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The Situation Room
Grilling Of A.G. Garland Ends After Tense Day-Long Hearing; Trump In Iowa Amid Revealing New CNN New Hampshire Poll; U.S. Not Expected To Give Zelenskyy Longer-Range Missiles Soon; U.S. Senate Moving Toward Confirmation Of Key Military Promotions As GOP's Tuberville Holds Up Hundreds More; Senate GOP Criticizes Schumer For Relaxing Dress Code. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 20, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): Well, I talk to Congressman Lawler all the time. He's right next door to me and he has shown -- he hasn't shown the ability to lead. We need leadership and he has not led on any of the issues I mentioned.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman, we will have you back. Thanks so much for coming on today. I appreciate it.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, tensions on Capitol Hill after House Republicans' day-long grilling of the U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland. Garland defending the Justice Department against the barrage of GOP attacks.
Also tonight, Trump campaigns in Iowa, sharpening his focus on the first Republican presidential contest. This as a brand new CNN poll now reveals who's on the rise and who's sliding in another critical early battleground, I'm talking about New Hampshire.
And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy facing a new disappointment during his U.S. visit. Sources now say the Biden administration is not expected to grant his request for longer-range missiles when he visits the White House tomorrow. Zelenskyy telling me that scenario would be a, quote, loss for his country during our one- on-one interview.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
Let's get right to our top story tonight, a verbal assault on the U.S. attorney general by some of the most hardline Republican critics of the U.S. Justice Department.
Let's go straight to CNN's Sara Murray. She's got all the fireworks. Sara, some GOP lawmakers laid into the attorney general, Merrick Garland, and he pushed back rather hard. SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. In many ways, what we saw today was a preview of this impeachment inquiry Republicans are embarking on. They were pressing the attorney general for more specifics, particularly when it relates to a criminal investigation into the president's son, Hunter Biden, and they got what I'm sure to Republicans are very unsatisfying answers as the attorney general punted on several questions involving sensitive, ongoing investigations.
MURRAY (voice over): Attorney General Merrick Garland squaring off against his toughest Republican critics on Capitol Hill today.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The fix is in. Even with the face-saving indictment last week of Hunter Biden, everyone knows the fix is in.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am not the president's lawyer. I will add I am not Congress' prosecutor.
MURRAY: Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee hounding Garland for details about the criminal investigation into Hunter Biden after his plea deal imploded in July and he was indicted last week in connection with a 2018 gun purchase.
JORDAN: After five years, what stage are we in? Are we in the beginning stage, the middle stage, the end stage? They keep hiding the ball stage. What stage are we in?
GARLAND: I'm not permitted to discuss an ongoing investigations.
JORDAN: Well, isn't that convenient? I think it's too brave whistleblowers came forward and a judge called B.S. on the plea deal. You guys tried to get past them.
MURRAY: Garland rebuffing Republicans' questions and deferring to Special Counsel David Weiss, who is overseeing the Hunter Biden probe.
GARLAND: I left it to Mr. Weiss whether to bring charges or not. That would include whether to let statute limitations expire or not, whether there was sufficient evidence to bring a case that was subject to the statute limitations or not, whether there were better cases to bring or not.
MURRAY: The attorney general reiterating that he's stayed out of the Hunter Biden investigation.
GARLAND: I promised the Senate when I came before it for confirmation that I would leave Mr. Weiss in place and that I would not interfere with his investigation.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Has anyone at the department told President Biden to knock it off with Hunter?
GARLAND: No one that I know of has spoken to the White House about the Hunter Biden case. MURRAY: And insisting no one ordered him to bring federal charges against former President Trump.
GARLAND: No one has told me to indict, and in this case, the decision to indict was made by the special counsel.
MURRAY: But the political interference accusations are sure to re- emerge as the GOP-controlled House proceeds with an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): These are allegations of abuse of power, obstruction and corruption.
MURRAY: Leaving Garland to fend off threats of being held in contempt.
REP. THOMAS MASSIE (R-KY): Aren't you in fact in contempt of Congress when you refuse to answer?
GARLAND: Congressman, I have the greatest respect for Congress.
