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The Situation Room

Russia Steps Up Strikes On Kyiv, Targets U.S.-Made Air Defense System; Biden Scraps Some Overseas Stops As New Debt Talks End Without A Deal; Intruder Enters Biden National Security Adviser's Home Undetected; Sources: DeSantis To Launch Presidential Bid By End Of May; Senate Holds First Hearing On Future of Artificial Intelligence. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 16, 2023 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and BlueSky if you have access to it @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. If you ever miss an episode of the show, you can listen to The Lead wherever you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I call The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Ukraine and Russia trade attacks and clash over the fate of some of their most advanced weapons systems. We'll go live to the war zone as Moscow stands by its claim that it hit a critical U.S.-made Patriot air defense missile system.

Also tonight, President Biden and congressional leaders wrap up a new round of talks without a deal on raising the nation's debt limit. The president speaking out about the meeting just a short while ago as he scraps part of his overseas trip to keep the negotiations going.

And a very disturbing new security lapse by the U.S. Secret Service, an intruder entering the home of Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, undetected. We're taking a closer look at the growing threat to top American officials.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

Tonight, air raid sirens have been blaring in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv a day after a major new air assault by Russia. Moscow claiming it hit a critical target overnight, a U.S. Patriot air defense missile system.

CNN's Sam Kiley is on the ground for us in Southeastern Ukraine. Sam, first of all, what do we know about the strike by Russia and the fate of that Patriot system?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, last night, Wolf, the Ukrainians say that they shot down 18 different missiles. These include the ultrasonic -- hypersonic, rather, Kinzhal, the normal cruise missiles, and a standard surface-to-surface shorter range missiles.

Now, the Russians are saying that far from being able to shoot all of these down, first of all, the claim that the Ukrainians shot down six Kinzhal missiles is nonsense, say the Russians, because they didn't fire that many in the first place.

What we do know now, though, is that the United States officials have confirmed that some kind of missile was able to do some damage to one of the two Patriot batteries that have been given by the United States and Germany to Ukraine during that very concentrated assault on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv with these missiles.

So, they're not saying that it's been knocked out entirely but it's clearly been damaged sufficiently that they're going to have to perhaps take it out of circulation if you like, for a while, while they examine it and repair it.

The Ukrainians have not made any comment, which is typical of them, about what has not been and has been successfully hit, particularly not military targets. They do not reveal the details ever of success or failure in attacks against military targets.

So, what they are saying, though, is that this was a new tactic being employed by Russia, Wolf, to try to focus a very large amount of missiles on a single target or a single target area in the form of Kyiv over a very short period of time, clearly intending to try to overwhelm Kyiv's air defenses. And, of course, these air defenses, depending heavily among other things, on the Patriot missile batteries. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. They are so, so critical to Ukraine's security. Sam, the head of the Russian Wagner group, the mercenary group, claims an American has been killed in Bakhmut. What can you tell us?

KILEY: Well, this was a video that he produced May the 16th claiming after showing a body there and looking at the identity documents that this was an American citizen killed fighting on the side of Ukraine. At the moment, CNN and the State Department are still investigating whether or not this individual is an American and, indeed, double checking on his identity.

But as far as the head of Wagner is concerned, he died a warrior's death, and I'm paraphrasing him, and that he should be treated with due respect. He will be draped, he said, with the American flag and returned to his country. That is, of course, a pledge being made by the leader of the mercenary organization. Wolf?

BLITZER: Sam Kiley in the war zone for us. Stay safe over there, Sam. Thank you very much.

Let's get some more on this.


CNN Anchor and Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is joining us right now. Jim, let's start with this Patriot air defense missile system. Ukraine only has two in the entire country. If one is indeed damaged, as Russia claims, what kind of impact might that have?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ukraine has several different air defense systems, but the Patriot is the most capable. Here's what it looks like. As you said, there are two in country, one provided by the U.S., the other by Germany and the Netherlands.

