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21-Year-Old Air National Guardsman In Custody In Pentagon Leaks Case; Trump Goes Under Oath Again In Business Fraud Lawsuit; DOJ Asking Supreme Court To Intervene In Abortion Pill Case; Amid Pressure To Resign, Feinstein Seeks Fill-In On Key Senate Panel; New Warning For South Florida Amid Catastrophic Flooding. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 13, 2023 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I told you earlier with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM, right next door.


I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, 21-year-old U.S. air national guardsman is in custody in connection with the leak of classified Pentagon documents. Standby for new information on the suspect and the timing of his arrest, and I'll ask a key member of the House Intelligence Committee what the u. S military should do to keep its secrets safe.

Also tonight, Donald Trump appears under oath again in a $250 million civil lawsuit threatening the fate of his business empire. Did the former president answer the New York attorney general's questions?

And the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to intervene in the legal fight over abortion medication. The U.S. Justice Department seeking emergency action after a new appeals court ruling keeps the pills on the market for now but with restrictions.

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

Our top story tonight, the FBI's dramatic arrest of an air national guardsman now the lead suspect in connection with the damaging leak of classified Pentagon documents. CNN's Oren Liebermann is over at the Pentagon for us with all the new details.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard is in custody arrested in connection to the massive leak of classified documents online. The FBI swooping in on Dighton, Massachusetts, a tactical team moving in to arrest Jack Teixeira after surveilling him for a couple of days. A U.S. official said the plan was to arrest Teixeira when he left the house, away from the stash of weapons they worried he might have. MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today, the Justice Department arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information. The arrest comes after a fast moving search by the U.S government only one week after President Joe Biden and other senior U.S. Leaders were briefed about the leak that exposed the trove of top secret documents.

LIEBERMANN: The documents were accessible to thousands of people, military and civilian. But the digital trail of information led investigators to a small group for closer scrutiny, allowing the FBI to home in on a suspect. The Pentagon having to explain how such young members of the military have access to such national secrets.

BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: You receive training and you will receive an understanding of the rules and requirements that come along with those responsibilities. And you're expected to abide by those rules, regulations and responsibility. It's called military discipline.

LIEBERMANN: According to The Washington Post, the man behind the leaks posted the national security secrets for a group of his online acquaintances to see, which CNN could not independently verify. The documents were leaked on Discord, a chat and messaging platform often used by gamers. The Post spoke with a friend of the man who claimed the leaks began last year long before they were first made public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was first made aware of these documents, I want to say, about six to eight months ago. I was in a discord server by the name of Doug Shaker Central (ph). And in this channel, there was classified documents being posted by a user who I will refer to as O.G. from this point. The documents were often listed as Ukraine versus Russia first. However, it's slowly spiraled into just intelligence about everything.

LIEBERMANN: The pentagon has begun a damage assessment and has already begun to limit who receives highly classified intelligence briefs after the information exposed U.S. spying on allies, like South Korea and Israel, critical information about Ukrainian military capabilities and top secret intel about Chinese weapons development.

GLENN GERSTELL, FORMER NSA GENERAL COUNSEL: if it indeed it is true that it's a military base, then there's certainly going to be a lot of military officials who have to be called for account.

LIEBERMANN: The Biden administration has downplayed the consequences of the leaks but the question of how to stop someone with top secret access determined to spread secrets remains unanswered.

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The concern here is people. And people, if they are bent on exposing classified information, they'll figure out a way to beat the administrative procedures.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LIEBERMANN (on camera): Teixeira joined the Air National Guard about 3.5 years ago. According to his service record, his job cyber transport systems, requires basic training of 7.5 weeks and 136 days of technical training. Wolf, his first court appearance will be tomorrow at federal court in Boston.

BLITZER: We will be watching that. Oren Liebermann, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our experts on the military, law and law enforcement. Andy McCabe, it's stunning to watch the dramatic video of this arrest. You're the former FBI deputy director. How do you approach this operation from the FBI's perspective and what are the investigators doing now?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, as we heard from earlier reporting today, the FBI had this individual under surveillance for the last couple of days, which is exactly what you would expect.


Once you've identified the person who you believe is behind the leaks, you want to make sure that you have an adequate surveillance coverage on that person, both electronic and physical surveillance, to see potentially who they're working with, who they're contacting, who they may be communicating with, because at that point you're not 100 percent sure that this is just somebody who's trying to impress his friends on a gaming platform.

