Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Tonight, DOJ To Respond To Trump's Special Master Request; Mikhail Gorbachev Dead At 91; Biden Takes Aim At MAGA Republicans In Fiery Speech; Serena Williams Kicks Off Likely Final U.S. Open With Convincing Win. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 30, 2022 - 18:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the Justice Department is under deadline to respond to former President Trump's request for a special master. Prosecutors are preparing to explain to a federal judge their position on documents seized during the FBI search of Mar- a-Lago.

Also tonight, Mikhail Gorbachev, the final president of the Soviet Union, who championed reforms and diplomacy with the west, is dead at 91. An official statement says Gorbachev died in Moscow after a prolonged illness.

And in a fiery speech, President Biden takes aim at MAGA Republicans who claim to support law enforcement but refuse to condemn the January 6th insurrection.

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

And let's begin our coverage this hour with tonight's top story, the Justice Department working to file a response to Donald Trump's request for a third party attorney to review materials seized from his Florida home.

CNN's Sara Murray has this report.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Justice Department set to weigh in today on former President Donald Trump's push for an independent special master to review the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

JAMES TRUSTY, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: There's still a need for a judge to get involved on every aspect of this, checking their assertions of privilege, but also giving us fair timely access, letting us build a case for why this search warrant was not only essentially morally wrong but legally wrong.

MURRAY: DOJ asking to file a longer than brief to respond in detail to Trump's request. The FBI has already begun digging through documents and a filter team uncovered some material that may include attorney client privileged information. That hasn't stopped Team Trump's demands.

TRUSTY: We have a lot of problems really accepting everything at face value that's coming out of DOJ these days.

MURRAY: The intelligence community already assessing the potential fallout of Trump's seemingly careless handling of sensitive documents. CNN has learned the FBI has been working with intelligence agencies since mid-May to sort through classified documents in 15 boxes previously handed over to the National Archives to determine whether any immediate efforts need to be taken to protect intel sources and methods, sources say.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: If you would have to looked through all those materials, pulled out, of course, those that are FBI documents or things that were classified in the course of FBI investigations, and then, of course, handed out the others, so any CIA materials and the same materials that are in there, those would have been sent back to those home agencies and they would have then compiled the results of that classification review and that damage assessment.

MURRAY: Trump is beefing up his team, adding Florida's former Solicitor General Chris Kise weeks after the Mar-a-Lago search. But the former president still remains focused on the optics, lashing out in dozens of social media posts and claiming the Presidential Records Act was fully adhered to by me, while Trump's allies who once railed against Hillary Clinton for her private email server --

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): When Hillary Clinton tells you, I've given you all the emails you need, that means she hasn't.

MURRAY: -- now insists Trump is the victim of a double standard.

GRAHAM: She got a pass at the end of the day. If there's a prosecution against President Trump based on mishandling of classified information after what happened with Hillary Clinton, there will be frustration, and I fear violence.

MURRAY: Senator Lindsey Graham also trying to do a bit of damage control amid criticism that his rhetoric could gin up potential violence.

GRAHAM: I reject violence. I'm not calling for violence. Violence is not the answer.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, the Justice Department, of course, has until midnight to file this filing. We've all been waiting for it. They said they needed these extra pages, Pam, so they can adequately address factual and legal arguments the Trump team made in their filing. And even when we get to midnight, we still will not have an answer about whether there will be a special master in this case. The judge is having a hearing on this issue on Thursday. BROWN: It will not be surprising if the DOJ waits until the final second, right before midnight, to drop this. All right, thank you so much, Sara Murray.

And let's continue the discussion with CNN Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates, CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams, and our Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

So, Laura, I want to start with you. What does it say that the DOJ has asked for 40 pages to respond to Trump, double the court's limit, and what can we learn from this filing.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It says they have a lot of work to do, when I have to read through all of this, Pam, as you do as well, and trying figure out all the different nuances they're going to point out.

The most important thing is idea of the sheer volume of room that they're going to need to articulate the nature of their position tells you that they have thought it through, that they have anticipated a lot of talking points, they have anticipated the idea that this likely will be in the public eye, most likely might actually be in the public sphere as well, if it is, and, of course, they need to be very thorough and to address every single point.


There is a stark contrast, as you know, between the filing that they are asking to do, and just last week, when a judge had to say the Trump team, you got to give me more than this. What do you even want? So, this maybe bodes very well for the idea of the thoroughness and the comprehensive level of information, but it doesn't tell us exactly still what we all want to know, which is what is in those classified documents?

