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Donald Trump Formally Subpoenaed By January 6 Committee; Senator Graham Asks Supreme Court To Block Georgia Subpoena; Biden Predicts Midterms Will Shift Back Toward Democrats; RSV, Other Viruses Push Several Children's Hospitals To Capacity; Children's Hospitals Overwhelmed By Respiratory Illness Cases; CNN Goes Inside A Secret Ukrainian Drone Workshop; Conservative Party To Vote On Liz Truss Successor By Next Friday; Ousted PM Boris Johnson May Seek Comeback To Replace Truss. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 21, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Be sure to tune in for CNN Tonight with Jake Tapper. Jake will speak with one of Steve Bannon's attorneys, David Schoen, and that's tonight at 9:00 Eastern here on CNN. And join Jake this Sunday for CNN State of the Union. He will speak to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace from South Carolina, that's at 9:00 in noon Eastern. You can follow me on Twitter at John Berman, tweet the show at The Lead CNN. Our coverage continues now Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the January 6 Select Committee officially subpoenas former President Trump demanding documents and testimony. The move coming as Trump ally Steve Bannon is sentenced today to four months in prison for defying his subpoena.

Also, today, President Biden makes a new pitch to voters and a new prediction as well. He claims the momentum Republicans are seeing right now will tilt back to the Democrats in the final days before the midterm elections.

And Ukrainians removed the last bodies from the largest mass graves found in a key eastern city. This as Ukraine is accusing Russia of planning to attack a critical dam to create a large-scale catastrophe.

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

Let's get right to our top story tonight the January 6 Select Committee's truly historic subpoena of former President Donald Trump. CNN Senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is digging into details for us right now.

Evan, so what is the committee specifically ordering Trump to do?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is historic subpoena, indeed. The January 6 committee is asking for the former president to turn in -- turnover that -- turnover a broad range of documents by November 4, and to come in and sit for a deposition with committee staff and some members of the committee on November 14. And they say that the former president, of course, was at the center of a historic effort to overturn the 2020 election.

In justifying this subpoena, they point out, and I'll read you just a part of the letter that was sent by the chairman and the two chairs of the committee. They say in part, you are at the center of the first and only effort by any U.S. president to overturn an election and obstruct the peaceful transition of power, ultimately culminating in a bloody attack on or on Capitol and the Congress itself.

Wolf, they're asking for a broad range of documents, I'll read you just a part of the list here. They say they want any calls and any calls that were made by or directed by him on January 6. They're asking for records of calls to members of Congress. Records related to the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, communications that were looking to block certification of the January -- of the 2020, election, communications about Mike Pence, and of course, anything related to the destruction of materials.

And as part of these communications, one of the things that really stood out is the list of people that they're asking about. People like Mike Flynn, who was of course, the former national security adviser of the former president remained a strong ally of the former president was a key part of the effort to try to get the overturn of the election. And to push these fraud claims. People like Roger Stone, Steven Bannon, of course, Rudy Giuliani and Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman. These are two key architects and allies of the former President, as he was trying to find desperate ways to remain in power in those days after the election. Wolf.

BLITZER: Are the key question remains, will the committee actually get the former president's testimony?

PEREZ: Well, that remains to be seen. We don't think that the former president is of course going to just turn over everything. He has hired a lawyer to help litigate some of this. He has a number of options.

One, of course, is he could cooperate and turn over those documents and come in for a deposition. He has said, at least on his social media platform that he is prepared to come in and do a live interview with the committee, of course, the committee is not prepared to do it that way.

The other option for him, of course, Wolf, is to do what he has done before, which is to say that the committee is legitimate, and to try to fight this out in court and run out the clock because he knows that this committee is facing of course, the end of the term here coming up at the end of -- following the midterm elections and come January, it is very likely that they will not be around

BLITZER: Evan Perez reporting for us. Evan, I want you to stick around. I also want to bring in our senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz, our CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen and CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow. [17:05:05]

Norm first to you, how historic is this subpoena, a copy of which we all receive today. And what stands out to you from the information that committee wants from former President Trump?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, presidents have been both requested and subpoena to appear before Congress in the past, but these circumstances are different because of the historic nature of the former President Trump's action that the committee points to here. They don't quite come out and say it but they lay out the factual predicate in their letter, Wolf, for very serious possible federal crimes, indeed, federal crimes of obstructing an official proceeding in Congress, and of a conspiracy to defraud the United States that have been found likely by a federal judge in California.

