Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Ex-Trump Attorney General Barr Says, Special Master Ruling Is Wrong; Video Shows Fake Elector Helped Pro-Trump Operatives Access Election Office; Uvalde Students Fearful, Anxious As They Return To School; New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss Speaks With Biden; White House: Americans May Need Yearly Shots To Protect Against COVID-19; California Energy Officials Declare Stage 2 Emergency Alert Amid Heat Wave. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 06, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And Researchers say a daily power walk can reduce your risk even further.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok @jaketapper. Tweet the show @theleadcnn. If you miss an episode of the show, you can listen to "THE LEAD" from whence you get your podcasts, sitting there like a ripe mango.

Our coverage continues now with Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM. See you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, tough new criticism of the decision to have a special man review documents seized from Mar-a- Lago. Former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr is weighing in tonight, calling the judge's opinion wrong and urging the Justice Department to appeal.

Also this hour, newly obtained surveillance video shows a fake GOP elector helped pro-Trump operatives enter a county election office in Georgia on the same day a voting system was breached there.

And Uvalde students returned to school for the first time since the shooting massacre, still fearful and anxious despite new moves to try to help them feel safe.

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

Tonight, as the search for a special master begins, the decision to give former President Trump what he wanted is under fire. The former Trump attorney general, Bill Barr, declaring the judge's opinion is wrong and deeply flawed, once again contradicting his ex-boss.

CNN's Sara Murray is following all the new twists in the legal fight over the classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, Donald Trump's own former attorney general is urging the Justice Department to appeal.

WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: The opinion I think was wrong, and I think the government should appeal it. I don't think the appointment of a special master is going to hold up.

MURRAY: A judge has put on hold the Justice Department's review of documents and other items seized at Trump's Florida resort. But William Barr, who has already criticized the former president for having classified material at his resort, telling Fox News the judge got it wrong.

BARR: Can the president bar DOJ from reviewing the documents? And the answer to that I think is clearly no.

MURRAY: Trump's team and prosecutors tasked by the judge to come together and submit a joint statement by Friday, including a roster of special master candidates, the scope of the special master's duties and limitations, and a schedule for the review. The judge called for both side to flag any substantive points of disagreement in the joint filing. That third party's task, sift through material seized from Mar-a-Lago to weed out personal items, documents covered by attorney/client privilege and to the confusion of many legal experts, documents covered by executive privilege.

In granting Trump's request for a special master to review thousands of documents from Mar-a-Lago, the judge cited swirling allegations of bias and media leaks. She was also deferential to Trump's position as a former president, writing that Trump faces an unquantifiable potential harm by way of improper disclosure of sensitive information to the public, adding, the stigma associate with the subject's seizure is in a league of its own, and noting that during, the search the FBI took items, including medical documents and accounting information.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: There's not another litigant in the United States of America who could have gotten this same ruling. It's really a very pro-plaintiff, pro-Trump ruling in all respects.

MURRAY: Still, Trump --

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It was a travesty of justice.

MURRAY: -- spent the weekend unleashing a torrent of attacks on law enforcement at a Pennsylvania rally.

TRUMP: This egregious abuse of the law is going to produce a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen before.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, of course, we are still waiting to see if the Justice Department is going to appeal the judge's ruling but we're also frankly waiting to see whether the two sides can set aside the acrimony, the Trump team and the Justice Department, and submit a joint filing that agrees on truly anything having to do with the special master. They have until Friday, Wolf, to do that.

BLITZER: Sara Murray reporting for us. Thank you very much, Sara.

Lets discuss with CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates, and Palm Beach County, Florida State Attorney Dave Aaronberg.

Laura, the former attorney general under Trump, Bill Barr, says the judge's order is, quote, wrong and that the U.S. Justice Department should appeal. What do you make of that?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there're two points as to why he believes they're wrong. I think there is some merit in both of those. One is the idea of executive privilege. The idea here that a member of the executive branch, which, of course, under the org chart here, Wolf, includes the Department of Justice, that they would be withheld information that's already rightfully in their possession at the executive branch of government.

Number two, it's also the idea here that normally a special master opinion, special master's appointed for an attorney/client privilege scenario, not an executive privilege, which is already shaky in and of itself.


