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The Situation Room
Sources Say, Pence Appears Before Grand Jury Probing Trump And Jan. 6; Leak Suspect In Jail As Judge Debates Pre-Trial Release; Brittney Griner Emotional As She Speaks Out About Russian Detainment; Americans Stuck In Sudan Vent Frustration With U.S. Government; Remembering Jerry Springer. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 27, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, former Vice President Mike Pence just appeared before a federal grand jury investigating Donald Trump on January 6th. CNN is over at the courthouse here in Washington where the unprecedented testimony unfolded in the criminal probe of the former president.
Also tonight, the Pentagon leak suspect is waiting to learn whether he'll be released from jail ahead of his trial. The prosecution making the case he's a dangerous flight risk, as we're learning more about alarming red flags that were clearly missed.
And WNBA Star Brittney Griner is moved to tears during her first news conference since her release by Russia. Stand by for her emotional account of her imprisonment and how she held on when she was losing hope.
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 the breaking news. A first in modern American history, a former U.S. vice president compelled to testify under oath about the president he served beside.
CNN's Katelyn Polantz is outside the federal courthouse here in Washington where Mike Pence appeared for hours today. Katelyn, what more are you learning?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Wolf, we never saw Mike Pence inside this building today but sources have confirmed that he was here all day with that grand jury investigating January 6th. And Kristen Holmes, my colleague, another reporter at CNN, she did learn that Pence's testimony lasted five hours. So, that is a significant amount of time for the former vice president to be in a room with grand jurors looking at possible criminal charges related to the 2020 election and Donald Trump to be talking to them, speaking about what he knew, what he saw, what he felt and what Donald Trump said directly to him. When we've looked at this investigation, this is by far the most significant, legally significant, historically significant, politically significant moment of the January 6th investigation to date. The special counsel has gone after many different witnesses, getting many, many people around Donald Trump in the White House who were there on those crucial days, having the key conversations with the president as he wanted to overcome the election's results. He wanted Pence to block the vote and block the Electoral College certification on Capitol Hill. But none were the former vice president himself.
There is no higher person that you can get to testify about Donald Trump to what they saw and it was a court battle to get to this point. Both Pence and Trump had opposed to the subpoena initially in court. The courts came down in favor of Mike Pence going in and testifying because the grand jury, the criminal investigation, would need that testimony. The Justice Department made their case and Pence did come in today under subpoena and testify for those five hours, making it really a significant day, looking back in this investigation, and for the vice presidency, the presidency. We do believe he likely, very likely was talking about those direct conversations he had with Donald Trump himself, the president at the time. Wolf?
BLITZER: Very significant, indeed. Katelyn, stay with us as we bring in more of our legal and political experts. Sara Murray, what does this say about where the special counsel, the federal Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigation, the criminal investigation of Trump now stands?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it doesn't mean that they have reach the point where they are done interviewing all the witnesses that they want to talk to but you are at a point where they've interviewed this pinnacle witness.
I mean, as Katelyn is pointing out, if you're talking about someone who was in the mix, who was having conversations directly with Donald Trump, someone who was the target, not only of Donald Trump's pressure campaign but also frankly the target of a number of the rioters who were showing up and chanting, hang Mike Pence, he is the witness at the center of that.
I mean, he is also the key legal battle that you really need to wage. I mean, we've seen the special counsel prevail with other officials. But obviously when you're talking about the former vice president, that is a different level of a court fight.
And so the special counsel was able to prevail on that. They were able to get that testimony. Again, it doesn't mean that that is the end of the road for their investigation. There may be things that prosecutors learn in the testimony from Mike Pence today that they want to go to other witnesses and follow up on, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that's good point. Katelyn, what sort of insight could Pence actually provide about Trump's mindset leading up to January 6th?
POLANTZ: Well, there is nothing like hearing from someone tell their story themselves of what they witnessed. And so there is a lot of conversations that the president and the vice president were having about that certification on Capitol Hill, on January 6th from very shortly after the election.
So, Donald Trump and Pence, they talked regularly. They even talked after January 6th. And this was a relationship where they were running mates. And so Mike Pence was basically telling not just his boss but the person that he was on the ticket with in both the 2016 election and the 2020 election that he wasn't going to do what he wanted.
