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The Situation Room
New Evidence May Undercut Key Trump Claim On Classified Documents; House Refers Rep. George Santos Expulsion Resolution To Ethics Committee; Abortion Policies At Stake In Federal Court, State Legislatures; Prosecutors: Guardsman Accused In Pentagon Leak Repeatedly Was Warned About His Mishandling Of Classified Documents; Kim Jong Un Inspects North Korea's First Military Spy Satellite. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 17, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, new evidence in the special counsel's criminal investigation of Donald Trump's handling of classified documents that may, I repeat, may undercut the former president's key line of defense. We're breaking down CNN's exclusive new reporting.
Also tonight, breaking news, the House just agreed to refer a resolution to expel Congressman George Santos to the Ethics Committee, Republican leaders dodging a direct vote on whether to boot the GOP lawmakers as he faces criminal charges in connection with his pattern of lies.
And dramatic new developments in the league and political battles over abortion, one of the nation's most conservative courts weighing the fate of abortion medication, as state legislatures in North and South Carolina take new action to ban the procedure.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
Let's get right to CNN's exclusive new reporting on new evidence in the Trump classified documents investigation. CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel broke the story for us. Jamie, tell our viewers what you're learning.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, CNN has obtained this letter from the National Archives to President Trump informing him that the Archives is getting ready to hand over 16 new presidential records to Special Counsel Jack Smith that show that Trump and his top advisers were aware of the proper declassification process when he was president. This -- as far as we know, we have not seen the records yet but the evidence may very well undercut Trump's claims that he automatically declassified everything.
Just to read part of the letter, this is from acting Archivist Wall writes to Trump, quote, the 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why and how you should declassify certain classified records.
Just to underscore those words, Wolf, some of them directed to you personally, it suggests that this evidence may very well show that Trump had first-hand knowledge that you just do not declassify material with a wave of a hand, that there is a very rigorous process.
BLITZER: And this is really important, Jamie, because, as we have heard multiple, multiple times, Trump and his allies insist he did not have to follow any process when it comes to classifying documents. Here's, for example, what he said at the CNN town hall just last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Why did you take those documents with you?
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I had every right to under the Presidential Records Act. You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified.
COLLINS: My question for you, though, when it comes to documents, do you still have any classified documents in your possession?
TRUMP: Are you ready? No, I don't have anything. I have no classified documents. And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.
COLLINS: No, you have to declassify them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But, Jamie, these 16 records that you're reporting on right not that we are only learning about do suggest that Trump did indeed need to follow a formal process and he knew about the process, correct?
GANGEL: Correct. Let's just, for the record, remind everybody that the Presidential Records Act, he did not have a right to take these records when a president leaves office. Those records belong to the government. The Archives is the custodian.
And while presidents do have broad authority to declassify, there are very critical steps that are followed. Agencies have to be notified. There's is not just some waving the wand, a thought in your head. So, these records, I'm told, will give evidence that he knew the right way to do it. And let's remember again, Wolf, he did not come up with this defense that there was a standing order or automatic until after the special counsel's investigation and the search of Mar-a-Lago.
BLITZER: Jamie, I want you to stay with us, as I bring in our team of legal and political experts. And, Laura Coates, let me start with you. How key are these records to understanding Trump's intent?
[18:05:00] LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: These are so crucial. They will tell you there was notice. If this is true, he had absolute notice that what he was doing would have maybe been violative of the Presidential Records Act.
And, again, assuming he did not realize it then, he certainly knows it now. And the idea that there's been an overarching fight to try to retain that which belongs to the government under that very act is really ludicrous to me and quite absurd.
But the notion here, of course, of why this is so important, think about why we need to have a process to declassify documents. If the waving of the hand was sufficient, that would not alert anyone on the chain of command, anyone who had access to material, anyone who could be compromised by its dissemination that in fact was not declassified or that the underlying substance of the information was no longer of a sensitive nature. The waving of the wand, the snapping of the finger is not enough.
But in a legal sense, if you have notice of what you are doing and you cannot feign ignorance, you cannot demonstrate there was an absence of intent, which really is the key to any legal proceeding.
