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Biden Says Putin Totally Miscalculated Amid New Assault On Ukraine; Key GOP Senators Stump For Herschel Walker Amid Abortion Scandal; DOJ Urges Supreme Court To Stay Out Of Fight Over Mar-A-Lago; White House: Biden To "Re-Evaluate" Ties To Saudi Rabia After Oil Production Cut, Support For Russia; Oath Keepers Leader Told Reporter He Won't Recognize Biden Presidency, Will Resist Enforcement Of Any Law He Passes. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 11, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, as Russia presses on with punishing new strikes against Ukraine, President Biden tells CNN's Jake Tapper Vladimir Putin totally miscalculated in his unprovoked war. This hour, we will bring you part that have exclusive interview along with a live report from the battlefield.
Also tonight, the U.S. Justice Department warns the U.S. Supreme Court that classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago are extraordinarily sensitive, urging the high court to stay out of the government's legal battle with former President Trump.
And top Republicans stand with Herschel Walker in Georgia, closing ranks around their embattled U.S. Senate nominee, Walker lashing out at political opponents and speaking out tonight about the abortion controversy weighing on his campaign.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This hour officials, in Ukraine are bracing for Russia to strike again after two days of Vladimir Putin's new and widespread assault on cities across the nation. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground in the war zone.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice over): The second day of smoke over the capital in skies that had been quieter for months. A power plant Vinnytsia, one of many hit today, here by an Iranian drone attack, officials said, as Russia's cruise missiles tried to turn the power off before winter.
A smaller wave than Monday with Ukraine saying 33 hit their targets and 33 were shot down. Russia's defense spokesman blunt about what it wanted to hit, energy systems and military control. These 48 hours of onslaught new in ferocity but not in purpose. Russia has been sitting civilian targets in cities like this one, Zaporizhzhia daily for the past week, where one person died this day, terror that led the White House to agree to send advanced air defense systems Monday. But talking to the G7 leaders, Ukraine's president wanted more. Declare Russia a state sponsor of terror, too, he said.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: The leader of Russia feeling the approach of his end is trying to force the democratic world to surrender with a terrorist rush, to retreat, to lose. This can only be the desire of an insane person. More than 100 missile strikes in less than two days against civilians, against civilian infrastructure, sham referenda, a criminal attempt at annexation.
WALSH: Yet the days of indiscriminate and clumsy blasts don't change Russia's main problems, that it's army is using force conscription and lack basic supplies. Its military leadership bought a reprieve from rare internal dissent by Monday's violence perhaps, but still, Putin's rhetoric less fiery when he met the U.N. nuclear watchdog head today to discuss the frontline embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, even as he blamed everyone else for what he has been doing.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: Of course, we see that today there are elements of excessively dangerous politicization of everything connected with nuclear activity.
WALSH: Still, he will meet his Turkish counterpart in Kazakhstan, as his leading diplomat they were not against talks with the west if offered.
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: This is a lie. I can tell you right away. We did not receive any serious proposals to enter into contact.
WALSH: Again, a sign Russia, for all its violence and bombast, is not in a position of strength.
WALSH (on camera): Now, tonight, Ukraine's President Volodymr Zelenskyy said that 20 of the 28 cruise missiles fired at Ukraine, they had been intercepted. And in just the last hour, we've heard from Ukraine's Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, who said that a German system and air defense system called the IRST is already in Ukraine and that a U.S. and partially Norwegian system called NASAMS is on the way waiting separate confirmation from that. But we don't know if that's actually impacted some of the intercepts over the skies today.
But the main request from Zelenskyy to the G7 in a virtual summit today for an air shield, it seems that is being answered fast and could significantly impact Russia if it decides to continue this barrage on civilian areas. Wolf?
BLITZER: Nick, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN Military Analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, along with CNN National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood.
[18:05:03] General Hertling, you are skeptical that Ukraine can achieve what President Zelenskyy is asking for, an air defense shield. But how much a difference could modern air defense systems actually make on the ground?
LT. GEN. HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, certainly, Wolf, any additional air defense system could help. But, yes, I am extremely skeptical not just -- and I am a huge supporter of President Zelenskyy, but any commander will tell you that there is no such thing as an air defense shield. You cannot stop all missiles and rockets from entering a certain location.
