One day, he was parked at a gun store and he was able to buy a Smith & Wesson military police-style semiautomatic weapon, and I think that's also something that we have to consider as we also examine, of course, what and exactly how he was able to purchase these.
BLITZER: You know, Paul, the gunman's father now says he's not culpable for the attack even though he did sponsor his son's application for a gun license. He says he thought his son would use his guns at a shooting range. What do you make of that defense?
CALLAN: I looked over that form that the father signed carefully today and there is a clause in it that says that the father must pay all damages caused by the illegal use of a firearm by the son. So, he's most definitely responsible and it's probably going to be something that will drive him into bankruptcy.
But the other shocking aspect of the form, Wolf, is that the entire form asks the father about his own background, whether he, the father, has been convicted of a crime, whether he, the father, has been hospitalized for a mental disease or defect. It really asks the father nothing about the condition of his son. And you would think that this father would have known about the problems his son had had for many years.
BLITZER: And all the times they had to call the police to come to the family home.
You know, Lynn, and you were there on the day of the parade on July Fourth. When you see the images of this little eight-year-old boy, Cooper Roberts, who's now apparently going to be paralyzed from the waist down, what goes through your mind?
SWEET: I have found myself getting sadder and angrier actually as the time has passed. I'm basically okay. I saw a baby carriage today outside, and for a moment, I didn't see the adult next to it and that was kind of a flash back to my moment vivid memory of what happened after the shooting and people abandoned a lot of things, including baby carriages. So, that's, that's where I'm at, but, please, everyone, there are so many people in Highland Park who, as Mayor Rotering said, are grieving and had real trauma from people they knew or loved ones that were hurt or saw this.
BLITZER: Lynn Sweet and Paul Callan, guys, thank you very much. We'll continue this conversation, to be sure.
Just ahead, what the January 6th select committee may learn tomorrow when former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone finally testifies.
And President Zelenskyy gets very, very personal in our exclusive interview. He talks about his children and the danger they face as he leads this battle against Russia's brutal invasion. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, the head of the IRS is asking the agency's watchdog to investigate the decision to conduct rare tax you audits of former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, both outspoken critics of former President Trump.
Andrew McCabe is joining us right now. He's a CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst. Andrew, thanks for joining us. Do you believe you and Comey were actually targeted by the IRS? Just how invasive was this audit that went on?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. Well, Wolf, I don't know if Jim and I were targeted but there are a lot of facts that point in that direction, certainly enough that should compel and seems to have compelled the IRS to take a hard look at it. The odds that the two of us would be selected for something that is supposedly a random program are really incalculable. It's such a remote coincidence. It's almost impossible.
And then put on top of that the fact that we know that both of us have been targeted by the former president before, have been continuously harassed by him, the public, social media, places like that. We were both targeted and basically run out of our jobs by that kind of pressure and harassment. So, I think it's absolutely a matter worthy of investigation.
BLITZER: Let's move on to some other important news while I have you, Andrew. We're just getting new video, body camera video specifically of the raid against the former Trump Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark. It's not clear if Clark is the subject of a criminal investigation, but based on the fact that he wasn't even allowed to get dressed while investigators cleared his house, what does that suggest about his potential legal jeopardy?
MCCABE: Well, I have to say, Wolf, that there are some very standard procedures that the FBI uses when they execute a search warrant at someone's house. And removing that person from the residence while the agents are inside is something that is typically done and it is to ensure the safety of both the person who is being searched, the occupants of the residence and also for the agents involved.
So, it seems harsh. It can be shocking and upsetting to people who are the subject of that sort of search warrant, but it is a standard procedure. I haven't seen a video in this case, but I can tell you that that's how the FBI does it in cases across the board, not just people who are politically significant and accused of or maybe involved in white collar investigations but everyone, violent criminals and everyone across the board.
BLITZER: Let's quickly turn to the January 6th investigation. The former Trump White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, is set to testify tomorrow behind closed doors. How crucial is that testimony going to be for the select committee's investigation?
MCCABE: Absolutely crucial, Wolf. He is one of the critical witnesses who was present for key moments in the course of this timeline. So, first, it will be very interesting to hear Mr. Cipollone's recollections and observations from the infamous January 3rd meeting in the Oval Office during which the president argued with representatives from the Justice Department about trying to compel the Justice Department to essentially execute his turning over the results of the election.
It will be interesting, also to hear what Mr. Cipollone says about the testimony we heard from Cassidy Hutchinson, whether he corroborates her point of view and, of course, his observations from what happened on January 6th.
BLITZER: Andrew McCabe, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
BLITZER: Coming up, is President Zelenskyy ready to cede any Ukrainian territory to Vladimir Putin? I asked him in our exclusive one-on-one interview. Much more of that interview coming up next.