As for the arrest operations, again, exactly what you would expect, knowing that this individual has access to numerous firearms, the FBI takes every precaution they possibly can. At this point, I'm sure they're executing search warrants to try to recover whatever other classified material they can, along with any other evidence that will help them build the case against this individual as he will now face substantial criminal charges.

BLITZER: General Mark Hertling, a lot of us are wondering how did a young 21-year-old airman have access to such highly classified information.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This is not unusual, Wolf. You know, he's 21 years old. He's an airman first class. His job, a cyber specialist, that equates to the I.T. guy. So, he is forthcoming (ph) on the 102nd in Massachusetts taking care of their computers. They're -- not only they're normal computers with emails, but they're super, their secret internet protocol, their JWICS, which is the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Program. And this is a command that contributes to intelligence processing for Europe, Africa, special operations command. It is not unusual to have young soldiers, young airmen like this have those kind of clearances. In fact, most of them start the process for getting those clearances and basic training, not unusual at all.

BLITZER: Well, that's surprising to hear that. Adam Kinzinger, you're a pilot in the U.S. Air National Guard. How is such sensitive information supposed to be handled?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, look, we go when we need to get briefed, we go into what we call the vault, which is basically the SCIF. You can go in there. You can learn about enemy tactics. You get briefed on intel. So, let's take my unit, for example. I'm in Madison, Wisconsin, where F-16, and I fly the RC-26. So, the F-16, they have a need obviously to know about every potential, you know area of operations that they may have to operate, if stuff hit the fan.

On my end, on the RC-26, we actually work in counter narcotics. So, there is a need to know things about what some of the drug cartels are doing and what you're seeing in South America. So, you can see the need in a fighter unit.

I think it's important for people to recognize the Air national Guard is not different than the Air Force. It is the Air Force with an also a state mission, and so you can see how that information needs to be available, but they have to do something to crack down on people kind of on the periphery, like this guy, being able to have access print things out, take it home to impress his friends.

BLITZER: Yes, surprising. Carrie Cordero, the suspect, as you know, it was a very young 21-year-old gamer hoping to impress his young friends. He ranted against the government, what he called government overreach. What stands out to you from his profile what we know right now?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What was interesting about these cases, is they really are of the times when you see these different like investigations over many, many years. So, this one involves a gaming platform. It involves the fact that it's very, very difficult to contain. Once that information is out in the digital space, it is nearly impossible once it's moved from tech platform to tech platform for the government to be able to control it. It also is very difficult for the government to be able to know that this was actually taking place.

So, this has unraveled very quickly this week, but the fact that the FBI was conducting surveillance for just a couple of days indicates that perhaps the U.S. government's awareness of how long this was going on and this individual was releasing this information perhaps has trailed what the news reports have been at. So, the timing is one of the things that I'm looking at a lot.

And then, additionally, Wolf, the other thing that is interesting about this is, in terms of his access, there has just, from a policy perspective, been this constant shifting pendulum between post-9/11 era and the need to provide and share widely information throughout the intelligence community. Then after other leaks, there was a push back to try to tighten up access and safeguard information more deliberately. And so we constantly -- the U.S. government, the policy community is constantly struggling with the proper way to address access versus sharing. BLITZER: General Hertling, The Washington Post, as you know, reviewed video of this suspect yelling racial and anti-Semitic slurs. How dangerous is it to have someone like that serving in the U.S. military?

HERTLING: Well, it's dangerous to have someone like that living in the United States, Wolf. And, unfortunately, the military recruits from the population.


What we have to talk about is the divisiveness within our country, the anti-Semitism, the racial epithets throughout the country. It's very difficult to screen that kind of action or thoughts. It's understandable to do the behavior, to punish people for behavior once they do it. But it's extremely difficult when you're recruiting from the general population to say, hey, we're not going to take anybody with racial problems or with anti-Semitic beliefs until they display those beliefs. Once they do, then you can punish or discipline them.

BLITZER: Yes. Adam, how does the U.S. military weed out potential threats like this?

KINZINGER: Well, I mean, I think as the general said, it's tough to do, but I think there has to be a culture in the -- look, I mean, I have flown with people that have -- you know, as we're in the cockpit flying expressed to me some kind of anti government sentiment. These are military officers. You know, look, people have a right to their views.

But when you join the military, you're asked things like have you ever belonged to an organization that wants to overthrow the government, do you consider yourself a communist, all those kinds of questions. And there's got to be a way, and I don't know what it is within the First Amendment. I don't have the answer to this.

