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The Situation Room

President Biden Releases Video After Testing Positive For COVID, I'm Doing Well; Testimony Shows Trump Glued To T.V. As Supporters Attacked Capitol; Intense Speculation Over Whether DOJ Will Charge Trump, Attorney General Garland Says, No Person Is Above The Law In This Country; President Biden Releases Video After Testing Positive For COVID: "I'm Doing Well"; Ukrainian Military: Russian Assaults In 3 Regions Unsuccessful. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 21, 2022 - 18:00   ET




ISAAC CAMPBELL, MURAL ARTIST: The mural is just blocks away over in Georgetown. It's not that long of a drive. You can ride a bike there. Go see it. And look into the eyes of these American citizens, many of whom who have served our country, especially like Matthew Heath. It's time that the country serves its citizens, especially those who have been wrongfully detained and held hostage abroad.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The group says the loved ones for whom their fighting have collectively lost 90 years of their lives by being wrongfully detained.

I'll be back with our special coverage of the hearings starting in just an hour. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer and THE SITUATION ROOM. See you in an hour.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Biden tests positive for COVID with White House officials reassuring the American public his symptoms are mild. We've got the latest on his condition now and what doctors expect in the days ahead.

Inaction figure, that's how witnesses of the January 6th select committee's final scheduled hearing just ahead tonight are expected to paint the former president for 187 minutes with the U.S. Capitol under siege.

Also tonight, deadly heat across the globe, and in America, 100 million people under heat alerts in more than two dozen states.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, President Biden's COVID diagnosis and what comes next. His top COVID official gave an update. And just a short time ago, the president himself sent out a brief video message about how he's doing. Let's go to Jeff Zeleny. He's joining us from the White House right now the very latest. Jeff, how is the president feeling tonight?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials tell me tonight that President Biden is feeling quite well. He's been working remotely, if you will, from the residence of the White House throughout the day, making telephone calls, holding meetings virtually. But this comes, of course, is the first time he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Of course, he's spent the entire general election campaign and the first year-and-a-half of his presidency trying to dodge this, but today he did test positive. He was just on the way to traveling to Pennsylvania, where he was scheduled to give a gun violence speech when he did test positive. And, of course, that abruptly changed all of his plans.

But a few hours after that, he recorded this video message outside on the Truman Balcony offering words of assurance.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: This morning, I tested positive for COVID, but I've been double vaccinated and double-boosted, the symptoms are mild, and I really appreciate your inquiries and concerns. I'm doing well. I'm getting a lot of work done. I'm going to continue to get it done. And in the meantime, thanks for your concern and keep the faith. It's going to be okay.


ZELENY: So, shortly after the president recorded, that actually shortly before he received his first treatment of Paxlovid. Of course, that is the antiviral medication that doctors recommended because he is, indeed, in a high-risk group. Because he is taking Paxlovid, he has stopped taking a couple of other medicines he normally would. That's a blood thinner and high cholesterol medication. Doctors said that that -- those simply do not cohabitate. So, he stopped taking them temporarily.

But, Wolf, he is spending the next five days in isolation here in the residence of the White House. His top officials here and aides went to great lengths to show that he just has mild symptoms, a runny nose, they say, and he's still doing his work. Of course, he's a high-risk category though, Wolf, at age 79.

BLITZER: Well, he is 79 years old. He is fully vaccinated. Thank God, he is doubly boosted. Do White House doctors, Jeff, have any specific concerns they're monitoring right now? What are they saying?

ZELENY: Well, Wolf, we had a White House briefing this afternoon and I asked the COVID coordinator here, Dr. Ashish Jha, specifically about their concerns and about his age because he is in a high-risk group. And Dr. Jha said that, look, because he is double vaccinated and double-boosted and the fact that he was on Paxlovid right away this morning, that that reduces severe illness, in their view. They are monitoring him. They are testing his oxygen, which they say is normal. They say his -- all other signs are normal as well. He's just exhibiting mild symptoms. But the question is on Paxlovid. There have been some recurring cases of you recover and then you have a bit of boomerang, if you will. So, doctors say they will monitor that.

