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The Situation Room
Secret Service Official Says, Agency Hasn't Found Missing January 6 Texts; Steve Bannon Trial Wraps For The Day After First Testimony; Hundreds Of Millions Suffering Extreme Heat In U.S. And Europe; White House Warns Russia Planning New Annexation Attempt In Ukraine; Putin Meets With Leaders Of Iran And Turkey In Tehran; 17 Democratic Lawmakers Arrested In Abortion Rights Protest At SCOTUS. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 19, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the January 6th select committee just received thousands of documents from the U.S. Secret Service, but we're told the agency has not found potentially deleted text messages from the day of the riot and the day before. The National Archives is demanding answers.
Also tonight, Steve Bannon's criminal contempt trial has wrapped for the day after the first witness was called and opening statements delivered. We'll break down the prosecution and defense cases so far.
And hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and overseas are sweltering from extreme and very dangerous heat. The United Kingdom reporting its hottest day ever as soaring temperatures across Europe caused fires, drought and deaths.
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 missing evidence in the January 6th investigation, the U.S. Secret Service failing to find text messages sought by the select committee. And that's fuelling more questions about whether the texts were inappropriately deleted.
Here's CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, key Secret Service text messages from the day before and the day of the Capitol attack are still missing. The Secret Service, under subpoena from the January 6th committee, acknowledging they're still unable to uncover the texts after admitting last weekday data was lost in the weeks after January 6th because of a routine phone replacement program.
Now, the National Archives is demanding answers, sending the Secret Service this letter laying out concerns about the potential unauthorized deletion of text messages and telling Secret Service to investigate and report back to the Archives within 30 days to detail how the messages got deleted and explain how they tried to retrieve the records. Secret Service is pledging to cooperate.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We want to see what that process is.
SCHNEIDER: The Secret Service has become a focal point for the committee as it prepares to present another hearing in prime time Thursday, featuring two officials who worked at the White House on January 6th, Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger and Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Matthews, both resigned in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol attack, referencing how they were disturbed by Trump's response.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The events of that day, January 6th, were, for me, a red line.
SCHNEIDER: Thursday's hearing will focus on Trump's inaction in those 187 minutes after he gave his speech on The Ellipse.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Let's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue --
SCHNEIDER: Until he finally released this video.
TRUMP: Go home.
SCHNEIDER: The committee is still getting information and interviewing witnesses. The latest person appearing today behind closed doors for the committee, Trump White House Aide Garrett Ziegler, who reportedly took credit for welcoming Trump allies Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, and Overstock CEO Patrick Burn into the White House on December 18th, 20202. All three allegedly pushing extreme plans to overturn the election in that meeting that other White House aides called unhinged.
PAT CIPOLLONE, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I was not happy to see the people in the Oval Officer.
I don't think any of these people were providing the president with good advice.
SCHNEIDER: The committee is dismissing talk that Trump could disrupt the January 6 investigations and shield himself from prosecution by announcing his bid for another run at the presidency.
THOMPSON: We are a nation of laws. And if a person breaks the law or is accused of breaking the law, he's not one who can just do what he chooses because he's running for president. SCHNEIDER: Asked about Trump's potential campaign, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco also pledged that the Justice Department's criminal probe will move forward.
LISA MONACO, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're going to continue to do our job to follow the facts wherever they go, no matter where they lead, no matter to what level. And we're going to continue to do our job to investigate what was fundamentally an attack on our democracy.
SCHNEIDER: And, tonight, we're actually learning more about what the Secret Service is telling the committee. While we know that the Secret Service has been unable to recover any text messages from January 5th or 6th, we now know they told the committee they don't currently believe there were any texts during that time period that were requested by the inspector general and subsequently lost.
Wolf, a lot of mounting confusion, it's probably far from over and it's very likely at this point the committee will have a lot more requests for the Secret Service. Wolf?
