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Trump Sets Stage For 2024 With Familiar Attacks, False Claims; Feds Zero In On Trump White House With New Testimony In 1/6 Probe; WNBA Star Brittney Griner To Testify At Her Trial In Russia; White House Working To Convince Pelosi Of Risk Of Traveling To Taiwan; Sources: Roberts Tried To Persuade Conservatives To Save Roe, But Leak Of Draft Decision Made It Impossible. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 26, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, former President Trump sets the stage for his expected 2024 presidential campaign returning here to Washington to rally his base with familiar attacks on the January 6th select committee and false claims about the last presidential election.

Also tonight, the U.S. Justice Department's insurrection investigation zeros in on the Trump White House with new testimony by two former aides to Vice President Pence as the attorney general is leaving the door open right now to criminal charges against Trump.

And WNBA Star Brittney Griner plans to take the stand in her own defense at her drug trial in Russia after an expert testifies that the cannabis oil found in her luggage was likely used for medical reasons.

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

Tonight, former President Trump is signaling he's going to stick to his old playbook as he appears poised to run for the White House again. Trump seemingly undeterred by weeks of damning evidence presented by the January 6th select committee or by a dueling speech delivered today by his former vice president.

Here is CNN's Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Former President Donald Trump returned to Washington tonight for the first time since leaving office and picked up right where he left off.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I ran for president. I won, and I won a second time, did much better the second time, did a lot better.

ZELENY: What began as a policy speech about crime, immigration and the border devolved into a litany of familiar Trump grievances as he inches ever closer to launching another bid for the White House.

TRUMP: What a disgrace it was but we may just have to do it again. We have to straighten out our country. We have to straighten out our country.

ZELENY: The former president blasted the work of the congressional committee examining his role in the January 6th attack, even amid new signs the Justice Department is intensifying its own investigation.

TRUMP: Never forget everything this corrupt establishment is doing to me is all about preserving their power and control over the American people. They want to damage you in any form, but they really want to damage me so I can no longer go back to work for you, and I don't think that's going to happen.

ZELENY: While Trump seized on the nation's rising crime rates and repeatedly praised the efforts of police, he made no mention of the brutality endured by scores of officers at the Capitol as he sought to cling power after losing the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

The stark choices facing Republicans were laid bare as he shared the day's spotlight with former Vice President Mike Pence who implored Republicans in a speech only hours earlier to turn the page.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Now, some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future. And I believe conservatives must focus on the future to win back America.

ZELENY: The dueling speeches offered competing visions for the GOP with Pence suggesting it was time to look forward, not back.

PENCE: In order to win, conservatives need to do more than criticize and complain. We must unite our movement behind a bold, optimistic agenda.

ZELENY: While Trump has appeared at countless rallies since leaving office, the speech tonight served as a loud rebuttal to months of testimony from people who served in his own White House about what he did and didn't do on the January 6th attack.

TRUMP: They're doing the exact same thing with January 6th as they did with all these previous assaults on our country. So, where does it stop, where does it end? It probably doesn't stop, because despite great outside dangers, our biggest threat, this country remains the sick, sinister and evil people from within.


ZELENY (on camera): And the former president spoke for about 90 minutes. During that period, he said a lot, including the members of the January 6th committee, in his words, want to try, in his words, to damage him.

There is a lot though he did not say, Wolf, and that was significant. He did not say, acknowledge that most of the testifiers have been people from the inside, people that he knows and people who worked for him. He did not acknowledge his former vice president and most importantly did not talk about the law enforcement officers at the Capitol that day.


He talked about the violent crime rate in this country, no mention though of the scores of officers injured and are still dealing with the aftermath of the attack that day, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much for that report.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Political Commentator John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio, CNN Political Commentator Michael Smerconish, and CNN Anchor and Correspondent Audie Cornish.

Governor Kasich, what did you make of that speech from the former president, Trump? He clearly seems to be setting the stage for a 2024 presidential run.

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that's right, Wolf. And as I watched it, I turned to somebody who works with me and I said I think he's running. And he picked on Democrat vulnerabilities, like border and crime.

But, Wolf, when I listened to that speech, it made me think of -- in a way of Ronald Reagan. Reagan was able to list a litany of problems that Jimmy Carter had or the Democrats had, but after listing them, he always brought us hope. He became a vessel of hope.

