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The Situation Room
Ex-Trump White House Counsel Wraps Over Seven Hours Of Testimony In 1/6 Probe; Funerals Begin In Highland Park, Gunman's Parents Hire New Lawyer; Families Of Uvalde Victims Share Anger, Frustration With CNN; Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Assassinated During Campaign Speech; Climate Change Threatens Majority Of America's National Parks. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 08, 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: Also tonight, as funerals begin for victims in Highland Park, Illinois, the gunman's parents hire a new lawyer. I'll ask the lead prosecutor in the case about heightened scrutiny at the shooter's father and what potential charges might be in the works.
And new reaction is coming in to a shocking assassination in Japan. The former prime minister, Shinzo Abe, shot and killed in a country with one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the world.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with one of the most sought-after witnesses in the January 6th investigation facing the select committee today under oath. The former Trump White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, has firsthand knowledge of key events before and during the insurrection.
Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles. He's up on Capitol Hill. Ryan, more than seven hours, certainly one of the longer witness interviews the committee has conducted. Tell our viewers what you're learning.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that right. Pat Cipollone was with the committee today for more than eight hours when you take into account the breaks that he took. That meant that he sat for testimony for more than seven hours. That is a significant amount of time.
And it does compare to some of the more lengthy testimony that we have then seen bear fruit for the committee, such as Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, those were long depositions that were then later used in hearings. Also Jeffrey Rosen, Richard Donoghue, members of the Department of Justice, they also sat for lengthy interviews that the committee was then able to use as part of the hearings.
So, this would indicate that Cipollone was, at least on some level, cooperative. There was some concern that he may not answer certain questions because of privilege issues, and that may be the case. We'll have to see what happens when we learn more information about what happened behind closed doors. But at the very least, it appears that Cipollone was willing to answer questions.
And there are many questions that the committee had that they believed had nothing to do with privilege concerns about a lot of the issues that took place after the 2020 election leading right up through January 6th. And we'll have to now see, Wolf, if whether or not any of these depositions, which we know was videotaped, appears in upcoming hearings as soon as next week.
BLITZER: I suspect they will. Cipollone, Ryan, certainly knows more than almost anyone about what former President Trump was doing on January 6th and in the days and weeks leading up to January 6th.
NOBLES: Yes, that's right, and has key insight into some of these big issues that the committee has been trying to unpack, like the effort to install Jeffrey Clark as attorney general, which there's already been testimony that Cipollone threatened with he and other members of the White House Counsel's Office to resign if that became the case.
And then also the former president's conduct on January 6th itself. Cipollone was a group very few number of people that actually had access to that presidential dining room where Donald Trump was reportedly held up through most of the January 6th insurrection. Just how much of that insight he will be able to provide the committee remains to be seen. But this someone that had regular interaction with people like Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, members of the Department of Justice, people that are all key players when it comes to this investigation that the January 6th committee is trying to get to the bottom of.
BLITZER: All right. Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill, thank you very, very much.
Let's bring in CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, she's the Washington correspondent for The New York Times, along with Defense Attorney and former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu.
Maggie, what does it say to you that Cipollone's interview today lasted, what, more than seven hours of questioning?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, there were a lot of questions asked, and certainly we have seen a lot of these interviews run a very long time. As Ryan said, Jared Kushner's ran long, Ivanka Trump's ran long, a lot of them have run long. The issue is what questions are being asked, and we don't know the answer to that yet. We don't know whether they tried to drill down on things that Cassidy Hutchinson, the former Mark Meadows aide, testified to publicly.
We don't know whether they tried to ask specific details about who he was speaking to on January 6th other than former President Trump, and we don't know whether they tried to ask questions beyond the scope of what was understood that would be asked and whether Cipollone tried to talk about executive privilege. If the committee did not ask specific questions, Wolf, I'm not sure how forthcoming Cipollone would have been on his own.
BLITZER: Shan, what does it say to you about the length of this interview today? It was videotaped. It was transcribed. The length of this interview, what does it say to you about the level of executive privilege that Cipollone may or may not have claimed.