Now, Jill Biden, for her part, the first lady, she has tested negative. She is traveling to Michigan and Georgia. She'll be isolating separately in their home in Wilmington for the next several days, but the vice president, she is deemed a close contact to the president. She was traveling in North Carolina today. She will be wearing a mask for the next several days.

But, Wolf, in terms of transferring executive power, the White House said there is no need for any of that, because the president is working, he just is experiencing minor symptoms.


But, of course, so much of a different story since the first chapter of COVID when the former president was med-evaced to Walter Reed with vaccinations and antivirals since then, Wolf, this is an entirely different story here tonight at the White House.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks you very much.

Let's get some perspective from our CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and also joining us, Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Analyst, former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

Sanjay, what are you watching for right now with the president's symptoms, which we've been told are mild, what is your biggest concern?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the biggest concern in the short-term is that do to the symptoms progress at all? They're not likely to because, as Jeff was just mentioning, the president has been vaccinated, he's received both boosters, so he's very well protected. But he's going to be 80 years old in November and age, as we've known since the beginning of this pandemic, is a big risk factor. If you're vaccinated, that's the most important thing, but age is still a risk factor.

I think in the longer term, just how long does it take for him to recover from this? The vaccines are probably very good at preventing him from developing severe illness, but moderate illnesses can be significant. Lots of fatigue, maybe some shortness of breath, even your blood oxygenation can drop to 94 percent. So, those are the sorts of things we'll be worrying about.

People often ask, Wolf, quickly, ask how much more protection is there in someone who is vaccinated versus unvaccinated, and there's been some data that's come out now. If you look at people over the age of 50, and you say in May of 2022, what was the difference in terms of protection against death, for example, if you're vaccinated, 29 times lower for people who have received both boosters and their vaccines versus unvaccinated. So, significant protection he has, but those are the things I would watch for given his age, in particular.

BLITZER: Yes, that's important.

Dr. Wen, you just wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post calling the president's diagnosis a teachable moment. Can you explain what you mean by that?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, right now, the White House seems to be doing everything right from a medical and public health standpoint, assuming as the president developed symptoms, he was tested. As soon as he tested positive, he went into isolation. The White House staff went to a bare minimum in terms of people around him. There was also contact tracing that was done. And very importantly, he got Paxlovid, the antiviral treatment, right away, which is so important, because there is this misconception out there that you should only get Paxlovid if you develop severe symptoms, when you actually should get it in order to prevent those severe symptoms at all.

And so that's why I think it sends a very strong message to the country about what is the right thing that you should be doing if you get COVID. And I also think that the fact that President Biden keeps on working and is emphasizing the importance of vaccination also really critical.

Back to Sanjay's statistics, I think we should really be making it clear that the point of vaccination is to prevent severe illness. It's not a failure of the vaccines that President Biden got COVID. Actually, it is a success that he's not in the hospital, and that is the entire purpose of vaccination and keeping up-to-date on your boosters.

BLITZER: Yes, it could save your life if you get vaccinated and boosted.

Sanjay, all of us will remember when former President Trump tested positive for COVID back in October 2020, you and I covered that, he was shortly thereafter checked into the Walter Reed Military Hospital for several days here in the D.C. area. He went to Bethesda. Can you talk about why President Biden has not been taken there? Obviously, they have got a lot doctors and nurses and all sorts of medical treatment at Walter Reed that they don't necessarily have inside the White House?

GUPTA: I think it really has to do with his level of symptoms. I think we learned even more in retrospect after President Trump's hospitalization that he was quite sick. I mean, he got monoclonal antibodies, he got Remdesivir, and he even had corticosteroids because his oxygen levels dipped while he was in the hospital, President Trump we're talking about. President Biden, his symptoms are mild.

