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Lukashenko Says, Wagner Chief Is Back In Russia; Russian Strike On Ukrainian Apartments Kills Six; Trump Aide Walt Nauta Pleads Not Guilty; GOP Congressman: House Freedom Caucus Voted To Oust Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene; U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen In Beijing As Biden Admin Looks To Lower Tensions. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 06, 2023 - 18:00 ET
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Alex Marquardt. He's in for Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Now, stunning new developments on the whereabouts of Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the man who helped the short-lived mutiny, now claims Prigozhin is back in Russia. This as Kremlin media airs stunning images of Russian police raiding his homes, seizing guns, passports, cash and wigs.
In Ukraine, at least six people are dead after a Russian strike on an apartment building in the western city of Lviv, a relative safe haven, largely spared by the war so far. CNN is on the ground with new information.
And also tonight, indicted Trump Aide Walt Nauta finally pleads not guilty to all charges. This hour, we'll be breaking down what it means for the special counsel's classified documents case against the former president.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Alex Marquardt and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Our top story tonight, the new questions over the fate and whereabouts of Wagner Chief Yevgeny Prigozhin. CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is joining us live from Belarus with details. Matthew, you pressed the Belarusian president, Lukashenko, on this today. What did he tell you about the Wagner chief's whereabouts?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, an extraordinary press conference today here in Belarus with Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of this country, in which he told us that actually, Wagner, nor its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was actually in the country where they had been offered sanctuary as a way of defusing their armed uprising in Russia last month.
CHANCE (voice over): A rare meeting with the Belarusian leader and an extraordinary revelation on the whereabouts of Wagner, the Russian mercenaries he's meant to be sheltering. Despite earlier statements, neither its fighters nor its leader, he tells me, have taken up his offer of exile.
ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO, BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT: As far as I am informed as of this morning, the Wagner fighters are now stationed at their regular camps where they go for rotation to rest and recover from the frontlines. In terms of Yevgeny Prigozhin, he's in St. Petersburg, or maybe this morning he would travel to Moscow or elsewhere, but he's not on the territory of Belarus now.
CHANCE: It wasn't meant to be this way. Lukashenko's deal was how the Kremlin explained how Wagner's armed uprising last month had been brought to an early end. There was even talk of Yevgeny Prigozhin arriving in Belarus and all against charges being dropped. That deal now appears in doubt.
And so the offer you extended to Wagner and to Yevgeny Prigozhin has not been taken up, they are not in your country?
LUKASHENKO: Not yet. This will depend on the decision made by the Russian government and Wagner PMC. If they deem it necessary to locate a certain number of Wagner fighters in Belarus for rest and preparation, then I will keep my promise.
CHANCE: But the Kremlin may have other plans. Russian state T.V. has for days been painting Prigozhin as a traitor and a criminal, now broadcasting these new images of a raid on his St. Petersburg property with police seizing weapons, cash and gold, even wigs for disguise and multiple passports under aliases. The Kremlin told CNN they won't comment on where Prigozhin is or whether new charges may be filed against him.
But Lukashenko raised the disturbing possibility of Prigozhin being assassinated before insisting the Kremlin would never do it.
LUKASHENKO: What will happen to prigozhin next? Well, in life, anything can happen. But if you think that Putin is so malicious and vindictive that he will do him in tomorrow, no, this won't happen.
CHANCE: But, clearly, the fate of Wagner and its leader is now in question. Just last week, these satellite images appeared to show a military base in Belarus being prepared for a possible influx of fighters. Lukashenko may now himself have got cold feet.
Is part of this you rethinking the wisdom of inviting a battle- hardened, rebellious mercenary group into your country, are you concerned that that would have destabilized Belarus? I mean, the Russians thought, you know, it was safe to have them, but, you know, they were wrong.
LUKASHENKO: This is not a situation where I was lending Wagner a helping hand. This was reached in a process of negotiation. You know what was at stake. I made this decision at that time and I would stick to it, but I don't think Wagner would rise up and turn its guns against the Belarusian state.
