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Trump Waging Secret Court Fight To Block 1/6 Testimony By Ex- Aides; Sham Voting Under Way In Russia-Occupied Areas Inside Ukraine; Stocks Sink To Nearly Two-Year Low As Recession Fears Mount; Former Justice Breyer: Possible GOP Majority May Have Influenced Retirement Decision. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 23, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening, the secret court fight being waged by the Trump team, the former president's lawyers now working to block members of his inner circle from testifying before a grand jury. We're diving deeper into CNN's exclusive new reporting.

Also tonight, CNN is live in Ukraine as a sham vote on joining Russia is being held in occupied Ukrainian areas, Vladimir Putin's war strategy growing more desperate as he faces a revolt at home, Russians fleeing by the car load to try to escape Putin's new military draft.

And mounting recession fears drive down stock prices. The Dow sinking to a nearly two-year low, as the U.S. may be nearing a tipping point for the economy.

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

Tonight, there's late word that the intelligence community has resumed its damage assessment of classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago after getting the green light from a new appeals court ruling. Stand by for more on that.

But right now, I want to get to CNN's exclusive new reporting. Our Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz is joining us right now. So, Katelyn, what are you learning about this secret court battle that's being waged right now by the Trump team?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, it is, indeed, a secret court battle, a closed proceeding. We only know about it because three lawyers representing Donald Trump related to January 6th were coming out of court yesterday, we caught them on camera. And what this is about, what we've been able to confirm, Evan Perez and Zack Cohen and I, is that this is about witnesses and whether witnesses can be blocked by Donald Trump from testifying or turning over documents to the federal grand jury that is investigating, bringing possible cases against people potentially around Trump, potentially even Trump himself. We don't know if it's gotten that far.

But this came after a number of people very close to the president, when he was in office, had been subpoenaed to the grand jury, some of them declined to answer questions. And one person, an adviser, a lawyer, Eric Hirschmann, essentially forced the Trump team's hand there in court now, and Trump is trying to invoke various privileges, executive privilege, attorney/client privilege, to wall off what was happening in his inner circle.

BLITZER: So, what happens next, Katelyn, if the Justice Department wins or if Trump wins?

POLANTZ: Well, there are enormous implications on both sides for this. These things are never taken lightly in any administration. And with this, with Donald Trump, the former president, if the Justice Department wins, it opens a major set of doors for them. It potentially means those witnesses who decline to answer questions could get called back. It would allow the Justice Department to get answers and information from lots of other witnesses who may not be willing to talk at this point and that there are these witnesses that would be called back that we know could be quite important people. We've already heard them in the House select committee investigations declining to answer some questions.

And then, if Donald Trump wins, it would protect the things he wants to protect in his presidency, though that is going to be a very tall task because these are not the sorts of things that courts have blocked off from criminal investigations like this in the Nixon administration and in the Clinton administration. Presidents, even sitting presidents, let alone former presidents, have lost these sorts of battles.

BLITZER: Very, very sensitive moment right now. Katelyn, stay with us, we have more to discuss.

I also want to bring in CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Palm Beach County, Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg, and CNN Counterterrorism Analyst Phil Mudd.

Dave, let's begin with your reaction to our exclusive new CNN reporting that the former president has been involved in a secret court fight. Do you think he will be successful in blocking his former aides from testifying?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: I don't, Wolf. And this is really about Eric Hirschmann, who was the breakout star of the January 6th committee hearings. He had that salty language and direct advice to John Eastman, to Jeffrey Clark, they needed to hire their own criminal defense lawyers.

His testimony is really important because it could go to criminal intent, because he could show that Eastman and Clark and perhaps even Trump himself were directly told by a lawyer, Hirschman, that what they were doing is a crime. So, that's important for investigators. So, you can see why Trump would not want him to be unleashed in front of a grand jury. Now, attorney/client privilege and executive privilege really doesn't apply here, because Eric Hirschmann was a government lawyer, and there's case law, Wolf, that says this, that it doesn't prevent -- the privileges, they don't prevent him to testify, because as a government lawyer, he's supposed to talk about criminality within the White House. If he was Trump's private lawyer, it would be different, but he wasn't a private lawyer.


