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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Now In Taiwan, Defying China's Threat Of Retaliation; New Images Of House Where Al Qaeda Chief Was Killed In U.S. Strike; January 6 Texts Wiped From Phones Of Key Trump Pentagon Officials; Soon: Senate Expected To Pass Aid For Veterans Affected By Burn Pits; WNBA Star Brittney Griner Back In Russia Court; At Least 37 Killed In Kentucky Historic Floods. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 02, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: This NFL slap on the wrist comes after the Cleveland Browns' Deshaun Watson, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women, was suspended for only six games. I guess it's a good thing neither was caught doing something really bad, like smoking a joint.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter @jaketapper, you can tweet the show @theleadcnn. Our coverage continues with the great Pamela Brown in for Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, China's military is mobilizing after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan defying Beijing's threat of retaliation. We are tracking this risky test of U.S. Relations with the communist regime.

And also this hour, new images show the hideout where Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by U.S. Hellfire drone strike. Stand by for new details about the high stakes missions to finally take out the world's most wanted terrorist.

And CNN has learned that the pentagon wiped the phones of top defense officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting many texts from key witnesses to the events surrounding January 6th. I'll get reaction from a member of the January 6th select committee.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off, I'm Pamela brown and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we begin with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's controversial trip to Taiwan and the added strain it's putting on already tense U.S. relations with China. CNN Selina Wang has our report from Beijing.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi staying overnight in Taiwan, ignoring relentless warnings from Beijing that there would be grave consequences. Speaker Pelosi touching down in Taipei just before 11:00 P.M. local time, becoming the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. But the high-stakes, high-risk visit also comes at a delicate moment for U.S./China relations.

Speaker Pelosi expected to meet the Taiwanese president and members of parliament on Wednesday. In an op-ed she wrote, we cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan and democracy itself. By traveling to Taiwan, we honor our commitment to democracy.

Taiwan's presidential office said it experienced a cyberattack on its website just hours before Pelosi was expected to land, temporarily knocking it offline. State media reported Chinese fighter jets were crossing the Taiwan Strait as Pelosi was arriving. China's military said it's on high alert. And after Pelosi touched down in Taipei, announced a series of exercises and targeted military operations for what they say is to counteract the situation.

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: There's no violation of any sovereignty issues here. Her visit is very much in keeping with previous visits by congressional leaders.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: A speaker of the House has traveled to Taiwan before. And members of Congress travel there all the time, including several who have already traveled there this year. So, for China to try to turn what is in the historical norm into a crisis or to try to use it as a pre-text for aggressive action around Taiwan, that's on them. And they would be the ones who would be escalating.

WANG: Beijing responding furiously. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Pelosi's visit is a serious violation of the One China principle, and these moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Those who play with fire will perish by it.

The idea that Taiwan is part of the motherland is core to the communist party's legitimacy, now while Biden has not endorsed Pelosi's visit, she's getting bipartisan praise from lawmakers back home.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I believe she has every right to go and it's been unseemly and counterproductive for President Biden and his aides to have publicly sought to deter her from doing so.


WANG (on camera): And, Pam, according to state media, we're learning that late on Tuesday night, China's vice foreign minister summoned, urgently summoned the U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, to protest Pelosi's visit. He told the ambassador that the U.S. government should have stopped Pelosi from, quote, acting recklessly and accused her of only doing all of this to further her political career. Pam?

BROWN: Selina Wang, thank you for that. And now to another major story we're following tonight, the killing of Al Qaeda leader and 9/11 plotter Ayman al-Zawahiri. New information is emerging about the U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan that ended his life -- his decades' long rain reign of terror.

Here is CNN National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt.



ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, new revelations into the counterterrorism operation that killed the world's most wanted terrorist. Smoke billowing over Kabul following the pinpoint strike on Ayman al-Zawahiri's house, the windows of that house blown out but the structure intact, evidence of the care that was taken to avoid collateral damage.

