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Judge: Trump Signed Legal Docs Knowing Info On Voter Fraud Was False; Putin Declares Martial Law In Four Illegally Annexed Areas Of Ukraine; Group Asks Supreme Court To Block Biden's Student Loan Plan; Dramatic Turn In Wisconsin Senate Race As GOP Incumbent Takes The Lead; Biden: 15 Million More Barrels To Be Released From Oil Reserve; NYC Opens Makeshift Tent Camp To House Influx Of Bused Migrants; El Paso Mayor Denies Biden Admin Asked Him Not To Declare State Of Emergency; Inside Vladimir Putin's Martial Law Order In Illegally Annexed Ukrainian Territory. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired October 19, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. You can follow me on Twitter @johnberman or tweet the show @theleadcnn. If you ever miss an episode of "THE LEAD", you can listen wherever you get your podcasts. Our coverage continues right now with Wolf Blitzer who was in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now breaking news, a federal judge says former President Trump signed legal documents containing alleged evidence of 2020 election fraud knowing, knowing it was false. The judge ordering the release of e-mails saying they are related to the crime of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Also tonight, as voters feel the pain of high gas prices, President Biden announces new moves aimed at bringing costs down. I'll ask a top Biden adviser about the President's agenda and strategy less than three weeks before the midterm election.
And Vladimir Putin's new martial law order is taking effect in areas he illegally annexed in Ukraine. We'll get reaction from a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get straight to the breaking news right now, a federal judge just a few moments ago, ordering the release of e-mails from former President Trump's election Attorney John Eastman. CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is working the story for us.
Evan, how damning is this new information for Trump? Walk us through what happened.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a ruling from Judge David O. Carter in California, Wolf, and he is ordering the release of these e-mails to the January 6 committee. John Eastman, who worked as a lawyer for the former president in those weeks as he was trying to stay in office has argued that they should be shielded under attorney client privilege. The judge is rejecting that, saying that they may be evidence of a crime, so therefore, they fall under what's known as the crime fraud exception.
I'll read you just a part of what the judge wrote in his in his order. He says "The e-mails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers both in court and to the public. The court finds that these e-mails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States."
So, to just back this up a little bit, this goes to a filing that Eastman and the Trump lawyers were trying to prepare to file. According to the judge, there's his e-mails that show that they wanted to cite these 10s of 1000s of e-mails -- of what they said were fraudulent votes in the state of Georgia. They knew that these were wrong numbers. Trump even resisted signing a declaration about it, but then eventually filed the papers with the incorrect numbers.
Originally just another part of what the judge wrote, he says, "President Trump filed certain lawsuits not to obtain legal relief, but to disrupt or delay the January 6 congressional proceedings through the courts. The court finds that these four documents are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of the obstruction crime."
Bottom line, Wolf, is this judge says that the former president and his legal team knew that these numbers were bogus and yet they filed these documents in court trying to delay the certification of Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.
BLITZER: Yes, the judge writes in this document that there potentially is a conspiracy to defraud the United States. That's a crime. So what happens next?
PEREZ: Wolf, for one, the committee, the January 6 committee is going to be able to obtain these records as part of their investigation, their ongoing investigation. And Wolf, the more important thing here is obviously, the Justice Department, they already have all of this material. They are investigating the actions of John Eastman. We expect that some of those investigation obviously are in the quiet period because of the midterm elections. But come right after the elections, we expect a lot of activity to pick up both on this part of the investigation as well as Jeffrey Clark who was also involved in this effort to keep former President Trump in power despite the fact that he lost the election.
BLITZER: Yes, this is a major development. Standby, I want to bring you in -- I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst, former New York City Prosecutor Paul Callan and CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider.
Paul, first of all, just how big of a deal do you think this is? PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, I think this is a very big deal, Wolf, because it demonstrates that there is, at least in the opinion of this federal judge, a makeable federal criminal case against the former president. This obstruction charge, by the way, is a very serious charge. It's a conspiracy to obstruct governmental administration to obstruct the administration of the United States electoral process. It could be punishable by as much as 10 years in prison.
