Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Inside Hunter Biden Hearing As Plea Deal Put On Hold; Concerns After Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Freezes During News Conference; Giuliani Concedes He Defamed Two Georgia Election Workers; Construction Crane Catches Fire & Collapses in NYC; Irish Singer Sinead O'Connor Dies At Age 56. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 26, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're breaking down all the legal ramifications for the president's son and the possible political ramifications for his father.
Also this hour, Senator Mitch McConnell's office is trying to tamp down concerns after the Republican leader froze in the middle of remarks up on Capitol Hill. We'll have the latest on the 81-year-old senator's condition and what might have caused him to abruptly stop and stare. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by for analysis.
And former Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani is now conceding that he defamed two Georgia election workers. Will that have any impact on multiple investigations of 2020 presidential election interference?
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
We begin this hour with all the tension and the drama during Hunter Biden's court hearing today and the surprise twist at the end, his plea deal put on hold.
CNN's Kara Scannell and Marshall Cohen were both in the room as the agreement unraveled. They're now outside the courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware.
Kara, let me start with you. After everything that happened today, where do things stand for Hunter Biden tonight?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you said, this plea deal that he came into court today thinking he was going to enter into is now on hold. And the first snag emerged when the judge was questioning the scope of the terms of the deal involving these two tax misdemeanors Biden was set to plead guilty to. The judge questioning prosecutors exactly how limited and how broad this deal was, and when pressed, one of the prosecutors acknowledged that their investigation is still ongoing and that they believe that this deal related only to tax charges, gun charges and drug charges.
Now, she asked Biden's lawyer if that was his understanding. He said it wasn't, and that this is where it became an impasse. Prosecutors said then there is no deal. Hunter Biden's lawyers saying they thought it was null and void. But then they asked the judge for more time to try to work something out.
Both sides came back and they were on the same page. So, the judge was then moving forward with what would be the guilty plea on these tax evasion charges, but she said she couldn't do it without a further understanding of a diversion on felony gun charge, a gun possession charge.
So, the judge there now narrowing down questionings on that. She said she thought it was a deal with atypical conditions, and she wasn't sure it was constitutional, so she said she could not sign off on that deal today.
So, Hunter Biden then entered a plea of not guilty to these charges, and that's where it stands right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Marshall, as you watched all of this play out inside the courtroom today, what stood out to you about just how unusual all of this was?
MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, this was always going to be an unprecedented day in American history. It's never happened before where the son of the sitting president walked into a federal courthouse to admit that he broke the law. But I don't think anyone expected quite what happened.
These plea hearings, they can be 15 minutes, 20 minutes. This one dragged on for three-plus hours. And as those minutes ticked away, Hunter Biden appeared anxious at times, and he looked worried. And his attorneys in the hallways during some of those breaks were visibly frustrated with good reason. It was a roller coaster of a day, as Kara explained. The deal was on. The deal was off. It was back on, and then it was finally the judge who pulled the plug at the end, put everything on hold. And she said we need to be careful. We need to get this right.
As the proceedings wrapped up, Wolf, she addressed Hunter Biden directly, and she said, I know you wanted to get this done. I'm sorry, but I need more information. We need to get this right. And that's exactly what's going to happen. She ordered the parties in this case to file additional arguments over the next 30 days explaining why the deal is constitutional and why things should move forward. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Marshall, thank you, Marshall Cohen and Kara Scannell on the scene for us in Wilmington, Delaware.
Let's get some more on the legal and political angles of this very dramatic and important story. Shan Wu, you're here with us right now. Who's at fault for this deal falling apart, at least as of now and based on what we know?
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The judge is at fault for calling them out on it. Normally, you would say they should be going over this with a fine tooth comb, should have had it all worked out before hand. I will say, however, both sides could have been an interest in leaving some ambiguity. For Biden, leaving the ambiguity and what he's really exposed to later, if they charged him later, he could say, hey, I relied on this plea deal, and ambiguity is a contract after all, should be construed against DOJ.
DOJ leading the ambiguity still felt itself able to say, we still have an ongoing investigation.
This isn't the end of the deal. Now, if they go forward after reworking it, they both actually may be in slightly stronger positions.
BLITZER: So, do you think this deal could still be salvaged or could Hunter Biden face even more criminal charges?
WU: He definitely could face even more charges, but I think the deal will be salvaged. And then he'll be able to put closure on the tax and the gun part. And if I were his attorneys, I'd be willing to roll the dice on this other stuff that's been floating around for five years and they haven't turned anything up yet.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front.