So, I think they're going to be monitoring this and if there's some cause for concern, oxygen levels drop or his symptoms worsen, it's a possibility. But, again, the statistics are very much on his side that because of his vaccines and the Paxlovid medication, it is very unlikely to progress to severe illness. It's a different time. When President Trump got COVID, there was no vaccine at that point. So, this is an example of how effective the vaccines are just if you compare these two situations.

BLITZER: That's really a good point. Dr. Wen, when you look at the White House's testing protocol right now, President Biden last tested negative on Tuesday. He tested positive this morning. He was at an outdoor event yesterday surrounded by people, also obviously traveling a lot. Do you think the White House testing plan is working considering what happened here?

WEN: Well, I think we need to look at where we are at this point in the pandemic. This is a very different point than before we had vaccines, in which case you really had to rely on things like masks, social distancing and testing in order to prevent people from becoming severely ill.


Now, we have vaccines. Now, we have treatment. And I also think that there needs to come to a point where we say we're going to figure out how to live with COVID and prevention of the disease, prevention of all infection is no longer the goal.

Now, in this particular case, I think it's actually really good that President Biden tested negative on Tuesday because it is unlikely that on Tuesday or on the preceding days, he could have infected other people. And so we're really only looking at the window of yesterday, Wednesday, when he could have been infected. So, contact tracing in terms of who President Biden could have infected is much more limited. And, of course, those individuals should follow CDC precautions and get tested and mask in the meantime.

We know the things to do, but I also think that at some point there needs to be a reset of our expectations because we're going to have to live with COVID. President Biden and all of us may get COVID once a year or more going forward. And so some people still want to take precautions and I think that's totally reasonable to mask and test, but others have to live with this disease.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Dr. Leana Wen, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to both of you, thank you very, very much.

Up next, a closer look ahead to tonight's prime time edition of the January 6th hearings and a conversation with one of the look at one of the committee members who will be leading the questioning tonight.

And later, the heat turns deadly in Texas with hot days ahead for 85 percent of the U.S. and brutal conditions across the northern hemisphere.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: With CNN's special coverage of the House January 6th select committee's final scheduled hearing now less than an hour away, we are getting a better idea of what's in store for all of us tonight.

Earlier today the committee member, Adam Kinzinger, provided a preview of some of the testimony which the committee says will demonstrate the former president's inaction as the angry mob he incited ransacked the U.S. Capitol.


MOLLY MICHAEL, FORMER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: It is my understanding he was watching television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you were in the dining room in these discussions, was the -- was the violence of the Capitol physical on the screen, on the television?




BLITZER: Again, CNN's special coverage gets under way right at the top of the hour, right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

In the meantime, let's go to the U.S. Capitol right now. CNN's Ryan Nobles is on the scene for us. So, Ryan, what's the latest? What are you hearing?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. I think that this is no doubt the most important hearing that the January 6th select committee has had up until this point. It's one of the reasons that they moved it to prime time and it's also one of the reasons that they've been building up until this moment.

They've already laid out where they think that Donald Trump was purposely pushing a lie as it relates to the 2020 election. They demonstrated how he encouraged his supporters to get here to the Capitol on January 6th. And what they're going to do tonight is outline how as the Capitol was under siege at a moment where the president of the United States needed to be engaged and show action that Donald Trump did nothing. And they're going to do that with a wide range of interviews and witness testimony from people who are in and around the Oval Office and the west wing during those crucial 187 minutes of when the Capitol was under attack.

And I'm told that the committee has a lot of information that has been pouring in and that they've been working on this hearing right up until the last minute, staff working in some cases 12 to 24 hours a day to make sure that they could pack everything in for what they know will be one of their biggest audiences yet.

And, Wolf, the committee truly believes that among the many things that they did Donald Trump did wrong between Election Day and January 6th, it was that period of time where they have described as a dereliction of duty by the former president that is the most egregious and it is their aim to lay that out with very specific evidence tonight.

BLITZER: And we will see that evidence in the course of the next two hours.

The former White House, Trump White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, I understand, was spotted today near Capitol Hill. What did he say and could he actually also play a role in tonight's hearing?