And if I can offer a third as to why it's bizarre, in her opinion, she spoke about the idea of this 41g discussion, this rule that essentially says it's about whether the documents should be rightfully returned to the person who had in possession those documents. The idea that on the one hand you have national security implications she cites, the idea of the DNI being able to go on in their investigative routine here about the national security. But then the potential to have it be returned to Donald Trump, it's inconsistent at best.

However, in the long run, in the grand scheme of things whether they'll go ahead and take their chance with the delay of an appeal versus simply deciding to have the special master review everything is anyone's guess.

BLITZER: Yes, DNI, the director of national intelligence.

Dave, Barr says he thinks the Justice Department could get the order for a special master overturned. Do you agree?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: I think that's going to be difficult, Wolf, because the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is conservative. And I think the DOJ, as Laura said, may just want to move on and stop with the delays and go ahead with the special master.

The bigger concern, though, is a different part of the order, the one that has criminal defense lawyers across the country salivating because the judge put a halt to this investigation, at least when it comes to reviewing and using the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.

So, if that continues around the country with other judges, that puts every criminal investigation in jeopardy. We prosecutors would hate that. It inserts judges into the decisions of prosecutors before we even charge someone. That's ridiculous, and especially because it came from a law and order judge who used to be a former federal prosecutor. And that's what makes it so hard to take. I guess when it comes to Donald Trump, the person who appointed her this, law and order judge instantly turns into Saul Goodman.

BLITZER: Interesting. Dana, how incredible is this 180 by Bill Barr, who, as we all know, used to be one of Trump's biggest enablers?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's consistent with the Bill Barr that we heard during the January 6th committee testimony, where he was incredibly, incredibly tough on the former president, the then-president, his boss, back then in his testimony but also describing the things that he did and said to Donald Trump to try to get to the bottom of his election lies and presented to his former boss the facts which were completely flying in the face of those lies.

So, it was pretty clear from the end of 2020 that he was kind of done with Donald Trump. And so what he is doing now is calling it like he sees it in a way that is sort of consistent with the law and with the facts that he probably would have given had he had not defending someone like George H.W. Bush, who he worked for way back when, or even a client. And it is very different from the Bill Barr we saw during the Russia investigation. I think that's what you're getting at, and that is true.

BLITZER: And, Dana, let me follow up. As you know, another former Trump official, the former CIA director, Mike Pompeo, has also weighed in right now, telling RealClearPolitics the FBI search was a political act but that, quote -- and I'm quoting him now, anybody who takes classified information outside of the places, it is supposed to be should give that information back. That includes presidents, former presidents, close quote. How notable is it that both Pompeo and Barr have rebuked Trump on this?

BASH: Very notable. The difference between Bill Barr and Mike Pompeo, though, is Mike Pompeo in that interview also admitted that he has teams already on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire as he considers running for president in 2024. If he decides to go ahead and do that, he's likely going to be running against his former boss, Donald Trump, in the Republican primary. So, that is a very different dynamic when you hear Mike Pompeo, what he says, than Bill Barr. I don't Barr to be running for president anytime soon.

BLITZER: Yes, I don't either.

You know, Laura, as of right now, there's, what, this Friday deadline for a joint filing on this proposed special master. These two sides haven't agreed on much so far. So, how will this unfold?

COATES: Not in a timely way. It will probably be frustrating for everyone involved trying to get to the person that they'd like to have be able to be set as that special master. But also the judge can have a very big role in this. She may have her own ideas about a truly objective party.

But, really, it's going to come down to, Wolf, the parameters of what the special master will look at, the timeline. Will there be a deadline as well for how long it takes for these 11,000-plus documents to be reviewed? How about the timeline for getting the people who have to review this now some sort of security clearance, including that special master if he or she does not already have some?


And the attorneys for, of course, Donald Trump will likely have to go through a clearance process to figure out whether they agree with the assessment if the parameters require them to agree with that special master's conclusion. There's a lot of delay that could actually happen here.

At the end of the day here, though, if we're talking about a delay as opposed to what really is at issue here, the classified documents, the national security interests, are quite different from attorney/client privileged data. If that review has already been done and charges are marching forward, the delay may have very little impact on the overall investigation and potential case.

BLITZER: Laura Coates, Dana Bash, Dave Aronberg. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead CNN obtains potential new evidence connected to Georgia's criminal probe of the 2020 presidential election and the allegations of interference. Surveillance footage showing a fake pro-Trump elector escorting two other pro-Trump operatives into an elections office the very same day voting equipment there was breached.