And an indictment would look like this. You would say the overall objective of the conspiracy was to disrupt and prevent the election from going forward. The people participating, Mr. Trump knowing that these cases were, one, frivolous, and two, had fraudulent documentation, fraudulent statistics was a coconspirator. That's the way this indictment would be set up, they might throw January 6 into it as well. But this is the first indication of really solid evidence on a -- an obstruction of the U.S. government charged.
BLITZER: Yes, very potentially serious charge, indeed.
Evan, does this now give the Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland, one more significant reason to consider charging, charging the former president of the United States with a crime?
PEREZ: I think it does, Wolf. Look, I mean, a lot of attention has been taken away from the January 6 investigation because of all of the activity related to the documents that were seized by the FBI at Mar- a-Lago. But this, if you talk to people around the former president, they believe this is one of the more serious things that he faces because we already know that the Justice Department is looking at some of the, you know, coconspirators who were involved in the fake electoral scheme, the effort to try to impede the transfer of power. The former president is at the top of that pyramid, at the top of that conspiracy, allegedly, according to what the investigators are looking at.
BLITZER: Jessica, you cover the Justice Department for us. This is one of the many legal challenges swirling around the former president right now. Where do you think this ranks in terms of its seriousness?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the significance of this court filing, Wolf, and the evidence that the judge is putting forth here in these e-mails from Eastman is this really goes to all of the legal challenges that the president is now looking at, whether it's the ongoing investigation from the district attorney down in Georgia, looking into the attempts to interfere with the electoral process down there or the broader January 6 investigation from the Justice Department. These e-mails show that President Trump, then President Trump knew that these numbers were false and yet he signed a verification and submitted those false numbers to the court. He knew it. So that -- this just adds more evidence and more fodder for these already ongoing investigation.
BLITZER: So Paul, buttoned all this up for us. CALLAN: Yes, it's a conspiracy to defraud the United States because the president acting in concert with other individuals submitted false evidence to a federal court and generally conspired in a number of ways to obstruct the voting, which was to have occurred in January of the United States. So it's -- what it is, is it's given an umbrella charge, serious charge, the conspiracy to defraud the United States and then the Attorney General can plug in all of these smaller aspects of the conspiracy that pushed the conspiracy forward. And this is a pile of very important documents by one of the attorneys who's involved.
BLITZER: Very significant development, indeed.
Guys, thank you very much.
Coming up, a CNN exclusive report from the frontlines of Russia's ruthless artillery assault that's ongoing in Ukraine right now. We're also following Vladimir Putin's declaration of martial law in illegally annexed Ukrainian territory. Our live report from the warzone is next.
BLITZER: The relentless and brutal Russian artillery barrage in eastern Ukraine is stalling Kyiv's counter offensive in a key strategic city. Our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is joining us from Kramatorsk in Ukraine.
Fred, I understand you just got a pretty harrowing, exclusive look at the frontlines of this war. Tell us what you saw.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we certainly did, Wolf. And you know, we've been hearing so much over the past week and a half, really if you will, of those long distance strikes that the Russians are conducting with some of the critical infrastructure here in this country. But out here in the east, in the town of Bakhmut, the Russians have amassed some of their most brutal forces and also a lot of artillery. And they're really pounding that town of Bakhmut, which they want to take from the Ukrainians, however the Ukrainians are holding on. Here's what we found.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
PLEITGEN (voice-over): When entering Bakhmut, the need is for speed. We're driving straight into one of the most dangerous places in war torn Ukraine with a military combat medic who goes by the call sign Katrusya.
Bakhmut is under nearly constant Russian assault. Our car hasn't even come to a full stop when the first shell hits nearby. The medic stops, we need to take cover as best we can.
(on camera): We're waiting here for the shooting to stop. So we're taking cover here because we just had some incoming artillery fire. We're going to wait and hope that there's not any hits anywhere close to us.
(voice-over): We're at the receiving end of a full Russian artillery barrage.