And so in this investigation, the prosecutors already were able to put before the grand jury top advisers to Pence about what they witnessed. Those people would have been able to share quite a lot about what those sorts of communications were like between Pence and Trump but they weren't hearing from Pence himself until today.
And so that moves this forward. The grand jurors will very likely be getting his own thoughts, his own feelings, his own recounting of exactly how he felt when Donald Trump was trying to contest the vote, was trying to use him to carry out his mission to overturn the election. And that is not a small thing to hear the grand jury as both a person, as a key witness, as well as a victim on January 6th.
BLITZER: Potentially a very huge development indeed. Elie Honig, you're a former assistant U.S. attorney. Pence is clearly testifying about direct conversations he had with then-President Trump. How unprecedented is that?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this is a remarkable and surreal moment in our history. In our modern history, we've never seen a former vice president testify under oath. Let's remember what this is, this is a criminal grand jury about one-on-one conversations he had with the president.
Donald Trump tried to block this by invoking executive privilege. He failed, as he has failed in the courts many, many times. And Mike Pence is a unique one of one witness in this case because nobody else can tell us what happened in those conversations.
We've seen testimony, or the prosecutor have seen testimony from Pence aides but they're largely relying on what they heard from Mike Pence. Pence has written about this in his book, but you can't cross-examine a book, You can't follow up on things that somebody wrote in a book.
So, he's really, to me, a crucial witness. We don't know to what extent he will implicate or exculpate Donald Trump, but either way, if you are a prosecutor, you have to know everything that Mike Pence knows so that you're ready to deal with and either incorporate it into your case or be ready to respond to it on the defensive.
BLITZER: Elliot Williams is with us as well. He's a former deputy assistant attorney general of the United States. Elliot, Trump tried to prevent this testimony, he cited executive privilege claims. Is it surprising that he lost?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is not surprising in the least that he lost. Now, look, Mike Pence, Wolf, had himself a bit of a win here in that he got the court to in effect, say, that due to the speech or debate clause of the Constitution, some of his communications could be protected from January 6th. Anything that he did in effect while sitting in the chair as the presiding office of the U.S. Senate would be exempt or not subject to being questioned about.
But there is a world of material that he can be questioned about here. And the mere fact that Donald Trump was president and Mike Pence was vice president simply under the law does not entitle the two of them to have every single word that is spoken between them protected under the law. Mike Pence can answer questions about, as Sara Murray was saying earlier, about threats he might have -- Katelyn, I'm sorry, threats he might have received, threats he might have perceived, knowledge that Donald Trump had conveyed that he had lost the election and on and on and on. He's an incredibly important witness. But to be clear no, it is not a surprise. These were not going to be protected communications between him and the president.
BLITZER: Interesting indeed. Sara, Pence was with this grand jury today, what we're told, for more than five hours. What does that say to you?
MURRAY: I mean, I think it says that they really got a lot of detail about what Mike Pence's experience was being at the center of this pressure campaign, trying to stand up to the former president. And, remember, prosecutors are going to want to go to Mike Pence for things people around him could not recount, for direct conversations he had with the former president, information they could not get from other witnesses. So, the fact that he was in there for five hours is a good indication that they wanted to go through a number of these events, probably in painstaking detail, Wolf.
BLITZER: Elie, what do you think about the fact that he was answering questions under oath for five hours today?
HONIG: Well, Wolf, to just sort to translate that, five hours of testimony usually would yield you a transcript somewhere in the 200 to 300-page realm.
So, that gives you a sense of how deeply prosecutors were digging here.
This is a grand jury, just so people understand what that means. This is the prosecutor asking the witness, in this case, the former vice president, questions under oath, under penalty of perjury. There is no lawyer for Mike Pence in the room. There is no lawyer for Donald Trump in the room. This is really a unique tool that prosecutors have to probe deeply. Because they won those court fights, because they overcame the claims of executive privilege, this is a valuable opportunity for prosecutors to dig in and get as much information, as much details, as much nuance that they can possibly get out of Mike Pence.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We're going to have much more on the breaking news. Just ahead, we'll get into the political ramifications of Mike Pence's grand jury appearance today as he weighs a potential 2024 primary showdown with Donald Trump.
BLITZER: All right. Get some more on the breaking news we're following, the former vice president, Mike Pence, appearing today before the federal grand jury investigating his former boss, Donald Trump, and the January 6th insurrection as well.