Our best understanding is they are situated to protect what is arguably the highest value target in Ukraine, and that is Kyiv, the capital. So, if you have two systems with a range to strike incoming missiles, something along these lines and you lose one of them even for a period of time, that opens you up, makes you vulnerable.

Again, it's not the only air defense system they have there. There would be others that are integrated with it, but to lose one definitely creates vulnerability going forward. We should note the Patriot has the ability to strike targets other than missiles, including Russian aircraft at great distances, and to lose that offensive strike capability would have impact as well.

BLITZER: And, Jim, as you know there's also a significant development tonight involving those long-range Storm Shadow missiles provided to Ukraine by the U.K. What are you hearing from your sources?

SCIUTTO: That's right. We were first to report last week that the U.K. had sent the Storm Shadow, which is an air launch, usually air- launched cruise missile, highly accurate, able to hug the ground at low altitudes and avoid Russian air defenses, that's key.

What we've learned and been able to confirm just in the last 24 hours is that Russia -- is that Ukraine, rather, has now employed these missiles. They've used them to strike Russian targets in Russian- controlled territory here in the eastern part of the country.

And the reason I put these range finders here is just to show what a difference these missiles make in terms of giving Ukrainians capability. This is a 50-mile range radius around Luhansk, which is a key Russian-held city in the Russian-held part of Eastern Ukraine. 50 miles was the maximum range of the missiles that Ukraine had prior to the deployment of the Storm Shadow.

Now, they have the Storm Shadow, which is three times that range, 150 miles. It gives them the capability to fire those missiles from this far away and strike key targets in Russian-controlled territory from stand-back conditions. And this is what we confirm now, that the Ukrainians are using them and they're able to strike well behind the battle lines there giving them an advantage going forward, particularly, Wolf, as we've talked many times, with this highly anticipated counteroffensive in the works.

BLITZER: Yes, very significant indeed. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our military analyst right now, General Spider Marks, first to you. A U.S. official tells CNN Russia likely did damage the Patriot air defense missile system near Kyiv. How much of a setback potentially is that for Ukraine?

GEN. JAMES SPIDER MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's a setback, of course, because it's a great piece of equipment, and as Jim described, it's integrated into a more fulsome kind of body of air defense capabilities that the Ukrainians have been employing frankly quite well since the beginning of this conflict.

So, it's a loss, but it's not a complete game changer in terms of the ability of the Ukrainians to continue to watch the skies and then interdict as appropriate, and, again, as Jim indicated, to use these offensively to stretch and push the Russian aircraft capabilities that much further back.

BLITZER: And, Colonel Leighton, does this underscore -- I assume it does -- the need for more air defense weapons to be provided to the Ukrainians?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Wolf, you can never have enough air defense weapons, and the Ukrainians have basically made that point with all of their western donors. And as General Marks was mentioning and Jim mentioned before, the whole idea is to have an integrated air defense system. What you want to be able to do is cover all altitudes, all areas where you could potentially get a threat from, and that is what the Ukrainians are trying to build with the Patriot and the other systems like the German IRIS-T.

BLITZER: General Marks, what's the strategy, you think, behind Russia ramping up these aerial assaults against targets throughout Ukraine, including the capital of Kyiv? Are they trying to simply delay the expected Ukrainian counteroffensive?

MARKS: No. Really, I think it's two things, Wolf. Number one, it's a continuation of this long-range strike capability that they have demonstrated from the outset both with dumb weapon systems and smart weapons systems to keep the Ukrainians' will to resist are treated (ph). That's what they're trying to achieve. They're trying to wear down the -- this is a battle of wills. That's point number one.

And number two is, clearly, they want to take the Ukrainians and get them out of their stride.


The anticipation of this offensive is what's driving the Russians crazy. Frankly, the Ukrainians need to stop talking about it and get about the business of executing the offensive.