MURRAY: And Democrats to defend Garland, pointing out Jim Jordan's refusal to comply with a January 6th committee subpoena.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): That is quite rich, because the guy who's leaving the hearing room right now, Mr. Jordan, is about 500 days into evading his subpoena.
MURRAY: Garland beating back criticism of the department and career civil servants, some of whom have been named by Republicans as they barrel ahead in their probe into alleged political bias at DOJ.
GARLAND: Singling out individual career public servants who are just doing their jobs is dangerous, particularly at a time of increased threats to the safety of public servants and their families.
We will not be intimidated.
MURRAY (on camera): Now, when it comes to Hunter Biden and that gun charge, a judge said today that Hunter Biden will have to show up in court in person on October 3rd for his initial appearance. Hunter Biden had wanted to appear by video link, but the judge said it was important that he not receive any special treatment in this case, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Murray reporting for us, thank you, Sara.
Now to another major heated face off up on Capitol Hill, this one within the ranks of the Republican Party, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, gathering his troops tonight as GOP in fighting threatens to shut down the U.S. government ten days from now.
CNN Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona is joining us right now. She has new information about the meeting. What are you learning, Melanie?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Wolf, another day, another contentious meeting inside the House GOP. And this one comes as House Republicans have been struggling to coalesce around their own plan to fund the government.
Leadership was forced to cancel a planned vote yesterday. It was back to the drawing board. They've spent the last two days in and out of meetings trying to come up with a compromise that will get the support of their entire GOP conference, including a number of hardliners who said they would oppose that GOP plan.
But, Wolf, it might all be for nothing because I am told that in today's meeting Matt Gaetz stood up and said he knows of seven Republican colleagues who would not vote for any short-term spending bill under any circumstances.
Now, it's unclear if that number is true. After that, another member, Randy Weber, stood up and said, all of those seven people, please stand up and identify yourself. Only one of them did, Cory Mills of Florida.
But it really speaks to the challenges that leadership is facing because they can't afford to lose seven members. If they do, that means they're going to need to look to Democrats to try to fund the government.
And that could be a risky proposition for Kevin McCarthy, who's being warned by his right flank member not to work with Democrats or he could be ousted as speaker.
But let's take a listen to Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of those hard line critics, and what he had to say about the idea of Republicans and Democrats working together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAETZ: Now, if Republican moderates want to go team up with Democrats and sign a discharge petition to take over the floor with Democrats, well, they'll be signing their own political death warrant and they'll be handing it to their executioner because it will be the very Democrats they act in concert with who will hunt them during the upcoming election season.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So, the bottom line here, Wolf, is that we are less than two weeks away towards a government shutdown, and as of right now, there is no clear solution in sight.
BLITZER: Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of these showdowns up on Capitol Hill. We're joined now by Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat of the House Judiciary Committee and the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. As you know, House Republicans spent much of the day today grilling the attorney general of the United States over the Hunter Biden probe. Are you satisfied with the way Garland answered these questions? And is the White House doing enough, do you believe, to push back on the allegations that the president benefited directly from Hunter Biden's business dealings?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Well, if it's good to see you. Look, I think the attorney general did an excellent job today. He was very calm. He did not take their bait. You know, frankly, he was asked over and over and over again about the Hunter Biden case, about David Weiss.
He reminded people of the simple fact that Mr. Weiss was actually appointed as U.S. attorney by Donald Trump and he had full latitude from Attorney General Garland to conduct whatever investigation he wanted to conduct. And that is consistent with Mr. Weiss' testimony as well.
And so I think that Republicans came away with absolutely nothing. But it is -- it was sad to me, Wolf. You know, I've been on the Judiciary Committee for seven years and I have just seen it increasingly be transformed into this soapbox for absurd, baseless conspiracy theories. And I think it is unfortunate because it is undermining government institutions. It's feeding lies to the American public. And I do think that is detrimental to our democracy.
