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The Situation Room
Bannon Trial Begins At Start Of Critical Week In January 6 Probe; New Uvalde Probe Launched As Body Cam Video Shows Police Chaos; New CNN Poll Shows Deep Discontent With Biden, Economy, State Of U.S.; FBI To Analyze Cellphone, Laptop Of Suspect In Indiana Mass Shooting; 1,000+ Dead In Unprecedented European Heat Wave; Ukrainian Officials Suspended Over Staffer's Suspected Treason. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 18, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Trump ally Steve Bannon's criminal contempt trial is under way with jury selection just wrapping up for the day. This as the January 6th select committee is preparing for Thursday's prime time hearing that will zero in on what the panel calls Trump's dereliction of duty during the Capitol riot.
Also tonight, a new investigation is open in the Uvalde, Texas school shooting after body camera video captures the police chaos and a new statehouse report finds systemic failures in law enforcement's response, describing it as lackadaisical.
And President Biden is back here in the United States as CNN's exclusive new poll shows deepening public discontent with his presidency, the economy and the overall state of the country.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This is a critical week in the insurrection investigation as the January 6th select committee prepares to hold another potentially explosive hearing in prime time. At the same time, Trump ally Steve Bannon is now standing trial for defying the panel's subpoena to testify. Court just wrapped up for the day.
CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has all the new developments.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over: Tonight, Steve Bannon's criminal trial for contempt of Congress finally beginning with jury selection after his lawyers tried repeatedly to delay and Bannon made a last-minute offer to testify before the January 6th committee. Prosecutors saying his late offer would not make up for the near year he's refused to comply with the committee's subpoena. The trial will likely last just a few days. Bannon has pleaded not guilty to two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, but if he is convicted, Trump's former chief strategist would face a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail for each count.
CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It will set the precedent that, look, they can hold this up as an example if you just continue to flout us, we will prosecute you.
SCHNEIDER: Bannon's defense options are limited. The judge won't let his legal team call members of Congress to testify and Bannon will be restricted from bringing up claims of executive privilege. The judge's strict parameters even prompted Bannon attorney David Schoen to exclaim, what's the point of going to trial here if there's no defense. And his lawyers won't say whether Bannon will take the stand in his own defense.
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: There is little to be gained. Defense lawyers don't like their clients to testify, but he likes to have a platform.
SCHNEIDER: Bannon's trial is especially important for the January 6 committee as they negotiate with additional witnesses to testify. The latest public hearing will happen Thursday night in prime time and it's expected to focus President Trump's alleged dereliction of duty and the three-plus hours during the Capitol attack when he was at the White House but didn't call for the violence to stop.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): We'll go through pretty much minute by minute during that timeframe from the time he left the stage at The Ellipse, came back to the White House and really sat in the White House, in the dining room, you know, with his advisers urging him continuously to take action, to take more action.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): The president didn't do very much but gleefully watched television during this timeframe. We are going to present a lot more than that.
SCHNEIDER: The committee is also expecting to hear more from the Secret Service by tomorrow about the missing text messages from January 5th and 6th. The committee issued a subpoena to the Secret Service late Friday night after the inspector general met with committee members to complain that the Secret Service had erased texts from those two dates.
The Secret Service has disputed that the erasure was malicious and instead chocked it up to a routine phone replacement program, but the committee is pressing for more answers.
KINZINGER: It is quite crazy that the Secret Service would actually end up deleting anything related to one of the more infamous days in American history, particularly when it comes to the role of the Secret Service.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (on camera): And day one of jury selection has just wrapped in the Steve Bannon trial, Wolf. They've whittled it down to 22 jurors. Starting tomorrow morning, they'll then bring it down to 12 jurors plus two alternates. And then the criminal trial will begin. There will be opening statements.
It remains to be seen at this point if Steve Bannon will take the stand in his own defense but we're expecting that this trial could wrap pretty quickly even by the end of the week. Wolf?
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Thanks very much, Jessica Schneider reporting for us.
