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The Situation Room
Trump Seeks Court Order To Upend Georgia Election Probe; Actors Join Writers On Strike, Shutting Down Hollywood; Suspect Charged With Murder In Long-Unsolved Serial Killings; Trump's GOP Rivals Court Iowa Evangelical Voters; More Than 90 Million People In 15 States Under Heat Alert. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 14, 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: Join me this Sunday for CNN State of the Union, my guest include National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly from Arizona, and Republican Presidential Candidate, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, that's at 9:00 A.M. and noon Eastern on Sunday.
Our coverage continues now with Jim Acosta, who's in for Wolf Blitzer, right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you Sunday.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the Trump legal team just asked for a new court order that would upend the investigation into 2020 election interference in Georgia as potential indictments loom, this as CNN has exclusive new reporting on the special counsel probe of Trump.
Also tonight, actors hit the picket lines, joining writers and striking against the film and T.V. industry. Some of the biggest stars in the business are now part of the walkout that's effectively shutting down Hollywood.
And after eluding police for well, over a decade, a suspect is charged with murder in the serial killings of women on Long Island. Officials revealing dramatic details a short while ago about how he was caught, including a trail of burner phones and alleged calls to taunt a victim's relatives.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Jim Acosta and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This hour, we are following new developments in two investigations of Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2024 presidential election that includes exclusive new CNN reporting of the probe by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Let's begin with CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, break down this new reporting for us and what it says about the scope of the special counsel's investigation. This is important. PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's incredibly important reporting by our colleague Zach Cohen, who is learned the secretaries of state in Pennsylvania and New Mexico have both spoken with investigators in the special counsel probe. Now, those were two of the seven states where we know the former president and his allies were really focused on trying to upend Biden's victory.
What's so interesting to me, though, in this new report is that when they were talking to the Pennsylvania secretary of state, he was specifically asked about his time as the Philadelphia city commissioner and about how misinformation impacted the election and especially election workers. And that's notable because we know an official in another state, in Michigan, was also asked about the impact of disinformation on election workers. So, this is clearly a new focus for the special counsel in recent months.
ACOSTA: And, Paula, separately, as potential indictments looming down in Fulton County, Georgia, related to Donald Trump's conduct after the 2020 election, his lawyers took new action today. What happened?
REID: Yes. They are trying once again to basically kill this state level investigation. We know the district attorney there, Fani Willis, has been looking into efforts by the former president and his allies to try to overturn that state's election results. And Willis used a special grand jury to conduct most of this investigation, speaking to well over 70 witnesses.
And here, Trump's lawyers are arguing that that was unconstitutional. They are trying to have it thrown out. And as you noted, it's possible, there's a new grand jury that's been seated down there. It's possible an indictment could be handed up any time now.
And, Jim, if you will just indulge the legal scholar in me, one of the quotes that really stuck out from the filing is Trump's lawyers say, quote, it is one thing to indict a ham sandwich, right? They always say you can indict anything, including a ham sandwich, but to indict the mustard stained napkin that it once sat on is quite another. We will see if that's a compelling legal argument.
ACOSTA: All right, we will find that out as well. All right, stay with us, as we bring in our legal and political experts. Elliot, let me go to you first, great to see you. Give us the 30,000-foot view. You heard about the mustard stained napkin there, but also, this newly revealed testimony in the special counsel's election probe. What do they reveal about the wide focus of this investigation? That means it is broadening it seems like almost every day.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is broadening almost every day. And it's certain that it's -- look, it's nationwide, the evidence that they are gathering. I can't count how many states they have now interviewed either secretaries of states or senior government officials. So, it's clear that it's comprehensive.
Now, certainly that doesn't mean that the president himself is getting charged with a crime. I would think charges were coming against someone at some point. And it's hard to know exactly whom. But, no, it's as comprehensive, as comprehensive as any investigation that any of us have seen, quite possibly. So, we will just have to wait and see as where the charges go.
ACOSTA: And, Elli, how far will all this testimony go in the special counsel focus in determining Trump's intent, because that seems to be something that they are very much focused on? It's something that we've seen develop just this week on several fronts.
ELLIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jim, I think that's the key issue. It's the most difficult for prosecutors to prove. And I think the earlier news that we had this week that DOJ has spoken with Jared Kushner, with Hope Hicks, that really tells us that they're drilling in on that exact issue. They want to figure out what was in Donald Trump's mind.
Judges will sometimes instruct a jury. Science has not yet developed some sort of technology that can allow you to read someone's mind. That's the instruction. But the comeback to that is the way you get inside someone's head is you talk to the people who are closest to them. And it's clear DOJ is trying to drill into that and get proof that Donald Trump either knew he had lost the election or reasonably should have known that.
ACOSTA: And, Paula, we're also getting new information in the classified documents case, which seems to develop every day as well.
ACOSTA: What can you tell us about that?
REID: So we're learning just how many warrants that investigators had as they conducted this investigation. Of course, we know they had a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, which they executed back in August. But we've learned they also had several other warrants for both devices and accounts. And that's been really critical in gathering evidence in this investigation. Because, remember, for something like recordings of all those interviews the former president did with journalists, all of those recorded by his staff were then uploaded to the cloud.
So, that's just one example of the various ways that investigators were trying to access information, through devices, through accounts, and then, of course, through the physical search of something like Mar-a-Lago.
ACOSTA: Yes, it's a lot of ground to cover. And, Elliot, the first hearing in this classified documents case is on Tuesday. How much is at stake there? What are we going to learn? Are we going to learn much from that proceeding, do you think?
WILLIAMS: Well, there's always plenty at stake. Now, to be clear, the Justice Department has asked for a trial as early as December, which would actually be quite ambitious under any circumstances for any federal case, let alone one involved in classified procedures. I would think that, incrementally, the date of the trial gets moved forward into next year or beyond, but we'll just have to wait and see.
But, obviously, every hearing is significant. Look, people will pick apart everything Judge Cannon, the judge overseeing the case does, given her history in the matter. She ruled once before in a matter that was widely criticized, in an opinion that was widely criticized, by, frankly, virtually, everybody having this conversation as we talk to you right now. So, people will be watching to see what she does and how she rules as we go from there.
ACOSTA: And, Nia, the political calendar next year is front of mind for this trial date. It's rapidly approaching.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. In six months, we'll be in the Iowa caucuses and voters will go to the polls and figure out who they want to be the nominee. If you're Donald Trump, you can see that he's already trying to push this trial as far off into the future as he can. And Jack Smith obviously wants a speedy trial. It's one of the first things that he said when he announced this indictment. And you see differing sides about what this trial date will mean.
Listen, if you're Donald Trump, you're essentially banking on, you'll become the GOP nominee and you'll win the presidency. And then he can pretty much squash this investigation. That's something we obviously haven't seen in American history before. And if you're Jack Smith, you kind of want this wrapped up as quickly as possible so that it's not tangled up in the political process there and voters are going to the polls.
But, listen, no matter what, it's going to be seen as political, certainly by people who are going to the polls in the GOP primary. So, we'll see when the date finally comes.
The other complicating factor is that there's another trial in New York, right? And that trial date is probably likely in the spring or something. So, there is a lot for this president or the former president to juggle with the special counsel, saying, listen, they want this done as quickly as possible.
ACOSTA: Yes, the calendar is filling up, no question about it. And, Elie, how do you assess the Trump team's case to throw out evidence and disqualify the Fulton County D.A., Fani Willis? I mean, this is something that they've talked about for a long time. Does it have any merit?
HONIG: Legally and procedurally, they're not going to win on this, Jim. The thing they're asking for here is not a thing legally. There's basically no way that a judge can prevent a grand jury from taking action, can stop a grand jury ahead of time from indicting.
But it's important to note, Donald Trump does have some legitimate points that he makes in this brief about the way that the D.A., Fani Willis, has injected politics into this case. She's already been disqualified from a piece of this case and chastised by the judge for a political conflict of interest. She's used pieces of this case to fundraise and to ask for more Twitter followers. She's made public statements that may cross the line.
So, Donald Trump's team is not going to win this motion, but there are issues that are going to crop up as we move along about the way Fani Willis has handled this case.