The attorney general had a lot of good work that he could have talked about, about issues that Americans really care about, like gun violence and, you know, fentanyl and abortion rights, which was what I focused my questioning on. But, unfortunately, Republicans, it was just another wasted soapbox for absurd conspiracy theories.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Jayapal, I want to get your reaction to what the Judiciary Committee chairman, Jim Jordan, said about the now special counsel, David Weiss, what he said earlier this year versus what he said today. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think it's time for a special counsel and Hunter Biden investigation?
JORDAN: That was the biggest takeaway, right? The biggest takeaway is the U.S. attorney, Weiss, asked for a special counsel status and Garland Justice Department says, no, that -- like if a special counsel is not warranted here, when is it?
He picks the one guy, the one guy he knows will protect Joe Biden. He picks David Weiss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, what do you think changed, Congresswoman? JAYAPAL: Well, I heard that questioning and I really couldn't even understand the question. What Merrick Garland said over and over again, which again is consistent with what Mr. Weiss has said, that he gave him whatever latitude he wanted. And when David Weiss said, I would now like special counsel status. And if you ask me I think it's because Republicans were continuing to attack him and he wanted to again be clear, as clear could be, that he had everything he needed from the attorney general. And the attorney general immediately said, sure, you can have special counsel status.
And that is I think what's ridiculous here. These are a bunch of lies and, unfortunately, they get they get attention and they confuse they may confuse some people. But I want to be very clear, the attorney general and Mr. Weiss have been very clear that he had everything he needed, he conducted his investigation in the way that he thought was appropriate, and the attorney general did not have anything to do with any of that.
BLITZER: I want to move on to the looming government shutdown while I have you, Congresswoman. Sources are now telling CNN that Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz told his fellow Republicans during a closed- door meeting today that there are seven GOP votes to oppose any short- term spending bill that would keep the government going. What's your reaction to that and are we actually right now headed toward a government shutdown?
JAYAPAL: Well, unfortunately, I think we -- at this rate, we are headed to a Republican shutdown. And that gives me no pleasure to say because a shutdown has terrible consequences for the American people. But the reality is Republicans cannot govern. They are in chaos. They are in ruin. They have not been able to govern from the day that Speaker McCarthy got his speakership and handed the gavel over to Marjorie Taylor Greene.
He negotiated a deal with President Biden and then he immediately broke the deal. Then he started an impeachment inquiry into President Biden to try and preserve his House speakership. That didn't work. And the reality is now he can't even pass the 11 bills for funding the government with a majority in the party. He can't get agreement to bring those bills to the floor from his own majority. And they are loaded with extremist right wing provisions.
And so I think we -- you know, listen, Democrats have the same tiny majority in the last term. We governed, Democrats in the Senate have governed. They've passed all their bipartisan spending bills. It is House Republicans that are unable to govern.
BLITZER: Representative Pramila Jayapal, thanks as usual for joining us.
JAYAPAL: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, as Donald Trump ramps up his campaign in Iowa, CNN now has an exclusive brand new poll from the first GOP primary state, New Hampshire. We're going to break down the new numbers for you. Stand by. And a day after my interview with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, we're now learning that his appeal for longer-range U.S. missiles is likely to be denied, at least for now, when he visits the White House tomorrow.
BLITZER: Tonight, Donald Trump has been on the campaign trail in Iowa and on the defensive on the issue of abortion rights for women.
CNN's Kristen Holmes is on the trail in Dubuque for us. She's in Iowa with Trump. But, Kristen, Trump just responded to some serious pushback for his recent comments on abortion. What did he say?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Well, at least it certainly seemed as though that was what he was doing. He repeatedly took credit for overturning Roe v. Wade during these remarks in Dubuque, Iowa. He essentially said that he did what no one else could do in 52 years. He took credit for standing by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
He also said that Republicans need to learn how to talk about abortion, particularly when it comes to exceptions to abortion, which he said he supports. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Like Ronald Reagan before me, I believe in the three exceptions, for rape, incest and the life of the mother. I believe in that. I think it's very important.
Without the exceptions, it is very difficult to win elections. We would probably lose the majorities in 2024 without the exceptions and perhaps the presidency itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: And, Wolf, I do want to note one thing. I think you could hear it there in that sound bite from the former president, but there were loud cheers when he said that he supported these exceptions, which I thought was very interesting.