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's hard to infer that, Wolf, as Maggie was saying, obviously asked a lot of questions. These are very skilled questioners. And if Cipollone thinks that he was skillful enough to dance around things and not give out damaging information, he's probably mistaken. They would have gone through a lot of detail. And even if he tried to invoke executive privilege, obviously, he wasn't doing that for the entire seven hours, there was a lot of information that wouldn't have been privileged that he probably didn't try to invoke that protection. So, there's a lot of material that they would have gotten. And whatever he thinking of it, the questioners usually find a little bit more value in it than the person being questioned realizes there.
BLITZER: Maggie, as I mentioned, Cipollone's testimony was recorded on video. So, it's possible the committee will choose to play portions of it during future hearings, there's going to be at least one hearing next week. How significant would that be?
HABERMAN: Well, I think it's very important for the committee, Wolf, and I think it's part of why they wanted to get this testimony done today ahead of next week's hearing. The only one that we know of that's scheduled at the moment is Tuesday. We think there could be a hearing on Thursday, but that is TBD. And part of the TBD is what they get out of this testimony today.
And as we have seen, Wolf, the hearings are very scripted, very tightly structured and they end up using these snippets of video where if they had a live interviewee answering those questions, they might get something different back when it was a hearing setting, as opposed to a videotaped interview. And they've been using them for their purposes to tell their story.
I do expect they probably got something from Cipollone that they could use to that effect. We just don't know exactly how much and what it would be.
BLITZER: Yes, we don't know. We'll find out soon.
Shan, could Cipollone have also revealed entirely new information that the committee hasn't heard from any of the other witnesses?
WU: He certainly could have. I mean, he's in a very unique position given that he was the White House counsel. So, there certainly could be information that he is privy to, or more importantly, could really expand upon and fill in details to. I mean, I'm relatively confident. If it was just a private conversation between him and Trump he would try to put up some road blocks and invoking privilege about that.
But, again, because of his position, Wolf, there is a lot of detail that possibly only he would know, but, more importantly, would be the best source to corroborate evidence we may have heard of from other folks earlier.
BLITZER: Maggie, Congresswoman Liz Cheney says former President Trump is almost certainly not happy about Cipollone's testimony. Does Trump have major reasons to be nervous right now?
HABERMAN: I don't think he has -- it's hard for me to say, Wolf. It's very hard to speculate on what Cipollone may or may not have told them. Major, I think, is the word you just used that struck me. I'm not sure how much the former president himself is agitated about this testimony. I think he was annoyed, is what I heard from a couple of people. But I think he has a couple of people in his ear saying who are telling him he should be even more annoyed. And I think that has something to do with any reactions you see that doesn't necessarily correlate to what Cipollone may have actually said.
Could Cipollone say a lot of things that could be problematic for Trump? There's no question about that. Did he? That's the big question.
BLITZER: Maggie, you're one of the best reporters here in Washington. I assume Trump is obsessed, and he's watching all of this on television.
HABERMAN: He's not watching all of them, is my understanding, Wolf. I think that he has caught some of them. I think he has caught the summaries of others. One of the things he has always liked to do, as much as he is a T.V. consumer as he is, is he also has -- and headline consumer, he has other people relay headlines to him, tell him what they are seeing. He's very susceptible to having his opinion shaped, as you know. And so he has seen some of it, but these hearings really are not actually set up for him to be part of the audience (ph).
BLITZER: And what do you think, Maggie, Cassidy Hutchinson, whose powerful testimony the other day, we all watched, how does she play into all of this?
HABERMAN: Well, I think that we have seen the committee use her to tell a different side of the story than we have seen before, Wolf. I mean, I think she told various pieces that were not known before. The committee traded her information as new and as incredibly relevant. And she told a lot of detailed pieces that had not been heard before.
She also spoke -- and this was the committee leading her there to something she had secondhand knowledge of. That was the most explosive piece about this possible confrontation in the presidential SUV right after the rally at The Ellipse on January 6th. But I do think the committee thinks that her testimony is hugely important and it is shaping some of what they do going forward. I think it will impact certainly what we see at some future hearings. How far beyond that and how heavily it (INAUDIBLE) into the ultimate report remains to be seen, but the committee does think she is a very important witness.
BLITZER: They certainly do. All right, Maggie Haberman, Shan Wu, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, that long-awaited testimony, what did the January 6th select committee learned from former President Trump's White House counsel today?