BLITZER: Yes, important, indeed. Elie Honig, if these 16 records are, in fact, now handed over to the special counsel, and I anticipate they will be, how do they fit into the criminal investigation?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think they do two things. First of all, if we look back at the criminal statutes that DOJ relied on when they got the search to go into Mar-a- Lago in the first place, some of those statutes have to do with government records, whether classified or declassified, but others only have to do with declassified records. And so if they can show that these records were never properly declassified, then all of those statutes are in play.
And second of all, it goes squarely to the issue of intent. It appears that these documents where Archives telling Donald Trump, if you want to declassify, here's how you have to do it. And if he did not do those things, then he knew there were classified when you remove them from the White House, that is the core issue of intent.
BLITZER: I'm curious, David Chalian, you're our political director, how does Trump spin this legal jeopardy that he is in right now, how does he spin that politically?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, thanks to Jamie's excellent reporting, we now understand why Donald Trump has the people who work at the National Archives on his mind so much. We heard him talking about last week at the town hall, calling them nice people, they love the Constitution, but they should love it more. Clearly, they are committed to their jobs here, preserving presidential records.
As for spinning this politically, I think you saw it in the town hall last week and we see it on his social media all the time, he leans into anything surrounding this classified documents investigation. He leans into his home being rated, as he calls it, by the FBI and that, as we saw last August, after the seizure took place all the way through now, is an attempt to fortify his base around him and we have seen it work.
So, he will lean into the method by which these got due to his lack of cooperation as a way to present himself as being persecuted here.
BLITZER: And, Jamie, what a former Trump administration official said about this so-called standing order to declassify documents Trump actually took from the oval office?
GANGEL: Well, as you may remember, Wolf, last summer, after the search, we went -- CNN went and we spoke to 18 former top Trump administration officials and they all said, all 18, that it simply was not the case, they called it ludicrous, ridiculous, a complete fiction, utter nonsense. You have to be able to -- Laura's point and Elie's point, you have to be able show that something has been declassified.
And while we do not know what these records refer to, my understanding is they go over four years of his presidency, and as an example, it could be something along the lines of, they are in the middle of declassifying and he's involved in that process. So, it would show that he was aware of how it should work.
BLITZER: Yes, indeed. And, Laura, you are our chief legal analyst. What does this new information reveal, this new information that we are now reporting about what we could potentially see as far as charges, criminal charges against Trump are concerned, and what charges those might be?
COATES: Well, that he doubled down on his ability to take the documents, the ability to retain the documents, and, frankly, an ambiguous response from Kaitlan Collins' ask whether he had shown him to anyone else, I think he said, I don't recall if I had or I can't think of anyone that I may have. We are talking about extraordinarily, potentially sensitive documents. One would recall or one ought to recall that information.
So, you have the idea of credibility being undermined. You're got the further distrust by Jack Smith that he would likely have over this investigation about what was intended and what was not. And if there's actual documentation that suggests that there was a process, he was aware of it, he chose not to follow it and continues to double down on that when you're in for a protracted litigation fight and potentially a prosecution at the criminal level of a former president compared, of course, to Biden's ability to return documents or awareness of it, Pence's ability to return documents or the awareness of it. Compare and contrast and you have got a prosecution.
BLITZER: And potentially got obstruction charges, potentially mishandling of classified documents. I just want to point out, some of these documents were the most highly classified documents, top secret SCI, sensitive compartmented information, it does not get any higher than that. Guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, the House casts a vote on Congressman George Santos and Republicans kick the can to the Ethics Committee, as Democrats push for him to be expelled.
And we're learning more right now about the paparazzi chase of Harry and Meghan in New York City, what royal couple's team is calling near catastrophic. A member of their security detail talking exclusively to CNN.
BLITZER: Right now, we have new information, important information about the Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified Pentagon documents.
Our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann is covering this breaking story for us. So, what are you learning, Oren?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have learned the 21-year-old Jack Texeira was reprimanded repeatedly by his superiors for accessing classified information which he shouldn't have been looking at and even taking notes on it. In the latest court records, we have a look at some Air Force records from his unit where he was reprimanded. And this is stunning because his access to this information was not curtailed here, and at least according to prosecutors, he kept accessing that information and disseminating it.
So, let me walk you through this. This first one is from late last year, 15th September of last year, where his superiors say he was taking notes on classified intelligence information and was seen putting those notes into his pocket. Just one month later, October 25th of last year, following a cease-and-desist order from the previous month, he was seen doing a deep dive on intelligence information.