I do want to note it wasn't just conservatives and people that he was running against, like Ron DeSantis, who pushed back on his remarks from over the weekend, when he hit that six-week abortion ban. It was also the governor here in Ohio, Kim Reynolds, who went on Twitter saying, essentially, it's never a terrible thing to protect an innocent life, which is a direct hit at Donald Trump's comments from over the weekend.
But I think one thing to watch carefully is how exactly he continues to walk this tightrope. We know that it's not something he wants to talk about. He doesn't believe that abortion is a winning issue, but he still wants to take credit for being the architect of overturning Roe v. Wade. So, again, a very, very narrow walkway that he has here as he runs for president.
BLITZER: All right. Kristen Holmes in Iowa for us, thank you, Kristen, very much.
Let's bring in our political experts to talk a little bit more about Trump, the Republican presidential race, and our brand new exclusive CNN poll in the critical battleground state of New Hampshire. We're watching it all unfold. Who better than our Political Director David Chalian to share some of the numbers from this brand new exclusive poll in New Hampshire?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. We do this in partnership with the University of New Hampshire. And this is our first state- specific look at the 2024 race for this cycle, Wolf.
Here's the state of the race and the first in the nation primary race as it currently stands among likely Republican primary voters up in New Hampshire.
You see Donald Trump is the dominant frontrunner. He's got 39 percent support. That's three times as much support as his closest competitor. You see there Ramaswamy at 13, Nikki Haley at 12, Chris Christie at 11 and Ron DeSantis at 10. That is a four-way tie, if you will, given the margin of error, a four-way battle for second place there. Down in the single digits, you see Tim Scott, Mike Pence, and others.
I also wanted to show you the movement in this race from July's University of New Hampshire poll. Donald Trump remains pretty much the same, 37 percent in July, 39 percent now. But look at this, Ramaswamy up a lot, from 5 to 13, Nikki Haley way up from 5 to 12, Chris Christie way up from 6 to 11, and Ron DeSantis way down, 13 points, from 23 percent support in July to 10 percent support now.
And, Wolf, as you know, independent voters are critical in the New Hampshire primary, especially when we know there's no real action on the Democratic side, a lot of the independent voters are going to choose to participate in the Republican primary.
And look at this divide that we see in these numbers by party registration. Among registered Republicans, Donald Trump is at 48 percent support. No one is even close.
When you look at the undeclared, that's what they're called -- that's what independents are called in New Hampshire, you see a much more close contest here, Donald Trump at 23, Ramaswamy at 22, Chris Christie at 18 percent support. That is a much closer contest for those undeclared. They may make up 40 percent of the electorate in the primary.
So, you can see where the non-Trump candidates want to go fishing. Yes, they need to appeal some of his more conservative, reliably Republican support, but they see real opportunity in those independent numbers. BLITZER: It's interesting, Audie, that Trump's numbers in New Hampshire are still strong, but not as strong as his overall numbers in the national poll among likely Republican voters.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, we're talking about New England, so it's a slightly different group than if you're talking about evangelicals in Iowa or even South Carolina.
I do think this is also why you're hearing a conversation about abortion. That's probably more nuanced than some of the other people in the race other than Nikki Haley, who I think has also staked up some ground there that will appeal in the general election.
Democrats have been overperforming, and you can tell me if I'm wrong, in some special elections where abortion rights are being discussed. I think the former president knows that, and he's speaking accordingly.
BLITZER: He certainly does understand that. He keeps making those points.
It's interesting that Ron DeSantis' numbers in this brand new Senate poll in New Hampshire have dropped some 13 points. What's going on?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he's collapsing is what's going on. And our poll also shows that the drop off is with moderates and it's with conservatives.
Now, with moderates, he's down 20 points. With conservatives, he's down eight points. So, you see that he's losing both sides here. And the New Hampshire primary is open. So, the moderate support is very interesting.