BLITZER: Tonight, we're getting a glimpse of potential evidence connected to the criminal investigation of the 2020 election interference efforts in Georgia.


CNN obtaining surveillance video showing pro-Trump operatives entering a county elections office on the very same day voting machines were breached there.

CNN's Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has been working the story for us. Drew, walk us through what this new video shows.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Will do. Well, the surveillance video that you're about to see is from an elections office in Georgia, just one of the states where these breaches of voting machines are under investigation. And here's a picture. It's Cathy Latham, there in blue. She used to be the chairwoman of the Coffee County GOP. She's already under investigation for posing as a fake elector, signing at one of those documents that declared Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election, not Joe Biden. And she can be seen here escorting a team of pro-Trump operatives into that elections office, Wolf, where they breached the voting machines.

This includes a man named Paul Maggio, an I.T. specialist, whose company was hired by Trump Attorney Sidney Powell. How do we know that they breached these machines? This guy right there, Scott Hall, we have on audio tapes obtained by CNN saying this. I'm the guy that chartered the jet to go down to Coffee County to have them inspect all of those computers. And he goes on to say they scanned all the equipment, imaged all the hard drives, and scanned every single ballot. Hall has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

The woman, Cathy Latham, the one who opened that door in the video, she's been connected to this plan to give the group access to the elections office by text messages, emails and testimony in a civil suit into Georgia's elections security. Latham also was testifying before the Georgia state lawmakers along with Rudy Giuliani about alleged voter machine irregularities in Coffee County.

Latham's attorney told CNN this. Ms. Latham has not acted improperly or illegally. Ms. Latham did not authorize or participate in any ballot scanning efforts, computer imaging or any similar activity. Wolf, the I.T. specialist firm says it has no reason to believe that the lawyers that hired them would ask them to do anything wrong, but there seems no doubt here, this county's machines were tampered with, and people's ballots were scanned. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, this is really significant.

Drew, we know there are investigations into the improper access of voting machines in multiple states right now, not just in Georgia. Are they connected?

GRIFFIN: Well, some of the players definitely overlap. A similar breach in Michigan is connected to what happened here in Georgia. And I want you to look at this other video we got. This is the CEO of Cyber Ninjas at the Coffee County Elections Office, that same office, a couple weeks later.

His name is Doug Logan. He was there for two different days. His company ran that partisan so-called audit in Arizona. He is named as a co-conspirator in a vote machine scheme being investigated in Michigan. And now here he is in Coffee County, Georgia, where election machines were breached. It all seems to point to a coordinated plan to try to overturn the results of that 2020 election.

BLITZER: New information, very disturbing information indeed. Drew Griffin, thank you very much.

Joining us now, a leading member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Jim Himes. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. First, let me get your reaction to the report we just heard. How big of a threat does this pose potentially to election integrity?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, thanks for having me, Wolf. And it's shocking, actually. Let me explain that because people might say, well, gosh, okay, ballots were compromised in one little voting location or one county in Georgia, is that really going to make a difference? Step back, Wolf. And what the January 6th commission -- committee has shown us is that there was a huge, orchestrated effort. The theory behind it was by, you know, law professors like John Eastman, you had very powerful people, the president himself, you had Rudy Giuliani, you had a team of lawyers, all trying to create the case for why the election was faulty.

Now, the one piece they were missing, the one piece they were missing was any evidence, any evidence whatsoever that there were any problems in the election. So, imagine if, you know, that whole group of people were able to point to a location in Georgia where ballots had been erased. Now, who knows what these individuals were doing there but about let's just imagine that there was evidence of tampering. That's the evidence they need.

Now, by the way, they don't apparently need evidence, right, because, as we know, there is no evidence and yet a significant portion of the American population remains convinced that there was. But, boy, if they could have held up an example of a tampered-with voting machine, that might have been enough to delay -- to cause senators, like Senator Cruz, to object successfully to ballots.

And so, again, maybe an apparently small event in Georgia, but it could have had catastrophic consequences for our election.


BLITZER: Yes, potentially indeed. The former Trump attorney general, as you know, Congressman, we're talking about Bill Barr, he just reacted to the judge's order for a special master to review documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago. Watch and listen to this.


BARR: The opinion I think was wrong, and I think the government should appeal it.

I don't think the appointment of a special master is going to hold up. But even if it does, I don't see it fundamentally changing the trajectory. In other words, I don't think it changes the ball game so much as maybe we'll have a rain delay for a couple of innings.


