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The Situation Room
Yellen Warns U.S. May Default On Debt As Soon As June 1; At Least Six Dead As Dust Storm Causes Dozens Of Car Wrecks; Manhunt Intensifies For Texas Shooter Accused Of Killing Five; State Department: Third U.S.-Led Evacuation Convoy Reached Port Of Sudan; DeSantis-Disney Feud Escalates Amid Competing Lawsuits. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 01, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer, he's right next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, an urgent new warning from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Congress. She says the U.S. could reach its debt limit and default as soon as June 1st, just four weeks from now. We'll discuss the really dire implications for the U.S. economy, if that happens, with the former treasury secretary, Larry Summers.
Also tonight, a huge dust storm causes multiple deaths and dozens of car wrecks in a massive interstate pileup. We're tracking this weather disaster in Illinois.
And an intensifying manhunt in Texas after a gunman killed five neighbors including a nine-year-old little boy. Authorities pleading for the public's help as this armed and very dangerous suspect has been on the loose since Friday.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And let's get straight to the breaking news. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's very, very blunt warning about the U.S. debt limit. CNN is covering the story from every angle. Our correspondents are standing by over at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and in the nation's financial center in New York City. We're also about to get reaction from former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. He's standing by live.
But, first, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, one month is not a lot of time to fix this huge, huge potential disaster. What is Yellen warning of tonight specifically and what is the president doing behind the scenes?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, for months, Republican leaders and the White House have essentially been in a stare down, two very non-compatible positions making very clear there's no clear pathway forward in terms of how to raise the debt ceiling unless something dramatic changed.
One thing that has changed today with that letter from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen up to Capitol Hill leaders, the urgency of this moment. The timeline in terms of when default would actually occur has always been a little bit of ambiguous, tied to tax receipts which in April came in less than what was expected. Therefore, that timeline now could be as soon as June 1st, giving lawmakers and the White House one month to take action to avoid a catastrophic and first in the nation's history default.
As that letter was hitting Capitol Hill inboxes, President Biden was on the phone with the top four leaders in Congress, both Republican and Democrat, inviting them to the White House for a meeting on May 9th. That's one week from tomorrow, Wolf, and that is a dramatic moment in and of itself.
The president has not been willing to meet with Speaker Kevin McCarthy so long as Republicans have demanded some type of concessions in order to raise the debt ceiling, passing their own bill last week. The president, not meeting one on one with McCarthy but proposing a meeting with the big four Congressional leaders.
And in that meeting, according to a White House official, the president is not going to move off the White House position that they will not negotiate. They want a clean debt ceiling increase. That is not going to change according to that White House official. But the White House official also says something else, saying, quote, the president will discuss how to initiate a separate process to address the budget and fiscal year 2024 appropriations, moving things on a separate track.
That's not a dramatic difference from what the president has talk about, saying he wanted to address budget and fiscal issues, just on a separate path. But laying that, talking about those two things together in the same meeting, clean debt ceiling increase, no concessions, the White House official made clear, but starting to detail what a separate budget and appropriations process could be.
That right there is the potential off ramp, at least in terms of how Washington can work. The problem right now is that the Republicans want significantly more. The Republicans have their own legislation. So, how this is all going to play out still an open question. But the fact there will be a meeting, there's been invitations to a meeting, they're starting to talk about the process underscores the urgency of this moment, which was laid bare by the letter by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen earlier today, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. These are major, major developments.
Jessica Dean, all of this is happening as Speaker McCarthy is in Israel right now. So, how is this likely to play out up on Capitol Hill where you are?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think it's really important for everyone to understand two things. This is a very difficult negotiation that is front of these leaders, and it's a very long road to go in just one month. And we need to have everyone understand just how far apart the two sides are. That is what is so key right now. And to get this date of June 1 is very sobering in that we have this very condense time line of how to get them closer together, not only to a deal but to a deal that can pass a Democratically controlled Senate, where they have a slim majority, and a Republican-controlled House.
Now, we did get a letter from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the leader of House Democrats, Hakeem Jeffries, they are still calling for what's known as a clean debt ceiling bill. And all that means is that they would simply vote on raising the debt ceiling. That is not what Republicans want. For months, they have said no, no, no, we will not vote on any clean debt ceiling bill unless a bill we will only vote on something that includes cuts and includes spending cuts that we want. And so that's how far apart they are right now.