So when you have that evidence, and a demand a legally enforceable one, Wolf, that the President appear, that is a clash for the history books, it is very significant.

BLITZER: Yes, this letter they wrote to Trump was sort of reads like a criminal indictment with all the specific potential charges included.

Jonathan, the committee specifically also wants any communications related to the far-right militia groups out there. Do you think they already have insight into those relationships?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think that we that the committee does have insight into those relationships. But I think what's really interesting in this subpoena is when they talk about communications. They're actually highlighting the fact or alluding to the fact that the former president, while he was in office was utilizing communication methods that were outside of the control of the U.S. government.

Typically, presidents utilized secure communications that are controlled by the White House Communications Agency division of the Military Office at the White House. That is for national security purposes, that communication by the President to anyone is secured and encrypted at all times.

Here, we're seeing in the subpoena, that there's a deviation. They're asking for information from platforms such as Signal, which is an encrypted platform, but it's open to the public, it's private, non- government use.

So to me, that's really telling you that there's something of evidentiary value that the committee may have that indicates that the former president was communicating outside of, you know, typical norms for a sitting president.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting Evan that the subpoena that was officially released today to Trump came on the same day that a key Trump ally, Steve Bannon, was just sentenced for refusing to cooperate with another select committee subpoena. Tell us about that. PEREZ: Well, the fact remains, Wolf, that Steve Bannon like the former president is defiant about the committee and of course, the -- in the case of Steve Bannon, he has been sentenced today to go to jail. Right. But he is now going to appeal. He says he's going to appeal. And he could end up serving four months. But, you know, they'll there'll be some time before he even has to show up.

The question for the former president is, is he going to take the same course, which is defiance, which is to basically just thumb his nose at this committee? Or will he at least try to talk to them and try to reach some kind of accommodation.

BLITZER: Yes, it sends a powerful signal. Indeed, the sentencing of Steve Bannon,

Katelyn, you're there just outside the courthouse where Bannon was sentenced today. Does Bannon's legal fight provide a roadmap for former President Trump to repeat his delay tactics on this subpoena?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Wolf, it certainly could. I mean, when you have a situation like this, where one branch of government is butting up against another one causing the judicial branch of government for help, in this case, it -- when that sort of thing, when those branches are butting heads, it is never, ever simple.

Steve Bannon's case at trial here it was very simple. He got a subpoena from the House. He didn't show up. He didn't have the protections around him, that people who were serving in the administration might have more broadly. And so he was convicted.

Today, he got his sentence, but he's going to appeal his team is promising this. There's lots of legal arguments that can arise and there's lots of things the courts can do. It could be get -- it gets even more complicated whenever this becomes something that Donald Trump, who was the former president would be arguing about his time in office.

And so we're just going to have to wait and see exactly what happens there in the court. Although, Bannon did get, or I'm sorry, the House did get a boost from the judge today, saying that they are a valid committee and their investigation is valid. Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important indeed. Everybody stand by. We're getting some breaking news just coming into CNN right now. I want to bring in CNN's Supreme Court Reporter Ariane de Vogue with details. Ariane, tell our viewers what you're learning.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, Wolf. Senator Lindsey Graham has just gone to the Supreme Court with an emergency petition. He is asking the justices to halt a subpoena that was issued or requiring him to appear before that Georgia grand jury, that grand jury that's looking into Trump's loss in Georgia.

A lower court here said that Graham had to answer some questions, but his lawyers are now coming to the Supreme Court, saying that he shouldn't have to answer any questions under that speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution. He says that senators are protected from some sorts of harassment for when they speak, say in committees or on the floor.

But here a lower court judge says yes, you can be protected from some speech, speech that has to do with your legislative duties. But the lower courts drew a line and said other speech, speech having to do with communications and coordination with Trump officials. That's fair game. So he's come to the Supreme Court. The petition was filed with Justice Clarence Thomas, who has jurisdiction over the lower court here, but he's likely going to refer it to the full court, Wolf.

BLITZER: We shall see what happens Ariane, stand by. Norm, let me get your reaction as you heard Senator Graham is now arguing. He shouldn't face questioning due to what's called the senator Speech and Debate Clause. How do you think the Supreme Court will view this emergency requests from the Senator?