NOBLES: What's interesting, Wolf, is that we really haven't heard that much about Mark Meadows over the course of the hearings that the January 6th committee has put on, but tonight could be different. Meadows, of course, as chief of staff, was very close to Donald Trump during this period of time. He was fielding calls from members of Congress and other Republican officials. And, of course, we know from his text messages that he was being asked by a great deal of people to try and intervene and get Donald Trump to do something about what was happening here at the Capitol.

But it is also important to point out, Wolf, that he could be subject to any number of criminal charges as to the role that he played in trying to deny the certification of the election results. We asked him about that today, and this is how he responded.


REPORTER: Have you heard from the Department of Justice since the January 6th committee hearings?

MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't comment on anything on January 6th.


NOBLES: Well, he says he doesn't comment about January 6th, Wolf. That's not 100 percent true. He does answer questions sometimes on conservative media outlets and he did write a whole book where he talked about January 6th quite a bit. But just at this point, he appears not willing to answer questions about it. We'll have to see what role he plays tonight. Wolf?

BLITZER: If he does all. All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you very, very much.

Joining us now, the January 6th committee member, Elaine Luria, who will lead tonight's hearing along with Congressman Adam Kinzinger. Congresswoman, thank you so much for joining us.

I know you said that watching this violence was part of the plan for the former president of the United States, I'm talking about Trump back on January 6th, that, quote, it wasn't until he realized that it was not going to be successful, that he finally stood up, you said, and he said something, that's a direct quote from you. How will you and your committee go about laying out your case tonight proving all of that?

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Wolf, we're going to hear both in person and through video testimony from previous interviews from people who were close to the president. They were physically around the president, observed the things that happened in the White House that day, heard conversations from people who were interacting directly with the president.


And I think putting all those pieces together, it really does paint a picture of inaction. The president had the ability to just walk a few steps, stand up in front of a microphone and he has a microphone available to him 24/7 to speak to the American people and the world, and he did not do that on January 6th.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, we learned that the former president's executive assistant, Molly Michael, has given taped testimony before your committee. What new information are going to learn from her and, let's say, from the other witnesses as well later tonight?

LURIA: Well, as I said, we're going to go in depth. We kind of break down the events of that day in different phases and there are key phases, such as what happened when this tweet went out on 2:24. That was the tweet, to remind people, where former President Trump, he put a target on the vice president's back. He essentially said Mike Pence doesn't have the courage to do what he needs to do.

Well, Mike Pence was doing exactly what he needed to do, which was follow the law and follow the Constitution. He had put out a letter confirming that he wasn't going to succumb to any of this pressure. He had made his way to the Capitol. He was already on -- in the Capitol Hill and going through this process of certifying the election results.

And you can see a clear shift. We have testimony. We have video from rioters and we see them reacting essentially to the president's, again, call for Mike Pence to do something, but in this case it was an attack. And you're familiar, we've shown it before, the hang Mike Pence chants, the gallows that was set up outside the Capitol.

And there's a point later on in the day where it's clear that this plan isn't going to work, Mike Pence isn't going to change the election results, there is not going to be a delay. The Capitol police, the Metropolitan police, the National Guard, everyone is moving in, clearing the Capitol of the rioters, and the president reluctantly then stands up and speaks to the microphone.

And I would say that even at that point, the words that he uttered, they were not a forceful message from the president of the United States. He commiserated with the rioters. He said he loved them. Go home in peace. So, there was just a lot that one expects from the president, the commander in chief, and his duty bound in the Constitution to make sure that the laws of the country were faithfully executed. He was derelict in his duty on January 6th. BLITZER: And you speak as a veteran, a U.S. military veteran, just like Adam Kinzinger, when you use the words, dereliction of duty, that's a military experience that people go through.

We also learned, Congresswoman, and this was first on CNN, that the Department of Homeland Seucirty inspector general has told the Secret Service, the U.S. Secret Service, to stop investigating potentially missing texts due to a, quote, ongoing criminal investigation. What can you tell us about this, and do you believe the U.S. Secret Service broke the law in not retaining those text messages?