So, let's bring in our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, our Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Jonathan Wackrow.
Jeffrey, does Steve Bannon have any defense here?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think this is really an emperor's new clothes situation.
No, he doesn't. There is nothing to this trial. He got a subpoena. He didn't challenge it in court. He just didn't show up. That's the case. I don't see how this trial lasts more than two days and maybe just one. And as his lawyer said, I don't know if there is any defense because I don't think there is one.
BLITZER: How likely is it, Elie, that Bannon actually sees jail time?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, if he is convicted, it is a 100 percent certainty that he will see jail time. This is an unusual law. It is a misdemeanor, which is less serious than a felony. The maximum penalty is one year. But it's a very unusual misdemeanor that has a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days behind bars, no matter what. Even if the judge feels sorry for Steve Bannon or feels like the prosecution was unjust, he has to send Steve Bannon to federal jail for at least 30 days.
BLITZER: Jonathan, the committee could also start getting some Secret Service text messages from both January 5th and January 6th, and maybe as soon as tomorrow. As a former Secret Service agent yourself, what questions do you have about these messages?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, really, this is a seminal moment for the Secret Service as the return of information from the commissioned subpoena will actually bring resolution to this outstanding question of what exactly happened to these missing text messages. And what's on the line? The agency's credibility.
But it's also really interesting that this is playing out so publicly that the inspector general from the Department of Homeland Security is actually criticizing the Secret Service, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, and really the optics on this just looked really poor.
What questions do I have right now? Right now, the number one question is what happened? Did the -- Secret Service had previously admitted that these text messages were deleted, and they don't dispute that. They actually self-disclose that. However, if those messages were deleted after the request from the inspector general, the Secret Service has a lot of explaining to do.
And what do I want to know? I want to know two things. One, how did they go through this technological upgrade without ensuring that the data would be preserved, and, two, what are they doing today to go capture and get that lost data back for the commission and to bring resolution to this matter?
BLITZER: Yes, excellent points, Jonathan, thank you.
Jeffrey, do you buy the explanation that these key messages were lost in some sort of routine phone replacement program?
TOOBIN: Well, I certainly would not take the Secret Service's word for it. This is something that calls out for an independent investigation and independent of the question of why these were -- these messages were deleted and whether they can be recovered, is what do they say? I mean, what was going on on January 5th and 6th, because we have heard testimony that the president was determined to go to the Capitol with the armed rioters. What did the Secret Service communicate to each other about that? Is there anything in the Secret Service about the apparent assault of the Secret Service that Cassidy Hutchinson said she heard about? I mean, the substance of these messages is probably even more important than the circumstances of their apparent disappearance.
Elie, Thursday night's prime time hearing will also focus on what former President Trump was actually doing during the course of the several hours of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, and you say this may actually be worse than dereliction of duty. Why?
HONIG: Well, Wolf, that phrase has sort of caught on some currency dereliction of duty, which suggests doing nothing or freezing in a time of crisis. But we already have indications that Donald Trump did more than that. Exhibit A for me would be the tweet that Donald Trump sent at 2:24 P.M. on January 6th. This is an hour and change after the barriers at the Capitols had already been breached and Donald Trump sent that infamous text verbally attacking Mike Pence. And we've already seen evidence of the rioters at the scene of the Capitol reading that tweet out loud and then breaking out into chants of Hang Mike pence. So, that's what I'm going to be looking for on Thursday.
It is already quite clear Donald Trump did not do anything for those three hours and seven minutes. But the question I have is did he do more? Did he take steps to try to inflame that mob or to encourage what was going on?
BLITZER: Well, let me get to Jeffrey Toobin to weigh in on this. There are still unanswered questions about what Trump's behavior was like, what he was doing during those 187 minutes. TOOBIN: Lots of unanswered questions. I mean, we have not heard under oath from the people who were with him. I mean, it is enormously important to hear from the people who were with him in the dining room, in the Oval Office in his study as he was watching television, as he was sending the tweet that Elie mentioned.