But if you see some of these kinds of dangerous signs, this young man that seemed this traitor to the country, frankly, seems like has displayed some of that and there are probably some people that saw that warning sign, being a member of the military is not a right, it's a privilege. And I think we have got to see it that way and when people start expressing anti-government beliefs, it doesn't mean we kick them out of the military, but maybe we need to screen that a little further if they do that.

BLITZER: Yes, important. Andy, what do you what do you think the Pentagon and the overall -- the U.S. intelligence community need to do now to figure out precisely what went so wrong and to rein in access to classified material?

MCCABE: Well, Wolf, I think the first thing we need to figure out here is exactly how this young man got access to the material that he shared online. It may be that he didn't actually have authorized access to documents classified at that level. He may have, you know, purloined these things from the burn bags that are used to destroy these sorts of printed out documents. It appears from most of the images that I've seen that they were folded and likely in a way to conceal them in his pocket, in his bag or whatever that might be, and then he photographed them to put them online. So, this may not even be a situation where somebody was granted access that they should have had. He may have just broken the rules and the administrative procedures that are in place to prevent that sort of thing. And that is a very hard thing to prevent.

You can do background checks. You can give people good training. You can supervise them well, but some people will still choose to break the law, to break the rules for whatever purpose, and then that's our job to find that when it happens.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, I want you to all stand by. I want to get some more right now. Joining us, a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Jason Crow, he's a former U.S. Army Ranger who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

How revealing is it that the person behind this leak wasn't necessarily a foreign adversary or a whistleblower but apparently a 21-year-old airman?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, Wolf, I've been saying for a long time now that one of the greatest national security threats facing our country comes from within. We saw that on January 6th. We saw that a not small number of the people that were part of that insurrection were in positions of public trust, whether they were police officers, firefighters, members of the military. So, we do have a domestic extremism problem in America.

And that's one of the reasons why I actually joined forces with Liz Cheney and Stephanie Murphy after January 6th, and we actually crafted a bill called the No Clearance for Domestic Terrorists Act, that would actually put some screening in place for people joining our military to make sure they weren't part of a domestic extremist group and weed those folks out because they shouldn't have access to our nation's closely guarded secrets.

BLITZER: They certainly shouldn't. Congressman, was this a failure by the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community that they didn't catch these documents floating around out there online sooner?

CROW: I don't know if we can say it's a failure yet because this is a new way of disseminating information like this. This is a novel thing. To my memory, I don't think anything like this has happened before. But what I do know is that we should prevent it from happening in the future. Looking at new technologies, new ways of disseminating information, these chat rooms, these video gaming rooms, we certainly are going to have to figure out how we have eyes on what's happening here to see if there are secrets being leaked or nefarious or extremist activities going on.

Now, this is tough, though. This is really tough because I value freedom of speech, I value freedom of expression, and we're not in the business of America of just sending law enforcement into social media sites that just observe what's going on.


That's not who we are as a country. So, we have to figure out how we can craft a very targeted, very surgical way of looking for information, extremist threats that are that are very specific while also express -- protecting our freedoms.

BLITZER: Congressman Jason Crow, we'll stay in close touch with you and have you back to discuss. Thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, we just got some new information about what went down in Donald Trump's deposition in the New York civil lawsuit against him. We're told he was there for nearly, get this, seven hours. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The breaking news we're following right now, former President Trump just wrapped up answering hours worth of questions under oath today in the New York attorney general's lawsuit alleging business fraud. The case could lead to a ban on Trump or his adult children from operating any businesses in New York State.


CNN's Kara Scannell is on the scene for us in New York. So, what more are you learning, Kara?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you said, the former president just left this building behind me where he was sitting for more than seven hours and answered questions under oath. This is part of a deposition of the New York attorney general's lawsuit, where they accused him and his family members of enriching themselves by inflating the value of number of their assets on their financial statements.

Now, Trump had initially declined to answer questions back in August. He asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But, today he was back again, and this time he answered questions. We're told that he answered multiple questions over close to seven hours of when he was behind closed doors. They also had numerous breaks and also a break for lunch.

Though we don't have additional details on what these questions were, we do know that a lot of the focus the last time was on the valuations, how they came up with the values of various properties, including Mar-a-Lago, and, of course, also his apartment and Trump Tower. Prosecutors or the attorney general's office has alleged that he had inflated the size of that apartment and its value three times from what it was. So, Trump arrived here just before 10:00 A.M. and he left just after 6:00 P.M.