LURIA: Well, there're several parts of that. First of all, this is information that's very important to the investigation that we're doing about January 6th, to understand what communications took place in a variety of forms, whether that would be radio transmissions, in this case, text messages, to understand what the Secret Service was doing, saying, what kind of actions they were taking.

And there also are responsibilities. There're requirements for federal agencies to maintain records, and, you know, we've heard a lot of different things. We don't quite understand the story about whether these text messages were deleted. Can they be recovered? Everybody upgrades their device from time to time, but, generally, there's a continuity of data.

So, there's just so much more we need to learn and we are going to continue to dig into this to get more information about these texts and you see the texts themselves.

BLITZER: Yes. I know you're very busy, Congresswoman Elaine Luria. Thank you for spending time a few moments with us. We'll be watching your questioning in the course of the next several hours.

Coming up, I'll be joined by the Harvard law professor, Laurence Tribe. He taught U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland, as a student. We're going to discuss whether there's enough evidence right now for the U.S. Justice Department to charge the former president and whether his former student would do so if there is.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Tonight's congressional hearing about those 187 minutes of presidential inaction is adding to the speculation about whether the former president of the United States will eventually face federal charges. Several defense attorneys who were former prosecutors have told CNN that the former president's criminal exposure increased after Cassidy Hutchinson's dramatic testimony last month.

This is what the U.S. attorney general, the current U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland, actually said on Wednesday. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: No person is above the law in this country. I can't say it any more clearly than that. There is nothing in the principles of prosecution in any other factors which prevent us from investigating anyone, anyone who is criminally responsible for an attempt to undo a democratic election.


BLITZER: I am joined now by the Harvard law professor, Laurence Tribe, who taught Merrick Garland, by the way, as a law student at Harvard. Professor Tribe, thank you so much for joining us. I know you are also the co-author of the important book, To End the Presidency, the Power of Impeachment. There's the cover right there.

The last time we spoke the other day, you told me you do expect the attorney general, Merrick Garland, will eventually indict former President Trump.


Do these latest comments from the attorney general, Merrick Garland, bolster that belief?

LAURENCE TRIBE, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: They certainly do, Wolf, and thank you for having me. The attorney general made very clear yesterday that all of the speculation that if Trump announces for the presidency, the fear of making things look political might deter the attorney general from prosecuting. He made it clear that that is not the case. He thinks it is so important that anyone guilty of trying to overturn the democratic election be held accountable, that there is no doubt that he is proceeding without regard to any political fallout.

And I don't think, by the way, we should call this inaction. I think what we're going to see tonight, although some people talk about it as inaction, it's going to be very much more like what happens when, to use a metaphor that I've heard others use, an arsonist sets fire to a building and then watches while it burns rather than turning on the hose. He was the fire chief, yet he basically aimed a flamethrower at the Capitol. And I think we're going to see tonight that he was gleeful to watch the Capitol burn while people died. That's not inaction. And I think the Merrick Garland that I taught and that I know and that this president appointed is not going to sit by. I think we're going to watch an indictment develop.

BLITZER: So, what charges, Professor Tribe, would you expect Merrick Garland and the U.S. Justice Department to actually bring if they eventually go down that path?

TRIBE: Well, to begin with, they could go down the path immediately and bring this somewhat less serious, but nonetheless serious charges of attempting to obstruct the congressional inquiry of defrauding and attempting to defraud the United States. The ones that I think the attorney general is building a stronger case for, that's why we're waiting, are the further charges of seditious conspiracy, which is just short of treason and aiding and abetting a violent insurrection. The latter, by the way, carries with it not only a 20-year sentence in jail but also permanent disqualification from holding any office in the United States.

I think what we are witnessing is the building up of those charges while Fani Willis in Georgia is about to charge the president with attempting to steal the electoral votes of that state. I think the walls are closing in and I was quite reassured to hear the attorney general yesterday tell people not to worry. The fact that you don't see the bottom of the iceberg, the part that's under the water shouldn't make you think that all there is the tip that you see. What he said is that we proceed quietly. That's part of the rule of law. We don't investigate in public, but he made it very clear that no one is above the law and that includes the president.