In fact, at this point, he was then offered other jobs to see if you wanted to cross train into a different Air Force position, which still would have given him, according to these Air Force records, access to intelligence. He turned that down to stay in his position even after this reprimand.
And then earlier this year, on January 30th, 2023, he was observed on a JWICS machine, a machine that has sensitive information, access to classified intelligence, viewing content that he was not supposed to be looking at. His superior told other superiors and yet, at least according to these records, there was no reprimand, there was no admonishment, and according to prosecutors, he had access to that information that he kept on putting out there.
We know from our previous reporting from last month that two commanders of the unit were suspended as this investigation continues and the mission itself lost its mission, that intelligence mission assigned to other units as this investigation unfolds into what went wrong here. And, Wolf, we just got another look into the failures behind what Jack Texeira is being investigated for here, as his defense attorney says he should still be allowed out ahead of his detention hearing.
BLITZER: All right. We shall see if that happens. Oren Liebermann, excellent reporting, thank you very, very much. And we're going to have much more on this breaking news. That's coming up later here in The Situation Room.
There's also breaking news we're following right now up on Capitol Hill, the GOP-led House of Representatives voting for a resolution to expel Republican Congressman George Santos to the Ethics Committee. That's where it's been referred.
CNN's Melanie Zanona is up on Capitol Hill for us watching all of this unfold. Melanie, as Democrats push for Santos to be expelled from Congress, have Republicans bought themselves some time right now?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Wolf, that is exactly what Republicans did here. So, Democrats were hoping to force a floor vote on a resolution that would have expelled George Santos, but instead, Kevin McCarthy came up with an off-ramp here to protect his members from having to go on the record and take what would be a potentially tough vote for some of them.
So, instead of voting on the resolution itself, Kevin McCarthy scheduled a vote on referring this resolution to the House Ethics Committees. And the House did pass this along party lines with seven Democrats who voted present, most of them being on the House Ethics Committee. And George Santos himself voting in favor of referring that resolution.
So, essentially, this is a delay tactic, but take a listen to how Kevin McCarthy explained his decision-making.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I would like the Ethics Committee to move rapidly on this. I think there is enough information out there now that they can start looking at this and I think they could come back to Congress probably faster than a court case could.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So, it is no up to the House Ethics Committee to make a recommendation about whether or not to expel Santos. This committee has been investigating Santos already since March. It is a bipartisan committee. It has made up equally of Democrats and Republicans, but they are not known to move very swiftly. So, it could take weeks, if not months for them to make a recommendation here.
And even then, Wolf, the full House would still have to vote on expulsion, which requires a two-thirds majority. So, it could be a while before we see any punitive action against George Santos, and in the meantime, Democrats are making clear they are going to not let Republicans leave this vote down. Wolf? BLITZER: Yes. And he's going to be a member Congress, at least for a while. Melanie Zanona, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, we are breaking down the paparazzi car chase of Prince Harry and Meghan that their team warns could have been fatal.
Also ahead, North Korea's bold new moves to launch a brand-new spy satellite.
Stay with us. You are in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Right now, there is new information coming to light about the car chase of Prince Harry and Meghan by paparazzi in New York City that their spokesperson says was nearly catastrophic.
Our Royal Correspondent Max Foster is speaking exclusively to members of their security detail. He has our report from London.
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Prince Harry and Meghan, along with her mother, Doria Ragland, calls in what they say was a near catastrophic paparazzi car chase just after this event. A law enforcement official telling CNN they were swarmed by paparazzis in New York City on Tuesday night, followed by photographers on cars, motorcycles and scooters.
It was meant to be a night of celebration with Meghan being honored for her global advocacy to empower women and girls.
Meghan stepping back into the spotlight after keeping a low-profile while Prince Harry attended his father, King Charles' coronation, alone earlier this month.
A spokesperson for the couple says they were involved in the chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi. This relentless pursuit lasting over two hours resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): The briefing I received, two of our officers could have injured. New York City is different from small towns, somewhere, you should not be speeding anywhere but this is a densely populated city.
FOSTER: New York's mayor on Wednesday sounding the alarm over the instant, calling is irresponsible.