And, finally, the government here has a heightened interest in this testimony because of the nature of this. This involves the attempt to overthrow of the United States government, can't get more important than that.

BLITZER: So, Gloria, what do these secret proceedings tell you about just how concerned the former president is about his potential legal exposure?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it tells me that they are very concerned and they've always been very concerned. Look, this is a White House who has been wary about having its former aides testify about conversations they had with a former president about January 6th. And so I think we're seeing more of this.

Look, we've had more than two dozen of his former aides, people who worked at the White House, subpoenaed by the Justice Department. And that's a little frightening for them, one would think. No president likes his conversations to be before a grand jury. But I think in this particular case, it's really troubling for them.

They know that the Justice Department is going to want to compel this kind of testimony. We've already had his former White House chief of -- his former White House chief counsel in before the grand jury, but those conversations before the grand jury were circumscribed in advance. I think that's not going to be the case if the Justice Department gets its way here. And I think that's something that the White House, the former White House, clearly doesn't want.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Katelyn, we're getting new reporting about the U.S. intelligence community's work related classified materials found at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. What can you tell us? I know you're working this.

POLANTZ: Right. So, this is a different investigation than the other one we're talking about, January 6th. This is the Mar-a-Lago investigation with those documents that were seized. And what we're learning is that we did get an acknowledgement from the intelligence community or the agency above the intelligence community today saying two things. They're resuming the classification review of documents marked as classified that were taken out of Mar-a-Lago, so about 100 documents, and also they are doing an assessment of the potential risk to national security.

So, this work was on hold wherever there was that court flurry with the special master coming in, with Donald Trump suing. And now, this is what the Justice Department wanted. This is what the administration wanted. They had gone to the 11th Circuit to get this picked up again. Now, they have it and they are acknowledging this criminal investigation work continues. The intelligence investigation work continues.

BLITZER: Phil, you used to work at the CIA. How critical is it that this so-called damage assessment can continue, especially when you think about the people who actually risk their lives to supply the United States with this kind of top secret intelligence?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Right. It's critical for two reasons. First, let's go into two categories here, Wolf. That is information acquired from human sources and information required from intercepted communications. In either case, the intel community is going to look at that intelligence. That is, how do we intercept those communications, what human sources gave us that information and make an assessment about how vulnerable those sources are if this information is revealed.

Then you get to a second level of assessment. That is, if the information was revealed and somebody like Russia, China, North Korea found out about it, how quickly could they address that gap? How quickly could they, for example, execute a human informant? How quickly could they shut down a communications channel? So, if you see this kind of stuff kept in an unsecured place like Mar-a-Lago, you've got to ask that question about how secure the information was that was potentially vulnerable, and how much the U.S. is going to lose if that information was ever exposed, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

You know, Gloria, the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is now speaking out about what she sees as former President Trump's motivation for storing classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Listen to this.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't know what he's doing with it but I can't help but believe that he thought that there was some financial or political gain to him having it.


BLITZER: So, she's just speculating there, but what do you make of her remarks?

BORGER: Well, look, that has always been the mystery about all of this, Wolf. We know that the documents were at Mar-a-Lago. We know that there's about 100 of highly classified documents that were found. And the question that no one has answered yet is why the former president of the United States decided that he had to take them there, that he had to remove them from the White House. We don't know the answer to that.

Maybe at some point during one of these legal investigations, we will be able to get to the bottom of this mystery about why the president, former president, decided to do that.


But at this point, it's pure speculation. You can speculate all you want. We do not have a direct answer to that question, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. I would like to get an answer to that.

BORGER: Yes, we would.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, what it means for national security now that the U.S. intelligence community's damage assessment related to the Mar-a-Lago documents is back underway. I'll speak with a key member of the House intelligence committee, Representative Jackie Speier, when we come back.


BLITZER: We're following a new development in the investigation of classified documents stored at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home. The intelligence community confirming it has resumed, resumed its assessment of the potential damage the U.S. national security.

Joining us now, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a key member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

How critical is it for national security that this damage assessment is back underway after that pause.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): You know, I can say it in one word, imperative. We have got to assess how much damage has been done. It's not known yet who has had access to those documents.