ACOSTA: And, Nia-Malika Henderson, how do you see it? I mean, does the district attorney's political background complicate this case down in Georgia? What do you think?
HENDERSON: It certainly does. And you can see what Donald Trump is doing here to try to make this all about politics. It's something he's done with all of the folks who are bringing these cases, whether Alvin Bragg in New York, as well as Jack Smith as well.
So, definitely, I think, when you think about a juror who's looking at some of the evidence, if this case goes to trial, sure, I imagine the sort of political background will certainly come up and be top of mind for some jurors there. So, you see Donald Trump and his team really playing that up.
ACOSTA: All right, guys, great conversation. I'm sure there's going to be a lot to watch next week as all of these cases develop. I really appreciate it.
Just ahead, why tens of thousands of actors just went on strike and the fallout that extends far beyond Hollywood.
ACOSTA: Tonight, Hollywood is reeling from the actors strike since 1980, the walkout delivering a devastating blow to T.V. and film productions that were already paralyzed by writer strikes.
CNN's Natasha is covering it all in Los Angeles for us. Natasha, hard to believe this, but this is the largest labor strike in the U.S. in a quarter century. Tell us more.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, 160,000 actors now on strike at the same time as the writers guild, that has not happened, a double strike like that since 1960.
Now, productions have already slowed down since the writers went on strike in early May. The only shoots that have been going on are ones where the script was already locked in, but now with the actors not working, most remaining productions in Hollywood come to a halt.
FRAN DRESCHER, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, SAG-AFTRA: I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us.
CHEN (voice over): Tonight, actors join writers at odds with major Hollywood studios.
BRITTANY GARMS, MEMBER, SAG-AFTRA: I understand that streaming is such an uncharted territory, but all these millionaires are making money if nobody else is seeing any of that money.
CHEN: Workers across the country who support productions, from janitors to restaurant owners, also face uncertainty.
ROSIE BLOSSER, RESTAURANT OWNER IMPACTED BY STRIKE: It's kind of scary and I'm trying to figure out like what can I do today to keep it going.
CHEN: A-list actors are voicing their support of the strikes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very much in support of all the unions.
MATT DAMON, ACTOR: There's money being made and it needs to be allocated in a way that takes care of people who are on the margins.
CHEN: The cast of Oppenheimer walked out of their film premiere.
FLORENCE PUGH, ACTOR: It's been a really, really tense few days for a lot of people, not just actors, but everybody in the industry who are going to be affected by this decision.
CHEN: Along with better pay, actors say residuals for past work have dried up in the streaming era.
JOEL KIM BOOSTER, MEMBER, SAG-AFTRA: There's a whole middle class of writers and actors that is disappearing because they're making it more and more difficult to just make a living.
CHEN: Add to that artificial intelligence, which actors say threatens their future by replacing them.
DUNCAN CRABTREE-IRELAND, NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND CHIEF NEGOTIATOR, SAG-AFTRA: They proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day's pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and to be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation.
CHEN: But studios say they've offered the highest percent increase and minimum pay in 35 years and that actors aren't considering the reality of declining revenues in traditional media, nor the challenges of streaming services.
BOB IGER, CEO, DISNEY: There's a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic. And they are adding to a set of challenges that this business is already facing that is quite frankly very disruptive.
DRESCHER: How they plead poverty, that they're losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting.
CHEN: We spoke with Fran Drescher after the strike was announced.
DRESCHER: We really believe that they wanted to make a deal. But, in fact, now I feel a little duped.
How far apart are you?
CRABTREE-IRELAND: Well, I mean, there's a fairly big gap. They can make a deal right this minute if they wanted to do that. And we remain ready and willing to come back to the bargaining tables.
CHEN (on camera): The chief negotiator also told me that the studios told SAG-AFTRA they would not sit down for talks while a strike is ongoing. So, we're not sure how long this will go on for. And the writers have not made much progress either in the two months they've been on strike.
I do want to mention this is very much an industry town here. We've heard lots of stories about how both spouses in a household work in entertainment. And so this means the loss of both incomes. In fact, I saw a couple out here on the picket line outside Netflix today holding a sign that said, we just got married and this is our honeymoon. Jim?