Photojournalist Richard Harlow (ph) tracks several other projectiles whizzing close over our heads.
Katrusya says Ukrainian troops face this kind of shelling several times a day.
KATRUSYA, COMBAT MEDIC, UKRAINIAN ARMY (through translator): The artillery attacks fly every day so it's never quiet here. Other parts of the city take hits many times today. There are times when several mortars hit within in a minute.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Katrusya's own husband was killed here a month and a half ago. While Ukrainian forces have been gaining ground against the Russians in many places, in Bakhmut things are different.
Kyiv is trying to fortify its positions, but they acknowledge the Russians have more artillery and are using seasoned fighters from the Wagner private military company.
Still even pinned down with artillery flying overhead, Katrusya says her confidence isn't shaken.
KATRUSYA (through translator): Absolutely, we will win, but price of victory will be huge. Unfortunately, everyday civilians are dying and there are a lot of dead and injured soldiers on every part of the line.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): The fighting here has destroyed much of this town and left the few people who remain traumatized. Sergei (ph) doesn't even take cover anymore as artillery strikes nearby. I asked him if he's afraid.
SERGEI (PH), BAKHMUT RESIDENT (through translator): Afraid of war, everything will be fine, mate. Everything will be fine.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): A pause in the shelling gives us a chance to get out of Bakhmut as Ukrainian tanks roll in the other direction trying to defend this key city from Vladimir Putin's forces.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
PLEITGEN: I'll tell you one thing, Wolf, that Ukrainian combat medic, she didn't even flinch as those artillery shells rain coming, she told me the reason why, they face this every single day several times a day. And Ukrainian certainly acknowledged that right now for them, the situation they're in Bakhmut, which is a strategically important town is very difficult, but they vow not to give up a single inch to those Russian forces, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. So courageous. Stay safe over there. Fred Pleitgen in the war zone for us, appreciate it very much.
For more of the war in Ukraine right now, let's bring in a top adviser to President Zelenskyy, Ihor Zhovkva.
Mr. Zhovkva, thank you so much for joining us. First of all, what is Putin his declaration of martial law mean for Ukrainian civilians in these illegally occupied areas, particularly in the southern Kherson region where Ukraine has made advances?
IGOR ZHOVKVA, DEPUTY HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: Well, you know, this is yet another act of despair for Putin. I mean, again, we know absolutely successes of the battleground. He tried to make it and other instruments of, you know, claiming these illegal annexed territories as his own territories.
For the Ukrainian citizens still living on the occupied territories is not a good sign, because this martial law, the so called martial law means that that might be another sign of breaking the human rights of those people. It might be another preparation for another deportation, which they already made in the temporarily occupied Crimea in 2014, which were already made in the captured Mariupol that they'd already making, you know, going to make in the occupied Kherson, more than 200,000 Ukrainians are living there, and almost 5500 or 5100 of them is already been occupied. So, I didn't know, this is definitely not a good sign.
But for us, for Ukraine, it means absolutely nothing. This decisions on the one void, and definitely Ukraine will continue to occupy the southern regions, as well as other regions of Ukraine.
BLITZER: A top Ukrainian intelligence official says he hopes Ukraine recaptured that key city of Kherson by the end of this year. Do you believe, sir, that that's possible?
ZHOVKVA: I will certainly not command about any deadlines or whatever. It's the worst thing, you know, to settle deadlines, the war. But definitely, the activities of our armed forces are aimed at very swift to occupy, not only Kherson, but other southern regions, because you know, we managed to gain a very good momentum in the hierarchy of region.
Definitely the situation in Kherson region is difficult, that the rain (ph) is difficult, it's a plane step, you know, that I know like mountains or forests or whatever. The lack of artillery and armored vehicles has also shows that's absolutely right, unfortunately. So, we -- again and again, time and again, we plead to international community, please provide us not only within the air defense system, which is important because of these recent missile attacks, but also with artillery and armored vehicles in battle tanks, you know, to stop counter offences in the regions you mentioned.