Air defense is based on point targets. And to suggest that you can draw a curtain around the borders of Ukraine and not allow any Russian missiles or rockets to enter into that curtain is just not viable. It's not in line with what those systems are meant to do. They have to protect certain locations.
And we have seen over the last couple of days, as Nick has probably experienced, those Russian rockets and missiles are going throughout the country hitting multiple targets of infrastructure and schools and hospitals and electrical plants. So, in order to protect something, you have to put an air defense bubble around a certain target. And Russia is firing indiscriminately across the board, so it's difficult to protect everything and establish a shield.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Kylie. What is the message from the United States and other western allies for that matter as Russia clearly is doubling down on these brutal strikes against civilian targets?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, the message is really twofold. First of all, you heard from the leaders of the G7 after they had a phone call today coming out and saying that they condemn in the strongest possible terms these missile strikes that Russia has continued to carry out against Ukraine in recent days and calling it deliberate escalation from Russia, really coming out with forceful rhetoric there.
And then in addition to that, what they are trying to get the United States along with its allies to do is continue its support. And we have heard from that the Biden administration, the United States stands with Ukraine, will continue sending them support, additional support in the coming days. And then the other part of it, of course, is trying to make sure that the United States is able to get other countries around the world to stand by as the United Nations votes to condemn in the strongest possible terms these Russian annexation of areas in Ukraine over the last week or so. So, they are trying to do both of those things, continue support and make sure that condemnation continues.
BLITZER: Nick, is this latest wave of attacks also about Putin trying to score points with his domestic audience in Russia?
WALSH: Yes. I mean, make no mistake that there have been civilians killed. Certainly, there has been a degree of fear and horror amongst cities that have not been too close to frontline, and there has, according to Ukraine's energy minister, been 30 percent of their energy infrastructure hit over the past couple of days.
But, really, Ukraine is possibly going to emerge from this with some greater resilience, possibly some better air defense systems. What Putin has done though is possibly answer his critics domestically who have seen the appalling execution of a partial mobilization system that's forcing people from ordinary jobs on to the frontline, seen on three separate fronts how the troops have been retreating because of appalling supply lines, terrible command and control structures and essentially been looking to the Kremlin saying, when are you going to get your war together. Even from high-profile members of Russia's elite instead over the past 48 hours we've heard from those around the Kremlin, supporters normally, saying that they've possibly adjusted their opinion and now think the war is being conducted correctly.
So, possibly Russian President Vladimir Putin experiencing very rare dissent in his 22 years effectively running the country, has used this display of might, brought in a new commander for what he calls a special military operation and maybe bought himself a brief respite from that intense criticism. Can they sustain this, though? Day after day, given the limited inventories they have of key weapons at this mean, doesn't seem to be the case, but he may have bought himself a break from domestic criticism. Wolf?
BLITZER: General Hertling, Britain's top spy chief now says Russia faces what he calls a desperate situation with supplies running out and forces exhausted. Can Russia sustain this fight through a cold winter that's upcoming?
HERTLING: They cannot with man, maneuver and material, Wolf. What they can do, and this is what we're seeing, this is not a new strategy by Mr. Putin, he has been conducting these criminal strikes since the beginning of the war, the missile and rocket strikes, and increasing them now because he just doesn't have the manpower or the capability to conduct any kind of defense or maneuver warfare.
This mobilization that he is attempting to do is going to be an utter failure. There is only going to be more Russians killed on the battlefield because they can't move and they have very poor leadership. Even with this new leader, Surovikin, who has gone on the field, they can't counter what the Ukrainian army is doing in terms of momentum and action.
BLITZER: General Mark Hertling, Nick Paton Walsh, Kylie Atwood, guys, thank you very much.
Just ahead, President Biden on Vladimir Putin's state of mind right now and whether he is acting irrationally. Stand by for that CNN exclusive.
Plus, an interview with the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: In the midst of Russia's extensive and brutal new bombing campaign in Ukraine, President Biden today sat down with CNN for an exclusive interview. My colleague, Jake Tapper, asked him about Putin's state of mind.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think Putin is a rational actor?
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think he is a rational actor who has miscalculated significantly.