And when I listen to Trump, I hear down, I hear us not elevating the spirit of our country. Oh, yes. Maybe he could win. Perhaps he could win. I'm not convinced he can be nominated, let alone elected, but you can win the battle and lose the war. Because what this counted needs more than anything else is to stop the division, to stop creating stark differences and offer some hope and a way to solve problems. I didn't hear that today.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Michael Smerconish, former President Trump's message does not seem to have evolved much since 2020 or even since he ran in 2016. Is that going to be a problem for him if he does, in fact, run for the Republican presidential nomination and then gets that nomination?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He reminds me of an aging rock star. There's not a new album but he's going out on the road and he's just going to play the greatest hits. The reason that he thinks he can get away with that, Wolf, is that, for him, it's not about persuading. He's not seeking to persuade anyone. He's simply seeking to invoke passion in the base.

The other observation that I had today is that policy speeches are not his forte. He needs to feed off the audience reaction that he gets from rallies. And so a lot of the sound bites that you have played, I think, were moments that he deviate from the script. He got a standing ovation when he said that men shouldn't play women's sports and he acknowledged it wasn't in the script.

So, he has a hard time in this kind of a format. I think he wants to get back out in front of throngs of people and try to fire up the crowd.

BLITZER: Should it be any surprise, Audi, that Trump bashed the January 6th select committee but didn't talk about the insurrection itself?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I mean, there's no reason why the former president would talk about essentially ongoing cases in which he may be implicated. So, I'm not that surprised about that. In terms of talking about the investigation, I think what you did hear is him trying to tie every investigation that happened, whether it's the sort of Mueller report, whether it were the two impeachments. He sometimes collectively just says, Russia, Russia, Russia.

And what he's saying to supporters, because despite what you are saying, his format is television. So, it really doesn't matter who's in the room. And the message he's trying to send is all of this stuff can be tied up in one big bow, it's a bow that I've labeled hoax, and let's not think about it anymore. And that's to his advantage to the people who did vote for him. Remember, it wasn't just his base who voted for him when it came down to the election. A good number of people did vote for him, and he's not some wildcard. They now know what it's like to live under his administration, and they liked what they saw.

BLITZER: Michael, in a very different speech earlier today, also here in Washington, Mike Pence took a swipe at Trump when he said, and I'm quoting him now, some people may choose to focus on the past but elections are about the future. Did Trump prove Pence right?

SMERCONISH: As I watch -- it's funny to be on with Governor Kasich, because I was thinking of Governor Kasich while I was watching Vice President Pence in this respect about John Kasich. In 2016, I used to wonder what would happen if Kasich got him alone? What it if were a one-on-one between Kasich and Trump? Arguably, I think Kasich could beat him.

In this instance, I don't think anybody is getting out of the way for Mike Pence. I don't think he instills that fear in other candidates. Therefore, I think it's a multicandidate field and Donald Trump with 50 percent of the vote wins a primary in a Republican field.

BLITZER: Let me let Governor Kasich respond to that. Go ahead, Governor.

KASICH: I think Smerconish should have put me more on television in those days. But here is the thing.


[18:10:00] KASICH: I know you did. Here's the thing. Look, the presidential election is almost like a thousand years away, to be honest with you. Who can compete against Trump? Somebody that has money and ideas. Ideas without the money doesn't work and money without the ideas doesn't work. We've got to see how that develops and how that evolves.

BLITZER: John Kasich, Michael Smerconish, Audie Cornish, guys, thanks very, very much.

Just ahead, grim new economic data just released shows American consumers are growing even more pessimistic right now. Do Democrats have a plan to turn around the U.S. economy before a recession hits? The Senate majority whip, Senator Dick Durbin, is standing by live. He will join me. That's next.


BLITZER: The Biden administration and congressional Democrats are fighting uphill heading into the midterm elections this November and key economic data this week is not helping.

And joining us now, Democratic Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois. Senator, thank you so much, as usual, for joining us.

We learned today that consumer confidence here in the United States has fallen for the third straight month. Inflation is the highest it's been in some 40 years, and tomorrow's expected rate hike by the Federal Reserve could potentially tip the U.S. into a recession.


Do the Democrats and President Biden, for that matter, own this?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Well, I could just tell you that we have these problems worldwide. The importance, of course, is to the American people and what we're doing to try to respond. It's tricky. I don't think there's anyone who is absolutely certain if we're so deep into the path to recession we can't avoid it or whether this inflation can be moved in other ways.