ACOSTA: Wow, it has to be a crushing blow across Hollywood for so many people out there. All right, Natasha Chen, thanks very much.
Coming up, law enforcement officials in New York announce a breakthrough in an unsolved decade-old murder case. We'll have a live report from Long Island.
Plus, why police say a doorbell video is now a key piece of evidence in the search for an escaped inmate in Pennsylvania.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ACOSTA: A suspect was arrested in connection with a previously unsolved cold case in Long Island going back to 2010 known as the Gilgo Beach Murders.
For more on this story, I'm joined by our very own Miguel Marquez in Massapequa Park, New York. Miguel, what led to this suspect being caught? A wild case.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Incredible, and it is a case that has gripped this part of Long Island, all of Long Island, for over a decade now and there is great relief that at least part of it is done.
Just a little background on this, there were 11 bodies found in that Gilgo Beach area, today, three, possibly four, police say, they have a suspect in the deaths of those four women. It took an enormous effort with a new investigation looking at all of the evidence and it was DNA evidence, cell phone evidence, email evidence, hundreds of subpoenas and search warrants to get all that information.
And investigators aren't done yet. There is a fourth that they've charged an individual with three of these murders. They say they are still investigating a fourth, but the reason that they did not charge the fourth is they were afraid he was going to strike again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY TIERNEY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK: And one of the reasons why we had to take this case down was we learned that the defendant was using these alternate identities and these alternate instruments to continue to patronize sex workers, which, of course, made us very nervous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: So, arrested was 59 year old Rex Heuermann who lives in this house behind me. I'm going to show you some of what's going on because they arrested him last night or earlier and this is where he lives. They arrested him in Manhattan where he works. We're about an hour, hour-and-a-half by train to Manhattan. But this has been a very active scene.
Police from Nassau County, State Troopers, Suffolk County, all out here, going through the house, we've seen evidence coming out of the house all day long. They are looking through everything, both physical and digital, to tie him to this case.
But the fact that they were able to get a little bit of DNA evidence and then they were able to surveil him, they were able to identify who he was, they were able to surveil him in Manhattan, where he worked, watched him buy a piece of pizza, eat it, put the remains of it into a cardboard box, dump that in a trash can on Fifth Avenue in New York.
They picked that up, did the DNA on that crust of pizza, and that's what gave them the physical evidence, linking him to these three murders.
ACOSTA: Wow. And, Miguel, incredibly, authorities say the suspect tried to contact victim families. Tell us about that.
MARQUEZ: So, he had burner phones, tons of email accounts with fictitious names and burner phones, lots of burner phones throughout all of this. And at one point, he contacted one of the victims' families, taunting them, say investigators, what he had done to these victims.
And keep in mind, these were all -- these were four women in their 20s, petite, they were all sex workers. They were found tied and they were -- three of them were put in sort of camouflaged burlap bags and then dumped in a grassy area near Gilgo Beach out here. So, it's just disturbing the facts of this case. And just seeing the number of people who have come out in the neighborhood here and the efforts that investigators have put into it, there is great relief that at least part of these deaths in this area has been hopefully resolved. Jim?
ACOSTA: Yes, a very disturbing case. Miguel Marquez with that live report for us, thanks very much.
Joining me now to talk about this are CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey and criminologist Casey Jordan.
Casey, you just heard some of these gruesome details and just a wild case. How does this fit into the suspect's profile as an alleged serial killer?
CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST: It fits perfectly. And I was covering this case a lot in 2010-2011. I mean, we were really riveted, not just in the New York City area, but as a nation, about the bodies found in Gilgo Beach.
Remember, a young sex worker had escaped from a home and disappeared and it was in the search for her that they found these four bodies on the beach that they weren't even looking for. So, when you have a serial killer in your midst that you haven't been looking for, you develop a profile mostly based on the victimology, the factors related to those women who were found.
And the profile that was developed at that time by the FBI and other investigative profilers absolutely would have fit this sort of suspect. We have to remember that he's 59 now, but 13 years ago, he would have been in his mid 40s, which is exactly what we predicted.