BLITZER: We're following the global implications of Boris Johnson's decision to call it quits. He's now agreed to resign amid a revolt within his own party and after multiple scandals in his government. I asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his reaction to the exit of one of his staunchest allies against Russia. It's all part of my exclusive one-on-one interview with President Zelenskyy from his war headquarters in Kyiv.
BLITZER: Joining us now, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us.
I want to start by asking you about the news today that the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has resigned. He's been, of course, one of your biggest advocates in Europe. He's visited you twice during the course of this brutal war. Do you believe it's the correct move for him to step down at this point?
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: He resigned not because he was in Ukraine. I think on the contrary, what Johnson has been doing for Ukraine was helping us a great deal. I consider him a friend of Ukraine. But I think the society also supported Ukraine in Europe. That's why I think the U.K., it's on the side of good, on the side of Ukraine. And I'm sure the U.K. policy towards Ukraine is not going to be changing because of Boris Johnson's resignation.
Our relations obviously gained a lot of Johnson's understanding of things. We went through a lot of dramatic moments quite quickly. The help he needed was delivered rather quickly. Yes, it will affect the speed of help, I don't know. I will pray to God it won't be affected with that help. Firstly, the military help in this moment of time.
BLITZER: Let me follow up on that point, Mr. President. In his resignation speech, Boris Johnson had a direct message to the people of Ukraine. He said the U.K. will, quote, continue to back your fight for freedom as long as it takes. That's what he said. Are you at all worried that whoever replaces him may lead a British government less dedicated to supporting your country in this fight?
ZELENSKYY: Unfortunately, I didn't hear the resignation speech. I will be talking to him at 4:00 P.M. I will be talking to him about everything. I will try to understand the details of what will be going on when it comes to supporting Ukraine in this war.
I think he's a deep and serious person. When he resigned, he wanted to talk to me in order to calm me down and say that Britain will be carrying on its support for Ukraine.
I also understand that he will be working as a prime minister for a certain period of time after his resignation.
BLITZER: That's correct. Mr. President, let's turn to the state of the war right now. As you, of course, know, Russia abandoned its efforts to capture the capital of Kyiv three months ago. But since then, Russian forces have been steadily gaining ground in the east. What's your assessment, Mr. President, of where the war stands right now?
ZELENSKYY: Thank you for this question. Firstly, I want to say the Russians didn't abandon their attempts although we pushed them back and they retreat. I think that, overall, they didn't give up on their military plans and their leadership plans to capture our country. These are their plans for years and years.
They have been always occupying our country, first, politically. There was Crimea, then was Donbas and now we've got a full scale invasion. That's why Russia's plans change our political leadership and occupation of the whole country. We are totally convinced.
As to the situation in the east, it's very difficult. We have different situations all over Ukraine but the most difficult one is in Donbas. The Russians have advantage in artillery, soldiers and they sustained more losses, but they don't count their military equipment. They don't count their victims. We are counting our people most of all. We are doing everything in order to save lives of our people.
This is our weapons. Our people are our weapons. We want this disadvantage in military equipment, primarily artillery compared to Russia, to get rectified so we are appealing to our partners for help.
As to the situation in the south, it's a bit different, as we are containing the enemy and, in some cases, we're counterattacking. As to the Kharkiv region, it's almost all liberated. It's not easy because the Russians left their combat units. Overall, we have to stabilize the situation in the east.
BLITZER: You pledged, Mr. President, to take back every inch of Ukrainian territory from the Russians. But, sir, is that really realistic? Because U.S. officials recently told CNN it's unlikely you'll be able to regain all of the ground you've lost. What's your reaction to that?
ZELENSKYY: We are going fight for every inch of our territory. It's clear that we can't get it all back but we need equipment and security support in order to continue the fight. But some areas lost to the Russian occupiers, we will definitely win back. With the diplomatic path, there would be fewer victims.
BLITZER: So, let me follow up on that point, Mr. President. Are you willing to cede any territory at all to Russia to make a peace deal and end this war? ZELENSKYY: Ukrainians are not ready to give up their land as new territories of the Russian Federation. This is our land. We have always said this. And we will never give it up.
BLITZER: President Biden still has not visited Ukraine since the invasion began, Mr. President. Do you think it would help refocus the world's efforts on your country if President Biden visited Ukraine?
ZELENSKYY: We would love to see President Biden in Ukraine. I heard that he supported the idea. There are some security moments which stand in the way of his visit. We understand that. I truly think this would help the Ukrainians. Ukrainians support the United States. The trust of the Ukrainians to the United States is very high, same as to the U.K. and Poland and the Baltic States.
So, visits of the world leaders who are not just partners but real friends, to give a signal, a sign, that the United States supports Ukraine because they believe in Ukrainian victory and they are not afraid of Russia.