Our political team is joining us right now. Kristen Holmes, you're there on the ground in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the former president, Trump, just spoke. What are you hearing there?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Wolf, while this news broke while the former president was delivering a stump speech here in New Hampshire, he didn't mention Pence at all except for one brief mention of his former vice president when he was talking about poll numbers, saying how high the former president's were.
But one thing to keep in note here is that he often talks about former Vice President Mike Pence in a negative way when it comes to January 6th. That was a routine thing. He went to several events. Before he even announced that he was running for president, he called Pence weak. This is a likelihood that Pence might face some backlash on this, what could be perceived as cooperation with the Department of Justice here and something that they were hoping to avoid. We know that at least in part pushing back on that subpoena gave Pence a little bit of a shield to look like he was cooperating against his former boss.
Remember, the two men have not spoken in more than two years all over the fallout here. And, again, they appear to be on a collision course in 2024 while the former vice president has said routinely, he's fought against the former president, saying that he believes he did the right thing on January 6th. He could still face some headwinds, particularly when it comes to Trump's base.
BLITZER: It's interesting, and Dana Bash is with us as well. Dana, Trump has repeatedly attacked Pence, calling him a coward, and much worse for that matter, for agreeing to certify the presidential election the day of the January 6th insurrection. How much could Pence's testify today draw additional Trump ire?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, it very well could. But as Kristen was just saying, we need to remember that Mike Pence, just like Donald Trump, fought this subpoena. They went to bat to try to push back against it. But the former president's push for executive privilege to say that his former vice president shouldn't testify, it didn't go anywhere. It was not agreed upon in the courts, which is why Pence had to go today. And this was always going to be looking ahead politically for Mike Pence, assuming he does officially decide he is going to run for president against his former boss. This was always going to be something that is about the toughest thing for him, which is why he has -- in the appearances he's had so far, even though they're not political, like on his book tour, he's leaned into the fact that he has sort of stood up to the president and did so on January 6th.
Whether or not there is an appetite for someone like Mike Pence who did that, who is not one of the other Republican candidates who doesn't have that baggage, that is a very, very big question mark.
BLITZER: It certainly is. David Chalian is our CNN Political Director. David, Pence is clearly a potential 2024 presidential candidate. He's walked a rather difficult line, though, touting his record as Trump's vice president. But he's also been outspoken about what happened on January 6th. So, how does today fit into all that?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, this is -- as Dana was just describing, this is the very tricky operation that Pence has in front of him if indeed he takes the plunge. Because he wants to associate himself with the Trump-Pence administration, like he says, and tout accomplishments from the four years in office, and yet it was the Trump base of support that was very angry with Mike Pence for not going through with Trump's plan on January 6th to get the election thrown back to the states in some way to overturn the legitimate and fair election that took place in 2020.
I think it is worth noting here. Mike Pence, he told the House select committee, the January 6th, that I'm sure Adam will talk about, that they didn't have a right to his testimony because of separation of powers. He won his battle in pushing against having to testify before the grand jury, anything related to his duties as vice president, as president of the Senate on that day because of the speech and debate clause.
But, remember, he wrote in detail about his interactions and conversations with Donald Trump in the lead-up to January 6th. He wrote about that in his book. And I would imagine that is a lot of what took place in his testimony today, including when he describes in his book, Wolf, that Donald Trump told him in the days leading up to January 6th that he is simply too honest of a person, and that's why he's not going through with this plan to overturn the election.
BLITZER: Yes. Adam Kinzinger is with us as well. Adam, you're a former Republican congressman.
You actually served on the select January 6th committee. How crucial is Mike Pence to this overall potential case against the former president and those in his inner circle?
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think it is crucial. I think the interesting thing, I never had on my bingo card that Donald Trump in his re-election campaign would actually start to embrace January 6th, which he has. I mean, at the January 6th choir, or whatever, singing the national anthem, has talked about it's kind of a patriotic movement. And so Mike Pence can come with some information.
Now, a lot of the information that his inner circle was privy to the January 6th Committee got because we had very good cooperation, frankly, from his staff, I'm sure DOJ has gotten that information and they also have different things than we had. But the one thing that Mike Pence can shed light on that maybe his staff couldn't, or couldn't carry as much weight, is, of course, what did the president say to you? What did you interpret as his intention? And was there anything said between the two of you that maybe staff didn't pick up? And given that it was a five, six-hour deposition, testimony in front of the grand jury accident, certainly, there is a lot they're interested in that I think he could have provided.
