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Hunter Biden Plea Deal On Hold After Dramatic Hearing; Mitch McConnell Says He's Fine After Freezing During News Conference; Rudy Giuliani Admits He Defamed Two Georgia Election Workers; Republicans Grill DHS Secretary Mayorkas Amid Impeachment Push; Federal Reserve Raises Key Interest Rate By A Quarter Point; Officials And Lawmakers Push For More Government Transparency About UFOs. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 26, 2023 - 17:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: 56 years old and survived by her three children. Our thoughts are with her and her family.

And if you ever miss an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to the show wherever you get your podcast. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a dramatic day in court for Hunter Biden. A federal judge raising concerns about his plea deal, and then putting it on hold. We'll take a closer look at what's next for the president's son and the ongoing Justice Department investigation of him.

Also tonight, former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is now conceding that he defamed -- defamed -- two Georgia election workers. Why is he doing this now? And what impact might it have on investigations of 2020 presidential election interference?

And House Republicans grill the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on border security, including some GOP lawmakers pushing for his impeachment. We'll discuss the politics of impeachment in 2023 as some conservative Republicans also are setting their sights on President Biden.

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 with the Hunter Biden court hearing that went off the rails today. The president's son may had been expected to sign a plea deal but the federal judge in the case had other ideas.

CNN's Sara Murray has been covering all of the twists and turns for us today. She's here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So, Sara, where do things stand now for Hunter Biden?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was a really remarkable day in court, not going at all I think how anyone expected it to go today. It's very rare to see a judge come out and say, you know, that she's not prepared to accept a plea deal, but that is exactly what this judge did, setting a clock of 30 days for both sides to provide more information to her about some of the questions she has surrounding this deal.


MURRAY (voice-over): After a tumultuous day in federal court, Hunter Biden left with no plea deal after a federal judge said she was not ready to accept it.

President Joe Biden's son arrived in federal court today prepared to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and to strike a deal to avoid a felony gun charge. After a five-year Justice Department probe that Hunter Biden once predicted he would emerge from unscathed.

HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: I am absolutely certain, 100 percent certain that at the end of the investigation that I will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

MURRAY: Instead, Judge Maryellen Noreika, a Trump appointee, wanted to know if the investigation was over. Prosecutors told her it was ongoing. Then the two sides could not agree if Hunter Biden was at risk of additional charges if he took this deal. With that, the deal was derailed. Eventually Hunter Biden's team agreed he was not shielded from further charges, and the deal seemed, for a moment, back on track.

But then the judge raised questions about the gun deal. Is this even constitutional, she asked. And she said she was not ready to sign off on the deal. The hearing ended with Hunter Biden in a pro-forma move pleading not guilty. The courtroom drama providing another opening for Republican lawmakers who slammed the plea agreement.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): At least there's some scrutiny going on. The plea deal we saw as it started was garbage.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Hunter Biden is getting a sweetheart deal that no other American who wasn't rich and had a father who's the president would ever get. Ever.

MURRAY: Republicans already seeking more information about the Hunter Biden probe after two IRS whistleblowers who worked on the case claimed there was political interference, dating back to the Trump administration and continuing under the Biden administration.

GARY SHAPELY, IRS WHISTLEBLOWER: There should not be a two-track justice system depending on who you are and who you're connected to.

MURRAY: The White House today reiterating that the president stands by his son, but played no role in the investigation.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This case was handled independently, as all of you know, by the Justice Department under the leadership of a prosecutor appointed by the former president, President Trump. MURRAY: The plea deal was set to cover Hunter Biden's tax

transgressions over a five-year span, his drug issues, and his firearm possession charge. Prosecutors say Hunter Biden failed to pay between $1.1 million and $1.5 million in federal taxes, and they highlighted his substantial income from Ukrainian and Chinese energy companies, saying he did in fact have the funds available to pay his taxes in certain years but he failed to do so. Instead prosecutors say he spent wildly on personal luxuries and expenses.