They come despite the rockets flying in. They're not afraid of Putin because the world is much bigger than one leader of one country. And, clearly, if President Biden would be able to come, I support it and he would be so welcome in Ukraine. And I'm sure he would get this feeling of gratitude and support of the United States from the Ukrainian people. I think it would be amazing.
BLITZER: Just ahead, President Zelenskyy opens up about the toll the war is taking on his family, as he barely gets to see or hug his children. My exclusive interview with President Zelenskyy continues. That's next.
Plus, Brittney Griner's legal team is now speaking out about the WNBA star's decision to plead guilty to drug charges in Russia.
BLITZER: Much more of my exclusive interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy coming up in just a few moments, but, first, a major development in Moscow today. WNBA superstar and Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner has chosen to plead guilty to drug smuggling charges. Her lawyers say it was her own choice to do so and they hope Russian prosecutors will give Griner some leniency now.
CNN's Brian TODD is joining us with more details on what happened in court today. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you mentioned, the decision to plead guilty, according to sources close to Griner, was Griner's own decision and now her lawyers say they expect her trial to conclude around the beginning of August. We have also other new information on where the case could go from here.
TODD (voice over): Brittney Griner doesn't speak as she's led in handcuffs outside the courtroom today, but inside, the American basketball star's words were captured in an audio recording.
BRITTNEY GRINER, AMERICAN BASKETBALL STAR DETAINED IN RUSSIA (voice over): I would like to plead guilty on the charges but I had no intention on breaking any Russian laws.
TODD: Griner told the judge she wants to give her testimony later. After the hearing, Griner's lawyers gave more detail on the less than one gram of cannabis oil Russian officials said Griner was carrying when she was apprehended at a Moscow airport in February.
ALEXANDER BOIKOV, ATTORNEY FOR BRITTNEY GRINER: She admitted that it was hers, but she said that it was unintentionally brought to Russia because she was in a hurry as she was packing and it was just by accident that it happened in her luggage.
TODD: Why would Griner plead guilty? Experts say one reason is that an estimated 99 percent of all criminal cases in Russia end up in convictions anyway.
TOM FIRESTONE, FORMER RESIDENT, LEGAL ADVISER, U.S. EMBASSY IN MOSCOW: The smart move is to admit guilty and try to get a lesser sentence. The Russian government has made noises recently about saying that there can't be an exchange until she is convicted, so this may expedite that process.
TODD: The White House responded to Griner's guilty plea by saying they're working aggressively to bring her home. And Secretary of State Blinken tweeted, we will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan, and other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones. One of America's top diplomats in Russia said she was able to speak to Griner in court and shared detail on her condition.
ELIZABETH ROOD, DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION,U.S. EMBASSY MOSCOW: She said that she's eating well. She's able to read books. And under the circumstances, she is doing well. Most important, I was able to share with Ms. Griner a letter from President Biden and Ms. Griner was able to read that letter.
TODD: President Biden's letter to Griner following her letter to him pleading for her release, part of a ramped up pressure campaign on the Biden administration by Griner's family and advocates, including a rally last night in Phoenix.
CHERELLE GRINER, BRITTNEY GRINER'S WIFE: I'm frustrated that my wife is not going to get justice.
TODD: Has her family's pressure and the Biden administration's reaction to it raised the asking price for Brittney Griner in a trade?
SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Well, that's an interesting question. Russians are notthing if not mercenary. So, the more prominent the person that they've managed to detain, the hostage, if you will, obviously, the more they think they can get for that. And that, really, I think people should understand. This is essentially a hostage taking.
TODD: Griner's lawyers have just revealed that Griner and her wife, Cherelle, have not been able to speak on the phone since her arrest in February. They say Russian officials have granted permission for a call, but it hasn't happened yet, Wolf. Hopefully, it will soon.
BLITZER: Let's hope. All right, Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, my exclusive interview continues with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Stand by.
BLITZER: Now, we have more of my exclusive interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He is leading the defense against Russia's brutal aggression but he's also a husband and a father who misses his family.
BLITZER: Mr. President, I have a couple of personal questions. Your wife, the first lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska recently told CNN that your marriage has effectively been put on pause because of the war. When was the last time you were able to see your wife, your daughter and your young son and what impact is this conflict having on them and you?
ZELENSKYY: Thank you for this question.
You know, it's much more difficult for my wife and my children. It's more difficult for them because my children almost don't see me.
My wife comes to my workplace, to the president's office. She has many questions. So, I have an opportunity to see her.
As to the children, the main problem is they're this age. My daughter is grown up. She's almost 18. And my son is 9.
They grew up without me and they're lacking communication. They're lacking advice. They're lacking my hugs and just a usual dinner. Something that was normal for us like for every family.
