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President Biden Much Needed Win In The Senate; Two Years' Worth Of Alex Jones Text Messages Sent To J6 Committee; Trump Wanted His Generals To Be Loyal Like Hitler's; Albuquerque Police: Muslim Victims "Ambushed With No Warning"; Biden Says He's "Concerned" About China's Moves Around Taiwan; Singer And Actress Olivia Newton-John Dead At Age 73; Hundreds More Flights Delayed Or Canceled After Chaotic Weekend. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 08, 2022 - 17:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Meanwhile, the French are hoping supply of their beloved compliment -- condiment I should say can catch up to demand. Yes. I'm Pamela Brown in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Have a great rest of the day.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, President Biden is on the brink of a much needed win after a Senate passage of a landmark economic package. He's predicting a boost for Democrats in the midterms despite ongoing struggles for his party.

Also tonight, first on CNN, we have learned that two years' worth of Alex Jones' text messages have been turned over to the January 6th Select Committee. Messages revealed during the conspiracy theorist's recent trial.

And singer and actress Olivia Newton-John has died at age 73. We'll look back at her life and career including her iconic starring role in the movie "Grease."

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

We begin with President Biden touting a significant win for his agenda, coming as the country struggles with inflation and he faces low approval ratings. Let's get straight to the White House. Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us. Kaitlan, if this bill passes as it's expected to, it will be a much needed win for this president.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And one that was kind of a surprise to a lot of Democrats and even some White House aides whenever it was announced that Senator Manchin and Senator Schumer did have this deal. Of course, that culminated yesterday when the Senate finally passed what is now known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

Wolf, it's a far cry from the Build Back Better proposal which included trillions of dollars that Democrats were negotiating over about a year ago, but it does still does have some very significant proposals in it including, Wolf, over $300 billion for climate change and energy reform. It also allows for the first time Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. Of course, that is a measure that has broad support.

And it also creates this 15 percent minimum tax for corporations that bring in a billion dollars or more in income. So those are the three significant measures of what was passed by the Senate yesterday. Of course, it still has to go to the House and assuming they make no changes, Wolf, it will pass the House and then be on its way to President Biden's desk for his signature.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, the president clearly seems to believe this win will help Democrats in the midterm elections in November. But the reality is Democrats are facing a lot of other headwinds right now, aren't they?

COLLINS: They are facing a lot of headwinds, Wolf, and of course, one of the big one is timing. Given it is so close now to the midterm elections, whether or not this can actually boost Democrats' standing in the eyes of voters remains to be seen.

But you can see the chief problem that is still facing President Biden right here in the name of this bill. It is not named the Inflation Reduction Act by accident. Of course, that is a change from when it was named the Build Back Better proposal. But of course, that is still the main thing that President Biden is dealing with.

And that is one of the chief factors into his low approval ratings, and that is why Democrats, of course, have said that they do expect the midterm elections to be tough this November. And so, they are very hopeful right now that this can change things.

There is certainly an enthusiasm in the Democratic Party with not just this but the other bills that you're going to see President Biden signing this week, including one tomorrow on boosting the U.S. supply of semi-conductors and the production. Another one on creating and expanding access to veterans who have been exposed to toxins.

All of those things as what Democrats are pointing to, showing that they can get things done in Congress, Wolf. Of course, whether or not voters agree in November remains to be seen.

BLITZER: Yes, they clearly are getting things done right now. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you very much. Joining us now, the senior adviser to the president, the White House Infrastructure Coordinator, Mitch Landrieu. Mitch, thanks very much for joining us. Clearly, this is a very significant piece of legislation, but it will take years for some of these provisions to take effect. What can you point to in this bill that will help Americans who are hurting now?

MITCH LANDRIEU, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we've already started. This will be the third major piece of legislation that the president has passed, actually the fifth when you take the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which is by the way in operation now and delivering things right now.

And then of course if this bill should pass the House, this bill has tax credits in it and subsidies that are going to start right away. Incredibly what this bill is going to do is something that presidents have been trying to do for a long time, is that to give Medicare the ability to negotiate to get folks prescription drug prices lower.

It's also going to reduce health care subsidies. It's going to reduce the deficit. And it's going to finally make the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share. All of these things are going to lower costs for Americans and that's going to start happening as we speak.


BLITZER: Yes, but some of these provisions you're talking about won't take effect for a few years. What can you point to, Mitch, in this bill that will help Americans who are hurting now?