And just to underscore all of that, when you talk to Senate Republicans, someone like Senator John Cornyn, that has been known to cross the aisle and be bipartisan, he is sticking with House Republicans. And we talked to somebody like Senator Jon Tester, a very moderate Democrat that's in a red state of Montana, he's saying the Democrats should not negotiate. So, Wolf, you put that all together, and it really underscores just how far apart they are right now, and there is just so little time to get something so important done.
BLITZER: So critically important. Vanessa Yurkevich, you're there in New York. I just want to remind our viewers, the United States has never defaulted on its debt. What would the real world consequences be?
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: In the words of Secretary Janet Yellen, this would cause serious harm to the economy and serious harm to every day Americans. These tax receipts were key understanding just how much tax revenue came into the treasury, that was essentially a loss, and not coming in not as high as expected and that moved the date up.
And so how this is affecting every day Americans, it's hitting the most vulnerable first. We're talking about impacts to social security payments, impacts to Medicare, veterans' benefits, federal employee salaries and military budgets. So, we're talking about paying our troops, whether or not we can do that, also borrowing costs. You're talking about auto loans. You're talking about mortgage rates being higher. You're talking about student loans being higher. And then there's of course the economic standing of the U.S. in the global economy. This basically calls into question can the U.S. pay its bills, can we support our national security.
And as you mentioned, Wolf, the U.S. Has never defaulted on its debt. We may not know what the economic ramifications are really of this, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, by all accounts, almost every economist says that would be an economic disaster for the country.
All right, guys, stand by, I want to bring in the former U.S. treasury secretary, Larry Summers. Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us. First of all, what's your reaction to this very dire warning from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that the nation could default as early as June 1st, a few weeks from now?
LARRYSUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: It is unwelcome, but not unexpected, Wolf. We knew that this day would come. We have seen for the last few weeks tax collections running below expected. And so the secretary has done what any responsible official in her position would do, which is warn that it's possible that we're going to hit that debt constraint sooner than most people were thinking of by June 1st.
But in some sense, it doesn't matter exactly when the crunch moment comes. We know that it would be a catastrophe for our country to default. Reputationally, in terms of America's word for our citizens losing even briefly access to social security benefits, higher interest rates through time, being kind of an embarrassment. China has never defaulted. Other countries we compete with have never defaulted. So, this is something we have to avoid, and we just have to rely on fear to do the work of reason and our officials to come forward on some formula in which we do not let the credit worthiness of the United States be taken hostage by anyone for any reason.
And at the same time, there is some serious demonstration that the debt issue is one that's going to be taken seriously in Washington at this critical time. And that's going to be the political maneuvering. Frankly, I think we're going to succeed here because I think the two most experienced players in this drama, President Biden and Senator McConnell, who are colleagues in the Senate for a long time, and who have worked together successfully in the past, my guess is that they will find a way together.
BLITZER: They have no other choice. They have to find a way to resolve this.
In this letter to Speaker McCarthy, Secretary Yellen is calling on Congress to act, and I'm quoting her now, as soon as possible on this debt limit. Is this May 9th meeting that's been now proposed by president over the White House with the congressional bipartisan leadership, is that cutting it too close?
SUMMERS: Look, I think the sooner -- Speaker McCarthy is in Israel right now, so he's not really in a position to come to meetings in the White House. But the sooner this gets, the more focused this gets, the better off we're going to be.
But, frankly, some issues are incredibly complicated and they have to be pursued in every detail. This isn't one of them. Congress needs to authorize borrowing that has already been completely authorized and indeed committed by their past actions. That's just what Congress needs to do. And in the environment, we need to have some understanding of how we're going to deal with our problems of growing debt. But threatening to stiff our creditors, that is not the way to deal with our very real deficit and debt issues.
BLITZER: Yes. Let me also ask you while I have you, Mr. Secretary, about the failure of First Republic Bank. This is the third bank failure here in the United States in the past seven weeks. Can Americans really feel confident right now that the worst is over?
SUMMERS: Look, the most important thing for your viewers to understand is that every depositor in First Republic gets all their money out just like every depositor in the other banks. And so no one needs to panic that they are not going to get their money out of a bank. That is the most important thing.