Now, this is a significant point in this investigation. It also suggests a change in strategy for Trump's team, this time reading (ph) to answer questions. I mean, the issue here is, in a civil lawsuit, the prosecutors can -- the jury can take an adverse inference or meaning they can hold any answers that Trump doesn't answer against him. So, definitely a strategic change in thinking here, Trump answering questions today and something that the jury, if it does go to trial, which is set forth in October, will have a chance to evaluate.

But, certainly, a big development here, a change in strategy, and Trump, according to source, answering multiple questions over those hours, Wolf.

BLITZER: Al right. Kara, thank you very much. Standby, we're going to get back to you.

I want to bring in our legal analysts right now for some legal perspective, former Defense Attorney Shan Wu is joining us right now. So -- and I want to start with Shan. Go ahead, Shan, give us your thoughts, your assessment on how this all unfolded.

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. I think Kara is exactly right. It's a big change in strategy for Trump. I'm not exactly seeing why he's changed the strategy. Nothing has really changed in some ways since he took the fifth last time, except what changes it actually seems like he's in more jeopardy. He's now actually been indicted in one case, and it's the Manhattan D.A. who could theoretically revitalize the original financial crime charges about this valuation issue that's related to what Letitia James is looking at.

I can only imagine that either it's bravado on his part, he wants to push back, or he is concerned enough about losing the ability to do business in New York, that this is worth the risk for him, but it's a risky move not to assert the Fifth here.

BLITZER: Very interesting. And, Laura Coates, what do you make of these new details about what actually went on inside that deposition?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the fact that he was even willing to testify, and, of course, I put the word willing in quotation marks given, of course, this is compelled testimony, but the idea that, remember, he was able to fundraise a great deal on the most recent indictment out of Manhattan, it has not seemed to ding him politically in terms of his base as he strives for another election as president of the United States. And so, likely, he is aware of the consequences.

Remember, if you were to assert the fifth in a civil matter, that can essentially be held against you. A jury could presumably be informed about that. And then your statements can ultimately perhaps be used against you if there is an ongoing criminal investigation, as Shan indicated. So, it's a bit of a legal Catch 22.

It may be, though, that he is a little bit more evasive than one would be if it was not a looming prospect to be prosecuted or to have a jury or an impending litigation. And so he might be a little bit more evasive in his answers away to hedge, but, ultimately, he can be challenged. And everything he's hedged about, he can be challenged in the setting in a deposition, unlike you possibly could be where a judge is present, hoping to try to streamline the proceedings.

It's a bit more of a relaxed in terms of environment and being able to ask the longer questions, longer form. There's not the same clock as there would be in a jury's attention span. And so it's a calculated hedge, but it might not inure to his benefit.

BLITZER: Shan, what does this suggests to you about where the New York attorney general's case is at right now?

WU: Well, it's certainly had a very advanced stage. Like any other investigation, you don't want to get to the main person without having done an awful lot of your homework, talked to the lower level folks, reviewed a lot of documents so that you make the most of that time with them.

And Laura is exactly right.


The difference in the civil deposition is sometimes there's a lot of back and forth that can get very heated. They can follow up really, not waiting for the judge to ask questions. So, they're going to be at a very well prepared state at the moment in their case, the one to undertake this deposition.

BLITZER: Laura, how likely is Trump to actually go ahead and lose his businesses in New York State?

COATES: Well, if you're Letitia James, she hopes it's extraordinarily likely and, in fact, a certainty. But, again, there is still a lot of nuance in a case like this. There is still that proof that has to happen. There's a court of public opinion and there are the allegations, but they must be proven in a court of law in order to have a particular consequence.

But if she can prove her case, if you read the footnotes, he revisit her litigation-based documents and her complaints and all the footnotes, she seemed to have compiled a great deal of evidence, whether it will push it over beyond that particular burden of proof is a different story, but she's after not only no longer being able to have a business in New York but also looking to recoup about $250 million, if I'm not mistaken.

So, this has a financial tied to it. It also has a perspective business tied to it. And if her evidence, excuse me, can be proven, then he's looking to never do business again in New York. And that includes I believe there's an extension part of his family. Because, remember, the organization desperate bear his name.

BLITZER: Yes it does. Laura Coates, Shan Wu, guys, thank you very, very much. We'll stay on top of the story, for sure.

