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Putin Puts On Show Of Public Support After Mutiny; Russian Strike On Kramatorsk Kills 11, Injures Dozens; Georgia's GOP Secretary Of State Testifies In Special Counsel's 2020 Election Probe; New Video Of Putin Swarmed By Crowds After Mutiny; President Promotes "Bidenomics" As 2024 Nears; Madonna Recovering From "Serious Bacterial Infection". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 28, 2023 - 17:00   ET


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thank you so much for watching, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga, in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in the "Situation Room."


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Vladimir Putin puts on a show of public support amid new reporting that his top military leaders were targets of the Wagner mutiny. Will discuss new details about the rebellion and its impact on Putin's war with the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States.

Also tonight, significant new testimony in the special counsel's investigation of Donald Trump and 2020 election interference. Prosecutors interviewing the Georgia secretary of state who was on that infamous call from Trump asking GOP officials to, quote, "find votes."

And President Biden promotes Bidenomics, embracing the phrase as he tries to sell voters on his economic policies. But will that strategy work? I'll ask the man who coined the slogan, it's the economy, stupid. The legendary Democratic campaign strategist James Carville. He'll join us live. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the Situation Room.

Tonight, new reporting suggests that the mutiny by Russian mercenary forces had a truly stunning and very dangerous endgame. CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is following all the new details for us.

Alex, so, what do we know about the goal of the Wagner boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin and his failed rebellion?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what Prigozhin's ultimate intentions were in this insurrection do remain relatively murky, but there is new reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" that Prigozhin had intended to capture the heads of the Russian military, the defense minister and the top general. That plan, according to "The Wall Street Journal," was foiled after the internal security services, the FSB discovered it, and Prigozhin was then forced to launch his march, his insurrection, earlier than he had planned. But once he had done that, once he had crossed into Russia and all but taken over the city of Rostov, it became unclear exactly what his intentions were.

Wolf, you'll remember that we have reported over the past several days that U.S. intelligence did have indications that Prigozhin was planning to launch something imminently, that he was massing troops, weapons and equipment. What his exact intentions I'm told by a U.S. official today that remains unclear. Another official, a senior European I spoke with, says that it appeared that Prigozhin was targeting the heads of the Russian military Shoigu, the defense minister, and Gerasimov, the top general. But once that didn't happen, once that plan was foiled, why he continued on this march and then eventually gave up, that remains relatively unclear, Wolf. There is some speculation that perhaps when Shoigu crossed the border, when he started marching towards Moscow, that maybe he thought that the -- that soldiers from the military, troops from the border guard, the FSB might join in his insurrection, and that did not happen.

Then, of course, Wolf, you'll remember that he gave up on that march very suddenly. What we know now is that Prigozhin appears to be in Belarus. His troops appear to be in what he calls field camps back in Ukraine.

And, Wolf, another thing that we're keeping an eye on is a general named Sergei Surovikin. He was at one point running the war in Ukraine. There was some reporting earlier today from "The New York Times" that he had been in touch with Wagner, with Prigozhin, that he knew about these plans ahead of time. My colleague Nick Paton Walsh spoke with a European intelligence official who said that there are hints that some in the military, possibly Surovikin, knew about these plans ahead of time and either stood aside and didn't do anything or did indeed try to help Wagner. That, of course, Wolf, would put Surovikin and others firmly in the Kremlin sights. Wolf.

BLITZER: Alex Marquardt with the latest information, thank you very much.

Also tonight, we just saw Vladimir Putin out in public, swarmed by crowds during a surprise appearance. Let's go to our Senior International Correspondent, Matthew Chance, he's joining us live from Moscow right now.

Matthew, so what do these new pictures tell us about Putin's message and his challenges right now after the mutiny?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, those challenges are considerable. He has to rebuild his authority. He has to rebuild his popularity or shore up his popularity. And I think that's what we're seeing the Kremlin try to do in this latest sort of media event that's appeared on television. Look at this, I mean, this is the Russian president in Dagestan, which is in the south of Russia, and he's being absolutely swarmed by adoring fans who are cheering, they're trying to touch him, they're trying to get selfies with him.