BLITZER: Yes, he said that flatly. Do you believe the committee has already produced enough evidence to set up a successful prosecution of the former president? Is there anything left that the committee needs to exhibit or prove for the attorney general to actually go ahead and act. What do you think?

TRIBE: I think he could go ahead and act now, but he's trying to build the strongest possible case. The committee has made it much easier for him. The committee, through witnesses like Cassidy Hutchinson and through the testimony that it has recorded under oath, has painted an extremely strong picture of someone who, from the beginning and before the beginning, was bound to do anything he could regardless of the law in order to hold on to power.

And what I think we'll see today is the president who was insisting on doing nothing while the Capitol was being sacked. When you add it up, I think the committee has made it much easier for a prosecution to be brought partly because the people of the United States have been more fully informed. You have to get people ready to for something as unusual as a prosecution of a former president, and I think that's part of what the committee has done.

BLITZER: And I think you're right.

We also learned this week, and it's hard to believe, that the former president, Donald Trump, actually called the Wisconsin assembly speaker last week, called the assembly speaker last week asking him to decertify the state's 2020 presidential election results in Wisconsin. Can you explain why this is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to a potential criminal case against Trump?

TRIBE: It's important, Wolf, because the president's state of mind is important.


The fact that he tried to get the election decertified clearly an illegal step, there's no legal way to do it, shows that he would stop at nothing. It shows that the law means nothing to this man. All that he cares about is power, holding on to power. That's the very definition of tyranny. It's the very definition of autocracy and dictatorship. And what he is now trying to do and saying, I'm still trying to seize power, he's even talking about running a new inauguration before the end of President Biden's term, all of that goes to his state of mind and shows that he is completely oblivious to the law, he doesn't care about it. He's quite willing to violate it as long as it helped him.

BLITZER: Yes, all right. Professor Laurence Tribe, as usual, thank you so much for joining us. We always appreciate it very, very much.

TRIBE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

I am joined now by CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz, who is outside the federal courthouse here in Washington, D.C., where the defense for Steve Bannon rested today after calling no witnesses. Bannon is on trial because prosecutors say he has failed to comply with the subpoena from the January 6th select committee for testimony and documents related to the investigation. So, Katelyn, what happened in court today?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUST REPORTER: Well, Wolf, all eyes were on Bannon and his team when they got in today, what happened was they said they were not going to present any case to this jury that has been, for two days, listening to the prosecution's arguments and evidence as to why Bannon failed to sit for a subpoena for testimony or for documents.

And so what happened today was out of earshot of the jury. There was a lot procedural discussions, some legal arguments that Bannon's team was trying to make just to make sure they were hammering everything out about how this would go as we head into the final stage of this trial. But when the jury came in at 2:30 P.M., all they heard was Bannon's attorney stand up and say, your honor, the defense rests. And so that was it. The jury was sent home for today.

And so they will come back tomorrow morning and then we really are into the final stage here. There will be closing arguments that are presented from both the prosecution and the defense side, and then the jury will be set to begin deliberations. We don't know how long those will take and obviously a verdict could come at any time once deliberations will begin.

But, Wolf, tonight is this House select committee hearing and this case was about the House select committee and their ability to get information out of Steve Bannon. They were not able to get that and they did not get a verdict in time for that hearing tonight, Wolf?.

BLITZER: Bannon's attorney, as you know, Katelyn, explained why Bannon himself didn't testify. What did he say?

POLANTZ: Well, he wasn't able to explain this to the jury today. This was something that he just told in court to the people watching, like the media in the courtroom and to the judge, but what he did say that Bannon -- he said that Bannon really wanted to testify, but he believed that he could not because all of the things he would have said about his reasons, his excuses for not going to Capitol Hill, for not turning over documents, those had all been shut down by the judge. They couldn't become part of this case.

