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Debate Showdown Tonight In Race That Could Decide Senate Control; Trump Fires Back As Bob Woodward Shares Revealing Taped Calls; Russian Court Upholds Brittney Griner's Nine-Year Prison Sentence; Former Trump Communications Director Hope Hicks Meets With January 6 Committee; Multiple Businesses Cut Ties With Kanye West Over Anti-Semitic Remarks. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 25, 2022 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, as early voting intensifies two weeks before Election Day, the contest that could decide control of the U.S. Senate is at a critical moment. We're setting the stage for tonight's high-stakes debate in Pennsylvania between John Fetterman and Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Also this hour, what is next for Brittney Griner now that a Russian court has upheld her nine-year sentence? The WNBA star's lawyer joins us from Moscow as President Biden says he's in constant contact with Russia to try to secure Griner's release.

And Donald Trump is firing back, as Author Bob Woodward is sharing his revealing recorded phone calls with the former president. Woodward joins us to break down the Trump tapes and take us behind the scenes of their truly, extraordinary conversations.

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

This hour, we're counting down to the pivotal U.S. Senate debate in Pennsylvania, as well as the bigger midterm battle playing out across the country over the next 14 days. CNN correspondents are out in force in critical swing states and here in Washington covering the fight for control of Congress.

First, let's go to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Jeff, the Senate debate begins, what, two hours or so from now. What do we expect?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the marquee Senate race in the country and certainly the marquee Senate debate when John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz go head-to-head for just an hour this evening, the first time they've ever encountered one another in-person let alone on stage.

But I am told by advisers to both campaigns that both men have spent considerable time practicing for this session. That is because this race has been a narrowing and closing throughout the summer and early fall months. Now, more than a half million Pennsylvania voters have already cast their ballots, but certainly many more are expected to do so. The top Senate super PAC announced today they are investing $6 million more into ads here largely focused on crime. Here is a sample of what has been driving the race on that issue alone.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fetterman said releasing murderers early was the most critical thing he'll ever do in office. John Fetterman is reckless. He's a far-left fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Fetterman's record on crime is crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not like most Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dozens of times, he was the only vote to pardon criminals.

SENATE CANDIDATE MEHMET OZ (R-PA): Today's kids aren't safe in our communities. Inflation is making it harder to buy a house and start a family. We need balance, less extremism.


ZELENY: So, I'm told that Mehmet Oz has spent weeks, if not, months studying extensively the record of Fetterman, including his time on the board of the pardons, which he served as lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. So, look for extensive conversation about that record.

Now, at the same time, John Fetterman is trying to point out the transformation that Mehmet Oz has undergone since winning the primary. Of course, he likely would not have won this primary without the endorsement of Trump. Since May, he has barely mentioned Trump. In fact, he's trying to campaign in the middle. So, Fetterman will also be trying to portray Dr. Oz as an extremist well.

But, Wolf, one thing that will be unique and different about this debate tonight, closed captioning will be visible to both candidates on giant television monitors right behind the moderators. I'm told 70- inch monitors. This is necessary because Mr. Fetterman is still recovering from that stroke he had in May. He has what is called auditory processing issues. So, yes, he can understand what is being asked but he doesn't always match what he's seeing with what he is hearing. So, his doctors say he is fit to serve, no question.

So, it's been hanging over this debate, the closed captioning, but I am told by advisers to the Oz campaign, they're not going to mention this very much, if at all. They're going to try to focus on those issues. So, Wolf, there is no doubt, this race is a key piece to the puzzle for Democrats trying to hold their control of the Senate and Republicans trying to win it back two weeks from tonight.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Stand by. We're going to get back to you in just a few moments. I want to get to another high-profile political debate that is also happening tonight. CNN's Athena Jones is in New York for us covering the gubernatorial debate between Democratic Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, she's the New York governor right now, and Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin.

Athena, this race is more competitive than expected in the blue state of New York.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. It is surprisingly competitive and that is a big deal in a state like New York that hasn't elected a Republican to statewide office since 2002. Now, Congressman Lee Zeldin, a four-term conservative from Long Island, is hoping to be the first to pull this off in 20 years.