But, Wolf, let me just put it in perspective. When I go down to the intelligence committee in a secret compartmentalized area, the documents I see are numbered. And there's a custodian who makes sure that all of them are returned. It is that critical to our national security. So, not only should we be concerned about why the former president took these documents that didn't belong to him, so it's a form of theft, but why the custodians, why the White House staff didn't do more to secure or have those documents returned. I fear that much of this or some of this information has already been shared. We have no evidence of that. But why would he take it?

And then the other question becomes, what does he have at Bedminster? What does he have at Trump Tower? And furthermore, I actually think that the FBI was tipped off. I don't think they necessarily would have gone there, but for the fact that beyond getting those 15 boxes that the archivists received in early January, after negotiating with the president, ex-president, for over a year, that they then went down subsequently, because they were already told by his attorneys that they had everything. So, they had to be tipped off, in my view. BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, because today, Hillary Clinton speculated, speculated that former President Trump may have sought financial or political gain, her words, in bringing those classified documents to Mar-a-Lago. Why do you think Trump was so determined to keep these documents?

SPEIER: Well, if, in fact -- and I haven't seen them yet. But if, in fact, they deal with nuclear weapons, if they are these top secret SCI, I mean, that creates grave danger to our country. That's why they are categorized in that fashion. It means that either someone who is an intel officer or someone who's an asset in another country could be jeopardized by that information being shared -- I mean, I can't begin to tell you how serious this is if it falls into the wrong hands.

BLITZER: It certainly is. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congresswoman, have you gotten any update on that damage assessment or any word on when you'll get that kind of briefing?

SPEIER: No, we haven't received anything yet, and because it's been through this process and machination with a special administrator, master, and that it was not going to be able to be resumed, so I'm really pleased to see that it has resumed.

And, you know, once again, it draws into question some of the jurists that have recently been appointed when the -- when Judge Cannon was so willing to provide the former president with all of these accommodations. And even when it got appealed, it took Trump appointees to recognize as justices that that her basis on which she provided that access and prevented the FBI from moving forward with this investigation were absolutely without any foundation.

BLITZER: Representative Jackie Speier, thanks so much for joining us.

SPEIER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we'll go live to Ukraine for the latest on the sham referendum and Vladimir Putin's desperate war strategy that's sowing dissent in Russia.

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



BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden says the United States will, quote, never recognize Russia's sham vote that's now underway in Ukraine. The Kremlin is expected to use the voting as a front to annex territory occupied by Russian forces. This comes as Vladimir Putin is facing growing backlash at home over his new military draft, with thousands of Russians now fleeing the loads of people the country, including carloads of people in long lines to cross into Finland.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is covering it all for us. He's on the ground in the war zone.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice over): As Russia forces a fake choice and a sham vote, unoccupied Ukrainians elsewhere, Igor and Zeena make the daily, deadly choice of their own. They must brave the shelling to go and get food.

They've heard of Russia's staged referendums here in Bakhmut, but Moscow makes itself felt here with artillery rather than imposing a ballot, likely having entered the city's east, streets in a strange quiet, as if in the eye of a storm, where nobody is in control. They will still have to fight their way in.

A sign of how things are changing fast here, Ukrainian forces have blown the bridge in the middle of the city in the last day or so, Russian forces getting close.

The people left ask us not to film the outside of shelters as the Russians will target them, and they've already gone underground as much as they can.


He's saying some of these things are taken from buildings that are being bombed and brought to here. A lot of people want the back of their head filmed possibly because they're concerned that in the days ahead, they're maybe under Russian control.

He tells me perhaps 20,000 people are still hiding out here, but there's no real way to know. The choice Russia imposes on Ukrainians here is spending nights underground and scurrying between shelter.

Days of hot words from Putin haven't cooled Ukraine's advance, though. The threat of nuclear annihilation carries slightly less horror here on the road to liberated Izium, where it looks like the apocalypse has already come, bar the radiation. Ten days ago, Russia was kicked out of here after heavy fighting. Even the Russian Orthodox Church has collapsed. The devastation seems to almost spur them on.

Announcements in Moscow about partial mobilization haven't really changed the dynamic here of an army that feels it's moving forward.