MURRAY: Now, our colleagues in the courtroom today said the judge did address Hunter Biden at the end of this hearing saying, look, I know you wanted to resolve this. I'm sorry, but essentially I need to be careful in how I'm handling it. So obviously Hunter Biden's legal woes and certainly his political woes are not ending today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's certainly not ending, at least not yet.


All right, Sara, stay with us. I also want to bring in our political and legal experts to discuss.

Elliot Williams, I'll start with you. You're a former federal prosecutor. What led to this deal unraveling today?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, Wolf, whenever anyone pleads guilty in federal court, what that defendant is doing is waiving his right to a trial and waiving any number of other rights. And it's really important that someone be able to say that he understands what he's giving up. And I think the judge had seemed to find that the parties just weren't in agreement as to all of that. That they, number one, have not fairly struck a deal or just weren't in agreement as to the terms, and number two, that perhaps Hunter Biden might have been waiving some rights that he didn't know about.

You know, this is kind of a big blunder on the part of the parties, both the government and particularly Hunter Biden's attorneys, to walk into the room in the court today and not been clear about what they were actually agreeing to and what charges were going away. So it's sort of egg on a lot of people's faces and then we'll just have to see how this is resolved over the coming weeks.

BLITZER: We will find out. You know, David Chalian, the fact that we're reporting on all of this about Hunter Biden can't be a very welcome news for the president.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, certainly not. I don't think anybody would put in their playbook of how to run a re-election campaign that you want the president's son to be in this kind of legal jeopardy.

BLITZER: First time in American history.

CHALIAN: And yes, and of course putting a really dark chapter from the Biden's family history out for public display as well. Obviously they didn't want this outcome today. We know that the president and the first lady were hoping that today would bring some sort of resolution to this. In fact, Hunter Biden's attorney, back in June when this deal was announced, used that word that this would be brought to resolution and clearly that's not the case.

Not only is it not revolved, there is an ongoing investigation here and those headlines are going to continue to swirl because Republicans are going to keep them front and center during Joe Biden's re-election campaign.

BLITZER: And certainly will. Abby, let's talk a little bit about what the White House, what made the White House point out that this case was handled under a Trump appointed prosecutor.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, look, one of the biggest accusations against prosecutors in this case is that they have been handling Hunter Biden with kid gloves and treating him differently than they would treat any other person. So the White House understandably is basically saying, look, this is a Trump appointed U.S. attorney.

This was an investigation that began under the previous administration, and if it was stalled, it was stalled under that administration, too. And I think that those are both factual things. One factor here that, you know, I think we all have to consider is that whatever is happening with this Hunter Biden investigation, clearly it transcends, you know, the leadership of the Justice Department, the leadership of the White House.

And if there are any efforts to kind of put Hunter Biden in a different category, the reasons for that may not be solely political. And I think that that's probably what came out of this hearing today is that even the judge looks at this and is like, this is confusing. This may not be typical for this kind of case, and that may not be because of politics. It may be for other reasons, too. That's not going to stop Republicans from accusing the DOJ of being political, but I do think we should just keep in mind that there might be other things at play here.

BLITZER: Yes. And, Sara, so what's next for Republicans up on Capitol Hill as they pursue all this?

MURRAY: Well, look, they want a whole lot more information from basically everyone from the Biden family. They want to know more about how the Hunter Biden probe was conducted, they want to know more about Hunter Biden's finances, they want to know more frankly about President Joe Biden's finances. We've seen House Speaker Kevin McCarthy out there suggesting, you know, an impeachment inquiry. It might be something that is necessary in order to get more information about the Biden family business dealings, even though Republicans to this point haven't been able to prove that Joe Biden at all benefited from Hunter Biden's overseas business deals.

I think from a practical matter, though, it makes it harder for Republicans to get information as long as this is an ongoing investigation. You know, Jim Jordan doesn't just want to hear from David Weiss, the U.S. attorney overseeing this, he wants to hear from all sorts of investigators who worked on this probe. And it's hard to believe that the FBI or DOJ are going to make folks like that available while this is still an ongoing investigation.

BLITZER: Yes. Important point.

Elliot, how significant is it that the Justice Department's investigation is ongoing right now? Does that mean Hunter Biden could face other criminal charges?

