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The Situation Room

Biden, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) To Meet Amid Fears U.S. Debt Default A Month Away; Defense Secretary Approves Sending 1,500 Troops To Southern Border; Partisan Sparring Amid Senate Hearing On Supreme Court Ethics; Friend's Testimony Backs Account Of Trump Accuser E. Jean Carroll; Hollywood Writers Go On Strike, Many TV Shows To Stop Production. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 02, 2023 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All two hours, just sitting there like an incredible Marvin Gaye record just waiting for you to enjoy.


Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I'd like to call THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy are preparing for a truly critical meeting on the debt limit amid signs that both sides may be digging in. The stakes are enormous and the time is short with a catastrophic default potentially only a month away.

Also tonight, the Pentagon approves the deployment of some 1,500 U.S. troops to the southern border with Mexico as the U.S. braces for a new surge of thousands of migrants. The Pentagon press secretary joins us live to discuss the timing and the scope of this new military mission.

And senators clash over a proposed code of ethics for the U.S. Supreme Court justices at a hearing prompted by scrutiny of Justice Clarence Thomas. I'll speak live with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, who's accusing the high court of being, in his word, oblivious to these ethics issues.

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

We begin with two very consequential deadlines for the Biden administration and the country, for that matter, the U.S. facing the dire possibility of defaulting on its debt next month and a major migrant surge across the southern border is expected next week when a key Trump era immigration policy expires. Our correspondents are standing by over at the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the Pentagon.

First, to the debt limit showdown, and our Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, tonight, the president is sticking to his refusal to negotiate an increase in the debt ceiling. Is there any wiggle room? PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, to the extent anyone in Washington thought the White House and President Biden were bluffing or perhaps posturing on the position they've held now for months, that there would be no negotiations over the debt limit, it would be a clean increase or nothing at all.

The last 24 hours have certainly hammered home the reality that this is not a messaging move. This is not just a negotiating position. This is the reality, a reality President Biden plans to take into that meeting one week from today with Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the other three leaders on Capitol Hill.

And it's one that underscores just how complex this issue is with such a few days before the urgent potential deadline. The reality right now when you talk to White House officials is twofold. One, they believe they clearly hold the political upper hand on this issue. They think they are in the right place in terms of not wanting to utilize the country's economy as leverage or be willing to give leverage on that issue.

This is something they believe should be done, period, end of story, but also there's a longer term benefit here that White House officials many of whom were in the Obama administration where these fights happened several times of taking this off the table entirely. They don't want to continue to go through this process of putting the U.S. economy on the line in negotiations when Republicans control one or both houses of Congress.

That, of course, leaves a very real question, what actually happens next, and does anything actually get done at all? Officials believe that because of the political upper hand they think they hold and because of the position they've taken, one that includes a willingness to negotiate on longer term fiscal issues, on the budge, something that will be proposed and discussed and propose in the meeting next week, that they have room here and it's Republicans who should be coming to the table and be willing to move towards them. Whether that's going to happens it certainly doesn't look like that base on what we've seen up to this point, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Phil, standby. I want to go to our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju right now. Manu, there are only, what, a handful of days left on the congressional calendar to negotiate this critically important standoff. What is the state of play where you are up on Capitol Hill?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There has been no change in the aftermath of Janet Yellen's warning, even as that warning jolted Capitol Hill, which thought that there would be more time to reach a deal, to raise a debt limit initially, expectation that it could be late July, no, it could be as soon as June 1st.

But that has not changed the calculus on Capitol Hill. Democrats are still insisting that the debt ceiling should be raised. There should be no ties to any spending cuts whatsoever. Republicans saying that that effort to raise the debt ceiling, a so-called clean debt ceiling increase, that will not pass the House, they say, and it won't even pass the Democratic-led Senate because nine Republican votes would be needed to overcome any filibuster attempt.