They've heard about Russia's mobilization, a nuclear bomb blast here, too. It will have a role, he says. But you need to train and supply people, so it won't make much difference as you destroyed most of their armor. There's nothing worse than nuclear war, another says. But you must understand, these decisions aren't taken by one person. And we see in Russia not everyone supports these moves.

This liberated road is where the Donetsk region begins. Ukraine already taking back the places Putin made central to his goals. And where fake ballot boxes and absurd claims of official Russian sovereignty cannot change who owns and who scarred the land.


WALSH (on camera): Now, Wolf, we know that these four referenda are farcical, that they're essentially in times seem to involve soldiers taking ballot boxes door-to-door, looking essentially for a rubber stamp here. Even one election worker saying to her colleague they were pleased ten people have gone to the polling station.

What we do not know, though, is what Russia intends to do with the likely signal in the middle of next week of endorsement, faked as it is, that these occupied areas want to become part of Russia. Does that lead to further escalation from Moscow or is this all part of theater to try and change the calculus in Ukraine and from his western supporters? Wolf?

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh reporting from the war zone in Ukraine, thank you very, very much. Stay safe over there.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, and CNN Military Analyst, retired Major General Spider Marks.

Ambassador Taylor, there are these videos that are now circulating which appear to show armed Russian soldiers going door-to-door in some of these Ukrainian regions. CNN can't verify this video. But what does this say about the tactics Russian is using to force Ukrainians to vote?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, VICE PRESIDENT FOR RUSSIA AND EUROPE, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Wolf, it says the same thing that they did in Crimea in 2014. That's exactly what they did. They occupied the peninsula. They set their forces around. At the point of a gun, they required people to vote. They didn't really have a choice, and, of course, they overstated and wildly exaggerated the vote. They're going to win this vote. No one should pay attention to this. Most important, Wolf, the Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian military will not pay attention. They'll keep fighting no matter what this referendum does.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly will.

Behind the scenes, General Marks, the U.S. has been warning Moscow over the past several months of the consequences if Putin were to use nuclear weapons in this war. As Putin seems to become more and more desperate, how important are these U.S. warnings?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES SPIDER MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, they're extremely important. And you would hope that from the outset, both the secretary of defense, our secretary of defense, and secretary of state, would communicate with their counterparts, as well as communicating with their counterparts in China, understanding that Xi has an incredibly significant voice in Putin's ear, and tell them, look, if you were to use nukes, there's no guarantee that there wouldn't be a real challenge with escalation. Clearly with the use of nukes, you want to de-escalate immediately.

But if they use nukes, I would tell you with certainty, with confidence, that NATO would be all-in in terms of the fight with both boots on the ground. It wouldn't be a nuclear fight, but it would be boots on the ground. And if that were to happen, if there was a U.S.- led coalition in Ukraine with NATO in concert with that, it would slaughter the Russian military in 96 hours.


It wouldn't necessarily have to cross the border into Russia, but the Russian military would be totally gone.

BLITZER: Do you agree, Ambassador Taylor, with that assessment?

TAYLOR: I agree with General Marks, that this will require a response, and there will be a response. And I imagine, Wolf, that these communications that the United States has provided to Russia at the level that General Marks just described have been very clear. They're not going to do this in public but they're going to very clear about what the response will be. And so this will deter -- that's the goal, it's to deter any use of these weapons.

BLITZER: At the same time, Ambassador Taylor, two Americans who were captured fighting for Ukraine have now been released from Russian custody, and they are now back on U.S. soil. How fortunate is it that they've made it home after this prisoner swap?

TAYLOR: Very fortunate. There were threats to their very lives, as we heard. The authorities in Donetsk had said that they could be -- could face the death penalty. So, this prisoner swap is a very good sign. It's very interesting that the reaction in Ukraine has been so euphoric, in the United States, as well, but all of the soldiers that came back from the Azov battalion back into Ukraine, hero's welcome, whereas in Russia, no welcome at all. They didn't even acknowledge that Medvedchuk was among the exchanges.

BLITZER: Interesting. Ambassador Bill Taylor, General Spider Marks, guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, we'll take a look at the recession fears that sent stock prices here in the U.S. plunging to the lowest level since 2020.