Look, these were major financial events. They point up that our regulatory system is not all we hoped it would be. Vice Chairman Barr of the Federal Reserve System wrote a very thoughtful report pointing up all the various problems in the previous supervisory and regulatory regime. We've got lessons to learn from that. And more urgently, at a time when banks are under more pressure, there's going to be less supply of credit and that's something that's surely going to affect the economy.
And so the Federal Reserve has as hard a job in the next several months as I've ever seen the Fed facing. It has to, on the one hand, balance the absolute imperative of bringing down inflation, which is still unacceptably high, with the imperative of making sure that there's an adequate flow of credit to people buying houses or cars or businesses or small businesses. So, it's a very difficult balancing act that the Fed is facing.
It certainly is. The former treasury secretary, Larry Summers, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
SUMMERS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you. And we'll have more breaking news on the debt limit drama that's unfolding right now.
Up next, we'll get reaction from Senator Chris Murphy to Secretary Yellen's June 1st warning, and new moves by the president to try to negotiate some sort of deal with Congress.
We'll also have the latest on a deadly Illinois dust storm.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on this showdown right now over raising the federal debt limit. The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, issuing a dire warning to Congress that an unprecedented default could happen as soon as June 1st.
Joining us now is Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. The White House says President Biden called the House Speaker McCarthy today to propose a meeting next Tuesday on the debt limit. Do you think that's enough to avert what would be a disaster?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): It's up to Speaker McCarthy. I mean, listen, just important to note, we routinely raised the debt limit. It's a responsibility Congress has in order to keep paying our bills to make sure that we don't default on debt. We do it pretty routinely. We have done it under Republican presidents, Democratic presidents.
Speaker McCarthy and his Republican colleagues have decided to withhold their votes for that routine exercise unless Congress agrees to a set of right-wing conservative demands. This is not the way to do things, to hold the entire economy hostage to your political agenda. It's juvenile. It's irresponsible. It's essentially political arson.
Hopefully now knowing that this deadline is only a month away, Speaker McCarthy will say to his people, listen, let's have the fight over spending levels and tax levels in the appropriate course, when we debate the budget later this year. Let's not hold the economy hostage. Let's not default on American debt just to get our agenda across the finish line.
BLITZER: Yes, the stakes clearly are enormous right now. The Senate majority leader, your leader, Chuck Schumer, just put out a statement urging Congress to mass what he calls a clean debt ceiling bill. Is that really going to happen in this divided Congress, though, with the Republicans the majority in the House?
MURPHY: Well, we've done it in divided Congresses before, under President Trump several times. We were able to move an increase in the debt ceiling across the finish line, get the Republican president to sign it. So, you know, this is a pretty unique tactic that these Republicans are using.
And the reason they're using it is because they're agenda is super unpopular. I mean, unless you're threatening to burn the house down, you are not going to be able to pass a 22 percent cut to veterans services. That's what they're proposing. They're proposing to gut services for our veterans.
They're proposing to throw kids off nutrition programs. None of that could pass normally because it doesn't enjoy public support. So, the only reason they can get that agenda passed is if they threaten to bring down the entire economy.
And you just frankly don't want to get involved in that kind of negotiation because it's endless. Every single political group will threaten economic Armageddon unless you pass their unpopular agenda. It's no way to do business.
BLITZER: The White House says they want talks on avoiding default without conditions, and then separate, separate discussions with the Republicans up on the Hill on the 2024 budget and appropriations process. So, what does a compromise to you look like?
Well, I think the president can, you know, make a commitment to put certain issues on the table when we debate the budget. That's the annual exercise where we decide how much money we spend, how much we tax. And from what I can tell, most all of the Republican demands are in that space.
So, the president can make commitments that will put their ideas on the table, we'll debate them when we debate the budget later this year, instead of threatening default in order to get their agenda moved forward. I just think you have to separate this issue over default from the issue over how much money we spend and don't spend. We've got to process the budget to deal with those questions.
BLITZER: Got to avoid a default. Senator Chris Murphy, thanks as usual for joining us.
MURPHY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, the blinding dust storm that caused a multivehicle pileup on a major interstate in Illinois. You're looking at live pictures coming in right now. We're getting new information on the death toll.
And we'll also go live to the New York courthouse where Trump accuser E. Jean Carroll testified once again today. We have details on the aggressive cross-examination by Trump's attorney, all that's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Take a look at these live pictures. Police say at least six people are dead after a severe dust storm caused a massive pile up on an Illinois highway.
CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers is following the storm for us. Chad, walk us through what happened.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: 45 miles per hour wind gusts and farmers tilling farm fields, as they always do this time of year. But that loosened soil got picked up by those 45 miles per hour gusts and made that. Manmade catastrophe right there as the wind was strong enough to pick it up.
Now, later on tonight, probably around 8:00, winds will die off to about 20. But in that live picture you were showing, that camera was still bouncing around. So, we are obviously still seeing the remnants of this wind event.
Now, this same wind event is making rain to the north, even making snow in parts of Michigan and Wisconsin right now. It's the same system that brought all the cold air to the south, well to the south, even here in Georgia, temperatures in the 40s. So, it's the same low pressure center to the same cold front.
But what the deciding factor today was is that the tilled fields, farmers go through with their discs and they turn the land over, getting ready to plow, getting ready to plant. It's that time of year right now. And that's what happened with this wind.
Very localized event, didn't happen on many other roadways. I did see some pictures from other roads that had similar events, but this is not a widespread, something rolling through New Mexico and Colorado that's 100 miles, 200 miles wide. This was a localized event because of localized issues.
BLITZER: So, Chad, are these basically blinding conditions for these drivers on that highway?
MYERS: Absolutely, right down to zero visibility. Now, I've driven through things like this, but mainly in wildfire situations between Waco, Austin, you know, wildfires back in the day, right around I-35, you get right to visibility of zero, and that's what these drivers were driving into. Some are braking, some are going fast, some are pulling off, some don't know what to do. And it's the indecision that obviously caused this -- it was -- you could see it coming, but you couldn't do anything about it. Because once you are in it, you are in it, and then all of a sudden you didn't truly know what to do.
Now, this happens in Arizona and New Mexico. These will be called haboobs, or the dust storms out there. They can really roll and get down to zero visibility as well. This was not only deadly, bad for health because you're breathing that in, and there you see the remnants of those burned vehicles in that crash.
BLITZER: Terrible, terrible indeed, and we will stay on top of this story. Chad, thank you very much, Chad Myers reporting.
Other news we're following, Trump accuser E. Jean Carroll took the stand once again today in her civil trial against the former president over an alleged rape back in the 1990s.
CNN's Kara Scannell is just outside the courthouse for us. Trump's attorney renewed his aggressive cross-examination of Carroll. Walk us through what happened.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, that's right. So, Carroll was on the stand for 13 hours over three days, and today was another day of cross-examination, where Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina, was really narrowing in on an effort to undercut her credibility.
Now, area he brought up an episode of Law and Order from 2012, that was seven years before she went public with her allegations. And in that episode, there was a brief mention of someone about a rape in the Bergdorf Goodman dressing room. That's exactly the allegation that Carroll has made.
And Trump's attorney said to her coincidence, she said, astonishing.
And then when her attorneys were able to question her again on redirect, they asked her if she had ever seen the episode, if she was aware of it before she wrote the book. She said she wasn't. And then her lawyer asked her directly, are you making up your accusation based upon what happened in a popular T.V. show, no, no, Carroll testified.
They also sought to get at, you know, some of her actions that followed this alleged rape in the 90s, trying to zero in on why she didn't seem traumatized after it. So, they pointed out that she had gone shopping at Bergdorf Goodmans more than 20 times in the past decade, spending tens of thousands of dollars at the store. They also had her acknowledge she was a big fan of The Apprentice, the reality television show that featured Donald Trump. And they pointed out a post that she had on Facebook where she made a joke asking, would you have sex with Donald Trump for $17,000.
Now, Carroll acknowledged that she had dark humor in that but they were really trying to zero in on her credibility. Another area they focused on, on why she never went to the police. They got her to acknowledge on the stand that she had told so many of the writers who wrote into her Ask E. Jean's Advice Column, that if they were attacked they should go to the police and report. She said she never did. She said that the only time she ever went to the police was to report a vandalized mailbox. And one of her reasons she told the jury was she was of a generation where women were told to put their chins up and take our licks.