LANDRIEU: Well, I think as these things go into effect and the deficit begins to reduce, it's going to affect them right now, as are some of the tax credits that are in the bill. Yes, some of this goes into effect years from now, but as a matter of fact, this is something as you know, Wolf, because you've covered this town for a long time, many, many presidents have tried to do and that's why it's historic in nature.

BLITZER: It is historic, but some of these provisions won't take effect until 2024 or 2025. So, it's a potential problem at least in the short term. Americans as you well know, Mitch, are facing a 40- year high inflation rate right now after President Biden told them that that would be temporary. Will voters heading to the polls in November trust the president when he tries to sell them on this legislation?

LANDRIEU: Well, I think that when you take this legislation and the bipartisan infrastructure law which is rebuilding the roads and bridges and the airports, you put it together with the American Rescue Plan, the fact of the matter is gas prices have been going down every day for the last 55 days.

We continue to work hard. The president's number one objective is to reduce costs for American citizens, for working class families and to fight special interests. And I think these are three indications that he's succeeding.

BLITZER: To get some of these provisions, the administration had to agree to certain steps that other Democrats clearly opposed. For example, to get Senators Manchin and Sinema onboard, the bill includes new oil and gas leases and it shields private equity firms and wealthy investment managers from higher taxes. How does the president square that with his campaign promises?

LANDRIEU: Well, I think that the president is a realist, and the president knows you have to make compromises to get things done. I mean, clearly, he would have preferred to go in another direction, but when you're putting the votes together to put a package together that makes sense for the American people, there's always a give and take. And of course, Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema have been helping negotiate those efforts.

So, this bill goes a lot in the right direction. They had to give up a couple things to get a deal for the American people and I think the president was willing to do that in an effort to reduce cost in the short term and in the long term.

BLITZER: It certainly was. Mitch Landrieu, the senior adviser to President Biden, thanks very much for joining us.

LANDRIEU: Thank you, Wolf. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you. Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now is CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, CNN national politics reporter Eva McKend, and CNN contributor Evan Osnos. Evan, you've written about President Biden's ambitions for his presidency and what he hopes his legacy will be when it comes to the legislation. How does this bill measure up from your perspective?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, for one thing, I think it's fitting, Wolf, that it didn't happen through a stroke of Congress or through a stroke of the court. It didn't happen through executive action. It came in Congress after all, which is the place where Joe Biden spent so much of his life.

You know, he's had 2 1/2 hard years of trying to get Congress to do the things that he knows and thought they could and here he has finally achieved what is really by any measure some substantial progress, really historic progress on issues like climate change, on reducing drugs -- drug prices.

And at the core of this, as you heard Kaitlan say at the outset, was restoring Americans' belief that it can be done. You know, he hung a portrait of Franklin Roosevelt on the wall of the Oval Office. That was one Roosevelt's big ideas. Just telling Americans at the depths of the Great Depression, we can do this in politics.

And what they've done over the last week not just with this bill but also with gun safety legislation in the last couple of months, of course also veteran's benefits. He showed that politics can be wrangled into action. And I think that may be most important.

BLITZER: It's an important point indeed. Does this move, Gloria, does it move the needle what's going on right now as far as the midterms are concerned when so many voters are dealing with more immediate problems right now like record high inflation?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, when you talk to people in the White House, that is the hope, obviously, but nothing happens in a vacuum, you know. You have a president right now who has a very low approval rating and it's very difficult to turn a battleship around, no matter what you have done with this short timeframe. So, you know, you have -- you have the folks in the White House hoping

that this legislation is really going to move the needle because they're going to be able to go home to the voters and say look at what we've done for you, which Mitch Landrieu just outlined. You know, we're going to negotiate for prescription drugs. We have a $370 billion energy plan. We killed al-Zawahiri and on and on and on. We did some gun control legislation.

But the question is now -- and gas prices are coming down. But the question is now whether people are so set in a narrative about Joe Biden that they'll be able to get off of it. And as you pointed out earlier, Wolf, some of this stuff, people are not going to feel for a couple of years.


The Medicare prescription drug benefit. So, you're telling them they're going to get something when they're not going to see it immediately, and that can be a problem.

BLITZER: Which raises this question for Eva. Messaging hasn't always been President Biden's strong suit. How does he go out and make the case to voters on this specific legislation which clearly is historic? It's a problem potentially.