All of that, there had been news reports about it, and they have been mentioned in books and but we have not heard testimony under oath about it, and that, to me, is the most important thing we are going to learn on Thursday night.
BLITZER: Yes, key words, under oath.
Jonathan, how important is it to know exactly what the former president was doing as the U.S. Capitol was under attack?
What will you be watching for Thursday night?
WACKROW: Well, listen, we are hearing reports that the former president was in the oval, the oval dining room and other locations, but all those locations are not where he should have been. As somebody that was working the White House and specifically the west wing for almost five years, the president should have been in THE SITUATION ROOM and actually providing the appropriate command and control and direction in responding to this crisis.
So, absent of that, I really am interested to hear what exactly what was he doing? What was he interested in, because it clearly wasn't protecting the interests of the country, protecting the U.S. Capitol and those out there, those law enforcement officers that were being attacked as they were trying to defend democracy.
TOOBIN: And here's a clue. Remember, when he finally did make a statement after those 187 minutes, what did he say about the rioters? We love you. I think that tells you a lot.
BLITZER: What he should have been doing is going into the White House briefing room and announcing that there should be an end to the riot.
There's Steve Bannon, the trial, at least this first day jury selection has wrapped up for the day. We're going to monitor what he's saying. Stand by for that. Much more coming up on Steve Bannon's trial.
Just ahead, we are getting chilling new body camera video right now capturing the chaotic police response in Uvalde, Texas.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Disturbing new body camera video tonight of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that left 19 children and 2 teachers dead.
CNN Senior National Correspondent Ed Lavandera has the chilling new images and new details of the investigation exposing, quote, systemic failures in the law enforcement response. And a warning, this report contains disturbing video and strong language.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the Texas Department of Public Safety is launching an internal review of its own response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired.
LAVANDERA: Which new police body cam footage shows was full of chaos and confusion while a gunman was inside the classroom. Officers filing into the building throughout the standoff diverted arriving officers to control crowds of parents outside, bringing in equipment, fumbling with keys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me know if there are any kids in there.
LAVANDERA: In a shocking moment, Uvalde's District Police Chief Pete Arredondo tried negotiating with the gunman who had already fired dozens of rounds inside the classroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we doing here?
LAVANDERA: The massive law enforcement force waited 74 minutes before reaching the shooter in control of two classrooms where students and teachers lay dead, dying and hiding.
JUSTICE EVA GUZMAN, MEMBER, TEXAS HOUSE INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE: If you showed up that day and you weren't ready to prioritize the lives those children over your own, this is not the profession for you.
LAVANDERA: These disconcerting images were released on Sunday along with a scathing report by the Texas House Investigative Committee looking into what happened during the shooting. The 77-page report points to systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making in the response. Laying blame squarely on the short comings and failures of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and various agencies and officers of law enforcement calling the approach by authorities on the scene lackadaisical.
GUZMAN: Accountability is going to be taken and forensic examination who knew what when.
LAVANDERA: Those questions of accountability are key for investigators wanting to know if more lives could have been saved after police entered the building at 11:36 A.M. By 12:03 P.M., a young girl called 911 from one of the classrooms, a sign of life dispelling any doubt there were children inside. Calling back at 12:13 P.M., then again at 12:16, saying eight to nine students are also alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A child just called that they have victims in there.
LAVANDERA: That information was relayed to officers in the school. At 12:19 P.M., dispatchers receive another call from a different student before the last calls come in at 12:36 P.M. and 12:43, asking for police to come quickly. It would be several minutes later at 12:50 P.M. before police entered the room to take out the gunman.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said Sunday the acting chief of the Uvalde Police Department on the day of the shooting was placed on administrative leave. Arredondo was placed on leave in late June.
For the relatives seeking accountability at a meeting for families on Sunday, these announcements bring little relief.
DONNY RAY VALDEZ, BOYFRIEND OF ANNABELL RODRIGUEZ'S MOM: There was a lot of tension there. I think more of the tension was you see all of these officers on the tape and, you know, why are they still on duty?