BLITZER: I'm sure there is. David Chalian, how will Republican voters, do you think, actually react to this major development today?
CHALIAN: Yes. It's hard to tell if this is all fully baked in yet or not, Wolf. Donald Trump, as you know, has said he thinks Mike Pence' behavior on January 6th wrote his political obituary. If Mike Pence gets into this race, we will know the answer to your question. How do Republican voters assess Mike Pence's performance to that day? Do they punish him for it or do they reward him for it?
BLITZER: Yes. We'll find out if he decides to run, obviously. All right, guys, everybody stand by.
Coming up, prosecutors argue the Pentagon leak suspect has a history, a long history of violence as they push for him to stay in jail. I'll discuss the alarming new revelations with the former director of national intelligence, James Clapper. He is standing by live.
BLITZER: Tonight, a judge is considering whether or not to release the Pentagon leak suspect ahead of his criminal trial. Prosecutors making the case that he's a flight risk with a very dangerous history of violence.
CNN's Jason Carroll has covered the federal hearing just outside of Boston that's ongoing. Jason, a lot of new and alarming information emerging today about this young Air National Guardsman. Give us the latest.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, Wolf. Disturbing allegations about Teixeira's history, including comments he allegedly made about wanting to kill people. This is why prosecutors say he just presents too great of a risk to be let out on bail.
CARROLL (voice over): The detention hearing got underway with jack Teixeira's father first taking the stand. He told the court he would not hesitate to report his son if he was released on bail in his custody and broke any rules, the court imposed. The defense argued the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman is not a flight risk nor a security risk, and that Teixeira did not intend for the classified information to go beyond the chat room where he had shared it.
Judge Hennessy challenged that notion. Someone under the age of 30 has no idea they put something on the internet that could end up anywhere in the world, seriously? He had no idea that would go beyond the little people on the server? That's like someone arguing, I pulled the trigger but I had no intent to kill him.
Prosecutors argued Teixeira could still have access to hundreds of documents. The defense filing asserts Teixeira no longer has access to those documents, saying prosecutors are exaggerating their client's threat. Court documents filed by the U.S. attorney's office Wednesday argued Teixeira should not be released on bail, claiming he poses a serious flight risk, writing he could take refuge with a foreign adversary to avoid the reach of U.S. law.
Prosecutors claim the information Teixeira allegedly accessed far exceeds what has been disclosed on the internet. The filing also includes pictures from the search warrant executed on Teixeira's bedroom. The photos show a gun locker next to his bed containing multiple weapons including an AK-style high capacity weapon, handguns, shotgun rifles and a gas mask.
Prosecutors say law enforcement also found a smashed tablet, laptop and a gaming console in a dumpster at the home. Prosecutors say Teixeira also obstructed justice by telling those he was communicating with online to delete all messages, and if anyone comes looking, don't tell them, expletive.
Prosecutors also questioned why Teixeira was a candidate for the Air National Guard given his history surrounding guns. Tonight, the Pentagon is defending its procedures.
BRIG. GEN. PAT RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: I think it is important not necessarily to take the actions of one individual and somehow paint a picture that that indicates a systemic breakdown. Again, this is under investigation and the investigation will tell us a lot more about this particular individual and what he did and did not do.
CARROLL: The court document states in 2018 he was suspended while in high school after a classmate allegedly overheard him making remarks about guns and racial threats. That same year, prosecutors say, he applied for a firearms I.D. card but was denied due to the concerns of the local police department over the defendant's remarks at his high school.
Court documents mention his social media posts reviewed by the FBI. One post from last November reads, I hope ISIS goes through with their attack plan and creates a massacre at the World Cup, going on to say, if I had my way, I would kill a ton of people.
CARROLL (voice over): And as defense attorneys left the courthouse, we asked them if they had any comment at all about the court proceeding, or their client, they had no comment. Wolf, the judge in this case, it is unclear when he will end up issuing his ruling. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Jason Carroll on the scene for us, Jason, thank you very much.