MEGHAN MARKLE, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I realized they're never going to protect you. PRINCE HARRY, DUTCH OF SUSSEX: I was terrified. I did not want history to repeat itself.
FOSTER: The chase in New York speaking to all the fears that Harry has been so vocal about, including in a recent Netflix series since his mother, Princess Diana, died following a high-speed car chase in Paris in 1997.
Prince Harry's team told CNN half a dozen blacked out vehicles were involved in Tuesday's chase, driving on sidewalks, running red lights and reversing down a one-way street.
Chris Sanchez, a member of Harry and Meghan's security detail, said the couple switched cars more than once during the chase. They were first seen in a black car then a yellow cab.
The couple left the U.K. for a life in North America in 2020 partly over press intrusion, examples of which Harry recounted in his memoire, Spare. And even after leaving the U.K., his fight with the British tabloids in court continues. Harry, in March, appeared at London's high court for a legal case against the Daily Mail, and last week on the first day of a phone-hacking trial, receiving an apology from the Mirror group newspapers.
A spokesperson for the couple urged that images obtained from Tuesday's car chase should not be disseminated and reiterated that being a public figure should never come at the cost of anyone's safety.
The New York Police Department said that, although photographers made the couple's journey challenging, there were no reported collisions, injuries or arrests.
FOSTER (on camera): A lot of people, Wolf, making the point that high- speed car chases going through New York, more people will notice it, very unlikely to have happened. But just to clarify, the people that I have been speaking to around the Sussex is saying it was not a high- speed chase, there were trying to stick to the speed limit because they did not want to cause anymore risk to people around them. Their concern was the paparazzi going into pavements, crossing red lights and potentially causing a fatality amongst pedestrians around the car.
So, there has been some confusion around that. They're not making the point that they were traveling at a high speed, basically. But we need to get some more information really about exactly what happened. There were also, I should point out, different legs of this journey, because they swapped cars a couple of times and some legs of the journey were more hectic and scary for the couple than others.
BLITZER: All right. Max, thank you very much.
I want to discuss this and more with British T.V. Presenter Trisha Goddard and CNN's Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. Trisha, how does this scare in New York City last night fit into Harry and Meghan's rather difficult relationship with the press and, of course, the loss of Princess Diana?
TRISHA GODDARD, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I was going to say it buys into both of those fears, as well as Max just reminded us about Princess Diana in 1997. It's really interesting that the coronation brought up a lot of that.
Wolf, what might be surprising to you on my U.K. show, I did a phone- in asking people how they felt about the coronation. And so many people called in and said King Charles is not my king because I have not forgotten what happened to Diana. The calls were nonstop. I was really, really surprised at that. So, there is a really strong feeling about Princess Diana.
Now comes news of this car chase and the paparazzi. I know it's going to get a lot of the British public harking back to those days. And then, as you say, the ongoing issue with the press, really interesting one on this. I was monitoring the British press when this came out. And the Daily Mail, and, again, Max just mentioned that lawsuit that Harry had with them, but the Daily Mail was not publishing any reports of what happened in New York. They now have much later on in the day. And then right at the bottom of the piece, they said that they initially did publish some of those photographs obviously obtained by those paparazzi but had decided to take them down off of their website.
So, all of this comes at a very, very pertinent time in Harry's battle with not just the press but trying to get his security reinstated when he does come back to Britain for visits.
BLITZER: And, John, what are your sources telling you about exactly how this entire car chase situation unfolded?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, Wolf, as Max said, it was not a high-speed chase, it was a slow-speed chase. But that was on the part of Harry and Meghan's motorcade with the private security people.
Now, tonight, I was able to speak to Thomas Buda, a retired second- grade detective from the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force. He runs Buda Security, which was one of the subcontractors involved in this protection detail. They do executive protection for people like this.
And he said it was an hour-and-a-half of chaos on the road. You had at least ten vehicles, a car with blacked out windows, that at one point, mounted the sidewalk, scooters and mopeds, and e-bikes with people communicating in rapid comms, using radios and cell phones. And that whenever they slowed down or stopped at a light, they were surrounded.
He said they weren't even taking that many pictures or videos. Their main object seemed to be to attempt follow them to the private residence where they were staying, and they had avoided hotels for the specific purpose of not being stalked once the location leaked out, and that this was relentless.