I want to go over to Jeremy Diamond. He's over at the White House for us. First of all, Jeremy, how is the White House responding to this?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Wolf, every time Hunter Biden is in the news, we hear the same kinds of lines from the White House, that Hunter Biden is a private citizen, that this is a private matter not related to the president of the United States, and also that they are allowing the Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation. And that's exactly what we heard today, once again, from the White House press secretary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Hunter Biden is a private citizen, and this was a personal matter for him. As we have said, the president, the first lady, they love their son, and they support him as he continues to rebuild his life. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And this is a White House that has really focused on trying to avoid any kind of appearance of interference with this case at the Department of Justice, which is why you heard that emphasis on the fact that the U.S. attorney in this case was appointed by the former president and not by the current one.
And on Karine Jean-Pierre today simply wouldn't substantively answer a number of questions. I asked her whether or not the president has been keeping tabs on this, whether his attorneys have been in touch with Hunter's attorneys, as we know they have been in the past. She would not answer that question. She also wouldn't say whether or not the president feels that these prosecutors in this case have acted appropriately and competently given how rare it is in a high-profile case for a plea deal to completely fall apart. Instead, she simply said this is an independent investigation and they're going to give the prosecutors space to work on this.
But there's no question, Wolf, that, ultimately, the folks at the White House were hoping that this would be the day that this Hunter Biden matter, at least from a legal perspective, would come to a full and final conclusion. And yet, after today it is clear that not only are Republicans going to continue to investigate this, continue to use this as a political cudgel against the president, but it's also clear that Hunter Biden is not yet out of the woods even from a legal perspective.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Gloria Borger, as you know, Chris Christie, the Republican presidential candidate, he tweeted today calling for a special counsel to oversee any Biden investigations. How much trouble does this spell potentially for President Biden looking ahead to 2024?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I'm surprised it took that long for a Republican candidate for the presidency to call for a special counsel. This seems to be what we do these days under any circumstance. And, look, of course, this is not what the White House wanted. The White House wanted this to be a closed chapter, not only because the president loves his son but also because it's a political headache for them, and now will continue to be a political headache.
I spoke with someone who's close to the folks in the White House who are involved in this, and, you know, of course, what you're going to hear from them is that this is a judge, no surprise there, that they would say this, that was going out of her way to upend this agreement because, of course, this judge is a political appointee and a Republican.
So, on the one hand, you hear, okay, special counsel, got to appoint a special counsel, and on the other hand, you're hearing, oh, gosh, this is a Republican judge. So, expect more of this. We're heading into an election and this is what it's going to be.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Shan, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jim Jordan, a Republican, of course, he credits the IRS whistleblowers, I think this is significant, for today's developments. They alleged interference in the Hunter Biden probe from the start. What do you make of that?
WU: Well, it's totally inaccurate, at least from what we're getting from the courtroom. The judge wasn't concerned about those kinds of issues at all. The judge was concerned about the scope. Can the United States bring charges beyond drugs and taxes against Biden? She said that wasn't clear.
She also seemed to have a concern about the way the diversion agreement was structured. That's usually 100 percent within the government's control. They had a provision in there that seemed like it would come to her or another court if there was an issue with Biden's compliance with that.
Those seemed to be the issues that she was concerned about. She was hinting at separation of powers issues, about the diversion agreement. There's zero about what the IRS whistleblowers had said.
BORGER: Shan, can I ask you, in most cases, is the court a party to the an agreement like this or is it usually just, you know, the lawyers have agreed to something and the court says, okay, if you agree, that's fine with me?
WU: Usually. But the judge does have to approve it and you tell the clients that all the time that it's up to the judge. And the diversion agreement is a little bit more of a different animal. It's usually much more in the full control of the prosecution.
BLITZER: Yes. And if the judge doesn't like the plea agreement, the judge can reject the plea agreement.
WU: Right, exactly.
BLITZER: Sometimes that happens.
Jeremy, you're over at the White House. Does this add to the headache at least for those Democrats who wish President Biden would try to put a little bit more distance between himself and his son?
DIAMOND: Yes. I mean, those Democrats can wish for that all they want. This is a president who has shown that he's not going to show any daylight with his son. I mean, just days after Hunter Biden, you know, tentatively agreed to this plea deal, he was attending the state dinner here at the White House, and the White House simply wasn't going to backtrack off of that, and President Biden clearly wanted to make a statement by having his son there that he's not going to abandon him, despite the fact that he's having these legal troubles.