And so he would have wanted to explain for himself that he believed that he was given attorney advice, so advice from his lawyer, Robert Costello, saying he couldn't testify, that he was also being told a direction from Donald Trump that there was executive privilege. His perception was that meant he couldn't testify.

Here's a little bit more about what his attorney, David Schoen, had to say, explaining this after court, as well as what he said in the courtroom. Here is Schoen after the court.


DAVID SCHOEN, STEVE BANNON'S LAWYER: He's wanted all times, he wanted to testify before Congress. He told them from the very first letter he would comply if they go before a judge and the judge orders him -- order that the executive privilege wasn't valid, as simple as that. He's not someone who thought he was above the law ever. He's not someone who ignored a subpoena. At all times, he communicated with them.


POLANTZ: So, Wolf, that is something he's laying out, why Steve Bannon didn't want to testify, and all of those reasons were important for them to put on the record before the judge in case of possible appeals. We are very much waiting to see if Bannon will have to appeal if he is convicted. Back to you.

BLITZER: And we shall find out fairly soon. Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much for your excellent, excellent reporting.

Just ahead, the latest on the global heat wave and the wildfires that's ignited in Europe. We'll also have a live report on the extreme heat and fires right here in the United States and the forecast, just ahead. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Wildfires fueled by this global heat wave still raging in parts of Europe right now. At least 1,000 people have been evacuated due to wildfires in Northern Tuscany in Italy. One local official said the concern is that temperatures continue to hover above 100 degrees.

In neighboring Slovenia, European officials say the country is facing, and I'm quoting now, one of the biggest wildfires in its history.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more on the effects of the extreme heat in Texas and across the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Dallas, where temperatures have been in the hundreds this week, this homeless outreach group, Metro Relief, is handing out supplies and water to help the homeless stay clean and cool during the relentless heat, heat that can be deadly.


CHARLIE LEAVITT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, METRO RELIEF: Metro Relief, we know of two people that passed, heat exhaustion. This is the hottest it's been in a long time.

LAVANDERA: Other parts of Texas are also scorching, with heat advisories are in effect for Austin, and Houston, and the brutal weather is making it hard for firefighters to calm brush fires in north Texas.

CHASE BARBER, GLEN ROSE NATIVE, TEXAS RESIDENT: All of the trees on our property are just burnt to sticks.

LAVANDERA: The Chalk Mountain Fire continues to burn in Somervell County, destroying more than 6,000 acres.

BARBER: We had a beautiful homestead out there with a lot of different houses on it. And it all got burnt up in a few hours.

LAVANDERA: In Phoenix, an excessive heat warning is in effect. The area is forecast to see temperatures up to 114 degrees, making it hard for people who have to work outside. Like U.S. postal workers.

JEFFREY CLARK, PRESIDENT, ARIZONA STATE ASSOCIATION OF LETTER CARRIERS: They're working an average of 10, 12 hours a day in this heat. What I'm hearing is letter carriers are leaving because they're in the heat all day and night.

LAVANDERA: Heat advisories are also in effect in Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Memphis, Jackson, New Orleans, and Birmingham, and along the East Coast, including Raleigh, Richmond, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: Going out in the peak hours, stay out of it, stay hydrated, keep your pets inside, check on your neighbors, be aware of any other induced illnesses.

LAVANDERA: The heat is the number one cause of deaths in the United States. That's why cities are setting up cooling stations.

DELORIS MARTINEZ, ARIZONA RESIDENT: It felt so good, it felt so good. I can't be out in the heat too much, because I get really nauseated. And since we've been here, it's been really nice.

LAVANDERA: The high temperatures are expected to linger. Around 275 million Americans are expecting to see a high above 90 degrees. And more than 60 million people are expected to see a high at or above 100 degrees over the next seven days. And with much of the summer still ahead of us, it's hard for some of the most vulnerable. LEAVITT: It's hard, because you don't have enough hotel rooms.

Sometimes I think the heat is worse than the cold.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us live from Dallas.

Ed, Dallas County, I understand, also reported their first heat- related death of the year today. What more do we know?