BROWN: Yes, we all want to know that. That is for sure.

So, Elliot, if this Trump appointed judge does grant a special master, how will this work exactly? How is that independent attorney chosen? How long could it take for that special master to go through these documents?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Pam, I'm showing a little bit of surprise here because, look, nobody really knows because we really don't have scenarios and haven't had any scenarios in American history in which a former president was accused of holding or harboring or mishandling secret documents and possibly being in violation of law. It's just never happened before.

Now, in the past, it's been -- it's very common to have special masters where you have what are attorney/client privilege documents. Those are very straightforward. Everyone has them if they have ever had an attorney or even sometimes put a will together or anything like that. Special executive privilege is just far more complex.

And so, look, to find a special master, you're going to have to find someone who's well versed in the law of sort of how the branches of government work, number two, either, has, has had or can get a very top secret, very selective security clearance because of the fact they're going to be handling very sensitive information, and number three, it's got to be somebody who's going to be seen by the public as not being tainted by politics, either Democratic, frankly, or Republican. It's bad for the Justice Department if it's somebody who appears to be tainted by politics.

That's just a tall order and given how -- and to the point that Laura was making a moment ago, this takes 40 pages to lay out in a document because it's just so legally complex. That's never happened before. So, we shall see.

BROWN: We shall see. It will likely be a late night for us.

So, Trump's allies, Jeff, are hammering this idea that he is being treated differently than Hillary Clinton was, but it was Trump himself who cracked down on mishandling classified documents, wasn't it?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely was. The president signed a law in 2018, the former president, then current president, Donald Trump, signed a law in 2018 essentially changing the classification and the punishment of this going from one year to five years, and making it, indeed, a felony for mishandling classified information.

Of course, you'll remember the refrain, lock her up, that the former president talked about so much on the campaign trail back in 2016 when he was running against Hillary Clinton. Pamela, we should just point out, this is entirely different. It's not only apples to oranges, it's apples to something far different, not even a fruit.

The reality here is that he was a president, she was a candidate for president. Yes, she had classified information on her server, but, really, the similarities end there. These are actual documents that he took from the White House with him, and the Archives have been trying to get these back for more than 15 months or so, and he's been allegedly obstructing justice. So, entirely different using the private server to this, but, interestingly, he did sign the law that would make this a felony from one year to five years.

BROWN: It is really interesting.

So, Laura, the former president has now added a former Florida solicitor general to his legal team. What does that tell you about just how seriously he is taking this legal challenge?

COATES: Well, I hope it means that he is taking it seriously and not to have support around him that is not only going to be knowledgeable about the law but will also apply the rules of the laws, the idea of our rules of decorum and file motions that are coherent enough to be followed by the judges and to decide what's happening.

But there is still concern to think about. No matter who he adds to the legal team, excuse me, there's still this over arching and looming question here, Pam, which is why fight so hard with respect to these documents, the idea of how much easier it would be, not just from the perspective of knowing that it's all been resolved, but why is there this vested interest in retaining and fighting for these documents.

Most people would say to themselves if there is this interest by the National Archives to have documents returned that belong to the people of the United States, why not just return them and then have it all hashed out later? Why is there this deeply invested interest?

And that question, the number of lawyers being added will really speaks to that notion of just how deeply invested President Trump is in this, and the question is why, particularly given the fact that they're talking about classified and top secret documents. Why do you still want them, sir, and why do you fight so hard to keep or have them returned to you, for what purpose?


That's a valid question.

BROWN: An absolutely valid question. So, that's really on all of our minds, right? We want to know the answer to those questions.

And, Jeff, Trump, for his part, has been in a bit of a tail spin, if you can call it that, posting more than 60 times in a 12-hour span, ranting about this investigation. Are there signs that he's worried about a potential indictment?

ZELENY: Well, look, I mean, I think that anytime we try and define exactly what he's thinking, yes, his social media posts are one way into that, but is simply talking to his supporters, trying to fire up his core, core base here.

So, who knows if he's actually worried about being prosecuted in all of this. That's something that his lawyers certainly are having conversations with him about. But they actually believe that if a special master is appointed that this will actually help them in the long-term.