So, I don't expect that position from the White House to change. Now, that being said, as I mentioned before, the White House would have liked to see this come to a conclusion today. But even if it didn't, even if it didn't, the legal matter didn't end today, the White House knows that Republicans are going to continue to go after this, continue to try and tie Hunter Biden to the president.
Of course, we know that in this case, prosecutors found no evidence and didn't bring any evidence forward that tied President Biden to his son, Hunter's business dealings, or indeed to the charges that he faced and was prepared to plead guilty to.
BLITZER: That's such an important point. Guys, thank you very, very much. Just ahead the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, freezing during a news conference up on Capitol Hill. We'll hear how McConnell explained that moment to CNN's Manu Raju. That's coming up next right here in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, serious questions are mounting about the health of the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, after he froze in midsentence during a news conference earlier this afternoon. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Finishing the NDAA this week, there's been good bipartisan cooperation and a string of --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju was at that news conference. Manu, what happened, from your perspective?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This has caused a lot of concerns among his colleagues, and this is not the first health care that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has endured. You'll recall earlier this spring that McConnell tripped and he fell and hit his head at a Washington hotel. That later led the senator to be hospitalized. He was diagnosed with a concussion. He broke ribs as well. He did not return to the Senate for still several weeks later.
And this is -- McConnell has long had a history of walking. He was a polio survivor from a young age, and he walks with a slight limp. So, there's been some concerns about his walking and also his recovery as well.
And just about a month-and-a-half ago at a press conference, he was asked multiple questions that were clearly audible. He had a difficult time hearing them. And in this situation too, his colleagues didn't quite know how to react, but when this happened, they immediately rushed to his side and tried to make sure that he was okay.
And in talking to his closest colleagues, members of the Republican leadership team, they believe that he will be on the mend and that he will be fine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): I have no reason to believe he's not doing well.
I'm not going to head down that road.
I'll support senator McConnell as long as he wants to continue to serve.
RAJU: Can you explain what that moment was like for you when you were there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, just always concern. You want to make sure everybody is well. And, you know, I know, like with Dick Durbin, he's out with COVID, and who knows what bugs going around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, McConnell told me immediately after that that he was feeling fine when I asked him about the episode and whether it was related to that fall earlier this year. I asked him if he could do his job. He said yes.
Now, his office says that he had light head lightheadedness, which was why -- that's how they're explaining this. They are not saying yet whether or not he has had any other medical treatment or any exam from a physician at this point, Wolf, but there's been questions all along about Mitch McConnell, how long he will serve as Republican leader. He's the longest serving party leader in Senate history. His term ends at the end of the 2026 election cycle.
The question still is would he run for Republican leader in the next Congress, which begins in 2025? Will he run for re-election in 2026? I asked that question to him a couple of months ago. He declined to comment about that. But whose questions will persist after this episode. Wolf?
BLITZER: I'm sure they will. All right, Manu, thank you very much, Manu Raju on the scene for us.
Also right now, I want to bring in our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta for some insight on the minority leader's health.
Sanjay, seeing this moment play out, knowing Senator McConnell's recent health issues, he's also 81 years old, are you concerned?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was definitely concerning to watch. I mean, I think his doctors will be looking at that tape and sort of, you know, trying to figure out what happened there. He needs to get checked out. I think that's really the bottom line. It's tough to speculate just based on looking at the video.
But when you look at the timing of that, it happened around 1:56, we just put the -- looked at the clock and it was 23 seconds before anyone said something to him, and he was essentially frozen or not saying anything for that period of time, 32 seconds when he was led away from the podium, and 12 minutes when Manu asked him the questions and he said he was fine.
So, he seemed to have recovered from it, but something clearly happened. It could be something more simple, dehydration, a little infection, medication interaction. But I think given his history, that fall back in March, his age, you've got to make sure you're also addressing and ruling out other things, a mini stroke, a mini seizure, things like that. A mini seizure could have been related even to that fall he had back in March.
So, again, common things common, but you've got to rule out the bad things as well.
BLITZER: Yes. We certainly -- you're absolutely right. We don't know yet whether the senator has seen a doctor about this incident. Do you think he needs actually medical treatment?