Now, next on the stand, according to a source familiar with the trial, will be Lisa Birnbach. She is one of the close friends that Carroll confided in immediately after she left Bergdorf Goodman. She'll be followed by Jessica Leeds. She is the woman who has alleged that Trump assaulted her on an airplane back in 1979. Trump has denied that assault. Wolf?
BLITZER: Kara Scannell in New York for us, thank you very much.
Let's discuss this and more with our Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates and Civil Rights Attorney Nancy Erika Smith.
Laura, Trump's lawyers, you just heard, grilled E. Jean Carroll on why she didn't report the incident, why she kept shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, even asking her about that old Law and Order episode. Do you think that's an effective tactic?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, oddly enough, people who are jurors are caught between really the MeToo era and also a notion where we have as a society doubted those who reported later than the actual timeframe when they were actually accusing the person of doing so. These delayed reporting sometimes act against the interest of the person bringing the case is a civil matter, of course. And so there is this dynamic at play socially.
But the tactic that Tacopina took to be aggressive in the cross- examination really exemplifies why it's extraordinary to try to defend and go at an accuser in this way because it is a very, very thin line where jurors view it as effective representation and also just bullying. In fact, though, he tried to attack, as Kara talked about, her credibility. That's where you want to go here. Because, remember, in part, this is about defamation, which requires that you be less in the eyes reputation-wise of the public than you were prior to the statements being made. And so he has to attack that notion.
One of his final questions was to reference a podcast where he asked her, how has your life been, and I'm paraphrasing, now that you have reported the information, to which she says something to kin of fabulous, a lot of positivity in my life and beyond. And so he's trying to juxtapose, trying to insert this seed of doubt that says, the reason she did so was to garner favor, to curry favor from people in the court of public opinion. It's a very, though, dicey proposition, when you have got nothing to actually counter in the form of Trump testimony.
BLITZER: Nancy, as someone who has represented women in sexual assault and harassment cases, what do you make of that aggressive questioning?
NANCY ERIKA SMITH, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I think it's a primer on why women don't report rape at all. It's the most underreported crime all around the world of any kind of crime, and this is why. There are many ways to react to trauma. We are all familiar with veterans who don't want to talk about what happened to them even though our culture lionizes their sacrifice, and still, they don't want to talk about it. There's an article in The New York Times today about a man first talking about his trauma in World War II at the age of 99.
So, either women are acting too upset and too aggrieved or they're not acting enough aggrieved. This is a woman who tried to get on with her life in a positive way. And to claim that she wasn't upset enough because she tried to create a persona, which certainly in her generation, she's 79 years old, was even more expected of women because we weren't allowed to talk about these things.
I think the most important thing she has said is I was sick of staying silent, and that's exactly what MeToo is about. It's about all over the world women have been silenced about sexual assault and sexual abuse, and we're all tired of it.
And it's so brave of her to come forward knowing that this is what's going to happen, that Trump's lawyer is going to abuse her for hours and hours and hours, and nitpick when he probably won't even get on the witness stand.
BLITZER: Nancy Erika Smith, Laura Coates, thanks to both of you very much for joining us.
Just ahead, the desperate search for a gunman accused of killing five people including a child in Texas.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: In Texas tonight, the manhunt for the latest mass shooting suspect in this country is growing more urgent nearly three days after he's accused of opening fire on his neighbors.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is on the scene for us.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's day three of the manhunt for 38-year-old Francisco Oropeza accused of shooting and killing people in Cleveland, Texas, including a nine- year-old boy.
And according to the FBI, they still have no leads in the Friday night shooting deaths of nine-year-old Daniel Enrique Laso-Guzman, his mother, Sonia Argentina Guzman, Diana Velazquez Alvarado, Julisa Molina Rivera and Jose Jonathan Casarez.
JAMES SMITH, FBI HOUSTON SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: What we need from the public is any type of information, because right now, we're running into dead ends.
LAVANDERA: There's an $80,000 reward for information leading investigators to the suspect who the FBI calls armed and dangerous, while officers search door-to-door in neighborhoods north of Houston.
SMITH: We have 200 law enforcement personnel from federal, state and local agencies, trying to bring this subject into custody.
LAVANDERA: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Oropeza has been deported at least four times, the first time in March 2009, and was convicted of driving while intoxicated in 2012. The local sheriff said Oropeza had been drinking before the violence on Friday began, detailing the events that led up to the shooting.