BLITZER: They've got to just do it. All right, guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, is a debt limit deal likely any time soon after new talks over at the White House and President Biden's decision to pare down his trip overseas.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Just a short while ago, President Biden expressed confidence about making progress in the nation's debt limit negotiations after failing to reach a deal during new talks with congressional leaders over at the White House today.

CNN's Manu Raju is joining us now from Capitol Hill. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is over at the White House. Jeremy, let me start with you. You heard what the president just said. Is there any real movement in this debt standoff?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Wolf, all sides are characterizing this meeting today as productive, but it's also very clear that with just 16 days until the U.S. could potentially default that these two sides remain very far apart.


What we saw today, one of the key developments is that President Biden has now appointed two of his top advisers, Steve Ricchetti, a counselor to the president, and Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to join the legislative affairs director, Louisa Terrell, in these negotiations with speaker McCarthy's staff, elevating the discussions essentially to a higher level.

And what we have seen over the course of these staff discussions in the last several days, they've really been working to define the contours of a potential deal. And we know that there have been some potential areas of agreement but also some major sticking points that remain. And it's in that context that President Biden has now decided to postpone the second portion of his foreign trip. He's still slated to head to Japan but canceling his trip to Australia. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm cutting my trip short. I'm postponing the Australia portion of the trip and my stop in Papua, New Guinea, in order to be back for the final negotiations with the congressional leaders.

There was an overwhelming consensus I think in today's meeting, the congressional leaders, that defaulting on the debt is simply not an option.


DIAMOND: And the president said that he intends to speak with the speaker of the House by phone while he is in Japan, and then he will meet with those congressional leaders once again next week in person when he returns. And all of this, Wolf, a clear sign that President Biden and Speaker McCarthy, ultimately, this deal is going to come down to these two men, and the president postponing that second leg of the trip, a recognition that he will need to be in a room with Speaker McCarthy in order to forge a deal that avoids default.

BLITZER: Manu, you're up there on Capitol Hill. What did Speaker McCarthy have to say about these critically important negotiations?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he characterized it as productive, the fact that they are having bilateral discussions between the White House and the speaker himself. The speaker appointed Congressman Garret Graves to negotiate on his behalf along with the speaker's staff to negotiate with those White House officials.

But he also indicated that they are far apart on a wide range of policy issues, and that it's unclear if they'll be able to get an agreement even though he is happy that the talks are much narrower, not including other officials, but just according to two people who ultimately will have to reach a deal in order to get something through. Listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Nothing has been resolved in this negotiation. So, the only thing that has changed is we finally have a format that has proven to work years in the past.


RAJU: But on the policy, the differences on vast. The two sides are yet to agree on exactly what cuts to tie to a national debt ceiling increase, there is still no agreement on how long to seek that debt ceiling increase for what level and scope of spending cuts. There is a key sticking point involving whether to include work requirements on social safety net programs, like the program for Medicaid.

That is something that McCarthy characterizes as a red line, as essential to include. But Democrats say that they will not get behind anything that includes such work requirements. McCarthy wants longer spending caps for domestic programs, something that Democrats are yet to agree to, as well.

So, there are a whole wide range of key policy issues, including how to deal with permanent energy projects, something that could slip into this package to raise the debt limit, which raises a lot of questions about whether they can ink a deal, when they can do that, and if they can draft the legislative text, get buy-in from the House and Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses, and get that all through in time by June 1st. All major questions as the first-ever debt default looms over Washington, and it's uncertain how Congress will get out of it.

BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, Manu Raju and Jeremy Diamond. Guys, thank you so much.

Let's get some more on this debt showdown. Joining us, Congressman Ro Khanna, he's a Democrat of California. He's also the deputy whip of the progressive caucus. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

As you know, as you heard, President Biden is now cutting his international trip short. Does it sound like a deal will be hammered out by the end of this week? REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Wolf, I'm confident that the country won't default, but we need to stand firm on our principles, and that is that we cannot have this work requirement, which is going to hurt the poorest Americans, hurt vulnerable Americans.