[17:05:09] Remember, Vladimir Putin is a leader who has been in power in Russia for 23 years, you'd think they'd be a bit, you know, kind of it would be that dramatic that he appeared in front of them, but no. You know, look, he's out there, he's being treated like a rock star. And it's all the more unusual, of course, because you don't see this at all from Vladimir Putin over the past couple of years because of the pandemic, because he's so cautious about coming into contact with people. I was speaking to a Russian journalist earlier, and they're saying, look, if you want an audience with Vladimir Putin, you have to go into quarantine for eight days before you do that. But that rule seems to have been thrown out of the window now by his Kremlin minders, and he's being brought face to face with ordinary people, it seems, in order to show he is still a man of the people. And of course, that comes after this military uprising at the weekend.

And it's also distinctly similar to the scenes that we saw in Rostov on dawn in southern Russia on Sunday when Wagner were leaving and they were being cheered by local residents of Rostov, Yevgeny Prigozhin was having selfies taken with him, and you know, basically they were being celebrated by the residents of this Russian city. And that must have really stung the Kremlin, the idea that Russians were supporting Wagner in their rebellion. And so, in some ways, this may be a response to that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, important point. Matthew Chance reporting from Moscow, thank you.

Let's go to the war zone in eastern Ukraine right now and CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman, who's on the scene for us.

Ben, what is President Zelensky saying in the aftermath of that Wagner mutiny? What's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly President Zelenskyy was probably one of the happiest people to see the disorder in Russia during the weekend as Wagner boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was leading his mutiny. A lot of the Wagner mercenaries who were actually in this part of Ukraine, in eastern Ukraine, were pulled out to participate in that mutiny. And as a result of the departure of most of them, President Zelenskyy doesn't seem to look, at least upon the Wagner mercenaries as an immediate threat.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): The Wagnerites are present on the temporary occupied territory of Ukraine. They are and they were present in the Luhansk region. This is truth, a lot of them were eliminated by our defense forces. Over 20,000 of them were eliminated.


WEDEMAN: And of course, there has been talk that perhaps because Prigozhin has been -- has moved to Belarus, at least temporarily, that perhaps some Wagner mercenaries will go there. We did hear Aleksandr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, saying he might offer them land and perhaps tents to set up there. That is, the mercenaries of Wagner. But even there, Zelenskyy has said he doesn't think that that number of people on the northern borders of Ukraine represents an immediate problem either.

Now, as far as the situation in Kramatorsk where were earlier today, the death toll at this point has reached 11. We were on the scene when emergency workers carried out a stretcher with a black body bag on top. Grieving loved ones were nearby. It was obviously a very difficult moment for them. We know that they are still looking for perhaps survivors, more likely bodies under the rubble. They're still working at that site.

Now, we have more clarity about what hit the restaurant in Kramatorsk yesterday evening at 7:32, initially, President Zelenskyy said it was an S-300, that's a surface to air missile. But now it appears it was an Iskander missile, which is a hypersonic ballistic missile with a very large payload and much more accurate. And in terms of choice of targets, the Ukrainian intelligence have arrested a man they believe was at the site at the restaurant before the strike taking video. And they say that this individual had sent video of the restaurant to Russian intelligence before the strike took place. We're waiting for further information on this individual, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, lots of developments unfolding. Ben Wedeman, thank you very much. Stay safe over there in eastern Ukraine.

Joining us now, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova.

Ambassador -- unfortunately, I think we just lost the Ambassador. We're going to try to get her back.


In the meantime -- or hold on a second. Ambassador, can you hear me?


BLITZER: Thank you so much for joining us. President Zelenskyy says there are still Wagner fighters in eastern Ukraine. But how much does this incredible turmoil in Russia -- in the Russia district from their fight in Ukraine, how much turmoil is there right now?

MARKAROVA: Well, first of all, we all knew that they all are criminals, you know, war criminals, from Putin to Wagners to everyone who's doing all these horrible war crimes. But this weekend has shown also that the regime is cracking and the situation is much weaker than even we suspected that you know, to see this monster that Putin has been growing for nine years turning against their masters, you know, walking freely inside Russia. You know, again, we still have way too many of them in Ukraine. The intent of Russians are still very evident from this attacks on Kramatorsk and from very high battles that we have. But that all should send all of us, not only Ukrainians, but all of our friends and allies a very strong signal, regime is weak, empire is collapsing and we have to double down on liberating all Ukraine showing strength and defending democracy.