LAVANDERA: Well, Dallas County reports it's the first official death that you heard from the homeless advocates. They came across two people who had died in the last few weeks. But Dallas County says it was a 66-year-old woman and they didn't release the exact circumstances of the death.

In Arizona, statewide, officials there are reporting 29 deaths and, Wolf, what is more staggering here is we're seeing cities across the country reporting record high law temperatures, which means in many place, it's not getting 80 to 85 degrees at night. It is 24 hours of relentless heat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, it's amazing.

All right. Ed Lavandera, thank you very, very much.

Up next, we'll get to the presidential health. How past presidents made history for the medical conditions they revealed and the ones they concealed.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Back to our top story tonight, President Biden testing positive for COVID. He says he's doing well. He's not the first president to deal with COVID or other serious health issues.

More on that from CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump's aides downplayed his bout with COVID in the fall of 2020, which landed him at Walter Reed Medical Center. But later, a book by Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed Trump was so weak at the time he couldn't carry a briefcase to the helicopter and his oxygen had dipped to a, quote, dangerously low level just hours after he announced he had the virus.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY'S CARDIOLOGIST: When the former president showed a drop in his blood oxygen level, that suggested strongly that he had pneumonia. And that is one of the ways you die from COVID. TODD: Even putting aside the pandemic, analysts say the sheer stress

of the job makes a president vulnerable to illness.

TIMOTHY NAFTALI, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The presidency accelerates whatever weaknesses the human body has.

TODD: Some presidential health scares have been shrouded in mystery or outright covered up.

Near the end of 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a massive stroke that took him out of commission, unbeknownst to the public.

NAFTALI: The American people were not told how sick he was. They were not told how devastating the stroke was and as a result, they were not told that for approximately 17 months, the actual operating, functioning president of the United States was First Lady Edith Wilson.

TODD: During his presidency, John F. Kennedy battled Addison's disease, a potentially life-threatening illness. He had serious back pain and intestinal problems, much of which were hidden from the public. Historian still debate whether Ronald Reagan, who later was diagnosed with Alzheimer's showed signs of the disease while he was still in office. His aides denied it.

Some president's illness could have changed the course of history. Wilson's stroke, Tim Naftali says, made a crucial difference at the end of World War I.

NAFTALI: His massive stroke made it impossible for him to achieve congressional support for the Versailles Treaty, which meant the United States never ratify the treaty, which means the United States did not participate in the League of Nations.


TODD: And it's still debated whether FDR's weakening health hurt his ability to negotiate with Joseph Stalin at Yalta in 1945.

Why has there been a proclivity for aides and relatives of some presidents to shield their illnesses to the public.

REINER: There's been this concept that somehow if the president has had any kind of medical issue, it's a flaw or vulnerability. I would argue that obscuring that becomes a hazard.


TODD (on camera): I asked Dr. Jonathan Reiner, what's the best way to keep a president fit while in office, he said, no matter how busy the president's schedule from morning until night, it is crucial for them to carve out time for themselves during the day for exercise, even if it only about 45 minutes. And, Wolf, he says taking those presidential weekends, those retreats away, retreats like Camp David or elsewhere, very important for mental and physical health.

BLITZER: God point.

Brian Todd, excellent report. Thank you very, very much.

Up next, new signs that the massive Russian assault on Ukraine isn't gaining much ground but reminders as well of the terrible toll it's taking on so many innocent lives.


BLITZER: More attacks today by Russian forces in parts of Ukraine but Ukrainian military leaders say Russian forces have failed to gain any new ground.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv, says for the second day in a row Russia has targeted public transportation with deadly force. Two people were killed today, and a warning, what you are about to see is heartbreaking.

Three people were killed in the shelling yesterday as a Kharkiv bus shop, including a 13 year old boy. The boy's father prayed over his son's body for two hours, holding his hands, saying goodbye. Our thoughts of course are with his family and all the people of Ukraine.

Thanks very much for watching. The news continues right now. The January 6 select committee returning to primetime.

CNN's special coverage of tonight's hearings starts right now.