EISEN: I think that the Supreme Court will take a dim view of Senator Graham's arguments, Wolf. The Speech or Debate Clause has a limited application. And as now multiple federal courts have held in Georgia and the 11th Circuit, it only applies to speech or debate and related activities at the core of your congressional -- your congressional duties.

Here's Senator Graham is said to have engaged in a wider range of activities outside of his official business. I should say that I represented a group of distinguished former prosecutors in filing an amicus, a friend of the court brief that the lower court relied upon and finding no, this is not an absolute bar to a senator testifying. We've known that ever since the case of Mike Gravel, The Pentagon Papers case, the Supreme Court has held that, so nothing new here Wolf. He's not going to succeed.

BLITZER: All right, we shall see. All right guys, thank you very, very much. Coming up, by President Biden is now predicting a shift back towards Democrats in the final days before the midterm elections. Standby, new information coming in.



BLITZER: With less than three weeks ago before the midterm elections, President Biden is predicting that Democrats will regain momentum in their uphill battle to keep control of Congress. Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly. He's outside the White House for worse right now, Phil, the president. He's sounding pretty confident right now. Did he explain why?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it was a dose of optimism from the President on what has been a rather fluid and dynamic political picture over the course of the last several months and President acknowledging what has seemed to be pretty clear over the course of the last several weeks that the polls are starting to move back towards Republicans in the closing weeks of the midterm elections. But saying he thought there could be a shift. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Back and forth. We've gone ahead, us ahead, them ahead, back and forth. And the polls have been all over the place. I think that we're going to see one more shift back to our side, the closing days. The election is not a referendum. It's a choice. It's a choice. And the Republican criticized my economic record. But look at what I've inherited, and what I've done, and look at what they're offering.


MATTINGLY: And Wolf, there was the prediction, but there was also a sharper tone and more political tone from the President today. It's something that I'm told he's going to be continuing and ramping up in the weeks ahead.

But when it comes to that prediction, the President was pointing to the economy what has been a vulnerability for Democrats in these last several weeks, particularly because of soaring inflation. The implicit point the President seem to be making is that gas prices once again are starting to go down White House officials have been keenly eyeing them over the course of the last several weeks very understand -- are very able to understand the very close correlation between gas prices, the president's approval, the Democratic Party's approval and their prospects in the midterms.

Now, while the president is expected to rally do campaign rallies in the weeks ahead, today was another day where he was focused on a specific policy issue. And this also had very clear political undertones. The president at Delaware State historically, black university talking about his executive order to cancel student loan debt with the President making news announcing more than 22 million people have gone through the process to apply for student loan cancellation.

But behind the process up to this point is this, White House officials have seen that this is an issue that has resonated very clearly and on a consistent basis with younger voters and younger black voters. In particular, those are groups that the President and Democrats really need to come out. The President clearly targeting them with his remarks on student loans today, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, turnout, turnout, turnout will be critical in the midterm elections, Phil Mattingly at the White House. Thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this joining us CNN chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny, CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, and CNN political commentator, the former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent,

Jeff Zeleny, I want to begin with that prediction from President Biden that we just heard that we'll see a shift back to Democrats and the Democrats favor in the days leading up to the midterm elections. Is that wishful thinking on his part?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly optimistic thinking on the President's part, but that of course, he's the leader of the party, you would expect him to have sort of an optimistic message going into the final couple of weeks here, but there is some reason to doubt that. I mean, the reality here is the economic headwinds, the inflation headwinds are quite strong as I travel across the country talking to voters there are deep pocketbook concerns and issues.


Now the president, the White House, they certainly are doing many things to try and show that they are in control of this. But the reality also is that spending is a big concern on the minds of voters. So, a lot of the help that they are giving people, student loan debts and other things are controversial in the sense that the government is spending so much money which is contributing, at least to a small degree or a degree to inflation.

So it's certainly possible. We do not know if the environment is locked in entirely. But the President certainly being optimistic at the very least, perhaps wishful thinking, suggesting the environment is going to change between now and November 8. The reality is also people are voting. Millions of Americans are already voting at this moment.

BLITZER: They certainly are not only inflation. A lot of people are deeply worried there could be a recession --


BLITZER: -- down the road as well. Errol, the former President Barack Obama, he will hit the campaign trail in several key battleground states next week, and he's rolling out new ads already in support of Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman. Let's listen to his endorsement. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In Pennsylvania, you've got some important choices to make this year, including who represents you in the U.S. Senate. That's why I'm asking you to vote for John Fetterman this election day, November 8.