Faithfully (ph) employed, married, you know, the every -- you've got to remember Jim that serial killers are by definition successful killers. They blend. They don't look different than anyone else. That's how they get away with it. But I think he relaxed and thought we weren't looking for him anymore. And that's when they start screwing up.
ACOSTA: Right. So, often the guy next door, you never saw it coming, that sort of thing, absolutely.
And, Chief Ramsey, peel back the curtain for us on just how investigators landed on this suspect so many years after these horrible murders. I'm struck by that detail that Miguel Marquez relayed a few moments ago about the pizza crust in the trash can, just incredible.
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, it is incredible. I mean, there's been so many advances in technology, DNA technology in particular. I mean, ten years ago, that would not have yielded the results that it did in this particular case right now because at the time, you know, they simply weren't able to analyze the pizza crust to the point where they could connect it directly to an individual. So, you know, there's just been so many advances. But the task force just did a tremendous job. I mean, this is a cold case. This is, you know, 13 years ago. And the older a case is, the more difficult it becomes to solve. And so they just stayed with it. Apparently picked it up again in 2022 as a task force and caught a few breaks. So, you know, they just did a tremendous job.
And one thing I just want to mention, because it's not just the detectives. I mean, when you think about how carefully they must have processed those scenes and then it's collection and the preservation of the evidence, because DNA degrades overtime. And so, you know, to properly store it and have it available, because who knows what the technology will be like five years, ten years from now. There are cases sitting right now that five years from now will be solvable simply because of the advances in technologies, in forensic science.
ACOSTA: It's a wild case and I suspect we're going to get some more fascinating details as they come out over the course of the next several weeks. Charles Ramsey, Casey Jordan, thanks very much. I really appreciate it. Great to talk to you.
There's an important new update tonight in the manhunt for a dangerous escape prisoner in Northern Pennsylvania. For more on that story, I'm joined now by our very own Brian Todd in Warren, Pennsylvania. Brian, what are we learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, tonight, police releasing some important new video. What they say is a confirmed sighting of this fugitive, Michael Burham. And with that new video, some critical new information about his physical condition.
TODD (voice over): A compelling new piece of evidence tonight in the manhunt for escaped inmate Michael Burham in Northern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania State Police released this doorbell camera video saying this is Burham walking past a home in an area just south of the city of Warren.
LT. COL. GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: We consider this to be a confirmed sighting for a variety of reasons.
TODD: Police say this video was recorded in the last few days, just after 5:00 A.M.
BIVENS: He is, no doubt, becoming more desperate and will attempt to acquire the things he needs to survive.
TODD: Police now say they believe Burham has an injury to an ankle or a leg. They say the video indicates he is probably limping.
BIVENS: We believe that he did potentially have an injury during the escape.
TODD: This comes one day after police showed us this photo saying they're confident this bag and tarp full of clothes, food and other items belong to Burham. They said it was found in the general area of the city of Warren in the woods. Police also called on Burham to turn himself in.
BIVENS: Don't do anything foolish that gets anyone else hurt. Don't get yourself hurt. We are going to capture you.
TODD: Burham is considered armed and dangerous and is wanted in several alleged cases including the shooting death of a 34-year-old woman, a carjacking and kidnapping of an elderly couple and setting his ex's car on fire.
Police say he escaped Warren County Prison last Thursday night through a hole in the cage surrounding the prison's rooftop gym, rappelling down using bed sheets tied together. Burham eluded law enforcement earlier this year before his arrest when it took two weeks to capture him. This dash camera video shows when law enforcement caught him back in May in South Carolina.
As for this manhunt, Warren residents say they're taking every precaution necessary to remain safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until he is captured, I'm going to be sitting here armed because I have the right to bear arms and my wife and I both have permits.
TODD: And Tim Ryan, who hikes these mountains often, told us about the forbidding terrain that Burham and his pursuers are up against.
TIM RYON, OWNS CABIN IN ALLEGHENY NATIONAL FOREST: If you get off trail, it's very severe. It's very rocky. It can be very steep in places.