BLITZER: As you know, Ambassador, the United States, the Biden administration just announced yet more military aid, U.S. military aid to Ukraine. But what more can the US and the west, for that matter, do now to help Ukraine capitalize out there on the battlefield while Putin is facing this truly unprecedented moment?

MARKAROVA: Wolf, as you know, we're very grateful to all American people, to President Biden, to Congress, for this very much needed and very valued support. And yes, this package, 500 million with everything that we need on the battlefield is going to be put to very good use. But when you ask us what do we need more? It's still the same. It's still more weapons, more support to Ukraine and what is very important, more sanctions.

We have to double down on sanctions. Still, only a handful of Russian banks out of 330 are sanctioned. Not all Russian oligarchs are still sanctioned, not all producers of the weapons. So, on the one hand, more equipment and weapons to our brave defenders, but also continue toughen on sanctioned fronts so that we can deny Russia their possibility to earn money and continue this aggressive war.

BLITZER: On that really brutal Russian attack on civilians, Ukrainian civilians in Kramatorsk just this week, there's a man apparently in Ukrainian custody who allegedly scouted the location for the Russian armed forces. How does Ukraine stop Russia from using that specific tactic?

MARKAROVA: Well, you know, for 490 days of this phase of full-fledged war, we have seen Russia specifically targeting residential areas, maternity hospitals and everything else. Yesterday was a pizzeria, a place where people went. You know, 11 people killed, including three teenage girls, 61 people wounded, including eight months baby. And we have saw even on Ukrainian T.V., there was an interview with this arrested person that they knew what they're doing. They have seen -- they've received a video, they specifically asked, how many people.

Are there enough people there? And after that, they executed that strike, another war crime and they have to be punished for it. All of them, from President Putin to those who gave that specific order. So it's all about, you know, justice.

Remember, we spoke so many times about President Zelenskyy peace formula and that nobody wants peace more than Ukrainians. It has to be justice. Justice is such an important element of our common victory.

BLITZER: The Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, as I always say to you, Ambassador, good luck to you. Good luck to all the people of Ukraine. Appreciate it very much. Thanks for joining us.

MARKAROVA: Thank you to all American people.

BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more on the Russia mutiny and the gravity of the challenge to Vladimir Putin. And up next, the Georgia Secretary of State is questioned by the special counsel's team in the investigation of Donald Trump and efforts to overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Stay with us. You're in the Situation Room.



BLITZER: The special counsel's investigation of Donald Trump interference in the 2020 presidential election is moving forward tonight with testimony by two prominent figures, the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Let's get some more on all these developments. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is joining us.

Katelyn, so what do we know about the testimony from Raffensperger and Giuliani and how they fit into the special counsel's investigation?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, these are two very different people in this investigation as witnesses, as people that would sit for voluntary interviews with the special counsel. At this point in the game, Brad Raffensperger is one of the people who was most victimized by Donald Trump. Let's remember that call in January of 2021 when Donald Trump called him, here's what was said and what was recorded.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, look, all I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.


POLANTZ: So that's what Brad Raffensperger would be recalling, we know he wrote about in his book. He felt threatened at the time, and that's very likely what the special counsel's office is asking him about today when they interview him. And then Rudy Giuliani for him to go in, he was the president's personal lawyer at the time, and also quite a public figure in the campaign, putting pressure in court, bringing things into courts where they were saying that there were -- there was fraud in the election when there wasn't.


Also, orchestral in bringing together all of these people that wanted to go into battleground states and say that Trump won when they didn't. And so, for Giuliani to go in, that could be quite significant endpoint for the special counsel's investigation around January 6, because as someone told me just a few minutes ago, everybody else in this investigation, every witness has been asked about Giuliani. So Giuliani talking now. They will have a lot of questions for him on a lot of different fronts.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front. Katelyn, don't go too far away. I want to bring in more of our legal and political experts right now.

Jennifer Rodgers, I'll start with you. How significant will Trump's phone call with Raffensperger be for the prosecutors? Is it a smoking gun?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is a smoking gun, Wolf. And the interesting thing here is that we've known for a long time it's a smoking gun as far as Fani Willis' investigation in Georgia state court goes. But Jack Smith now is obviously clearly focused on Georgia as well. And so, I'm interested to see kind of the interaction between DOJ and Georgia and whether there's overlap in these charges or how that works. But for both prosecutors, that recording is a gold mine.