LEANDRA VERA, AUNT OF ELIAHANA TORRES: I hope they don't sleep at night.
LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Wolf, you know, the overwhelming sense that you hear from the victims' families and other parents of Robb Elementary School students, as one mother told me earlier today, described reading this report and listening to the details as, quote, intolerable. And there's this sense that they want accountability, that this report is simply not enough at this point, that they want to see the officers who made the misjudgments and the bad calls inside that school held to account. And if that means they need to be fired, then that's what should happen in their view. Wolf?
BLITZER: CNN's Ed Lavandera in Uvalde for us, thank you very much for that report.
Let's get more on all of these developments. Joining us now, CNN Security Correspondent and former FBI Supervisory Special Agent Josh Campbell, he's joining us from Los Angeles, and CNN Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz, he's in Uvalde, where a school board meeting is about to start.
Shimon, you've been covering this story in Uvalde from the very start. What stands out to you from that body camera video?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the things certainly, Wolf, obviously we've talked a lot about the confusion, but it's some of the actions that were going on outside of the school versus what was going on inside. And it seems that none of the officers who were outside the school and certainly a lot of the officers inside the school had any clue what was going on. No one was working together.
I managed to look through most of the video today, and I was just struck by how many officers were working on their own, not really working together as one team, all of the officers there, all of the different agencies, and how so many officers didn't know certain things that other officers do.
There may have been an officer on the west side of the hall that didn't know what the officer on the south side of the school knew. So, there was just so much confusion. And it was very apparent in that body cam footage that the mayor here in Uvalde released.
BLITZER: Josh, this report is truly scathing in describing what they call systemic failures across the board. Is there any explanation for how the situation broke down so badly?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are many explanations and almost all of them universally concerning. And this report, certainly an indictment, taking law enforcement to task in three key areas, leadership, preparation and execution, report details, how the incident commander, the school's police chief made certain decisions that ultimately led to this outcome that we saw. They also talked about a series of agencies that were unprepared for this active shooter and then the execution is perhaps the most important.
We know that this situation was treated as a barricaded-type suspect rather than an active shooter. In one point in Ed's piece there, we saw the police chief there attempting to perhaps negotiate with an active shooter, which runs completely counter to how law enforcement is trained, a complete indictment to their response that day, Wolf.
BLITZER: Shimon, what do you expect to emerge from this school board meeting tonight? Clearly, the families of the victims, they are still desperately searching for real answers.
PROKUPECZ: Well, one of the things, Wolf, and I was talking to someone here who was connected to the school board, they expect to hear a lot about safety. There is still -- and I think this is so important to talk about because there's still a lot of fear in this community, that people are afraid to send their kids back to school? So, the school intends to make some changes. And that's what we are going to hear about tonight. This meeting is set to start in about ten minutes.
What the school district did was they set up an earlier time for this meeting to give parents more time to raise questions and raise issues. But I'm telling you, Wolf, after yesterday's report and what came out and the blame that was partially placed on the school for their preparedness, for not taking some of the threats seriously, for the lack of security and the issues with the locks, the school board is going to hear a lot from these parents.
Fear is still very much present in this community and this is something that the school board is going to have to address. And also, Wolf, significant is that school was supposed to start here on August 15th. That's just a few weeks away. There is no way that people in this community are ready to send their kids back to school on August 14th. So, they are going to delay the start of school and it's going to probably move some time after Labor Day, which is going to be significant. But I think the most important, Wolf, as I said, is there's just a lot of fear and a lot of concern here in the community for the children, for the children's safety.
BLITZER: Yes, it's so, so important. All right, Shimon Prokupecz, Josh Campbell, guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, sky high inflation and worries over the U.S. economy are taking a serious toll on President Biden's approval rating right now. We have an exclusive new CNN poll to share with you right after the break.
BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is back at the White House after his Middle East trip and he's facing mounting pressure at home including on the U.S. economy. CNN's exclusive new poll is driving home the president's troubles right now.