SHERIFF GREG CAPERS, SAN JACINTO COUNTY, TEXAS: The victims, they came over to the fence, said, hey, do you mind not shooting out in the yard, we have a young baby that's trying to go to sleep.
LAVANDERA: Wilson Garcia, whose wife and nine-year-old son were shot and killed, says they called 911 five times that night. They asked the gunman to shoot away from his property. He said, instead, the gunman started shooting inside the house, where 15 people, including at least four children, were present. Only ten survived.
CAPERS: Everybody that was shot was shot from the neck up, almost execution-style.
LAVANDERA: Multiple people were found dead in different rooms. Authorities say they believe two women died shielding children. Garcia says, as his wife laid dying, one of the women helped him jump out of the window so he could survive for his two other children.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott unleashed a firestorm of criticism after the shootings when he tweeted, I've announced a $50,000 reward for info on the criminal who killed five illegal immigrants Friday. He later stepped that back in a statement. His spokeswoman says at least one of the victims may have been in the United States legally. We regret if the information was incorrect and detracted from the important goal of finding and arresting the criminal, but not before an emotional reaction from the local sheriff.
CAPERS: My heart is with this eight-year-old little boy. I don't care if he was here legally.
LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Wolf, you know, the search for the suspect continues. There have been a number of leads that have been called into authorities here locally, but none of those have panned out. And we saw an FBI agent return here to the suspect's home just a couple of hours ago, going inside the home and also searching through various vehicles on the property. FBI officials would not e elaborate on exactly what they were looking for inside the home, simply saying they were, quote, following all available leads. Wolf?
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera on the scene for us in Cleveland, Texas, thank you.
Another story we're following tonight, Hunter Biden is facing additional legal pressure after appearing before a judge in Arkansas. At issue, a dispute over child support payments that's raising questions about the finances of the president's son.
CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray is following the case for us.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The president's son appearing in an Arkansas courtroom today. The hearing related to a year's old paternity dispute, after the mother of his child, London Roberts, accused Hunter Biden of ignoring earlier court orders and withholding evidence. Now, the judge says, Hunter must answer more questions about his investments, art sales and other financial transactions as part of the child support case. He will also sit for a June deposition where he'll be questioned under oath.
You can't say these are my tax returns. Good luck, you figure it out, the judge said, ordering up details on Hunter's taxes. The cryptic hide the ball game isn't going to cut it when we get to trial. What began as a 2019 paternity case morphing into a battle over Hunter's overseas business dealings, the now infamous laptop and other financial issues, all as Hunter faces scrutiny from both criminal and congressional investigators.
Republican lawmakers have launched a sprawling probe into the Biden family's business dealings, seeking many of the same financial records London Roberts is trying to access.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): Well, we found a lot that's certainly unethical. We found a lot that should be illegal. The line is blurry as to what is legal and not legal with respect to family influence peddling.
MURRAY: Last week, Hunter's lawyers met with Justice Department officials as prosecutors weigh whether to bring charges related to failure to file taxes, tax evasion and a false statement charge related to a gun purchase.
Sources say, Hunter has maintained his innocence.
HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: I am absolutely certain, 100 percent certain, that at the end of the investigation, that I will be cleared.
MURRAY: As for the paternity case, Hunter initially denied fathering the child, but a DNA test confirmed he is the biological father. Under has since agreed to pay child support, paying $750,000 to the mother so far, his lawyers said in court.
MURRAY (on camera): Now, the public may soon get more information about this case, as well as Hunter Biden's finances. The judge warned Hunter's legal team, also they were being heavy-handed in their redactions, and they need to make more court filings made publicly.
BLITZER: Sara Murray reporting for us. Thank you.
Coming up, the newest moves to evacuate Americans from war-torn Sudan. U.S. efforts picking up pace right now after days of delay.
BLITZER: Right now, we're tracking the crisis in Sudan, and new moves to evacuate Americans. The State Department announcing a third U.S.- led convoy has made it to the port of Sudan, the latest evacuation port from the capital, Khartoum.
CNN's Larry Madowo is in nearby Saudi Arabia for us where many of the evacuees were taken.
Larry, what are you hearing from those lucky enough to escape the violence?
LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're relieved to be in safe countries like Saudi Arabia. But there's also a sense of survivor's guilt that they have the right passport, the right embassies that arranged these evacuations, like Americans did in this convoy from Khartoum over 500 miles to Port Sudan and then eventually on the U.S. Navy ship Brunswick across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia because they have families, relatives, friends that cannot leave Sudan.
Can't afford the tickets to get to Port Sudan. Here's one woman I met who is going back to Illinois and heart broken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANADI AHMED, SUDANESE-AMERICAN EVACUEE: It's very bad. All my family is there. My mom, my dad are there.
MADOWO: You're scared for them?
MADOWO: I am so sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADOWO: The U.S. government says about 700 individuals were helped to get to the port of Sudan. They're not sure how many were U.S. citizens. Some of them could have legal permanent residents or other nationalities.
The estimate was there are about 17,000 dual nationals in Sudan. And some of them have contacted the embassy that they want to leave. Some wanted to remain. But the big problem is, there is no assurance. I spoke to the U.S. consulate general here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He did not say that there was going to be another convoy, and the State Department is not confirming if it will be evacuating even more people out of Port Sudan, even though there's suddenly a big need for so many more who are to cross the Red Sea and get back to U.S., Wolf.
BLITZER: Larry Madowo, thank you very much.
Coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", right after THE SITUATION ROOM, the United States surgeon general talks about what he's calling an epidemic in America of loneliness and isolation, including his own personal struggles. That's coming up right at the top of the hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
And just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the DeSantis/Disney feud heating up again. We'll have the latest on the dueling lawsuits in the Florida governor's fight with the entertainment giant.
BLITZER: A pair of dueling lawsuits is putting the spotlight on the escalating feud between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney.
CNN's Brian Todd is on the story for us.
Brian, the governor's allies are clearly ratcheting up their fight against one of the state's largest employers. Give us the latest.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this fight really continues to only escalate. Ron DeSantis brazenly going against the popular historical belief that in Florida, you don't mess with Disney.
TODD (voice-over): Florida's Republican governor not backing down against an entertainment giant. A special board handpicked by Ron DeSantis overseeing Disney's special taxing district voted to sue Disney.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: No corporation is above the law and the people of this state.
TODD: This comes just days after Disney filed its own lawsuit against DeSantis and his board.
MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE MESSENGER: He's embroiled in this battle which a lot of people are snickering about because it's now Ron DeSantis versus Mickey Mouse.
TODD: Disney has not responded to CNN's request for comment on the suit from DeSantis' board.
DeSantis in recent days has said Disney's lawsuit is political and doesn't have merit.
DESANTIS: They're upset because they're actually having to live by the same rules as everybody else. They don't want to have to pay the same taxes as everybody else.
TODD: As he gears up for a likely run for president, DeSantis has been retaliating against Disney, after Disney thwarted DeSantis' attempt for the state to take over power of Disney's special taxing district in that area of Florida. He recently threatened to raise Disney's taxes or build something right next to Disney's land near Orlando.
DESANTIS: Someone said maybe you need another state prison. Who knows? I think the possibilities are endless.
TODD: DeSantis' aides say he was joking, according to journalist Marc Caputo.
Is he coming across as a bully or do you think this is working?
FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: For some Republicans who want to see a strong contender go up against Donald Trump, it might be something that they're into. They certainly say that if you're going to beat Donald Trump in a primary, you have to be forceful on the debate stage and not be afraid to back down.
TODD: DeSantis' fight with Disney started last year when a Florida law was passed that he backed limiting instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Disney spoke out against that bill.
Recently, DeSantis' prospective rivals for the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump and Chris Christie, have slammed DeSantis' maneuvers against Disney. Trump saying on his social media website that DeSantis was being, quote, absolutely destroyed by Disney. Political analysts say this fight symbolizes DeSantis' willingness to put culture wars front and center on the Republican agenda and is reflection of his swagger.
CAPUTO: He's grown into the office and the exercise of power, the likes of which we hadn't seen in a state. Not only did he take on Disney which used to be kind of a sacred cow, you didn't really mess with Disney as a governor.
TODD (on camera): Another example of Ron DeSantis' growing ability to wield power in his state, Florida lawmakers have passed a measure that allows him to run for president without quitting his job as governor. That changes the law in Florida, which previously required candidates for higher office to give up their current posts. DeSantis is expected to officially declare he's running for president in the coming weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can you can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.