EVA MCKEND, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Wolf, yes. Certainly, this White House, President Biden, has faced some messaging challenges. I think the most effective ambassadors for them are going to be Democratic senators, Democratic members of Congress in their states, in their districts, touting this bill.

Here in Georgia, Senator Warnock talking about lowering the cost of prescription drugs. That is going to be the most effective way to get this message out there. What is not being discussed though is that there is still some, I think, dissension, disagreement among progressive organizers, climate justice groups, about this bill. There isn't universal acclaim for it on the ground.

You have the so-called big green groups in opposition to the more progressive climate groups. And they feel as though sacrifices, unacceptable sacrifices were made in this bill, sacrifices as it relates to black and indigenous communities. So, I'm curious to see, as Democratic leadership, President Biden, the White House, starts to sell this bill, how they are going to confront that sort of unseen challenge.

BORGER: If I could just add --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

BORGER: If I could just add. You know, this election is going to be about motivation. And the one thing we haven't talked about is the Supreme Court decision on Roe, and that's a separate issue. And whether that will motivate Democrats, including the progressives, to go out and say, look, we disagree with the Supreme Court. This is really important to us. And we're going to show up and vote for Democrats. That is something sort of that we saw in Kansas. And now, who knows if we're going to see it again.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a good point. Evan, you're a biographer of Biden. Are there risks involved with President Biden potentially taking a victory lap right now when so many Americans still feel very nervous about the economy?

OSNOS: That is exactly the balance he has to strike, Wolf, because on the one hand, you can't go out and say we've solved all your problems. People don't feel that way today. And yet at the same time, for precisely the messaging reasons you mentioned, the Democrats need to go out and say to people, look, we've done something. We made these promises now here are the things that are happening.

This week, you're going to get signing ceremonies on a couple of big bills. One for veterans benefits and the other on manufacturing semi- conductors. These are concrete demonstrations that politics can work. And look, it is not going to satisfy everybody. Joe Biden will tell you that you only know what you're getting close to the end when not everybody is happy. That's the sign that you're reaching a compromise that maybe durable.

And to put it in a contemporary context, he would tell you this is setting up the United States to be more competitive in the future, not just tomorrow or next year, but in the next 50 years when it comes to competing with China and elsewhere. So, he's going to try to put it into this larger frame and give Americans a reason to want to turn out in November.

BLITZER: Good point. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we're learning that numerous text messages belonging to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones are now in the hands of the January 6th Select Committee.

Plus, new details of just how close the Joint Chiefs chairman came to resigning over former President Trump's reaction to racial justice protests.



BLITZER: First on CNN, a source telling us tonight that about two years' worth of text messages sent and received by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have now been turned over to the House January 6th Select Committee. Our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is working the story for us. So, Jessica, what could these text messages reveal that would be relevant?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Alex Jones was really the central player on January 6th. He was actually on the restricted grounds of the U.S. capitol. He riled up the protesters. He never actually went into the capitol. And in fact, he's claimed that he has no part of any of the planning in this.

He said that he even tried to prevent people from going into the capitol and breaking any laws here. But nevertheless, the committee is very interested in information he might have. You know, he has this giant mega phone of his show where he's repeatedly talked about January 6th. We previously reported that he had communications with Roger Stone.

So, the committee is hoping that something in this two years' worth of text messages might give them more information. I mean, this is really a crazy story about how these text messages even came about. It was just last week. It was revealed in the trial regarding the Sandy Hook defamation suit that Jones' lawyer had handed these texts inadvertently over to the plaintiffs' attorney. And we know that that attorney has now handed them over to the committee.

You know, Wolf, we know that Alex Jones, he did appear in a deposition before the January 6th Committee, but he said later on his show that he repeatedly asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege, didn't say anything. So, the committee is hoping they'll get a little bit more here. The problem, though, we don't exactly know what this two years is and we don't know if it might encompass January 6th or the time around it. So that's the big unknown. The committee is now getting a glimpse and maybe we'll hear more soon.

BLITZER: I'm sure we'll all hear more soon as well. Jessica, thank you very, very much.

There is stunning new reporting tonight about the alarming tension between former President Trump and top military leaders at the Pentagon. In their new book, "The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017 to 2021," Peter Baker and Susan Glasser say the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, was on the verge of resigning in a truly scathing letter.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Oren Liebermann. Oren, this resignation letter that Milley wrote but never sent, he had some very, very tough words for the former president to put it mildly. Give us what you know.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is in the days and weeks following January 1st, that infamous walk of President Donald Trump and some of his top national security advisers including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley to Lafayette Square.