I mean, I think what we've seen Ron DeSantis do is go for the conservative support, which may do well for him, say, in Iowa, we don't know. But in New Hampshire, that might not work as well. I mean, look at the fact that Chris Christie has risen so dramatically. So, Chris Christie is probably taking some of those moderates away from DeSantis.
CORNISH: You know, Gloria, I think it actually might be Vivek in some respects because New Hampshire -- I mean, I'm from New England. People love a good libertarian streak. They love that conversation about woke versus not woke, but not the way that DeSantis has it with the patina of evangelicalism and the obsession with immigration. Those things aren't so helpful in New Hampshire.
But I did notice that figure, that 13 percent, it felt like that was a 13 percent that Ramaswamy was able to gain because there are very particular things about his platform that would appeal in that environment specifically.
BORGER: He's also new and he's not regarded as a politician per se. And so people look at him as a sort of shiny new person out there on the field and that is good for him, I guess.
BLITZER: That's interesting. In this new CNN poll, CNN asked likely Republican voters if -- or how they felt about a potential 15-week abortion ban, federal abortion ban in the United States.
CHALIAN: Wolf, you just heard from Kristen Holmes, what a narrow path from us to walk here. So, a majority of likely Republican voters, primary voters in New Hampshire, 56 percent support a federal ban at 15 weeks, 27 percent opposed.
Look at this, we looked at it by Trump supporters versus those supporting candidates not named Trump, 78 percent, three quarters of the former president's supporters support a 15-week abortion ban. And that is something he has not yet come out to firmly support.
You heard him over the weekend in that interview saying, oh, that's -- a lot of conversation is around that.
I can bring all the sides together. He, as Kristen was reporting, does not want to be pinned down here into one particular thing. And yet, what we're seeing is, his supporters overwhelmingly are in favor of a 15-week national ban.
So, it will be interesting to see if he comes around to that as a position throughout the course of this campaign.
CORNISH: There's also being in favor, and then there's it being your litmus test for a vote. And I think that the overturning of Roe v. Wade, I would think, has taken off some pressure from it being the only thing that you're going to go and pull a ballot for, and maybe Trump knows that, and that's why he can keep pointing at the court while not saying, look, no matter what, this is the one thing you need to vote for.
BORGER: Trump talks about this like he's negotiating a real estate deal, which he's done many times. People in Iowa don't see this as negotiating a real estate deal. People who support the six-week ban are very emotional about it and very personal about it. And Donald Trump may have some problem with those voters because he's like, oh, maybe we'll work something out. And that doesn't work with some of the voters.
CORNISH: You mean problem in the primary or in a general?
BORGER: In the primaries, in the primaries.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, we'll take a closer look to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's trip to Washington, D.C. tomorrow, as U.S. officials now tell CNN he won't necessarily be getting one of the top items on his weapons wish list.
BLITZER: U.S. officials now tell CNN the Pentagon is not expected to provide Ukraine with longer range missiles anytime soon, despite repeated pleas from the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Here's what President Zelenskyy told me yesterday about Ukraine's need for these weapons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Will you be disappointed if you leave the United States in the coming days and go back to Ukraine without a firm commitment from the U.S. that the ATACMS will be made available to Ukraine?
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: I'll be frank with you. It will be some disappointment.
Just understand, there are some people dying. There will be a loss for us if we won't be able to get down to the type of weapon, which will protect us. But it's not a disappointment as such. It will be just a loss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our Senior White House Correspodent Kayla Tausche is in New York. She's joining us right now. She's got details.
Kayla, what does this mean for President Zelenskyy's visit to the White House tomorrow?
KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, if it means he'll likely be leaving Washington disappointed. A U.S. official tells me those deep strike missiles are not expected to be in a new aid drawdown unveiled tomorrow, but the U.S. will, in that new security package, include additional artillery, anti-armor, anti-aircraft and what this official calls significant air defense capabilities.
John Kirby, a top national security aide, told reporters this afternoon the government continues to evaluate the possibility of sending ATACMS, but that no decision has been made. I've learned the U.S. military, however, believes that those weapons are less critical for a successful counteroffensive than, say, vehicles and mine- clearing equipment that can breach Russian troops on the ground.