BLITZER: President Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine only has what he calls a small fraction of the air defense systems it really needs, but Israel still won't budge on Ukraine's request for its so called Iron Dome system. Israel says it will help Ukraine develop a warning system instead. Is that too little too late?
ZHOVKVA: It's too little too late, unfortunately. This is a position of current government of Israel, and unfortunately doesn't change. I mean, those statements which several officials that has made just recently absolutely unsatisfactory. Yes, they could provide us more or at least something because currently they're doing nothing.
But again, just to remind you, Israel is not the only country producing the air defense system. We have several countries in the world producing air defense systems such as U.S., such as Germany and Germany has delivered already, some other European Union countries. So would count on this unanimous support to order to protect the sky of Ukraine. We need only -- not only small range air defense, but also long range and middle range in order to defend and protect all the territory or the sky of Ukraine.
BLITZER: And keep Ukrainian civilians alive in the process. Igor Zhovkva --
BLITZER: -- thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you. Stay safe over there. Appreciate it very much.
ZHOVKVA: Thank you, Wolf, as usual. Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, there's breaking news, three people just arrested on weapons charges right near the United States Supreme Court here in Washington, D.C. We'll have a live report from the scene that's coming up.
Plus, President Biden takes new steps to try to tamp down gas prices with less than three weeks until the midterm elections.
BLITZER: Breaking news just in to CNN, three people have just been arrested on weapons charges after a suspicious vehicle was spotted right outside the United States Supreme Court here in Washington, D.C. CNN's Joe Johns is now on the scene for us.
What are you learning, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the east side of the United States Capitol, East Capitol Street, in fact, as you said, it is the street that runs between the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court with the United States Capitol in the background. We'll turn around here and take a bit of a look.
Now, what's going on here at this time is authorities are taking a look at a vehicle. There is a concern about a potential for explosives in that vehicle. They have already arrested three people were told from colleagues at CNN on weapons charges, those three people apparently from Georgia, and now the wait continues to determine whether there is anything dangerous or to be concerned about inside the vehicle.
What this has done is caused a huge traffic jam in and around Capitol Hill, as authorities have had to block off the streets to keep traffic out of the area. So, that's what we know right now, Wolf, and I'll get back to you if we have any other information.
BLITZER: We'll, of course check back with you, Joe. Thank you very, very much.
At the same time, President Biden is now responding to growing voter anxiety over the economy with a new effort to tamp down gas prices here in the United States. Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has more on the president's announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're not falling fast enough.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, President Biden taking more action to drive down gas prices.
BIDEN: With my announcement today, we're going to continue to stabilize markets and decrease the prices at a time when the actions of other countries have caused such volatility.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): A direct effort to counter dual pronged geopolitical challenges, but also with a clear eye toward midterm elections just 20 days away.
BIDEN: Gas prices come down and they continue to come down again. They're now down more than 27 cents a gallon in Wisconsin this past week, 27 cents in Oregon, 16 cents in Ohio, 25 cents in Nevada in just the last 10 days and that's progress.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): With Biden's advisers keenly aware of the close correlation between gas prices and the president's approval and Democratic prospects in November.
BIDEN: Gas prices hit almost every family in this country and they squeezed their family budgets. When the price of gas goes up, other expenses get cut.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Biden rejecting the implication of any political motivation.
BIDEN: It's not politically motivated at all.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): But senior White House advisors tell CNN it's an issue of intense focus inside the West Wing, and a critical driver of Biden's release of 15 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But the national average of gas 20 cents higher than just a month prior even as prices have started to decline in recent days. The move marking the capstone of an unprecedented seven month effort to freeze and drive down soaring gas prices.
BIDEN: Look, this is a moment of consequence and peril for the world and pain at the pump for American families.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Announced just a month after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but with Russian President Vladimir Putin showing no sign of backing off in that war, and a shocked decision by Saudi Arabia led OPEC plus to dramatically cut its oil production.
BIDEN: The choices made by other countries are affecting the price of gas here at home.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): The White House pressing even further and sending a clear message about the future to markets.