Instead, what we should be doing is getting rid of tax cuts for the wealthy or almost a trillion dollar defense budget. And that's not going to fly with a lot of progressive Democrats to have this work requirement.

BLITZER: The president was adamant that he wouldn't negotiate with these congressional Republicans, but, clearly, that's what's happening right now. Was it a mistake to put off these talks for so long?

KHANNA: No, Wolf. I mean, look, the Republicans have been holding the country hostage. We should just pay our debts. Congress has said to pay this money. The president should pay the money. He has the authority, as Larry Tribe has pointed out under Amendment 14 -- the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. But now that the Republicans aren't budging, the president has no choice.


BLITZER: Republican Congressman Ken Buck earlier today said it's not, in his words, the end of the world if the U.S. does default. He's an outlier, I should point out. But what does it say to you that any Republican would suggest that?

KHANNA: Well, it's kind of shocking. I mean, maybe it's not the end of the world for him, but it's going to be huge harm to many working class and middle-class families in this country. It's going to mean the stock market would take a dive, and that's a lot of people's pension and savings. It would mean we'd certainly be in a recession. That would mean a lot of layoffs. So, I'm a bit surprised that he said that and it shows the thinking of some folks on that caucus.

BLITZER: Are there any talks going on among House Democrats right now to try to help Republicans get a bill over the finish line if there are Republicans don't unite behind a deal between McCarthy and Biden?

KHANNA: There are talks, but our talks are you pay your debt. And my hope is that Senator McConnell actually would be responsible here, have a clean debt ceiling, and then maybe we can get a few Republicans, if it passes the Senate, to vote with us in the House.

We also, I understand, the parallel process. And if you're going to have a parallel process, that's fine. Some of us may be willing to participate. But we're not going to participate if that's on the backs of the working poor when we know that we could have a repeal of the tax cuts on the wealthy.

BLITZER: And I just want to circle back and get your thought. If President Biden were to put work requirements on the table, as many Republicans are pushing for, in these talks, will he lose Democratic votes like yours, for example? KHANNA: He will almost certainly lose Democratic votes. I'd have a very, very hard time voting for something with work requirements. And I think a lot of progressives would have a very hard time doing that. He doesn't have to make that choice. There are a lot of other ways that we can cut spending or raise revenue.

BLITZER: Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks so much for joining us.

KHANNA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, how did an intruder -- get this -- an intruder get into the home of the president's national security adviser without being detected by the U.S. Secret Service who were in the area? We're going to tell you what we're learning about the incident. That's next.



BLITZER: The safety of top U.S. officials is under scrutiny once again tonight after an intruded entered the home of President Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is joining us along with CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, the former Secret Service agent, Jonathan Wackrow. Evan, first of all, walk us through what we know what happened during this encounter inside the home of the national security adviser to the president.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this incident happened in the early morning hours around 3:00 A.M. This happened in late April. Jake Sullivan encountered this person inside his home and confronted this person. It appears that Sullivan, at least what he told investigators, is that he believed the person appeared to be intoxicated.

He got the person to leave the home. The big part of this, though, was that the person got into his home despite the fact that he had a Secret Service detail outside of the home, and that the Secret Service detail never saw the person either come in or leave the home, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, very disturbing indeed. And, Jonathan, you're a former Secret Service agent. How did this happen on the Secret Service's watch there at the home of the president's national security adviser?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, stating the obvious, Wolf, something went drastically wrong in this situation. That evening, while these agents were providing residential security protection, they weren't providing the 360-degree protection that is applied in part of the Secret Service methodology.

Now, while the national security adviser was not injured, nothing was taken from the residence, it doesn't take away from the seriousness of this incident. And to that point, officials that I spoke to at the Secret Service have guaranteed that they are going through a rigorous mission assurance investigation to prove that this was an isolated incident, that these were actions that these agents took or really to the point that they did not take while applying their protective structure to the residence, and not systemic to the agency as a whole. And I do believe that.