Our White House Correspondent M.J. Lee is joining us from the White House. M.J., our new poll shows there is reason for the White House to be deeply concerned right now.
M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. As you know, the president has repeatedly said that tackling inflation is his number one domestic priority, and this new CNN poll shows that he is in trouble on this front.
Take a look first at the overall approval rating for the president. Only 38 percent of people saying that they approve of his handling of the presidency and around six out of ten people saying that they disapprove of the job that he is doing. And then when you dig into the details, take a look here, just 30 percent saying that they approve of President Biden's handling of the economy and only 25 percent say that they approve of his handling of inflation specifically.
Now it is not just the president's poll numbers that inflation is hurting. It is also his domestic agenda. As we saw over the weekend, Senator Joe Manchin effectively indicating that he is a no on the climate change proposal that Democrats have been tossing around for a number of weeks because he is concerned about inflation.
Now, that doesn't mean that he might not change his mind in the coming weeks, but the White House had been keen at getting this done as soon as possible.
Now, one piece of good news that the White House is wanting to highlight today on the inflation front is that gas prices have been consistently going down for about the last month or so. So, expect White House officials to continue talking about that in the coming weeks. And, certainly, this is a trend that they continue, hope to continue to see.
And then one more thing, Wolf, just to note, is that on questions about whether the U.S. is headed towards recession, a question that the White House has been getting a lot, they are continuing to say that, according to the data that they are seeing at this moment in time, that they don't think that the U.S. is headed that way. Wolf?
BLITZER: We shall see. M.J. Lee at the White House for us, thank you very much.
Let's get some more right now. Joining us, our CNN Political Director David Chalian and CNN Business Correspondent Rahel Solomon.
David, just how bad are these numbers for President Biden right now, especially, what, only a few months from the midterm elections?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes.
Well, I mean, they're not good. And one of those numbers that M.J. just showed you, the 25 approval rating on inflation.
And I just want to put that in context for you. Another finding in this poll, 75 percent of poll respondents, Wolf, said that inflation is the most important economic issue facing their family, and the president's only at a 25 percent approval rating on that issue. That disparity is a huge warning sign for the president and his party.
This is clearly not where any president would want to be a few months out from the midterm election, and this is why you see so much handwringing among Democrats about how indeed they are going to try and turn this around between now and November.
BLITZER: Well, they have got a lot of work to do right now.
Rahel, gas prices, we see, they are finally coming down, but is that having any really impact on the Americans' overwhelming negative feelings right now about the state of the U.S. economy?
RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't seem to be, right? And we saw that in consumer sentiment last week and we're seeing that in the polling today. The fact is that Americans overwhelmingly still feel negative about the state of the economy and that is largely driven by inflation, because even if you're seeing some relief at the pump, you're not seeing it practically anywhere else right now with inflation at 9.1 percent.
And that is sort of overshadowing some of the good that is happening in the economy, the job market, 3.6 percent unemployment rate, really strong demand for workers, also consumer checking and savings accounts are still in better positions than they were before the pandemic. But it is hard apparently for Americans to feel that way when inflation is painfully high right now.
That said, we don't know that August 10th, we're going to get the next inflation report. And what the hope is that those gas declines that we have seen and that M.J. responded to and reported, that that will be reflected in the next inflation report. But even if that is the case, will that be enough to make Americans feel better? I think it's going require months of a trend before Americans really start to feel like that the light is at the end of the tunnel and, hopefully, that starts to change consumer sentiment and the feelings in the economy right now.
BLITZER: How does all this, David, bode for the upcoming midterm elections in November?
CHALIAN: Well, another troubling sign for the president and his party is this, one finding we had the poll, Wolf, that asked, does the president have the right priorities right now? Only 31 percent of Americans thinks he has the right priorities. 68 percent of Americans, as you could see there on your screen, say he does not, and that's up ten points from last year. So, that's going in the wrong direction.