Coming up why the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to intervene in another abortion related case. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: In Florida tonight, a bill that would ban most abortions after six weeks just one final passage by the state legislature. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has indicated he supports the bill as he prepares to enter the 2024 presidential race. The measure would make Florida one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to abortion.

Also tonight, the national battle over access to abortion medication is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Justice Department is asking the high court to intervene in response to a new appeals court ruling.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has details.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the clock is ticking as access to the abortion pill, Mifepristone, could soon be restricted.

GARLAND: The court's unprecedented decision --

SCHNEIDER: Attorney General Merrick Garland saying the Justice Department will ask the Supreme Court to step in to stop a ruling from the Fifth Circuit from taking effect, pledging to defend the FDA's scientific judgment and protect Americans access to safe and effective reproductive care.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe again the law is on our side, we're going to prevail, we're going to continue to fight, that is the commitment that we're going to make.

SCHNEIDER: While the Fifth Circuit's ruling guarantees Mifepristone will stay on the market, it will also significantly restrict its use unless the Supreme Court steps in by midnight tomorrow. Doctors will now be instructed to only prescribe Mifepristone up to seven weeks of pregnancy instead of the ten weeks now. However, doctors typically do have discretion to ignore those instructions, and it will get harder to access the pill. Women will have to see a doctor in person and pick it up instead of talking to a doctor online and receiving it by mail.

According to a newly published study, nearly one in ten abortions obtained last year after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade used Mifepristone subscribed during a telehealth visit with a doctor.

DR. JANE HENNEY, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The safety profile on this drug is good, if not better than when it was originally reviewed, because now it's been out in the marketplace. It's been used on some 5 million patients. And so it has been extraordinarily well studied.

SCHNEIDER: The mainstream medical community has been in an uproar since Texas Federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled last Friday night to halt FDA approval of Mifepristone, effectively taking it off the market.

MATTHEW KACSMARYK, DEPUTY GENERAL COUNSEL, FIRST LIBERTY INSTITUTE: I follow the law as it is written, not as I would have written it.

SCHNEIDER: The Trump appointees ruling has been significantly watered down by the Fifth Circuit, leaving FDA approval in place and it may be completely put on hold if the Supreme Court decides to pause the entire ruling while the appeals process plays out. But in the meantime, some Democratic members of Congress are already talking about measures they might have to take to protect access to abortion.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): If it doesn't get overturned by a court that I think it's going to be on Congress to act, and I think we're going to have to do that.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And just in tonight, an order from the Washington federal judge who on Friday directed the FDA to maintain the current status of Mifepristone. DOJ had asked him to clarify his ruling. And tonight, he's doing just that, telling the FDA that it must keep Mifepristone available without any changes in 17 states, plus D.C. But, Wolf, in reality, that order from the Washington judge does seem to be in conflict with the Fifth Circuit that said the FDA must change some of the way Mifepristone is administered. So, just a lot of confusion, more conflict tonight and, of course, we're waiting for the DOJ to file at the Supreme Court and see whether or not the Supreme Court steps in.

BLITZER: We'll see what the Supreme Court does. All right, Jessica, thank you very much, Jessica Schneider reporting for us.

I want to bring in our Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic. Joan is the author of the brand new, very important book entitled, Nine Black Robes, there you see the cover, and our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Joan, first of all, walk us through how this legal fight could actually play out and how do you expect the U.S. Supreme Court justices, they actually may view this. How do you expect them to view it?


JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Sure. Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you. You know, there's a real urgency now with the Supreme Court, the same Supreme Court that last June rolled back nearly 50 years of constitutional abortion rights and said it was now up to the states. There's a very different question now before them, and it goes to the authority of the FDA to review and approve drugs for the market.

And I think what we'll see in Attorney General Garland's filing that will be coming, you know, within the next hours up to tomorrow morning is real pushback on these lower court judges who essentially put themselves in the shoes of the FDA administrators. But even before the justices would assess, you know, the that the merits of the case, they're being asked to just put everything on hold, just suspend the lower court ruling so that there can be reasoned judicial consideration.

Just think, one week ago on this Thursday, everything was in play. All FDA approval was upended by the first ruling by Judge Kacsmaryk a week ago Friday. So, the clock is ticking, as Jessica said, if the Supreme Court does not act, does not put a pause on this litigation by the end of Friday, there will be a whole different set of rules for women who would like access to the drug.