I am encouraged by some of the signs we've seen, that we're not in a position which demands a real powerful response, but I just got to tell you, they've got to use their best judgment and try to capitalize on the good things, keep America working as best they can, try to bring the cost of living down. It's a challenge.

BLITZER: It's a huge challenge. According to this new -- brand new, just released CNN poll, I don't know if you've seen it yet, Senator, but a stunning 75 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters in the U.S. want the party to nominate someone other than President Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential election. Should President Biden run for re-election in light of those numbers?

DURBIN: I could just tell you there are a lot more things for us to worry about than an election, which is more than two years away. We want to focus on the agenda and the issues American families are facing today. We may all have some theory about the future presidential races, but if we put our head in the clouds and worry about those political issues rather than real families across America, shame on us.

BLITZER: But how worried are you about the midterm elections coming up in November? Is it still the economy, stupid?

DURBIN: It's interesting, Wolf, because history is on the side of the Republicans. We know that, historically, an off-year election does not favor the president's party, and yet the polling information coming back to us suggests the opposite. People have more confidence than Democrats in the House and Senate would be better for the future of this country at this moment.

The reasons, I mean, there are many. They go down to the decisions of the Supreme Court on women's rights, basic decisions that mean a lot to people and families. So, I wouldn't really predict at this point that the traditional model is going to prevail.

BLITZER: Democratic legislation right now has been whittled down, as you well know a lot better now than I do, but you're pushing to pass billions in funding for U.S.-made computer chips and a separate bill to lower prescription drug prices. Can you guarantee, Senator, that these bills will eventually make it across the finish line?

DURBIN: I feel good about both of them. But the first -- the chips science package requires bipartisan approval. We've had it so far. There's an indication the Republicans want to join us in these job creations. They understand that without chips, American manufacturing is going to have a difficult time competing in this world. They also know that investments in science research pay off for generations to come. So, I hope they'll stay on board with this.

When it comes to prescription drugs, I don't understand the position of Senator McConnell. To oppose efforts to keep the cost of prescription drugs down for families just doesn't make any sense. If you're truly worried about families' cost of living, you want to give them a helping hand on lifesaving drugs. And right now, the cost of those drugs is going through the roof.

BLITZER: Democrats are also hoping, as you know, to find ten Republican votes in order to protect and codify same-sex marriage here in the United States. How many Republicans are with you at this point?

DURBIN: I just talked to one of the senators on the floor on our side who is working this issue, and she was uncertain. She's working it, feels positive and encouraged, but she's not ready to say it's a certainty yet. It's an important critical issue when it comes to the future of marriage in America, not just same-gender marriage but also interracial marriage. Those things are in question because of some of the statements that have already made by Justice Clarence Thomas. We know that he wants to change the law of the land. We want to get in front of him and tell him this has been a settled area of law and should continue to be.

BLITZER: So, when is the vote going to happen? DURBIN: Well, it's going to happen when we have enough votes. And I'll be able to tell you after we continue this whipping operation.

BLITZER: Senator Dick Durbin, thanks so much for joining us.

DURBIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, developments in the January 6th criminal investigation. Is the U.S. Justice Department closing in on Donald Trump? We're getting new reaction from the U.S. attorney general. Merrick Garland.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Tonight, the U.S. attorney, General Merrick, garland isn't ruling out criminal charges against former President Trump in the U.S. Justice Department's probe of the January 6th insurrection, this as federal prosecutors are zeroing in on the Trump White House now with new testimony from two former top aides to then-Vice President Pence.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is following the insurrection investigation:


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's the first sign the Justice Department is reaching inside the Trump White House, and the most aggressive public step taken by prosecutors looking at January 6th.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Obviously, we have two different interests. Ours is to get to the bottom of what happened and put out recommendations. The Department of Justice is to look at any possible criminality.

If they are moving forward at looking at this stuff, I think that's very positive for the country.

NOBLES: Two high-profile members of the Trump White House, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, both reportedly appearing in front of a federal grand jury testifying as part of a criminal investigation that has expanded to examine attempts to prevent the certification of the 2020 election.

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: I can confirm that I did receive a subpoena for the federal grand jury and I complied with that subpoena.


But under advice of counsel, I really can't say much more than that.

NOBLES: Short was Mike Pence's chief of staff, Jacob his chief counsel. Both were key witnesses to the House January 6th select committee. Jacob testifying publicly about the pressure campaign on Pence and the buildup to the Capitol riot.