BLITZER: Good point. Jessica Schneider reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our legal, political, and law enforcement experts right now. Laura Coates, you're one of our legal experts right now. The Secret Service clearly doesn't have these January 5th and 6th text messages which were supposedly deleted. The Secret Service says, routine hardware maintenance, some sort of program like that. Does it sound it maybe impossible to recover what could be key evidence?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Potentially. I mean, yo8u can't get blood from a turnip. We do know that. However, if there was some reason to believe that these messages were deleted after they knew to preserve them, after they were told for a specific reason to say, listen, we need to have information, we want to be able to evaluate what the conduct was, what was being said, what you knew when, where, then that is going to be really right for an internal investigation.
Having said that, there are people who actually used their thumbs, Wolf, to type the messages and might actually have a memory long enough to say what they put on that paper, what they put in the text messages. And so there are ways to sort of jog the memory without having the actual statements made, but it will be easier to corroborate, to figure out and follow that thread if you had the messages there.
BLITZER: It certainly would be. Stand by.
Jonathan, as a former Secret Service agent yourself, how concerning is it that they've been unable, at least so far, to recover these January 5th and January 6th communications? JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this new disclosure today is what I refer to as a self-inflicted wound for the Secret Service and it really comes at a time where we see this mounting pressure from the lawmakers and the public asking for full transparency around the activity of January 6th.
And today's admission by the Secret Service only compounds their problems because it really brings no resolution, right? They had a subpoena that was issued to them. The return of that subpoena didn't yield the information that was being sought, one by the inspector general and two by the January 6th commission. So, the net result is that, optically, it raises more doubts about the agency.
But to be fair, the Secret Service insists that they have been cooperating and we saw part of that today, their cooperation in turning over thousands of documents back to the January 6th commission. Those are the same documents that they have stated that they previously gave over to the inspector general before.
But there're some serious questions that need to be answered right now. First, what data was lost? We need to know exactly what data was lost in the nexus of that data back to January 5th and 6th activity in Washington, D.C. Second, how was it lost? Was it lost because of a process or was it lost maliciously? And, finally and most importantly, what is the impact that this has, this lost data has, on the totality of the investigations? Well, a lot of questions still remain, Wolf.
BLITZER: They certainly do. And, Kasie, the Secret Service insists that these messages weren't deleted maliciously as part of some sort of routine hardware maintenance program, if you will. How does the committee though, the select committee, get to the bottom of this?
KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIERF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. Well, it may not have been malicious, but depending on what's in those messages, it may have been remarkably convenient for the Secret Service. I think that this is going to be the committee's challenge.
They have a limited amount of time here, right? They are up against the clock in terms of, you know, the year running out. They're potentially about to lose -- Democrats are about to lose control of the House. That gives the committee maximum of six months. Obviously, we're kind of at peak attention span. Right now, people are paying pretty close attention.
And the reality is these messages potentially shed light on some of the most critical questions about what happened that day. What was going on with Mike Pence and his Secret Service detail in the garage? What was happening inside the presidential suburban as it was departing The Ellipse, after the president made that speech? These are some critical questions that need answers.
BLITZER: And, Shan, it's really significant, I think. What red flags would it raise if these messages were deleted after the inspector general's request actually came to the Secret Service?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Those are enormous red flags. I mean, that would indicate possible obstruction of justice, trying to destroy the evidence.
And I think the problem here is that what the committee should do is they need to talk to people. As Laura was just saying, there were minds attached to those phones. And that's how you find out what the data was and what might have been lost about that.
But whether it was malicious or incompetence, this really requires a very thorough review. I mean, this is a huge problem that if there was scheduled maintenance for them to delete messages from this day, worst attack on the Capitol since the 19th century, makes no sense. And the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security really needs to do a rigorous review and maybe clean house.
COATES: And also they're supposed to -- I believe there was an affirmative obligation to upload text messages to some sort of internal server which they failed to do. They were required to do so. So, the idea of knowing that you were required, it wasn't just happenstance, why was that requirement not met, particularly knowing full well it wasn't like an average day in July, it was January 6th.