BLITZER: Florida is declaring a state of emergency just ahead of a tropical depression that's set to strengthen into a hurricane. It comes as Eastern Canada is bracing for Hurricane Fiona as that storm heads up the Atlantic.

Let's bring in CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray with the latest forecast. What are you learning, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, we'll start with Tropical Depression Nine, because this one has winds up to 35 miles per hour, gusts of 45. It's moving to the west-northwest at 15.

Now, within the last couple of hours, tropical storm watches, hurricane watches, have been issued for Jamaica, as well as for the Cayman Islands. Now, this one is going to continue its track to the west, and then eventually bend back to the north, crossing over Cuba. This has some very warm water, a very ripe environment for this storm to strengthen rapidly.

And that's really the concern, as this gets closer to the U.S. coast. This could become a category 2, 3, or even higher, Wolf, by the time this make landfall. So, we're looking at a storm with potentially 115 miles per hour winds, maybe greater, by the time it reaches the Florida coast, middle part of next week. So, this is something we're watching closely. Most of the forecast models agree that this storm is headed, most likely, to Florida by the middle part of next week.

Hurricane Fiona, quickly, you can see impacting Nova Scotia, the eastern side of Canada. This could be the strongest storm ever to hit Canada, already seeing rains there and, Wolf, conditions are going to deteriorate overnight tonight into tomorrow with potentially 45-foot waves around Nova Scotia.

BLITZER: Yes, folks are going to have to be very, very careful. Jennifer Gray, thank you very much.

Now to a growing concern about the state of the U.S. economy, the Dow Jones Industrial is closing down nearly 500 points today to the lowest level since November 2020. Wall Street and the nation fearing a recession could be around the corner.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, economic indicators have many people on edge right now. Break it all down for us.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, many Americans believe the recession is already here. But analysts say if and when it comes, people should simply plan to adjust and not panic.


TODD (voice over): The stock market tumbles, gas prices on average start to tick up after dropping for more than three straight months, all coming with punishing interest rate hikes, the last one just announced this week by the Fed, its chairman saying he understands American sticker shock.

JEROME POWELL, CHAIR, FEDERAL RESERVE: We have got to get inflation behind us. I wish there were a painless way to do that.

TODD: But for many Americans, recession jitters have set in.

BILL SPRENANT, NEW HAMPSHIRE RESIDENT: The cost of living, it would be nice if it came down a little more, but that's not going to happen. So, we'll see what happens.

DYLAN RATIGAN, ECONOMIC ANALYST: American anxiety is high, obviously. It's also self-fulfilling. And so the more you think about it, the more you create it.

TODD: While no one knows for sure if there will be a recession, some analysts believe if it comes, it will likely happen sometime next year, as the fallout from rising interest rates starts to affect American spending appearance. But for some, it feels like recession is already here. MARSHALL GOLDBERG, NEW HAMPSHIRE RESIDENT: My wife owns a small business that she bought from her father's estate, and she's been slammed by inflation and by supply chain issues. And we're worried about the economy, the general economy.

TODD: Analyst Dylan Ratigan says the housing market is the factor which could have the biggest psychological effect on Americans, and the news on that front isn't good. Mortgage rates continue to climb. More people are being priced out of the housing market. And home sales are declining.

RATIGAN: That creates a slowdown in how people feel, which changes their behavior relative to travel, restaurant, shopping, other expressions of economic confidence.

TODD: Another contributor to the recession jitters, prices at the pump.

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Nothing is more important to the collective psyche and to our perceptions of our own finances in the economy's performance than how much it costs us to fill our gasoline tank.


TODD: Analysts say despite the recent slight uptick in gas prices, they're generally at a decent level, for the moment. And Ratigan says Americans should look at the potential for a recession as an opportunity.

RATIGAN: It's an opportunity for everybody to review how they deal with money. Do you really need a new car? Do you really need extra subscriptions? Do you really need more travel?


TODD (on camera): And on the overall recession jitters, Analyst Mark Zandi has this advice for Americans. Be cautious, but just don't panic and try to draw down your spending. Wolf?

BLITZER: Good advice. Brian Todd reporting, thank you very much.

Another story we're following tonight, the sex trafficking investigation of Congressman Matt Gaetz. A source familiar with the probe says federal prosecutors have recommended against charging the Florida Republican. We're told questions have been raised about whether a jury would find credible key witnesses, credible, I should say.