Joining us now, the former director of national intelligence, retired General James Clapper, he's a CNN National Security Analyst. General Clapper, thanks for joining us. Do you believe releasing Teixeira ahead of his trial would actually threaten U.S. national security?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, I do, Wolf. There is no telling what else is out there that he may have cashed somewhere electronically that he could subsequently release. So, I completely agree with the prosecution's assertion that he is both a flight risk and a security risk.
BLITZER: Prosecutors also say Teixeira is, and I'm quoting them now, an attractive candidate for recruitment by a foreign government. How are American adversaries, do you think, watching all of this unfold?
CLAPPER: Well, I'm sure they're watching it quite carefully, adversaries and friends alike. And to the extent that they can themselves collect what was out there, I'm sure they have. And, you know, you have visions of him showing up in somebody's embassy in Washington and, of course, would have diplomatic immunity. So, again, just to underline the prosecution case is pretty strong that he would be both a flight and a national security risk. He would be a very inviting target for an adversary foreign intelligence service.
BLITZER: He certainly would be. Teixeira's red flags actually, as you now know, as we all now know, piled up from a high school suspension for talking about weapons to a search for mass murders on his government computer just last year. Did the system fail? This guy not only got classified security clearances, not just confidential, not just secret, but top secret security clearances.
CLAPPER: Well, from appearances, it does look like there was a serious breakdown in the system. The question is -- was what has come out about particularly his early behavior, even going back to high school. Did that emerge in the course of background investigation? And if it did not, why not?
Similarly, after a background investigation, there is a separate process known as adjudication, where, essentially, professionals make judgments about one's integrity and commitment to keeping secrets based on their life history. So, somewhere in that system, and I'm sure there's an audit trail being run on that right now, there is a breakdown.
BLITZER: Should the people who actually conducted Teixeira's background check, the adjudication, his supervisors and others face potential consequences for failure?
CLAPPER: Well, potentially. I think you need to know the exact circumstances, what was normal, contemporaneously and factors like that. That's why it is important to take care and be very thorough about an investigation in the interests of being fair to people. These adjudicator jobs are really, really difficult, because what you're doing is essentially making a subjective prediction about one's willingness to keep secrets. And this is one case where the system didn't work. And that's the fundamental issue here. We can make all kinds of administrative improvements but this is a violation of personal trust and that's hard to predict.
BLITZER: So, what does the military need to do now, General, to better detect this type of insider threat, the threat of extremism within the U.S. military itself?
CLAPPER: Well, that's a great question, Wolf. The intelligence agencies, which, of course, has a very high population, high concentration of employees, have pretty good systems for continuous evaluation, and monitoring the electronic behavior of your employees. I do not know to what extent that's extended down to the Air National Guard unit in Massachusetts.
So, the track record there is kind of uneven. In some places, we have an excellent system. The agency, notably CIA, NSA, have good systems for that. But it may not be as mature and as capable in a place like this National Guard unit.
BLITZER: General Clapper, thanks so much for joining us. We'll stay on top of this story, for sure.
And just ahead, Brittney Griner speaking to the news media for the first time since her return for months in a Russian prison. Her very moving account of how she tried to keep hope and where her basketball career goes from here. We'll have details. That's next.
BLITZER: Tonight, Brittney Griner is speaking out about her experience in a Russian prison in her first news conference since returning home.
CNN's Brian Todd is following the story for us. Brian, it was a very, very emotional moment.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brittney Griner did get emotional, Wolf, at certain moments. At other times, she was a little bit guarded. This was an event that came against the backdrop of tensions over other Americans who were detained abroad.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice over) : Brittney Griner unveiling a mural of American detainees held abroad. The 32-year-old American basketball star speaking to the media for the first time since her release from detention in Russia in December. Griner got emotional when asked how she found the resilience to finally speak out.
BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA PLAYER: I'm no stranger to hard times. So, you cry, you make me cry. Just digging deep, honestly. You're going to be faced with adversities throughout your life. This was a pretty big one. But I just kind of relied on my hard work, getting through it.
TODD: Griner was detained for nearly ten months, much of it in a bleak, remote penal colony about 300 miles from Moscow. She received a nine-year sentence for drug smuggling after being arrested at a Moscow airport carrying cannabis oil in vape cartridges just before the Ukraine war started. Griner said she packed the cartridges by accident. Today, she said, during some of her more desolate moments in detention, seeing pictures of her family and images of the efforts to get her out meant everything.