It was in that video that we saw Milley walking right next to Trump before shortly after that video, Milley realizes what's happening and peels off. That, of course, is not what's remembered from that moment.

According to this article, this excerpt from this new book, Milley was torn about what to do in the days following that and even penned a number of different drafts of a resignation letter. Here is part of what he wrote in one of the versions of this letter. I'll read this to you.

"The events of the last couple weeks have caused me to do deep soul searching, and I can no longer faithfully support and execute your orders as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Milley wrote according to "The New Yorker." "It is my belief that you were doing great and irreparable harm to my country. I believe you have made a concerted effort over time to politicize the United States military."

Milley at the time was doing everything he could to make sure the military didn't get into politics. According to the excerpt that we're reading from this book, he viewed Trump as trying to drag the military into politics, whether that was through the Insurrection Act or how he portrayed the military or how he wanted to use the military.

He had many conversations, Milley, that is, about whether to resign. Ultimately, he decided not to. And here is another excerpt from this book. " F that S," Milley told his staff, according to "The New Yorker." "I'll just fight him. If they want to court-martial me, or put me in prison, have at it," Milley added. "But I will fight from the inside."

So that gets a bit into the thinking behind whether Milley should have stayed in his position or left in his position at the end of the Trump administration. Especially as Trump was essentially clearing out Pentagon leadership and putting in some of his loyalists there, and Milley was trying to figure out his own way forward at that point, Wolf.

BLITZER: And it's important that Susan Glasser and Peter Baker, both truly excellent journalists, are also reporting that Trump didn't want any injured U.S. military veterans at a July 4th parade he was planning. Is that right?

LIEBERMANN: That's right. And according to what we're reading here, and this stems from Trump at the time going to France to see a Bastille Day celebration which included a military parade. He was enthralled by it, he loved seeing the splendor, the power, the force of the military parade. But according to this book, what he didn't like seeing was all of the injured service members in that parade.

So, he told his chief of staff at the time, retired General John Kelly, to make sure that in the parade he was thinking about, that he was dreaming about, he didn't want to see injured service members. It was Kelly who told them those are the real heroes.

BLITZER: Kelly was right. Oren Liebermann, thank you very, very much. Let's get more on all of this. Joining us now, CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, thanks so much for joining us. How angry must General Milley have been to write such a forceful resignation letter and what does it tell you that he decided in the end not to resign but instead stay on and fight from the inside?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Wolf, that letter was phenomenal. When I read it this morning as that article came out, it was obvious that General Milley was going through an extremely emotional and psychological time. He was trying to do the right thing for his services, not only just for the Army but for all of the joint services as the chairman. But that letter was extremely unusual. You know, the military debates

and in seminars at the war college here at Leavenworth, we debate about resigning from the service under extreme conditions. I have never seen or could comprehend the kind of letter that General Milley wrote that's published in that excerpt.

Several pages long, it not only says, hey, I'm resigning or retiring because I don't think I can live up to your standards or I can't do the things you think I should be doing. It literally points to President Trump in every single area that he was in violation of the Constitution or in General Milley's view, the legalities of the office. So, it was just phenomenal and I'm sure General Milley really struggled with the decision to stay in office.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure he did. You know, Glasser and Baker also write, General Hertling, that former President Trump actually asked his chief of staff, John Kelly, why his generals couldn't be more like the German generals who reported to Adolf Hitler. Does it surprise you at all that the former president of the United States was looking for that type of guidance, obedience, I should say?

HERTLING: It does not, Wolf. As we've said so many times on your program, President Trump seemed to be enamored with generals like Patton, probably because he saw the movie. He was known to not be a historical buff. He didn't see those kinds of things in books but he would watch a movie like that and say that's the kind of general I want, the tough guy, the guy that is out of central casting.

But as General Kelly, retired General Kelly reminded of him, the Germans had several instances during World War II where there were assassination attempts, so perhaps instead of just watching Patton with George C. Scott.


Probably President Trump would have been well served by watching the movie Valkyrie with Tom Cruise about German General Claus von Stauffenberg who attempted an assassination attempt on Hitler.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Retired General -- Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, thanks so much for joining us.

Just ahead, authorities in New Mexico right now are investigating whether the ambush style killings of four Muslim men are connected. Details on the urgent search for what police are now calling a vehicle of interest. That's next.