But, look, I think we should not spend a lot of our time focusing on all of the messages that he was sending out today on Truth Social. It's simply regurgitating largely false claims that he's been making for a very long time, including the fact that he's going to come back as president anytime. It just simply is hogwash. So, let's not spend a lot of time on that, I think.

BROWN: Good idea. Jeff Zeleny, Elliot Williams, Laura Coates, thank you.

Breaking news, up next, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, has died at age 91. We're going to get reaction live from Moscow.


[18:15:00] BROWN: Breaking news tonight, the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union who oversaw the dissolution of it. He was 91 years old.

Here is CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With that port stain birth make on his forehead, Mikhail Gorbachev was one of the most recognizable figures in 20th century politics. His attempts to reform the Soviet Union and his role in ending the cold war made him one of its most influential too.

As a young man, Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State University. It's there he met and married fellow student Raisa Titorenkko, he went on to forge a career in the Communist Party, eventually aged 54 becoming its general secretary, the leader of the Soviet Union. It was in this role that Gorbachev and his wife broke the mold. He, for his outgoing, charismatic nature, Raisa for her stylish outfits, and for the unheard of elegance she brought to the role of Soviet first lady.

But the vast communist nation they ruled was on the brink of crisis. Amid shortages of food and consumer goods, the Soviet command economy was grinding to a halt. There was also alarm at the apparently slow response of the Soviet authorities to the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Gorbachev tried to fix things with what he called perestroika and glasnost, reforms that would revolutionize the Soviet system.

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER SOVIET UNION PRESIDENT: I began these reforms, and my guiding stars were freedom and democracy without bloodshed, so the people would cease to be herd led by shepherd. They would become citizens.

CHANCE: There was revolution too in relations with the west. Face-to- face with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Gorbachev made a stunning proposal to eliminate all nuclear missiles held by the two super powers. It was the beginning of the end of the cold war. Soon, the Berlin wall would fall. And after a failed coup by hard liners in Moscow, the Soviet Union itself was dissolved and Gorbachev resigned.

GORBACHEV: I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of president of the USSR.

CHANCE: In 1999, he lost the love of his life, his wife of 46 years, Raisa, who died of leukemia, but there was no love lost between many Russians and Gorbachev, to many of his countrymen, he would always be the man who allowed the great Soviet empire to collapse, exposing millions to hardship and humiliation. Even Gorbachev himself expressed regret.

GORBACHEV: I fought the best I could to defend the Soviet Union, but I failed.

CHANCE: But in the west, he was revered and celebrated as a great statesman, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who played a decisive role in ending the cold war, peacefully diffusing the most dangerous standoff of the 20th century.


BROWN: And let's get more on our breaking news. I want to bring in CNN Senior International Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen in Moscow, and CNN Contributor Jill Dougherty, former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University.

So, Fred, first to you, just setting the stage, how influential was Gorbachev in shaping not only the future of Russians but the entire course of the 20th century?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he was of the utmost importance, and really something I think we heard just that in Matthew's report, who not only managed to tear down the wall, as Ronald Reagan had called upon him to do, but also to do that in a peaceful way. I think that's something that is really important.

And looking at and experiencing those years back then, when it was clear that the wall had come down, that there were these protests going on in Eastern Germany, you know, the challenge, the iron curtain, there were many who believed that there could be a war between the Soviet Union and the West. There were still tens of thousands of Soviet troops stationed not just in the eastern part of Germany but, of course, in all of Eastern Europe as well.

Getting rid of that dividing line and making sure that the Soviet army left Eastern Europe, which then, of course, set the stage for the security architecture that we have in Europe today, but, of course, that's also so important globally as well. That is certainly the legacy of Mikhail Gorbachev. I think that's something that globally he will be remembered for, you know, for a very, very long time, and certainly puts him on par with a lot of the great leaders that Europe has seen in the past even though, of course, as we've been talking about, his legacy is remembered very differently here in Russia with a lot of people still believing that he took some of the prestige away from this country.


BROWN: So, Jill, on that note, how wide is the gulf between how Gorbachev is being remembered around the world and what Russians themselves think of his legacy?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, even Russians are divided. This is one of the complications of Gorbachev's life. Because there are people who are, let's say, more western-oriented who are very sad today, that they feel that, you know, Gorbachev brought about an opening, and that's exactly what he did with glasnost. People were reading magazines, reading things and discussing things that they could never do under communism. But there are the others, and today, there are communists in Russia who are saying, you know, good riddance, that he destroyed the Soviet Union. So, even within Russia, it's divided.