I think he thought -- you may recall, I pointed out that they were going to invade, that, oh, those 100,000 or more troops there, and no one believed that he was going to invade Ukraine. You listen to what he says. If you listen to the speech he made after when that decision was being made, he talked about the whole idea of he was needed to be a leader of Russia that united all, the Russian speaker -- I mean, I just think it's irrational.
TAPPER: So if he is not rational and --
BIDEN: No, I didn't say he is not rational.
TAPPER: You said the speech --
BIDEN: I think the speech, his objectives were not right. I think he thought -- Jake, I think he thought he is going to be welcomed with open arms, that this has been the home of Mother Russia and Kyiv and he was going to be welcomed. And I think he just totally miscalculated it.
BLITZER: And you can see much more of that exclusive interview with the president on CNN Tonight with Jake Tapper. That's at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.
Let's discuss what's going on right now with the former director of National Intelligence, retired General James Clapper, he's a CNN National Security Analyst. General Clapper, thanks for joining us.
You just heard President Biden say Putin is a, quote, rational actor who has miscalculated significantly, his words. What do you make of that assessment?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I kind of agree with it. I think Putin is not necessarily crazy in a clinical sense but he is kind of isolated. He is in his own world. So, he is rational but just made a lot of bad judgments. So, I think the president is right.
BLITZER: The head of British intelligence now says Putin is making strategic errors and that exhausted Russian forces are running out of weapons. How do Ukraine and the United States capitalize on that?
CLAPPER: Well, keep pouring it on, I think. And on my comment, parenthetically, I have never seen British -- the British intelligence enterprise as open and transparent as they have been. And for the direct of GCHQ, that's the British analogue to our national security agency, to be speaking publicly, as he has been, is very unusual and I think helpful and welcome. So -- and, again, I think what we need to do, we the west, is keep pouring it on.
And incidentally, President Zelenskyy has asked President Biden for more air defense equipment and better air defense equipment, and this will serve to negate further the one thing that the Russians seem to be able to do, which is to attack -- you know, do terror attacks of civilian infrastructure. And if that -- the one thing they can do is neutered even more, that puts Putin in an even more difficult position.
So, what we need to do is to keep doing what we have been doing and keep the coalition together as I think we've been successful at to this point.
BLITZER: How concerned are you, General Clapper, that Putin will now increase the brutality against the Ukrainian people and that the pain for Ukrainian civilians will increase the longer this war grinds on?
CLAPPER: Well, I am concerned about that. I mean, it's terrible to watch this bombing of apartment buildings and playgrounds, no less. And you worry about the ability of the Ukrainian citizenry to withstand this punishment. That's why I think we need to move with alacrity to enhance Ukraine's air defense capability.
They have done pretty well with what they have. On the first day strikes by the Russians, the Ukrainians succeeded in shooting down about half the attacking missiles, to include the drone systems provided by the Iranians. So, if we further negate that, neuter that capability, that will go a long way towards lessening the impact of these attacks by the Russians.
BLITZER: Yes, that could be a huge game changer. James Clapper, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
BLITZER: Coming up, Republicans now ramping up their defense of Herschel Walker as the U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia has a new response to the abortion controversial embattling his campaign.
BLITZER: Tonight, a new denial from the embattled U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia, Herschel Walker. He claims the woman who says he paid for her abortion is lying. This as two prominent senators rallied behind Walker today.
CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend is on the campaign trail for us tonight.
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (voice over): It's all hands on deck for Herschel Walker's Senate campaign.
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): There is way too many reasons that each one of you should vote for Herschel Walker.
MCKEND: The chair of the GOP committee tasked with regaining control of the Senate, Florida Senator Rick Scott, and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton hitting the trail for the candidate outside Atlanta.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): People get tired of television ads and the lies they tell about Herschel Walker.
MCKEND: Walker's campaign rocked last week by allegations the former football star twice asked an ex-girlfriend to have an abortion and paid for the woman to have one in 2009.
He has repeatedly denied the reports, including in an interview with ABC News. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ever have a conversation with this woman
at any time about an abortion?
SENATE CANDIDATE HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA): No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever, to your knowledge, give money to pay for the cost of an abortion?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is she lying?
WALKER: Yes, she's lying.
MCKEND: CNN has not independently confirmed these allegations.
WALKER: You can see what they are doing. They will do whatever it takes, say whatever they have to say because they want this seat right here. But I don't think they know that they woke up a bear.