GUPTA: I really think he needs to be seen. I mean, you know, one thing about things like a TIA or -- which is a transient ischemic attack, or also known as a mini stroke, is that, untreated, it could lead to more mini strokes and even lead to a more significant stroke. The key is to actually get that checked out in time. If there's one thing that people know about strokes, it's that time is really important.
Again, this is speculative, but he clearly had some sort of neurological event there. I think, again, that video is something that his doctors would probably be examining as well and he should be seen.
BLITZER: Yes, and you're a neurosurgeon, you understand what's going on. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much.
Coming up, how Rudy Giuliani is trying to walk a very careful line right now as he concedes to defaming two Georgia election workers. Could his strategy backfire?
BLITZER: We're following Rudy Giuliani's new response to a lawsuit by Georgia election workers tied to his efforts to discredit the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state.
Let's bring in CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. So, what does Giuliani, Paula, actually say here and how are the election workers responding?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Giuliani had previously accused these two election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, of stuffing ballots. These are false accusations he amplified on social media and his podcast. And, Wolf, this is a sobering reminder of the impact that these election lies had on everyday people who were just trying to do their jobs.
I want to take a second to let these women describe in their own words the impact that Giuliani's remarks had on them. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUBY FREEMAN, GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: I've lost my name and I've lost my reputation. I've lost my sense of security all because a group of people, starting with number 45, and his ally, Rudy Giuliani, decided to scapegoat me and my daughter, Shaye.
SHAYE MOSS, GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: I don't want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do. It's affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, in an effort to resolve their lawsuit, Giuliani is doing something really unusual, he's conceding that, yes, I lied about them. That's pretty extraordinary.
An attorney for these two election workers describes this as a milestone in the case and said in a statement today that Giuliani's stipulation concedes, quote, what we have known to be true, that Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss honorably performed their civic duty in the 2020 presidential election in full compliance with the law.
Now, further complicating this, shortly after this filing was made by Giuliani's lawyers, his spokesman came out with a statement trying to further parse what he's conceding to, saying, quote, Giuliani did not acknowledge that the statements were false, but he did not contest it either in order to move on to the portion of the case that will permit a motion to dismiss.
It's going to be up to the judge overseeing this case to make sense of all this and see if she agrees. Now, this judge has also raised the possibility of sanctioning Giuliani. We'll see what happens, Wolf.
BLITZER: We shall. Paula, stay with us. I want to keep the discussion going right now with our correspondents and our experts. And, Shan Wu, let me start with you. What's behind Giuliani's rather strange move here?
WU: It's actually a little bit hard to fathom. It's styled as a no low (ph) on pleading, meaning he's saying he's essentially pleading no contest to these limited factual allegations, but then, at the same time, he is admitting they're false in his statement, but at the same time, he says he's reserving the right to talk about motions to dismiss, meaning he wants to probably raise a First Amendment argument, saying that under the First Amendment, I was allowed to lie in this judicial proceeding. So, I'm not really sure where that gets him in the long run.
BLITZER: You know, Tia, I'm curious to get your thoughts on the gravity of the situation of this case, how much peril Giuliani's words actually resulted in these two women who were simply election workers and how much they suffered as a result of this.
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Right, and we just heard some of that. They said they received death threats. They said strangers knocked on their doors. They said people found them on social media and sent hurtful and racist comments. They also said they lost their livelihood and their sense of being.
And I want to point out it wasn't just Rudy Giuliani kind of speaking about them in general terms. He actually called them out by name repeatedly.
[18:30:01] He would show footage and say the footage showed that they were, you know, passing fake ballots or passing a thumb drive with ballots on them. All these things turned out not to be true. But he really created a narrative about Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, that really has, they say, followed them for months after the 2020 election.
BLITZER: Both said they were afraid to simply leave their house that they could be followed or threatened, a pretty serious situation.
Alyssa, you're a former Trump official who actually left during these efforts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election. How were you processing Giuliani's legal woes right now?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's remarkable that I guess he's telling the truth two years later. But at the same time, some of his other kind of compatriots in this moment, Sidney Powell, has, when she was challenged in court, admitted that a lot of what she was pushing was, in fact, not based in fact. Jenna Ellis, another attorney that he appeared with a number of times tied to the Trump orbit, herself admitted to ten misrepresentations related to the election lies.
So, I mean, the chickens coming home to roost. You can't look at Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss and not just be heartbroken over the personal peril that this put them through but there's actually -- there's a bigger, kind of more insidious factor you have to consider here, which is close to a majority of the Republican electorate doubts the 2020 election results.