So when the fate of our democracy and a woman's right to choose are on the line, I know John will fight for Pennsylvanians. You can count on John Fetterman. Make sure he can count on you. Vote Democrat on November 8.


BLITZER: As you know, the former President Barack Obama, he's very intentional about when and how he waves into elections. So this is pretty significant, isn't it? ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, absolutely. Barack Obama has not done a whole lot over the last 40 years. All total it's a couple of 100 candidates, including some low level state ones. But he has a pretty high success rate. The rate I think, fluctuates between 40 to 68, 70 percent.

So that when he does focus on a race, and he does give his support, it tends to mean something. He wants to have a good record for a lot of different reasons. And I think in this case, what he's saying is he thinks Fetterman is in a position to win. He thinks his endorsement can make a difference. We already see somebody at the top of that ticket already Josh Shapiro, who's doing quite well.

So, all of the things that an endorsement would rely on are all lining up. It's a winnable race. Fetterman is still ahead in the polls, although that margin is shrinking. He's got a strong running mate at the top of the ticket. They should go all in. The Democrats really need the state. They need the seat. They need to win this time.

BLITZER: Yes. And what the former President Barack Obama could do is really helped generate turnout with the Democrats are desperately going to need Pennsylvania and several of these other states.

You know, Charlie, Charlie Dent, while President Biden was in Pennsylvania yesterday, as you know he took a real dig at Republican senator candidate, Dr. Mehmet Oz saying and I'm quoting him now, Delaware was smart enough to send him to New Jersey. Do you think these questions about Oz's residency are of concern to voters out there?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I do think the residency issue is important. But it's less important than it would have been in previous times because people are voting in much more tribal manners right now. It's Red Team, Blue Team.

And in fact, I think -- I think this race is a dead heat the Senate race. And Fetterman has come under relentless attack, because of his role on the Board of Pardons and the crime issue more broadly, which is fairly resonating, particularly in the Philadelphia region. And I can speak to that having two kids there and all the issues that are going on with the DEA of Philadelphia under an impeachment because of his lack of concern about public safety and Fetterman being tied to him.

So I think this is a dead heat. And you know, Biden can take a shot at Oz, but I think Oz is in a very good position to win this race.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, guys, thank you very, very much. Charlie Dent, Errol Louis, Jeff Zeleny. Up next, children's hospitals across the United States right now are filling up as an unprecedented surge of a virus called RSV sweeps the country. The warning signs parents need to look out for we'll have that and more right after the break.



BLITZER: An unprecedented surge of a respiratory illness in young children is overwhelming hospitals across the United States right now. CNN's Brynn Gingras is joining us with details. Brynn, you're at a Connecticut Children's Hospital where administrators I'm told are considering adding a field tent to handle the level of admissions. What are you hearing? What's going on?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, actually I'm in the area where that field tent would go. Should they pull the trigger on that haven't done that quite yet. I think they're waiting to see in the next couple of weeks how the flu spikes because that's a major concern. They're not only seeing the RSV numbers go up but they worry very soon the flu numbers are going to go up among pediatric patients.

What they're seeing here is though you described it perfectly, overwhelming for doctors, for nurses, for the hospital staff. This hospital tells us every night for the last two weeks Wolf, 15 to 25 young patients come through these doors and have to actually spend the night on the hospital beds that are meant for triage because they can't get admitted to the actual hospital. They're turning play rooms into actual hospital rooms. They are just really overwhelmed with the numbers that they are seeing.


Another statistic that they basically have told us this is the first month since June that the numbers of RSV cases have spiked higher than COVID cases and of course this isn't just happening in Connecticut, Wolf. You're seeing this all across the country as a warning that the CDC gave us just yesterday.

BLITZER: Yes, very disturbing indeed. What are the doctors they're telling you, Brynn? What may be the reason for this awful surge?

GINGRAS: Yes, they're trying to necessarily pinpoint it. But what they're thinking, Wolf, is the fact that listen, two years ago, of course, we are in the middle of COVID, right. This is a respiratory illness that is really among young children. Totally treatable, totally common. Usually under two kids get it.