Aside from Zawahiri, U.S. officials say, no one was hurt or killed. Today, the BBC visited the house now draped in a green covering. The Al Qaeda leader, the White House said, was killed on the third floor balcony.

KIRBY: In this case, we used an unmanned aerial vehicle with missiles obviously and two of those missiles were fired at Mr. Zawahiri while he was outside on that third floor balcony. The president made it very clear when he made the decision, but he wanted to make sure we avoided civilian casualties, and we know we did.

MARQUARDT: Visual and other kinds of intelligence confirmed that, the White House's John Kirby said, but there is no DNA evidence of Zawahiri's death. The intelligence gathering and planning took place for most of the year. This situation room meeting with top national security officials was in early July when President Biden was shown a model of Zawahiri's building.

Confidence had grown that the Al Qaeda leader, who had a $25 million bounty on his head, had moved into downtown Kabul with his family. He never left the house, officials say, but his family's movements were tracked and he was spotted on the balcony where he was eventually killed early Sunday morning Kabul time with two missiles launched by a drone overhead known as Hellfires, a U.S. made air-to-ground missile that allows for precision strikes.

Zawahiri's last recorded message was just three weeks ago. He had become more of a spiritual figure head than an operational leader of Al Qaeda, but his presence in the Afghan capital is evidence, the U.S. says, that the Taliban reneging on the deal known as the Doha Agreement, that they would not harbor terrorists in Afghanistan.

SULLIVAN: There were senior members of the Haqqani network who are affiliated with the Taliban who did know that Zawahiri was in Kabul. There may have been other members of the Taliban who did not know. We have already been engaged with the Taliban. And I'm not going to preview any further actions that we will take to ensure that the Taliban lives up to its commitments. MARQUARDT: The Taliban has condemned the strike but the Biden administration immediately held it up as proof that terrorists can effectively be targeted inside Afghanistan with no U.S. boots on the ground.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: If you are a threat to our people, the United States will find you and take you out.


MARQUARDT (on camera): And we have just gotten new satellite images of the neighborhood in Kabul where Ayman al-Zawahiri was living. And, Pam, these images really drive home two points, one, that Zawahiri was hiding in plain sight for the past few months. You can see that this was a very densely populated neighborhood, it's an upscale neighborhood before the NATO withdrawal, this is where a lot of Afghan elites were living, where there were embassies, now a lot of Taliban leaders live there.

And now -- and you can also see how stunningly precise this strike was. You saw how densely populated that neighborhood was. And not only did no buildings around that house get damaged or destroyed, the house that Zawahiri living in himself was not destroyed, just windows blown out, and as far as we know, according to U.S. officials, just Zawahiri who was killed, no one else killed or hurt.

BROWN: That's remarkable. I remember when the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan. That was a big question. Will the U.S. still be able to do precision strikes like this? Clearly, it was able to, but it also raises questions like terrorist, like Zawahiri being harbored -- getting safe harbor there in Afghanistan. Thank you so much, Alex.

Let's break it all down with CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr, CNN National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood and CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond.

So, Barbara, first to you, I want to talk about what's going on with China and Taiwan. What message is China sending with these military exercises around Taiwan, and is this just the opening salvo?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.S. watching this very closely because there're two things here. There's what China is capable of doing and what it will do. So, they want to watch and see just how close China comes to Taiwan's own airspace, their territorial waters, all of that. It wouldn't be the first time China engaged in exercises in the region.

They've been very aggressive in sailing their ships, flying their aircraft. But if they approach Taiwan, if they actually would get into Taiwan airspace or Taiwan's territorial waters, that, of course, would be a very significant increase in their aggressive moves.

So, they will be watching all of this, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force very aware of where Chinese assets are and watching them around the clock, Pamela.