WILLIAMS: He could, Wolf. And that was at least in part why the judge took such serious pause with what had happened here. It wasn't clear that the Justice Department was saying that they would not prosecute him for anything in the future or simply the acts that he was pleading guilty to here, and a defendant sort of needs to know that before agreeing to plead guilty.

It is quite significant because the kinds of matters that are at least rumored to be investigated at least considered by the Justice Department are certainly far more serious than the ones that he'd been pleading guilty to. There's a possible foreign -- the judge mentioned today foreign registration of lobbying clients, which is another charge, and then any others that they might be looking into.


And so, again, it's hard to separate the noise from the reality here, and some of this might just be congressional Republicans putting things in the water. However, the fact that there might be other charges or other crimes he's being investigated for is in fact quite serious.

BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, guys, thank you very much.

Coming up, a very disturbing moment up on Capitol Hill today as Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell froze right in the middle of a news conference. We'll have an update on his condition.

And what drove Rudy Giuliani to concede that he defamed two Georgia election workers? We're following new legal moves by the former Trump lawyer, as his ex-boss is facing potential indictment.


BLITZER: Tonight, new questions about the health of the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell after the 81-year-old Republican froze in mid-sentence during a news conference.

CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona is following the story for us.

Melanie, first of all, walk us through what happened and how McConnell's office is responding to all of this tonight.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, this occurred at McConnell's weekly press conference.


As he was giving his opening remarks, he stopped mid-sentence and froze without blinking for over a good 20 seconds there before Senator John Barrasso who's also a former physician came over to check on him and then he was ushered away to the sidelines by an aide and some of his colleagues.

Let's watch that moment.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): After finishing the NDA this week, with good bipartisan cooperation, and a string of --

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Hey, Mitch? Anything else you want to say or should we just go back to your office? Do you want to say anything else to the press?




ZANONA: Now, McConnell did come back to the podium about 12 minutes later. He took the first question from our colleague Manu Raju, called on him by name. He went on to take other questions, even talking about impeachment at length. But all he would really say about his health is that he is fine. Let's take a listen.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Could you address what happened here at the start of the press conference? Was it related to your injury from earlier this year where you suffered a concussion? Is that --

MCCONNELL: I'm fine.

RAJU: You're fine? You're fully able to do your job?



ZANONA: What Manu was referencing there was an incident earlier this year in March when McConnell tripped and fell at an event. He hit his head. He was later diagnosed with a concussion and some broken ribs and he was out of the Senate for six weeks.

Now we should also point out that McConnell is a child polio survival, so he has struggled with balance issues throughout his life. But as far as today's episode, we have been asking his office whether he has seen a doctor, whether he plans to seek medical attention. All they will tell us at this moment is that McConnell felt light-headed, that he stepped away just for a moment but that he came back, quote, "sharp."

So still a lot of questions around his McConnell's health. I can tell you, Wolf, just from observing him in recent weeks that he is acting a little bit differently than he normally does. He's been walking a little bit slower, speaking a little bit more softly. In fact last month, he couldn't hear the reporter's questions even though they were really audible questions. So this 81-year-old says he's fine and we're keeping tabs on how he is doing. A lot of concerns about this episode today, but all of his colleagues so far wishing him well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We certainly do wish him well. Let's hope for the best. Melanie Zanona, up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

Let's turn right now to some new legal maneuvers in connection with efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. The former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani now conceding that he defamed two Georgia election workers.

CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz is here with us. She's got details.

Why is Giuliani saying this now and where does this go from here, Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Rudy Giuliani is saying this now because he's been in hot water in a lawsuit. So a lot of things that happened after the 2020 election have been really significant legal fallout for Giuliani. And one of those is that he was sued by two election workers in Georgia, Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, because they said that he caused them great harm to their personal lives. One of them had to leave their home for their own safety.

And that's because Giuliani was circulating information essentially accusing them of stuffing ballots when they were taking part in the vote counting in Atlanta. Now the Georgia state officials looked into this and found no such thing. And so these women had come out publicly and sued him for defamation and also said that he was part of the problem here.