And one Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, told me today that he believes that the White House should consider some spending cuts and said that their position is not sustainable.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D- CT): The negotiation ought to be about the budget after we agree to avoid default.

RAJU: But they're saying it's a red line. They're saying a clean debt ceiling increase is a red line for them.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): There's no such thing as a red line. The bottom line is we're here to negotiate. So, can't we even talk about how we got ourselves in the position and start talking about how we are going to get ourselves out of it?

SEN. MITCH MECONNELL (R- KY): It should be clear to the administration that the Senate is not a relevant player at this time. They have got to have a measure that can pass the House. How does that pass the House? It has said the support of the speaker and I'm behind the speaker.


RAJU: And that last comment is important coming from the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell. I asked him whether or not he would get involved, like he hasn't pass standoffs. And he's making clear there, he isn't planning to allow the House drive this and allow Kevin McCarthy reach a deal here with the president.

But what happens if they don't reach a deal? That is still uncertain. House Democrats are moving through a process trying to force a vote on the house floor to essentially circumvent the House GOP leadership and raise the debt ceiling by 218 votes. But, Wolf, there are only 213 House Democrats, meaning they need five to break ranks. One of those potential swing votes, Don Bacon of Nebraska, told me he is not in favor of the House Democratic efforts, so, Wolf, just a lot of questions about how this crisis can be averted. Wolf?

BLITZER: Certainly is a crisis right now. Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly, guys, thank you very much.

Now to the other major story we're following tonight, the United States military poised to send 1,500 active duty additional troops to the border with Mexico.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is over at the Pentagon for us. Natasha, so, what do we know, first of all, about these troops, what they will be doing and just when they'll arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. So, we're learning today that the administration, in anticipation of expiration of that Title 42 COVID-era pandemic law, is preparing to send 1,500 additional active duty troops to the southern border in order to augment the efforts there of the 2,500 U.S. troops that have been stationed there over the last year as well as the Department of Homeland Security.

Now, it is important to note that these troops are not going to be performing a law enforcement function. They are primarily going to be doing administrative tasks. They will largely be behind desks, according to U.S. officials. They are going to be doing things like data entry, warehouse support, things that will essentially free up resources so that Customs and Border Patrol agents can be out in the field and performing their law enforcement functions.

Now, according to the Pentagon press secretary, those troops will be on the border as early as May 10th, just one day before that pandemic law expires, which will then allow a law that had allowed, of course, the administration to expel migrants coming across the border much more quickly.

Now, the administration has said that they do expect that as soon as that order expires, they expect thousands of more migrants to try to cross the border. So, this is really in preparation for that. It is not unprecedented, but, again, it just underscores the preparation that the administration is taking ahead of a potential major surge, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Natasha Bertrand at the Pentagon for us, thank you very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with the Pentagon press secretary, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder. General, thank you so much for joining us. How will these U.S. military personnel, these troops, fit into the overall effort to prepare for a possible surge of migrants and asylum seekers with the end of what's called Title 42?

BRIG. GEN. PATRICK RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. Well, first of all, Wolf, thanks very hutch for having me today. As Natasha highlights, these 1,500 active duty troops are going to be going to support the Department of Homeland Security to meet their request to help fill critical capability gaps to enable them to focus on the law enforcement activities that they do so well. And so these active duty forces will be focused on things, again, as Natasha highlighted, detection and monitoring. They will be doing data entry, warehouse support.

And it's important also to highlight that as this process plays out, we're continuing to evaluate options by which we could replace these active duty forces in stride, for example, potentially with reserve component forces or contracted support. But it was important to be able to meet DHS' urgent request. Secretary Austin authorized the temporary deployment up to 90 days for these forces to go there, to help, again, meet these critical capability gaps.

BLITZER: Democratic Senator Bob Menendez says, this -- what he calls this militarization of the border is, quote, once again, in his words, unacceptable. He argues this is a humanitarian crisis that's going on and deploying the U.S. military sends the wrong message. How do you respond to the senator?