So, in a campaign cycle right now, you've got candidates trying to challenge Donald Trump on electability, were more likely to beat Joe Biden, but that message isn't breaking through because the public has been convinced that he didn't lose the 2020 election. So, just the layers of lies are really catching up and having an impact just writ large across the nation.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Paula, how does this Giuliani concession interplay with the special counsel's probe, the criminal probe that continues?
REID: It's unclear what the special counsel will make of this filing, but we know there's a lot of overlap between the issues in this civil case and what's under criminal investigation by the special counsel. We know prosecutors, investigators, they have asked a lot of questions, particularly at the local state level, about the impact that these lies had on election workers, the threats that they faced, how it made a difficult for them to carry out their job.
So, we know that's one part of the special counsel investigation. But Rudy Giuliani, in particular, he faces a lot of potential legal exposure in the special counsel's probe because of all of the things that he was doing after the 2020 election.
We know from our reporting that he has sat down with investigators over two days. He answered questions. We are told that he is cooperating, small C, just answering questions. We're told that he answered truthfully, and at this point, his lawyer does not believe that he is going to be charged.
So, there is a world in which something that happened to Ruby and Shaye that they may believe that that's best handled in civil court. We're still waiting to see the final resolution of the special counsel probe.
BLITZER: Yes. And, Shan, let me get your thoughts. Giuliani is facing potential disbarment right here in Washington, D.C., in addition to these two cases. How severe are the legal consequences that could come down once on this man? He was once America's mayor after 9/11, as we all remember. How serious are the legal consequences he potentially faces?
WU: I mean, beyond the exposure in the criminal probes, the disbarment, I mean, for a lawyer, that's a civil death penalty, the loss of your livelihood, not to mention the disgrace aspect of it. And this judge hinting that she may sanction him is no help in his disbarment proceedings because he's basically admitting that he's lied and he's been lying in court pleadings. And his argument that he is allowed to do that in the First Amendment, that might apply for him on a soap box in the street. It's not going to apply to him as a lawyer, as an officer of the court.
BLITZER: Yes, that's important.
Alyssa, this all comes as Trump, as we all know, he could potentially be indicted in the special counsel's probe any day now. How concerned are you that Trump's campaign seems to actually benefit from these indictments?
REID: Well, listen, there's kind of mixed data on it because there's been some polling that shows that the last indictment did breakthrough with some voters and gave them some pause.
Listen, Donald Trump is a master of kind of framing something negative to make it this is an attack on me and therefore an attack on you to his die hard supporters, but you have to imagine there's going to be some indictment fatigue. I mean, we're talking about potential third, possibly a fourth.
This is a make or break moment for anyone in the GOP field who actually wants to have a shot at taking on Donald Trump. That will be the tell. If they don't go after him after the third indictment, they are not serious candidates about winning.
BLITZER: Tia, you work for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. How is this playing out in Georgia right now, specifically the Georgia part of the presidential election interference?
MITCHELL: Well, yes. Right now, Georgia has its own grand jury that could also lead to more indictments of either former President Trump or those in his inner circle. We're expecting possibly to hear about whether the district attorney, whether that grand jury is passing down indictments in early August, maybe the first or second week of August. [18:35:07]
They've already made preparations. They've already put law enforcement on standby so anytime we could hear if in that Fulton County special grand jury probe that led to that report that did recommend indictments. We don't know what the special grand jury recommended, but we know they did make recommendations. And to the point earlier, Rudy Giuliani is also in the mix in the Georgia probe. He spoke at legislative hearings, again, spreading misinformation and lies about the election. So, he has exposure.
Of course, we know former President Trump and the phone calls he placed to Secretary of State Raffensperger and others have also been looked into. There's the fake electors in Georgia that have also -- some of them have received target letters. So, there's a lot of possibilities and we could find out in the next couple of weeks.
BLITZER: We'll let Paula wrap this up. Go ahead, Paula.
REID: Let's see what happens with the special counsel this week. It's unclear if they're going to indict former President Trump this week or next. The reason we're watching the grand jury so closely, though, is because he's received a target letter and an opportunity to go before the grand jury. So, we're watching that very closely because we know, we expect the charging decision in Georgia over the next few weeks.
So, it's going to be a really busy next four or five weeks in terms of the legal exposure faced by the former president.