BLITZER: What do you think, Congressman? Do you agree with him?

HIMES: I do. I agree on both counts. You know, I'm not even a lawyer, but when I read the judge's opinion on the appointment of a special master, I mean, there was no lawyering in that opinion, right? I mean, there was this notion that maybe there would be an executive privilege claim there. Now, by the way, the executive privilege is something that is exercised by the current president, not by the ex-president. And so as far as I can tell as a non-lawyer, but you've got people like Bill Barr, plenty of other lawyers saying the judge's opinion was nonsensical, I do expect the DOJ to appeal it. They should, because, again, this delay will slow something that the American people need to know, which is the extent of the national security risks and threats that were perhaps generated by President Trump's decision to take all of this classified material to an unsecure country club in Florida.

BLITZER: Will you and other members of the Intelligence Committee, Congressman, actually wind up getting a briefing on the national security implications of all of this when you return from the August recess?

HIMES: We will. My understanding is that that after-action, that damage assessment review is under way. Now, they, of course, have a full catalog of the sensitive and classified information that was at Mar-a-Lago. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been doing that work for some period of time. And, yes, I do expect we will get a briefing, and I suspect it will not be a pretty picture.

I mean, things get classified top secret, you know, SCI, all of these markings, for a reason, and that is to protect critical national security information. Now, whether we'll be able to talk about it on the media is a different question, but I have to believe that the after -- the damage review is going to suggest that there's some very real damage to American national security.

BLITZER: We will find out sooner rather than later, I am sure. Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, thanks so much for joining us.

Coming up, children in Uvalde, Texas making an emotional return to the classroom today for the first time since the Robb Elementary School massacre. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Going back to school after the summer break can be hard for children and their parents, but it's been especially, an especially difficult day in Uvalde, Texas, scene of the mass shooting in May that left 19 children and 2 teachers dead.

CNN Crime and Justice Correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is on the scene for us tonight.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Uvalde students headed back to school today arriving to hugs and high fives. The children who survived the mass shooting at Robb Elementary on May 24th greeted the day with anxious smiles.

You doing all right? How are you holding up? A.J. MARTINEZ, INJURED AT ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: I'm good.

PROKUPECZ: You're smiling. Are you happy?


PROKUPECZ: Happy to go back to school?



MARTINEZ: Yes, I'm nervous because I'm not used to this school.

PROKUPECZ: This is a new school, right?


PROKUPECZ: A.J. Martinez was in room 112 at Robb watching a movie to celebrate the end of the school year when a gunman entered his classroom, killing 19 of his classmates and 2 of his teachers. He dove under backpacks trying to hide but was shot through his upper leg. Today as he enters fifth grade, his limp has all but disappeared.

Just trying to get back to normal life, right?


PROKUPECZ: And this is a good first step.


PROKUPECZ: deciding what to wear for the first day at his new school, A.J. chose a shirt with a photo of the friends and the teachers that he lost. His wounds may slowly heal but the emotional toll will be harder to overcome.

For Uvalde's parents, it's been a day filled with both hope and fear.

You all right?

KASSANDRA CHAVEZ, MOTHER OF STUDENT INJURED AT ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: This -- like I said, scared, worried for my kids and all the teachers and the students that are coming back. That's all I'm worried about.

PROKUPECZ: It's a difficult day for A.J.'s mom, Kassandra Chavez. When we sat down this summer, she shared her advice to her son.

CHAVEZ: He tells me, mom, I just -- I hate the shooter. I hate that he killed my friends and my two teachers, mom. And he's like, I will never see them again. And I said I know, babe. But, you know, you have to be strong because that's what they would want you to do.

PROKUPECZ: As he they filed into their classrooms, Uvalde students were met by a heavy law enforcement presence led by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Some schools in the district have new visible security measures, like eight-foot fencing and cameras.

At A.J.'s school, the fencing hasn't been completed in time for the first day.

Back in the drop-off line at Flores Elementary, Zeke Wyndham sits in the back of his dad's pickup truck, ready to bravely face his fears.

How do you feel about coming back to school?


ZEKE WYNDHAM, FORMER ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT: I'm really nervous. I'm still scared and shocked after what happened at my old school. And I'm still scared and nervous.

PROKUPECZ: You were at Robb?

WYNDHAM: Mm-hmm.

PROKUPECZ: What grade are you in now?