I'll speak with a key committee member about Cipollone's closed-door testimony. What to expect from the next public hearing? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Former President Trump's White House Counsel Pat Cipollone just wrapped up his interview with the January 6th select committee, and it lasted more than seven hours.
Joining us now is one of the members -- a key member of the select committee, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us.
I know there are restrictions on what you can and cannot say based on what you heard during all this testimony today, but what did the committee learn from Cipollone's testimony today? Can you share in general terms what you learned?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, the committee rules don't allow us to disclose testimony without a vote of the committee and we have not had that vote. But I will say Mr. Cipollone did appear voluntarily and answer a whole variety of questions. He did not contradict the testimony of other witnesses.
And I think we did learn a few things, which we will be rolling out in the hearings to come.
So, I think it was a -- you know, a grueling day for all involved, Mr. Cipollone and the staff and the members, but it was well worth it.
BLITZER: So, can we assume that he confirmed what we heard in that really powerful, explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson?
LOFGREN: Not contradicting is not the same as confirming.
BLITZER: Explain the difference.
LOFGREN: Well, he could say so-and-so was wrong, which he did not say there were things that he might not be present for or in some cases couldn't recall with precision. My sense was that he -- as I say, he does appear voluntarily. I think he was candid with the committee. He was careful in his answers, and I believe that he was honest in his answers.
BLITZER: I know you can't get into specifics, but can you say if you learned any significant new information from him?
LOFGREN: I think a few things, yes. And -- when we put this all together, I mean, obviously, Tuesday will be an important day for the committee and I think the country, connecting various dots and the hearings after. We gained some additional insight into the actual day, January 6th. So, yes, I think this was worthwhile.
BLITZER: So, you say he was cooperative during the course of his questioning today. Did he ever invoke executive privilege or try to avoid answering specific questions?
LOFGREN: Well, let me just say that executive privilege -- the holder of that privilege is the current president. President Biden has not invoked it. Then there's a second privilege, which is attorney/client privilege. The holder of that privilege is the former president. And so I can't go into it more than that but there were complications in that regard.
BLITZER: Yes, whereas I could assume he didn't invoke at least. You don't have to give us details but at least in part he did cite that privilege?
LOFGREN: Let me just say he takes his ethical obligation very seriously, obviously, and sees this is really an institutional issue for him, as he described it, and which I do understand. But I really -- you know, because of the committee rules, I can't go into the details of the testimony, except to say that it was transcribed, it was videotaped, and I'm sure that the public will gain insight into this testimony in the coming days and weeks.
BLITZER: So, can we assume, Congresswoman, that portions of his answers will, in fact, be played publicly at upcoming hearings, including this coming week?
LOFGREN: Well, I can't say that, but my guess would be that the new information generally makes it into the public arena. So, I'll just leave it at that.
BLITZER: So, can we assume you're making progress, from your perspective?
LOFGREN: Oh, yes, we are progress. I mean, obviously, he was an important witness but he's not the only witness that we have interviewed this week. There have been other important witnesses that we have learned information from.
And so, you know, what is interesting is you have a hearing, someone like Ms. Hutchinson, who was so brave to step forward and say what she saw and what she heard, and then other people come forward and tell us what they saw and heard. So, there's new information coming in constantly.
BLITZER: All right. We'll be anxious to get that information when it's ready. Thank you so much for joining us, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, a member of the select committee. Thanks once again.
LOFGREN: You bet. Take care.
BLITZER: You too.
Coming up, we have an important update on an eight-year-old little boy paralyzed in the Highland Park, Illinois shooting. We'll also get the latest on the investigation from the lead prosecutor. It's all right after a quick break.
BLITZER: In Highland Park, Illinois, funerals have now begun for the seven people killed in the July 4th parade shooting, this as we're getting an update on a young paralyzed survivor.
CNN Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera is live in Highland Park for us. Ed, what is the latest on the condition of this eight- year-old little boy, Cooper Roberts?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Well, we know if we've been reporting on Cooper Roberts who family and friends says was shot through the stomach and that the bullet severed his spine, and that that young boy had been on a ventilator and sedated since Monday.