BROWN: And, Jeremy, I want to bring you in on this. How is the White House trying to prevent this from escalating?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, we really haven't seen a lot of saber-rattling from this White House, and they've made clear that they are not going to engage in that kind of saber-rattling. Instead what they really tried to do is to reframe this reaction from China, which the White House says is essentially an outsized and unnecessary reaction to a visit by the speaker of the House who, although this is the first visit by speaker of the House in 25 years, it's not uncommon to see U.S. congressional leaders visit. And the White House has said it's obviously not unprecedented given the last visit 25 years ago by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The White House has said that they do expect to see additional reaction from China to this, not just what we have seen today, including flights by some of those Chinese warplanes over Taiwan's air identification defense zone, but they do think that there will be more. And I pressed the White House's strategic communications director for national security, John Kirby, on this today. He wouldn't preview exactly what he thinks China will do or how the U.S. is going to react, but he said that the U.S. remains prepared. Obviously, the U.S. has a lot of military forces in the region, but the goal here is to try and preserve some stability here, not to escalate the situation any further.

BROWN: And, Kylie, the White House today warned China not to use this trip as an excuse, as a pretext to ramp up its aggression. Is this a turning point in U.S./China relations?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Pam, I think the answer to that is yet to be determined, frankly, because, so far, what we have seen from China in terms of actual actions in response to Speaker Pelosi's visit sort of fit into the bucket of their bellicose action that they have carried out towards Taiwan over the last few months, and increasingly, of course, over the last few years.

So, if they go beyond that, that is what could turn this into a breaking point, a pivot point in U.S./China relations. And we just don't know yet what else they have planned because Speaker Pelosi is going to be on the island entirety for the day tomorrow.

BROWN: And while we have you, Kylie, the State Department just issued a new warning on how Al Qaeda may respond to the U.S. strike that killed a top Al Qaeda leader. What more can you tell us about that?

ATWOOD: Yes. So, the State Department warning is warning all Americans around the world that because of this killing over the weekend of al-Zawahiri, there could be the potential for increased violence towards American citizens, towards U.S. facilities. And in this warning, they are saying that it could take the form of actions, such as hostage taking. It could take the form of kidnapping, suicide bombings and the like. So, they are warning American citizens around the world to be cognizant of that possibility in these days following that incredible murder that took out that terrorist. BROWN: And, Barbara, what does it say, though, that not even a year after the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban was harboring the leader of Al Qaeda right there in Kabul?

STARR: Well, a lot of people may tell you that both the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership made a serious miscalculation that they thought the U.S. without boots on the ground, without troops, without manned craft, could not reach out and touch and prosecute a target. And, of course, this mission proved to be just the opposite.

This was a CIA drone. They were able to spend weeks, if not, months loitering. We don't know if they had help on the ground at that point, as they were beginning to hone in on the target over the previous weeks and months. But they certainly had overhead drones, overhead surveillance, possibly even satellites. They may have been intercepting communications.

So, the real lesson is they didn't actually need the boots on the ground. The U.S. had always said it would be difficult, but they could go against a target, a terror target inside Afghanistan even without having soldiers on the ground there, difficult but not impossible. And, of course, what this mission proved is that it was very possible.

BROWN: Absolutely. Jeremy diamond, Kylie Atwood, Barbara Starr, thank you all.

And just ahead the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee gives us assessment of Pelosi's trip and the potential risks for the United States. Senator Mark Warner joins us, up next.



BROWN: China is flexing its military muscle in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's refusal to heed Beijing's warning against visiting Taiwan. She is there right now, a move China sees as a challenge to its claim that Taiwan is part of its territory.

Joining us now, Senator Mark Warner, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Hi, Senator.

So, China is reacting to the House speaker's visit by flying warplanes and launching military exercises around Taiwan. In your view, do the rewards of this trip outweigh the risks?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Well, when the speaker decided to go, you know, I think if she had backed off, that would have simply encouraged the Communist Party of China and Xi Jinping's leadership to claim a great victory. We have had congressional delegations go to Taiwan on a regular basis. And I think as she landed, she said this is no change in American policy. We had this kind of what's called strategic ambiguity around Taiwan that we want to defend them but we also recognize the One China policy.