HUNT: Exactly. This would be a big deal even if it was a normal day. I mean, the law says these records must be preserved. This is the problem.
BLITZER: And, Jonathan, can the committee use other Secret Service communications, let's say, radio transmissions or emails, for example, to corroborate key details, like the accounts of the former president lunging at his agent inside that presidential SUV?
WACKROW: Well, I think that's what the Secret Service, Wolf, is trying to do. They've handed over tens of thousands of documents and text messages from that day, just not these missing text messages, in the hopes that they're able to knit together exactly what happened. So, from operational plans, to e-mail messages, to in-person witness testimony, they're trying to, you know, put forth this cooperation with the committee that will sort of diminish the necessity for these messages.
But, again, the points that were made by the panel, I mean, this is a potential violation of federal law. We have to investigate why these records were not properly maintained as a custodian, and I think that's what the National Archives is getting to, separate and apart from the January 6th commission. National Archives is asking those very pointed questions about how did this happen and what is being done to try to recover those messages today.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We're going to have much more just ahead, including the latest on Steve Bannon's criminal contempt trial, which just wrapped up its second day.
Also ahead, amid growing outrage in Uvalde, Texas, there's a new push right now to remove the school system's police chief.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:15:00]
BLITZER: Tomorrow, testimony resumes in the trial of Trump ally Steve Bannon who's facing criminal contempt of Congress charges for defying a subpoena by the January 6 select committee. Bannon left the courthouse just a little while ago fuming, fuming, after the prosecution called a House staffer as the first witness. Bannon complaining that the committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, should testify. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I challenge Bennie Thompson today to have the courage to come to this courthouse. If he's going to charge somebody with a crime, he's got to be man enough to show up here or send somebody, like Shifty Schiff or Feng- Feng (ph) Swalwell or send Liz Cheney, send somebody from the committee that has the guts to come here and accuse somebody of a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's break it down. Shan Wu, what's your reaction?
WU: I'm surprised his lawyer is letting him talk that much. I know his lawyer, M. Corcoran, who's at the same office Laura and I were at. He's a very shrewd lawyer (ph). I think his opening showed that shrewdness but I am surprised he allowed him to mouth off like that, but probably a hard client to control.
BLITZER: Well, why is it negative for him to go out there and complain?
WU: Because he's showing himself to be a very zealous advocate for himself. And when you're defending someone, you don't want him talking to the public. It can trickle back to the courtroom. The judge knows about it. You want all the evidence to be under your control as a defense counsel inside that courtroom.
BLITZER: The defense argues that Bannon is, quote, innocent of these charges. The prosecutor, and I'm just quoting now, argued that Bannon, quote, didn't get the date wrong, he didn't get confused on where to go, he just refused to follow the rules, close quote. What does all that say about where this trial is heading?
COATES: It's a very open and shut case in terms of your star witness being a calendar. Here's the date, I want the information in your testimony. It's not a request. It's not like I'm saying to you, would you like to come over at some point and talk to me at some point, the wishy-washy sort of average person. You're talking about the committee said, and they had the right to, that's the most important thing. The committee had the right to have the subpoena power. They asked him to come in, they told him the date. He held him in contempt by refusing to actually show up. And the idea here thinking about what they have to prove, they have to prove that there was some lawful subpoena power, check, that Steve Bannon refused to comply, check. His only defense essentially is that he maybe thought he didn't have to because of executive privilege. Well, we saw that Trump's lawyer said that has not been asserted. And so the idea of prosecuting him is not for him to now say, okay, okay, you got me, I'll go testify. You don't prosecute because you want to strong-arm. You prosecute because a crime was previously committed, this one being contempt of Congress.
BLITZER: Very interesting.
Kasie, the first witness today, a committee staffer for select committee testified that they have a limited amount of time, and I'm quoting, to gather information. Are they up against the clock?