BIDEN: I've told my team behind me here to be prepared to look further, look for further releases in the months ahead if needed.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): And to oil and gas executives who have battled with the White House for months.
BIDEN: My message to the American energy companies is this, you should not be using your profits to buy back stock or for dividends. Not now. Not while a war is raging.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MATTINGLY: And Wolf, the President's actions today on oil come just a few weeks after major actions on another crucial issue with midterm election elements to it, and that was the President's decision to cancel student loan debt up to $10,000 for a certain segment of borrowers. That has come under some legal scrutiny and challenges, and one of those challenges today has been directed towards the Supreme Court or Wisconsin taxpayer group, asking the supreme court for an emergency hold on the President's proposal.
As their appeal plays out, a district court has already thrown out their case. They have appealed that. Now the Supreme Court has been asked to get involved. The President has made clear his lawyers believe they have legal standing. Already more than 10 million individuals have moved through the application process that just went live a few days ago. The President himself, he'll be speaking about the issue on Friday in Delaware, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Phil Mattingly over at the White House. Lots going on. Thank you very, very much.
We're, of course, counting down to the midterm elections now less than three weeks away. And we're following a dramatic turn right now in the Wisconsin Senate race, where Republican incumbent Ron Johnson has taken the lead after a strong early showing by his Democratic opponent.
Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju, is in Wisconsin for us tonight.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It wasn't too long ago that Democrats could hardly believe their luck. Despite being saddled with controversy --
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Guys, this is a complete non-story.
RAJU (voice-over): -- in unpopular in battleground Wisconsin, Ron Johnson decided to run for a third Senate term, making him the most endangered GOP incumbent. But now the terrain has shifted. And Johnson with an edge against Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes.
(on-camera): How's it so hard to beat him?
TOM NELSON (D), OUTAGAMIE COUNTY EXECUTIVE: People are just hitting their heads against the wall. How do we let this happen?
RAJU (voice-over): Johnson has benefited from a perfect storm. First, winning in the 2010 Tea Party wave, and then during Donald Trump's 2016 stunner, and now buoyed by voter anger over inflation.
(on-camera): What has happened in the last two months has changed this race?
ANDY LODUHA, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR, ONEIDA COUNTY: Well, I think inflation. I mean, everybody's feeling it in their pocketbook.
RAJU (voice-over): After Barnes won his party's nomination in August, a poll showed him up by seven points. Now the same poll shows Johnson ahead of Barnes by six with likely voters. In the two months since the primary, Johnson and big GOP groups have outspent Democrats by millions on TV attacking Barnes on crime and immigration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mandela Barnes doesn't have the judgment to keep our communities safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mandela Barnes stands with defund the police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mandela Barnes is a radical leftist.
RAJU (voice-over): Putting him on the defensive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, we knew the other side will make up lies about me to scare you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ron Johnson caught lying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mandela, he's the real deal. Mandela doesn't want to defund the police.
RAJU (voice-over): Barnes' supporters fear because that is hardly enough.
MARY HILDEBRAND, WISCONSIN VOTER: Well, his campaign seems to be faltering.
RAJU (on-camera): Are you concerned that those attacks may be working?
HILDEBRAND: They seem to be working. Yes, I'm very concerned.
RAJU (voice-over): One of Barnes's primary foes and current supporter blames national Democrats for an ineffective ad strategy after the primary
NELSON: They have the national party come in and screw things up in the first month of the general election. In my book is unforgivable. The National Party has totally failed us and so it's going to come down to Wisconsin Democrats.
RAJU (voice-over): Campaigning in the small towns of northern Wisconsin, Barnes told CNN he was not caught flat footed.
(on-camera): Were you prepared for this onslaught of attacks?
LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES (D), WISCONSIN SENATE CANDIDATE: Well the reality is we always expected Ron Johnson to distort the truth and try to hide from his own record.
RAJU (voice-over): Barnes's ads have largely steered clear of some of Johnson's controversies, like his downplaying of the January 6 Capitol attack, or sowing doubt on the COVID-19 vaccine. Instead accusing Johnson of enriching himself in office and for supporting a ban on abortion.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wouldn't just ban abortions. Doctors could go to jail for it.