Now, early on in this race, Governor Kathy Hochul was attacking Zeldin for his close ties to the former president, Donald Trump, and for his opposition to abortion rights, but those issues don't appear as salient in recent weeks. Zeldin has effectively clamped back focusing on crime and public safety. This is something that polls show is at the top of voters' minds, more so here in New York than those other issues.

So, we expect Zeldin to hit Kathy Hochul hard on crime to try to score political points. He may talk about economy and inflation but it is really crime that he has been using throughout this campaign often showing up at subway or bodegas, places where there have been violent incidents. Kathy Hochul is going to try to push back with her record, things like passing or raising the age to buy a semi-automatic to 21 and other things, like job creation and her support for abortion rights. But we'll see happens and who is able to score more points tonight. Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll find out soon. Athena, thank you very, very much.

Let's check in right now on another midterm battleground. We're talking about Wisconsin, where early in-person voting just got underway.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is in the state capital of Madison for us. Omar, the number of pre-election ballots cast nationwide right now is approaching the 10 million mark. How is it going in Wisconsin?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. Well, today is the first day of early in-person voting here in Wisconsin, and we've got two major races here that have been too close to call or too close to show any clear leader based on recent polls between Democrat Governor Tony Evers against Republican challenger Tim Michels, and for U.S. Senate, Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

Now, in the state, we've seen a general upward trend in midterm voter turnout going all the back to 1990, according to the state data. And the early votes cast today and the early voting period will contribute to now to the now more than 9 million early ballots cast nationwide up to this point, according to election officials. And as of now, that is on pace with 2018, which, as we know, had the highest midterm voter turnout in recent history, Wolf.

BLITZER: Omar Jimenez in Madison, Wisconsin, for us, Omar, thank you very much.

Let's get back to Jeff Zeleny right now and bring in our other members of our election team, CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Senior Commentator John Kasich and National Correspondent Kristen Holmes.

Jeff Zeleny, the Pennsylvania Senate race, as we all know, could very well decide which party has the majority in the U.S. Senate. Just how high are the stakes in tonight's debate?

ZELENY: Wolf, it could and this is why. Of course, this is to fill the seat of retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey. So, Democrats from very early on decided that this was one of the places they could pick up a seat. But, boy, so much has changed as the seasons have transpired throughout this midterm election year.

Now, Democrats are very much on defense, defending some of their own seats as well, in Nevada, in Arizona, in Georgia. So, that makes this race all that much more important. But Republicans believe if they can hold this seat and win this seat, that is, in fact, the key to their majority. That is one of the reasons that the top Senate Republican PAC decided today to invest $6 million more into ads in the closing stretch here.

Now, that is just a speck of all of the money that has been spent, more than $100 million in ads overall. But what that money is coming from is from New Hampshire. They no longer believe the New Hampshire race is as competitive. So, really, all of the eggs are in the Pennsylvania basket, at least on this side of the country.

So, tonight is certainly so important for both men to show they could serve in the Senate, of course, John Fetterman, to show that he's healthy enough to serve after his stroke and heart condition and for Mehmet Oz to show that he's serious enough to serve in the Senate. Of course, he made his name as a television doctor and a television host and performer. So, the question here is how Pennsylvania voters who are exhausted by the barrage of ads they've been seeing, how they react to both men tonight.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

Gloria, I'm anxious to know what you will be watching for tonight from both John Fetterman and from Dr. Mehmet Oz.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think the health issue, as Jeff was just saying, is sort of number one right now. People are going to be able to eyeball Fetterman and just make sure that he's up to the job, health-wise. Then I think Mehmet Oz has to show that he's relatable. His popularity in the state is about 38 percent, which is not high. And Fetterman has to show that he's not too liberal for the state of Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: Good point. Governor Kasich, according to our new CNN poll, Dr. Oz is trailing Fetterman right now. What does Dr. Oz need to appeal to tonight? Should he be going after independents? What do you think?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Well, Wolf, we've heard it with every one of the reports we've already had. Look, the three top issues in this country, one, the economy, two, inflation, and, three, crime.


And that is what I think you're going to see Oz do. It is what all of the Republican candidates across the country are doing. And that is what he's going to pound on. He's going to pound on Fetterman's record from what we've heard earlier with those commercials that out there. But you could look for him to talk about the economy, the stock market, two, the sky-high inflation, and, three, the fact that people don't feel safe. And if that is what he does, this race is getting even closer than what the CNN poll says. I have sources that have said it is getting very close.