PROKUPECZ: Fifth grade. Were you in the fourth grade class where the shooting happened or you were in a different room?

WYNDHAM: I was down the hall.

PROKUPECZ: But you could hear?

WYNDHAM: I can still hear the gunshots. It was very terrifying and traumatizing for me.

PROKUPECZ: And still is.

WYNDHAM: Mm-hmm.

PROKUPECZ: Coming back to school?

WYNDHAM: It's scary.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And, Wolf, as part of the internal investigations and the many investigations that are going on across the state, we've learned from the state senator, Roland Gutierrez, that five Department of Public Safety officers, agents of the state troopers, the Department of Public Safety, have been referred for further investigation by that agency to the inspector general for some of their actions on that day. So, obviously, many investigations here, Wolf, still ongoing as this community little by little tries to return to some kind of normalcy. Wolf?

BLITZER: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz on the scene for us. Shimon, thank you very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with the Uvalde County commissioner, Ronald Garza. Commissioner, thank you so much for joining us.

How did it feel today in Uvalde seeing these children return to school for the first time since the shooting?

RONALD GARZA, UVALDE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Wolf, good to be on your show. There was anticipation and anxiety. I know some parents were expressing uncertainty. But I know for a fact that for the last month, our dedicated teachers and school administrators have been preparing for this day. And as far as I know, everything went well today.

BLITZER: Well, that's good to hear. Are the schools in Uvalde, commissioner, actually ready to care for these young kids who lived through that massacre? Many of them, of course, still traumatized, as you just heard. Now, they have to go to an entirely new school. Robb Elementary School has been shut down. What do you think?

GARZA: Well, I think the school district did what they had to do. The support services are there, Wolf. You know, Robb Elementary is no longer there for the students. So, they had to kind of separate students between two different campuses. But, you know, the school district has gone out of their way to help students, facilitate students and parents. And, again, the dedicated teachers have been working very hard for the last month. I see their cars there at the campuses.

Now, as far as security measures, I know that there are some schools that don't have the fencing yet or maybe some security indoor, inside security is not in place. But every campus has about six to eight DPS officers outside standing guard.

BLITZER: As you know, since the massacre, parents in Uvalde have been pushing for new gun safety measures. What are you hearing from parents in your community, Commissioner?

GARZA: Wolf, I've been -- I've been part of that group of parents that have so valiantly, of course, stood up to our gun laws, which are not working right now, Wolf. Initially, we had tried to ask Governor Greg Abbott to hold a special session to specifically address upping the age of people purchasing the AR-15 semi-automatic assault-style rifle, from 18 to 21 years of age. We asked him to call a special session. He has not indicated one way or the other.

So, we've changed course. The parents have unanimously agreed to now try to set up a meeting with the speaker of the house, Mr. Dade Phelan. We understand Mr. Dade Phelan along with his wife are very strong children's advocates. The speaker of the house wields a lot of power. Ultimately, he determines what bills come up for a vote.

So, as we speak we have a letter that's being signed by the parents and it's also going to be signed by community leaders here in Uvalde. And we're going to present that letter to the speaker of the house to try to arrange a private meeting with the parents so they can express their concerns with gun safety measures.

BLITZER: Uvalde County Commissioner Ronald Garza, good luck to you. Good luck with all you're trying to do. Thanks so much for joining us. GARZA: Good to be with you, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, President Biden touting a string of legislative wins as he ramps up his midterm push.


Will it pay off for his fellow Democrats?


BLITZER: President Biden calling in his cabinet secretaries to the White House today for the first time since March, as he's shining a spotlight on his recent legislative wins, exactly, what, 63 days before the midterm elections.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, how often is the president going to be out there on the campaign trail in this final push leading up to the midterms?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House says you can expect to see President Biden out on the road quite frequently.


You've already gotten kind of a taste of that in the last seven days or so. He's been in Pennsylvania three times. He was also in Wisconsin yesterday. He is headed to Ohio on Friday and then Michigan next week as well. And that is essentially what his schedule is going to look like for the next nine weeks in the lead-up to these midterm elections, which, of course, are so crucial.

President Biden himself obviously is not on the ballot. But a lot of Democrats are. And the control of the Senate is in the balance. And that is a big question for the White House of what exactly that's going to look like.

And so they do believe putting President Biden out there really translating the message that he had today in that fifth cabinet meeting since taking office about that recent string of legislative accomplishments that Democrats had is going to be incredibly effective for them.