They finally went to a police station, tried to gamut with a taxi cab and then regrouped and finally were able to get them to that location undetected. But he said it was frightening to people in the vehicle. They obeyed the traffic laws but those who were chasing them did not. People went the wrong way down two-way streets against oncoming traffic to catch up to them when they were able to get a block ahead. So, it was a difficult time.
BLITZER: It could have been extremely dangerous, too.
I want to bring Max Foster back into this analysis. Max, I understand we are getting some new reporting about another separate incident affecting Prince Harry and Meghan. What are you learning?
FOSTER: Well, this was from Monday, and Harry and Meghan's team haven't confirmed this, so we're getting to some separate sources. But a 29-year-old man placed under citizen's arrest outside the Sussex's California residence early on Monday morning, being investigated for prowling.
So, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office spokesperson has told CNN the staff at the home -- were called to a home shortly after 2:00 A.M. Monday to report a subject was detained at a service entrance but did not confirm it was the home of the Sussexes. The man was placed under citizen's arrest for stalking without incident and booked at the main jail where he was later released on $2,500 bail. So, they have always been concerned about security there, and this is another reason for them to worry, I think.
BLITZER: A good reason, indeed. And we'll, of course, stay on top of this story.
But just ahead, I'll get reaction to the breaking news we're reporting about the accused Pentagon leaker from the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Congressman Michael McCaul is standing by live.
BLITZER: Right now, we are tracking efforts to limit abortion playing out in state legislations and federal court. In South Carolina, for example, this was day two of a marathon debate by lawmakers over a bill to ban abortion at six weeks of pregnancy, this coming after North Carolina Republicans overrode the Democratic governor's veto of a 12-week abortion ban.
Also tonight, one of the most conservative courts in the nation is now weighing the fate of a widely used abortion pill.
CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is following all of these very controversial cases for us. Jessica, did today's hearing provide clues on what is about to unfold? JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They did, and it's not looking good for the Biden DOJ or the FDA, because the three judges on this Fifth Circuit panel, they really questioned these lawyers very aggressively, they were critical of the case here.
What's interesting is that all of these judges were appointed by Republican presidents, two of them appointed by Trump, and one of those Trump judges, he has been very critical in the past of abortion rights. In fact, that judge, James Ho, he led this critical questioning against DOJ Lawyer Sarah Harrington and, in fact, he pounced within seconds of these arguments starting. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE JAMES HO, U.S. COURT APPEALS OF THE FIFTH CIRCUIT: I hate to cut you off early, but you've said unprecedented. We had a challenge to the FDA just yesterday.
SARAH HARRINGTON, DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: You had a challenge to the FDA, yes, but I don't think there's ever been any court that has vacated FDA's determination that a drug is safe to be on the market.
HO: Didn't the FDA just withdraw a drug a Subpart H drug just last month?
HO: FDA can make that determination on exercising his scientific expertise, but not a court's role to come in and second-guess that expertise and no court has ever done that.
HO: I guess I'm just wondering why not just focus on facts of this case rather than have this sort of FDA can do no wrong theme?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So, Judge Ho in particular very critical of this idea that courts should not second- guess the FDA or its scientific findings. And, Wolf, based on this harsh (ph) questioning today, it is very likely that these three judges will likely side with these antiabortion doctors, try to put restrictions on the pill or even wipeout FDA approval for the pill completely.
However, it's important to note that the Supreme Court has already said that, regardless of what the Fifth Circuit decides, nothing will actually take effect until the Supreme Court can consider whether to even take up this case. So, the decision in this case in Fifth Circuit should take several weeks, and even then, anything they do, will not immediately go into effect, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see how this unfolds. Jessica Schneider, thank you very much. We're watching all of this very, very closely, indeed.
Other stories we are following up on Capitol Hill, there're renewed concerns right now about Senator Dianne Feinstein only a week after she returned to Washington from an extended medical absence. At issue, Feinstein's comments to a reporter that suggested the 89-year-old Democrat was confused about where she had been over the past few months.
CNN's Jessica Dean has a report.
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Senator Dianne Feinstein's fitness to serve under a fresh round of scrutiny since she returned to the Senate following a months' long absence to recover from shingles. The 89-year-old has faced similar questions about her ability to serve in the past several years. But those questions and even criticism have intensified in recent weeks as some on Capitol Hill and beyond wonder if she's healthy enough to continue working.