RAJU (voice-over): Barnes, who would be the state's first black senator, slated to appear next week in Milwaukee with the nation's first black President Barack Obama. But no plans yet with the current president whose unpopularity remains a liability.
(on-camera): Do you think Biden should run for reelection?
BARNES: I will cross that bridge when we get there. We still got to get through November 8 2022.
RAJU: Now Johnson has been behind closed doors this week with his campaign refusing to tell CNN and other media outlets exactly what he's doing and where he's campaigning. Now, he did appear a couple of times on Fox News, including last night where he asked for donations.
Now on the Democratic side, they are still confident that they can emerge victorious at the end of the day. They look at that same Marquette poll that showed Barnes down sixth among likely voters. It tested registered voters too. Those a larger set of voters and in that test, it is a dead even race, meaning if they are to be victorious, they need to get their voters out to the polls. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you very much. Manu Raju in Milwaukee for us. Excellent report.
Just ahead, a top adviser to President Biden joins me here in The Situation Room. We'll discuss his strategy and the agenda as the midterm elections close in.
BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is announcing new steps to bring down gas prices, a major source of economic anxiety for so many Americans. Let's discuss this and more with a senior adviser to President Biden's Infrastructure Coordinator, Mitch Landrieu. Mitch, thanks so much for joining us.
MITCH LANDRIEU, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE COORDINATOR: Hey, Wolf.
BLITZER: The President's released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve isn't expected necessarily to make a huge dent in gas prices. One expert actually calls these small potatoes. Is this more of a political gimmick than a real solution for the millions of struggling Americans?
LANDRIEU: Wolf, since in the last couple of months prices of gas have been coming down although they've been taken up a little bit, now they're moving down for the last three weeks. But had the President not done this, the price would have gone up much larger.
So it's not a political statement. He's doing as he said. Everything he can to make sure that we lower prices for Americans. And this is another step in that direction.
BLITZER: These 15 million barrels are part of a previously announced release. They won't be released, actually, until December, and 15 million barrels doesn't even cover a full day of U.S. oil use. So doesn't that amount potentially to a gimmick?
LANDRIEU: Well, no. So, you do everything that you can do that you have in your power to do today. And that's what he did. And he's going to continue to do that. He's going to continue to call on the oil and gas companies to do their job as well. And he did that again today. And he'll keep doing it until the price goes down.
BLITZER: Gas prices have dropped from their summer peak. But they're creeping up once again right now and are expected to rise even more after that Saudi led decision to cut oil production by the OPEC plus nations. Is the President running out of options right now to address this issue?
LANDRIEU: Well, I think what the President says is, he has a lot of options on the table and everything is on the table. He's going to continue to consider that. And he's going to do with the way he's been doing it in the past. And he'll keep doing it until the prices continue to go down.
BLITZER: The President will make a visit to Pennsylvania tomorrow to tout his infrastructure legislation. I know you're going with him to Pittsburgh.
LANDRIEU: I am.
BLITZER: He's poke fun at Republicans, as you know, for taking credit for various infrastructure projects they didn't even vote for him. But what does it say that even many Democrats in key races right now don't necessarily seem to want President Biden alongside them out there on the campaign trail?
LANDRIEU: Well, of course, that's their choice. But as the President said, he's going to keep his head down and continue to do the work tomorrow. We're going back to Pittsburgh. The country remembers very well, that last January 28 I think the day was this bridge absolutely collapsed. There were non-vehicles on it, four people were hurt. It was a devastating sight. And the President said we're going to build that bridge within a year.
We have 2,500 bridges under construction right now as part of the bipartisan infrastructure. The President's going back tomorrow to stand with the governor and elected officials to talk about how infrastructure can create jobs, and is actually going to help set up America and win the 21st century.
BLITZER: I want to turn to your home state of Louisiana. As a lot of our viewers know, you're the former mayor of New Orleans. The record low levels of the Mississippi River right now is clearly threatening the drinking water --
BLITZER: -- supply. Is this the new infrastructure challenge? Is this only going to get worse as we feel the impact of climate change?