And what is working for Fetterman though is the Republican candidate for governor, he is doing a terrible job, and that works against Dr. Oz and helps Fetterman. But these issues are really, really potent, Wolf. We'll have to keep watching.

BLITZER: They certainly are. Kristen, I understand you have some new reporting about how former President Trump is making plans for, what, another presidential campaign. Tell us what you're learning.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. Well, Trump believes that Republicans are going to do very well on Election Day, particularly some of his handpicked candidates. And my colleague, Gabby Orr, and I are told that the former president wants to ride that red wave. And while he will increase his travel, he is going to hold a number of rallies in the week before the midterms, he and his inner circle are really focused already on 2024.

And part of what that looks like is establishing a political operation. We are told that this is going to look a lot like what we saw in 2016 when Trump won the White House. That means a slimmer operation, that means a smaller staff. They've already started talking to some campaign leadership and we are told that there is an expectation that there is going to be an emphasis on those who have been loyal to Trump, particularly in his post-presidency, helping him set up his post-presidential life and business.

And so there are some caveats here. We're talking about, first of all, timing. We have heard from a number of aides who have said that Trump is eager to run despite his number of legal battles that he's currently embroiled in. Some saying he could announce as early as before Thanksgiving, others saying before the end of the year.

But two things have to happen. One, his candidates have to do well. Republicans have to do well. And on the other side, as his aides, even his closest aides will tell you what is true in Trump world today might not be true in another week. So, it's one of those things that we're going to have to wait and see what happens, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Governor Kasich, I'm anxious to get your take on that. What do you think?

KASICH: I think that if it is a red wave and he can take credit, he's exactly going to do that and I don't think he'll wait until Thanksgiving. I think that Donald Trump will get out there and announce. I would like Gloria's take on this, but I think it could be a week after the midterms if, in fact, some of his candidates come through. And if they don't come through, he's going to claim credit for it anyway, because Republicans are going to win seats in the House, they may win the Senate.

And, Wolf, just remember, this is a midterm election and it is always at question of what the in incumbent has done. So the Republicans have used negativity towards the Democrats, and so far, because of inflation, the economy and crime, it is working.

BORGER: It makes a lot of sense that Donald Trump would want to claim victory but I also think there are may be some other candidates out there who are going to say, you know what, if Donald Trump is going to announce, I'm going to announce too. And he's going to see DeSantis out there, very popular. DeSantis last night wouldn't pledge to serving out his full term. And so I think Donald Trump, with all his legal battles, will want to claim that he's the victim here against the FBI and deep state, et cetera. So, I wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to jump in the race. But I wouldn't be surprised if others would too.

BLITZER: All right. We shall see. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, we'll go live to the war zone in Ukraine for an up close look at counteroffensive efforts against Russian air attacks.



BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden has appointed new warning for Vladimir Putin. He says it would be a, quote, serious mistake if Russia were to use a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. This as the artillery war between Russian and Ukrainian forces rages on.

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is on the scene for us.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): En route to the front in one of the most active areas of the brutal war in Ukraine with a rocket artillery team taking aim at Vladimir Putin's forces. They're called Carlton and use light trucks with missile pods mounted on the bed. The rockets carry a message of retribution. This one signed on behalf of a fallen soldier, for Fuya (ph), from the witch, it says.

TARAS, UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES: Our vehicle is very effective because we can set up quickly, fire and get away again.

PLEITGEN: Now, they're aiming at Russian positions several miles away. But Russia's artillery is also dangerous and could fire back fast. It is not safe, he screams.

We have to get out of here as fast as possible because the Russians might target this position after they got hit by the salvo from our rockets.

They're key to accuracy comes from the air. The drone scopes out the target and then watches as the artillery hits a Russian military repair shop, the unit says.

JOHN, UKRAINIAN ARMED FORCES DRONE OPERATOR: We are the eyes of the unit. We do reconnaissance and then make sure the target gets hit.

PLEITGEN: The Russians are under such pressure, they've started evacuating tens of thousands of people from Kherson and the Ukrainians believe that Moscow its unfounded claims about Kyiv preparing to use a so-called dirty bomb because Russia's troops are pinned down in this area.