On Tuesday, a Los Angeles Times reporter Benjamin Oreskes recorded this exchange between himself and Feinstein.
BENJAMIN ORESKES, POLITICS REPOTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: What have you heard?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): What I heard about what?
ORESKES: About your return, how have they felt about your return?
FEINSTEIN: No, I have not been gone.
FEINSTEIN: You should follow -- I haven't been gone. I have been working.
ORESKES: You've been working from home is what you're saying?
FEINSTEIN: No, I've been here. I have been voting. Please, either know or don't know.
DEAN: He later said she may have been confused about his question.
But Feinstein is far from the first senator to draw such questions. Senator Strom Thurmond served until he was 100. West Virginia's Senator Robert Byrd died in office at 92. Both men faced similar concerns from their colleagues.
Senate Majority Whip and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin had this to say today when asked if he's confident she's fit to serve.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I cannot be the judge of that. But I will tell you that she has to make that decision for herself and her family as to going forward.
DEAN: Durbin and others have refused to say if they think she should resign. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): She is a dear friend. As a friend, you can see she is hurting.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): She is my friend. And the only I can say she is a wonderful, beautiful person, a tremendous public servant.
DEAN: However, there are a handful of House Democrats who say it is time for Feinstein to step down, citing her prolonged absence on the Judiciary Committee, that temporary vacancy, Democrats did not have the votes to move some nominees out of committee, putting a pause on a key priority of President Biden's.
DURBIN: We're glad she's back and she was present for key votes in the committee last week and on the floor.
DEAN: In recent years, Feinstein has either been forced to give up or has voluntarily given up powerful positions. Senate Democrats denied her the powerful Judiciary Committee chairmanship in 2021 following her performance in the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Feinstein also passed up the position of serving a president pro tem of the Senate in January due to health issues.
DEAN (on camera): And the senator was just in for the first time today in this last round of votes that started at 5:00 P.M. this afternoon. She did come in and vote. It was a two-vote series. But, Wolf, prior to that, we had not seen her here on the Hill, and that includes this morning at that Judiciary Committee meeting this morning. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Jessica Dean reporting, thank you very much.
Coming up, we'll have more on the breaking about the suspected Pentagon leaker and the warnings we're told he actually received about mishandling documents. I will get reaction from the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Michael McCaul, that's coming up.
BLITZER: Let's get some more right now on a breaking story we've been following this hour. Prosecutors revealing that the air national guardsman accused of leaking Pentagon documents repeatedly was warned about his mishandling of these classified documents.
Let's discuss this and more with the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me start with the breaking news. How is this air national guardsman Jack Teixeira allowed to continue -- have continued access to highly classified information after being repeatedly warned in the weeks and months before about his mishandling of those documents?
MCCAUL: Well, you know, members of Congress have a lot of questions about this, Wolf. He was given access to what's called a JWICS, a worldwide intelligence service. He's an air national guardsman. He's barely age appropriate to be looking at these documents.
Yet, he gets full access. Now we find out he's been warned about mishandling of these documents. He should never have been in this capacity.
We're going to conduct our oversight. We got to change the system here and make sure that an IT person, this reminds me a little bit of Snowden who was an IT person, can never get this kind of blanket authorization to any classified document, particularly if they've been warned.
I think some people need to be held accountable. He should've been taken out of that position and never been allowed to have that kind of access.
BLITZER: Yeah, they got to learn lessons from this. It's potentially so, so damaging to U.S. national security.
BLITZER: According to records obtained by the FBI, Mr. Chairman, a user on the social media platform actually told Teixeira, and I'm quoting now, to please leak confidential military documents for our amusement.
Teixeira responded, it's TSSCI, top secret sensitive compartmented information.
How should that factor into this case?
MCCAUL: That's one of the highest levels of classification, you know? And, again, the damage that's been done here is enormous. I was in South Korea meeting with the president of South Korea when this leak came out, which damaged his reputation politically.
This has far-ranging impacts with our foreign policy, particularly. And, again, this individual should never have been given that kind of access. After the warnings, he should've been taken off that job.
There are also some technology things we have that that will not allow him to actually see the documents but transfer him without knowing what's in the documents themselves.