HUNT: Yes. No, they are. They absolutely are. We were talking about this a little bit before the last break. Right now, we are in the thick of the January 6th hearings. The information is most relevant right now. They have a maximum of probably six months because if Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, which we still widely expect to happen in the fall, it is unlikely that this committee will retain any of the power it currently has if Kevin McCarthy or another Republican is in charge of things. So, they've got to get this out there.
And watching that appearance too, as both of our esteemed lawyers here analyzed it from a legal perspective, I mean, to me, that was just a political move. He's trying to turn himself into a martyr for the audience that listens to his podcast and the MAGA people that follow him.
I mean, the reality is Steve Bannon, more than anyone else in Trump world, is kind of a pariah on all sides. I mean, the part of the reason privilege doesn't come into it is because he didn't have an official White House role at the time and there was a reason for that, he had been thrown out, he had angered Republicans on Capitol Hill. I mean, none of them thought he was loyal, they thought he was a snake in the grass, they were willing to throw him under the bus. And I think that's why he's gotten this far.
And I personally from, again, a political, not legal perspective, would be surprised if a judge doesn't see the same that thing everyone else in Washington seems to be able to see.
BLITZER: It's interesting today, and, Shan, I'm anxious to get your reaction to this. We learned that Georgia, the state of Georgia prosecutors have alerted what they say are 16 fake Trump electors that they are now, quote, targets in their criminal probe. Does that spell potentially even more legal problems for Trump?
WU: Certainly. I mean, to tell people that they are targets indicate that you are very close to making a charging decision and it's really a last chance for those people they identify as targets to say that they'll cooperate. I think what's interesting is there's still talk from that D.A. of maybe considering to subpoena Trump. In a federal prosecution, you would never subpoena someone who you think is a target. I don't think that means he's not a target. I think because he's a former president, they would love to lock him in, and most importantly, they want to make sure it looks like they're giving him a chance to tell his story if they do subpoena him.
COATES: Yes. There will be some conversation around the decision for some who were initially cooperating or providing information, their subpoena power who have now been transformed into targets. Assuming there're no ethical violations, there's no sort of nefarious intent in trying and converting that, there's certainly means that there has been a development in terms of what they now learned from other witnesses to now put the person from one category to the next.
And the number, the sheer number of people who have been named suggest the D.A. in Fulton County is not playing any games in terms of going after and following the thread of whether somebody intentionally tried to undermine the outcome of the elections in Georgia. It's one of the strongest cases we're seeing as opposed to what's happening at the federal level.
BLITZER: Yes. It's one thing to be called as a witness, it's another thing to be called as a target.
BLITZER: A very, very dangerous situation. All right, guys, thank you very much.
An important note to our viewers, Laura will be back with much more on all of this later tonight on CNN Tonight, 9:00 P.M. Eastern on CNN. We'll, of course, be watching.
Coming up, with a deadly heat wave intensifying in Europe right now, officials here in the United States are also warning more than 100 million Americans to brace for extreme temperatures as well.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Dangerously high temperatures are now threatening lives from North America to Europe and beyond as multiple heat waves grip the globe. Here in the United States, more than 100 million Americans are under excessive heat advisories or warnings right now.
CNN's Brian Todd is at a spray park here in Washington, D.C. Brian, we see people trying to cool off, but this extreme heat is expected to last, what, for days in some areas.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It's going to be very tough for Americans in several areas of the U.S. for the next few days. You mentioned this. This is a so-called spray park in D.C., where these kids have been thrashing around here for hours now. These are critical places to seek relief as millions of Americans deal with some very dangerous temperatures tonight.
TODD (voice over): In Scottsdale, Arizona, a UPS driver is unsteady as he walks to a front door. He collapses. He seems close to passing out then gathers himself, but doesn't look stable as he walks away. Brian Enriquez, who lives there, wasn't home at the time but later saw the doorbell video on his phone and called police to check on the driver.
BRIAN ENRIQUEZ, HOMEOWNER IN SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA: I want to make sure that these guys are safe, and with this heat, they don't have A.C. in those trucks.
TODD: UPS later said the driver was fine and that its drivers are trained to deal with hot weather.