CHANCE: But for Belarus, Wagner's absence may yet be a blessing in disguise.
CHANCE: Well, Alex, Lukashenko also tried to play down his relationship with Prigozhin, which is surprising, because the Kremlin had originally said it was because of the close relations between the two men that a deal between them was done in the first place. But Lukashenko said it was actually Putin who knew Prigozhin best of all. They have been associated with each other for the past 30 years, he said.
So, it seems that everyone wants to distance themselves at the moment from Prigozhin. Friendship with the Wagner leader becomes something of a liability, Alex.
MARQUARDT: Matthew Chance in the Belarusian capital, it is great to have you there. Please stay with us. We're going to come right back to you.
First, I want to go to Eastern Ukraine. The country is reeling tonight after a deadly Russian attack on an apartment building in Lviv. That is a major city far from the frontlines.
Our Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman has more from Eastern Ukraine. Ben, how hard was Lviv hit?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that was a very strong hit, Alex. Just the pictures speak a thousand words when you look at it. It was hit at about 2:30 in the morning by Kalibr missiles. These are missiles that have a payload of a thousand kilograms. It's about 500 to 600 -- I mean, actually, a thousand pounds, and killing six people, at least, and several dozens of others were injured.
Now, among the dead was a 21-year-old woman, a journalist, as well as a 95-year-old woman who was the -- a survivor of the Second World War.
Now, what has emerged in the aftermath is that because Lviv is so far from the frontlines, in a place where many people fled to during the early stages of the war, they discovered that ten bomb shelters had been locked shut and, therefore, at the moment of greatest need, the people could not actually find any shelter. And now the local prosecutor has launched an investigation into why those bomb shelters were closed. MARQUARDT: That relative peace absolutely shattered. Ben Wedeman, thank you very much.
I want to bring in former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty and CNN Military Analyst General Spider Marks and bringing back our Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance, who is in Minsk. Thank you all for being with us.
Jill, I want to start with you. You are such an astute observer and analyst of the Russian press. How do you see the state media now blaring this news of this raid of Prigozhin's home? That footage is just remarkable.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, usually, when you see things like this, and this has been done with other enemies of the Kremlin, something is going to happen. And so what they're doing is darkening the reputation of Prigozhin, showing him as a really rich guy. You know, everything, you know, the palace that he lived in, the money, the gold bars, et cetera, preparing, I think, the Russian public for the fact that he could be accused, could be accused by the Kremlin of corruption, because President Putin just a week or two ago already laid the groundwork for that by saying, hey, you know, the government gave Prigozhin about $2 billion, and we hope that none of it went astray, but we will deal with that.
So, I think, you know, right now, it's a little confusing because you have Prigozhin running around Russia, but you also have this possibility that he could be arrested and eventually end up in prison because of alleged corruption.
MARQUARDT: Certainly a strong message. Matthew Chance, we just saw your back-and-forth with the Belarusian president. You were in that room when Lukashenko reemphasized his loyalty to Vladimir Putin. So, how do you read that?
CHANCE: Well, I mean, look, that loyalty to -- fealty, really, to Putin has been growing ever since 2020 when Lukashenko called on Russia for assistance in putting down unrest, anti-government protests that were very widespread in his country, this country of Belarus.
Since then, his terrible human rights record has led to a high degree of international isolation and sanctions. It's pushed him closer into the arms of the Kremlin on which he is dependent now almost entirely for financial aid and support for industry. And that means that, you know, a certain amount of sovereignty has been surrendered by the Belarusian leader.
When Putin asked to stage his invasion of Ukraine from Belarusian territory, the answer was, yes. When Putin said he wanted to put missiles, nuclear missiles, on Belarusian territory, that was agreed to as well.
And so, I'm not sure at this point there's anything that the Belarusian leader would not do if he is asked by the Kremlin to do it. But, I mean, the way he characterizes it, look, we've got a strong relationship, and it's getting stronger. That's how he characterized it to me today.
MARQUARDT: And, Jill, when you take all of these moving parts together, how is this playing domestically for Putin?