But, Wolf, it's not just talking about what they've gotten past when it comes to semiconductor chips. That is what he's going to be talking about in part in Ohio on Friday at the opening of a facility there, but also this new message that you have seen from him as he has been sharpening his attacks on Republicans in recent weeks, going after them, drawing a distinction, Wolf, of what he says are mainstream Republicans that he has worked with throughout his career in the Senate, but also Republicans who style themselves like former President Trump and in his ideology that he says are the threat to democracy and that he worries could work to undermine democracy if elected. And the White House says that is part of what is driving his message out there on the road. One thing to watch is which candidates are appearing with him at these events, Wolf, because, of course, as his numbers have gone up, the question of whether Democrats are more likely to embrace him, especially those in vulnerable positions, is something to keep an eye on.

BLITZER: We certainly will. Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you very much.

More now, right now on our top story, the ex-attorney general, Bill Barr, calling out a federal judge's ruling allowing an outside attorney to review the documents seized by the FBI from former President Trump's Florida home.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, Barr calls the ruling wrong, but he's certainly not the only one criticizing it.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is certainly not, Wolf. Judge Aileen Cannon facing some blistering criticism tonight on the legal and political fronts while a friend and former colleague is defending her impartiality.


TODD (voice over): Tonight this 41-year-old judge from south Florida finds herself at the center of the legal and political battles in the Mar-a-Lago document fight. Following her granting of Donald Trump's request for a special master to review material the FBI seized at Mar- a-Lago, the former president appeared to praise Judge Aileen Cannon, posting a statement saying, quote, it takes courage and guts to fight a totally corrupt Department of Justice and FBI.

But Judge Cannon is being slammed on other fronts. New York University Law Professor Chris Sprigman saying on Twitter, Cannon's decision is, quote, partisan hack judging. Others, while not going that far, do say the optics of Judge Cannon's connection to Trump at least raise questions.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know whether she was partisan because she was appointed by Trump. It does seem that she certainly bent over backwards to help him in this case.

TODD: Judge Cannon was nominated to the federal bench by Trump in May of 2020. She was confirmed just days after the 2020 presidential election.

Former acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, a friend of Aileen Cannon's, told us her appointment by Trump wouldn't have prompted her to tip the scales on Trump's behalf. Sherwin saying, quote, she's going to make sure the former president's rights were protected, just as all citizens' rights should be protected.

During her confirmation hearing, Cannon thanked members of her family including her maternal grandparents who she said had to flee Cuba in 1960 and her mother. JUDGE AILEEN CANNON, U.S. DISTRICT COURT, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA: To my loving mother, Mercedes, who at the age of seven had to flee the repressive Castro regime in search of freedom and security, thank you for teaching me about the blessings of this country and for the importance of securing the rule of law for generations to come.

TODD: A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Aileen Cannon once practiced law at a firm in Washington where she said she handled cases related to government investigations. She told the Senate she had also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Florida in the major crimes division.

CNN Analyst Jennifer Rodgers says her criticisms of Judge Cannon's ruling granting a special master are purely legal. Rodgers disagrees with Cannon's support of Trump's claim that he suffered irreparable harm in the seizing of the documents from Mar-a-Lago. And she believes Cannon overstepped in ordering the Justice Department to temporarily stop using the seized documents in its investigation in the Mar-a-Lago case.

RODGERS: Upon what authority does Judge Cannon actually tell the Justice Department how it can and cannot conduct its investigations?


TODD (on camera): We reached out to Judge Cannon's chambers to ask for her response to the legal and political criticism of her rulings in this case and for her overall comment on our story about her. We didn't hear back. The Justice Department does have the ability to appeal her ruling, Wolf. We'll see if that's coming soon.

BLITZER: We shall find out. Brian Todd reporting, thank you very much.


Coming up, will you need to get an updated COVID vaccine every year just like the flu shot?

We'll share that with you right after a quick break.


BLITZER: Now to the United Kingdom where new Prime Minister Liz Truss just spoke on the phone with President Biden tonight.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo is joining us live from London right now.

Bianca, a very, very busy first day for the new prime minister. What you tell us?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A very busy indeed. It started with flying to Scotland and officially being appointed as prime minister. Then, between lightning and thunderstorms she managed to give a speech on the steps of Downing Street. [18:50:06]

And this evening, she's hit the ground running.