But if you look generally, you know, at the outside view from other countries and then inside Russia, I think I can understand why people at that period as the Soviet Union is falling apart, food is disappearing from the shelves, they don't know what's going to happen to their job, there's a lot of economic chaos and societal chaos. So, people put that on Gorbachev's shoulders, and said he was to blame for everything that we lost. And that's, I think, you can understand it in those kind of human terms.

In the west, of course, arms control, number one, and also the personability of Gorbachev. Remember, you know, he came to the United States. He was very popular. He even did a Pizza Hut ad, if you remember that. So, you know, there are a lot of sides in the west, but it doesn't always compute in Russian.

BROWN: All right. Jill Dougherty, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

And coming up for you tonight, a potential chilling effect in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago search. Will key U.S. allies be more hesitant to share intelligence?



BROWN: As the investigation unfolds into former President Trump's handling of White House documents, there is growing concern tonight that his possession of classified materials could have a chilling effect on U.S. allies when it comes to sharing intelligence.

CNN's Brian Todd is working that part of the story for us. So, Brian, there could be huge implications for the U.S. intelligence community.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Serious implications indeed, Pamela. We've been talking to former spies who say America's closest allies are going to look at the sloppiness, the recklessness of the Mar-a- Lago document-handling and wonder what, if anything, they'll be able to share with U.S. intelligence.


TODD (voice over): With a massive damage assessment afoot tonight, the FBI working with the U.S. intelligence community to see if critical intelligence was compromised with former President Trump storing top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago. There are new concerns from veteran spies about broader damage to American intelligence.

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There could be a chilling effect on willingness of foreign governments to share their intelligence secrets with us.

TODD: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says, even the members of the so-called five Is, the intelligence agencies of English speaking allies, the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who form a close spying network, could, in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago case, come to view their American partners as unreliable.

CLAPPER: It makes their confidence in our ability to keep secrets a little shaky.

TODD: A potential kiss of death in the world of spy craft. How would it work on a practical level if a key U.S. ally didn't trust America's secret keeping?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Let's say Britain, MI5, that's their internal intelligence service, recruits a Russian or a Chinese, very important, sensitive information, London is going to think twice about sharing this with the White House that leaks. I mean, I would too. You just simply don't tell anybody in Washington.

TODD: And there's concern about that kind of reluctance if Trump becomes president again because he didn't exactly inspire confidence in keeping secrets while he was president. In 2017, he was roundly criticized for telling Russia's foreign minister and its ambassador to Washington right in the Oval Office about intelligence the U.S. got from another country about ISIS plots. Trump defended his comments but gave away even more information with his answer.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel.

TODD: Also in 2017, at Mar-a-Lago, Trump and then Japanese Leader Shinzo Abe were consulting on a sensitive national security issue. Word came of a North Korean missile launch. Guests at Mar-a-Lago were close enough to take photos like these. In view of the guests on patio, documents were illuminated by the light of a cell phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he shares it with a foreign national who happened to be a prime minister is incredibly serious, lack of understanding of how our national security system works.

TODD: Intelligence analysts worry about worst case scenarios with America's allies in the wake of Mar-a-Lago.

BAER: If they can't trust Washington, we're going to be blind. We're going to be blind to another 9/11.


TODD (on camera): Former CIA Officer Bob Baer says, even with Joe Biden as president, the Mar-a-Lago case could still undermine confidence among America's allies over intelligence sharing. He says it's an indictment of the American system of safeguarding secrets. If sensitive documents can be taken out of the White House and sent to the basement of Mar-a-Lago, he says, American allies are wondering what else is coming out of that building over on Pennsylvania Avenue.


BROWN: That is really alarming what we just heard in your piece there. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Let's dig deeper into all of this with Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna of California, a member of the Oversight and Armed Services Committee.

So, Congressman, the director of national intelligence that has informed your Oversight Committee chair, as we mentioned, that her office is conducting a damage assessment on documents recovered from Trump's home, but will you get a briefing or any more information on this as members have been demand something.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): We will. But, you know, to do that, we will go in a secure location, in the skiff. We give up our cell phones. We can't take any documents away. And I guess I don't understand why that isn't the procedure in the White House for any president. Why are we giving a president access to documents to take away? These should be in a secure location. And just like in Congress, you can't touch the documents, you can't take away the documents. It's deeply concerning that that isn't the practice in the former administration.