Carlton's commander believes it is only a matter of time before they oust Vladimir Putin's army from here.


TARAS: By the end of the year, we believe Kherson will be under Ukrainian flags.

PLEITGEN: And they hope their unit will make a small difference in the battle for Kherson.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, you know, Wolf, we spent a good amount of time in that battlefield there in the south around the area Kherson and we heard artillery back and forth the entire time, clearly a hotly contested area down there.

At the same time, the Ukrainians say they're extremely concerned about some of that rhetoric that's coming out of Moscow, especially around that alleged use of a dirty bomb, as Moscow keeps putting it. The Ukrainians are saying the Russians are still pervasive in that language and use it so often that the Ukrainians fear that the Russians might be planning a false flag operation of their own. It is a big concern and certainly something that concerns a lot of people, especially down here in the south of Ukraine, Wolf.

BLITZER: It concerns U.S. officials as well. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much. As I always say to you, stay safe over there.

Coming up, former President Trump lashes out at Bob Woodward for releasing recordings of multiple interviews he conducted with Trump over a period of years. The award winning journalist, there you see him, he's standing by live. We will discuss when we come back.



BLITZER: Tonight, former President Trump is lashing out at legendary journalist Bob Woodward for releasing more than eight hours of raw audio from 20 interviews Woodward recorded with Trump for his new audio book.

Bob Woodward is standing by live, there you see him. We'll discuss in just a few moment. But, first, here is CNN's Tom Foreman with more on the very revealing tapes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Woodward, the president.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The calls came at all hours on all subjects.

TRUMP: Nobody is tougher than me. You asked me about impeachment. I'm under impeachment and you said you just act like you just won the fucking race.

FOREMAN: Sometimes full of profanity, bitterness and bragging.

TRUMP: I have a reputation of not willing to apologize. It's wrong. I will apologize if I'm wrong.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, THE TRUMP TAPES: When was last time you apologized?

TRUMP: I don't know, but I think over a period -- I would apologize. Here is the thing, I'm never wrong, okay.

FOREMAN: Then relaxed, entertaining and occasionally alarming.

TRUMP: I have built a weapon system that nobody has ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven't even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi have never heard about before.

FOREMAN: Unsurprisingly, just as he has in public, Trump praised the Russian president.

TRUMP: Respect Putin. I think Putin likes me. I think I like him.

FOREMAN: But he was equally effusive about North Korea's leader.

WOODWARD: The CIA says about Kim Jong-un that he's cunning, crafty but ultimately stupid.

TRUMP: I disagree. He's cunning, he's crafty and he's a very smart.

WOODWARD: How does the CIA say that?

TRUMP: Because they don't know, okay? Because they don't know. They have no idea. I'm the only one that knows.

FOREMAN: As for the danger of Kim launching missiles at the U.S. or American allies --

TRUMP: If he shoots, he shoots. And if he shoots, he shoots. He's got big problems, let me put it that way, big, big problems.

FOREMAN: Underlying it all, Trump's seemingly unshakeable faith in his ability to judge people.

TRUMP: The word chemistry, you meet somebody and you have a good chemistry. You meet a woman. In one second, you know whether or not it is all going to happen.

FOREMAN: TRUMP went on at length about his power, popularity with his base and ability to run rings around old Washington.

TRUMP: In the history of politics, there has never been fundraising like I'm doing.

FOREMAN: About the COVID-19 pandemic and a conversation about it with his youngest son.

TRUMP: So, he was 13, in the White House upstairs in his bedroom. He said, dad, what is going on. And I said it came out of China, Barron. Pure and simple, it came out of China. And it should have been stopped. And to be honest with you, Barron, they should have let it be known it was a problem two months earlier and the world would not -- we have 141 countries have it now. And I said the world wouldn't have a problem. We could have stopped it easily.

FOREMAN: But there was one topic that seemed to stop him, at the time, the upcoming 2020 election and his real chance of losing, as he did.

WOODFWARD: Everyone says Trump is going to stay in the White House if it's contested.

TRUMP: Well, I'm not-- I don't want to even comment on that.


TRUMP: I don't want to comment on that at this time.

Hey, Bob, I've got all these people. I'll talk to you later on tonight.