BLITZER: And, Elizabeth, from a medical perspective, this appeals court ruling already triggers some significant restrictions on this abortion pill. How does this impact providers and women who need an abortion?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It. Impacts them tremendously, Wolf. If we take a look at abortions, 53 percent of them are done by pills, not by surgery, but by pills. So, hundreds of thousands of women use these pills for abortions and also for miscarriages.

So, let's go through some of those restrictions that Jessica talked about. So, first of all, what this new ruling says is that Mifepristone can only be given to the seventh week of pregnancy, even though the FDA has approved it through the tenth week.

Now, it is possible, at least in some states, for doctors to say, you know what, I'm going to do this off label, which is completely legal, and I'm going to keep doing the tenth week instead of the seventh week. It really will depend in some ways on what lawyers advised their -- you know the clinics to do.

And another restriction is that the pill can only be obtained from a doctor and also that it can't be mailed in. But I will tell you in speaking with doctors and speaking with lawyers who advise them, this is very, very messy and this changes from state to state. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, Joan Biskupic, guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up the defamation trial against Fox News for its election lies not kicking off, $1.6 billion is at stake. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Turning now to Fox News on trial, the first day of jury selection wrapped up just a short while ago in the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network. More potential jurors will be questioned on Monday.

Brian Todd is following the case for us. Brian, there's a lot on the line for Fox right now as this trial gets underway. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Fox's reputation and that of its biggest stars are on the line here. We are now underway in this trial with a lot of fireworks expected over for the next several weeks.


TODD (voice over): The curtain officially raised in what could be an explosive trial. Jury selection started today in the $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News brought by Dominion Voting Systems. Potential jurors asked if they regularly watch Fox News programs and whether they can still be impartial if they do.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Simply knowing a story isn't enough to get someone kicked off of a jury because judges often instruct, or will instruct jurors to put aside anything they know about the case beforehand and pledge to be fair.

TODD: The case centers around Fox's decision to allow strange, inaccurate claims about Dominion onto its airwaves after the 2020 election to promote the false theory that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Electronic voting machines didn't allow people to vote apparently, and that whatever you think of it, the cause of it, it shakes people's faith in the system. That is an actual threat to democracy.

TODD: Host Tucker Carlson, part of an array of high-profile Fox hosts and executives, expected to take the stand, a roster including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch and Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott. But Analyst Erik Wemple says much of Dominion's case will likely center around second tier stars, like Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro and Maria Bartiromo.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS HOST: Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software. I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that.

ERIK WEMPLE, MEDIA CRITIC, THE WASHINGTON POST: Those people, their state of mind is going to play a really big role in this. What did they know? When did they know it? There's going to be situations where they're going to be read back their text messages, the text messages of their producers, all kinds of correspondence saying, you knew this was B.S., didn't you?

TODD: Today, audio recordings of previously unaired conversations between Bartiromo and then Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell were made public after being played in court, Giuliani and Powell, two of the most vociferous promoters of election lies.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: We have more, we have more than enough unobserved ballots in Michigan and in Pennsylvania to overthrow the election.

BARTIROMO: Okay, perfect. TODD: The discovery process has already been bruising for Fox, with Rupert Murdoch saying under oath of the election denialism on Fox, I would have liked us to be stronger in denouncing it in hindsight.

WEMPLE: With Rupert Murdoch, he is where the entire organization rots from.


He confessed in a deposition that he could have stopped this madness, but he chose not to. That's a tremendously incriminating comment, at least journalistically.

TODD: Fox says it hasn't defamed anyone and says the dominion suit is a breach of comment.


TODD (on camera): Now, Fox News is not the only entity that Dominion Voting Systems has gone after regarding misinformation following the 2020 election. Dominion has also filed suit against Trump ally and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, against former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, and against two smaller right wing networks, Newsmax and One American News Network -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, what are you hearing about why a settlement wasn't reached in this case, as some had expected?

TODD: Wolf, hearing from legal analysts and media analyst, two things, one. They believe that Dominion really has the goods on Fox. They've got a lot of incriminating evidence here, but also Dominion's reputation took a huge hit with all those lies promoted on Fox after the 2020 elections.

As a matter of fact, Dominion just lost a big contract recently. Partly because of that, experts say, Dominion really wants to punish Fox in this case, and they have a good shot at doing it.

BLITZER: We will see.