Around the country this week, more than 100 million people are under heat advisories or warnings with around 60 million Americans likely to see temperatures over 100 degrees.
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: And the incredible heat in the southern plains now makes its way into Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, to the northeast, the larger, populated cities, and the outlook for all of next week is much above average.
TODD: On Wednesday, expect heat index values near 100 degrees in parts of the northeast and heat advisories for Philadelphia, New York and Boston, which has declared a heat emergency.
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): This is serious heat and we're really concerned about those particularly with preexisting respiratory conditions.
TODD: Cities from Sacramento to D.C. offering cooling centers and splash parks. Doctors say avoid the heat and drink plenty of fluids.
DR. MCDONNA HINDS, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, MEDSTAR WASHINGTON HOSPITAL: Wear loose fitting clothing, light clothing, things that are breathable, such as cotton and linen and then also keep well- hydrated and wear wide brim hats and try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
TODD: One town in Arkansas losing power following a wind storm when temperatures hit 106.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's terrible, especially when they got heart problems.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I get too hot, sometimes I pass out.
TODD: And new concerns about wildfires due to the heat and the wind. This fire popping up near Fort Worth burning over 500 acres. Is this heat the new normal. DAVID WALLACE-WELLS, AUTHOR, THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH: The climate is getting hotter. It's already hotter than it's ever been in the entire history of human civilization and almost certainly no matter what we do over the next decade or two because we're not going to cut our emissions to zero tomorrow. The planet is going to continue to heat up. We need to be cutting our emissions pretty quickly.
TODD: Experts say they are also seeing more humidity.
KENNY BLUMENFIELD, SENIOR CLIMATOLOGIST, MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES: They are delivering a level of humidity that we just never used to have. And those are the days that are likely to become more common as we move into the future.
TODD: And conditions here in D.C. are about to get worse with temperatures venturing toward the high 90s in the next few days. And to make matters even worse, forecasters say that the heat combined with the humidity is going to make some areas feel five to ten degrees hotter than the actual temperature. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us here in Washington, D.C., thank you very much.
The heat crisis in London right now is so severe that, at one point today, there were so many fires there was not a single engine available.
CNNs Bianca Nobilo is on the scene for us in London tonight. Bianca, the U.K. saw its highest temperature ever recorded, more than 104.5 degrees. Give us the latest.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, where I am, Wolf, is one of the places that was bearing the brunt of that unfortunate new record that the country set of 43 Celsius, 104 degrees Fahrenheit. So, around 100 acres of the land behind me was set ablaze earlier.
And as you mentioned, when I spoke to a senior fire official, he told me that there was not one spare fire engine this afternoon. I've seen about 11 fire engines over time go into the -- contain that blaze which has been destroying homes.
People that I've been speaking to who live here are completely dumbfounded, Wolf, that this is happening outside London.
They've seen these stories about wildfires and sky-high temperatures in Australia, California maybe, but they never expected it here. I spoke to one man whose daughter called him because she saw her childhood home go up in flames on the news watching it. They're really quite stunned and it's not going to be until the sun comes up tomorrow morning that the extent of the damage will be recognized by everyone.
And it's now a full effort between the emergency services. Here, we have police, ambulance services and the fire brigade trying to offer the community support. But what this really underscores, what we've seen today, is the fact that this country is not built for this heat. Whether it is the tarmac on airstrip surfaces that is melting, whether it's the infrastructure of our trains that's buckling under the sun's heat, none of it is built for these kinds of range of temperatures.
It's all shifted because Britain can get very cold in the winter and it's usually very ambient in the summer. But these warnings from climate scientists, there's another fire engine coming from behind me -- or school teachers or hospital owners (ph) that something has to be done to try and amend the way that the country works if people are going to be able to live with these new temperatures and remain happy and healthy in Britain.
BLITZER: Bianca Nobilo in London for us, Bianca, thank you very much.
The crisis, by the way, is just as severe in continental Europe where the number of heat-related deaths now tops 1,100 people and wildfires are raging there as well.