FOREMAN (on camera): With all of this hitting the news, Trump jumped on his truth social and said, Bob Woodward never got my permission to release tapes of my various interviews with him. Those tapes were allowed only of purposes of making sure that he got my quotes and statements correct. He and his publisher had no right to use my voice or them. That is what he is saying publicly right now, Wolf, but as we know, the president often complains about these things publicly, and then privately, let's on that he still likes the attention.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Tom Foreman, good report, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all of this with the legendary journalist himself, the author of the new audio book, The Trump Tapes, Bob Woodward. Bob, thanks so much for joining us.

First, let me get your response, your reaction to what the former president, Trump, said, he claimed you never got his permission to release these tapes. How do you respond to that?

WOODWARD: Well, they were done voluntarily.


It was all on the record. I had used some of it before. So, he's president and he's -- and he's not somebody who is -- he's so out there. And this is out there to the tenth power. And, to me, it was revealing when I went back and listened to it.

That you see his self-assessments are just off and dangerous. On foreign affairs, it is all about chemistry and his instinct. Well, of course, this drove his national security team crazy, traumatized them. On the economy, he says repeatedly, I built the biggest, best economy in the world. Well, he had a good economy, he was handed a pretty good one by Obama.

On race relations, he says that he's done more for black people than any president other than Abraham Lincoln. He gives a top billing to Lincoln but he gives himself second billing, and I've raised, well, how about Lyndon Johnson who did -- no, no, Trump did more than anyone other than Abe Lincoln.

So, you know, this idea that he's tougher, this -- the whole presentation of the understanding he has of himself is off the mark, unsupported by evidence. It is -- and then you listen to it, and you hear the certainty, the drive, you know, you played about -- I asked, have you ever apologized, oh, well my reputation is to never apologize. I'm not -- this was about impeachment. I said, why not just say this call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy was something that has been misinterpreted or whatever? No, no. It is a perfect call. It is a perfect call. And I spent 15 minutes interrogating him down in Mar-a-Lago and he would just not give. He would avoid the plain language of that call.

BLITZER: And he would often just call you. You didn't even initiate all of those calls.

I want to dive in to what we just heard in Tom Foreman's report, the new audio that you just released to us. Trump seems almost to laugh about his inability to actually apologize. Let's take a listen once again. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I have this reputation of not being willing to apologize. It is wrong. I will apologize. If I'm wrong. This conversation --

WOODWARD: When was last time you apologized?

TRUMP: I don't know. I think over a period. I would apologize. Here is the thing. I'm never wrong. Okay.


BLITZER: But let me ask you this, did he ever seriously reflect on his character flaws?

WOODWARD: Well, not really. I asked him what grade he would give himself on the handling of the coronavirus and he said, oh, he'd give himself a very high grade. When in the conversations about the virus with him, he will say and says, you can hear him, we have it under control. We have it under control. 140,000 people had died at that point. There is no evidence he has it under control.

It is now coming out more. I found out, I mean, that Dr. Fauci and the experts were horrified at the way Trump would not listen to them, would just dismiss them. So, finally, at one point, I talked to Fauci and all of the other experts and I said, what should he be doing? And they gave me a list of about 12 or 16 things, like coordinate with the intelligence community, and it was -- it was so -- it is like he was frozen in the job.

BLITZER: We're all grateful to you, Bob Woodward, for releasing the audio tapes. We really appreciate it very, very much. And, once again, the book -- the audio book goes on sale today, very significantly indeed, The Trump Tapes.

Just ahead, my one-on-one interview with Brittney Griner's lawyer in Moscow after a Russian court upheld the WNBA star's nine-year prison sentence.


So, what is next in the efforts to try to win her release? Stay with us.


BLITZER: President Biden says he's in constant contact with Russia as the United States works to bring jailed pro-basketball star Brittney Griner back home. A Russian court rejected Griner's appeal today upholding her nine-year prison sentence.

CNN's National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood has details.



BRITTNEY GRINER, U.S. CITIZEN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: I've been here almost eight months.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From behind bars in a Russia prison, Brittney Griner made her final plea in court today.

GRINER: People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given.

ATWOOD: The American basketball star also apologized once again for what she called a mistake, accidentally bringing cannabis oil into Russia.

GRINER: I did not intend to do this but I understand the charges brought against me. And I just hope that that is also taken into account too as well, that I said I did plead guilty.