All right. Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein facing loud calls from inside her own party to resign, leading her to ask for a temporary fill in on the powerful Judiciary Committee. We have new information. That's next.



BLITZER: Facing public pressure from members of her own party to resign, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is asking to be temporarily replaced in a role on the Judiciary Committee while she recovers from shingles.

CNN's Jessica Dean is working the story for us. She's up on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, so how was the senator's request actually playing out over there?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a very rare request. Let's remember that she's 89 years old. She's had a case of shingles. She's been recovering from that. She's been out for over a month now, and she sits on the very powerful Judiciary Committee.

And it is a high of high priority for Democrats to get these judicial nominees and these nominations out, to get them confirmed and that has really come to a halt with her absence, because, remember, they've just got that 50-51 Senate set up here with Democrats and Republicans and in the committee to get them out of committee. Her absence has made that very, very difficult.

So she's asked to temporarily be removed and we're kind of an uncharted territory now because the question becomes, how will they do this?

Well, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is going to have to pick someone to temporarily sit in for her and they're going to need the agreement from all 100 senators . So anyone senator -- anyone Republican could raise their hand and slow this down and force a 60- vote threshold on this.

So they've got to kind of figure out right now. Republicans have been very silent on how they want to move forward. Remember, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell himself has been out after suffering a fall. We're expecting him back after the recess.

But this all comes amid outcry from people within the party and others about her fitness for office. And what has been interesting to see as we have actually heard some Democrats saying this out loud on our own air. We actually had Congressman Ro Khanna, who is from California, her home state, and it's worth noting, who is the co-chair of Congresswoman Barbara Lee's campaign to replace her when she retires. She's running for that seat.

Here's what he said. Take a listen.


REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): It has become painfully obvious to many of us in California that she is no longer able to fulfill her duties as she doesn't have a clear return date. We haven't been able to confirm judges at a time where women's rights and voting rights are under assault. My question is, why not just take the step and resign instead of going through all of these motions?


DEAN: And again, it's worth underscoring how uncommon it is to hear from people within their own party, calling for a member of their own party to step down. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the point today that she didn't know that man would be getting the same treatment, Wolf.

It's also worth noting, as well, just again how important these judicial nominations are, and these confirmations are for Democrats. That has been their signature issue in the senate. That is something they've been laser-focused on and just one issue that we can really look at with that is this abortion pill issue, those lower courts, the judges in those courts make a big difference -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They certainly do. Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

And this note to our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" right after THE SITUATION ROOM, just who is the 21-year-old arrested in the classified documents leak investigation, a reporter who has been speaking to his friends joins "OUTFRONT". That's coming up right at the top of the hour.

And we'll have more news just ahead right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including catastrophic flooding in south Florida may get even worse tonight as more rain is moving in, and a new warning is issued.



BLITZER: A new flash flood warning has been issued for Fort Lauderdale as parts of south Florida already are underwater. The historic deluge is being described as a once in 1000 year event.

CNN's Carlos Suarez is on the scene for us.

Carlos, what's the situation where you are right now? I know you're in Fort Lauderdale.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, right now, we're dealing with yet more rain across parts of Broward County. The last thing that the city of Fort Lauderdale needs right now is more rain, especially after more than two feet of it fell just yesterday. This is how the flooding looks and one neighborhood just to the north of Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood International Airport. You can see that one guy right there.

There is walking in some pretty deep water considering where we are standing right now. Over at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, that airport is still closed, it will probably remain closed until at least tomorrow because the runways there are still flooded out.

Two very weak tornadoes made -- were able to touch down in Fort Lauderdale, in Fort Lauderdale area yesterday, according to the National Weather Service. Tornadoes were again pretty weak. They left very little damage, but really, Wolf, the last thing that this part of Broward County needs is a rain.

We've been seeing all of these water rescues play out essentially, folks that have been stuck in their homes for the better part of the day. We're being rescued by firefighters, as well as a number of police officers that were going street by street, home by home, making sure that anyone that was trapped inside of their home was able to get out.

There was a family reunification center not too far from where we are. The Red Cross is at this hour, giving folks some dry clothing, some food some shelter because they're not going to be able to get to their homes any time now, any day now, really, considering that we're still seeing all of this rain, and we're expected to see more of it well into the night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know the area well. My parents used to live down there in Hollywood, right next to Fort Lauderdale. So sad to see what's going on.

Carlos Suarez, be careful down there. We'll stay in close touch.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.