RYDER: Well, again, I won't speak to his specific words. But, again, what we're focused on is supporting DHS. They are clearly in the lead when it comes to border security.


They reached out to the Department of Defense to request some support in order to fill these critical capability gaps. And, again, we are temporarily deploying these forces to support DHS so that they can do their mission, their law enforcement mission, while our folks are there in the rear assisting with some of those administrative type tasks that we talked about.

BLITZER: General, I also want to get your reaction to news that's just out right now from The Washington Post. The Post reporting that Ukraine's President Zelenskyy telling the newspaper that he learned about the Pentagon leaks in the news. He says, and I'm quoting him now, I did not receive information from the White House or the Pentagon beforehand. Is that true?

RYDER: Well, I can't speak to whether that's true or not. I will tell you that Secretary Austin has conducted a large number of phone calls, conducted a large amount of outreach to our allies and partners around the world to discuss the matter with them, to highlight how seriously we are taking this issue to include several conversations with his Ukrainian counterpart, Minister Reznikov.

BLITZER: President Zelenskyy also says in this new report that this was not beneficial, his words, to the White House' reputation or to the reputation of the United States. It doesn't sound like this relationship, at least for now, has been repaired completely.

RYDER: Well, again, I don't want to speak for President Zelenskyy. I will say, as evidenced by, for example, last week, the Ukraine defense contact group, the United States, the Department of Defense, we remain committed to working very closely with Ukraine and our international allies and partners to ensure that they have the security assistance they need to be able to defend their country and take back their sovereign territory.

BLITZER: Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, thank you very, very much. We're going to have much more on all of this coming up later this hour. Right now, I want to get some more from our political experts who are joining us.

And, Gloria Borger, President Biden is staring down these two potential crises over the debt limit and the southern border. He's already facing a lot of criticism, including from some Democratic senators, like Manchin and Menendez, for example. How does the president navigate these issues politically while keeping all of his party in line?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, he does it with great difficulty, and I'm not sure he's going to be able to keep his party in line. He's got a problem here, and that is there is kind of rampant hypocrisy on both sides here concerning the debt limit for -- you know, for example, it has come up time and time again, and when Donald Trump was president, Republicans voted to extend it, and when Joe Biden was a senator, and when he was vice president, he engaged in the kind of negotiations on the debt limit that he is now shunning. So, he's saying, no, no, no, we're not going to do this. But you know what, he did it in the past. And so the question is what are his options now, and there aren't many.

BLITZER: Mondaire Jones is with us as well. You're a former Democratic Congressman, Mondaire. How does he do this? How does he keep his own party in line which obviously so critically important for him right now?

MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. As it concerns the debt limit, Democrats are in line. They are consistent in their support for a clean bill.

You know, this is such a weird tactic that Speaker McCarthy has undertaken. He has the budgetary process, a completely separate process, by which to accomplish much of what he's asking for in these debt ceiling negotiations. And that would be the more appropriate vehicle to do that.

Economists are predicting that if we default on our debt we will see the stock market crash, that we may be sent into a global recession, and that certainly our credit rating as a country will be downgraded and that the value of the dollar may plummet. This is really serious stuff and the gamesmanship that we we're seeing from Republicans, I think, is not going to serve them well.

BLITZER: Yes. I was referring to Senator Manchin of West Virginia. He's suggesting maybe the president should start to negotiate on these issues with McCarthy and the other Republicans.

But take a look at this, Mondaire, how little time is actually left to reach an agreement on raising the nation's debt limit. There are only eight upcoming days where both the house and Senate are in session. Are Democrats moving right now, do you believe, with enough urgency?

JONES: I think Democrats are moving with urgency. And, you know, incidentally, just because Congress is set to be out of session, it doesn't mean they're going to be called back into session to resolve this by that June 1st deadline that Secretary Yellen has predicted is the latest that Congress can actually pass a bill to resolve this crisis.