Her first call was with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who thanked the United Kingdom for its continued economic and defense support. And then there was a phone call between President Biden and the new U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss.

And from what we understand, we've had readout from both countries now. They talked about the importance of that special transatlantic relationship. How it's been informative and crucial in defending the values of freedom and democracy around the world since its inception and how they want to build on that through continued defense partnerships with NATO and with the Australians, and how they want to band together they make sure that they address the threat of China, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and to ensure that Putin fails in Ukraine.

There was a telling discrepancy in the two readouts that we had from the White House and from Downing Street. And that indicates where there could be a source of tension between President Biden and Liz Truss. And that is around, the Good Friday agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol, which is one of the unresolved issues of Brexit that President Biden is likely to put pressure on.

But Liz Truss addressed the nation today, acknowledging the challenges ahead. Let's take a listen.


LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We shouldn't be daunted by the challenges we face. As strong as this storm may be, I know that the British people are stronger. I am confident that together we can ride out the storm. We can rebuild our economy.


NOBILO: And there are negative headwinds ahead for the new prime minister. She'll be facing the House of Commons and the country tomorrow for her first prime minister's questions, always a very daunting task for any prime minister, but certainly one who has been ushered in on less than 1 percent of the electorate, Wolf. So, it will be a very telling moment to see how she handles that pressure.

BLITZER: Historic moments indeed unfolding. Bianca Nobilo, thank you very, very much.

Other news we're following tonight, the head of the White House COVID response team saying Americans may need yearly shots to protect against the virus.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us with the latest developments.

Elizabeth, tell our viewers what you're learning? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it looks

like the COVID shot will become an annual shot like the flu shot. And, in fact, you can get them both at the same time. Go get the flu shot, get the COVID shot right at the same time together.

The uphill battle for U.S. health officials is convincing people to get this new COVID booster.

Let's take a look at how enthusiasm for COVID vaccinations has really waned over time. When you look at the number of percent of Americans who have gotten two shots, only 72 percent did. That's a quarter that did not get it. And then it gets worse. When you look at folks who got two shots who then got the third, which they were supposed to, only half did. Half of the people who got two never bothered to get the third.

And then when you look at the percentage of Americans over age 50, it was recommended that they get a fourth shot, only 34 percent of those folks got a fourth shot. Most of those people said no, thank you. So, lots of reasons to get a COVID shot to make yourself healthy. Also for flu, it could be a bad flu season.

We know, for example, that Australia had a bad flu season. Their winter has already passed. That could, it won't necessarily, but it could mean that we'll have a bad season, too. Also decreased flu immunity around the world because we didn't have flu for two years because of masking and social distancing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Important information, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, California bracing for rolling power outages. That's happening tonight as the heat wave hits its peak.



BLITZER: California energy officials have just declared a stage two emergency alert, and they expect to increase that to stage three in the coming hours.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is in southern California for us. She's just southeast of Los Angeles.

What's the latest, Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, you're talking about basically an hour and a half from now that they do expect to hit the all-time record for the demand put on the power grid here in California. And part of the reason is because it is just so extremely hot here.

Right now, where I'm standing in Hemet, California, it's 102 degrees. It was up to 108 at one point. You can see behind me. I'm at the Fairview Fire here, which is continuing to burn. It looks like a couple of structures we just drove by to check out are burning. There's another fire burning not too far from here.

It's also very windy, which is also pushing some of these flames. The firefighters up there dealing with very difficult conditions. This fire alone, we know two women lost their lives and one civilian was also injured on this. But across the entire West, this heat is a problem from the southern U.S. border all the way up to the northern border of the United States here on the West Coast.

Some 50 million people feeling this heat right now, and that power grid issue is something they're keeping their eyes on as we set records as far as temperatures are concerned in several cities in the west. They're really concerned about it. So, they're asking people in California when you get home, from 4:00 to 9:00, ease up on the thermostat and ease up on using electronics -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, horrible situation indeed. Stephanie Elam, thank you very, very much.

Finally tonight, Germany is marking 50 years since the terrorist massacre at the Munich Olympic Games by issuing an apology. The German president asking for forgiveness saying his country, quote, tragically failed to protect Israeli athletes and team members including the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed during the attack and botched rescue efforts.

He says the Olympic Village became an international stage for anti- Semitism and violence and, quote, that should never have been allowed to happen. Let's hope, in fact, that nothing like that ever happens again.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.