I mean, rarely do you have the defendant caught on tape in his own voice that all of us recognize committing the crime. And that's effectively what they have here.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Andrew McCabe, what could prosecutors glean about Trump's mindset around January 6 from Giuliani?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, that's a great question, Wolf. And I think there are a couple of possibilities around this meeting that's allegedly taken place voluntarily, according to Giuliani's representatives, between Giuliani and the special counsel's team. Because we are likely at the end of this special counsel's investigation, I think it's possible that meeting was actually at the request of Giuliani and his attorneys for the purpose of trying to make that last ditch effort to convince the team not to indict Giuliani. On the other side of the fence, you have the special counsel's team, they are probably reviewing or considering in that meeting in other venues what Giuliani's potential might be as a witness in any case they decide to bring. It's unlikely, I think, that they would use him as a witness because he has such a terrible record of misstatements and false statements and interviews and all sorts.

Of other places, he'd be a very hard witness to corroborate, but I think that those two sides probably had very different objectives in that meeting that we're told was cordial and business like.

BLITZER: We shall find out more, I'm sure.

Katelyn, what else are you learning about Trump's latest reaction to the audiotape CNN obtained of him discussing the classified documents case?

POLANTZ: Two separate investigations but audiotapes really are at the center of so much of what we're talking about in this special counsel's case against Donald Trump, criminal case related to Mar-a- Lago documents. Donald Trump keeps offering these explanations after he was indicted on what he had, what happened in July 2021, where he's talking and waving around and saying, this is a secret document I have from the Pentagon. And the latest thing he said was he was waving it around -- "it was bravado. I was talking and just holding up papers and talking about them, but I had no documents. I didn't have any documents." So he had papers, but not documents.

Previously, it was really a moving target to nail down what he was trying to say. Previously, he said that he wanted to go through the boxes, he didn't have a document, he was looking for golf clothes. So, all of these things are the sort of statements now post indictment that prosecutors would very likely be looking at and may want to use in a trial to show to a jury, because at the end of the day, they still have that audio tape of Donald Trump rustling a paper, saying, here it is. Look at this --


POLANTZ: -- this is a military document.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, this is a man dissembling, is what he's doing. He's got these changing explanations. I'm sure his lawyers are going into rooms and screaming about exactly what he's doing. first, you know, first -- OK, now he says it's bravado. That can be true. Who wouldn't believe that Donald Trump had bravado? But that doesn't mean that he also didn't have these classified documents, which he said on an audio recording, these are the papers, these, these are the papers and they are highly confidential.

POLANTZ: But, Gloria, it might be the point, the confusion, right? They're talking publicly about a case that will be front -- in front of a jury.

BORGER: But there are other people in the room. So, I would presume that the special counsel will be interviewing every witness in that room, including those who may have gotten a view of whatever these documents were. At one point, he said they were plans. Were they planned for golf course? Were they plans for a military action?


I mean, who knows at this point? But the story keeps changing, and that's always a sign that there is something rotten there. So --

BLITZER: You make a good point, there were other people in the room who knew exactly --

BORGER: Of course.

BLITZER: -- what he was talking about.

BORGER: So, you know, they're going to interview every single one of them and find out what they saw.

BLITZER: So, Jennifer, legally speaking, how much is Trump a liability for his own defense, given all these statements?

RODGERS: Oh, he's a huge liability, Wolf, because he's putting out defenses that likely aren't usable within the four walls of the courtroom. We'll have to see if any of these actually make it into the legal defense or not. But Gloria is exactly right. And in fact, there's no question the special counsel already has spoken to all of the people in the room there and that they have that evidence. So, you know, if they do try to make that defense, almost certainly the special counsel will be able to shoot it down by the witnesses who were there at the time. So, he continues to be a huge liability to the lawyers. BLITZER: Andrew, your thoughts?

MCCABE: Yes, Wolf, if he tries to use this defense at trial, it might be an effective PR strategy now, but it will not work at trial for two reasons. One, it basically would require him to sit in front of the jury and say, what I said on that tape you just heard was a lie. I actually had a fistful of news clippings or something like that. And that means he's telling the jurors that he lied in that recording. So they automatically start thinking of him as a liar, and that's not a good thing.