Again, this is really unfortunate, but I do think that as the American people pay closer and closer attention, regardless of their political affiliation, they are increasingly outraged by the idea that America would default on its obligations.


When people run up the bill, whether it's at the grocery store, at the gas pump or anywhere else, they -- as people in American households are expected to pay those obligations, and the country should be no different. I think people understand that basic idea.

BORGER: Well, but I think the problem for Joe Biden, though, as president of the United States, is that if the country takes a hit, he gets blamed. It's on his watch. And that's why I think in the end, and you know this, Mondaire, and I've been talking to Democrats today. You know, they're considering a break the glass option, which would be to invoke the 14th Amendment and say that it's the president's job to ensure the full faith and credit of the United States, and, therefore, by some kind of executive action he can extend the debt limit.

I don't know that they're going to do it. There are constitutional scholars who disagree about whether you can do it or should do it. But if it comes to this kind of an impasse, in the end, it's up to the president of the United States to figure out what he can and cannot do and whether he should negotiate.

BLITZER: The stakes really are enormous right now. Very quickly, Mondaire, final thought.

JONES: There's something much simpler than debating the Constitution. You can simply have five Republicans join 213 Democrats in what's called a discharge petition, which Adam Kinzinger was talking about as early as January 3rd when we went through 15 rounds for ballot, so like Kevin McCarthy as speaker. And I do not buy that the American people would blame the president when it's clear that Republicans are doing something very different in this context.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead the ethics of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, under scrutiny right now in the U.S. Senate. I'll ask the Senate Judiciary chairman, Dick Durbin, what came out of the hearing he held today.

And students on a California campus are on edge right now after a series of stabbings. Are the crimes connected? We'll be right back.



BLITZER: A key Senate panel is addressing serious questions about the ethics of U.S. Supreme Court justices after a reported conflict of interest by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Joining us now is Senator Dick Durbin. He's the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who led today's hearing. He's also the second highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

I want to start with what some of your Republican colleagues are saying about your efforts to deal with this issue. Watch this.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R- SC): This is not about making the court better. This is about destroying a conservative court. SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R- IA): The goal of these efforts is to cast doubts on certain judges and justices all because the left is opposed to recent court rulings.


BLITZER: Did today's hearing, Senator, put you any closer to passing a code of ethics for the U.S. Supreme Court?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): That remains to be seen. But let me address specifically my friends, Senators Graham and Grassley. I sent a letter to the chief justice of the Supreme Court about a code of ethics and the ethical standards of the court on February 13, 2012, 11 years ago. Barack Obama was president. So, to argue that we're just doing this to jump on this court is not true, as far as the senator is concern. I have a record on it.

And, secondly, let me say, when it gets down to the bottom line here. What we're talking about is bringing this court into compliance with all the other federal courts in America. These nine people have an exempt status they believe and should not be held accountable for this, their actions outside the courtroom. I think all of us as public servants need to be held accountable, whatever your party may be, whatever your philosophy may be.

BLITZER: But, Senator, even if you have the votes to pass an ethics code in your Judiciary Committee, what chances would that have with Senate Republicans and then over in the GOP-controlled House?

DURBIN: That's a very good point, but that doesn't mean we're going to fold our tent and just slink into the night. We believe that this is valid issue, an important issue and one that deserves to be seen and debated publicly, and that's what we're doing.

The first thing I did, Wolf, was not schedule a hearing. The first thing I did was to call over to the Supreme Court and say to the chief justice's staff I have a letter coming to him inviting him to come testify. I thought that was a proper thing to do. This is another branch of government. This is constitutional question and it's one where I hope Chief Justice Roberts who's going to have a court named of him, whether he wishes it or not, would take the lead and say we're going to do something on our own. We'll consult with Congress, we're going to do it on our own. So far, he hasn't reached that point?