Now, in this lawsuit where they had been in court trying to get some sort of damages out of Giuliani, he now has to come into that case because the judge was quite angry with him about how the way the lawsuit was going. And so he's conceding now that he did make some level of false statement about these women after the 2020 election, that those statements were defamatory.

But he's trying to contain that in this particular lawsuit, so it doesn't hurt him in the other legal risks he has related to 2020. And so he's trying to say that, you know, he may not need to be liable for the damages that these women face, that he might not need to pay them money, and also that his speech after the 2020 election is protected constitutionally. Now how that is going to fly with this judge is still a question. The

judge has been very unhappy with him because he's been unwilling to turn over information. And, you know, we have gotten a couple of statements since this. And just to look at them on one side versus the other, Rudy Giuliani's political adviser, Ted Goodman, is now saying that this, what he did today, this concession, it's a legal issue, not a factual issue.


And yet on the other side, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss' attorney Michael Gottlieb is saying that this concession that he made these false statements, this is a major milestone in these women's fight for justice.

BLITZER: These two women were getting all sorts of threats as a result of those false accusations by Giuliani and other Trump allies.

Stay with us. Don't go too far away. I want to bring in our legal analysts Elliot Williams and Norm Eisen into the conversation.

Elliot, help us read between the lines here. This is a very strange concession on his part. What is Giuliani's end game right now?

WILLIAMS: You know, Wolf, I have been a lawyer for a pretty long time, and I'll be candid with you, I truly do not understand what Rudy Giuliani is attempting to do here for a couple of reasons. One, it's a core admission. It's a pretty basic admission in a suit about defamation that requires plaintiffs, the people suing him, to prove that he made a false statement that he knew was false that hurt the plaintiffs in some way. He has admitted that.

Now, now, I guess a couple of things he could be doing is, number one, trying to limit the damages that he may pay down the road because of the fact that he's admitted some measure of responsibility, or he may try to get that statement kept out of future cases. But even that seems thin. So it is -- and your question references, Wolf, it's a little bit of a perplexing move here and we'll just have to see where he goes with it, to be honest.

BLITZER: Let me get Norm's thoughts on this. Norm, just how much are the walls closing in on Giuliani right now?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He's facing serious peril in this defamation case, Wolf. And we've talked together about some of the other defamation cases that have been tremendously damaging like the Dominion case. These two election officials, Miss Freeman, Miss Moss, suffered tremendous emotional harm, leaving their homes, a great deal of disruption in their lives.

Giuliani says he's going to fight damages. But they may have very substantial damages that they can collect against him. He claims he has constitutional defenses, but that's not going to stop I think the legal peril that he faces here. He has no constitutional right to say these kinds of things very likely. So he's in a lot of trouble.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you're absolutely right.

Katelyn, how much does Giuliani's legal peril in this defamation case actually wind up spilling over into the 2020 election investigation?

POLANTZ: Yes, Wolf, that's going to be the question every day going forward until we see what the criminal prosecutors do in this January 6th investigation. Now this is a civil lawsuit, civil liability. That is a separate question from what a prosecutor might want to do in a criminal probe. But it's very likely that Giuliani, when he sat down with the special counsel's office just a few weeks ago to speak to them voluntarily, that he was asked about what happened in Georgia, some of the things that he said there.

We know that investigators from the federal government have circled around those events in Georgia, even getting access to the security footage from the State Farm Arena where these women would have been captured on a video that Giuliani later then circulated to try and accuse them of ballot stuffing that was not true. So where it fits into what the special counsel's investigation is doing and exactly what the communication has been between those criminal investigators and Giuliani and his team, that is going to be a big mystery that could lead us in a lot of different places.

BLITZER: Certainly could. Elliot, is Giuliani now potentially facing the music on multiple fronts, the defamation lawsuit, the special counsel's probe, and his possible disbarment here in Washington, D.C.?

WILLIAMS: Yes, he really is. And the disbarment, I would, you know, I would urge people to note that that's actually quite serious for an attorney. That is the livelihood and almost an existential point for people who have law degrees and have practiced laws for their entire career. It's a big deal for the bar to say that you are no longer fit to represent clients in this jurisdiction.