DOUGHERTY: Oh, I think people are very confused. Obviously, just a few weeks ago, he was the best friend of Putin, somebody that Putin used, both him and his companies, very rich companies, to do all sorts of things that the Russian government needed to be done but didn't want its fingerprints on. And now, all of a sudden, he's leading a rebellion, and now, all of a sudden, he's revealed as a rich, probably corrupt, person, which there's no question he is. But I think that the Russian people are probably at this point trying to figure out what's the next step, when does the next shoe fall.
MARQUARDT: General Spider Marks, our colleague, Natasha Bertrand, is reporting that the U.S. is going to be announcing tomorrow that it's sending highly controversial cluster munitions to Ukraine as part of a bigger security aid package. Do you think the U.S. should be giving cluster munitions to Ukraine? And how much of a boost could they offer to Ukraine during this counteroffensive?
MAJ. GEN. JAMES SPIDER MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the short answer is, I think they should. I applaud the administration's decision. Look, DPICM, dual purpose improved conventional munitions, that's what we're talking about, really have the capability within a single bomb to disperse over a hundred bomblets, both anti-personnel and anti-armor-type capabilities. This is a weapon system that the Ukrainians can use to great effect now that the Russians have this incredible defensive position in Ukraine that they've built up over the course of the last few months.
Conventional munitions cannot have that same effect. The DPICM, the cluster munitions, can. It's a good decision. But like anything else, look, there's no silver bullet. Ukrainians have to be able to conduct synchronized warfare and we're seeing right now that they don't have sufficient air support, which is absolutely essential, you got to have this three-dimensional fight, and it all has to be synchronized.
So, it's a good thing. I think it's going to improve what Ukrainians can achieve, but they have to be able to continue to bring all this combat power together, be very cautious, very effective on the ground and then they can exploit.
MARQUARDT: Yes. These DPICMs or these clusters are certainly something that the Ukrainians have been asking for, for quite some time. Russians, we should note, have been firing cluster munitions on Ukraine for quite some time.
Jill Dougherty, General Spider Marks, Matthew Chance, thanks to all of you. I appreciate it.
MARKS: Thank you, Alex.
MARQUARDT: And just ahead, Trump Aide Walt Nauta finally enters a not guilty plea in the classified documents case against him and the former president. What it means for the historic indictment, that's next.
MARQUARDT: Indicted Trump Aide Walt Nauta has finally been arraigned in Florida after weeks of delays. Nauta pleading not guilty to all charges against him in the special counsel's classified documents case.
Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez has more for us. So, Evan, break down what happened in court today.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was about five minutes long, and it is something that has been delayed a couple of times. One of them is because Walt Nauta's flight got canceled down to Miami, but he finally was able to enter his not guilty plea.
And one of the complications here is that Nauta, who, of course, as you know, has been very, very close to the former president, is almost inseparable, especially when he's out campaigning, doing political trips, they're coordinating defense at this point. They are charged together, a co-defendant with the president, and their defense is being coordinated. In fact, his legal team is being paid for by the Trump political action committee.
So, right now, Nauta and him and -- their fates are intertwined. He is charged, of course, as you know, with conspiracy to obstruct the government investigation as well as concealment of these documents.
The question is, how much longer are their fates intertwined? I mean, at some point, do they separate, simply because, you know, Donald Trump's and Walt Nauta, you know, they are not the same person. At one point, do they decide whether Walt Nauta needs to go his own way.
MARQUARDT: They're intertwined, but Donald Trump has been told that he's not allowed to talk about the case with one of his closest aides.
Evan, stay with us. I want to bring in our Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe. Thank you both for joining us.
Laura, to you first, Walt Nauta, you know, he's an aide, he's a body man, he obviously doesn't have the same resources or privileges as the former president, who is a billionaire. As this case moves forward, how risky is it for Nauta to stick by Trump?
LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: What you described is the leverage that's going to inure to the benefit, obviously, of the person who is more powerful, the person who is going to bankroll it, the person who has the privileges you speak of, the person with the huge support, that, of course, being the former president, Donald Trump.