BLITZER: Do you agree, Senator, with your Democratic colleague, Senator Richard Blumenthal, that Justice Clarence Thomas' failure to disclose gifts as, quote, potentially criminal.

DURBIN: I can't answer that. I don't know of the details involved here and I certainly wouldn't jump to that conclusion. There's a process that all the other judges, members of Congress would go through to clear this kind of activity and make sure that we're not in a situation where we're violating basic ethic standards. That wasn't done here. It should have done. It would raise the question whether there's an ethical violation and certainly raise the question whether there should have been a disclosure. That didn't happen and that's what's missing in a Supreme Court attempt to find their own way on the ethics issue.

BLITZER: I want to turn to the critically important issue of raising the debt ceiling right now. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin says the country's spending is, quote, unsustainable, his word, and he's urging President Biden to start talking right now to reach an agreement with the Republicans. Is time running out to avoid default?

DURBIN: Time is running out. There's no question about it. And this is dangerous tactic by Speaker McCarthy.


Look what happened over the weekend. Over the weekend, the FDIC decided to inject $13 billion into the First Republic Bank so it didn't crash. They didn't want a banking crisis. They were afraid that that would trigger a recession. $13 billion appears to have done the trick. I hope it did. But now, look, at what they're doing with the debt ceiling, this default strategy by Speaker McCarthy. We're running the risk of jeopardizing the American economy and triggering that same recession over a political strategy and political tactic.

I would say to Joe Manchin, yes, let's sit down and talk about the budget moving forward this year and beyond but not under the gun of the debt ceiling default that would harm the economy and cost some American jobs.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, Senator, I just want to ask one additional question. Senator Dianne Feinstein's office now says there's no timeline yet for her to return to Washington, after the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, was photograph earlier today with some note saying, she would return next week. Do you have any update on this issue for us as far as the timing is concerned?

DURBIN: I can't say with any certainty, but I've spoken with some friends who know the situation on a personal basis, and they do tell me that she is anxious to return to Washington. I think she has to consult with family and friends and certainly her physician before he makes a final decision.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Dick Durbin, thanks so much for spending a few moments with us. We appreciate it.

DURBIN: You bet.

BLITZER: Coming up, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, tells The Washington Post he did not get a heads up about a massive U.S. intelligence leak, calling the disclosures deeply damaging for his country and for the United States.



BLITZER: All right. Just in, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is speaking out on the leak of highly sensitive U.S. intelligence, that according it a new interview with The Washington Post. Let's get some more on this story from CNN's Nic Robertson. He's joining us live from Ukraine right now. Nic, Zelenskyy says the disclosure of this sensitive information was damaging to his country and damaging to the United States.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. He said it was bad and it doesn't reflect well on his White House that his biggest ally, his biggest supporter didn't contact him about leaks that were emanating from their country that affected Ukraine's national security, leaks that indicated or appeared to indicate that Ukraine was short of ammunition, leaks that appeared to embarrass potentially Ukrainian officials because they claim that the -- that Ukrainian officials were told not to attack Russian targets inside Russia on the anniversary of the war on the 24th of February, that they were talked out of that.

I've spoken with defense intelligence officials here in Ukraine who say that part of the leak wasn't true. So, it's not clear in the entirety of the leaks what was true, what was false, what was manipulated in the leaks that were available on these open sources. But the reality of the dynamic and the tensions between President Zelenskyy and President Biden are clear, that he doesn't feel happy about this and he is choosing to speak to it in the newspaper that is right in the city, of course, Washington, D.C., The Washington Post, a wide-ranging interview, they call it. So, he's choosing very carefully where to speak out to make sure this lands on target.

Of course, Secretary of State Antony Blinken did call his opposite number, the foreign minister here in Ukraine in April to discuss the leaks, but this clearly seems to have fallen short of what President Zelenskyy expected, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, some of those leaks contained highly classified U.S. intelligence assessments of Ukraine's military capabilities, where there was strength, where there was weakness. And the Ukrainians were clearly not happy about that leak.