Here's what Democrats are hoping in terms of the midterms. They're hoping that the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court will energize the Democratic base to show up. They're hoping these mass shootings will energize the Democratic base around the issue of gun reform and get out to vote. They're hoping that outweighs while the gas prices are going down, while perhaps perceptions on the economy can improve a bit from where they are now. If those base enthusiasm generators can also be at play this fall, the Democrats think perhaps they won't have as gargantuan losses as many people anticipate.
BLITZER: Rahel, let me get your thoughts on this. Does President Biden have many options right now left to try and address some of these really significant, economic problems?
SOLOMON: Well, I mean, the heavy lifting of inflation is going to come from the Fed, right? But I think on the margins, a lot of people have been scratching their heads about why we have not heard more, certainly in the last few weeks, from the administration on tariffs.
Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, said in early June that the administration was considering some reconfiguring of those tariffs. That would reduce prices, Wolf, for things like apparel, electronics, furniture auto parts, and that we would hear -- Yellen said that we would hear within the coming weeks some movement on that but we haven't.
And so there have been some real head-scratching about why when it is something that the president has within his tool kit when we know the larger issue of inflation is going to have to come from the Fed. But we haven't heard the president yet on sort of their decision on tariffs, that it has some questioning why when it seems like one of the few things he does have at his disposal.
BLITZER: And as James Carville used to say, it's the economy stupid, going into an election. We shall see.
All right, Rahel, thank you very much. David, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, we're getting first reaction from Steve Bannon after this, the first day of his criminal contempt trial wraps up.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Just in to THE SITUATION ROOM, the former Trump White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, speaking out as jury selection in his criminal contempt trial wrapped up for the day. Bannon is charged with defying a subpoena from the House January 6th select committee. Here is what he said just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Look, it was a very good first day. It was a long day for jury selection. I really want to thank the jurors for being truthful and blunt. I thought that was great. And we look forward tomorrow. We're coming back and we get into it tomorrow. So, we're looking forward.
And I think we would have been more productive if we've been on Capitol Hill in front of open mics addressing the nation with exactly all this nonsense, this show trial they've been putting up on Capitol Hilll. It's nothing but a show trial. It's time they start having other witnesses and give other testimony other than what they've been putting up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He's got a closer look right now at Bannon's unusual orbit in the Trump universe. Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Steve Bannon's defiance surrounding this trial and the House investigations into January 6th, not surprising to the people who know him. It's all consistent with Bannon's history of stoking Donald Trump's most combative instincts.
TODD (voice over): This notorious 68-year-old political operative is now one of the most embattled figures in Washington. Those who have covered Steve Bannon and worked with him are not surprised that he's in the middle of this maelstrom.
KURT BARDELLA, FORMER MEDIA CONSULTANT FOR BREITBART, WORKED WITH STEVE BANNON: This is somebody who lives by confrontation, who believes that sheer force of personality is enough to undo our structures.
TODD: Tearing down structures of government, stirring chaos in the political establishment are at the core of Steve Bannon's beliefs. Those who have known him say, traits he brought to the Trump White House when he started working there in 2017. He became so powerful in those days that he even leveraged a seat on the National Security Council and was called by The New York Times Editorial Board the de facto president.
But just seven months into his White House job, Bannon was booted out of it, some say for committing one of the cardinal sins against Donald Trump.
JOSHUA GREEN, AUTHOR, DEVIL'S BARGAIN, STEVE BANNON, DONALD TRUMP AND THE NATIONALIST UPRISING: Bannon's falling out with Trump came because Trump was jealous and resentful of the media coverage that Bannon was getting.
TODD: But Bannon is now believed to be back in Trump's good graces, partially by using his podcast and other platforms to amplify false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
BANNON: Biden can only win by cheating. He can only win by stealing Trump's victory and we're not going to let it happen.
TODD: Or this, the day before the Capitol riot.
BANNON: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.
MARIO PARKER, NATIONAL POLITICS TEAM, BLOOMBERG: This all fits into Bannon's brand of being bombastic, combative. He uses terms like going medieval and all hell is going to break loose.