LANDRIEU: Well, Wolf, we can see this all over America in the West. I was at the Hoover Dam the other day, and the water levels in the West are really challenging. We're now seeing this in a place like Louisiana, where we have the abundance of water. And for people that understand how this happens, and if the water goes so low, the saltwater, which is the lowest, actually starts moving up river and really gives us a challenge.
So I know the Corps of Engineers is watching this. We have eyes on it as well. And it's going to be a continuing challenge for us in America to make sure that we use water the correct way and that we manage it and live with it rather than trying to really live against it.
BLITZER: It's such a critically important issue indeed.
LANDRIEU: And big time.
BLITZER: On Friday, the President will give remarks on his Student Loan Forgiveness program, which is very significant affects millions and millions of people out there. But the first legal challenge to that plan has now reached the U.S. Supreme Court. How serious a threat are these lawsuits to President Biden's program?
LANDRIEU: Well, you know, litigation is always part of what it is that we do, that's not going to stop the President from doing the things that he thinks are important for the people of America. And I think the Student Loan Forgiveness program is critically important for a lot of the young people in America and a lot of work and folks that have been burdened by that. And were not freed up to do the things that they need. So he feels very strongly that he did the right thing in the right way and with a balanced approach. The litigation will have to take its course.
BLITZER: The White House Senior Adviser Mitch Landrieu, thanks so much for joining us.
LANDRIEU: Great. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, new developments in New York City's migrant crisis right now. A sprawling 10 community is now in place to house the hundreds of people being bussed in by officials from the southern border states.
BLITZER: New York City has now opened a temporary facility to house hundreds of migrants being bused in from southern border states prompting the mayor of New York to declare a state of emergency. CNN's Athena Jones is live up on Randalls Island in New York City where the sprawling facility has now been opened. So Athena, set the scene for us. What's the situation there?
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, it is a sprawling facility. We're talking about nearly 85,000 square feet. You can see one of the buildings behind me that's been erected in the last couple of weeks, this is a humanitarian emergency response and relief center. It's -- it opened today and it's initially meant to house up to 500 men. Those city -- emergency management officials say can quickly be expanded to house up to 1,000.
Now, I can tell you today, Wolf, a lot of the journalists around here expected to see vans and buses of migrants constantly arriving. We've seen a few vans trickling but look to be staffers. People who are going to be working in this facility. The city has not yet released the numbers for how many migrants they have there now.
But as I said it's initially expected to house 500 men and the center will offer wraparound services. So medical services, food services, there's recreation, there's televisions, and there's free WiFi, there are telephones. You can make international calls on, video games. There's also laundry and, of course, 24/7 security.
And there's going to be an intake process where people seeking asylum. They arrive here. They're greeted with food and water. They're then given a COVID-19 test. If they're positive, they're isolated and trailer separate from this big building behind me.
If they're negative, they're then given the opportunity to meet with their resettlement staff to talk about their next destination to figure out where they should go next and to facilitate getting there. And 90 percent of the staff is bilingual. So they'll be able to communicate well with the folks coming in from south of the border. But the point here is that this is the first big facility built to house this huge influx of migrants that is really put a strain on New York City. Wolf?
BLITZER: And as you know, Athena, this is not just about housing, it's also about politics to a certain degree. The Texas governor says he actually sent 3,400 migrants to New York City. There was an allegation the White House pressured El Paso's Democratic mayor not to declare a state of emergency there. The mayor says that report is not true. And in fact, praised the federal government. What are you hearing?
JONES: Right. Well, it is certainly about politics. Certainly, the mayor here in New York, he's just -- he's already declared a state of emergency. And he spent a lot of time talking about red state governors like Governor Greg Abbott sending buses full of migrants north to New York without any coordination. But it isn't just red state governors.