BROWN: And when do you expect to get that briefing?

KHANNA: Well, I expect to get it sometime in the fall. I mean, obviously, we want to defer to the intelligence agencies to make sure that they're comprehensive and I have full confidence that they will brief our committee.

BROWN: What specifically are you hoping to learn from that damage assessment? What questions do you hope this answers?

KHANNA: Well, I want to understand what exactly was compromised, what information got out, how does that put our men and women in harm's way who are taking special missions overseas, and what can we do to better safeguard these secrets, both in Congress and at the White House. I mean, this should be of concern to any American, Republican or Democrat, that our sensitive technology and information shouldn't be getting in the hands of our enemies.

BROWN: Do you think more needs to be done then to safeguard the U.S. system? I know you were focused on, rightfully so, the former president being able to leave with these. What about the overall system, because we heard in my colleague, Brian Todd's report that there was concern about that?

KHANNA: I do. I mean, based on the reporting that I heard, I mean, maybe we should have a situation where even if you work at the White House, even if you're the president and if you're seeing sensitive, classified, top secret information, you should go to a secure location. You shouldn't be able to take the documents out of the secure location, the same procedure, frankly, there is for a member of Congress. I mean, I would be read the Riot Act if I so much as took a cell phone into a skiff or if I took a document out of the skiff, and those procedures should be there for the executive branch as well.

BROWN: We could get a new filing from the Justice Department any moment now responding to Trump legal team's request for a special master. How concerned are you that Trump could use these legal challenges to impede or delay this investigation?

KHANNA: I'm concerned that it's a legal maneuver. It's a legal tactic to basically delay what the Justice Department is doing, what a judge already is doing. And I think we should let the process play out. The president has the right to appeal. He can appeal it all the way to the Supreme Court. But to involve another special master seems to me a delay tactic, a tactic to impede the investigation.

BROWN: All right. Congressman Ro Khanna, thank you for joining us.

KHANNA: Thank you.

BROWN: And just ahead, President Biden raising his voice in a key battleground state, questioning Republicans' support for law enforcement ahead of the midterm elections.

And Serena Williams wins her first round of the U.S. Open, but will it be her final tournament? The tennis legend is suddenly being a little more vague about her retirement plans.



BROWN: President Biden is ramping up his political messaging to the American people, including in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state. The president today made his first stop out of three there this week where he passionately argued gun control and strongly condemned Republicans.

Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us live with details. So, Kaitlan, this was a fiery speech from the president.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDEN: It certainly was. And this is only his first of three stops that he's make to go Pennsylvania in the next seven days or so, Pam. And he came out taking some points that have been weak points really for Democrats, rising crime and guns, and instead trying to turn it against Republicans in the attacks that they've used just ten weeks out of the midterm elections.

But, Pam, he also went on the offensive against the Republican Party after the criticisms that you've seen of the nation's top law enforcement agencies after that search of former President Trump's home to get the sensitive materials that he took with him when he left office.


COLLINS (voice over): Tonight, President Biden forcefully condemning attacks on law enforcement agencies after the FBI's search of Mar-a- Lago.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: There's no place in this country, no place for endangering the lives of law enforcement, no place, none, never, period. COLLINS: Biden defending rank and file agents after the agency saw a spike in threats after searching former President Trump's home to retrieve sensitive materials taken from office.

BIDEN: It's sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI, threatening the life of law enforcement agents and their families for simply carrying out the law and doing their job.

COLLINS: Biden calling out those in the GOP who called to defund the FBI.

BIDEN: I'm opposed to defunding the police. I'm also opposed to defunding the FBI.

GRAHAM: You have worked hard all of your life --

COLLINS: And the president also going after Senator Lindsey Graham for suggesting there would be, quote, riots in the streets if Trump is prosecuted while Hillary Clinton wasn't for her use of a private server as secretary of state.


BIDEN: The idea you turn on a television and see senior senators and congressmen saying if such and such happens, there will be blood in the street. Where the hell are we?

COLLINS: Biden drawing a contrast between Democrats and Republicans who bill themselves as the defenders of law and order.

BIDEN: Don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on the 6th. Don't tell me. You can't be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6th patriots. You can't do it.

COLLINS: The president was in the critical battleground state to renew his push for an assault weapons ban and detail his plan to combat crime.