The other thing is that this admission today also could be relevant in other January 6th -- pardon me, or 2020 election related suits because he's acknowledging some of the untruths or lies he and perhaps others had made with respect to election workers. That could come up, for instance, in federal cases or any other ones quite -- anywhere else in the country that he might have been speaking with or about election workers. So it is -- he is in a lot of trouble here potentially. And, again, the loss of the law license is a big deal.

BLITZER: Certainly is. These election workers once again they're simply doing their jobs, counting ballots legally and professionally the way they're supposed to.

You know, Norm, the special counsel's grand jury is expected to convene, the federal grand jury, here in Washington again tomorrow. They could indict Trump for a third time at any moment right now.


But the fact that there is this ongoing Hunter Biden federal case going on in Wilmington, Delaware, does that sort of complicate a potential indictment of Trump? EISEN: Wolf, I don't think it does. Jack Smith is famous for putting

blinders on. He has the evidence in front of him. He's going to make a decision based on his timetable and his evidence. We know there's overwhelming evidence, and as soon as tomorrow or in the days thereafter, we are expecting that indictment.

BLITZER: We'll see when that happens.

All right, guys, thank you very much.

Up next, the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas facing very tough questions up on Capitol Hill today. Did Republicans make the case for his potential impeachment?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testified today before the House Judiciary Committee facing questions about his handling of the border. All of this comes as Speaker McCarthy appears to be warming up to the possible impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez has our report.


PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas grilled by House Republicans today over the handling of the U.S.-Mexico border.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I know that today Secretary Mayorkas is going to try to paint a rosy picture of this disastrous mismanagement of our border. But the numbers don't lie.

ALVAREZ: Border apprehensions remain high but there have been fewer crossings in recent weeks according to the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas credited the drop to the administration's policies.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Our approach to managing the border securely and humanely even within our fundamentally broken immigration system is working. Unlawful entries between ports of entry along the southwest border have consistently decreased by more than half compared to the peak before the end of Title 42.

ALVAREZ: House Republicans, who have been making the case to potentially impeach the secretary didn't buy it.

REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): Did President Biden tell you to open up the border or did you?

MAYORKAS: The border is not open, Congressman. ALVAREZ: It's an uphill battle even within the Republican conference,

and despite fierce criticism during Wednesday's hearing.

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Secretary Mayorkas, the last time you were here I told you my constituents consider you a traitor. When people die of fentanyl poisoning, it is your fault.

ALVAREZ: Congressman Ken Buck, a Republican, has consistently told CNN he does not support efforts to impeach Mayorkas in the absence of more evidence.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): I believe you want the American people to believe we have operational control of the border when we very clearly do not.

ALVAREZ: In their filed impeachment articles, Republicans have accused Mayorkas of undermining operational control of the southern border, encouraging illegal immigration, and lying to Congress that the border was secure. All charges the administration has dismissed. Mayorkas told lawmakers today he intends to remain in the post.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you resign?

MAYORKAS: No, I will not. I am incredibly proud of the work that --


MAYORKAS: -- in the Department of Homeland.

REP. JEFF VAN DREW (R-NJ): Secretary Mayorkas, if you will not resign, that leaves us with no other option. You should be impeached.

ALVAREZ: Impeachment of a Cabinet secretary has only happened once in U.S. history. Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached by the House in 1876 before being acquitted by the Senate. And House Democrats are already throwing cold water on the pursuit, reminding Republicans Wednesday of the hearing's purpose.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): To be clear, Republicans have not established any legitimate grounds to impeach Secretary Mayorkas. They have not uncovered evidence of wrongdoing or malfeasance of any kind. They have policy disagreements with the secretary and so do we. But policy disagreements and personal grudges are not a basis for impeachment.


ALVAREZ: Now, Wolf, the administration is also facing headwinds of its own as it escalates a feud with Texas Governor Greg Abbott over the Texas-Mexico border, and as it fights a court ruling that could put Biden's border plan in jeopardy. But what today's hearing underscored is that Mayorkas will remain a GOP target as all of that unfolds.