All this comes, Nic, as you know, as Ukraine is preparing to launch a major military counteroffensive. What are you hearing?

ROBERTSON: Yes. Officials I talk to indicate that there's a certain amount more ammunition that they would like. I think, certainly, defense analysts would say to you, yes, of course, they would say that, that they want more ammunition because they know that this offensive is critical, they know that they need to have momentum, they know that they've been sort of ammunition until now and they're going to have a large number of specific targets.

Imagine when they do break through the lines and move forward, they're going to want to reach deeper into Russian lines to hit their ammunition supplies, to hit their supply chains, to keep them on the back foot. So, that would be a concern. But as the NATO chief has said, Ukraine has 98 percent of the military hardware, the fighting vehicles that it needs.

But I think perhaps the greatest indicator that the offensive is not quite ready has been the weather. It's been really raining. So, the ground is very wet, and that's what Ukrainian officials are saying, that the conditions aren't there yet.

BLITZER: All right. Nic Robertson on the scene for us, stay safe, thank you very much.

And joining us now, CNN Military Analyst, the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General Wesley Clark, and the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor.

Ambassador Taylor, first of all, what's your reaction to these latest comments from President Zelenskyy in The Washington Post? Did the Biden administration misstep in not giving Ukraine at least a heads up about these sensitive leaks?


WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, Wolf, it sounds like Secretary of State Blinken did call his counterpart, that is Foreign Minister Kuleba, right away and let him know. It sounds like Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman made a couple of phone calls as well. So, the effort was there. Whether it got to President Zelenskyy is not clear.

But he's, of course, right, it's embarrassing. No one denies that it was an embarrassing leak. But the main thing, Wolf, is the importance of what you just said, that is this counter offensive. That's what needs to go forward, and the trust needs to be there. I don't think this demonstrates any lack of trust. I think this was a clear mistake on the part of the United States and they tried to fix and now they just need to move forward.

BLITZER: General Clark, I want you to watch what the Pentagon press secretary, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, just told me on this program. Watch this.


RYDER: I can't speak to whether that's true or not. I will tell you that Secretary Austin has conducted a large number of phone calls, conducted a large amount of outreach to our allies and partners around the world to discuss the matter with them, to highlight how seriously we are taking this issue, to include several conversations with his Ukrainian counterpart.


BLITZER: So, General Clark, how does the United States right now try to repair all of this?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, I do think that it is a matter of strengthening the relationship between the presidents. I think it is, as President Zelenskyy said, the White House didn't tell him anything. I think a couple of phone calls will help. But, Wolf, you have to understand there's always tension in relations between allies, and that's true in every war. It's certainly true here. The Ukrainians want more than what the United States has been willing to give. And, really, to me, the greatest damage of the leak is the fact it leaked, that it shows that there's something in the U.S. system that's not trustworthy.

So, if you're the Ukrainians and you're really determined on keeping the counteroffensive that Ambassador Taylor is talking about secret, the last thing you want is a leaky intelligence system in the United States when a 21-year-old airman who has nothing to do with it gets the JWICS and concealed all that information, that's a real indictment of us. And so I think it's incumbent on us to do everything we can from the White House to repair that relationship and --

BLITZER: And so what does that mean, General Clark? Sorry for interrupting, but what does it mean as Ukraine now is preparing to launch a major military counteroffensive presumably in the coming days?

CLARK: I don't think there's anything in the leak really about Ukraine that wasn't known to the public. They're short of artillery ammunition, been saying it for a year, don't have enough air defense, been saying it for a year, got a lot of equipment, they've got it. There's nothing in there that's -- that is in and of itself that the Russians would say, oh, my God, look at this, let's move our forces and get ready for it. That's not the kind of leak it is.