And singer and actress Olivia Newton-John has died at age 73. We'll take a closer look back at her life and iconic career.



BLITZER: The City of Albuquerque, New Mexico is on edge tonight as authorities investigate the brutal killings of four Muslim men. The Slaughters are prompted heightened alert at mosques, Muslim affiliated schools and over at the University of New Mexico.

CNN Correspondent Lucy Kafanov is following all of these for us. So Lucy, where does the investigation stand right now?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, both these killings have struck terror into Albuquerque's close knit Muslim community, three of them taking place within a span of just two weeks putting the city on edge. Police in Albuquerque are currently searching for a vehicle of interest. They say they are looking for a dark silver sedan style Volkswagen Jetta or pissant with tinted windows which they say is potentially connected to the murders.

As for the victims, all Muslim men, three from Pakistan, one from Afghanistan, the latest victim identified to CNN by his brother-in-law as 25-year-old Naeem Hussain. He was gunned down late on Friday night. This was just hours after attending funerals for two other slain Muslim men in his community.

One of them Muhammad Afzaal Hussain was shot and killed on Monday, August 1st. My colleague, Ed Lavandera, spoke with his brother who talked to neighbors who witnessed this ambush style shooting. The neighbors told the brother that he was gunned down multiple times, shot multiple times. The brother says he now lives in fear. Take a listen.


MUHAMMAD IMTIAZ HUSSAIN, BROTHER OF MUHAMMAD AFZAAL HUSSAIN: I'm scared to go outside of my apartment. I'm scared to sit in my balcony. I'm scared to go pick something in my car. My kids do not allow me even to step out of my apartment. There's a death. It's scary.


KAFANOV: Fear that's felt by many in this community. And just days before that killing on July 26th, Aftab Hussein, a 41-year-old man was also gunned down. Now, I should note none of these three men are related but all three are from Pakistan and police say they were all killed with no warning.

Police are also investigating the unsolved 2021 killing of 62-year-old Mohammad Ahmadi, he is a Muslim man from Afghanistan. The FBI now assisting Albuquerque police with this investigation to determine whether all four killings are connected. New Mexico's governor sending additional state police to Albuquerque to ensure security there.

President Biden tweeting that he was saddened and angered by the killings over the weekend. And now there is a $20,000 reward for any information that might lead to an arrest. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lucy Kafanov, reporting for us. Truly horrible development indeed.

Let's discuss this and more with the former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. He's a CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst. Andrew, thanks for joining us. I know you told CNN earlier today that you strongly suspect the person responsible for these killings is known within the Albuquerque community somehow. Can you explain why you think that?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it's -- obviously, what law enforcement is engaged in now is an effort to try to identify the person who's involved in committing these killings. You have an extraordinary similarity across the four victims, all hailing from Pakistan or Afghanistan, all Muslim, all male between the ages of 25 and 62. The last three seem to have associated at the same mosque.

So there is a strong likelihood of that whoever is targeting these men may also have some sort of a connection to that community, or possibly even to that mosque. Doesn't necessarily mean they're a member of the mosque or that they're Muslim or anything like that. They could be someone who works at a business nearby or someone who works in a business that provides a service to that community.

But the fact that you have three victims, four victims really who are so closely identified and members of a small distinct community really kind of points in that direction.

BLITZER: Police have released what they call pictures of a vehicle that they say is a vehicle of interest. How valuable is that lead for investigators?

MCCABE: That is the hottest lead they have right now. And I'm sure they're doing everything possible to identify that vehicle. And there's a lot they can do. They're working with DMV records, of all similarly described vehicles, identifying the license plates and the owners of those vehicles, conducting many interviews of those folks to either rule them in as people of interest or out.

And, of course, looking at surveillance to find out where and when vehicles matching that description have come up on local video surveillance or possibly in places like E-ZPass readers or license plate reader. So I'm sure that the -- there's sparing no expense in trying to find that vehicle.

BLITZER: These four men were shot and what's being described as ambush killings, does that give authorities, Andrew, any clues as to what type of suspect they're looking for?


MCCABE: I don't -- it's probably not a specific suspect, but it does give you some insight into that person's mode of operation, right? So this is someone who is likely surprising their victims, someone who is interacting with their victims in a way the victims are not expecting. So we've heard about one of the victims may have been shot in the parking lot behind his business as the first victim Ahmadi.