BIDEN: I'm determined to ban assault weapons in this country, determined. I did it once before and I'll do it again.

COLLINS: In a rebuke of previous calls from progressives in his party to defund the police, Biden advocated for boosting law enforcement instead.

BIDEN: When it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not defund the police. It's fund the police. Fund the police.

COLLINS: He's visited the pivotal battleground state 14 times since taking office and will be there two more times in the next week as former President Trump is also scheduled to hold a rally of his own on Saturday.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: All I can say is Pennsylvania is close and dear to his heart. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (on camera): close to his heart, indeed, Pamela, but, of course, it is also close to the voters' hearts and there are a lot of critical elections in Pennsylvania come November. So, the president is going to be making his second stop on Thursday. That's when White House officials are saying, you are going to see President Biden go back to that message about the threat to democracy that you so often heard from him on the campaign trail.

BROWN: All right. CNN's Kaitlan Collins live for us at the White House, thank you.

And coming up, Serena Williams wins her first round at the U.S. Open and raises new questions about her future plans.



BROWN: All eyes on Serena Williams as she advances at the U.S. Open in what may be the last tournament of her legendary career. She'll face the world's number two player tomorrow after a convincing win in the first round.

CNN national correspondent Brynn Gingras has more on the woman who has dominated tennis for decades.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A grand entrance fit for --

ANNOUNCER: The greatest of all time, Serena Williams.

GINGRAS: Serena Williams took the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium to a record setting crowd, celebrities paying homage.

ANNOUNCER: The years went by in a blink.

GINGRAS: Fans on the ground, in the air, everyone watching, wondering if this would be her last match of a storied career.

SERENA WILLIAMS, 23-TIME GRAND SLAM SINGLES CHAMPION: When I walked out, the reception was really overwhelming. It was loud. I could feel it in my chest.

GINGRAS: Williams competed in the first round of the U.S. Open Monday, the very tournament where she clinched her first grand slam title in 1999, wearing those signature beads in her hair. This time, her daughter Olympia sporting the trademark look.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was great significance in the beads, because Serena debuted them at a time where people said, what is that.

GINGRAS: Twenty-three grand slam singles wins later, Williams contribution to the sport is unrivalled. For decades, she's remained unapologetically authentic, an icon with a serve as fierce as her fashion. Williams transformed tennis, not only how it's played.

BILLIE JEAN KING, U.S. TENNIS CHAMPION: Thank you for your leadership and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

GINGRAS: But who can play it.

COCO GAUFF, FRENCH OPEN SINGLES FINALIST: So growing up, I never thought that I was different because, you know, the number one player in the world was somebody who looked like me.

GINGRAS: It's a personal transformation or evolution, as she calls it, that Williams says she's poised to tackle next.

WILLIAMS: I'm not necessarily retiring. I'm just evolving from tennis.

GINGRAS: In early August, the 40-year-old announced her farewell to the sport in a personally penned "Vogue" article.

WILLIAMS: It's just been an incredible, incredible ride, and I'm so happy that you guys are on it with me.

GINGRAS: Williams says her energy will turn to her family, possibly expanding that family, and continuing to focus on investing in companies particularly ones led by women.

WILLIAMS: It's like Serena 2.0.

GINGRAS: But before her triumphant tennis ending is told, fans with getting a tease from Williams, she won her match Monday night, and hinted that she may not be quite ready to call game, set match.

REPORTER: Will this definitively be your final tournament, and --

WILLIAMS: Yeah, I've been pretty vague about it, right? Yeah. I'm going to stay vague because you never know.


GINGRAS: So here we go again. Serena takes on the number two player in the world tomorrow night. She's never competed against her before, but you can bet fans are going to be in awe of her performance and again wondering is this the last time the GOAT takes the stage.

Pamela, I can tell you there are still tickets available for that match. They're pricey but they're still available.


Win or lose tomorrow, though, Pamela, she is going to be competing alongside her sister Venus in a doubles match on Thursday. So, that's good news for fans as well -- Pam.

BROWN: I'll be rooting for her tomorrow. CNN's Brynn Gingras, thank you.

And joining us now CNN contributor and sports broadcaster Cari Champion.

Hi there, Cari.

So, Serena Williams, she has won a U.S. Open match in her teens, her 20s, her 30s, and now in her 40s. What went through your mind as you watched her commanding win last night?

CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, two things stood out for me. Most of us tennis fans know that Serena Williams won her very first grand slam at the U.S. open, so it is fitting and apropos for her to consider and yet still be very vague and say this is it, she is evolving. She has had over the years such a love/hate relationship with this particular tournament.

Last night, we saw the love. The crowd, myself included, felt this energy for Serena because we've watched her grow up from a teenager to now a woman with a family, a husband, a child, and we were rooting for her.

And I believe that energy was palpable and it also willed her to win. She felt it. And I could see in her face it was not expected.

BROWN: It wasn't. But look, when you look at how she is talking about potential retirement, she is being vague. She talked about last night she acknowledged that, right, that she has been vague, that it's going to stay that way.

Wondering what you thought about that. How do you interpret her statements about her future?

CHAMPION: I think that is on brand with the Serena Williams that we have all come to know and love. She is very adamant about something, but she is understanding that in the moment she may feel differently.

She's never not been real. She's never not expressed her opinion in the moment. And that's what we love about her is the fist pump, the twirl, the personality, the speaking up, the defending herself.

This is all on brand in a sense that she felt so -- I believe, this is my interpretation. She felt the moment, the gravity of the moment, and she thought to herself do I really -- am I ready to give this up? I've been doing this since I'm 14 years old and I'm 40 years old. Even though I have these other opportunities, can I leave this?

BROWN: I can't imagine leaving something like that behind, right? You're in there and all these people, they're all clapping for you, cheering you on, just giving you so much love. It would be really hard to leave that behind.

I want to look at this photo of Serena Williams at her 1999 U.S. open win. Last night her daughter, Olympia, wore beads in her hair. And the U.S. open posted this image with the caption "Iconic." It really is, isn't it? CHAMPION: I thought that there were so many symbols last night. And

I've talked about this over and over again because when Serena Williams and her sister, Venus Williams, first entered the sport, they wore beads and braids. That was normal for them. I come from Compton, I'm black, no one thought I'd be here.

And she brought her culture. She brought her style and she brought her elegance to tennis. Maybe people didn't accept it but she was unapologetic because that's how she was raised. Last night, what we saw was two things. It was purposeful that she made Olympia have the braids and the beads, which I thought was amazing, but there was the Polaroid camera. Her father had something similar.

And then there was something that I don't know if we even caught, with the matching dress. And I thought, Serena is not only saying good-bye, she's passing the torch. I wouldn't doubt, and let me put this in the universe, I wouldn't doubt if we see Olympia playing the way her mother has played. There was so much symbolism last night and truly she is an icon.

BROWN: She is.

Cari champion, thanks so much.

And next, an update on when NASA will go forward with the Artemis 1 mission to the moon.



BROWN: Just in, an update from NASA on efforts for a second launch attempt of its historic Artemis moon mission after yesterday's liftoff was scrubbed.

CNN space and defense correspondent Kristin Fisher has the latest from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

So, Kristin, when are they going to try to launch again?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Pam, we've got some good news. NASA is going to give it another go this Saturday at 2:17 p.m. Eastern Time. They're going to have another two-hour launch window, which is good, because they're going to need that with the weather forecast on that day.

Right now, they're saying that the weather violation is around 60 percent, meaning there's a 60 percent chance that at some point during that two-hour launch window there's going to be some sort of weather issue. But because it is two hours, they also feel fairly confident that they will get a break in precipitation or clouds enough to where they can give it a go. So that's the weather issue.

The other issue is the big technical questions. The issue on the technical side on the first launch attempt was cooling down one engine, engine number three. They have to get it down to negative 420 degrees Fahrenheit in order to get it ready to launch. They equate it to when you see like formula 1 cars on the track warming up their wheels before a race? Well, they essentially have to do that but in the opposite direction, the very cold direction, to get those engines cool enough for launch.

So what they're going to do now is they're going to try to start that cooldown process a little bit earlier. But the big wild card here, Pam, is the sensor. They believe that they have perhaps a faulty sensor. They say they're questioning the fidelity of these flight sensors, and they're a bit concerned about it.

So they're doing some workarounds right now, seeing if they could perhaps ignore it or see if they can get better data from somewhere else because they just can't replace it if they want to go on Saturday, because replacing it would likely require a rollback -- Pam.

BROWN: All right. CNN's Kristin Fisher, thanks.

I'm Pamela Brown in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.