This is the question. The children are lacking family. At the same time, why I said it's more difficult for my children is because they've had to grow up quickly because of this war. Many things they have to think because of this war as a grown up. Many
decisions they have to make quickly. They're in a dangerous situation.
Every night, you have to be in a bomb shelter because of sirens and it's all over the country. That applies not just to my children, but to all Ukrainian children these days.
This is grown up challenges they're going through. Maybe my children are even kind of slightly more affected because they cannot even talk to children, to their friends these days, because of security measures.
I'm working. I have people around me. There's still some life. I see the result of my work.
And the children, despite their age, they have to be independent and they don't socialize. I'm very grateful to them and to my wife that they are with me in Kyiv and they understand they're not only wife and children.
They could go anywhere. They could go wherever they want. But they cannot do that. It's their decision to be with me here because this is a signal to all Ukrainians.
I'm very happy they understand and they understand this tragedy and that's why we all want to win, equally. Children and adults, men and women, we're all the same here. We are all after Ukraine's victory.
BLITZER: Mr. President, please pass along our love to your family during these extremely difficult moments. Please pass along our love.
I have one more personal question I'd like to ask you, Mr. President. Like me, you're Jewish and you're the son of Holocaust survivors. My parents were polishing Jews.
When you hear Putin accuse you and other Ukrainian Jews of being Nazis, is that painful for you?
ZELENSKYY: When I hear something from the Russian Federation officials, I have two types of feelings. First, it's anger because of this unfairness, because of these accusations against Ukraine.
And then the second feeling comes in. I think it's warfare and it makes me laugh. It just doesn't give me any emotions. It's just laughable. It's like a joke. It's like a caricature.
In a country like Ukraine, with so many ethnic groups where people speak different languages, Ukrainian, English.
They sometimes speak Russian better than the Russians. They speak perfect Ukrainian and perfect Russian. And a single person in Ukraine could have both Ukrainian and Jewish blood can be Belarusian, and could even be Russian. Obviously, the German Nazis occupied the whole of Ukraine during the
Second World War, and people felt the Holocaust themselves. They didn't learn it from books.
We had it in our families, they were shot, because they were Jews, because they didn't have the right kind of blood, it's color, taste, something else.
I always thought it was a medieval level. They were just given rifles. I always thought it would stay in the past. It'll never happen again and now it's returning.
People who say these things, they're just sick. You can't really laugh at sick people. A disease can be cured but what I hear from them is a disease that can't be cured.
They wanted to be ill, they wanted to be sick, the Russians. And I could see totally weird people but fair. I find it difficult to take it seriously. Despite every horrible bit attached to this, I just take it as a laughable issue.
BLITZER: If Putin is watching right now, Mr. President, what's your message to him?
ZELENSKYY: I don't think he's a personality to send him a special message. This is a bloodied war that Russia wages against Ukraine. I just want him to realize that he's personally responsible for this and he can stop it now. That's his choice to carry on or stop it.
BLITZER: Do you still believe it's actually possible that this work would be over by the end of this year?
ZELENSKYY: It depends on us. It depends on you. It depends on someone who is above us.
BLITZER: Could you elaborate on that? Tell us what you mean?
ZELENSKYY: If our country will stay united and unified, if the powerful weaponry from our partners will be coming to us on time, and if good luck and God will be on our side, we can achieve a lot of things before the end of the year and we can stop this war. We can stop the military part of this war.
If we are strong, as I said, we could come to the point where Russia will have to sit down for negotiations. They will see the world united around Ukraine. It depends on the strength of Ukraine and certain victories and certain operations. If this happens, it will be a very strong position from which we will be able to talk and negotiations are the final stage of any war.
BLITZER: President Zelenskyy, thank you so much for spending time with us. We are deeply, deeply grateful to you. Good luck to you, good luck to all the people of Ukraine. Once again, thank you very much.
BLITZER: We will have more news just ahead, including the distinguished recipients of the nation's highest civilian honors.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Finally tonight, President Biden awarded the highest civilian honor, the presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 distinguished Americans. Among the honorees, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. President Biden said Giffords embodies the American ideal of never giving up and he said she's proof that Americans can channel the pain of gun violence into a movement that he said, will prevail.
Olympic gymnast, Simone Biles, was also honored, she's the most decorated gymnast in American history. President Biden joked, she he wasn't sure where she would find space for the latest medal and praised her for standing up and speaking for those who can't speak for themselves.
Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup champion, Megan Rapinoe, was honored as one of America's great athletes. President Biden praised the soccer superstar's work fighting for equal pay for women and called her a champion for the essential American truth, that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.
Sidney McCain accepted a posthumous medal on behalf of her late husband, Senator John McCain. The president said he never stopped admiring McCain because he knew his honor, courage and commitment. Seventeen trailblazers, rule models and American heroes.
Our congratulations to the recipients.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.