But it all comes, as you know, as Zelenskyy prepares to pitch Washington's skeptics on why they should greenlight tens of billions of dollars in more aid. There is confidence, though, among administration officials that Republicans will eventually get on board with that, but that they need to get beyond their own shutdown politics first. Wolf?
BLITZER: At the same time, Kayla, as you know, President Biden met today with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and he says they discussed some, quote, hard issues. Tell us about those issues.
TAUSCHE: Well, those are the hard issues that almost kept this meeting from happening, President Biden reiterating his concerns about Netanyahu's controversial plans to overhaul the country's judiciary.
A senior administration official telling reporters, though, that in the meeting, the U.S. got the sense that the way forward would include some sort of compromise.
The two leaders also discussed other issues where they share more common ground, like normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The U.S. calling it a constructive and a candid meeting, productive and congenial enough, at least, for Biden to extend the invitation for Netanyahu to visit Washington after declining to hold today's meeting at the White House. Wolf?
BLITZER: Very interesting, very significant. Kayla Tausche reporting, thank you.
Let's discuss the latest developments with the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, and the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, Evelyn Farkas.
Evelyn, let me start with you. You heard President Zelenskyy tell me it would be a loss to leave the United States in the coming days without securing ATACMS, these long-range missiles. Why is the U.S. delaying this decision right now, as it's repeatedly done for other weapons systems that it ultimately, eventually did provide?
EVELYN FARKAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MCCAIN INSTITUTE: Yes, Wolf, I can't really say. You're absolutely right that this kind of delay has happened often. And for months now, I've been hearing, and you've probably been hearing, that they have been discussing this inside the U.S. government.
Having said that, in your interview, I'm sure you remember, President Zelenskyy also said, we're making progress in the east, and even in the south, where it's very heavily mined, there is slow progress, which means with every kilometer that they take, they extend the range of their weapons.
So, it may be that the U.S. government is thinking, well, eventually, soon enough, they won't need that range. I'm not sure.
Having said that, no one weapon is going to change the course of the war. I mean, maybe the fighter aircraft will be more decisive than anything else. But it's everything combined that they need. And it sounds like we are continuing to give them meaningful packages of assistance.
BLITZER: Ambassador Taylor, not only is President Zelenskyy coming to Washington without a firm commitment on the ATACMS, but it will also be up against some serious skepticism from many Republican lawmakers about more funding for Ukraine. What message does all this send?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, Wolf, President Zelenskyy clearly wants to get some reassurance, and he wants to be able to make the case. His first message is thank you very much. It's clearly going to be an appreciation. The second message is we continue to need these long-range weapons. I mean, I think that he's going to still make the case for these ATACMS missiles. They can help right away. They can go into the fight tomorrow. They can have an effect on this counteroffensive. And that is going to be an important aspect that he'll make. Thank you very much. I need more. And he'll make that case to the Republicans and to the Democrats, and they'll be listed (ph).
BLITZER: Yes. He made the point to me yesterday that if the U.S. were to provide these advanced weapons systems to Ukraine, it would save a lot of Ukrainian lives, men, women, and children who are still being killed by these Russian assaults.
Evelyn, how urgent is Zelenskyy's mission here in Washington as Ukraine tries to make gains in its own military counteroffensive before tough winter weather eventually sets in in the coming weeks.
FARKAS: Yes, Wolf, I mean, the Ukrainians have been clear that the winter won't stop them. They will keep fighting. But, of course, it will be a lot harder. And the urgency is probably more political and then moral. You know, if you're the president of Ukraine, he said these are lives that we're going to lose. If I don't have the best weaponry possible, he also talked about air defense and patriot systems, if he doesn't have these things, more civilians will die and more military will die fighting the Russians.
So, for him, it's a moral issue as the leader. He has to try to get the best and the most equipment that he can. And at the same time, politically, certainly the west, we can be fickle. And that's what Vladimir Putin is counting on.
BLITZER: Ambassador Taylor, as you know, some Republican lawmakers are saying they want more answers on how far U.S. aid is actually going in Ukraine. How much pressure is Ukraine under right now to show success on the battlefield?