Now, we are told that the young boy has woken up. He is off the ventilator. But because of the pain medication that he is on, he is once again sedated. But he has regained consciousness at least temporarily. So, his family members are still take him around the clock and we were told that the young boy came to today and was asking for his twins brother, who was also hurt in the attack, but he has been released from the hospital.
And he also was asking for his pet dog.
And, Wolf, as you mentioned, there were also three different funerals here in the area today for victims Jacki Sundheim, Steven Straus and Nicolas Toledo. Wolf?
BLITZER: Ed, on another subject related, the gunman's father has now hired a lawyer. could he actually be charged?
LAVANDERA: Well, so far, state's attorney here in Highland Park, Illinois, is saying that, simply for vouching for his son's permit, the card that he needs to purchase a firearm, that in and of itself wouldn't be enough, but the prosecutors say they continue to look at other evidence, they're working to gather other evidence to see if there's something there that they need to take closer look at.
But all of this comes as the parents of this shooter have retained a new attorney. Their previous attorney said there was a, quote, conflict. What exactly that was isn't clear at this point. But the family does have a new attorney, and that attorney is saying tonight that the father did nothing wrong.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera in Highland Park for us, Ed, thank you very, very much. And joining us now, the Lake County state's attorney, Eric Rinehart, he is the lead prosecutor on the parade shooting case. Eric, thanks so much for joining us.
I know you said yesterday that the gunman's father was not criminally liable for sponsoring his son's gun license application but that you're still exploring what you call all options. If he's not liable for the gun license, what charges could he potentially face?
ERIC RINEHART, LAKE COUNTY STATE'S ATTORNEY: Thank you, Wolf, for having me on again. Our office continues to support every survivor, every victim in this terrible case. We've been at the vigils the last couple nights, our victim witness counselors are in Highland Park supporting people. I want to continue to express my condolences to every type of victim in this case, psychological trauma, people who were physically hurt and, of course, the devastating news about those who passed away.
Regarding your question, Wolf, I don't want to get into too much detail, but yesterday I said, I believe, that the application itself doesn't create a type liability, where if you sign for someone else, then you're automatically liable. But, I don't want to get too much into it, we have general responsibilities not to be reckless to each other, to not cause unnecessary or substantial risk to people, to our fellow residents and neighbors. And so that's the type of thing we are continuing to evaluate in the context of all the evidence.
BLITZER: Because the parents of the gunman have obtained a new attorney who says that they're, quote, and I'm quoting now, trying to cooperate with all local, state and federal authorities at the moment. Is that true? Have they actually been cooperating?
RINEHART: I don't want to get too much into levels of cooperation. I know they have been making statements to the media. My understanding is that we're still talk to go them and trying to talk to them more comprehensively and we welcome their cooperation. I don't want to characterize their past cooperation, but we certainly need to get to the truth.
That's the goal of the investigation. They have done -- the investigators, the law enforcement has done an amazing job in apprehending Mr. Crimo and in bringing him to the prosecutor so that we can seek justice now, and we continue to investigate and get more evidence about the full scope of this plan.
BLITZER: I know you have promised to file additional charges again the gunman, as you seek justice for everyone who was harmed by this brutal shooting. When will those additional charges be filed?
RINEHART: Yes. We are continuing to gather information. There were dozens of victims. Our team was down at the crime scene yesterday. We're continuing to collect all the names of individuals who were hurt. The first priority of the investigators besides helping the wounded was to catch Mr. Crimo. And now we're collecting all of that information. I suspect we will have those charges in the next few weeks and continue to focus on supporting those victims in addition to the families who lost loved ones.
BLITZER: So, what specific additional evidence do you really need before you -- you really need to collect before you can file those new charges?
RINEHART: Well, I think the evidence is there. I think it's about -- we have to contact each and every victim who was in a hospital. We have to contact family members for any victims who are unconscious. It's more about collecting all of that information and, frankly, making it perfect in the charging documents more than it is additional forensic evidence. It's more about getting the court filings perfect with respect to each and every victim who deserves justice.
BLITZER: They all deserve justice, to be sure.
The family of Cooper Roberts, an eight-year-old boy who was paralyzed from the waist down during the shooting, the family says he finally regained consciousness today.