MCKEND: As a candidate, Walker has said he supports a national abortion ban with no exceptions. Supporters of Walker say they question the timing of the stories in the final weeks of the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I probably am doubtful with some of the allegations that they have come out so late into the game.
BILL KECSKES, GEORGIA VOTER: I feel like if that did happen, which I don't think it did, why now? Why do you have to go to the news? Why not have worked it out with him?
MCKEND: But some Georgia conservatives suggests there will be split ticket voters supporting Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, the latest allegations a bridge too far.
ARLENE CHARLES, GEORGIA VOTER: If he just owns up to it, you know, not telling the truth about them, that's not good.
MCKEND: The Georgia Senate race, which could determine control of the U.S. Senate, is seen as crucial for both parties. Warnock criticized today's event and sought to tie Walker to Scott's policy agenda. Writing in a statement, Herschel Walker is campaigning with Rick Scott, who is fighting to cut social security for 1.9 Georgians who rely on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He threatened to kill us and had us move six times in six months.
MCKEND: While Warnock's campaign has been careful not to directly attack Walker over the allegations, a Democratic outside group launched a T.V. ad Tuesday highlighting accusations from Walker's adult son, Christian, an outspoken conservative.
And a Republican super PAC up with a new T.V. ad highlighting a March 2020 incident, in which Warnock's ex-wife told police he ran over her foot with his car.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try to keep the way he acts under wraps for a long time and today he crossed the line.
MCKEND: Warnock denied the accusation, was not charged and a police report stated an officer and medical personnel at the scene did not find any visible signs of injury.
MCKEND (on camera): You know who was not in the mix today? Republican Governor Brian Kemp. He was holding separate campaign events. I think that that is noteworthy. Because as we see national Republicans rush to Herschel Walker's side expressly concerned about the future of this Senate seat, we are not seeing Georgia Republicans take on as robust of a defense. Wolf?
BLITZER: Eva, good reporting. I want you to stick around. I also want to bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and our Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson.
Gloria, we all just heard Walker doubling down on his denials of all of these allegations. This comes as Republicans are urging Walker to mount a more so-called Trumpian response. How is this playing out?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think he has mounted a Trumpian response all along because he is deny, deny, deny, and that's what he is continuing to do. My question is, as you see the voters that Eva interviewed, the question is, is this already baked?
These Republicans are coming down because the Senate seat is so important to them. This is something I think that Donald Trump would like them to do. The two Republicans you saw today, potential presidential candidates, and it's all about winning control of the Senate. In a way, for them, it's probably less about Herschel Walker himself than about the fact that they want to remain in control of the Senate.
And so the answer is, Wolf, we just don't know. We really don't know. But a lot of people have already made up their minds on presuming in the state of Georgia.
BLITZER: Yes, we will see how that all unfolds.
Nia, we saw these prominent Republicans rally with Walker in Georgia today. Is the support of Walker going to be a well thought out political strategy at least in the long run?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, I think if he wins, everybody is going to look brilliant for sticking by him despite these allegations, which have been mounting over the last couple of days. So, they are going down there, and it's to Gloria's point, they need to flip these seats.
You know, Herschel Walker is, obviously, making that point in his stump speeches to his supporters as well. But Republicans have no choice but to stick with him and essentially say these are Democratic smears that are coming in the last weeks of this campaign.
I think they should worry about not the folks who were at that rally, not sort of tried and true Republicans, but swing voters, especially women voters who might have a problem not only with these -- his abortion stance and perhaps his hypocrisy around abortion but also the things that his son and ex-wife have said about him, too.
So, we will see. These allegations will matter. I think we just don't know how much in the end.
BORGER: I think the question is also, are there split ticket voters, where people who vote for Kemp also vote for Warnock.
HENDERSON: Or just not vote at all.
BORGER: Exactly, not vote at all. And we don't know the answer to that. Split tickets isn't exactly been popular saying in this country for quite some time.
BLITZER: Let me go back to Eva. Eva, you attended Walker's rally in Georgia today where he made a reference to efforts to, quote, separate his family. Are voters buying into Walker's attempts to portray himself as a family man in light of these revelations?