And so when Evan talked about the intertwined nature of their relationship, keep in mind that on the one hand, it's not unusual to have, say, if spouses were charged together to talk and correspond, distance is not required, but talking about the actual case might not be the issue here as opposed to, hey, stick with me, kid, right, the idea of, you're protected as long as you're in my circle.
If you're Donald Trump, and this is somebody who's already in the indictment, somebody who has moved boxes, somebody who has reported to at the direction of Trump, if that's between the line thing, you want to keep him very close to you. You don't want to avoid having him try to flip. If you're Nauta, though, you might want to be under the wing as long as possible, because the longer it is advantageous for Trump to have this going on, it might be your benefit as well. So, it's a tangled web going on right now of loyalties.
MARQUARDT: Andrew, to that point, we know there has been pressure on Nauta to flip. How much do you think Jack Smith, the special counsel, is stepping up that pressure now to turn him?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It's a really good question, because we know that Nauta came in and was interviewed and lied the first time he talked to investigators. He later came back and admitted that he had made false statements, and he's actually been charged with some of those.
Now, that's very damaging to his ability to testify for the government if he decides to flip. So, the government, if they use Nauta as a witness, would have to essentially rehabilitate him on the stand. The longer he plays that tangled game and curries favor with Trump and is represented by lawyers who are paid for by the Trump Organization, the more his value as a witness may be diminishing. So, the clock is ticking for Nauta if he is going to choose to essentially switch sides and start helping the government.
MARQUARDT: And we know that Nauta today asked for a jury trial like Donald Trump, presumably, they are assuming, his legal team, that the make-up of a jury down in Florida would be more preferential, more favorable. How much of a gamble, Evan, is that?
PEREZ: Well, I mean, one of the things for Nauta is that he is going to be seen on surveillance tape that the government possesses, that they may be able to show at a trial that shows him moving these boxes, right? So, if you're Walt Nauta, Donald Trump is not seen on video destroying documents or, I mean, obviously, there's the video of him talking about showing documents to people in Bedminster, but with Walt Nauta, there's video of it.
So, there's definitely a higher risk for him. He's not Donald Trump. And so, he is going to be treated differently and will be viewed differently by a jury, even a Trumpy part of south Florida, where this trial is slated to go.
MARQUARDT: One major question is now the timeline. Of course, we're already in the midst of a presidential race. Laura, Trump's team certainly has an incentive to run out this clock. We saw that even a very basic standard procedure, like an arraignment, can take quite some time. So, what's your sense now of what this timeline is going to be as the 2024 election approaches?
COATES: Well, if you're Jack Smith, you don't have the luxury of being able to delay. That would actually be beneficial for Donald Trump. But if you are Jack Smith, you're thinking to yourself, I got the DOJ clock that says I can't get that much closer to an election. There might be other cases that might come down the pike. It will rub up against that. If you have another, say, indictment, and you have one in Manhattan already, a defendant can't very well prepare simultaneously and cannot do, say, a trial that ends on Friday and one that begins on Monday. They're aware of this. And we're, what, 480- something days away from the presidential election. Not a primary but the actual election day, they can't go that far.
But here's a point of reference here. As we're talking about the idea of who might flip, remember, the DOJ doesn't necessarily need to have Walt Nauta flip. He was listed in the indictment, and there are others who are employee number, whatever it is, who may have already seen this, and the surveillance tapes do a lot of the talking already. And so the question will be, as long as Donald Trump holds the strings, at what point will he release them and essentially go for self in the event that Nauta gets a little bit nervous about his loyalties?
PEREZ: Let me just raise one crazy possibility, which is, if you're Donald Trump, and you're trying to prepare for this possibility here, you could ask -- you could invoke the defendants' speedy trial rights, right? And you could throw the government into a little bit of a disarray by asking for this trial to be faster than the government is proposing, which is right now, they're asking for December.