GRINER: It made me a little bit have hope, which is a really hard thing to have, a really dangerous thing to have. Because when it doesn't work, it's so crushing.
TODD: And she spoke of what she would tell Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, two Americans now held in Russia, and all the other wrongfully detained Americans abroad.
GRINER: Stay strong, keep fighting, don't give up. Just keep waking up. Find a little routine and stick to that routine as best you can. I know that's what helped me.
TODD: Asked if she felt guilt for her release after a shorter time in detention than Whelan and some others, Griner said if she could have gotten them out herself, she would have. She pointedly made no specific mention of the conditions she faced in Russian detention, except at one moment.
GRINER: No one should be in those conditions, like hands down, no one should be in any of the conditions that I went through or they're going through.
TODD: Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post writer who was held in Iran for nearly a year-and-a-half, told us about what Griner may be going through emotionally right now.
JASON REZAIAN, WASHINGTON POST OPINION WRITER, HELD IN IRAN 544 DAYS: Once you've been isolated and confined and have had choice taken from you for that long, you know, it's not really natural to just kind of come back to freedom. And then couple that with sort of not being able to understand, hey, why am I not happier about this?
TODD: Griner's news conference came the same day as The Wall Street Journal, Gershkovich's employer, The Washington Post and The New York Times ran full-page ads of a joint letter demanding his release.
TODD (on camera): Brittney Griner's news conference also comes as the U.S. today imposed new sanctions on groups in Russia and Iran that are accused of taking Americans hostage or wrongfully detaining them. The sanctions target Russia's federal security service and the intelligence branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you.
Joining us now, Sports Broadcaster and CNN Contributor Cari Champion. Cari, thanks for joining us. How are you reflecting, Cari, on hearing Brittney Griner in her own words today?
CARI CHAMPION, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was relieving for me. I remember when she came home, a lot of us talked about what will be next for her and there were questions about her deciding so early on that she start playing again, but I was worried about her mental state. Because, as mentioned, there has been nothing said about what she actually experienced. She was very vague. We knew what we could, what we couldn't ask going into this press conference.
And seeing her, I got emotional, very much like the reporter did, which made Brittney emotional. I was emotional because she still had a brightness in her eyes, Wolf, she still had a smile on her face, and I thought to myself what she experienced hadn't changed her spirit.
BLITZER: Yes, I got emotional watching it as well. Did you notice any changes in Griner today after her experience, her awful experience in Russia? Or is she the woman you've watched play basketball for years?
CHAMPION: You know what, the change that I saw, believe it or not, I followed her since her time in college. She has always been very shy, very quiet to herself, friendly with those if you know her, but in front of media, not one to really talk a lot, have a lot of conversations.
And I watched the entire press conference and she was laughing, she was joking, she was engaging people, making fun of her teammates.
And I thought to myself, she really understands the value of life, like nothing is promised and that's what I saw the most from her. What she realized, what she had and just an entire new perspective which seems to be joy.
BLITZER: A very impressive woman indeed. Griner says she'll never play abroad again other than potentially in the Olympics. How will this harrowing experience impact her legacy out there on the court?
CHAMPION: You know, she was always considered one of the greats. I think that, you know, in the world of sports, we can obviously compare who you are in terms of championships. That really determines your legacy.
But she at this very strange if not serendipitous intersection of women's sports growing, as we all know watching the college -- the women's college basketball championships. And then seeing someone who I believe turned into an accidental advocate because this is not what she would've had on her resume. And then, now, watching what she does on the court, and he's been able to unify so many people I think her legacy is well beyond what it would've ever been had this not happen to her.
BLITZER: I totally agree. Tell us more, Cari, about how Griner is turning her advocacy down for the other detained Americans into action.
CHAMPION: You know, I think it's important that we take a moment to acknowledge that she was asked pointedly today, how do you feel? You are allowed to come home and there 's so many left behind. Is their guilt? And she did feel guilt.
She was thoughtful about her words, because I know that she was -- she was one of many who said I wished there could be other people. I think that now she's taken this moment to make it about them, we are really going to see a different side of Brittney Griner, which I'm grateful for, Wolf.
BLITZER: Cari Champion, thanks so much for joining us.
CHAMPION: OK, thank you for having me.