BLITZER: Yes. Indeed. All right, Priscilla, thank you very much.

So let's discuss what's going on with CNN political commentator Charlie Dent. He's a former Republican congressman, and former communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris, Jamal Simmons.

Jamal, I'll start with you. Did Republicans, do you believe, make the case today to support impeaching Secretary Mayorkas?

JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I don't think they made the case, Wolf. And the problem here is, impeachment is supposed to be reserved for high crimes and misdemeanors. These are things that are very big deals. This is not a place for policy disagreements.

You know, I remember when Democrats were trying to go after President Donald Trump in the beginning of his administration. Then House speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she was not going to impeach Donald Trump because we disagree with him on policy. She wanted to see what he had done that might meet the standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. And he wasn't impeached until he did meet that standard.

So I think that this effort to go after Mayorkas is just political grandstanding. They know, even if they did impeach him, it wouldn't make it past the Senate. And remember what happened to Eric Holder when he got censured by the House a few years ago during the Obama administration. That kind of emboldened Eric Holder. Because once you remove the kind of -- the overhang, the stigma, the fear of the impeachment, then Mayorkas doesn't have any reason not to go full forward with the policy agenda that he's carrying out for the American people.

BLITZER: Former Congressman Dent, what do you think?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, listen, I think this is a misguided attempt to try to impeach Mayorkas. Look, it is a policy disagreement, as has been said. But the hard right flank of the House Republican caucus, they want a scalp, and they want Mayorkas'.


I remember Jim Jordan in 2016 wanted to impeach Koskinen, who is the IRS commissioner, over the Lois Lerner matter and he really had nothing to do with it. And we killed that. I suspect this is not going to go anywhere because this is simply a policy disagreement. And they're free to, you know, contest the policy with the secretary, but going to impeach him would also disrupt the House because you'd have to go to a trial, assuming they would impeach him, and I don't think they have the votes.

But -- so I think it's a total mistake, a distraction from the issues that people care about, you know, whether it's the economy, crime, or border security itself. So I think it's a big distraction.

BLITZER: Jamal, today the Senate minority Mitch McConnell said Republicans launching an impeachment inquiry into President Biden would not be good for the country. Does that surprise you? SIMMONS: No, it doesn't surprise me. I think Senator McConnell and

President Biden seem to have a good working relationship. And again, where is the standard of high crimes and misdemeanor? Listen, if the Republicans want to investigate somebody, they should look into what's happening at the border with Governor Abbott with this 1200 or however long this fence is with the concertina wire. And we find out that 4- year-olds are being pushed back and given water. And we got a border agent saying that pregnant women are being hurt at this concertina wire and not being helped.

This is the kind of thing that in America that's supposed to be a welcoming big place, a place that's strong enough for all of us, these Republicans see it as a brittle place where they have to deny people basic humane accommodations. I think that this is the real issue that the Republicans want to investigate. Why is it that Republicans can't even be compassionate to pregnant women and children?

BLITZER: Congressman, do you think moderate Republicans in the House would support such an impeachment inquiry into Biden?

DENT: Well, they might support an inquiry. But I doubt right now that they could justify voting to impeach him again over policy disagreements. And again, these types of issues I think really they do harm these more modern members who represent swing districts. This is not what their voters are concerned about.

This is really playing to the -- what's happening with these impeachment inquiries is really -- it's more grievance politics. You know, kind of talking about issues that really do not resonate with these independent and swing voters. So if I'm a moderate voter from New Jersey or New York or Pennsylvania, I don't really want any part of this. And so I think that, again, this has been a misguided effort.

We've seen this before. The Senate does not want to take this up because once you impeach somebody in the House, the Senate must take it up almost immediately. And again, very disruptive to what's happening. So I think a lot of Republican senators don't want any part of this and moderate House Republicans want to stay away.

BLITZER: We'll see how that all unfolds.

Jamal, also today, Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis floated the possibility -- listen to this. He floated the possibility of putting RFK Jr. at the Food and Drug Administration or the CDC if elected president. What do you make of that suggestion?