What it is it indicates that when this counteroffensive unrolls and the United States and Ukraine are talking about sensitive issues and the need for an immediate reinforcement here or this problem there, maybe the Ukrainians can't be as candid as they would like to be. To me, that's the real threat that the leak poses. It erodes the ability of military chiefs to talk to each other, the White House to talk to Zelenskyy and so forth. That's the risk of this. And that's what really needs to be repaired.

BLITZER: All right. General Clark, Ambassador Taylor, as usual, thank you very much to both of you.

Coming up a series of stabbings near the University of California Davis is setting the campus on edge right now. We have details on new efforts to link the seemingly random attacks.



BLITZER: The University of California Davis is on high alert right now after a series of stabbings near the campus, two of them fatal.

CNN's Nick Watt has our report.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Students ordered to shelter in place overnight as police tried and failed to find the suspect who stabbed a woman shortly before midnight on the city's street.

DEPUTY CHIEF TODD HENRY, DAVIS, CALIFORNIA POLICE: We're following a multitude of leads, but as of this point, nobody has been identified.

WATT: This laid-back California college town usually sees just one homicide in an entire year, now, two within a week, three stabbings total.

HENRY: It's very obvious that the manner and the brutality of these crimes are very similar. That is concerning to us. But at this stage, we can't definitively link them yet.

WATT: Thursday morning, David Breaux was found stabbed to death in a city park, a downtown fixture known for asking passersby to share their thoughts on compassion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started out on June 3rd of 2009 and have got about 5,000 entries and talked about 10,000 people and become known as the compassion guy.

WATT: Saturday night, a 20-year-old computer science student, Karim Abou Najm, stabbed, murdered on this bike path through another park on his way home.

MAJDI ABOU NAJM, SON STABBED TO DEATH NEAR U.C. DAVIS: He was just six weeks away from graduating. He was so proud and so happy and so thankful. He said, thanks, mom and dad, you paid all my tuition.

WATT: The family moved to California from Lebanon in 2018.

NAJM: We came here hoping for safety.

WATT: The latest victim of this apparent spree, a woman stabbed through her tent late last night. She remains in critical condition.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You have a very dangerous person who seems to have struck out randomly in very violent way against three very different victims. I think the people of the city of Davis are rightly very concerned right now.

WATT: The FBI is now helping in the manhunt, local police also are upping their patrols, hoping to reassure students and keep them safe.

KRISTIN MIFSUD, SENIOR, UC DAVIS: I do not expect my senior year for any of this to be happening, especially in Davis. A lot of students just want to go to school.


WATT (on camera): And police in Davis are telling people, do not go out alone after dark, use the buddy system, said the chief.

As to a motive, he said that those two murders do not look like robbery. There are frankly just too many wounds on the victims. He is hoping DNA will officially link all three crimes, and as for the suspect, they're hoping that the eyewitness descriptions might lead to an arrest. The suspect described as average height, thin, light complexion, the most distinguishing feature -- long, dark, curly hair -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Nick Watt, thank you.

Coming up, emotional testimony during the civil rape trial against Donald Trump. What a friend of E. Jean Carroll says about a conversation they had just minutes after the alleged assault.



BLITZER: We are following significant new developments in the civil rape trial against Donald Trump, including testimony today from a key witness, a longtime friend of Trump accuser, E. Jean Carroll.

Our senior legal affairs correspondent, Paula Reid, is outside the courthouse for us.

Paula, what can you tell us?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, shortly after court wrapped for the day, Trump's attorneys confirmed, he will not take the stand in his own defense in this case. Now, we did not expect him to testify in this case, but I can tell you, in talking to his lawyers on other criminal matters, this is a great relief to them because they were concerned about their client taking the stand in this matter.

E. Jean Carroll's attorneys say, he put on several witnesses, including her longtime friend, Lisa Birnbach. Now, she is significant, because Carroll called her in the moments after this alleged assault, and Birnbach that at the time, Carroll sounded breathless, she was hyperventilating, and she was emotional.