TAYLOR: Well, Wolf, as Evelyn just said, they're making progress. And President Zelenskyy makes that exact point. They're grinding it out. They're moving forward. They've got momentum. And that will be on the table tomorrow. He'll make that case. He'll make the case to Republicans and Democrats. They'll want to know that all of this assistance, these weapons, the support is going to the right place.
No one wants it more than the Ukrainians to go to the exact right place. So, he'll make that case, I think, very convincingly. But he's going to have the opportunity to make his point that we appreciate what you're doing, we need more, it's going to the -- and we're making progress.
BLITZER: William Taylor and Evelyn Farkas, to both of you, thank you very much.
Just ahead, we're learning new details that at least six Trump allies will be witnesses for the prosecution in the Fulton County 2020 election case. We'll have a live report from Atlanta. That's coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: A key pro-Trump lawyer is now set to cooperate with the Fulton County prosecutors in the 2020 George election meddling case.
CNN's Nick Valencia is covering the story for us. He's joining us from outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta. What's the latest, Nick?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is perhaps the biggest revelation related to this case that Lin Wood is now cooperating rather. He's now listed, I should say, as a witness for the state.
Wood was never officially part of Trump's team. He certainly parroted what the former president was peddling. Perhaps one of the most prominent peddlers of election conspiracy theories was Lin Wood filing a series of lawsuits with a lot of information that was proven to be inaccurate.
Wood did not respond to our ask for clarity as to whether or not he is cooperating with the district attorney's office, and some have even accused him of flipping on the former president. He didn't call us back, but he did post on his social media.
And this is what he had to say in part, saying, quote, I have no idea why I'm being asked to testify at the trial. I've had no discussions with the D.A.'s office since I testified before the special grand jury several months ago.
And we should remind our viewers that the special purpose grand jury actually recommended Lin Wood to be charged by the district attorney's office, but they chose not to. This big revelation today here related to this case, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick, what can you tell us about the fake electors now trying to move their case from state to federal court? Do they have a shot?
VALENCIA: Well, it's a long shot if they have any shot at all. This same judge struck down a similar motion from the former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and this hearing was intended to address that motion from the fake electors to try to move their case from state court to federal court, but quickly derailed into pitch clashes between defense attorneys and the state over whether or not this case was political in nature.
One of the defense attorneys for David Schafer, he's one of those fake electors trying to get his case moved, said it was a sad state of affairs in this country when Trump supporters who participate in the political process are at risk or in the danger zone, he says, of being indicted by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.
The defense attorney went on to say the fake electors were doing their civic duty, and trying to preserve Trump's right to contest the 2020 election. The state really pushed back on those claims, calling them borderline offensive and saying any claims that this was political in nature is 100 percent true. They say that anyone that signed fake elector certificates, whether or not Republicans or Democrats, anything else, would have faced similar charges -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nick Valencia reporting for us from Atlanta, thank you.
Coming up, the U.S. Senate is now set to vote on three key military promotions amid a month's long blockade by Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, but hundreds of nominations are still being held up. Our live report from Capitol Hill is next.
BLITZER: After months of gridlock, there's finally some movement tonight on the nominations of three key military officials held up by Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville.
But hundreds more are still very much in limbo right now.
Let's get details from CNN's Lauren Fox. She's up on Capitol Hill.
What's the latest, Lauren?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, they are voting tonight on the final confirmation of the joint chiefs of staff, CQ Brown. But this all came as a surprise today, Wolf, when Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, went down to the Senate floor to try to stop a move from Tommy Tuberville that was expected later in the afternoon. As part of his effort, what Schumer did was he set up votes on some of the top brass in the military, after saying for months that he did not want to do these nominations one by one.
The argument from Schumer was that he had no other choice because Tuberville later today was supposed to go to the floor and use a rarely deployed tactic to try to bring these nominations, to force them on the floor. And what happened was Schumer basically said he did not want to put his Democratic colleagues in the position of potentially having to vote against Tuberville's procedural move, because, doing so could make Democrats look like they were the ones holding up these nominations.