GREG JACOB, FORMER CHIEF COUNSEL TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: Mr. Eastman was opining that there were two legally viable arguments as to authorities that the vice president could exercise two days later on January 6th.

NOBLES: The attorney general himself making it clear that no one, including Donald Trump, is beyond the reach of their prosecution, and they are specifically concerned about attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We will hold accountable anyone who was criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the legitimate, lawful, transfer of power from one administration to the next.

NOBLES: The expansion of the DOJ probe comes as there are more signs that the House select committee is not slowing down. They promised to bring in members of the Trump cabinet and campaign, while at the same time taking a hard look at the role of Secret Service and their missing text messages.

That probe is now complicated by new questions raised about the homeland security inspector general, who first raised concerns about the deleted texts. The House Oversight and Homeland Security Committees sending Joseph Cuffari a letter asking him to recuse himself from any investigation related to the Secret Service and their text messages.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I don't really buy that for one minute. For one thing, isn't it a little odd that all of the texts would vanish for January 6th and January 5th? Of all the days, what an odd coincidence that is.


NOBLES: And in just the last hour, the select committee releasing a video undercutting one of Donald Trump's most important claims about his actions leading up to January 6th. Trump saying over and over again that he informed the Department of Defense to have 10,000 National Guard troops at the ready, while in testimony provided by the acting defense secretary at the time, Christopher Miller, Miller says in this video that, quote, I was never given any direction or order or knew of any plans of that nature.

He was then pressed by investigators by the January 6th select committee if Trump himself ever gave that order, and he said there was no order from the president. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very significant indeed. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this with our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams. Elliot, the committee may not be holding hearings until September, we're told, the select committee, but they keep releasing more interviews and new video. Are they trying to keep the drum beat going as they continue to investigate?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's exactly right, Wolf. The public sees the hearings. That's almost the public output on the congressional committee. But, look, I worked in Congress for years doing legislative affairs for the Justice Department. One of the things that is very important is making the public know what you're doing. But there's a ton of work that's happening in private. They will be interviewing witnesses, they might be subpoenaing witnesses, asking witnesses to come in voluntarily with letters and following up with witnesses they've already spoken to.

There's a ton of work to do, but you're exactly right, Wolf, part of that is letting the public know that they're still at work so that they can go into September with the momentum that they have right now.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And they have all this material, they have all these depositions on video. They have these documents, like the draft of the president's -- the former president's semi-concession speech, or not really concession speech, on January 7th. That stuff should go to the public and they are turning it out to the public. And I think that's a very positive thing for the country because the country needs to know this stuff and the committee has it and they're getting it out even before more hearings.

BLITZER: Well, let me follow up with you, Jeffrey. In his new comments, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, raised not only the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol but also attempts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power. How significant is that?

TOOBIN: I thought the phrasing that Attorney General Garland used was interesting and revealing, because it wasn't just we will punish the rioter, which they have made a great effort to do and they've prosecuted hundreds of them. This fits with bringing in the two Pence aides to the grand jury because their testimony is relevant to the issue of was Mike Pence unduly threatened to betray his role. Was the Justice Department corrupted? Were fake electors used? That is consistent with what Garland said to Lester Holt today where he said it's not just the riot, it is the attempt to interfere with the peaceful transition of power.


And that's a bigger investigation and that one is all about Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Well, let me let Elliot weigh in. How do you read these new comments from the attorney general, Merrick Garland?

WILLIAMS: Wolf, in broad terms, the statement nobody is above the law, is sort of a platitude. We all agree with that. It's baked into the American justice system. And so you can almost dismiss that coming from the attorney general. That said, it is quite significant and we can't underscore enough what a big deal it is that Greg Jacob and Marc Short have gone before the grand jury. It's a sign that senior White House staff are talking to the grand jury. It's a sign that the Justice Department clearly didn't start an investigation today and that they must have been putting together the groundwork for these grand jury appearances over the last weeks and months. It's a big deal.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right. Jeffrey, according to our brand new CNN poll, Americans' views on the threat to democracy have barely shifted even after, what, eight public hearings by the select committee. How entrenched are Americans on this now?

TOOBIN: They're very entrenched and we live in a very polarized society. But you know what? Sometimes you have to try to do the right thing. And the January 6th committee I think is trying to do the right thing. And if the public doesn't buy it, ultimately, so it goes.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin and Elliot Williams, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, Brittney Griner back in a Russian courtroom today as her defense team tries to make the case she used cannabis for medicinal purposes. We're expecting to hear from the WNBA star tomorrow. We'll have more on that right after the break.