This is where it gets a bit more messy, but the fact is Xi Jinping has been extraordinarily aggressive over the last couple of years in ratcheting up pressure on Taiwan. One of the reasons why it was so important that last week we passed the Chips bill, semiconductor production, so we can bring it back here to America, a lot of our cutting edge semiconductor production is in Taiwan, and that is vulnerable to these aggressive actions from President Xi and the CCP.

BROWN: So, you mentioned a bit more messy. So, you know, look, you say her trip is, as she said, in no way contradicts the longstanding U.S. policy of ambiguity on Taiwan.


But when you add this to President Biden's multiple comments earlier this year that the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily, are Democrats rewriting that policy here?

WARNER: No, I don't think Democrats are rewriting that policy. A matter of fact, I saw a lot of my Republican colleagues who said they were using words that they don't normally use, that Speaker Pelosi is right. I think 25 of them even wrote a letter commending her.

I think we have to realize that we are in a strategic, long-term contest with China where I focus is mostly in the technology competition. Semiconductors, I think, we will have the same kind of competition around artificial intelligence and quantum computing, synthetic biology, all areas and who is most successful in this technology competition will dominate both national security and power- wise but also economic-wise.

And I think we have to step up and, frankly, rally democracies around the world, not just traditional NATO friends but countries like Japan and South Korea and Singapore and others against this kind of Chinese effort to dominate a whole series of domains.

BROWN: But just before we move on, very quickly, yes or no, do the rewards outweigh the risks here? Yes or no?

WARNER: Stepping back from this trip once it was announced would have been a mistake.

BROWN: Okay.

Turning to the U.S. strike that killed Al Qaeda Leader Ayman al- Zawahiri, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan acknowledged today that he, quote, wasn't involved in day-to-day planning. So, how much does this strike actually degrade the threat from Al Qaeda?

WARNER: Well, I think the world is a slightly safer place with taking out Zawahiri. I mean, this is one of the planners of 9/11. I think it sends a signal that if you brutally murder Americans or others, and Al Qaeda has done that not just in America but many countries in Europe as well, we're going to get you. We're going to go after you even if it takes 20 years.

And I think as one of your earlier commentators said, I think the Taliban leadership along with some of these Al Qaeda leaders seriously miscalculated that even though we did not have boots on the ground, we could still strike into Kabul.

And I think the American intelligence community in this case pulled it off brilliantly. I think they were able to take out the target without any additional damage. I think it was an extraordinary effort on their behalf. And I think it will send -- at least put a pause. I know that the State Department has issued this warning and I think we all need to be on guard, but we cannot be cowed by these jihadist terrorists, whether they be Al Qaeda, ISIS or any other form.

BROWN: All right. Senator Mark Warner, thank you for your time tonight.

WARNER: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, potential evidence in the January 6th investigation deleted. First, Secret Service texts were missing. Now, we have learned that some Pentagon officials' phones have been wiped clean.



BROWN: First on CNN, new information on the insurrection investigation. Court documents are revealing that the phones of some top Pentagon officials were wiped at the end of the Trump administration. That would include any text messages relating to the events of January 6th.

Our Kara Scannell is here with all the details. So, Kara, what are you learning?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, we're learning today that the Department of Defense wiped the cell phones of several top DOD and Army officials who were leaving the Trump administration that could, of course, include text messages relating to January 6th.

Now, these are top officials, including at the Department of Defense, the former secretary, Christopher Miller, his chief of staff, Kash Patel, the general counsel, Paul Ney. And over at the Army, the former secretary, Ryan McCarthy, his general counsel, James McPherson, and two current officials of the Army, the chief of staff, James McConville, and the director of Army staff, Lieutenant General Walter Piatt.

Now, the thing here is we're learning from the lawsuit that the government watchdog group, American Oversight, filed against DOD and the Army because they felt freedom of information requests wanting to obtain text messages, including communications with former President Trump, his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and anyone else who was acting on their behalf.