TODD (on camera): Even though Burham is considered armed, dangerous and as police now say, desperate, Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens of the Pennsylvania State Police says he is not recommending that the many hikers and campers in this area cancel their planned outdoor activities this weekend or in the coming days. Though, Burham is a survivalist, Lieutenant Colonel Bivens says he's got members of his own search teams who themselves specialize in surviving in and in navigating some remote wilderness areas. And, Jim, they're going to need those skills in this search. It's very remote out here.
ACOSTA: Absolutely. All right, Brian Todd, thanks for that update, I really appreciate it.
Just ahead, a showdown is brewing over a big defense spending bill after conservative Republicans pushed a version through the house that's packed with polarizing amendments.
[18:35:00] ACOSTA: Tonight, a massive defense spending bill is heading to the Senate after it was approved by the House with polarizing amendments. Conservative House Republicans successfully adding provisions on hot button social issues.
Let's bring in CNN Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona. Melanie, tell us more about the bill and what it says about the influence of the GOP's right wing. They certainly are having a moment with this bill.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, absolutely, Jim. I mean, I think this says a lot about the Republican Party's influence and how much it is being pulled to the right by these hard line lawmakers.
Keep in mind, this has been a historically bipartisan bill. GOP leadership was initially reluctant to put some of these controversial amendments on the House floor knowing that it will repel Democratic support and even put some of their own members in a difficult position.
But, ultimately, Speaker Kevin McCarthy catered to his right flank, like he has done time and time again this year. And the House ended up adopting a number of controversial hot button issues, touching on everything from abortion to transgender rights, to diversity, equity and inclusion training.
Now, McCarthy defended his decision to include these amendments. He said it's on Democrats for trying to force their social agenda at the Pentagon and that Republicans are just trying to rein that in end so- called woke-ism in the military.
But I asked Kevin McCarthy, what does this say about who is running the House? Are hard line Freedom Caucus members running the House? They went and took credit for being able to shape this bill in the way that they did. And McCarthy laughed and said, I don't think so. But Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries had a different take. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Stop using taxpayer money to do their own woke-ism. A military cannot defend themselves if you train them in woke.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Extreme MAGA Republicans have hijacked a bipartisan bill that is essential to our national security and taken it over and weaponized it in order to jam their extreme right wing ideology down the throats of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So, an early preview there of what is likely to be a big clash between the House and Senate as they try to come up with an agreement on a final product, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. Melanie Zanona, thank you very much. And joining me now to talk about this is Congressman Ro Khanna, the deputy whip of the Progressive Caucus. The California Democrat also serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
Congressman, thanks for joining us.
As you know, Speaker McCarthy is accusing Democrats who voted against this defense bill, like yourself, of putting politics over the country's servicemen and women. What's your response to that?
REP. RO KHANNA (R-CA): Well, Chairman Milley disagrees with Speaker McCarthy. I mea,n Chairman Milley said in the military we have to educate folks about reading all the different books and it would be shameful for the military not to do that. So, what the Republicans are doing is disregarding the advice of military officers, putting in very divisive amendments that they can't read certain books, that they can't have reproductive rights. And you had all of the Democrats, many of whom who actually voted for the bill and committee now say we can't vote for the bill because it's too extreme.
ACOSTA: And, Congressman, how concerned are you about Republicans eliminating diversity initiatives in the military? What sort of impact would that have if these amendments were to become law?
KHANNA: Well Jim, the military has historically been the leader in building a multiracial society. They led in integration. They've led in making sure that people have camaraderie and then that carries on after their service. So, it's just sad that the Republicans would inject this kind of cultural warfare into the military. The military should be there to be protecting the country.
And I guess it shouldn't be politicians arguing. Why don't we listen to the top military brass? They're the ones who are saying that the practices they have right now are working.
ACOSTA: And it sounds like this bill is dead on arrival in the Senate, maybe dead on departure in the Senate. What should the bipartisan compromise between the House and Senate look like, do you think?
KHANNA: Well, the first thing we have to also understand is the spending. Let's be clear, Jim, we are being gouged by defense contractors in terms of the taxpayers are being charged.
Here's the question I have. We have almost a trillion dollar defense budget and we can't make enough artillery to give to Ukraine. We've had this war for almost a year and we've run out of money to have sufficient artillery in terms of steel of the top 15 companies. Nine of them are in China, not one in the United States. Where is this money going? We need accountability and we need to be building the industrial base and actually having things that are going to strengthen our national security.