SIMMONS: He's just playing games. Listen, Wolf, the reality is, Ron DeSantis is running a pretty bad presidential campaign. He's looking for a way to score some points. This is not the way to do it. Their embrace of RFK Jr. is really just to troll President Joe Biden. So I think it's not serious proposal and I think he knows it.

BLITZER: Former Congressman Dent, what do you think?

DENT: I agree. That's a total joke. We've had people at the CDC and the FDA. These are usually distinguished PhDs or physicians who handle these jobs, not anti-vaxxers.


DENT: So I think it's a completely facetious statement and I can't imagine serious.

BLITZER: Charlie Dent and Jamal Simmons, guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to their highest level in 22 years. But does the central bank still see a recession out there on the horizon?

And former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed is recovering after being wounded while fighting against the Russians in Ukraine. We'll have an exclusive report.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The Federal Reserve raised interest rates a quarter of a point today for the 11th time in 17 months. And there are hints of another rate hike later this year, as the central bank works to lower inflation.

For more on all of this, I'm joined by CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich.

Vanessa, first of all, what can you tell us about today's hike and what it means for the U.S. economy?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: This was expected, Wolf. A quarter of a percent interest rate hike, bringing rates to 5.5 percent. That is the highest Iin 22 years. This is the 11th rate hike over 17 months, but the Fed still saying that inflation is too high. And today's rate hike will affect every single American. Yes, it may help cool down costs on things like groceries, airfare. But it's also on the flip side, Wolf, going to increase borrowing costs.

So we can see mortgage rates go up, we can see interest rates on credit cards, car loans and student debt increase. And also, Wolf, the big question ahead is, is this the last rate hike of the year or is there more to come? Here is what Fed chair Jerome Powell said about that.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I would say it is certainly possible that we would raise funds again at the September meeting if the data warranted it, and I would also say that it's possible that we would choose to hold steady at that meeting. We're going to be making careful assessments as I said meeting by meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YURKEVICH: And after he said just that, Wolf, the Dow actually popped on that news and it was because he said that they might hold steady at these rates right now, at what it is right now, Wall Street liked that.

The Dow did close just slightly up, but it helped extend a 13-day winning streak, Wolf. Something we haven't seen since 1987 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Vanessa, what else did the Fed chair say about recession concerns?


YURKEVICH: Jerome Powell believes that he can still stick a soft landing, and also the central bank saying that a recession is no longer in the forecast. But something to watch is wages, Wolf. Wages are outpacing inflation for the first time since early 2021. Wage growth is about 4.4 percent and inflation is 3 percent. So the Fed may be watching that, thinking, are people getting comfortable with these higher prices? Are people going to continue to spend?

Also, Wolf, consumer sentiment last month, the highest since July of 2021. So a lot for the Fed to consider ahead of its next meeting in September -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. You're absolutely right. Vanessa Yurkevich, thanks for that report.

And now to an exclusive report, a source telling CNN that former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed, who spent nearly three years detained in Russia, is expected to make a full recovery after being wounded while fighting alongside Ukrainian forces.

Our Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann is covering this story for us.

What more, Oren, are you learning tonight?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed is at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center where he is being treated as you point out. A source close to Reed says he is expected to make a full recovery. That source saying that he is recuperating very well at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and they hope he is home soon and able to be with his family.

To this point, his family has not released a statement but they did exclusively provide us with this picture of Trevor Reed. Reed was injured about two weeks ago while fighting along the frontline in Ukraine in Bakhmut. It was a shrapnel wound the source close to Reed said, and he was initially taken to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for treatment. And then an NGO got him out of the country where he was then transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, one of the largest U.S. Military hospitals, for further treatment.

Take a look at this timeline of the last few years for Reed. It was in the summer 2019 that he was arrested in Russia and unlawfully detained, according to the U.S., on charges of endangering a law enforcement officer. He was in jail there for nearly three years and then was released in a prisoner swap for a Russian cocaine smuggler, and that brings us to April 2022. About a half year later in November 2022, he made the decision to go back to Ukraine.