MCKEND: Well, some of his supporters certainly are. As I was working my through the crowd today, some of them told me that they believe him, that he is a born-again Christian, that they are suspicious of the timing of these allegations. Some came to the rally specifically because they wanted to show their support in light of the negative stories. There was a long line wrapped around the parking lot with supporters asking for autographs, pictures, bringing their kids to Walker to get photos. So, he very much has this celebrity status here among conservatives.
There was only one split ticket voter I met. He was actually here to see Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, told me that he thought that Cotton might run for president some day. It really seemed like that man was the outlier and that a lot of conservatives in Georgia support Walker.
BLITZER: Nia, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, he told our own Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill that he believes the battle for the majority of the Senate, in his words, is a true cliffhanger right now. Does it surprise you that he is not projecting more confidence at this late stage of the election season?
HENDERSON: No, he is looking at the map, just like we all are. He is looking at candidates, some whom have ended up being much more flawed than Republicans would have liked, much more kind of dicey on the campaign trail, Herschel Walker being one of them. So, he knows this is going to come down to a couple of seats. And, listen, we might not actually know because that Georgia race, it could go to a runoff. And we might not know for months and months and months what the actual outcome will be.
BORGER: Also, one question that Mitch McConnell did not answer was the question that Manu asked him about his wife and the racist name that Donald Trump called her. It was very interesting to me because I thought -- first I thought, that's kind of interesting, that why wouldn't he say anything, that's outrageous. And then I realized, okay, Mitch McConnell has talked to his wife about this, doesn't -- said, this is what I'm going to do, doesn't want to get in a fight, does not want to get in a fight with Donald Trump at this particular juncture right before the election. So, he just let it sit there.
BLITZER: He said no comment.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very, very much, Eva McKend, Nia- Malika Henderson and Gloria Borger.
Just ahead, the U.S. Justice Department urges the U.S. Supreme Court to stay out of its fight with former President Trump over the highly classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
BLITZER: New tonight the U.S. Justice Department urging the U.S. SUPREME court to stay out of its fight with former President Trump over the highly classified documents the FBI found at his Florida home.
CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is working the story for us. So, what's the latest, Jessica? JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Justice Department really going point by point to the Supreme Court here, laying out why the Supreme Court should not step into this fight and why they shouldn't grant Trump's emergency petition. Because, remember, Trump is asking the Supreme Court for a very narrow relief here. He wants the Supreme Court to step in and say that the special master and his attorneys can, in fact, look at those 100 classified documents.
But the DOJ here is saying that the 11th Circuit was right to step in and to keep those classified documents out of view, especially because they say that it contained extraordinary sensitive information that implicate national security. So, they don't want the Supreme Court to undo that.
Furthermore, they are saying that Trump has not suffered any harm here. This is what they said specifically. Most notably, Trump has not even attempted to explain how he is irreparably injured by the court of appeals' partial stay, which simply prevents disclosure of documents bearing classification markings in the special master review during the pendency of the government's expedited appeal. Trump's inability to demonstrated irreparable injury is itself sufficient reason to deny the extraordinary relief he seeks in this court.
And another thing that was remarkable here, Wolf, is throughout this 34-page filing that the DOJ just submitted to the Supreme Court, they really blasted the lower court judge here, Aileen Cannon, down in Florida. They said that she never should have appointed the special master, and in particular, they said that she shouldn't have let the special master and Trump's team get the view of these 100 classified documents.
They said this. The district court's order was a serious and unwarranted intrusion on the executive branch's authority to control the use and distribution of extraordinarily sensitive government records.
So, now, Wolf, we wait for the Supreme Court to act. It's likely been referred to the full court despite going initially to Justice Clarence Thomas. It will take five justices to give Trump the relief he is seeking. But given the past history of the Supreme Court here when Trump's has gone to them just last December or earlier this year when he asked the Supreme Court to block his White House records from the January 6th committee, they denied that.
So, it's possible they could do the same here, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will find out sooner rather than later.
Jessica, stay with us. I also want to bring in right now the state attorney for Palm Beach County in Florida, Dave Aronberg, and Defense Attorney and former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu.
Dave, from your perspective, has the Justice Department gotten this one right? Should the Supreme Court stay out of this fight?
DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes, Wolf, the Supreme Court should reject this appeal. There is two reasons why Trump filed this appeal. First, he wants to further delay the investigation. That's Trump's M.O., delay, delay, delay. And, secondly, he wants his lawyers to get access to the 100 classified documents. Neither is a good reason to rule in Trump's favor. And delaying this investigation only puts our national security at risk.
And if Trump's legal team gets to see these documents, you're talking about Christina Bob and Evan Corcoran seeing these documents, both of those Trump lawyers are witnesses in this matter and could be DOJ targets. And also, Wolf, why would the Supreme Court after the Dobbs ruling want to dirty themselves up with this politically-charged matter? They would be stepping on a rake. But lately they have been doing a lot of that.
BLITZER: Interesting. You know, Shan, the Justice Department is arguing these documents are so sensitive, so highly classified, that national security of the United States could be jeopardized even by the judge alone in chambers. What do you make of that Department of Justice argument?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think we can see the evolution of DOJ's growing confidence here. They started out with a very modest request, which is just let us see these so we can investigate them. And now they are a little bit emboldened by the 11th Circuit ruling and they're really letting both barrels go against the original district court or judge ruling by Cannon.
Their point is very well taken. I mean, there is really an unprecedented for a judicial interference with this criminal investigation and the irreparable harm is simply disclosing sensitive national security documents. And on the other side of that equation, Trump just can't demonstrate irreparable harm from not seeing them right now. They just want a preview of the case and, as Dave said, to delay it.
BLITZER: Yes. Jessica, so, where does all this go from here?
SCHNEIDER: Well, we are really on two separate parallel tracks here, Wolf. We've got 11th Circuit appeal that's moving forward on an expedited basis. DOJ actually has to file their brief in the 11th Circuit by Friday. And then we are waiting now for what the Supreme Court does. It will take five of these justices if Trump gets his way. They have to rule in favor of Trump and it could come at any moment. It's now before the court and we will wait and see. It really could be coming up here in the next few days.
BLITZER: And we will watch very closely. Guys, thank you very much.
Coming up, the White House now says President Biden feels it's time to re-evaluate the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia after it and other major oil producers decided to decrease dramatically oil production.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:47:26]
BLITZER: Very serious new questions tonight about the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. The White House now says President Biden will, quote, re-evaluate ties with the kingdoms based on the decisions to cut oil production and support for Russia.
Some Senate Democrats go further, including the majority whip Dick Durbin. They want more and they are being more blunt.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): This notion that they are going to raise our gasoline prices more, call them good old boys, the heck with that. I mean, this is a terrible regime. It is a kingdom in the 21st century that should be out of business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)(
BLITZER: Let's discuss this and more with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.
Fareed, the top Democratic senators are now calling on the Biden administration to freeze relations with Saudi Arabia. What consequences would matter to the Saudis? Should the U.S., for example, as some Democrats are demanding, stop selling the Saudi's weapons?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": I think these are very risky moves. We are in the middle of a war with the world's second largest energy exporter. This does not seem to me to be the time to declare war on the world's largest energy exporter.
You know, this is one of the reasons why it's a good thing that the executive branch takes the lead on foreign policy. The Saudis did something they shouldn't have. It was a mistake or, rather, put it differently, it was a way of asserting their economic interests and disregarding America's. The Biden administration should take that into account, recalibrate relations, make it clear to them that they are very displeased.
But we have to figure out what is the goal here. Is the goal to punish Saudi Arabia? In which case, remember, as I say, it's the largest energy exporter in the world. You can't punish Saudi Arabia without plunging the world into more economic turmoil.
Or is it to get Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, to change his mind? Well, that's a different strategy. You have to figure out how to re-engage in the relationship in a way that both asserts American interests, but also recognizes some Saudi interest.
It's -- you know, look, international relations is not for the faint hearted. We are dealing with regimes that are different from us all the time. But if we are trying to win this war against Russia, this does not seem to me the time to open a second front with the other great oil exporter in the world. BLITZER: As you know, Fareed, the whole world saw President Biden
fist-bump with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when they met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a few weeks ago.
I was there on that trip.
Has the U.S. lost its power in its relationship with Saudi Arabia?
ZAKARIA: Yes. It's lost its power and its relationships with many countries around the world over the last decade or so. For all kinds of reasons, largely, as I wrote a book about this called "The Post American World," because these countries are much more powerful, they're more richer, more stable.