Also, the mayor of El Paso Democrat has been sending migrants here. So there's a lot of back and forth and discussion between the two states. But here is what the mayor said about what's going on in El Paso right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR OSCAR LEESER, EL PASO, TEXAS: I can tell you that five days ago we were having about 2,200 a day. Now, today, this morning, we had right out about 1,000. So, you know, the new federal program has really made a big difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And the federal program, the El Paso mayor was talking about just now is a new plan that's similar to the approach the Biden administration took to Ukrainians earlier this year who were seeking asylum. Venezuelans will apply from outside of the country. They'll have to apply and have a sponsor in the U.S.
They'll have to go through a screening and vetting and be fully vaccinated. And then they would be allowed it and paroled into the U.S. at an airport. Those who come across the border will be sent back, which is a big departure and it could very much change the number of people we see flowing up here in New York. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Athena Jones on the scene for us in New York, thank you very, very much.
Also, tonight, Vladimir Putin is doubling down right now in his illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions, declaring martial law in those areas, even as his troops suffer a string of losses out there on the battlefield. CNN's Brian Todd has a closer look for us. Brian, so what else can you tell us about this announcement from Putin?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This announcement is ominous for many people, Wolf. It's going to be very tough now for the Ukrainians inside those regions of Ukraine that Putin claims to have annexed, especially Ukrainians there who don't side with Russia.
TODD (voice-over): Vladimir Putin's declaration of martial law in four regions of Ukraine, analysts say, could have a crushing effect on Ukrainians in those regions who don't side with Russia.
SARAH MENDELSON, FORMER U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL AT U.N.: You could expect certainly curfews and property being seized. But you could also see the mobilization of civilians for army service, which is again a war crime.
TODD (voice-over): It could also mean tighter censorship, restrictions on public gatherings, more law enforcement power for Russian officials in those areas of Ukraine. The declaration of martial law allows for the so-called evacuation of people in those Ukrainian regions, under the pretext of getting them to safety. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians in the Kherson region have already been relocated, as Ukrainian forces made gains there.
Human rights experts Sarah Mendelson says that may not rise to the level of ethnic cleansing, but --
MENDELSON: They can be forcing them through these filtration camps where they're looking at social media. They're looking at whether or not they're pro-Ukrainian. We know that there are upwards of million Ukrainians who have been taken into Russia. We don't know where they are. We expect that that would be more of the same.
TODD (voice-over): Russia doesn't control all of those regions Putin claims to have annexed.
SAMUEL CHARAP, SENIOR POLITICAL SCIENTIST, RAND CORP.: When faced with choices about whether to back down or to double down, Putin has consistently demonstrated over the course of the last month in particular that he is prepared to double down, putting at risk basically everything else.
TODD (voice-over): In the United States, martial law hasn't been imposed in decades. It's been imposed after natural disasters like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the Chicago Fire of 1871 to ensure order. It was also imposed during the Battle of New Orleans in the Civil War. Now, Putin's also declaring heightened levels of security inside Russia itself, areas not only near Ukraine, but also around Moscow.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): Designed to ensure the safety of people, the security and anti-terrorist protection of critical facilities and the maintenance of public order.
TODD (voice-over): Those measures inside Russia, analyst say, might not rise to the level of martial law technically, but it's clearly a tightening of the screws on his own people by the former KGB colonel.
CHARAP: There are going to be fewer opportunities to escape the reach of the state, the opportunities eventually for travel both within the country and outside of it are likely to be limited.
TODD: The analysts we spoke to also said we should watch for the possibility that some governors have regions inside Russia, not the Ukrainian regions that Putin wants to annex. But regions inside Russia itself, those governors could start to impose even more crushing restrictions on their citizens that have been talked about. That would be in an effort of -- by those governors to please Vladimir Putin. So watch for that, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will indeed. All right, Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.
There's more breaking news. Coming up next, a federal judge says former President Trump signed legal documents knowing, knowing they contain false information about alleged 2020 election fraud and says they're related to the crime of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
And we're also monitoring a disturbing situation right near the U.S. Capitol. Three people detained on weapons charges after Capitol police spotted a suspicious vehicle right near the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll be back in a moment.