Secondly, it then subjects him to what will be withering cross examination, which he will not go through without taking serious injuries. So, I think it's a loser on two levels.

BLITZER: Yes. Clearly, it's only just beginning of the story. We'll have much more coming up. Guys, thank you very much.

Up next, though, President Biden makes a new push to put the economy at the front and center of his 2024 campaign. Is Biden economics, Bidenomics, as he's calling it, the answer to his sagging poll numbers? Plus, Madonna now recovering tonight after a major health scare. We have new details on why the pop star spent several days in the intensive care unit.



BLITZER: More now on the stunning mercenary rebellion in Russia. As sources tell CNN, western intelligence officials still don't fully understand the Wagner chief's intentions. Let's bring in retired us. Colonel Matt Dimmick. He's the former director for Russia at the National Security Council. We're also joined by the executive director of the McCain Institute, Evelyn Farkas. She's the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.

Matt, let me start with you. The Kremlin put out video tonight of Putin surrounded by cheering admirers. How does this fit into Putin's attempts to try to regain control of this situation?

COL. MATT DIMMICK (RET.), FMR. DIR. FOR RUSSIA, NATL SECURITY COUNCIL & DEFENSE DEPT.: Yes, he, you know, Putin really needs to demonstrate that he's firmly in control of his seat, and he is so unconcerned about what's going on that he's willing to go about mundane tasks like traveling to Dagestan to talk about domestic tourism and the local brandy industry. So this is something that I think makes sense for Putin to do, you know, he wants to show that he's got firm control of the seat and everything is business as usual, and he's just going about his job.

BLITZER: Evelyn, Putin says he did not doubt the support of the Russian people during the rebellion. What do you make of Putin's spin on all of this?

EVELYN FARKAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MCCAIN INSTITUTE: Yes, I mean, Wolf, I think you have to juxtapose the two images. So today he's in Dagestan. People are cheering him on. Who knows how that came about? Was it instigated or actually staged by his people? And flashback to Saturday, there weren't crowds in the streets, you know, holding signs with, you know, Putin, we love Putin.

In fact, the crowds were around Prigozhin in Rostov-on-Don. So, you know, I think that Putin's trying to show that he's popular, but it's -- I think it's going to take more to convince the outside world and maybe even the Russian people.

BLITZER: I think you're right. Matt, this failed mutiny has to increase Putin's paranoia. But does he have to tread carefully right now in any attempt at a crackdown or cleaning house or anything along those lines?

DIMMICK: He sure does, you know, he's going to be very suspicious about who exactly knew what Prigozhin was up to and who was either willingly complicit or knew what was going on and was sympathetic to it. So there's going to be a lot of questioning going on. Putin is not really sure maybe who to trust. And if he does start the clean house, that will create its own web of instability as he goes about purging senior members of some of these ministries and causing its own level of chaos. So he certainly has to tread carefully and pick his way through this.

BLITZER: Definitely. Evelyn, I'm anxious to get your thoughts. Is Putin constrained in how he handles Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner leader at this point?

FARKAS: I think he is Wolf. Again, you know, adding on to what Matt just said, Putin is the kind of guy who definitely would want to clamp down right now to show that he's in control and to seek retribution. There was a lot of anger in his voice. The first time he got in front of the people to talk about Prigozhin and the traitors. And I'm sure that anger has not subsided. If anything, it's grown.

But the problem, the buy-in that he's in, as you referred to it, is the fact that Prigozhin is on the nationalist side. And he's got a lot of support from more hardline nationalists than maybe Putin himself, but certainly hardline nationalists. And he has probably the tacit support of the Russian people because he was standing up, speaking for their sons and their fathers and their husbands in the battlefield, so how he navigates this will be tricky for him.


BLITZER: Very tricky indeed. Matt, Putin, as we know, relies on the Wagner mercenary group for all sorts of activities around the world, in Africa, the Middle East, elsewhere, so how does he handle all of that while trying to sideline Prigozhin?

DIMMICK: Yes, I think he's going to go about dismantling Wagner as it exists in Ukraine and in Russia. I think that group as an entity is pretty much dead. It might reemerge under new management, under a new label, but they're certainly going to want Wagner or a similar organization, whatever it's renamed or rebranded, to continue its activities in Africa and in the Middle East and pursuing Russian political goals in those areas.