BLITZER: Of course. And just ahead, Sudanese factions agreeing to extend their fragile cease-fire for another three days. This as Americans trapped in the country tell CNN that they are not getting any help they need from the U.S. government.
BLITZER: We are following new developments in Sudan right now where the warring factions have just agreed to extend the latest cease-fire for another three days. The White House is urging Americans to leave quickly, but as CNN's Kylie Atwood reports, many U.S. citizens say they're not getting the help they need from their own government.
MUNA DAOUD, AMERICAN PARENTS TRAPPED IN SUDAN: Never in a million years did I imagine that my parents would be left to defend for themselves in a war zone.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Muna Daoud describes the harrowing story of her parents, American citizens, trying to make their way out of Sudan. After a 12-hour bus ride from Khartoum to Port Sudan, during which her father was held at gunpoint by one of the country's warring armies.
ATWOOD: Arriving at the gates of this hotel, they showed their U.S. passports but received no shelter. DAOUD: They told her, no, no, you have to wait, without providing
lodging, assistance, food, water. My father is running low on his medication that he needs for both his heart condition and his blood pressure.
ATWOOD: Other travelers have descended upon Sudan's border with Egypt. Some finally finding water. But others, including Americans, not so lucky.
MAISOUN SULFAB, AMERICAN FAMILY MEMBERS TRAPPED IN SUDAN: The wait time at the border is many days. Children are crying, and they're just laying on the ground. It's a desert.
IMAD, AMERICAN PARENTS TRAPPED IN SUDAN: They're stuck at the border. There's no water. There's no food. The border is essentially a humanitarian crisis. And it is -- not only Americans who are facing this issue.
ATWOOD: Imad and Lila are an American couple living in California. Like Muna, they are deeply frustrated by the lack of U.S. government support in these dangerous and complex conditions, as they have tried to assist their parents escape.
IMAD: We contacted them on numerous occasions, asking for bare minimum help. Just let us know if you are going to help us, please let us know that you are going to help.
ATWOOD: U.S. officials say it's more dangerous to carry out a government-led evacuation from the country right now than to have American citizens join the overland caravans.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're in contact with Americans who have registered with us in one way or another, and very active contact.
ATWOOD: But Daoud paints a different picture.
DAOUD: The only communication was to somehow make your way to Port Sudan, because that seemed kind of very vague, and it seems like different people, different Americans are getting different information.
ATWOOD: And in recent days, many other countries around the world, including the U.K., India, and Germany, have flown their citizens out of the country.
DAOUD: I'm just appalled and frankly, disgusted that the European nations are able to coordinate evacuations of their citizens, but somehow Americans are left to fend for themselves.
ATWOOD (on camera): And, Wolf, we just had an update from one of the women we spoke to in that piece, Maisoun Sulfab, saying that a family member of hers who is an American citizen, an elderly woman has passed away after making that trip to the border as she was trying to get out of the country, telling us the conditions were just too treacherous for her to endure -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Indeed. Kylie Atwood, thank you.
Coming up, by the way, on "ERIN BURNETT OUFRONT" right after THE SITUATION ROOM, the story out of China. The giant panda Ya Ya has returned there and China is obsessed with blaming the U.S. for her health problems. That's coming up right at the top of the hour.
And just coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll remember tabloid TV icon Jerry Springer, who died today at the age of 79.
BLITZER: Jerry Springer, the former Cincinnati mayor and talk show host known for stoking outrageous antics on his daytime television program, has died at the age of 79.
Springer once told CNN's Larry King he didn't mind courting controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY SPRINGER, TALK SHOW HOST: There might be a lot of viewers interested in are not outrageous. We do represent in the way we live, probably mainstream America. Our show is about that which is not mainstream.
LARRY KING, FORMER CNN HOST: Why do you want to run a circus?
SPRINGER: I don't know if I want to run -- it's my job. I'm having a good time. It's a lot of fun. It's a great job.
Someone comes and says, hey, Jerry, I got this job, you're on television, an hour day, you know, it will be the number one show in America. You'll meet the most interesting, fascinating, crazy people you've ever met in your life. The stories are just wild, you know?
Plus, we'll pay you handsomely. Can you honestly say, no, I'm not going to do that, I'm taking a job at the library?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our condolences to Jerry's family and friends, may he rest in peace. And may his memory be a blessing.
And to our viewers thank very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.