Well, because COVID was just two years ago, kids were wearing masks, they were being quarantined, and now they're older. And those masks have gone away. And they are out -- they're in schools and so maybe more susceptible to this virus. They are seeing a little bit older patients now ages about two to five,

BLITZER: Brynn Gingras at the Children's Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut. Brynn, we'll stay in touch with you. Thank you very much.

Let's get some analysis right now. I want to bring CNN Medical Correspondent, Dr. Tara Narula. Thanks so much for joining us, Dr. Narula. Why are we seeing the significant surge in these RSV cases right now? And do you think this is the peak right now? Or will things get worse over the coming weeks? DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I want to take a step back to pre-COVID and exactly what Brynn said. I mean, pre- COVID, this is a virus that most Americans were infected with before the age of two. And while it doesn't confer lifelong immunity, it gives you some immunity. And that helps you so that the next time you see the virus, you're less likely to get sick.

Now, what's happened for the past two years is all of our mitigation strategies have essentially created a new ecosystem for these circulating viruses, a situation where we're seeing a change in the seasonal occurrence. So we're seeing the onset potentially much earlier. And we're also seeing what we call an immunity gap. We have a whole cohort of children who never got exposed to the virus, and now they're seeing it and they're potentially seeing it at older ages, when their reactions may be different than how they got exposed at a younger age.

We also know that moms may have been less exposed because of the mitigation strategies, and therefore, it did not pass across the placenta antibodies that may have protected infants. So for all of these reasons, we potentially think we're seeing some of the search. Now as far as what might happen in the coming weeks, I think nobody can really predict.

We certainly hope that we will be seeing the peak soon. And it'll come down before winter, but even more reason to emphasize the importance of getting the flu vaccine for children and the COVID vaccine so that we take off some of the pressure on the hospital systems that we're seeing, and we decrease the potential severity of those illnesses, should children get infected with the flu or COVID.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Narula, for parents who are out there right now and are watching at home, what we're talking about, and they may have a sick child tonight, what are the warning signs of a serious RSV case?

NARULA: Well, I'm a parent of two young kids and any parent will tell you when your child is sick, there's nothing more scary. And so what we want to do is obviously not create fear, but really empower parents with knowledge. So what they should look for is runny nose, sneezing, cough, fever, wheezing. Certainly, if you have a young infant, they may present with irritability, decreased feeding, decreased activity, or even breathing problems.

Absolutely, if you see your child struggling to breathe, their nostrils are flaring, they're breathing from their belly, you can see their ribs or their neck muscles straining, or they're not staying hydrated, you can't keep liquids down or food down, that's a sign that it's time to take them to the emergency room. Pediatricians also have tests because it can be hard to differentiate this from COVID, or the flu or some of the other viruses. So that's something else to keep in mind. But really important to point out for parents that usually kids do well with symptomatic treatment and hydration and support, and most will recover within one to two weeks.

BLITZER: Very important information indeed. Dr. Narula, thanks so much for joining us.

NARULA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the critical role of tech warriors in Ukraine's resistance to the Russian invasion. CNN goes inside a secret drone workshop, that's next.



BLITZER: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces have planted mines, mines around a critical dam in southern Ukraine as part of what the country calls terrorist attacks in the Kherson region. But despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Ukrainians are fighting back with sheer ingenuity.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is on the scene for us in the war zone in eastern Ukraine. What's the latest? What are you seeing over there, Fred?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf. Yes, certainly some troubling developments there as what, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President is saying about the Russians allegedly mining that dam, which is a very critical one and could lead to catastrophic flooding if that dam is indeed blown up. The Ukrainian Defense Forces today offering a little more information of that. They said that they were two trucks placed by the Russians on that damn jam packed with explosives ready to blow up anytime.

Now, we do have to say that the Russians, for their part say that this is all nonsense, that they don't intend to do that, but certainly the consequences would be catastrophic. But you're also absolutely right, Wolf, up here in the east of Ukraine, it's a very tough battle for the Ukrainians. They're outnumbered by about five to one. The Russians have a lot more heavy weapons but the Ukrainian say they're fighting back by being smarter and more nimble and using tech to level the playing field. Here's what we're learning.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): As the crow flies, the front line is only a few 100 yards away in Bakhmut. Ukraine's forces are both outmanned and outgunned here but holding on because they say they're outwitting the Russians.


We've been given access to this secret workshop where tech savviness is leveling the battlefield, the commander tells me.