ACOSTA: And would you vote for a final bill that had any of these GOP amendments? We're showing some of them on screen now dismantling the Defense Department policy on abortion, eliminate office of diversity, equity, inclusion, ban critical race theory, ban radical gender ideology, as it's called in books and military schools, prohibit use of pride flag. I mean, would any of these amendments fly with you?
KHANNA: From that list, scanning them? And I don't think they'll fly with colleagues. We're not going to sacrifice basic reproductive rights, basic rights for the LGBTQ community on a military budget, especially when the military leaders don't want to do that. And the Democrats don't do that. We don't add our priorities that are extraneous when we passed these defense bills. It's sad to see the Republicans doing this.
ACOSTA: And before I let you go, I want to get your reaction to a stunning comment from Congressman Crane on the House floor during the debate over this bill. He's Republican from Arizona. Let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELI CRANE (R-AZ): My amendment has nothing to do with whether or not colored people or black people or anybody can serve, okay? It has nothing to do with color of your skin --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker --
CRANE: -- any of that stuff?
REP. JOYCE BEATTY (R-AZ): I'd like to be recognized to have the words colored people stricken from the record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Congressman, what went through your mind when you heard that?
KHANNA: It was sad. I mean, I just thought we had gone past this as a country. You know, I was standing outside the White House getting folks a White House tour, and there were some folks that they said to me, are you Lebanese when I was introduced to the congressman. Were you born in America?
And I think it's just a reminder, those kind of comments, the comments I face, that race is still an issue in America, and we have to be honest about it. We don't have to condemn people if they bring these things up, but we do have to condemn what their actions are and speak out equivocally against that and ask for to do better as a nation.
ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Ro Khanna of California, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.
KHANNA: Thank you.
ACOSTA: All right. Coming up, Donald Trump's Republican rivals are courting religious conservatives in Iowa trying to gain traction and take advantage of his conspicuous accidents. We'll go live to the home of the first Republican presidential contest of 2024. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ACOSTA: Republican presidential candidates are trying to make inroads with evangelical voters in the state that holds the first GOP contest of 2024, Iowa.
CNN's Jessica Dean joins us now from Des Moines.
Jessica, Donald Trump is not at the event. His rivals are trying to capitalize on that, aren't they?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and he continues to lead so widely in so many polls, Jim. So, these rivals are looking for any end they can get. Today, it was with a crowd of critical voters in Iowa, a crowd of evangelicals.
DEAN (voice-over): A moment where religion meets politics with just six months until the Iowa caucuses. On Friday, a number of Republican presidential candidates making their case to evangelical voters in Des Moines.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America needs positive, powerful, biblically sound leadership to regain the high ground.
DEAN: One conspicuous absence, former President Donald Trump who skipped the event but will travel to Iowa next week. His rivals, who continue to lag behind Trump in the polls, hoping to use this moment to stand out.
MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Trump's words were reckless. Whatever his intentions in the moment, it endangered me and my family and everyone that was at the capitol that day. I believe history will hold him accountable for that.
DEAN: Friday's crowd, made up of a key voting bloc of conservative voters, focused on issues like abortion and restrictions on transgender rights.
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison defended his veto of a bill that would have prohibited gender-affirming care procedures for trans people under the age of 18.
ASA HUTCHINSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe that parents ought to be in control, and I also believe in the Constitution. I believe that God created two genders, and that there should not be any confusion on your gender. But if there is confusion, then parents ought to be the one that guides the children.
GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R), IOWA: Thank you. DEAN: Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, popular among conservatives in the
state, has pledged to remain neutral in the primary but has appeared at several events with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
Earlier this week, Trump attacked Reynolds for not endorsing him, writing on Truth Social in part, quote, I opened up the governor position for Kim Reynolds and when she fell behind, I endorsed her.
And in response, DeSantis called Reynolds, quote, a strong leader who knows how to ignore the chirping and get it done.
While Haley touted the Iowa governor as a quote, conservative rock star. Reynolds signed Iowa's new six-week abortion bill into law at the event on Friday. It's a is very similar to the one signed by DeSantis in Florida.