That decision, the source close to Reed says, was first because he was honored to fight alongside Ukrainians, but second, because of what he saw, the oppression he saw while he was within a Russian prison. At some point after November, he does come back to the U.S. In fact he was on our air in studio just a couple of months ago. But then he returned to Ukraine. And that brings us to July.

That's where he was wounded just a couple of weeks ago by shrapnel and that forced him to come out of the country to receive treatment first there and then at Landstuhl where he currently is.

You can see here, if you look at that picture, this is one of the issues for the U.S. He has right there an American flag on his uniform that he was wearing in Ukraine. Whereas U.S. officials from the White House and the State Department have made it very clear that Reed was not there as part of a U.S. or a DOD mission. He went there of his own choice, of his own free will, and as a president citizen.

But if you were to be captured or fall into Russian hands, that would certainly complicate things and undermine the U.S. claim and reinforce, Wolf, the Russian claim that the U.S. has been involved in the fighting there for some time, which is why this has been so sensitive and complicated.

BLITZER: Oren Liebermann, at the Pentagon, thank you.

Coming up, Congress holds a hearing on the controversial subject of UFOs, as lawmakers push the government for more transparency on the phenomenon.



BLITZER: A congressional committee held a rare hearing on Capitol Hill today on the subject of UFOs with members and witnesses alike pushing for more government transparency on this issue.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more on the story for us.

Give us the latest, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This really was quite a hearing, Wolf, with plenty there for conspiracy theorists, those who believe there are other beings out there trying to contact us. And if you listen closely, enough for skeptics, too.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a whole fleet of them.



FOREMAN (voice-over): Something's out there, we don't know what, and we ought to be concerned.

RYAN GRAVES, FORMER NAVY FIGHTER PILOT: We were primarily seeing dark gray or black cubes inside of a clear sphere.

FOREMAN: That was the message from all the witnesses about unidentified anomalous phenomena. UAPs.

REP. GLENN GROTHMAN (R-WI): Do you believe UAPs pose a potential threat to our national security?

DAVID FRAVOR, FORMER U.S. NAVAL COMMANDER: Yes, you're talking something that can go into space, go someplace, drop down in a matter of seconds, do whatever it wants and leave, and there's nothing we can do about it. Nothing.

FOREMAN: Backed with videos released by the government and their own firsthand observations of what are more commonly called UFOs, the three retired military men, two former Navy pilots and a former Air Force intelligence officer described mysterious somethings, objects, lights with astonishing capabilities.

GRAVES: These objects were staying completely stationary in category 4 hurricane winds. These same objects would then accelerate to supersonic speeds, 1.1, 1.2 Mach, and they would do so in very erratic and quick behaviors that we don't -- I don't have an explanation for.

FOREMAN: And when the witnesses started talking about what they claim they've been told, it went even further, albeit with no proof in tow.

REP. ERIC BURLISON (R-MO): You said that the government has alien bodies or alien species.

DAVID GRUSCH, FORMER AIR FORCE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: I have to be careful to describe what I've seen firsthand and not in this environment.

BURLISON: And have you seen any of the bodies?

GRUSCH: That's something I've not witnessed myself.

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): This is huge. This is worldwide.

FOREMAN: The whole spectacle was enough to have some committee members openly accusing the government of a cover-up.

REP. ANNA PAULINA LUNA (R-FL): It is unacceptable to continue to gaslight Americans into thinking that this is not happening.


FOREMAN: While others like the witnesses are calling for more open reporting procedures for anyone who sees anything.

REP. ROBERT GARCIA (D-CA): We can't be afraid of asking questions, and we can't be afraid of the truth.


FOREMAN: If one thing came out of this was a commitment from several committee members to say are a push for them to say, yes, the government needs to be more transparent about what we do know and what we don't know. What we did not get in all of this, though, is any real proof. What are these people seeing, and is it something that is more science or more fiction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thank you very much for that report.

Coming up, we'll get perspective on how and why the Hunter Biden plea deal was derailed from two CNN journalists who were inside the courtroom as the drama unfolded.