TODD: There a no evidence that Bannon was involved in planning any aspect of the attack on the Capitol or that he knew it would happen. Author Joshua Green says Steve Bannon was introduced to Donald Trump at least a couple of years before Trump's 2016 presidential run. Bannon was a perfect fit, Green says, to be the CEO of that campaign.
GREEN: He didn't come from the Republican establishment. He didn't have to answer for anybody. He didn't have a background in GOP politics. All he wanted to do was come in and burn things down.
TODD: All this from a man who was born into a family of Democrats, got a masters at Georgetown University, an MBA from Harvard and served as a U.S. Naval officer.
What do you think it was that drove so far right?
BARDELLA: Opportunity and access and power and money and fame.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, Bannon didn't comment specifically for our story but sent a statement again claiming that Trump won the 2020 election.
TODD (on camera): The analyst we spoke to say a Bannon-Trump partnership could actually be rekindled in the future in the likely event that Trump runs for president in 2024. If Trump wins, they say, a Bannon role in the White House is not out of the question or Bannon could assume a more informal role, acting as Trump's proxy in attacking the media and stirring up his base, Wolf. Let's watch what Steve Bannon does from here.
TODD: We will indeed. All right, thanks very much, good report, Brian Todd, thank you.
Coming up, we'll have an update on a deadly shopping mall shooting in Indiana. The FBI now says it's trying to recover data from the gunman's cell phone as well as a laptop left in a high-temperature oven.
BLITZER: We're just learning that the FBI will be analyzing the cell phone and the laptop of the suspect in the mass shooting at a mall just outside of Indianapolis that left three people dead.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is working the story for us.
Omar, I understand the gunman was shot and killed by a legally armed bystander, ditched his phone in a toilet in the mall and left his laptop in a hot oven in his apartment.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Wolf. The suspect's laptop was found by police in the oven at his apartment along with a can of butane, and police say that temperature was turned up to a high degree along with the fact that his phone was found in the toilet of the mall restroom that he first went to when he entered this mall behind me on Sunday evening and all of it, of course, pieces of evidence that investigators are currently working through along with tracing the origins of the weapons used.
Police say he had three weapons total, and two on him, a rifle and a pistol and over 100 rounds of ammunition. Police say he only used the rifle during the shooting before shortly after he was met with gunfire in return.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): It's become an almost familiar scene of evacuation in America.
HEATHER ARTHUR, WITNESS: So, we were in the food court, and we heard loud gunshots.
JIMENEZ: As an Indiana shopping mall quickly became among the latest settings for a mass shooting.
Today, the police chief announced the identity of the suspected gunman who police say entered the mall Sunday at 4:54 p.m.
CHIEF JAMES ISON, GREENWOOD, INDIANA POLICE: He walks directly to the food court restroom. One hour and two minutes later, he exists the restroom and shoots Victor Gomez outside of the restroom. He then points his rifle into the food court where Pedro and Rosa Pineda were eating dinner and shot both Rosa and Pedro. JIMENEZ: According to police, the gunman shot and killed three people
Sunday evening, using a rifle -- victor Gomez, Rosa Rivera, and Pedro Pineda. Police say he injured at least two others, including a 12- year-old girl.
And then police say less than two minutes after the shooting began, the attacker was killed by a, quote, Good Samaritan with a lawfully carried gun.
ISON: The shooter fired several rounds, striking the suspect. The suspect attempted to retreat back into the restroom and failed.
MAYOR MARK W. MYERS, GREENWOOD, INDIANA: We're very thankful for a young 22-year-old man who stopped this violent act.
JIMENEZ: And that's relatively rare. According to an analysis published by "The New York Times," there were at least 433 active shooter attacks from 2000 to 2021. Of those, just 22 ended with an armed bystander shooting the attacker. And of those 22, ten were from a security guard or off-duty officer.
Countrywide this year, there have already been more than 350 mass shootings where four or more people were shot, according to the Gun Violence Archive. This one, like many do, striking at the core of normalcy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like one of those things where this is supposed to be fun. You're supposed to be going shopping.