The big questions, of course, around January 6th is did Trump try to get the National Guard to intervene. People are looking for answers here. And the DOD is saying in a joint status report what their position is and what they say is that DOD and the Army conveyed to the plaintiffs that when an employee separates from DOD or army, he or she turns in the government-issued phone and the phone is wiped. For those custodians no longer with the agency, the text messages were not preserved and therefore could not be searched.

Now, they say that it's possible that some of these records may have been maintained in emails, and for the two officials who are still in the Army, they said that they are looking through their records to try to find them. But it's the latest example of the government wiping devices when senior officials leave. We've learned this from the Department of Homeland Security, they wiped the devices of the acting secretary, Chad Wolf, and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, and the bigger questions about the Secret Service and their actions that day. So, a lot of questions still here, Pam.

BROWN: And it is notable that that would take place even if it is a routine act after an insurrection would happen on January 6th, where clearly there will be investigations. Kara Scannell, thank you so much.

Let's get reaction to this new reporting from a member of the January 6th select committee, Representative Zoe Lofgren.


Hi, Congresswoman.

So, what is your reaction to this new reporting that the phones of top Pentagon leadership under Trump were wiped, removing January 6th records?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, it's a tremendous concern to see these various agencies not living up to their obligation to preserve records, and especially wouldn't you think on January 6th there might be something worth preserving and that we would want to know everything about it? And when it comes to the Pentagon records, we can't talk about our interviews, but Colonel Earl Matthews of the D.C. National Guard has publicly alleged that generals lied to Congress and that the inspector general's report was erroneous and misleading.

I'm not saying that Colonel Matthews is correct, but, obviously, text messages and all kinds of evidence from the Pentagon would be very important in getting to the bottom of who did what and who knew what on January 6th.

BROWN: Was the January 6th select committee aware of these deleted Defense Department records prior to today?

LOFGREN: I do not believe so. I was not, which is another concerning matter that this was not disclosed to us by the Department of Defense.

BROWN: And you have interviewed some of these Pentagon officials. Can you tell us anything else that you have learned from them in terms of Donald Trump and his lack of action about calling the National Guard to the Capitol building that day?

LOFGREN: As we showed at our last hearing, we had testimony, for example, from General Milley, that the former president did nothing to contact the military about bringing in Guard resources. And as you know, the rules don't allow us to disclose testimony without the committee voting. But what we displayed publicly made that pretty clear, I think.

BROWN: I want to ask you about Attorney General Merrick Garland saying that the Justice Department would investigate Secret Service texts if there are criminal allegations. Have you seen any evidence of criminal activity here?

LOFGREN: It's not possible for me to say at this point. Obviously, this does not look good. The department, the agency, was directed to retain everything in a letter sent by the chairman of the four committees with jurisdiction before the January 6th committee told to retain everything, and 11 days later they erased everything. So, that is a problem. And, obviously, the committee is a legislative committee. We're trying to find facts. We don't do criminal prosecutions. But I think that this needs a thorough review.

The one thing that this review should not do is prevent forensics from being applied to those phones to see if we can recapture any of the text messages. That's essential. And, apparently, the inspector general of homeland caused a halt to that, which was very distressing and after not telling the committee for over a year about this entire data pull.

BROWN: And that is something the committee is looking at as well. Representative Zoe Lofgren, thank you so much.

LOFGREN: You bet. Take care.

BROWN: And just ahead for you tonight, voters casting their ballots right now in key primary races, the latest test of former President Trump's grip on the Republican Party. The very latest on that, up next.



BROWN: We're following high-stakes primaries tonight in five states where former President Trump's clout is being put to the test, and that includes Arizona. Top Republican candidates there are looking to win by peddling his election lies.

CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah is in Scottsdale for us. Kyung, Trump is looming large over key races tonight in Arizona. What are you watching?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's endorsed a full slate of candidates, all the way down the ballot starting with the governor, Arizona Senate, attorney general, secretary of state.

But we are really keying in on what's happening with the governor's race. You have a proxy war here. The Trump-endorsed candidate, the election lie believer, Kari Lake, she is endorsed by Trump. She has leaned into the election lie and in her closing message has not only talked about 2020, but she is now teeing up conspiracies about what might be happening as voters head to the polls today. Take a listen to what she said.


KARI LAKE, ARIZONA GOP GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win. And if we don't win, there's some cheating going on, and we already know that. Every poll since I've been in this race has shown me ahead. And they want to cheat so bad, they don't want Arizona to win. They don't want this country to survive.


LAH: You may have noticed that it's only if she loses that she believes that cheating may have happened, something that, by all accounts, we'll be hearing from the Maricopa Recorder's Office is not happening. It is going smoothly today at the polls across the county. There have been very few reports of any major problems.

I want to turn to the U.S. Senate race as well. Trump has also endorsed Blake Masters. He is similarly embracing Trump's 2020 election lie and is also teed up conspiracies about what might be happening in 2022.


But, Pam, it's not again not just these top two races. It is all the way down the ballot. We will see what Trump's power here is in Arizona by end of day.

BROWN: We will. We're watching it closely. CNN's Kyung Lah, thank you.

Let's take a closer look now at more of tonight's political battles with CNN Chief National Correspondent and Anchor of Inside Politics John King.

So, John, what are some of the close races you'll be watching for?


BROWN: All day.

KING: All day. Look, there's a lot on the ballot. I make a joke about it because I love primary nights. But let's start where Kyung is, again, in the state of Arizona. I have the governors primary amp up right here. Think about the impacts of governors now that the Supreme Court says abortion goes back to the states. Now that we believe the Supreme Court will send other issues back to the state. Arizona is key in 2022, it's also key in 2024.

So, Arizona, especially this governor's race, one of the races I'm watching tonight, as Kyung just noted, all the way down the ballot on the Republican side, you see evidence of this cancer. That's what it is, cancer in the bloodstream of the Republican Party saying elections are rigged when elections are not rigged. That is the Trump effect that you see playing out in a key state here, again, one of America's new battleground states out there.

This is also, as she noted Trump/Pence, sort of Trump versus the establishment with Mike Pence joining the Republican establishment battle. The governor's race there and the Republican nomination for governor also out here in the state of Michigan. Very similarly, Pam, there's many races to watch, but those are two of the states where you're looking at, battleground states this year in governor races, battleground states in the next presidential election, battleground states in every presidential election that we can see in the future. Does this cancer in the Republican Party continue to elect nominees and do Democrats, can they benefit from that, or can those nominees actually win in November?

BROWN: Yes, and I'm glad you called it for what it is, a cancer, cancer that is spreading.

Three of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump are facing primaries tonight. So, tell us more about that.

KING: Yes. So, this is a fascinating test. Remember, after all the January 6th hearings, right, do we get any evidence that Republican voters, we're talking about Republican primary voters here, so do we get any evidence that Republican primary voters are now saying enough, enough? I don't want to make this about Trump and these guys were actually right.

Imagine in the second impeachment had all the evidence the January 6th committee has put forward, you'd have more than ten Republicans most likely voting to impeach, but five have already said -- let me get the marks out of there. Five, Tom Rice lost his primary, four others decided not to run. So, there are five left in play. David Valadao, he won his primary, so he'll be on the ballot in November. Liz Cheney, that's the mother of all Trump grudge matches, if you will, that one later this month.

Today, two Republican congressmen in Washington State and one in Michigan who voted for impeachment, the odds are Trump has endorsed their primary challengers. Do we know where the energy is in the Republican Party?

But, for me, Pam, the key test is, after hearing from the January 6th committee, as we get to this point now, do enough Republican voters say, enough, they do not deserve to be punished or do Trump's grievances carry the day?