The long-running investigation involves allegations of sex trafficking and prostitution, including whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Gaetz has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. CNN's source says that the Justice Department has not made any final decision on whether to charge Gaetz. We'll watch this story for you.

Coming up, CNN's Chris Wallace has an exclusive interview with retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, what he says about how the Democratic majority played into his decision to step down.



BLITZER: Some of the biggest names in politics and entertainment are talking to Chris Wallace for his new series premiering this Sunday night on CNN. One of his first guests, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who said a possible GOP majority played into his decision to step down.

Watch this.


STEPHEN BREYER, RETIRED SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: There have been delays, you know, when the party is split between control of the Senate and control of the presidency, and sometimes, long times pass. And I would prefer that my own retirement, my own membership on the court not get involved in what I would call those purely political issues.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: So the fact that it was a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the Senate played a role?

BREYER: You have to be, did it play some role? Could have? But it would depend on what the Republicans were.

WALLACE: You really think that there was a possibility, if the Senate was taken over by Republicans, that Joe Biden could have nominated somebody and the Senate would simply have refused to confirm any of his nominees?

BREYER: Do I think that's a possibility? I get my information from the newspapers, which aren't always accurate. But I think reading those newspapers, they suggest that there is a possibility. I don't know.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the host of "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?," who else but CNN's Chris Wallace.

Chris, welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM.

WALLACE: I was going to say, this is my first time. I am honored to be in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: I'm happy you are here with us. It won't be your last. You'll be here many, many times down the road.

Tell us about this amazing interview you had with Justice Breyer. Did you walk away with a better understanding of where he came from on that important decision?

WALLACE: On the Dobbs decision, absolutely. He is very distressed that the court has decided to take away this constitutional right that was granted back in Roe v. Wade half a century ago. And I think he feels it's a big mistake for the court and for the country.

One of the points he made, he said, he didn't specifically say it was about Dobbs, but he said, when the court writes too rigidly and without kind of an understanding of social harmony, he said the world changes and it will come back, his words, and bite you in the back. And I think he feels that the court lost some credibility. And I think he feels it's going to hurt the country and add to the disharmony in America.

BLITZER: And you also had an amazing interview with Tyler Perry, who was incredibly candid, I should say. I want to give our viewers a preview of that conversation. Watch this.


WALLACE: When you look at that little boy, that's you, in 5, what do you think. What do you say from this vantage point from that about your 5-year-old self?

TYLER PERRY, ACTOR, WRITER & DIRECTOR: I guess, that's hard for me to look at -- I look so much -- Jesus, I look so much like my son. The great thing about having a child now, a 7-year-old, is I get to say all of those things that I didn't get to say to my younger self, so I feel like it's helping to heal a lot of wounds.

WALLACE: Have you come to terms with the fact that you didn't get that from your father, or is it still an open wound?

PERRY: I've come to terms with it, but the beauty of it is having my son. I'm telling you, every time I say "I love him," I feel it being said to the little boy in me. My father sent a message to me a few years ago from my brother saying, if I would beat your ass one more time, you would be Barack Obama. Meaning that he thinks that his abuse brought me to success.

But he totally negates the love of my mother, and the love of my mother is what brought me here, it wasn't the abuse, it wasn't the rage and the anger. It was her love that brought to this place.


BLITZER: Were you surprised, Chris, by how much he revealed in this interview with you?

WALLACE: Yeah, I guess. I mean, when he says that his father who abused him for years used to literally whip the flesh off his bones, that his father said, if I'd done it a little bit more, you would have been even more of a success.


I must say it, it kind of took my breath away. And that's just the point of this show, these interviews, these conversations really is that you hope that they'll be two people, forget the cameras, forget the lights, two human beings sitting across a table being real. That's the hope.

BLITZER: I'm really excited. Good work. Welcome to CNN, of course, as well.



You can see "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE?" right here on CNN, this Sunday night. It starts 7:00 p.m. Eastern. All three of these interviews are available right now on HBO Max as well.

We'll have more news, just ahead.



BLITZER: This week our series called "Champions for Change" is highlighting people who are making the world a better place.