BLITZER: Yeah, they got to learn the lessons, as I said. I want to quickly turn to Afghanistan. The State Department says it will allow you to see a 2021 dissent cable.
Does that go far enough for you? Will you stand down on your plans to try to hold the Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt?
MCCAUL: This is significant progress, I'd say, Wolf. We've been very patient trying to accommodate the State Department. Our request was to see the cables themselves. We would be willing to have the names redacted to protect those individuals.
But we believe that the veterans and the Gold Star families deserve to know what the state of mind was at the embassy prior to the collapse. In addition, the secretary's response to those cables, we need to see the actual cables, not some summarized sanitized version.
So, for the State Department to -- this is a really significant step forward, I would say, to go ahead and allow both me and the ranking member to view these dissent cables. I think the only issue remaining for me -- and, by the way, this would be the first time state department's ever produced a dissent cable to the United States Congress. So I do -- I do applaud them moving forward in the right direction.
The only issue I have remaining, Wolf, is that I have a lot of Afghan veterans on this committee. And in fairness to them, I believe that they should be able to see the dissent cable as well and not just me and the ranking member.
The documents are to be introduced to the committee, which includes all members of the committee. And if we can work out this last step, then I think we've resolved a litigation fight in the courts, and a good result for our veterans.
Congressman Michael McCaul, thanks so much for joining us.
And to our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" right after THE SITUATION ROOM, former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb reacts to the CNN exclusive news on the investigation into Donald Trump's handling of classified documents. That's coming up at the top of the hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Tonight, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is preparing to launch the country's first-ever military spy satellite as revealed by newly released images.
CNN's Brian Todd is following the story for us.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ruthless tyrant in Pyongyang could soon have another means of threatening America and its allies. Kim Jong Un has just inspected what North Korea claims is its first military reconnaissance satellite and approve it for deployment. Experts think the launch could take place any day now and have provided CNN with pictures thought to be preparation at the likely launch site.
Analyst David Schmerler believes Kim's new satellite won't be able to feed him images that are as high-res or as sophisticated as the ones from America's satellite. Still --
What Kim Jong Un might be able to spy on that's sensitive to the U.S. and its allies?
DAVID SCHMERLER, SATELLITE IMAGERY ANALYST, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE: The North Koreans are going to be primarily interested in military bases belonging to the South Koreans, to the Americans in South Korea, and then likely installations for the U.S. and Japan, and naval movements near the coast of North Korea.
TODD: The launch of a spy satellite would be the latest in a pattern of aggressive moves by the North Korean dictator. Kim has test-fired about a hundred missiles since the beginning of last year. Lat month, he claims to have fired off a long range intercontinental ballistic missile powered by solid fuel. Analysts say a solid fuel ICBM would give North Korea more flexibility because those missiles can be launched more quickly than others.
North Korea recently tested an underwater drone that it said was capable of carrying a nuclear war head. And the regime test-fired cruise missiles launched from a submarine.
Analysts say this new satellite is right up there in importance with all of those missile capabilities because it can provide the intelligence Kim's generals need to use those weapons in war.
SCHMERLE: If the North Koreans want to hit a location in South Korea, they have to know where the missile defense locations are.
TODD: As he inspected this satellite, Kim wore matching lab coats with his young daughter believed to be about 9 years old and named Kim Ju- Ae. She is recently become and media sensation in North Korea, more and more often seen at her father's appearances.
PATRICK CRONIN, THE HUDSON INSTITUTE: They're trying literally to teach her how to be a leader in the Kim family dynasty.
TODD: But analysts cautioned it's possible that Kim Ju-ae is not being groomed to be the supreme leader. They pointed out, South Korean intelligence recently said Kim Jong Un also has an older son who hasn't been seen in public.
BRUCE KLINGNER, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: It may be the older brother who's being groomed but not yet unveiled until he's more of age. And then they may roll him out with indications of how brilliant a military strategist he is.
TODD (on camera): But if Kim Jong Un's daughter or his increasingly powerful sister Kim Yo-jong were ever to be put in place as the supreme leader, would the North Korean people who've never known anyone except a male member of the Kim dynasty as their leader actually accept a female at the top? Analysts say on that score, it's much more important to be a Kim than to be male -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting indeed and very important. Brian Todd, thanks very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.