BROWN: We'll have to wait and see. I do want to ask you about what's going on in the Missouri Senate race, former President Trump says he's endorsing Eric, but, of course, there are two candidates named Eric. This might be a confusing stunt but both candidates are running with it.

KING: Stunt is a great word. It shows, forgive me if you're a big Trump supporter just how not serious he is, Pam, in the sense that he didn't want to pick so he endorsed Eric. Well, Eric Greitens is the former governor of Missouri who resigned in scandal and disgrace. He now wants to be in the United States Senate. Eric Schmitt is the state attorney general. As Kyung was noting, both of them say they were issues with the 2020 election. So, this is not a choice of an election denier and that someone who supports election integrity, but Trump said either of the Erics there.

The biggest story for me, Pam, is that we're talking about Missouri at all. This is a Republican-leaning year. This is a Democrat president's first midterm. This should be a very safe sea for Republicans. Democrats believe there's a possibility, it's slight, but believe there's a possibility that if the Republicans nominate the wrong candidate here, they have a shot here. In a 50/50 Senate, any opportunities Republicans give Democrats, they will be grateful for.

BROWN: It turns out you didn't need all day, summed it up nicely for us. John King, thank you so much.

Coming up WNBA Star Brittney Griner awaiting her verdict on her trial in drug charges in Russia. We'll go live to Moscow.

And we're also standing by for a Senate vote on a bill that could help millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.



BROWN: Tonight, a long awaited and very closely watched vote in the Senate, on a bipartisan bill to give benefits to millions of veterans exposed by toxic burn pits during their military service.

CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean is working the story for us.

So, Jessica, there's a look at the bill passed on it?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Pamela, we do anticipate that this vote will pass. But, of course, we don't say down until it's done. Right now, the state of play is that you're looking live at the floor. They are on the third of three amendment votes, once they wrap this one up, which should be momentarily, they're going to move to final passage on this bill.

And again, we do anticipate that we will see a large bipartisan vote, like we saw one day originally passed this legislation several weeks ago. It was then about last week, where there was a procedural vote to pick something. That is when things got hung up. We saw this surprising failed procedural vote. Republicans holding this up because they wanted, letter by Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, and them votes.

So, here we are now, they have come to a compromise, as a way to move this through. It is worth noting, Pamela, that Toomey's amendment fail. It will not be included in the final passage of the bill, and, once we see final passage in the Senate, it will go to President Biden's desk.

This is going to help millions of veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their military service. It really expands health care for so many people out there, who have struggled to get access to the health care that they need, because of the service they completed for their our country, Pamela.

And then, on the horizon, it continues to be a busy week here.


We are not turning our eyes to this Manchin and Schumer agreement, this all Democratic health care and climate and tax bill that they are trying to get passed before they go to August recess. It is a real rush on that.

Pamela, we now wait on the parliamentarian, because of a specific budget process they're going to do, she has to rule on that.

We are also waiting on Kyrsten Sinema, the more moderate senator from Arizona. She said to say exactly where she is on that.

So, all eyes remain on those to people, as Democrats try to get this passed the finish line, before they head home.

BROWN: Yeah, busy week on the hill before August recess. Jessica Dean, thank you so much.

WNBA star Brittney Griner is back in a Russian courtroom today, awaiting verdict on the drug charges that she has pleaded guilty to. Although the Biden administration tries to negotiate a prisoner swap.

CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow for us tonight.

So, Fred, what happen in court today, and how soon could there be a verdict?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There could be a verdict very soon. What happened today was that the defense called its final witness. It was an expert witness who testified and cast doubt on some of the early forensics that took place on those vaping carts it is that Brittney Griner had admitted to having on her, when she entered Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on February 17th, of this year. Then, of course, was apprehended by the police there.

Now, I spoke to her legal defense team, and her lawyer told me that she believes that the next court, which will be on Thursday, that will have the closing arguments, and there could possibly be a verdict on that day. It is not under percent certain yet, but there are certain things that still depends on. She says something could have been.