BLITZER: New developments tonight in the case of WNBA Star Brittney Griner held in Russia since February. Her lawyers back in court presenting new testimony about the cannabis oil she's confessed to carrying in violation of Russian law.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us with the very latest. Brian, we're expecting, I understand, to hear directly from Griner tomorrow, is that right?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and she could be cross-examined by prosecutors. As we stand here underneath this mural that was unveiled just days ago by relatives of Americans detained overseas, we are facing some crucial moments in Brittney Griner's trial with sentencing is expected soon.


TODD (voice over): Inside her cramped cell in a Russian courtroom, Brittney Griner stands and displays pictures of loved ones and supporters. During the fifth hearing of her trial, her lawyers today called to the witness stand a narcologist, Mikhail Tetyushkin, who told the judge that based on the basketball star's prescription, the cannabis oil found in her luggage was likely used for medicinal, not recreational purposes. Tetyushkin later explained his testimony to reporters.

MIKHAIL TETSYUSHKIN, NARCOLOGIST, DEFENSE WITNESS IN GRINER TRIAL: The main uses for medical marijuana, where it's allowed, of course, are pain relief, anti-inflammatory and relaxing effects. Athletes are among those who actively use it as all three components are usually present in sports-related traumas. Naturally, this doesn't realize it in any way in the Russian Federation.

TODD: Why that caveat at the end?

JAMISON FIRESTONE, ATTORNEY WHO PRACTICED IN RUSSIA: Believe it or not, it may have been added on the end just because sometimes these people who are called in to highly politicized trials are also afraid for their own safety.

TODD: Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges. Analysts say that's mainly because nearly 100 percent of criminal trials in Russia end in convictions anyway. Prosecutors have accused her of intentionally smuggling the cannabis oil into Russia, which her Russian lawyers again today denied.

ALEXANDER BOYKOV, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR BRITTNEY GRINER: We are still saying that she involuntarily brought it here because she was in a rush, as she said, packing, and this medication, she just forgot to take it out of her luggage.

TODD: This is a crucial week in Griner's trial. Her lawyers say that tomorrow she'll take the stand on her own behalf. Since Griner has already pleaded guilty to a charge that could land her to as much as ten years in prison and her lawyers are looking for leniency in her sentencing, is it a good idea for her to testify?

FIRESTONE: It can't hurt. And, again, the idea is to paint her sympathetic. I think that the judge has been given an order on how much time to give. Maybe they've been given some leeway, but probably what's happened is an order has come down saying, we'd like you to rule within X and Y, between these two periods.

TODD: The U.S. government has characterized Griner as wrongfully detained by Vladimir Putin's regime. Analysts say, as soon as she is sentenced, negotiations are likely to begin in earnest for a swap for her. But some now believe the attention her case has drawn could be working against her.

SUSAN GLASSER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: I think the more that Vladimir Putin and his government believe that they have an American celebrity athlete on their hands, of course, the higher price that they may seek to extract from the United States for winning her release.


TODD (on camera): A top official at the U.S. embassy in Moscow who spoke to Griner in court today says that Griner told her she's doing as well as can be expected. But the analysts we spoke to are worried about the conditions that Griner faces in custody. They say that Russian prisons are overcrowded, violent, dirty and they say that the women's facilities are often as bad as the men's or worse. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you very much, Brian Todd reporting for us.

Let's get more on these new developments. Joining us, CNN Sports Analyst and USA Today Sports Columnist Christine Brennan. Christine, thanks for joining us.

Griner's defense team used expert testimony today to make the case that athletes often use cannabis oil to treat injuries.


Just how common is that in professional sports?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Wolf, it is becoming more common, just as it's becoming more common throughout the general population as all of us find out more about what properties of cannabis oil or marijuana would be helpful for all kinds of injuries and illnesses. And so while I've never spoken with an athlete who has told me that they're taking it, certainly, there have been reports of athletes around the world who have in addition to, of course, what we heard today in the courtroom about Brittney Griner.

These athletes do have to be careful because there are some properties within marijuana or hashish oil that are banned by, say, the International Olympic Committee, the World Anti-Doping Agency. Remember, Sha'Carri Richardson, the American runner who was not allowed to go to the Tokyo Olympics a year ago because she had taken marijuana and had consumed that.