ATWOOD: But the Moscow court upheld her conviction, leaving her guilty of smuggling drugs into the country slightly reducing her nine- year prison sentence by only a few months. U.S. officials responded swiftly, calling the Russian judicial system a sham.

ELIZABETH ROOD, U.S. CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, MOSCOW: Nothing in the result of today's appeal changes the fact that the United States government considers Ms. Griner to be wrongfully detained.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We are in constant contact with Russian authorities to get Brittney and others out, and so far we've not been meeting with much positive response.

ATWOOD: White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration officials are working, quote, through every available channel to get Griner and Paul Whelan, another American wrongfully detained in Russia, for four nearly years back home.

PAUL WHELAN, U.S. CITIZEN DETAINED IN RUSSIA: I'm a victim of political kidnap and ransom.

ATWOOD: The Biden administration has worked on this effort at a persistent pace in recent months, following that initial proposal from the United States for a swap that included Viktor Bout, a convicted arms trafficker serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

But so far, U.S. officials say that Russia has repeatedly responded with a demand that is not feasible for the United States to deliver on.

BIDEN: We're not stopping.

ATWOOD: And today, Griner's lawyers had a somber outlook for the two- time Olympic gold medalist' future in Russia.

MARIA BLAGOVOLINA, BRITTNEY GRINER'S ATTORNEY: She had some hopes and these hopes vanished today. So, I think that is why she is doomed.


ATWOOD (on camera): Now, Brittney Griner's agent this afternoon, Wolf, said that the results today were disappointing, yet unsurprising, said that they further drive home the fact that Brittney Griner is a political pawn in Russia and she sought to drive some urgency around the fact that Brittney Griner needs to get home as soon as possible, citing what has happened to other Americans who have been wrongfully detained abroad and saying that something could happen at any moment. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kyle Atwood at the State Department, thank you very, very much.

And joining us now from Moscow, Brittney Griner's lawyer, Maria Blagovolina. Maria, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all your work.

We heard Brittney Griner in her own words describe this, quote, traumatic experience, but you only got to speak to her briefly before today's hearing. What could you tell us, Maria, about how she's holding up?

BLAGOVOLINA: Um, yes, I haven't seen her today because she was presented via video conference. She's holding up well. I mean, she's a champion and she's a fighter. But, of course, she didn't expect much from today's hearing. But still, she did have some hope and in a way you could see from her face that she was very, very upset when the court hearing ended.

BLITZER: Are there any other legal avenues, Maria -- Maria, sorry for interrupting, but are there any other legal avenues left to fight her sentence or is her only hope right now for some sort of prisoner swap?

BLAGOVOLINA: I mean, there is next step, which is called cassation or the second appeal. But, normally, we do not expect much from this legal step. So, I mean, Brittney definitely hopes for this to happen, yes.

BLITZER: Do you have any information at all on where Brittney Griner will serve the remainder of her sentence, her prison sentence, and what sort of conditions she could be facing potentially, potentially for nearly a decade?

BLAGOVOLINA: Well, it is a bit too early to talk about it. There is a Russian prison service who makes the decision depending on various factors, where she would go. It would be a penal colony potentially. But, I mean, this is how the system works. So, every person who has been accused and who becomes convicted goes to the penal colony.

So, as I said, it is a bit too early to talk about this. But we will definitely know what will happen and we will keep you informed because we are getting a lot of questions about the future.

BLITZER: Yes, understandably so. The United States criticized today's decision.


But now that this bureaucratic hurdle of the appeal is over, do you have any hope, Maria, that Russia may start to engage more seriously on talks of a potential prisoner exchange?

BLAGOVOLINA: Well, this is probably a question more for Britain and not more myself, because I'm responsible for legal part of the process. But Brittney had this hope from the very start, when she was detained that she would come home and she was hoping that this would happen.

I mean, we also as her legal team, me and my colleague, we do hope that she gets home as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Yeah. We all do. Do you know when you'll next be seeing Brittney Griner, Maria and what message you'll pass along to her now that her conviction has been upheld?

BLAGOVOLINA: We're trying to see her regularly, so it will be definitely this week. I mean, the message we will be delivering to her is that she is loved and she has a lot support all over the world, she has a lot of fans, sports fans and that is -- and she just, you know, it is difficult period but I think all of this love and all of the this support that really helps her a lot and that is the message she's passing through us to everybody.