And that has a different strategy in mind, which is, you can make the government essentially go to trial faster than they're prepared to and maybe cause them to make mistakes, like in production of evidence, and so on, which we've seen happen before in other high-profile cases.
MCCABE: But very hard to do that here, because you're going to have a lot of pretrial litigation over the Classified Information Procedures Act.
That's CIPA. That's the law that determines how you use all this classified stuff in a trial. And that is kind of unavoidable on the defense or the prosecution side, and it is going to take up a lot of that short time window that we have to work with.
MARQUARDT: Fascinating conversation. We've got to leave it there. Andrew McCabe, Evan Perez, Laura Coates, thank you all for joining me.
And just ahead, how is former Vice President Mike Pence handling the Trump factor as he courts Republican voters in Iowa? That's up next in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARQUARDT: Former Vice President Mike Pence is facing skeptical, sometimes confrontational Republican voters as he tries to set himself apart from his former boss, Donald Trump, without angering diehard Trump supporters.
CNN Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah is on the trail in Missouri Valley, Iowa. Kyung, so, how is the former vice president handling that Trump factor?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alex, I think the simplest and cleanest way is to basically show you, because it's been on display here at some of Pence's public events. We were inside a pizza ranch in Sioux City and a woman in the crowd asked him a question. And in that question, it was very clear that she was blaming Pence for Trump losing the 2020 election. So, through a four-and-a- half minute, very patient, very careful answer, Pence went back and forth explaining his thinking, explaining constitutional law. I want to play you a short, little snippet from it. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you ever second guess yourself? That was a constitutional right that you had to send those votes back to the states.
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I did exactly what the Constitution of the United States required of me that day. I kept my oath. I'm sorry, ma'am, but that's actually what the Constitution says. No vice president in American history ever asserted the authority that you have been convinced that I have.
But I want to tell you, with all due respect, I said before, I said when I announced, President Trump was wrong about my authority that day, and he is still wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: Now, after Mr. Pence finished answering that question, the room did applaud. We caught up with that woman to ask her what she thought of his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: What do you think after hearing Mr. Pence's answer?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe he's a good man. I love the fact that he is strengthened by his faith. But I really do feel like he altered history.
LAH: Would you consider supporting Mr. Pence after listening to him today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would consider it, but he has that one hiccup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: The campaign would consider that, Alex, a victory, because their plan would be to convince and persuade these voters, one by one, they would go back and talk to that woman again. Alex?
MARQUARDT: All right. Kyung Lah in beautiful Missouri Valley, Iowa, thanks very much for that report.
Let's discuss this with our political experts. Abby, that exchange, polite, but tense, does that really indicate the kind of uphill battle that Pence is facing to try to win over Trump voters?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I absolutely think it does. I mean, I think everything that we have seen so far shows that that woman is not alone. There are a lot of people just like her. Probably an upstanding member of her community, somebody who's very politically engaged, it sounds like she's been to many of these presidential events to see other candidates, but she's wrong. She literally is a believer in a conspiracy theory that's being pushed by the former president. That's going to be really hard for Pence or really anyone else to overcome.
And to Pence's credit, he took it on directly. I think he had no choice. But you're seeing some of the other candidates in the field, like Ron DeSantis, who recently got a question about January 6th, wanting to kind of bob and weave around this question so as to not offend women like her, but I don't know that that's going to be a strategy that works in the long-term, because she was there, very directly saying, do you have any regrets? I mean, this is not somebody who's dancing around the issue. She firmly believes that. And the only way around it is to convince her otherwise with the truth.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But that's going to be a fault line, I think, for all of the Republican contenders, right? How do you handle January 6th? How do you handle what -- because there is this opinion that Pence had authority that we know he did not have.
And I thought it was interesting to see him take it on much more forcefully than we've seen him do so previously. Clearly, he's decided, I'm going to go out and stake my claim. It will be interesting to see if the other candidates react in kind.
MARQUARDT: Alice, what do you make of how he responded today?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I thought it was exactly what he needed to do. Having been to hundreds of events at pizza ranches in Iowa with voters like that, you have to speak to them with compassion, with concern, and you have to connect with them, and that's exactly what she did.