So, Schumer arguing this was a final step that he had to take, despite the fact he argues it is dangerous for the Senate to begin this precedent where you have these nominations that any one senator can hold them up that they can politicize the military. These are typically nominations, Wolf, that are just advanced by voice vote or by a simple consent agreement among senators.
We should also note, as you did at the top here, there are a number, hundreds, of military nominees whose nominations are still in limbo because of Tommy Tuberville's holds. The expectation is that after the vote is final on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, there will then be a procedural vote on the chief of staff for the army, then tomorrow, a final vote on that nomination, and a final vote on the commandant of the Marine Corps.
So, three of the military's top brass expected to be confirmed in just the next 24 hours, Wolf, after months of delay.
BLITZER: All right, very important indeed.
Lauren Fox reporting from Capitol Hill, thank you.
Still ahead, one of the most hallowed institutions in the U.S. government is changing its dress code and some of the members aren't happy about it.
BLITZER: All right. This just in: a suspect has now been charged in connection with the murder of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. The district attorney alleges Kevin Salazar intentionally killed Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, waiting for him and discharging a firearm from a car. The suspect has pled not guilty, including by reason of insanity. He's being held without bail, a preliminary hearing has now been scheduled for November.
Other news right now, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently relaxed the unwritten dress code for what U.S. senators can or can't wear inside the Senate chamber. That rule change is being criticized by congressional Republicans.
Brian Todd is covering the story for us.
Brian, what's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today, Democratic Senator John Fetterman gave us a jarring image. He presided over the Senate wearing a short sleeve shirt and shorts which Republican Senator Rick Scott told me he thought was inappropriate.
Tonight, a Senate known for its buttoned-up image is in an uproar over this change.
TODD (voice-over): He's 6'8", weighs about 270 and walks around the Senate halls with a hoodie and shorts on, and he didn't a tourist.
Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, whose choice of attire has forced him to vote from the doorways rather than on the Senate floor, under the Senate's previous unwritten dress code, today was seen proudly wearing those casuals while presiding over the Senate --
SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): The senator from Texas.
TODD: -- now that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has relaxed the dress code. Almost every Republican senator has signed a letter spearheaded by
Florida Senator Rick Scott, calling on Schumer to keep enforcing the code.
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): This has got to change back. We've got to have decorum. We've got to address the way the American public would expect their U.S. senators to address.
TODD: Republican Senator Chuck Grassley saying it stinks.
Senator John Kennedy saying --
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don't like it.
TODD: And Republican Senator Susan Collins joking, quote, I plan to wear a bikini tomorrow to the Senate floor. Some Democrats seem reluctant to criticize the change.
Do you think it should be changed?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I just think there's a whole lot more important things for us to worry about. So, I'm fine, you know, as long as people cover all the private parts.
SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): I think you can have respect for the institution without a formal dress code so long as individual members take personal responsibility for upholding decorum.
TODD: But Republicans are pressing even on the House side.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You're going to change all the Senate rules simply so someone can wear gym clothes onto the floor? I mean, that's embarrassing.
TODD: Fetterman today firing back, saying, quote, if those jegoffs in the House stop trying to shut our government down and fully support Ukraine, then I will save democracy by wearing a suit on the Senate floor next week.
And telling MSNBC on Monday --
FETTERMAN: The right have been, like, losing their mind, you know? They're just, like, oh, my God, aren't there more important things we should be talking about rather than if I had dressed like a slob.
TODD: While some senators like Kyrsten Sinema, often dress with flair, the Senate has expected business attire for centuries, with men understood to wear a suit and tie and women covering their arms. A senator without a tie would immediately leave the floor and fix the mistake.
And Ronald Reagan famously would rarely set foot in the Oval Office without a coat and tie. One analyst says decorum has its place but right now --
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: We're heading headlong into what may be a sustained government shutdown. This is a distraction. This is a tempest in a hoodie.
TODD (on camera): Now, even Senator Fetterman says he's not sure if he'll always take advantage of the new rules. Fetterman was recently quoted as saying it's nice to have the option, but that he's planning on using the new dress code sparingly and not overusing it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks for that report.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.