Can you guarantee that Little Cooper and his family that he will get justice?
RINEHART: Absolutely. That's good news, Wolf. I really appreciate you telling me that. I'm a father too that's fantastic news to hear on another difficult day this week. I appreciate you telling me that. And I can guarantee that absolutely.
BLITZER: Let's hope for the best for all the victims. Obviously, our hearts go out to all of them. This is a horrible, horrible situation.
Eric Rinehart, good luck to you. Thanks so much for joining us.
RINEHART: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Grieving families of the victims from the Uvalde, Texas Elementary School massacre are speaking out now, this as Uvalde's mayor is disputing a report about a police officer who could have taken the gunman out before he entered the school.
Let's bring in CNN's Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, you're there on the scene. What does the mayor say happened?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is all because yesterday there was a report put that was out that indicated that a Uvalde police officer had the gunman in sight with his rifle and could have taken him out, but that he had asked a supervisor for permission. By the time the supervisor got back to this police officer, the gunman had entered the school.
Well, the mayor today sort of conducted his own investigation, it appears, and found out that's actually not the case. He's saying that's not accurate. That's not how it happened, that the person in sight of this police officer was actually a school coach with some children. So, it wasn't even the gunman.
But, again, Wolf, this goes to the overall kind of fight over information here, the inaccuracy, the different stories that we keep getting from officials here. The mayor is pissed off. He's pissed off because he feels that a lot of the information that's coming is one- sided. And so he put out the statement saying that this latest information is not accurate.
And this, of course, all is an issue that is for the families. They are certainly very upset over how the information is coming out. They're also upset because they feel the police did not do their job. And we got a chance to speak with many of the family members yesterday. Take a listen to what they said.
VELMA DURAN, SISTER OF IRMA GARCIA: Of all the lies, the deceitfulness from the beginning, it was just like putting salt on an open wound. It's just really hard because there's just so much suffering and it's hard to grieve when there's no closure.
CRISTIAN GARCIA, SON OF IRMA GARCIA: One thing I want for those officers that were in those hallways, I want them to resign.
PROKUPECZ: So, you want all those officers gone that were in the hall?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GARCIA: My mom protected those kids but no one protected her. So, the whole police department here are cowards.
JACINTO CAZARES, FATHER OF IRMA GARCIA: My daughter was a fighter. She took a bullet to the heart and still fought. She fought hard to stay alive and these cowards couldn't go in.
PROKUPECZ: And, Wolf, we spoke with almost 50 family members here yesterday, and all of them raising the same issue, the fact they officers stood by, did not go in the room, wondering if their loved ones could have been saved had the officers acted quickly. But the overall issue certainly now is getting information and holding someone accountable for what happened here.
BLITZER: Yes, it's so heartbreaking to hear these stories of these people. My heart goes out to them. It's so, so sad. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for all your excellent reporting.
Just ahead, we're going to go inside Pat Cipollone's role inside the Trump White House and the test he's been facing all day today as a crucial witness in the January 6th investigation. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: The former top lawyer in the Trump White House in the role of witness today. Let's get some more on Pat Cipollone's day, long testimony before the January 6th select committee and why he's considered so important to this investigation.
Brian Todd is digging into all of this for us. Brian, I take it, this was an uncomfortable situation for Cipollone.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Uncomfortable indeed, Wolf. Pat Cipollone is a man who never sought the spotlight, but tonight, he's in the middle of the storm because of his proximity to Donald Trump at some critical junctures.
TODD (voice over): Donald Trump said this about Pat Cipollone when he was preparing for Trump's first impeachment trial.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: He's the strong, silent type. Strong, he's very strong, silent. Great job you have done.
TODD: Cipollone strength again being put to the test, the pressure on him to testify before the House committee investigating the January 6th attack ratcheted up after last week's testimony by former White House Aide Cassidy Hutchinson.
Hutchinson told the committee 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 TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: We're going to get so many crimes unimaginable if we make that movement happen.
TODD: She said Cipollone repeatedly urged her boss, then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to get Trump to stop the violence.
HUTCHINSON: I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, Mark, we need to do something more.
They're literally calling for the vice president to be f'ing hung.