I was on this detail. The national security adviser falls under the presidential protection division. I had spent a lot of time with the national security adviser during my time in the Secret Service. And it is a critical protective assignment because of the role that the NSA plays in the administration.

But for these agents not to be aware that, one, there was an intruder on the property, two, that this intruder got into the residence, and, three, engage with your protectee, that has to undergo the rigor of a serious investigation to figure out what happened and ensure that it never happens again within the Secret Service.

BLITZER: Yes. They have got to learn lesson and make sure that the postmortem they're doing is thorough.

Evan, first of all, has anyone arrested?

PEREZ: No, Wolf. There's been no arrest. And, look, the Secret Service did provide a statement telling us that they're doing the investigation that Jonathan talked about, and they said in part that modifications of the protective posture have also been made to ensure that additional security layers are in place as we conduct this comprehensive review.

It's clear, Wolf, that they are looking at what happened here. They know that obviously this ended without any harm to Jake Sullivan or his family.


But, certainly, it's something that should never have happened, and they're trying to make sure that they add layers to that security to make sure that nobody can get in there like happened last month.

BLITZER: Jonathan, this failure by these Secret Service agents at the home of the president's national security adviser, how extraordinary is this kind of failure?

WACKROW: This is a significant failure. When I was in the Secret Service, one thing that we would say is complacency kills. In here, it seems like during a midnight shift, these agents became complacent. They weren't maintaining the protective structure that's necessary for a protectee of the United States Secret Service.

We always talk about the protective methodology being applied, 360 degrees at all times in all directions. That obviously was not applied in this instance, and that's where the focus of the investigation is going to be.

This deviates from all of the protective structure that the Secret Service applies to every single protectee. Why was this incident different and why were these agents not aware that the individual had come onto the property and actually gained entry into the residence is absolutely unacceptable and stunning.

PEREZ: And, Wolf, I think one of the things we're certainly hearing from the Secret Service is that based on what their investigation finds, there might be repercussions for these agents, there might be disciplinary procedures, there might be additional training that might be mandated for some of these agents to make sure that something like this doesn't happen.

BLITZER: Yes, they got to really, really be careful. All right, Evan Perez, Jonathan Wackrow, guys, thank you so much.

Our reporting on the incident at Jake Sullivan's home comes only a day after a man with a metal baseball bat actually attacked a U.S. congressman's office.

Our Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, these acts of violence are driving home the life and death stakes right now for so many top U.S. officials, their families, and their staff.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. So many members of Congress now telling CNN they are now reassessing security at their home district offices, at their family homes. We've got new information tonight on the security risk that members are facing, and we do have to warn viewers that some of you may find some of the video in this story disturbing.


TODD (voice over): Congressman Gerry Connolly told CNN his district office in Fairfax City, Virginia, was an easy target for a man wielding a metal baseball bat.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): Enraged, in an enraged state.

TODD: The suspect injured two of Connolly's aides with the bat and damaged much of the office. Connolly said his staff was still cleaning up the blood this morning. He told CNN's Manu Raju this incident exposes a hole in security for members of Congress.

CONNOLLY: I think we're going to have to reassess the security we provide or don't provide district offices. Here in a commercial office space like me, you have no security, none.

TODD: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he spoke to Connolly about the incident and said this about security at members' district offices.

MCCARTHY: It's something you have to be continually cognizant of. And what we've done in the past is we've put more money in where people could protect their and look at their district offices.

TODD: Connolly says he's met with Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger to discuss beefing up security at his office. Today, Chief Manger told a house committee about the alarming rise in threats against lawmakers.

CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: It's gone up over 400 percent over the last six years. TODD: Manger cited the most disturbing high-profile attacks against members of Congress and their families, like the assault in late October targeting then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband captured on this police body cam video.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drop the hammer.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is going on right here?