She also says that right now, Brittney Griner, of course, very focused on trying to get as a lenient a verdict as possible from the court. Let's listen in.


MARIA BLAGOVOLINA, BRITTNEY GRINER'S RUSSIAN COUNSEL: She is still focused. She is still nervous. She still knows that the end is near. Of course, she heard the news, so she is hoping that sometimes she will be coming home, and we hope too.


PLEITGEN: They hope too, that is referring to a possible prisoner exchange. Of course, the U.S. came out last week and said that it has made a substantial offer to the Russians.

The Russians have received pretty irritated by the. In fact, today, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov, he came out and he accused the United States of what he called megaphone diplomacy, but she says will not help in this case. The Russians say they want negotiations like that to take place behind closed door.

So, it's unclear whether those negotiations are moving forward, whether they are going on.

One of the interesting things that Brittney Griner's lawyer told me again today, she said that she believes that if possible exchange would probably only happen after a verdict in Brittney Griner's trial. So, we're going to have to wait and see what happens then, but, certainly, there is the whole part of her legal team and on the part of Brittney Griner but she will be possibly coming home soon.

BROWN: All right. We certainly hope so.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen, thank you.

And up next, the death toll is climbing tonight in the Kentucky flood is us there. As the water recedes there, dangerous heat is posing a new threat.



BROWN: Tonight, the death toll in the Kentucky flood disaster has risen to 37, and the governor says that it will take weeks to determine what's happened to the many people still unaccounted for.

CNN national correspondent Dianne Gallagher is on the scene for us.

Still such a dire situation there in Kentucky, Dianne. How many people are still missing?

DIANNE GALLAGER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, the governor's office said that they could not give a concrete number on that now, but the number has vastly improved, in part, because communications are starting to come back up. Cellphone coverage and, in part, because we are starting to get access in places like where I am now. I am standing in the city of Fleming-Neon, Kentucky. It looks like in the words the mayor, a war zone. This is the dentist office right here. Obviously, nobody can go there anymore. This is what it looks like all through downtown. I will go this way and show you every building through here, looks like this. The mayor says that their main needs right now are water, money and medicine.

They don't have running water. They have about 4,000 people that they serve in Fleming-Neon. They have one port-a-potty at the moment.

They don't have a bank right now because it's flooded. And so, people who often get their paper checks here, because they are older people living in this area, cannot get to their money. The pharmacy flooded, they can't get to the medicine, Pamela. And then there is the access issue.

So many cars were flooded out, so they can't get out of here. You see cars coming down this road, plenty of people have come in to help. The mayor says that she's just overwhelmed right now.

BROWN: It's just -- the way you describe it, you think it could not get any worse. They had nothing, but think of people are coming in there to help. We see cars driving behind you.

What kind of help do people there need most?

GALLAGHER: So, the main thing that they say they need in this particular town is something I've heard in a lot of places, which is water. They're getting bottles of water, but they need running water again. They need clean water the people can use to cook, bag and clean in.

It is very dirty. There is mud everywhere, but there is also concern about the disease. There is trash everywhere. And, look, not just trash, these are people's belongings and lives that are just everywhere right now. They are concerned about their medicine, also -- the mayor is overwhelmed.

Why don't you take a listen what she said?


MAYOR SUSAN POLIS, FLEMING-NEON, KENTUCKY: I wasn't prepared, but what can you do when you are a little town and city is devastated? It was like a war zone. You can't help but cry, but it's going to be all right. We will be okay. We will be back.


GALLAGHER: The police chief told me, Pamela, he doesn't want people to think of them as victims. He wants them to know that there are survivors, but they do need help, especially because we are looking at potentially triple digit temperatures this week on top of all the flooding, no power, no water.

BROWN: Let me tell you something, Kentuckians have a resilient spirit. CNN's Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much.

And thank you very much for watching. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.