I was really pleased to see her reaction to the conversation with Pence. She still seems to be open. You're never going to change her mind on January 6th. Trump's base that believes that Donald Trump won the election and Pence should have overturned the election, you're never going to change their minds, but she clearly seems to be open to an alternative. I talked with the Pence campaign this afternoon. They say they're not shying away from this conversation. They welcome it. But it's certainly not a cornerstone of their campaign. They realize that there's going to be a lot of people that need to hear from him why he made this decision, which was the correct decision not to stop the certification.
But, look, they're talking about what people in Iowa want to talk about, farm prices, crop prices, food prices and potential recession.
And that's what they're going to do, but they're not shying away from this conversation because they know it was the right thing to do.
MARQUARDT: This is one area where Pence seems to be sharpening his attacks against the former president. There's another one in the new video that Pence's super PAC, they're playing this up in this video. Let's take a look at this new video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America doesn't stand with thugs and dictators. We confront them or at least we used to.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
PENCE: There can be no room in the leadership of the Republican Party for apologists for Putin. There can only be room for champions of freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: So, that new ad from the Pence campaign, Abby, he's harkening back to the Reagan era. Does that brand of traditional conservatism have any appeal to the Republican base that he is facing out there on the campaign trail right now?
PHILLIP: I think it does, but the problem for Mike Pence is that he was the vice president for that same president that he is saying is an apologist for Putin, or at least implying that he's an apologist for Putin. Trump is out there all the time saying nice things about Kim Jong-un.
Pence was Trump's vice president. He was there for all of that and was often asked about it, frankly, and rarely, if ever, said anything negative about what Trump was saying and doing. That's going to be a real problem.
But an answer to your question, yes, there absolutely still is a good chunk of the Republican Party that is still -- still wants to be a forceful foreign policy voice, and it's a real differentiator when you have frontrunners, like Ron DeSantis and others, trying to go the other way. This will be a dividing issue in this Republican primary.
MARQUARDT: Karen, what do you think?
FINNEY: I completely agree. But, again, it will be interesting to see, how does it make the others react? I mean, you're right. Will they call Pence out and say, call him to the carpet, and basically say, you were there, so how can you now turn around and say something different?
STEWART: I think there's -- they're able to pull themselves away from this slightly because that was actually a PAC ad, which is not directly related to the campaign, so they can separate themselves from that.
But, clearly, they're trying to make the case that Pence is the classic conservative. He is one of uncommon character, which we are in dire need of in politics, and that's the message they're trying to make, and that he will be strong on foreign policy. He will stand up to dictators and show peace through strength, which he feels Donald Trump didn't do.
MARQUARDT: Karen, I want to ask you about new figures that we got for fundraising. Trump's fundraising nearly doubled in the second quarter despite the second indictment that he faced.
FINNEY: That's right.
MARQUARDT: What do you make of that?
FINNEY: Well, his supporters clearly are hardening in terms of their feeling that, you know, their guy is being attacked, they've got to support him.
But there's something pretty astounding to think about the fact that American taxpayers have been subsidizing Donald Trump for decades. I mean, they're using a portion of the money they're raising for his legal fees, and in the same way that, you know, all the legal fees he never paid, all taxes he never paid, it's sort of astounding.
It does make you wonder, where's that breaking point? Is there a breaking point with voters where they will say, I don't really want to be paying your legal fees, I want you to look out for me, what are you going to do for me?
MARQUARDT: Alice, quickly, is there a breaking point?
STEWART: It doesn't appear to be because his poll numbers continue to go up. He now has almost more than a 30-point lead and the fundraising is high. And the average donation is around $35. That shows that people that aren't mega millionaires are contributing because they truly believe he's being unfairly targeted.
PHILLIP: And you saw the Trump campaign trying to make a contrast with Ron DeSantis, saying, you don't have a small dollar engine, which might be a differentiator as you get further into the campaign and you max out some of those big dollar donors.