And so, therefore, you do have to be very careful. These athletes don't -- obviously those who don't cheat to have to watch the ingredients in all of these things that put in their bodies.

BLITZER: The former NBA great, Charles Barkley, says Griner's situation will likely make athletes hesitant to play overseas in the off-season. What impact, Christine, could that have on women's basketball in particular?

BRENNAN: And that's the big issue there. There are other countries, Wolf, as you know, as a basketball fan, where top female athletes go to compete, certainly China, Spain, Italy, other places, so it's not just Russia. But, again, the salary structure, we've talked about it before, WNBA salaries, the highest is about $225,000, $230,000, the highest in the NBA, over $40 million, so millions to hundreds of thousands. And, of course, that's why Brittney Griner was playing in Yekaterinburg, in Russia, because she wanted to supplement that income with the millions of dollars that she could get from a Russian oligarch to play basketball.

BLITZER: As you know, she's been held in Russia since February. She's set to testify tomorrow. Christine, how important will it be to hear directly from her?

BRENNAN: This is a long, slow slog, Wolf, five months and counting, more than five months. And I think to show the humanity, to show how difficult this has been for her, they've been saying all along that it's a mistake, she didn't mean to bring this in this country. It's a small amount, nonetheless, it was in her luggage. She did already plead guilty.

So, now, it's the human side. Now, she can make her case. And, really, the whole issue is get this trial done so you can start the negotiations and get her home. And so what she can do is a P.R. issue, I think, and hopefully help herself that way as much as actually what will happen inside the courtroom.

BLITZER: Christine Brennan, as usual, thank you very much for joining us. Let's hope she comes home soon.

Coming up, will the White House be able to stop speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, from a traveling to Taiwan. We're learning about a growing effort inside the Biden administration as China's rhetoric toward the island becomes increasingly aggressive.



BLITZER: We're learning of a growing effort inside the White House right now to try to persuade House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to travel to Taiwan as China's rhetoric toward the self-governing island becomes increasingly sharp.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. She's working the story for us.

You have breaking news. You got some major developments. What are you learning, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, it's very clear that the administration would prefer that House Speaker Pelosi not go to Taiwan right now, at least not at this time. So, they believe it's politically sensitive with this backdrop. That's why national security aides in the administration have been working to convince her they believe there are too many risks associated with this trip for her to go at this time, this backdrop of this self- governed island of Taiwan and China.

And so, this is a broader trip we're told the House speaker has been planning to make. She has not formally announced the trip. A broader trip through Asia with Democrats and Republicans both invited. It was unclear exactly who would go with her.

And the main issue the White House has with this, there is this upcoming major political meeting in China where Chinese President Xi Jinping is working to extend his reign, extend his rule. He's facing a tough backdrop with the economy and COVID-19 and the way he handled that.

And officials basically believe that he could use a political win right now. They're concerned if the house speaker does follow through with her plans to go to Taiwan, they're not sure how he would react. They have some ideas about it, Wolf, but not sure which path he would choose. That's why they're counseling the house speaker basically against going. They're not explicitly asking her to go and know she'll make her own

decision on this. But she has gotten some interesting support, Wolf. Some Democrats have wavered on whether or not she should go. Republicans have come out in force saying she should continue with this trip and it would send a strong message to China, even if she goes right now.

So, it remains to be seen if she will, Wolf. We should note this comes as President Biden is scheduled to call a call with Chinese President Xi here in the coming days. That's the first call in several months. Obviously, Wolf, there's a lot to talk about.

BLITZER: Certainly is.

Kaitlan, on the president's health right now, how is President Biden doing on this day five of his COVID recovery?

COLLINS: It is day five. He's finally completed the five days of the Paxlovid treatment.


He's been isolating for five days. And so, tomorrow, will be the day we do expect President Biden to take a test to see if he's still positive for COVID-19. His doctor said his symptoms are basically all completely gone. He is working out again, but, of course, they will be looking to the test tomorrow to see whether or not he can return to work.

You see this video today, he's been participating in several events virtually over the last several days. Aides have described him as a little stir crazy, Wolf. So, they will be waiting to see if tomorrow he can resume his normal schedule. And, of course, watching him closely, given he has taken Paxlovid, there have been some anecdotal stories of people rebounding with COVID-19 after taking that treatment. So, they will be watching that at the White House.