TODD: These incidents spotlight what could be the toughest challenge for Capitol Police and the Secret Service, protecting members at their homes and offices back in their home districts. The U.S. Capitol Police doesn't protect those unless there's a specific known threat to that member. Starting last summer, lawmakers can receive up to $10,000 each to secure their homes and a GOP source tells CNN members can get fund to secure their offices with equipment like intrusion detection and video monitoring.

MATT DOHERTY, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT IN CHARGE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: Extremely minimal especially since the Capitol have a disadvantage, they don't have a field office infrastructure like Secret Service and FBI to protect their jurisdictions.

TODD: From former Secret Service Agent Matt Doherty, who once wrote guidance for how to protect lawmakers, recommendations that could be implemented almost immediately, have a vestibule of double glass doors, require visitors to be buzzed in, and train staff to spot trouble.

DOHERTY: Hopefully, if they're trained in observing concerning behaviors, they would know that this person was a little off and perhaps not buzz them in.


TODD (on camera): Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger recently discussed the need to provide extra layers of security for members of Congress, but he was very careful about one aspect of their plans. He said he couldn't disclose details of those improvements because, quote, we cannot afford to make it easier for any potential bad actors. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you very much.

And this note to our viewers, coming up on Erin Burnett Outfront, Congressman Gerry Connolly talks about recent attack on staffers at his district office.


That's coming up right at the top of the hour, 7:00 P.M. Eastern.

Just ahead, why a San Francisco prosecutor is declining to press criminal charges against a security guard in the deadly shooting of a suspected shoplifter.


BLITZER: In San Francisco tonight, a lot of questions are being raised about the deadly shooting of a suspected shoplifter at a downtown store, a drug store. The district attorney deciding not to file criminal charges against the armed security guard who was on duty.

CNN's Kyung Lah is following this story for us. Kyung, why did the district attorney decide not to go ahead with charges?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the best way to go through this, Wolf, is to begin at the very beginning, which is actually taking a look at this incident.


This is something that did happen at the end of last March -- at the end of April. But what was recently released is some surveillance video at a Walgreens. I do want to warn you that what you're about to see is a disturbing scene.

This is at the foyer of a Walgreens in San Francisco. And what you're seeing is an accused shoplifter in white, the security guard is in black there. You can see them tussling. This is an area with persistent homelessness, struggling with petty crime. The security guard, again in black, says that the shoplifter, Banko Brown, threatened to stab him multiple times, so the security guard pulls out a gun and shoots him.

Police would later find out that the accused shoplifter was unarmed. The San Francisco district attorney saying despite what you are looking at, there is more to the story, and she decided to not pursue charges. Take a listen.


BROOKE JENKINS, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We had to decide whether or not we had the sufficient evidence to prove this case to 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt. It was our conclusion that we did not have such evidence, and that is why we have arrived at this decision at this time.


LAH: And this is a decision that is being criticized in the city, Wolf. Protesters have taken to the streets saying in their opinion this amounts to murder. Wolf?

BLITZER: Kyung, I understand the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is getting involved in this case. Tell us about that.

LAH: What you're talking about is a decision by the president of the Board of Supervisors to introduce a resolution calling for a vote next week. What he essentially is saying is that he wants to go over the district attorney's head by calling on the attorney general of the state as well as the Department of Justice to get involved here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Kyung Lah reporting for us, thank you very much.

Coming up, we're getting new information on exactly when Florida governor Ron DeSantis is expected to enter the 2024 Republican presidential primary, as he nails down his last steps. We're going to break down the impact on the GOP field. That's next.



BLITZER: Sources now say Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is planning to launch his 2024 presidential bid before the end of the month. The Republican hopeful is setting up meetings with top fundraisers, building out his staff, and moving to a new campaign headquarters.

Our political experts are joining us now to discuss.

Dana Bash, how does Governor DeSantis navigate entering this race clearly as Trump's most watched rival, at least right now?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks as though he's trying to do it at this point by learning from some of the mistakes from his pre-campaign. I mean, we're still in that pre- campaign, but he's obviously as our reporters have said getting closer to making it official. Mistakes like what he said about Ukraine falling flat, effectively saying that it's not an American -- necessarily in America's interest. The fact that he has not been out and about until this past weekend glad-handing because that doesn't seem to be his natural inclination on how he campaigns.