MARQUARDT: Yes, these are some big figures. Abby Phillip, Alice Stewart, Karen Finney, thank you all, I appreciate it.
Abby will be back at 10:00 P.M. Eastern tonight for CNN Tonight. Please tune in.
And just ahead, what prosecutors are saying about their plans to charge the man detained with weapons near former President Barack Obama's D.C. home. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
MARQUARDT: Federal prosecutors now say they plan to bring felony charges against the man arrested with weapons near former President Barack Obama's Washington, D.C., home last week.
CNN Senior Crime and Justice Correspondent Katelyn Polantz is on this story for us. So, Katelyn, this suspect was in court today. What's the latest in this case against him?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no resolution yet on whether this man, Taylor Taranto, is going to be held in jail as he faces charges because the Justice Department is having to respond to what has happened with this man, basically, in real-time.
So, he was someone that was believed to be at January 6th during that riot, and there was a warrant out for his arrest related to that. Those are the initial charges against him, that he was around the Capitol, doing the things that people are charged with as misdemeanors, the hundreds of rioters that are out there.
But then, last week, things really escalated, and that is when he was picked up by the authorities in the neighborhood of Barack and Michelle Obama in Washington, D.C., after acknowledging a post from Donald Trump that essentially gave their address out, and he was there, livestreaming himself, saying, got them surrounded.
And so when they got him into court, once he was arrested, prosecutors said Taranto's own words and actions demonstrate that he is a direct threat to multiple political figures, not just the Obamas, but he was also making comments to others and about other things he wanted to do. And then they say the risk that Taranto poses if released is high.
But he was before the judge yesterday and today, and the judge can't decide yet whether he should be staying in jail, and so the prosecutors are saying, give us a little time. We do plan to bring felony charges against this man.
And the judge is still looking at what the law is here when he's facing just these minor January 6th charges, what to do with him. Could he be sent home to Washington state, and still be somehow protected in the system?
MARQUARDT: And, Katelyn, remind us what kind of weapons he had on him?
POLANTZ: Yes, so this man, he did have weapons that were found in his van, which was nearby, which he had left as he was livestreaming walking in the Obamas' neighborhood. He had two guns, he had a machete, he had hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
And prosecutors say that he had many other guns registered to his name. I believe 18 additional firearms, registered to his name. But he has been living in a van in Washington D.C., and also threatening to blow up his van outside of a federal building. So, a lot there that we're not seeing yet any charges in this case.
MARQUARDT: Yeah, he had a mattress in that band that he was really disturbing. Thank you so much, Katelyn Polantz. Appreciate it.
Just ahead, is the right wing House Freedom Caucus on the verge of ousting one of its most controversial members? Up next, details on the votes to expel Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from the powerful group.
MARQUARDT: Republican firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene is facing expulsion from the right-wing House Freedom Caucus after a series of high-profile controversies.
CNN's Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill with the details.
Melanie, I understand that the Freedom Caucus has already put this up to a vote. So, what led to that vote? And how is the congresswoman responding?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah. Well, it's a little surprising at first glance, right, because the Freedom Caucus has become this group that is dedicated to former President Donald Trump, and Marjorie Taylor Greene is perhaps one of Donald Trump's biggest supporters on Capitol Hill.
But, Alex, in talking to my sources, I can tell you that there have been frustrations bubbling up inside the Freedom Caucus over Greene for sometime now, really what those frustrations boil down to is the fact that Greene has actually become a very staunch ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and she's also been publicly critical of many fellow colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus. She criticized members of the Freedom Caucus for not supporting Kevin McCarthy for speaker, she criticized members of the Freedom Caucus for not falling in line over the bipartisan debt ceiling deal.
And the real straw that broke the camel's back, according to Congressman Andy Harris, a member of the Freedom Caucus was a heated camera station that Margaret Taylor Greene had with another member of the Freedom Caucus, Lauren Boebert on the House floor, just before the July 4th recess. And Greene confirmed to CNN that she called Lauren Boebert a little B-
word, I'm not going to say the word, but you can fill in the blanks there. And Greene, again, did confirm she said that.