So just kind of driving up on people seemingly at random. Catching those victims when they're not really aware, they're not defensive doesn't appear to be an active conflict between the subject and the victim. It's just a random ambush shooting.

BLITZER: Horrible situation indeed. My heart goes out to the families. My deepest, deepest condolences.

Coming up, President Biden voices concern over China's military drills after the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's controversial visit to Taiwan. We'll talk to one of the lawmakers who was on that trip with her. That's next.

Plus, the passing of a star whose career spanned decades to take a closer look at the tributes being paid tonight to Olivia Newton-John.



BLITZER: President Biden says he doesn't believe China will take additional action as it escalates tensions following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not worried, but I'm concerned that they're moving as much as they are. But I don't think they're going to do anything more.


BLITZER: Let's discuss with Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He's a key member of the House Intelligence Committee. He also joined the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her controversial visit to Taiwan. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. These Chinese military drills that are ongoing right now mark a significant escalation. Is it a mistake for President Biden to suggest that China is going to stop at this show of force?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: No, not necessarily. I think he's correct. I think that this is irresponsible. And it's reckless of the PRC to do what it's doing. But they did this long before we visited Taiwan, and they're doing it again now. But it's so important that we have visited Taiwan, because in light of Ukraine, it's especially important to make sure that what happened in Ukraine does not happen in Taiwan. And we have to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Taiwanese and other partners in the region against any aggression by the Chinese Communist Party.

BLITZER: You say that in China's view, Congressman, there would never be a good time for your trip to Taiwan. But this has certainly given China the excuse. It needs to set a more dangerous status quo. Do you and the House Speaker bear some responsibility for putting the national security of Taiwan potentially at greater risk?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, and I think that if you asked the Taiwanese whether it was a good idea for us to visit them, they would answer 100 percent yes. And you only have to look at the thousands of people that greeted Speaker Pelosi and our delegation at the airport at midnight, and along the streets of Taipei, as we came into town. These folks, Wolf, are just isolated by the rest of the world right now. The Chinese Communist Party is threatening them every day. This is one of the freest democracies on Earth. And so, us being there was a powerful symbol of our unity with the Taiwanese people as they try to protect themselves. And that's very important to them.

BLITZER: How do you respond to concerns, Congressman, that by taking this trip, the House Speaker undermined long standing U.S. policy on Taiwan?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Oh, it's absolutely incorrect. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, we have an obligation to support the self-defense of Taiwan. And we also have an obligation to make sure that we have the capacity ourselves, our forces to resist any force or aggression by the People's Republic of China. And we believe in the Taiwan Relations Act, along with a joint communique and the six assurances and other joint agreements made with the People's Republic of China with regard to Taiwan.

But at the end of the day, it's about calm and stability across the strait of the -- across the Taiwan Strait. And right now, it's the People's Republic of China that's destabilizing that region, not the Taiwanese.

BLITZER: Let me go so, while I'll have you, Congressman, get your reaction to the Senate passing this sweeping climate tax and health care bill, will this be enough for Democrats to overcome some serious hurdles in the upcoming midterm elections and maintain control of the House?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I don't know, but it's the right thing to do, Wolf. You know, this Inflation Reduction Act does so many good things. You know, it obviously, it lowers carbon admissions. It lowers prescription drug prices. It lowers the deficit. It lowers premiums on the Obamacare exchanges and overtime it lowers inflation.


And I was talking to my constituents over the weekend, Wolf, and they are excited about what's in there. And I think that the politics takes care of itself if we do the right thing, and passing this legislation is the right thing.

BLITZER: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, welcome home. Thanks so much for joining us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, tributes are now pouring in for Olivia Newton- John, the singer and actress being remembered tonight for her truly remarkable career and raising cancer awareness.


[17:50:05] BLITZER: Award winning singer, actress and cancer activist Olivia Newton-John has died at age 73. Her husband paying tribute to her saying in the statement that she was, quote, a symbol of triumphs and hope over -- for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer.

CNN Entertainment Reporter Chloe Melas is working the story for us. Chloe, what can you tell us?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Such a sad story, Wolf. You know she had battled breast cancer, then it came back multiple times in her life. Most recently, she went on the Today Show last year telling Hoda that her cancer was back, that she had good days, she had bad days. And she was someone who battled this for so long.

Now, we don't know ultimately what led to her death, but their tributes are pouring in, including from her Grease co-star, John Travolta. I want to read you what he said. He wrote, "My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever. Your Danny, your John."