He changed that this weekend. He went to Iowa and did what Iowa voters demand from people before they even consider voting for their candidate which is to see them -- to hear them, to actually get to be in the same room and interact with them.

And so, that is the kind of thing that he is doing in the short term. What he's up against is a huge amount of money from Donald Trump's campaign, from the super PAC supporting him that has already been launching at DeSantis for months in a very specific way. DeSantis will likely have a lot of money himself, but it's unclear how he's going to come up against the juggernaut.

BLITZER: Very important point. On that point, Gloria Borger, how is DeSantis going to beat back the growing criticisms about his electability and clearly slowed momentum in this race right now?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the first thing he has to do is what he did last weekend, as Dana was pointing out. The second thing he's got to do, and other candidates have this problem as well, is he's got to figure out how to take on Donald Trump without sounding like a bunch of Democratic talking points. He's got to figure out a way to say you should vote for me instead of Donald Trump and here's why. We've heard a little bit of it. We've heard about his competency, for

example, how he would be a no-drama administration, and all that stuff. But he still has to differentiate himself. He started doing it a little bit on the question of abortion. That may appeal to some Republican primary voters, not necessarily in the general election.

But he has to figure out a way to say you think he's the frontrunner, I know a lot of you really still like this guy, but this is why I would be better. And so far, on the question of electability, well, maybe in a general election, but he's got to figure out how to win the primary first and win over those voters without alienating them because they like Donald Trump.

BLITZER: And, Alyssa Farah Griffin, I'm anxious to get your thoughts on this, what do you think?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Governor DeSantis is kind of a victim of extraordinarily high expectations. I remember midterm night how Republicans were ready to say he's the heir apparent to Trump. He was really the only Republican who had a good night, and high pulled up other down-ballot Republicans that he'd supported in the state.

The problem is he's not tested on a national stage, and there's been misstep after misstep since that day. Now to Dana's point, he is going to have an extraordinary amount of money. I expect him to have the second biggest war chest after Donald Trump.

But he has decide what bloc of votes is he going for. My advice to him as you will never out-Trump Trump.


If he goes for that core ultra MAGA roughly 30 percent of the GOP base, he's not going to get the nomination from Trump. There's a much bigger swath of voters who want competent leadership. They want to address the key issues that matter to Republicans, but without the drama and chaos that comes with a Donald Trump.

I think that he would be very well-suited to run on what made the midterms a good night for him. He got people back to work in Florida. He got kids back in the classroom. He has a thriving economy, a state that people are flocking to from other parts of the country.

When he delves into the culture wars and the division and the fights with Disney, it becomes noise that I'm not sure is breaking through on a national stage.

BLITZER: I think that's an important point.

Dana, all this comes as former Vice President Mike Pence's allies are launching a new super PAC. And Senator Tim Scott is expected to announce his bid on Monday. Does a crowded GOP field actually benefit Trump?

BASH: Yes. And it doesn't even have to be crowded. I think what we're talking here at this point is maybe half as to candidates a little bit more when you compare that to the Democratic field we saw in 2020, it's not very crowded. But when you're looking at the goal of everybody who is not Trump, which is to stop Trump, but, of course, his opponents want to be the nominee themselves. We saw what happened. We know the history shows us, and that history is 2016.

And that is that he, Donald Trump, doesn't have to get a majority of the votes. All he has to do is get more than the rest. And if they're splitting the vote, he wins.

BORGER: You know, this is a problem that all the candidates understand really well. And they are all trying to figure out a way to get on a debate stage and differentiate themselves and figure out a way to say, we're different, we're good, and we don't want to look backwards.