Tonight, we look at Kate Bolduan's champions, Ed and Mary Ternan, who lost their son Charlie to counterfeit painkillers he bought online. It's part of a growing and disturbing trend the Fernans are just dedicated to fighting.


ED TERNAN, CHARLIE'S FATHER: Charlie, could you say, merry Christmas daddy?

CHARLIE TERNAN, SON: Merry Christmas, daddy.

ED TERNAN: For me being a father was the most important thing in my life, was to be a good dad.

MARY TERNAN, CHARLIE'S MOTHER: I always remember when I was a little girl that I couldn't wait to have kids. And we're very blessed to have these children.

Happy Halloween 2000.

Charlie was a very easy baby.

What are you going to be for Halloween, Charlie?


MARY TERNAN: He was happy. He had a great laugh.

ED TERNAN: Charlie was about to graduate. He was in love. It was like we were almost ready to high-five and say, well done, we did it, we raised great young people and sent them off into the world.

And three weeks before he was supposed to graduate, it just exploded.

MARY TERNAN: We'll go to his room. Even though he's gone, we're going to still have his clothes in here, his smell.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: What happened?

In 2018, Charlie was 20 when he hurt his back?

ED TERNAN: He was prescribed Percocet at the time of his surgery, yeah. Took it while the prescription lasted and then stopped.

BOLDUAN: Then in 2020, he heads back to school.

MARY TERNAN: He called us and told us his back was hurting. And we said, call your doctor.

ED TERNAN: Well, somebody knows somebody on Snapchat that he's gotten from pills from before. So, they look at the menu, and Charlie says, oh, look, he's got perc too. What we put together is that he took what he thought was a Percocet but turned out to be a counterfeit.

BOLDUAN: Is it the belief that he died within 30 minutes of taking that pill?

MARY TERNAN: Probably less than that.

ED TERNAN: The doctors concluded from that he did not have a tolerance of opioids at the time of his death, so he wasn't addicted or dependent.

MARY TERNAN: It was a poisoning.

ED TERNAN: It was a poisoning because of the deception. A counterfeit prescription pill where the only active ingredient is fentanyl. There are certain dangers that we want to protect our kids from. But a counterfeit prescription pill wasn't on that list.

BOLDUAN: I have two young kids, and I, like every parent, worry about keeping them safe every day. But fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 100 times stronger than morphine. The size of just a few grains of salt can be enough to kill an average adult man. So, a lethal dose of fentanyl could be in any counterfeit pill.

And that's why Ed and Mary Ternan decided to tackle this problem in a new way after they lost their son. They established the sole purpose of warning young people and their parents that one pill can kill.

AD NARRATOR: If it's not from a doctor or pharmacist, it's not legit.

ED TERNAN: We started our first campaign about a year ago, social media campaign. And in just a year, we have reached 52 million unique viewers. And that's really where we're laser focused is to reach them where they are and to warn them.

We have made dozens of presentations to school assemblies and in school classrooms and in community groups. We have a monthly awareness meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rick and I lost our son Logan last year. ED TERNAN: We are at Times Square.

I can tell you there's a lot more awareness now.

Where we co-sponsored a billboard.

Two years after Charlie's death, then there was when we started.

BOLDUAN: What are some of your favorite memories with Charlie here?

ED TERNAN: When we stared to figure out how to body surfing.

BOLDUAN: The fact that Charlie's story, through you, is now saving lives. What do you think Charlie would think about all of this, about these beautiful agents of change that you have become?

MARY TERNAN: I think he'd be very proud. And he'd be hugging us. And he is hugging us. He knows that we're doing good work on his behalf.


BOLDUAN: And to give you an idea of the scope of this problem, last year, fentanyl was involved in more than 77 percent of adolescent overdose deaths. Many of these tragic deaths, they are not overdoses, they are just poisonings.

I spoke with the DEA Administrator in April, and she said that fentanyl is the most deadly and addictive drug that is widespread in the United States right now. You can learn more at

BLITZER: Thanks so much, Kate, for doing this report.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, reporting for us.

And join us tomorrow night 8:00 p.m. Eastern for the remarkable stories of "Champions for Change," only here on CNN.

Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.