JIMENEZ: And everyone thought they were just going to be going shopping that day. Police say the shooter fired 24 times and the Good Samaritan Elisjsha Dicken fired ten times based on rounds recovered at the scene. Police added they don't believe the Good Samaritan had any form of law enforcement or military background but engaged the shooter from quite a distance and likely saved lives in doing so -- Wolf.
BLITZER: CNN's Omar Jimenez in Greenwood, Indiana -- thank you very much, Omar.
Other news we're following right now, much of Europe is sweltering in a heat wave that's already blamed for more than 1,000 deaths and shattering records across large areas of the continent.
CNN's Melissa Bell is in Paris for us tonight. Melissa, this is truly an unprecedented and very dangerous heat wave that's gripping parts of Europe right now. Tell us what's going on.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
We've never really seen anything like this not only in terms of the intensity of the heat wave, that is the temperatures being reached with records being set and broken in many parts of Europe over the last week or so, but also its length. This is set to continue.
And, of course, that brings a whole host of problems on its own. This is a part of the world that is simply not used to these temperatures. In the United Kingdom today, the tarmac actually melted. Here in the rest of Europe on the continent, we tend not to have air conditioning. In Paris, for instance, tomorrow, we're expecting record temperatures of 103, 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures that we're not equipped to deal with.
Already, as you see in Spain and Portugal, 1,000 people have died. What those high temperatures have done, with the earth parched by a heat wave in June is spread these wildfires. They have broken out in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and for the time being have not been brought under control with every day bringing fresh records in terms of temperature and making it hard for the firefighters to take these on.
For the time being in many parts of Europe, they are tending to get worse rather than better, Wolf.
BLITZER: Melissa Bell, thank you very much for that report. We'll have more news just ahead, including an update from Ukraine where President Zelenskyy has just suspended top security officials as he probes allegations of treason inside his own government.
BLITZER: Critical new developments in Ukraine tonight where top officials have been suspended and hundreds of others are suspected of collaborating with Russia in its ongoing and unprovoked invasion.
CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for us tonight.
Nic, President Zelenskyy has suspended two top government officials questioning their leadership and accusing their subordinates of treason for collaborating with Russia.
What are you learning about this shakeup?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, he says that 651 cases are in play right now of treason and collaboration with Russia. There are 60 staff, both of these two departments, who are in Russian-occupied areas of the country that haven't come back. That's what's at the root of President Zelenskyy's concerns here.
Interestingly, he was working outside of the constitution. He cannot directly call for these suspensions. It's only parliament that can remove or appoint people to the prosecutor general and the chief of the security services. So what President Zelenskyy did today was call on parliament to suspend the head of the security services.
This is sort of no surprise that he is being moved out. He's a long- time political ally of the president, a childhood friend, didn't have a security background. The security services did a bad job in the south of the country, letting the Russians get an early foothold there. So it's no surprising that he's gone.
Interestingly, the prosecutor general appears to be pushing back. Interestingly as well, Zelenskyy didn't ask parliament to suspend her. It may be that this is a power play in transition. It potentially indicates unease with some of his own appointees and pushback from people around him.
BLITZER: Nic, President Zelenskyy says the influx of new Western weapons systems are shifting the battlefield balance right now. What more did he just say?
ROBERTSON: He said this in an address to the people tonight. He said that they're holding the line, that other officials are also saying thanks to systems like the HIMARS system, the longer range, more accurate weapons systems that the Ukrainians are now targeting Russia's supply lines better, their ammunition dumps, and this is what's holding them back.
There were three examples of this in Kherson where the Ukrainian targeted Russian ammunition dumps they say effectively. We know that as well General Milley, chief of staff at the pentagon, had a conversation with his counterpart here in Ukraine and that was part of the conversation as well. The weapons you're giving us are doing the job, keep them coming.
BLITZER: Let's see if they are.
Nic Robertson who was just in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with me and now he's in Kyiv.
Nic, thank you. Stay safe over there. Appreciate it every much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.