BLITZER: Retired Colonel Matt Dimmick, thanks very much for joining us. Evelyn Farkas, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, President Biden tries to convince voters that his policies are moving the U.S. economy in the right direction. But why aren't Americans buying it, according to all the most recent poll numbers. I'll ask Democratic strategist James Carville, who coined the phrase, as a lot of us remember, it's the economy stupid.

Plus, the health scare forces the pop superstar, Madonna, to postpone her world tour. So what landed her in the ICU? Stay with us.



BLITZER: President Biden made his pitch to skeptical American voters today on his handling of the U.S. economy, embracing the term Bidenomics, hoping to claim credit for what the White House believes will be an economic turnaround and averting a long feared recession. CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond joining us from Chicago right now, that's where the President wrapped up his speech just a little while ago. Jeremy, what exactly is Bidenomics?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Biden described Bidenomics today as building the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. And it's really the sum of his economic policies, everything from the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the historic climate change bill that he passed called the Inflation Reduction Act. And it's really a broader economic vision focused on using public investments to spur private investments in the private sector. And he also framed it very much in opposition from start to finish in contrast to the trickle down economic policies espoused by Republicans.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bidenomics is about the future. Bidenomics just by the way of saying, restore the American dream. When we invest in our people, we strengthen the middle class, we see the economy grow. That benefits all Americans. That's the American dream. Forty years of trickle down limited that dream for those, except for those at the top.


DIAMOND: But really, Wolf, Bidenomics is also a messaging vehicle for the President to confront what is perhaps his most persistent political challenge, and that is to try and convince Americans that this economy that the President and his advisors believe is increasingly strong shape is actually in a good place. In poll after poll, we see Americans having a dismal view of the economy and also blaming the President.

And so this was an opportunity for the President to take ownership of an economy that he believes Americans, as his policies are rolled out, as those pieces of legislation are implemented, that he believes Americans will start to see the benefits down the line. But nonetheless, the President making very clear that he's not taking a victory lap and that there's still more work to do. Wolf?

BLITZER: You know, Jeremy, the White House just announced that the President has begun using a specific device to treat his sleep apnea. What are you learning about that?

DIAMOND: Yes, that's right, Wolf. There were -- these questions emerged when this morning the President appeared outside the White House as he was boarding Marine One. He appeared to have some marks on his face, and it wasn't immediately clear what that was. The White House has now confirmed that it's because, including last night and in recent weeks, the President has begun to use a CPAP machine to treat his sleep apnea.

Now, this is something sleep apnea that the President disclosed in his 2008 medical records. It was something that he was dealing with, but it appeared that surgeries to his nasal passages had improved his symptoms. Now, sleep apnea was not mentioned in the President's medical records in 2021 and 2023 during his time as President. But the White House is now confirming that the President has been dealing with sleep apnea, and he's now using a CPAP machine which flows air into his nasal passages. This is obviously a common condition, Wolf, that more than an estimated 30 million Americans currently deal with. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jeremy Diamond traveling with the President in Chicago. Thank you very much. Joining us now, the longtime Democratic strategist James Carville, who helped manage Bill Clinton's very successful campaign for the White House back in 1992, which I remember well. Thanks so much, James, for joining us today. President Biden is trying tout his economic achievements, embracing the term, as you know, Bidenomics.

But in a recent CNN poll, 66 percent of Americans say they disapprove of Biden's handling of the economy. You famously said, and all of us remember were covering the Bill Clinton campaign. You said, it's the economy stupid. How does he turn that around, those numbers around?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: So Wolf, the single most difficult strategic thing to do in all of politics is when do you take credit for what is obviously an improvement economy? Because when you tell people it's good and they don't think it's good, they say, hey, that guy's clueless. He's telling me something I already feel. By the same token, if you don't toot your own horn, no one's going toot it for you.


So they're in a delicate place here. I would have preferred a message saying, Wolf, along fighting with you, that's why, you know, we did a prescription drug benefit, that's why we believe in healthcare subsidies, that's why we invested in manufacturing. And we know you're having a hard time and we want you to know you're on our side. But I guess the more people that are stressing all optimism and economic messaging had today but it's very difficult. I really sympathize with them because in 94 the economy was clearly getting better and we got slaughtered. In 2010 the economy was clearly getting better and President Obama got slaughtered and off turn -- off years. So I sympathize with the White House. But this is a very difficult thing that they're trying to pull off here. They were very difficult.