BLITZER: Yes, the legal headaches that Trump is facing are escalating dramatically.
REID: Headaches, indeed.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, Ukrainian forces are making a major push right now to try to retake territory from Russia using some of the western-made weapons and training they've been given. We'll have a report from Kyiv. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Tonight, Ukrainian forces are stepping up their counteroffensive in the south and the east, eastern parts of the country, as they try to retake territory from Russia, even as the onslaught of Russian missiles continues.
CNN's Alex Marquardt has the story from Kyiv.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we have been seen a major push by Ukrainian troops today along that southern front and the Southern Zaporizhzhia region as they try to punch through that heavily defended, heavily mined Russian line. According to reports and Russian officials, Ukrainian troops have used around 100 armored vehicles of different kinds, including those German-made Leopard 2 tanks, the American made Bradley Fighting Vehicles. This front has been a major priority for the Ukrainians as they try to split the Russian forces in the south, and in recent days, the Ukrainians have made some modest gains.
Now, Wolf, we have spent time along this front recently with the 47th Mechanized Brigade. This is one of these new Ukrainian brigades that got weeks of American training in Germany. They also received those Bradley Fighting Vehicles. We are told that they are putting that training to use, that combined arms and maneuver training, that their infantry is moving forward under the cover of Ukrainian artillery, that those Bradley Vehicles are taking out Russian infantry and Russian equipment.
But even as Ukraine makes this push and claims some modest success, the country is still coming under aerial assault from Russia. Today throughout the course of the day, we saw all kinds of missiles being fired by Russian planes at Ukraine, including cruise missiles, hypersonic Kinzhal missiles. The Ukrainian Air Force says that some 40 Russian missiles were taken down by air defenses. They say that they entered the Ukrainian airspace from the southeast and headed west, constantly changing direction.
But, Wolf, even when these air defenses managed to take down Russian missiles, as we've just seen in Odessa, the falling debris can cause significant damage and hurt and even kill people on the ground. Wolf?
BLITZER: Alex Marquardt on the scene for us, thank you.
Now to Israel, where the controversial judicial overhaul bill passed by parliament, the Knesset there, is set to be heard before the Supreme Court in September, this as a former Israeli prime minister is calling for the United States to do more to pressure the Netanyahu government.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen is covering the story from Jerusalem. Fred?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, the fact that the Supreme Court says that there's not going to be an injunction freezing the Reasonableness Act until it makes the decision, the full case in September, it certainly means that, right now, it is in full effect. And there are some who fear that the government could try and use that to push through some controversial measures like, for instance, going after the attorney general of this country.
However, CNN did speak to a law professor earlier today who said whether or not this injunction would have happened really doesn't make that much of a difference because the court is in recess anyway until September and wouldn't have handled any of those cases anyhow.
Nevertheless, of course, there is huge backlash still here against the decision that was made by the Knesset on Monday. In fact, I want you to listen to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and what he said on CNN earlier.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EHUD OLMERT, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: At this point, if one wants to help Israel, then the president of the United States has to say publicly, explicitly, officially that America is reassessing its relations with the state of Israel on all matters, on economic matters, on foreign aid, on everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: Now, of course, in September, the Supreme Court wants to hear all seven petitions against this new law, and some of the organizations that have put forward those petitions have said that they're quite happy with the decision that the Supreme Court made. In fact, the Bar Association here in Israel said they never wanted an injunction freezing a law immediately, but, of course, they want their day in front of the Supreme Court.
Another organization said they are also very happy that the case is going to be heard, but they also said that the protests against the law are going to continue.
In fact, new protests have already been scheduled for tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in Jerusalem for us, thank you.
This note to our viewers, be sure to watch my interview with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tomorrow evening, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Coming up, terrifying moments in New York City as a construction crane came crashing to the ground. What caused the collapse? That's next right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Truly terrifying moments in Manhattan this morning. Twelve people were injured when a crane on a construction site caught fire and collapsed to the ground.
CNN's Brynn Gingras is joining us from New York City from the scene of that crash.
Brynn, how did this happen?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf. Listen, it's nearly 12 hours since this crane collapsed this morning to the ground.
And there's about ten blocks of this area of midtown, Manhattan, that is still shut down. And you can see behind me as we zoom in, there are crews that are still sweeping away the debris from where that crane came crashing to the ground earlier this morning.