BILL NETTLES, ATTORNEY, WORKED WITH CIPOLLONE ON WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL CASE: Pat looked like he was the adult in the room.
TODD: The 56-year-old Cipollone is now in the middle of a classic Washington political brawl, testifying today behind closed doors. By all accounts, he has always tried to avoid the spotlight, described in a Washington Post profile as a, quote, Washington everyman, 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.
NETTLES: 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: A kind of watering hole, if you like, where faith and values conservatives, movers and shakers in D.C. come together to try to figure out how they can bring their faith to bear on 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 he'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: Bill Nettles says he's confident that Cipollone would have navigated his dealings with the House January 6th committee very deftly and would have followed the law. We reached to Cipollone for comment on our story but we didn't hear back, and, Wolf, he did not speak to reporters at either end of that long testimony today.
BLITZER: Seven hours answering questions. Thanks very much, Brian Todd, reporting for us.
Coming up, we'll go live to Japan for the latest information on the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the motive of the man who shot him with a homemade gun.
And Elon Musk tells Twitter he wants out of his deal to buy the social media giants.
BLITZER: In Japan right now, a murder investigation is underway into the assassination of the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. CNN's Blake Essig is joining us live from Tokyo right now.
Blake, what is the latest?
BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, overnight, we learned more about the suspect involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Police say that this suspect, a 41-year-old man, unemployed, has admitted to the shooting. Police say that this man went after Abe because he hates a certain group that he believed Abe had ties to.
ESSIG (voice-over): Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was speaking at a campaign rally east of Osaka on Thursday when chaos ensued.
Two shots can be heard. Abe is hit in the chest and neck.
The weapon: a handmade gun lying on the ground. Bystanders tried to aid the former prime minister before he was rushed to the nearest hospital. But soon news broke. He had succumbed to his injuries and died at age 67.
HIDENORI FUKUSHIMA, PROFESSOR, NARA MEDICAL UNIVERSITY (through translator): There were two bullet wounds. He was in a cardiopulmonary arrest after damage to large blood vessels in the heart. We took resuscitative measures, but unfortunately, he died at 5:03 p.m.
ESSIG: Police have arrested the suspect, a 41-year-old man who did not flee after the shooting. A rare occurrence in Japan, a country with one of the world's lowest gun rates.
FUMIO KISHIDA, JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER (through translator): He loved this country and constantly looked beyond the current generation working hard for a brighter future of this country, leaving behind many major successes in various categories.
ESSIG: World leaders condemned the assassination. U.S. President Biden stunned in outraged by Abe's death, calling him a champion of the friendship between our people.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This hasn't happened in Japan in decades. I'm told all the way back to the late '30s. The Justice Department is going to be going in and give me more details.
ESSIG: Former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump also grieving the death of a personal, quote, friend of America.
From China, reaction came from the country's embassy in Japan, highlighting Abe's contribution to promoting the improvement and development of Sino-Japanese relations.
Shinzo Abe's relations with Beijing were sometimes contentious. He was the first Japanese PM to meet with the Chinese counterpart in years but was also critical of Beijing's stance on Taiwan. His premiership marked Japan's history in bilateral relations.
However, his assassination now a black dot in the country's history, a violent act of crime due to send ripples of shock across Japan.
ESSIG (on camera): Japanese public broadcaster NHK is reporting that there were dozens of security personnel on the scene when the assassination occurred. And, of course, we do know that that didn't stop the gunman from slowly walking up from behind while he was speaking and firing those two fatal shots, Wolf.
Japan's National police agency will now review security arrangements.
BLITZER: Blake Essig in Tokyo for us, Blake, thank you very much.
Meanwhile, a new twist in the Elon Musk whirlwind bid to try to buy Twitter in a mammoth $44 billion deal.
Our chief media correspondent, the anchor of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter is working the story for us.
Brian, Musk now says he wants out of the deal. What are you learning?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right, this is an incredible turn of event. Musk had been hinting that maybe he wanted to break up from this deal and back out. Tonight in an SEC filing, he is saying, quote, Musk is termination the merger agreement because Twitter is in material breach of multiple provisions of the agreement.