And I was talking to Scott Reed today who's the cochairman of the Pence super PAC. And he said what we want to do is be issue-oriented. He said there is no out-Trumping Trump.


GRIFFIN: But the general rule of primaries is we have to do two things. You have to raise your name ID, and you have to -- you have to kind of drive up the vulnerabilities and the unfavorability of your opponent. You've got to hit Trump, and nobody's willing to do it.

BORGER: Well, Chris Christie might.

BLITZER: Yeah, we'll see.


BORGER: And Asa Hutchinson, right.

BLITZER: And it's really only just beginning. Thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, when it comes to national security, political campaigns, jobs, and even music, Congress right now is grappling with concerns around artificial intelligence as a key CEO warns the technology can go quite wrong.



BLITZER: Tonight, Congress is putting a spotlight on the wide-ranging challenges brought on by stunning advances in artificial intelligence.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has our report.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): And now, for some introductory remarks.

Too often we have seen what happens when technology outpaces regulation.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): a Senate hearing on ai.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The proliferation of disinformation, and the deepening of societal inequalities.

O'SULLIVAN: Beginning with a senator allowing an AI voice tool to give part of an opening statement.

BLUMENTHAL: If you were listening from home, you might've thought that voice was mine, and the words from me. But, in fact, that voice was not mine. The remarks were written by ChatGPT.

O'SULLIVAN: ChatGPT, the AI bot that became a global sensation and highlighted just how powerful AI technology can be.

SAM ALTMAN, OPENAI CEO: My name is Sam Altman.

O'SULLIVAN: The CEO of the company behind ChatGPT testifying before Congress for the first time today.

ALTMAN: If this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong. And we want to work with the government to prevent that from happening.

O'SULLIVAN: Not downplaying the power and the danger of the technology his company is pioneering.

ALTMAN: Artificial intelligence has the potential to improve nearly every aspect of our lives, but also it creates serious risks we have to work together to manage.

O'SULLIVAN: Altman joined on Capitol Hill by an IBM A.I. executive and Gary Marcus, a former NYU professor and self-described critique of A.I. hype.

GARY MARCUS, FORMER NEW YORK UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR: We acted too slowly with social media. Many unfortunate decisions got locked in with lasting consequence. The choices we make now will have lasting effects for decades, maybe even centuries.

O'SULLIVAN: The wide-ranging implications of A.I. reflected in the topics discussed like jobs.

ALTMAN: Like with all technological revolutions, I expect there to be significant impact on jobs. GPTt4 will, I think, entirely automate away some jobs, and it will create new ones that we believe will be much better.

AD ANNOUNCER: Overrun by a surge of 80,000 illegals yesterday evening --

O'SULLIVAN: Voter targeting and the use of deepfake video and audio in elections.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Should we be worried about this for our elections?

ALTMAN: It's one of my areas of greatest concern.

O'SULLIVAN: National security. How A.I. could be used by America's adversaries.

BLUMENTHAL: There are huge implications for national security, I would tell you, as a member of the Armed Services committee. Classified briefings on this issue have abounded.

O'SULLIVAN: Even the music industry where A.I. has been used to clone famous recording artists' voices and create whole new songs.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Who owns the right to that A.I. -generated material? I went in this weekend, and I said, write me a song that sounds like Garth Brooks, and it gave me a different version of "Simple Man."

O'SULLIVAN: Senators eager not to repeat mistakes of the past.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): We cannot afford to be as late to responsibly regulating generative A.I. as we have been to social media, because the consequences, both positive and negative, will exceed those of social media by orders of magnitude.


O'SULLIVAN: And rare consensus today on Capitol Hill that Republicans and Democrats agreeing something has to be done about this really powerful technology. What that is remains to be seen. S today on Capitol Hill that Republicans s today on Capitol Hill that Republicans and Democrats agreeing something has to be done about this really powerful technology. What that is remains to be seen. But we are going to be hearing a lot more about this in the months and years to come.

BLITZER: Donie O'Sullivan, thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks so much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.