The investigation is still ongoing at this hour. The building's department saying that both the crane and the building it was working on are structurally stable. And, listen, I was talking to a lot of the construction workers that were here on the scene, many of them that were in the building at the time of this collapse. And they say about 16 tons of concrete was being lifted with that crane up to the top to pour onto this building when the crane operator, it appears, started to see smoke within the cab of the crane.
And one of those workers telling me that the second that crane operator escaped the cab, they knew something was trouble and not right. And so they all sort of rushed out of this many-story building, rushing to the ground I was told by people both working on the ground and those who live across the street. Because, remember, that crane hit the building that was across the street. They said both buildings basically just rumbled. And, like you said, 12 injuries reported, Wolf.
BLITZER: Awful situation, and those images of that crane collapsing, and all those metal particles could've been even worse.
Brynn Gingras, thank you very much.
BLITZER: There's more news we're following right now. The brutal heat wave across the United States. Some parts of the country expecting to see the hottest temperatures so far this year.
I'm joined now by CNN's Chad Myers. He's over at the weather center for us.
Chad, what's the latest on this very dangerous heat?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: For the last three weeks, all of the heat has been bottled up in the southwest because of the heat dome, and actually a trough of fairly cool air in the eastern part of the United States. That is all about to change. Ninety-nine degrees on the thermometer tomorrow in D.C., that's not heat index. And that's not in the sunshine. All of that heat is beginning to spill off toward the east. And that's going to be a problem for New York City, excessive heat warnings for you there.
Look at this. Past month, 5,300 record highs have been broken. As we move on, another 170 likely to be broken before we make our way all the way through the weekend. The heat is on in many places where it hasn't been on. St. Louis, you'll be above a hundred. That's ten or degrees more so than you should be. New York City, you'll be 95 on the thermometer but probably 105 to 107 with the humidity. Now you add in standing on the concrete or the asphalt working outside, it's going to feel much, much warmer than this.
These will be the hottest temperatures you need to acclimate, take care of pets, property, and people. This is the hottest we're going to probably see for the rest of the year, hopefully, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Chad, thank you very much.
This note to our viewers, coming up on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" right after THE SITUATION ROOM, the USAID Administrator Samantha Power on the war in Ukraine, coming up 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll look back on the life and music of the Irish singer Sinead O'Connor who passed away at the age of 56.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:52:23]
BLITZER: The world is mourning the loss of Irish singer Sinead O'Connor who passed away at age 56. She's best remembered for her cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares to You," which topped the charts all over the world.
CNN's Stephanie Elam looks back on her life.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sinead O'Connor obliterated the image of the female music star in the late 1980s with a shaved head, stirring performances and a mouthful of controversial opinions.
ELAM: O'Connor topped the music charts in 1990 with her version of "Nothing Compares to You," written by Prince. She won MTV's Video of the Year Award. "Rolling Stone" named her artist of the year in 1991. She earned four Grammy nominations for the song and the album.
But accolades and awards seem to mean nothing compared to O'Connor's drive to provoke thought.
SINEAD O'CONNOR, SINGER: Fight the real enemy.
ELAM: When O'Connor ripped up this photo of Pope John Paul II on national television, backlash reverberated around the globe.
Weeks later, a New York crowd booed the singer loudly and incessantly when she took her turn on stage at a Bob Dylan tribute. O'Connor repeatedly defended herself, calling herself Catholic and spiritual.
And in 1999, she became the first priestess of a dissident Roman Catholic group.
When the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal exploded, O'Connor called for the pope to tell the truth.
O'CONNOR: We have the documents and we have the proof that tell us that we're being lied to and we're being lied to by people who are supposed to represent Jesus Christ.
ELAM: O'Connor lashed out at other celebrities, once called U2's music bombastic, started a war of words with Miley Cyrus when O'Connor publicly urged the young performer not to, quote, let the music business make a prostitute of you, and accused Arsenio Hall of being a drug supplier for Prince, after the superstar's death.
O'Connor's personal life was tabloid fodder, divorce, custody battles. The singer married four times, was mother to four children, tormented, talented. O'Connor attempted suicide in the late 1990s.
In early 2022, she checked into a hospital while grieving the death of her third son Shane. At 51, O'Connor converted to Islam, covering her trademark shaved head with a hijab. But she continued performing her music, reflecting upon a lifetime of struggles.
BLITZER: Thanks, Stephanie, for that.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Be sure to tune in tomorrow with my interview with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That's at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.