CNN's Melissa Bell is in Paris. Melissa?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here in France, the temperatures hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit this Tuesday. It is only the second time on record that France has ever been this hot. And whilst it's been difficult enough for Parisians to deal with, the most important and gravest impacts have been in the southwest of France where those devastating wild fires that have been raging for days now have continued to spread with thousands more hectares lost, thousands more people evacuated.
And the French president now under pressure from local authorities for not having done more sooner. He is to head there on Wednesday to see for himself and try and lend support. But the meteorologists suggest that things could get worse. Whilst the temperatures are expected to peak in France today, Europe's heat wave is set to continue, they say, possibly until the middle of next week. And that means for those firefighters on the ground, facing those flames in the southwest of France, it's difficult to see there will be any respite anytime soon, Wolf.
BLITZER: CNN's Melissa Bell in Paris, thank you very much.
Just ahead, outrage in Uvalde, parents confronting the school board and demanding the removal of the police chief. We'll get a live update from Texas right after the break.
BLITZER: Tonight, sources are telling CNN that officials with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District are discussing the process to remove School Police Chief Pete Arredondo of his role in the response to the shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead. CNN Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz has the latest for us. Shimon, what can you tell us?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, of course, all of this coming on the heels of that contentious and certainly fiery school board meeting last night in Uvalde where parents, really for the first time, together, at a school board meeting, went after the school board, insisting that Pete Arredondo, the school police chief who has been accused of essentially being the on-scene commander and doing nothing and not taking the leadership role.
That body camera footage has come out really showing police confused, lacking any kind of instruction and leadership. And so as a result of all that and as a result of the fact that investigators say that Pete Arredondo was the on-scene commander, the family members are demanding that the school board fire him, that the superintendent fire him.
Listen to what some of the families said to them last night, Wolf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he's not fired by noon tomorrow, then I want your resignation and every single one of you board members because you all do not give a damn about our children or us.
RACHEL MARTINEZ, UVALDE PARENT: The current staff is incompetent and liable for the already massive failures. You need to clean house. You need to start from zero.
JAZMIN CAZARES, UVALDE SHOOTING VICTIM'S SISTER: What are you guys going to do to make sure I don't have to watch my friends die? What are you going to do to make sure I don't have to wait 77 minutes bleeding out on my classroom floor just like my little sister did?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: And, of course, Wolf, the school also taking a lot of heat over the fact that there was issues with the locks on the door, sort of the lack of security, no school resource officer on scene. But very clearly, we are now seeing the sort of the accountability phase of this. The school district moving in the direction, I'm told very clearly that they are now starting the process of terminating Pete Arredondo and we'll see what actually happens in the next few days here, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Shimon Prokupecz on the scene for us, thank you very, very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, Democratic Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
What's your reaction to the news that the school board could actually be on the verge of ousting the chief, Arredondo?
STATE SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D-TX): Well, Wolf, thank you. And I agree with Shimon. I mean, it is time for accountability in this community and accountability means actually getting rid of people. People that screwed up need to leave, they need to resign, they need to quit, they need to be fired. And I think that they're going to start to see that happen.
For my part at the state level, it's important for me to find out who at DPS was giving the orders or the lack of orders, where none of those DPS troopers that were on the scene moved in. The report was very indicative of one thing, that there were other agencies with more firepower, more ammunition and more resources. They should have known better. That agency is the Department of Public Safety. And I'm tired of all their excuses. We need to get accountability there as well.
BLITZER: Can you assure these parents, Senator, that it's going to be safe for their kids to actually return to school next month?
GUTIERREZ: Well, Wolf, we're 25 days away from school starting. And the only assurance that I can give them is that there is none. This governor refuses to bring us back into a special session. He's the only one qualified to do it. He needs to bring us back to increase the age limit from 18 to 21. It took Rick Scott 21 days in Florida. 21 days, it took another conservative governor to do the right thing. But Greg Abbott is frozen in his own ambition. He is frozen because he doesn't want to stand up to the NRA and stand up for the families of Uvalde.