So, we did reach out to Greene for comment. She would not comment on her status as a member, but she was pretty defiant in the statement. I want to read you part of it.
She said in Congress, I serve northwestern Georgia first and served no group in Washington. My first -- my America First credentials guided by my Christian faith are forged in steel, seared into my character, and will never change. The GOP has less than 2 years to show America what a strong unified Republican-led Congress will do when President Trump wins the White House in 2024, and this is my focus, nothing else.
And, Alex, we also reached out to the House Freedom Caucus for comment. They said they do not comment on membership or internal meetings or internal process, but this is a big deal. She is the first member to be removed from the Freedom Caucus, which means she can no longer attend meetings, and she can no longer call herself a member of the group, Alex.
MARQUARDT: All right. We'll wait to see what happens. Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", a look inside the Russian mansion of Yevgeny Prigozhin, all the cash, gold, bars, wigs, and even a giant stuffed alligator. That is coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we will visit -- we will -- will a visit from a top U.S. cabinet secretary lower tensions between the Biden administration and China? Details on Janet Yellen's trip to Beijing. That's next.
MARQUARDT: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is in Beijing tonight as the Biden administration looks to lower tensions with China after months of confrontation.
Our CNN senior international correspondent Will Ripley is covering the story for us.
So, Will, who is Secretary Yellen meeting with, and what are her big goals for this trip?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is actually going to be a pretty extensive visit. You're talking about a multi-day trip. It's going to last through the weekend. The biggest meeting is happening today local time expected. They might actually be getting under way or at least scheduled to get under way as we speak here, Alex. He is expected -- she is expected -- Yellen is expected to meet with
China's premier, the number two in the country who is Li Qiang. Now, that is just below and a close ally of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, who Secretary Janet Yellen is not expected to be meeting on this trip.
But she's going to be talking with a lot of other people. Obviously, the economy is going to be the main focus, this coming on the heels of Secretary Blinken's trip where both countries said they made a lot of progress in stabilizing relations after a very fraught period of months.
Remember, Blinken was actually supposed to go to Beijing and then there was the Chinese spy balloon that derailed that trip. Things really plunged and there were a lot of close calls including in the South China Sea and in the skies where planes and ships were coming dangerously close to each other.
U.S. and China were at a security summit. They didn't talk, they just had a brief handshake, but now the exchanges are continuing. And the big topic they're going to be talking about on the economic side is this vigorous competition particularly in the area of chips, the semiconductors, the highly advanced technology that powers everything from our smart phones, to our cars, to our laptops.
This week, China actually announced it's restricting exports of one of the two metals that are used to make most of the world's chips, gallium. And so China controls this raw material that's used in chips, and yet interestingly, Alex, here in Taiwan, they actually produce a majority of the world's semiconductors and you have the United States trying to strike deals with both to make sure the world's supply doesn't get interrupted for any reason.
MARQUARDT: And, Will, it's not just in China where the U.S. is focusing on these semiconductors, right?
RIPLEY: Well, yeah, exactly. Because obviously China and technology in the United States have a long contentious history. But here in Taiwan, where they have TSMC, the world's largest manufacturer of these -- of these chips, they want to ensure that the supply chain goes uninterrupted. And, frankly, they're concerned about the fact on this small island, again, so many of the world's highly advanced microchips are produced.
It makes -- that makes this technology supply chain incredibly vulnerable, the U.S. is worried. So, they're trying to move some of these chip production facilities to places like the United States, elsewhere in Asia and around the world.
The problem that they're having though, Alex, is that they haven't been able to match at any other location internationally the productivity they have here in Taiwan. These are people with advanced degrees who are often working very long grueling hours six days a week, and that's how they're able to produce these chips in such a profitable way. Here in Taiwan a magic formula they haven't been able to replicate in these other -- in these other countries, Alex. MARQUARDT: All right. Will Ripley, thank you very much.
I'm Alex Marquardt in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks so much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.