STARSHINA, 93RD BRIGADE, UKRAINIAN ARMY: Oh, it's fun this game changing stuff because we have no so much forces, we have no so much guns and bullets and so on., so we have to be smart, or no die zone.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The place is run like a startup, no idea is off limits. The soldiers work around the clock, repairing modifying and arming consumer drones led by a young wiz known as the serpent.

THE SERPENT, 93RD BRIGADE, UKRAINIAN ARMY (through translation): It's way better to know in advance that an assault is coming literally every meter. We are watching every centimeter here. It helps us to save lives during both the assault and the withdrawal.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Ukraine's army says the Russians have around five times more troops here than Kyiv does. The brigade filmed this video they say shows Russian simply charging towards Ukrainian positions out in the open, disregarding the lives of Moscow's own soldiers.

THE SERPENT (through translation): There are a lot of them and they have a lot of weapons. We have creativity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In our platoon, I do bonds and --

PLEITGEN (voice-over): And they have their weapons expert, a 19-year- old who goes by the callsign Varnak (ph) and turns grenades into aerial bombs in his makeshift bomb factory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We reroll them as a science for drone dropping.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): He removes any excess weight and attaches a pressure fuse.

(on-camera): It's finished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we need a tail. And some tape. And you tape this on a drone. Tape this and just drop it.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's not just drones. The unit also built this radio-controlled gun turret and a kamikaze cart pack with explosive. All of this is developed on the battlefield for the battlefield helping Ukraine's army turn the tide here.

STARSHINA: We defend our positions. And now we come to where we make contra offense and we are also successful in it.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Like so many of the troops defending Bakhmut, the tech warriors often work to exhaustion, thinking up new ways to blunt Russia's massive assault despite a lack of heavy weapons.


PLEITGEN: And Wolf, one of the things that we're also seeing is that the private military company of Wagner's very active in this area, the Ukrainian say. And CNN has now verified satellite images that indicate that Wagner has built a giant barrier not far from here to the east. It's unclear why exactly they've done that, it's about 2 kilometers long and made of concrete pyramids. Again, it's unclear whether or not Wagner believes they're going to get pushed back and might need those fortifications but certainly something a lot of people are going to be keeping an eye on, Wolf?

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Fred, thanks so much for that report. As I always tell you, stay safe over there.

Coming up, new fall out from the abrupt resignation of U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss. The British ambassador to the United States standing by live, she'll join us in The Situation Room, that's next.



BLITZER: In the United Kingdom tonight, the race to replace Liz Truss as the British Prime Minister is apparently heating up. We're now just one week away from a conservative party vote on naming a new leader. CNN's Bianca Nobilo has our report from London.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Liz Truss will soon be out as Britain's Prime Minister. Around 200,000 Conservative Party members a tiny fraction of Britain's population, the same electorate responsible for appointing Truss are expected to vote for her replacement by October the 28th. Three candidates lead the pack, Rishi Sunak Penny Mordaunt and Boris Johnson.

Former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak was runner up to Liz Truss in the last leadership race.

RISHI SUNAK, FORMER FINANCE MINISTER: Honesty and responsibility, not fairy tales.


NOBILO (voice-over): He wound her tax cutting plans would send the economy into freefall, accusing her of fairy tale economics, words that many now believe have been vindicated. Popular among fellow Tory MPs is nonetheless seen as a traitor among conservative faithful having played a pivotal role in the final hours of Boris Johnson's premiership.

Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt finished third in the previous contest.

PENNY MORDAUNT, LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS: The Prime Minister is not under a desk as the --

NOBILO (voice-over): She stood in for Truss to answer an urgent question on the sacking of former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and was praised for her handling of the situation. Given the fractious history of Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson, Mordaunt could be seen as the unity candidate.

A familiar face, Boris Johnson is expected to stand just three months after his drawn-out departure from Number 10.

BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF U.K.: Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plot. NOBILO (voice-over): An admirer of Winston Churchill who famously was Prime Minister twice. Johnson went so far as to compare himself to Roman statesman Cincinnatus in his farewell speech, who returned to power for a glorious second time.


The Former Prime Minister was forced to resign following months of controversy around locked down parties and other scandals. He still faces an investigation into whether he lied to Parliament about COVID breaches, which could see him suspended.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the moment, I would lean towards Boris Johnson.

NOBILO (voice-over): He enjoys the support of the Defense Secretary after the pair work closely together on Ukraine. Johnson's father also made plain Friday where his affiliations lay.