BLITZER: Brittney Griner's lawyer --

BLAGOVOLINA: This is very much appreciated.

BLITZER: Maria Blagovolina, thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining us. We'll stay in touch.

BLAGOVOLINA: Thank you, thank you. Bye.

BLITZER: Coming up, a former Trump aide sits down for an interview with the January 6 Select Committee. How significant is this as the committee starts to wind down its insurrection investigation.



BLITZER: New developments out of the House Select Committee's investigation into the January 6th insurrection. A source tells CNN former Trump communications director Hope Hicks met with the committee today for a transcribed interview.

CNN's Paula Reid is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's got more.

What are you learning, Paula?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a significant witness for the committee because we know in this final stage of their investigation, they're really drilling down on the efforts the former president may have made to try to overturn the results and what he was doing on the day of the insurrection specifically.

Now, we also know that the committee has tried to prove throughout its investigation that there were people around him who told him, look, you didn't lose -- you did lose the election, it was not stolen from you, and that he refused to believe that.

We know from a lot of the different books that have been written about the final months of the Trump administration that Hope Hicks told him she did not believe that he had actually won or that anything was stolen from him. He didn't take that very well. But that's part of why she is such a significant witness for the committee right now. We've learned that she's had other informal conversations with the committee. But this was a transcribed on the record Q&A that'll now be part of this final report that the committee produces.

BLITZER: Good reporting. Thank you very much, Paula Reid, here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you.

Up next, Kanye West facing fresh fallout over his anti-Semitic remarks as more and more companies are severing ties with the controversial artist.



BLITZER: The list of companies cutting ties with Kanye West is growing tonight, including Footlocker, Adidas, The Gap and more, in the wake of the artist's shocking anti-Semitic remarks.

CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas is joining us right now.

Chloe, Adidas finally did what ye said the company would never do. Tell us about that.


Well, Adidas is the latest company to cut ties with Kanye West. They're following Balenciaga, Gap, like you said, Footlocker, pulling Yeezy shoes from their shelves. Hollywood heavyweight agents are no longer representing him and "Vogue" distancing themselves as well and a film no longer happening.

All of this coming after Kanye wore that white lives matter shirt in Paris, made anti-Semitic remarks on social media, and just the other day taunting Adidas by saying this.


KANYE WEST, RAPPER: The thing about me and Adidas, it's like I could literally say anti-Semitic (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and they can't drop me. I could say anti-Semitic things, and Adidas can't drop me. Now what? (END VIDEO CLIP)

MELAS: Now what? Because they have dropped him. And Adidas saying this in a partial statement to CNN, that they do not tolerate anti- Semitism and any other sort of hate speech, going on to call his recent comments and actions unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, Wolf.

BLITZER: Chloe, now that we're seeing corporate America start to cut ties with Ye, as he's now being called, what about the music industry?

MELAS: That's what a lot of people are asking, is should Kanye's music still be played? And that is a controversial thing because so many different artists out there, whether they are convicted felons, whether they have committed murder, let's talk about R. Kelly. Spotify removed his music for a short period of time in 2018. And then now his music is back on Spotify, Wolf.

Some people don't want to play Michael Jackson's music. And whether you choose to listen to someone's music is one thing. But when it comes to some of these social music streaming platforms, they will remove music if it's inciting violence or hate in the lyrics themselves. When it comes to the artist, that's a different story.

But every single platform has to make their own decisions. And there is a lot of public pressure on Spotify, on YouTube. Kanye West, he has his own music company. He has artists like John Legend and others. And we are still waiting to see if Kanye is going to say anything. He has still not apologized.

BLITZER: CNN's Chloe Melas, thank you very, very much.

Finally tonight, just want to pay tribute to the former defense secretary Ash Carter, who has just died. His family says he suffered a sudden cardiac event last night. Carter led the defense department under President Obama for two years. He was tasked with addressing the rise of ISIS in the Middle East and oversaw massive changes in the U.S. military, including the expansion of combat roles for women and the lifting of the ban on transgender people being able to serve openly. Ash Carter was 68 years old.

My deepest condolences to his family. May he rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.