BLITZER: So sad, indeed. I know, Chloe, you had a chance to interview her a few years ago, what was the impact of Grease on her life and career?

MELAS: Wolf, you know, I was actually just listening to the interview that I did with her. I have it on my phone. It's over 20 minutes long. And just I first want to just say she was the epitome of Grease. She's such a kind, incredible, talented human being. And, of course, I had to ask her, like you said about Grease.

And she told me this. She said, I don't think anyone could have imagined that this movie would go on for almost 40 years, and would still be popular. And people would still be talking about it. She said that she had no idea what a hit that it was going to be and how it was going to break her career wide open.

She was a multi-hyphenate star, Wolf. She couldn't just sing, she could also act. She broke records. And as we know that Grease soundtrack ended up being at the top of the charts for many weeks. She said to me, quote, I'm very lucky to have been a part of it. It's given so many people pleasure.

And she told me that when she would perform over the years, and when she would take the stage, she always made sure to also perform songs from the soundtrack because she knew that that's what people wanted. But, again, such an incredibly kind human being who also started a Breast Cancer Foundation. She wanted to raise money, raise awareness.

And you know, you never would know that she was battling this and had such a dark cloud over her life because when you spoke to her, she was happy. She was hopeful. She gave me a marriage advice. You know, she was just a really kind individual. And it's just an incredibly sad moment for the music industry and for Hollywood. Only 73 years old.

BLITZER: Yes. May she rest in peace. And as we say, may her memory be a blessing.

Chloe Melas, thank you very, very much. Olivia Newton-John, a very special person indeed.

Meanwhile, other news we're following, staffing shortages and severe weather are combining right now to create a travel nightmare for thousands of would-be fliers here in the United States. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us from Reagan National Airport, just outside Washington with the latest. Brian, it's been a difficult summer for air travel.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly has, Wolf. You know, we just check the departure board here. And many of the cancelations and delays are for flights heading to major hubs in the United States. We also just had a storm roll through here. So that's compounding the problem even more. This comes as a nightmarish weekend for air travelers has bled into today and this evening.


BILL SELLARS, PASSENGER IN CHARLOTTE, N.C.: The delays have been an issue.

TODD (voice-over): Passengers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport grappling with flight delays and cancelations.

SELLARS: There's a better than 50 percent odd that there's some kind of delay going to affect me almost on a weekly basis.

TODD (voice-over): Some having to drastically change plans.

DR. KRISTINA GEMAYEL, PASSENGER IN CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Our first leg of our flight was delayed by an hour so it missed our layover in Charlotte, so we had to get an Uber from Montreal (ph) to Charlotte, which was not cheap.

TODD (voice-over): According to the flight tracking website FlightAware, there were an average of about 1,000 flight cancelations per day in the United States between Thursday and Sunday, with a high of more than 1,600 cancelations on Friday. Thousands more flights were delayed, and another wave of cancelations and delays are being felt today.

Airline analysts say this round of problems is not like the delays and cancelations earlier this summer, many of which were caused by airline and airport staff shortages combined with higher travel demand.

DAVID SLOTNICK, SENIOR AVIATION BUSINESS REPORTER, "THE POINTS GUY": This is a little bit different. Admittedly, there's still not quite the same staffing we had before the pandemic but this is really heavily weather-related. A lot of it's coming from just these thunderstorms that are hitting multiple places.


TODD (voice-over): The Chicago area experienced heavy rain over the weekend and O'Hare Airport saw the most cancelations. But storms also affected Charlotte and other major airline hubs. Climate change, analysts say, having more of an effect on our flight schedules.

SLOTNICK: More thunderstorms, more severe lightening of these kinds of inclement weather conditions that can cause delays with flights. It's something that over the next few years, the airlines are really going to have to work with just the increased frequency of these things.


TODD: Now between weather issues and airline staffing shortages that will likely not improve anytime soon, analysts have some advice for how passengers can adjust. David Slotnick of "The Points Guy" says passengers should build in time at both ends of their flights as a buffer. He says, like if you have to get to a meeting in one city in the afternoon, try not to fly to that city in the morning. Try to fly there the day before and stay overnight just to give yourself that kind of a cushion. Wolf, passengers are going to have to start making these kinds of adjustments.

TAPPER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you, Brian.

Coming up, new photos showing handwritten notes that former President Trump reportedly ripped up and tried to flush down a White House toilet.