BLITZER: Because our CNN poll, James, also found that 76 percent of Americans say that our current economic conditions here in the United States are poor, yet many economic indicators like the labor market are strong. So is this a messaging failure from the White House?

CARVILLE: Well, you know, the message can go with times. But if people are feeling something, I think you're better off telling people. You should be feeling better off. And I suppose, you should be telling people we're on your side. We understand the way you feel. That's why we're doing X, Y and Z. And that's why in the future we're going to do A, B and C.

But I know people are in there saying, sir, you got to get out, you got to take credit. This thing is really good. No one's giving you credit. Wolf Blitzer and CNN and all the cable people are pointing to their polls and so you need to get in front of this. It's a very difficult challenge that they have, I will admit that. But they have got to turn these perceptions about the economy around. Frankly, we're not going to -- we're at risk in 2024.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. The White House believes the economy, the U.S. economy is trending in the right direction and is now using Bidenomics, that term, to take credit for that, but is using that term potentially a huge risk if conditions don't improve.

CARVILLE: It is everything -- it's a risk to use that term. It's a risk to say the economy is getting better, but it's also a risk to do nothing in face of polling numbers and perception and everybody's looking at the same polls that people don't feel as good as the numbers say they should be feeling. And, you know, I don't know if you put your name on Bidenomics. You know, I think it's common sense economics that we believe investing in people.

And, you know, and to some extent is working. But they're associating the President's name with an economic program that thus far it's pretty clear that people are not feeling yet. I'll just -- I'll be honest with you, it's a very difficult position at the end. I have great sympathy for him. But, you know, we got to turn this perception around here because it's not where it needs to be right now. That's for sure.

BLITZER: You really turned things around for Bill Clinton. I remember when I went to Little Rock back in 1992 when he was elected, covered the transition. You were there. That's where we met the first time. And James, always good to speak with you and get your thoughts. Appreciate it.

CARVILLE: Thank you Wolf. Great respect for you, thank you. BLITZER: And we'll continue this conversation.


Coming up, Madonna has just postponed her world tour after spending several nights in the intensive care unit. We have new details on her condition. We'll have that when we come back.


BLITZER: Tonight, a major health scare for a pop music legend, Madonna. The 64-year-old icon suffered a serious bacterial infection. CNN Stephanie Elam is working the story for us. Stephanie, what do we know about Madonna's condition and her decision I understand to postpone at least some of her world tour.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf, that gives us an indication that this was in fact a serious health scare for the iconic performer, iconic singer here. What we have learned is not only was she battling this bacterial infection, but it landed her in the intensive care unit for several days. In fact, let me read to you the statement that her longtime manager, Guy Oseary, posted on Instagram to give you a little bit more information here. It says, on Saturday, June 24th, Madonna developed a serious bacterial infection which led to a several day stay in the ICU. Her health is improving. However, she is still under medical care. A full recovery is expected. At this time, we will need to pause all commitments, which includes the tour. We will share more details with you soon as we have them, including a new start date for the tour and for rescheduled shows.

Now, obviously, people want to know what this actually means. For what we do know, CNN has learned that a source close to Madonna has said that she is out of the ICU and that she is now focusing on that recovery. Wolf?

BLITZER: We wish her, obviously a very speedy recovery, only the best. Thanks so much, Stephanie, for that report.


Coming up, we'll have more on the truly dramatic developments coming out of Russia and Ukraine right now. Alexander Vindman, a veteran of the National Security Council with expertise on both countries, standing by to join us live right here in the Situation Room.


BLITZER: Happening now a pivotal witness to Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the U.S. presidential election results in Georgia testifies in the special counsel's investigation. This, as the former president is trying to dismiss incriminating evidence in the classified documents probe.

Also tonight, Vladimir Putin surrounds himself with supporters working to bolster his image after the Wagner rebellion. I'll ask a noted expert on Russia and Ukraine about Putin's standing right now. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman will join us live this hour.

And we're also following the disturbing news about Madonna's health. What's next for the music icon after her stay intensive care for a serious bacterial infection?

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


We begin this hour with new testimony by two prominent figures with firsthand information related to Donald Trump and efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results here in the United States.