Look at our relations with Turkey where we used to have enormous sway, and we have much less sway. This is all part of a world that we have for figure out how to navigate, where American power is not kind of absolute the way it used to be. We can't jump and these countries will say how high.
We do have considerable power. But it's a kind of fantasy that these senators are indulging in. When Dick Durbin says this regime shouldn't exist in the 21st century, haven't we learned some lessons about cavalierly talking about regime change in the Middle East over the last 10 or 15 years?
We don't get to choose what regimes we're going to be dealing with around the world. Our goal is how to secure American interests. And in doing that, it seems right now at least in the very short term, it does not make sense to declare war on Saudi Arabia. You'll feel good about it for a while.
The pain of doing it -- oil prices would go up. You would find yourself with a regime that is even less cooperative on oil, on energy, in the Middle East. It's a much messier, more complicated path of some kind of diplomatic engagement that definitely reads them a certain -- but also listens. As I say, this is a very hard diplomatic challenge.
BLITZER: It certainly is. CNN's Fareed Zakaria, thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, day five of the Oath Keepers' trial. Prosecutors focusing on the founders plan to keep former President Trump in power.
BLITZER: We're following the federal trial of members of the Oath Keepers in connection with the U.S. Capitol insurrection.
CNN's senior national correspondent Sara Sidner is just outside the courthouse. She has details for us. Sara, I understand prosecutors are using the defendant's own words
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They have been. You can hear some of the words, you can see some of the words on video, and there are tons and tons of text messages and messages on Facebook and Parler and many other things between all of these defendants.
We also heard from the third FBI special agent today who testified as well all in an attempt to try and show this plot and plan to try and stop the government from being able to move forward on the peaceful transfer of power.
SIDNER (voice-over): In the first trial for seditious conspiracy related to the January 6th attack on the Capitol, prosecutors homed in on the planning to keep former president Trump in power, and the motives of Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes and four others.
Prosecutors played video of Rhodes from this November 14th, 2020, million MAGA march rally, where Rhodes claimed the 2020 election was stolen.
STEWART RHODES, OATH KEEPERS LEADER: Half this country won't recognize Biden as legitimate. They won't accept this election. Anything he signs -- supposedly he signs into law we won't recognize as being legitimate and very much like the Founding Fathers. We want to nullifying and resisting it.
INTERVIEWER: What does resisting mean?
RHODES: What's that?
INTERVIEWER: What does resisting mean?
RHODES: Well, when it comes time to enforce it, we'll defend ourself against the enforcement.
SIDNER: The jury also saw a slew of chatter after that same November march. Next time, and there will be a next time, there will be real violence for all of us, read one exchange between defendant Thomas Caldwell to a member of the oath keepers. It was sent two days after that November rally outside the Capitol protesting the 2020 election.
Prosecutors also showed jurors an open letter Stewart Rhodes wrote to Trump after his election loss imploring the president to invoke the Insurrection Act.
Know this, millions of American military and law enforcement veterans and many millions more loyal patriotic American gun owners stand ready to answer your call to arms and to obey your orders to get this done. Prosecutors then turned to Jessica Watkins, another Oath Keeper facing seditious conspiracy charges, showing her November 2020 Facebook messages about then president-elect Joe Biden. America's largest militia says it will refuse to recognize Biden as president and resist his administration.
Prosecutors also showed the items the FBI confiscated from Watkins' car and home, including army issued goggles, a helmet, pool cues and zip ties. Her defense attorney, though, pointed that pool cues could be used a defensive weapons. Defense attorney say their clients saw themselves as peacekeepers, not attackers.
BLITZER: CNN's Sara Sidner reporting. Thanks, Sara, very much.
Finally tonight, veteran actress Angela Lansbury has died. She was America's favorite TV sleuth for over a decade. In her iconic role as Jessica Fletcher on "Murder She Wrote." Lansbury also starred on stage and in movies including her Oscar-nominated performance in "The Manchurian Candidate." But her greatest fame came later in life as Jessica Fletcher.
Lansbury died at her home in Los Angeles today. She was 96 years old, just five days shy of her 97th birthday. May she rest in peace, and, as we say, may her memory be a blessing.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Be sure to join us again tomorrow starting at our new time 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.