BLITZER: What else do you think, Senator, needs to happen between now and the first day of school in only a few weeks so that every child and all the parents can feel that the kids are safe?
GUTIERREZ: We've got a lot of work to do, Wolf, but the only way that we can do it is by being back in the building. If Republicans want to talk about mental health, we have to go back to the Capitol. If they want to talk about school hardening, we have to go back to the Capitol. If we want to talk about guns, which is I want to talk about, we've got to go back to the Capitol. But Greg Abbott will not call a special session to do any of those things.
At the local level, certainly, they need to increase their police force. They didn't even have one officer. They had like seven or eight schools and they only six officers, which meant that you didn't have one officer per school. They've got a lot of work to do there. It's my hope that the locals do that.
I'm trying to help as best I can, but at the same time, we've got to make sure that Greg Abbott does the right thing in Austin to get us back and get all families in Texas secured and assured that we're going to do something. So far, that remains to be scene, Wolf.
BLITZER: Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
Coming up, Vladimir Putin in Iran tonight for a rare trip outside of Russia. So, why is Turkey, a key NATO ally, actually facilitating the talks?
BLITZER: Tonight, a new and stark warning from the White House about Russia's intentions in Ukraine as the war rages on.
CNN's chief national affairs correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is working the story for us. He's over at the White House.
Jeff, tell us about the new intelligence the White House is now sharing.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's fresh, new intelligence that John Kirby unveiled earlier today at the White House and he said there's new information that shows that Russia is taking steps to annex parts of Ukraine. This will be happening he said in the coming weeks perhaps months. He said it's simply repeating the playbook effectively from 2014, the annexation of Crimea.
So, what John Kirby said was he said that the Russian officials plan to essentially have sham referendum elections, install proxy officials in some areas, even may require Ukraine citizens to apply for Russian citizenship. Now, he said this is going to be met with strong force from the U.S. there's going to be new sanctions announced as early as next week as well as new aid packages.
But clearly, the White House is trying to refocus the still emerging and serious threat that Russia is placing on Ukraine after the invasion several months ago. Also, the Ukraine first lady was visiting the White House this afternoon. We'll look at these pictures.
She was having a meeting with First Lady Jill Biden and a surprise drop by visit by with President Biden -- of course, he's face-to-face with the Ukrainian first lady. Tomorrow, she'll be delivering an address to Congress, again, trying to refocus the effort and the attention really of the world on the Ukrainian situation and, of course, next week again, the 16th installment of aid is going to be announced from the U.S. over to Ukraine.
So, clearly, John Kirby and the White House making the point that Russia is still continuing its march on to Ukraine, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very disturbing, indeed.
All right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you.
Let's go live to Ukraine right now. CNN international diplomatic Nic Robertson is in Kyiv.
Nic, Vladimir Putin is making a rare trip outside of Russia, arriving today in Tehran, to hold talks with the leaders of Iran and Turkey for that matter as well. What's behind this visit?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, this is a visit where Putin gets to sort of appear on the world stage again. He hasn't been out of the country much, really during either the pandemic or particularly since the world began.
So what have we seen here? Actually, one of the takeaways when you watch Putin getting off the plane and walking is his right arm isn't moving so much, and he has a bit of a limp. That's not usual.
He met with the Iranian president. They discussed a new big $40 billion oil and gas deal with Iran. The Russians are going to help the Iranians with six oil wells and two gas fields. That's the plan there.
But we also know they've been talking about buying Iranian drones to use them in Ukraine. Now, U.S. officials say they don't know if the purchases have gone through, but that's possibly on the table there. But with Erdogan, when Putin sat down with him, interestingly there, Erdogan kept Putin waiting quite a while. Normally, it's the other way around.
They're talking about getting Ukrainian wheat to the world market. All the grain, all the wheat that's stored up here that can't be gotten out of the country because of Russia's war. Erdogan seems to be edging towards a deal, brokering a deal, between the Russians, the Ukrainians, and the international community.