REYNOLDS: I could not imagine a more appropriate place to sign this bill than here at the family leaders summit.
DEAN (on camera): Governor DeSantis closed out this event this afternoon. Just a few moments ago, he ended his remarks to the crowd here and he talked a little bit about that six-week abortion ban, Jim. He stopped short of committing to a federal six-week abortion ban and said he would use the office as a bully pulpit to support governors like Governor Reynolds who are signing legislation like this into law.
And just back to former President Donald Trump for a second. He really didn't, you know, he wasn't here obviously physically, and in terms of any criticism or anyone thought after, when it was really most explicit with former Vice President Mike Pence. We heard from him earlier in that piece. That was about as explicit as it got.
Otherwise, these candidates tried to introduce themselves and sell themselves to these voters, again, trying to carve out their own lane as they look to take on the former president in this primary -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Yeah, but a lot of these candidates still avoiding going after Trump.
Our Jessica Dean in Iowa, critical state, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Coming up, on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT", an interview with a teacher who says she was fired off of his book out about her school district barring first graders from singing a Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus song called "Rainbow Land". That's coming up very soon at 7:00 Eastern right here on CNN.
And we'll have more news just a hit in THE SITUATION ROOM. Temperatures are soaring across the United States and there isn't any let up inside. We'll show you how Americans are coping.
And you are live in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ACOSTA: We are monitoring extreme summer weather across the United States as the heat intensifies in parts of the west and south, and weather records are being broken almost daily.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is covering the story from Dallas.
It's hot there as well, Ed. It feels like it's hot everywhere.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. The scorching misery of summer is well upon us, and it will be a record setting weekend.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): More than 90 million people across the country are feeling the suffocation of an extreme heat wave. Widespread temperatures well over 100 degrees and heat index temperatures topping 110 degrees in many places. The heat unrelenting, like the popping sound off pickleball on this Dallas courts, and at least one player looking for an escape.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE : I'm getting out of town. I won't be back until August. It's because of the heat. I mean, Minnesota is a place to be right now. So, I'm going up there.
LAVANDERA: The American Southwest has seen 34 straight days of heat alerts, and while some might dismiss this as just another summer, the author of the book "The Heat Will Kill You First" warns people underestimate the dangerous heat.
JEFF GOODELL, AUTHOR, "THE HEAT WILL KILL YOU FIRST": What I have learned is that we radically must understand the risks of extreme heat. We think that heat means a good day to go to the pull or go to the beach. We don't understand how dangerous it is.
LAVANDERA: When elephants at the Dallas Zoo need relief to fight for the heat wave, it is a sign of the humans need to be aware as well. The zoo is shifting its hours to open earlier, and monitoring animals not accustomed to these extreme temperatures.
SAM SAFRANEK, DALLAS ZOOLOGIST: Mostly being lethargic is a good indicator of whether they are too hot. Hosing them down, most animals do appreciate a good host. Down
LAVANDERA: ERCAT, the agency managing the Texas power grid says the state set an unofficial record for peak energy used on Thursday, but also says the grid has enough power to handle the increased demand.
But for millions of people who work outside, it's impossible to escape the punishing heat.
For package delivery drivers -- SHEA SQUALLS, UPS DRIVER: You have to prepare yourself each and every
day. That mission starts at home. You start -- as soon as you wake up, you start hydrating.
LAVANDERA: And farm workers and landscaping crews out in the field.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If it gets very hot, we'll actually pull our crews and not allow them to work that day.
LAVANDERA: And for children like Kameron Johnson trying to enjoy summer vacation -- well, this is no fun.
KAMERON JOHNSON, DALLAS, TEXAS: It feels like if hot sauce could be felt without you having to taste, and it got poured on my back.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Yeah, summer will feel like we're all swimming in hot sauce. That young man has it absolutely correct.
And, Jim, the hottest place on Earth will probably be in Death Valley, California, this weekend where the temperature could hit 130 degrees. That temperature has only been marked there five times in 110 years of record keeping -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Just unbelievable. It has been one very spicy summer.
All right. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much. I'm Jim Acosta in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now. Have a good night.