STANLEY JOHNSON, BORIS JOHNSON'S FATHER: I think I'm going to support Boris. I'm pretty sure I'm going to support Boris. I'm just speaking out as a voter. But I want to be sure that he's going to stick to the 2019 manifesto.

NOBILO (voice-over): Johnson has never lost an election. Allies will point to his 2019 victory as evidence he can unite the Conservative Party and prevent an electoral wipeout that could put the party in opposition for generations.

B. JOHNSON: -- a powerful new mandate.


NOBILO: Wolf, in order to get into the coveted final two spots for the leadership contest, the lawmaker will have to get the support of 100 Conservative MPs. And just in in the last hour or so, it appears that the former chancellor Rishi Sunak has met that threshold. So it seems if they vote as expected that he will get one of those spots in the final two on Monday. But who will occupy the other? That's the question.

Will it be the centrist Penny Mordaunt, or will it be the controversial former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who his supporters say and those who know him best, that he'd love nothing more than to emulate a glorious returned, the top job, like the heroes that he admires, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Bianca, thank you very much. Bianca Nobilo in London for us. Thank you.

Let's discuss all the latest developments out of the U.K. Joining us now, Dame Karen Pierce, the British Ambassador to the United States. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. I want you and our viewers to watch what the London Mayor Sadiq Khan told our Christiane Amanpour on this resignation. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR SADIQ KHAN, LONDON: We are a laughingstock. Our reputation has been diminished. Every minute, Liz Truss has stayed in office and people here, this morning, have been asking me what is going on in your country. On the one hand, you know, you're showing global leadership for London. But on the other hand, your country is a laughingstock and there are (INAUDIBLE) here from the global south who says, Listen, we used to look upon the U.K. as providing certainty and calm, the mother of all Parliament's we look to you for moral leadership. And we are a laughingstock.


BLITZER: So Ambassador, what sort of impact does all this have on British diplomacy right now?

KAREN PIERCE, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: I don't think it changes any fundamental to be honest, Wolf. I just like to point out that Mr. Khan is a politician and labour politician. He's from the opposite party to the government, which is conservative. I'm an independent civil servant and career diplomat. So I don't comment on the politics.

But I can tell you as a diplomat, that really it's made no difference to the fundamentals. Britain is still here, supporting Ukraine, still here as the most reliable European ally on NATO, still here with the City of London, making great strides in financial services. Still one of the sixth largest economies in the world, still a great place to invest, and still trying to work with partners, including the U.S. on the cost-of-living crisis.

BLITZER: I, of course, know you're a diplomat -- an excellent diplomat, to be sure, but explain to Americans specifically how former Prime Minister Boris Johnson could seriously regained power so soon after being forced to resign in scandal.

PIERCE: We simply have a very different system from America's political system. We have a prime minister and a head of state who is a king. You have a precedent. We also have a political theory, if you like, that British electorates, when they vote, they vote for a party to form the next government. And they vote for a manifesto, which is a series of commitments that parties give in election campaigns, and that they will then govern to. It's very different from America.

So when the Conservative Party won in 2010, even though it has changed its party leader, the Party remains in power, and the leader of the party at any particular moment, becomes the prime minister. This is the system we've had for a very long time. It has the system that operated in the 70s when Harold Wilson gave way to Jim Callaghan both labour, when Tony Blair gave way in 2007 to Gordon Brown, both labour, when Theresa May replaced David Cameron, a conservative. It's just a very different system from America's.


BLITZER: As you know, Ambassador, Russia has taunted the U.K. over all the chaos that's going on right now. What message does all of this turmoil in the U.K. send to Vladimir Putin, specifically as the West tries to navigate the war, Putin's war on Ukraine?

PIERCE: Well, we didn't need any lectures from an autocrat, like President Putin, thank you, on democracy and how it plays out in Britain. But I can assure you that whoever comes in as the prime minister, Britain is going to keep supporting Ukraine, keep supplying defensive weapons, keep helping fund humanitarian causes in Ukraine and helping them with their economy.

And we're going to carry on doing all of that with America and our other NATO and other allies. So that's not going to waver. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people.

BLITZER: Ambassador Karen Pierce, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it very much.

Coming up, former President Trump's subpoenaed by the House January 6 Committee. A key member of the committee is standing by live. We'll discuss.