BLITZER: I know you will, all of us will be watching. Let's hope for a speedy recovery.

Kaitlan, thank you very much.

The Biden administration is facing daunting economic numbers on consumer confidence and inflation, plus a potential interest rate hike is fueling growing fears of a recession here in the United States.

Let's break it down with our CNN business correspondent Rahel Solomon.

Rahel, explain why consumer confidence is such an important indicator right now for the U.S. economy and whether it indicates we're heading into a recession.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, consumer confidence tells us several things about the state of the economy and the state of how Americans are feeling. One, how they're feeling about present conditions in terms of the

economy and also labor conditions and also how they're feeling about short-term outlook, the next six months and major purchases. Are they still planning to spend?

We have to look into how Americans are feeling. What we're seeing is confidence continues to weaken. It's the third consecutive month for the decline in consumer confidence. We're also seeing report that people are planning to hold back on major purchases in terms of appliances.

Diane Swonk, the chief economist of KPMG, telling me a short time ago, Wolf, what was so stunning in the deterioration of consumer confidence, it's not just inflation. It's also reflecting less robust labor market conditions which is not bad yet, but brings us closer to a recession -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're waiting for more economic data later this week, as well as an interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve. That could come as early as tomorrow. How crucial will the next few days be for the U.S. economy?

SOLOMON: Very. In fact, the last few days have been crucial. It has been a massive week for economic earnings. Wall Street, Washington, they're all glued to data this week because it's becoming much more important in this area and this environment of uncertainty.

So, we know tomorrow, we're going to hear from the U.S. Federal Reserve where it is expected we'll see a rate hike of .75 percent. Thursday, we're going to get our first look at second quarter GDP. Wolf, if we see another negative front, it will reignite this conversation about whether we're already in a recession even if it hasn't been officially dubbed a recession and Friday we'll get a key inflation report. So, it remains a very important week for the state of the economy, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly does. Rahel Solomon, thank you very much. We'll continue this conversation.

Just ahead, exclusive CNN reporting on the fall of Roe versus Wade. We're getting new insight into Chief Justice John Robert's failed attempts to stop his fellow conservatives from overturning the federal right to an abortion.



BLITZER: Now, a CNN exclusive. Newly revealed details of how Chief Justice John Roberts tried and failed to stop the U.S. Supreme Court from overturning Roe versus Wade, ending a half century of America's federal right to abortion.

CNN legal analyst Joan Biskupic is here for us. She's been doing amazing reporting on this.

Joan, what can you tell us about this behind the scenes effort by the chief justice to try to stop this from going forward?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, they voted on this case in December after oral arguments. It was essentially 5-1-3 with the five conservatives on the hard right wanting to uphold the Mississippi ban on abortions at six weeks of pregnancy but to transform abortion rights, rolling back half a century of reproductive rights overturning roe.

Chief justice John Roberts was in the middle saying he wanted to uphold the Mississippi law, but didn't want to transform the landscape of abortion rights. He didn't believe they should unsettle the precedent. That's not why they took the case.

It turns out they actually -- you know, the far right justices did. On the right were the three remaining liberals saying they didn't want to unsettle abortion rights at all. So, he worked for weeks, months, trying to convince one of those five conservatives, his most likely candidate was Brett Kavanaugh who has sent some mix signals on abortion.

And as the chief was trying to pick off one vote working in secret, suddenly the May 4th disclosure written by Samuel Alito became public. And that draft made everyone realize the hard right had five votes to overturn Roe. The chief had been working privately trying -- making various overtures.

But once people saw where Justice Barrett was and where Justice Kavanaugh was it made it harder for the chief to make any headway. He persisted though. The justices who were so bent on overturning Roe became very nervous. They thought the chief might be able to make progress. So they started to put pressure on their colleagues to finish everything up, to get the opinion out.

Meanwhile, of course, the liberals who had such a bad term thought maybe there might be a sliver of hope. But in the end, none at all. Again, it was already going to be a hard task for Chief Justice John Roberts to change a vote, but once that first draft became public, it became nearly impossible.

BLITZER: Yeah, and then they began to search who leaked that document.

BISKUPIC: That's exactly right. And you know that they had -- they were very aggressive seeking all sorts of cell phone data, having the law clerks sign affidavits. But so far, no culprit.

BLITZER: Excellent reporting, Joan Biskupic. Thank you very much for the great reporting. Thanks very much for joining us.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.