He claims the company appears to have made false and misleading representations. What are they talking about? Well, this is a lot to do with Twitter's spam and bots problem. The idea that there are fake accounts all across Twitter. Musk is now claiming there's too many of those. So, he's backing out of this $44 million deal.
Whether he can actually do it or not, though, remains to be seen, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Brian, the ups and downs of this whole process have certainly been dramatic to say the least.
STELTER: They have and they're not ending anytime soon. Twitter's board share has now come out tonight in a tweet, of course, very appropriately, Wolf, saying they're going to fight about this. They are going to go to court.
Quote, the Twitter board is committed to closing the transaction on the price, in terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk, and plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement. We are confident we will prepare in court.
So, in other words, the litigation is just beginning in this case, and it could go on for a long time. Musk could end up paying some sort of penalty, or maybe negotiate a new price, but for the time being, he doesn't want it. This is the richest man in the world trying to renegotiate in a hugely public way.
It's a little bit, Wolf -- I know you're a fan of the Nationals. They're playing tonight. It's like you agreed to buy me to sell me a Nats jersey for $100.
I looked at it, I said it didn't fit right, there's a stain on it, well, you already, I already agree to buy. You already agree to sell it to me, so you can rightly say, hey, give me $100. I'm not trying to get out of the deal, but Elon Musk is right now, so, what's going to happen? Maybe he will end up paying dollars or maybe he will fight it out in court.
BLTZER: We shall see. Brian Stelter, good reporting .Thank you very, very much.
And I love my Washington Nationals.
Up next, the lasting consequences of climate change drastically putting U.S. national parks at risk.
BLITZER: Experts are warning climate change is posing a very, very serious threat to most of America's national parks.
CNN's Rene Marsh is here in Washington. She's over at the Jefferson memorial on the tidal basin which itself is under threat from rising sea levels.
Rene, what's going on?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf.
You know, when it's high tide here, the water flows over the banks here at Jefferson Memorial and it is because in part water levels have increased by about a foot since this memorial was built 75 years ago and what we are seeing nationwide are the effects of climate change at these national parks and it is dramatically changing the landscapes.
DEANNA MITCHELL, SUPERINTENT UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The land is disappearing before our eyes.
MARSH (voice-over): Maryland's eastern shores in the crosshairs of climate change induced sea level rise. And so is the rich history preserved at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park.
We are wearing these nets because so much water here. It's standing water. The mosquitoes are really bad. MITCHELL: The mosquitoes are bad. So this is almost like a
requirement during the summer?
If Harriet Tubman were living right now, she would recognize this landscape, but she would be shocked at how quickly it's disappearing.
MARSH: As water from the Chesapeake Bay encroaches, University of Maryland scientists project large portions of the national park will be underwater by the year 2050 if planet warming emissions are not drastically curbed. Rising tides threaten places like this cemetery for freed black people in Tubman's community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over time, these low-lying areas that were a part of the important trails that allowed people to escape at that time will be lost in some places.
MARSH: More than 70 percent of national parks in the Continental U.S. are at high risk from the effects of climate change, from sea level rise and flooding to extreme temperatures, drought and wildfires.
Historic flooding at Yellowstone National Park last month forced it to shut down for more than a week. At California's Sequoia National Park, home of the world's largest trees, wildfires have burned large swaths of the giant sequoia growths.
Wildfires and extreme heat have forced California's Yosemite National Park to close several times in recent years.
Meanwhile, Glacier National Park in Montana is rapidly losing its namesake feature. This is the Grinnell Glacier in 1910 versus 2021.
STEPHANIE KODISH, NATIONAL PARKS CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION: These are places that tell critical stories of our history and people and culture, and these places are not going to be able to withstand these repeat assaults.
MARSH: More frequent, more intense natural disasters will drastically transform national park landscapes and there's the economic loss.
KODISH: In 2021 alone, our national parks saw over 297 million visitors. They generated over $42.5 billion.
MARSH: Back on Maryland's eastern shore, the National Park Service says it is teamed up with the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to fight the growing impacts of climate change.
MARSH (on camera): And this issue is on the radar for members of Congress. A group went over to Yosemite National Park this week to see firsthand the effects of climate change there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Excellent reporting. Rene Marsh, thank you very, very much.
And to the viewers, thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.