Birnbach testified that she believed, at the time, what she had just heard sounded to her, clearly like a rape. At the time she said, Carroll was still framing it as a fight or as a tussle. Her testimony is significant, it's a contemporaneous account. Carroll's allegations stem back nearly 30 years, having someone testify who said, look, she told me about this, and was immediately after it happened, that is significant for Carroll's case.

But Trump's defense attorneys pointed to several posts that she has made, establishing that she does not like Trump politically. Now, they also called another witness, Jessica Leeds, who alleges that she was assaulted by Trump on an airplane in the '70s. She said she was upgraded to first class, sat next to Trump, and then he allegedly tried to kiss and group her.

Now, Trump has denied her allegations, Carroll's attorneys are putting her on to try to establish that Carroll's story is part of a pattern by the former president. Now, Carroll's attorneys are expected to wrap their case soon, and Trump's attorneys will put on their defense.

BLITZER: All right. Paula Reid, reporting for us from New York, thank you.

Coming up, by the way, on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", right after THE SITUATION ROOM, a special report on artificial intelligence and how it's already being used across the world. It's coming right at the top of the hour.

Up next, "Saturday Night Live" just cancels -- canceled new episodes, and now that Hollywood writers have gone on strike.



BLITZER: Tonight, "Saturday Night Live" is one of the first TV shows to be hit hard by the Hollywood writers' strike that's now underway.

Brian Todd is taking a closer look.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): NBC's late night host Seth Myers recently told his audience of the grim possibility.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT": It is something that is not done lightly. And that I will be heartbroken to miss you as well.

TODD: CBS's Stephen Colbert spoke of how important the writers are to his show.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW": Without these people, this show would be called the late show with a guy rambling about the Lord of the Rings and votes for an hour.

TODD: But those late night shows hosted by Colbert, Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon, are among the first casualties as more than 11,000 movie and TV writers are now on strike. The Writers Guild of America voting to walk out after several weeks of negotiations with a group representing companies like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBC Universal, Paramount and CNN's parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery.

DOMINIC PATTEN, SENIOR EDITOR, DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD: You're going to see that on films that are also currently in production, with writers, that's going to stop.

TODD: The last time the writers went on strike in 2007, they left for 100 days, leading to delays in production for months. Some of the late night shows are the first to go into reruns, because they are more dependent on writers. The shows written the same day they air.

JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": I'm actually in the Writers Guild as well. So, yeah, I couldn't do the show without them.

TODD: Daytime shows, soap operas and other popular programs will soon follow.

ANNOUNCER: It's "Saturday Night Live".

TODD: NBC announcing that "Saturday Night Live" will air repeats until further notice.

What are they fighting over? One sticking point is money. Many writers say, because streaming has changed the industry so much, they're making less than they were a decade ago.

DAVID MARCEL, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, HBO'S "WHITE HOUSE PLUMBERS": Unfortunately, we have a situation, too many writers, certainly that I know my contemporaries, guys in their 50s, women in their 50s, who all of a sudden, even though this is supposed to be peak television, are not making a living, like they're worrying about how they're going to like pay their mortgage and stuff.

TODD: Analysts say, writers are also worried about being replaced by computers writing scripts, using artificial intelligence.

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: I think that a lot of riders feel as though, with A.I. coming in, they might get really, really small gigs, so, they want to make sure they have a minimum duration of work, and a minimum pay guarantee.

TODD: How will the strike affect some streaming favorites like Apple+'s Ted Lasso?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's what it's all about, embracing change.

PATTEN: You're still going to see those shows come out week after week, because they were delivered months ago to those studios in those companies. All the streamers have bragged, they have a bunch of shows in the pipeline going forward.


TODD (on camera): But industry analysts say, if a strike goes on for a couple of months, the fall TV schedule we will be affected because right now, in May and June, is when the writers are actually writing those shows, so they can film them in July and August -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd, thank.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.