Putin said that there was still work to be done on that. Erdogan was more optimistic saying that he believed they'd made progress so far and they could still make more progress. We may get more on that later in the week, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic, what can Ukraine do with this new U.S. intelligence? Can they stop Russia from actually annexing more Ukrainian territory?
ROBERTSON: That's what they want to do. They're committed to it. They're trying to target the ammo dumps with a new HIMARS system. They're trying to stop Russia's advance.
The big key is going to be can they start to push them back? If they can start to push them back, then that will stop the Russians acting out these efforts to annex these areas in this way, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson in Kyiv for us -- Nic, thank you very much.
Just ahead, at least 17 Democratic lawmakers here in Washington arrested -- arrested -- while protesting for abortion rights. We'll have a closer look at how women in conservative states are adjusting to the end of Roe versus Wade.
BLITZER: Just in to CNN, the House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan bill that would enshrine the right to same-sex marriage. 47 Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the legislation, but in order for the bill to become law at least ten Republicans in the U.S. Senate would need to vote to overcome the filibuster. We'll watch how that unfolds.
Also tonight, 17 Democratic members of Congress including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were among almost three dozen people arrested by Capitol police this afternoon in an abortion rights protest just outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Since its ruling overturning Roe versus Wade, dozens of states have banned or rolled back abortion access laws including South Carolina which now bans abortion after six weeks.
CNN business and politics correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich reports.
PROTESTER: Oh, no, we don't need Roe!
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the half century precedent of Roe versus Wade, dozens of states banned or rolled back abortion laws, including South Carolina, which now has a six-week abortion ban.
And now, the state house and senate are tracking dual bills to stop abortions outright.
JOHN MCCRAVY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE: Terminating the life of a person for economics should not ever be a choice.
YURKEVICH: But in a state with a poverty rate that is higher than the national average, the economic consequences could be devastating for women.
What kinds of economic legislation are you proposing, looking into, going to put forward to support women?
MCCRAVY: We actually put in the budget this year, a one-time grant to a lot of our crisis pregnancy centers. They can plug them into what we call WIC benefits, Medicaid. They get them transportation.
YURKEVICH: Are these funded by the state?
YURKEVICH: They're not? Right.
MCCRAVY: Not currently.
YURKEVICH: In other states, like Texas and Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, who resemble South Carolina's stance on abortion -- antiabortion supporters often point to state-funded programs that provide health care and services to pregnant women and new moms.
In South Carolina, there is only one such program, the postpartum newborn home visit.
It's one visit on average.
MCCRAVY: It's not enough.
YURKEVICH: It's not enough.
But a special session will likely be called in weeks to vote on the abortion bill, all but guaranteeing a total ban.
ANN WARNER, CEO, WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND EMPOWERMENT NETWORK: This is our primary concern and priority right now.
YURKEVICH: Ann Warner has been lobbying legislators here to vote no on an abortion ban.
WARNER: People who are denied abortion care are more likely to live in poverty and financial insecurity.
YURKEVICH: South Carolina has not expanded Medicaid or increased their minimum wage from $7.25 an hour in decades. Both could lift hundreds of thousands out of poverty.
COURTNEY TOMAS, COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR, THE GROVE: When Black women, Latina women, Native women are unable to plan for their families, then the entire economy suffers for it.
YURKEVICH: But for now, the priority here is for a total ban on abortion.
Is there one single additional economic priority that would benefit women and children?
MCCRAVY: There's probably not one particular any one thing you could find that would really make the difference across the board other than maybe adoption.
YURKEVICH (on camera): And today, the ad hoc committee made the recommendation for a total ban in the state of South Carolina. This comes after just one public hearing where there were lines of people outside of the state capitol waiting to get in and make their comment.
Wolf, this is moving very quickly. The priority clearly a ban on abortion, economy and support later -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Vanessa Yurkevich reporting for us, thank you very, very much.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.