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Trump Won't Try To Move Georgia Election Case To Federal Court; Biden Targets Trump In Speech On Threats To Democracy; Two Days To Shutdown, GOP Tensions Boil, No Solution In Sight; American Soldier Travis King Back On U.S. Soil. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 28, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: This news just in, former President Donald Trump will not try to move his Fulton County Georgia case to federal court. This surprise and a court filing just filed. Wolf Blitzer is going to pick up the breaking news coverage next in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, a surprise, a surprise from Donald Trump in the Georgia election subversion case. Stand by for new details on the Trump team's decision not to try to move the criminal charges against the former president from state to federal court.
Also tonight, President Biden attempts to sound the alarm about the threat to democracy here in the United States posed by Trump, MAGA Republicans and GOP hardliners in Congress. Will his message breakthrough as he prepares for a potential rematch with Trump next year.
And the government shutdown countdown is growing more urgent with just two days, two days to the deadline. Tensions among House Republicans boiling over with no solution in sight.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All right, let's get right to the breaking news, the breaking news in the Georgia election subversion case, Donald Trump and his legal team deciding not to try to move his prosecution to federal court.
CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is joining us right now. What are you learning, Jessica?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. This is somewhat surprising because we did expect Trump's legal team to try to get his case moved out of Fulton County Georgia to a federal court. The deadline for them to try to do that is tomorrow. And that's why today they are in fact telling the court that they are not going to try to remove it.
So, this is what they're saying in the court filing that just came down. They're saying, President Trump now notifies the court that he will not be seeking to remove his case to federal court. This decision is based on his well-founded confidence that this honorable court intends to fully and completely protect his constitutional right to a fair trial and guarantee him due process of law throughout the prosecution of this case in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia.
So, Trump's team filing that in state court saying we are not going to try to move it to federal court. This may be because it's so far been an uphill battle for Trump's co-defendants to try to get removal. It was just a few weeks ago that a federal judge rejected Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' attempt to move his case out of county court, state court, to the federal level. So, perhaps, you know, we know that Donald Trump's lawyers were closely watching that proceeding.
And by all accounts, Mark Meadows would have had a good case. He was chief of staff working directly for the president of the United States. He said that most of what he did was within his official duties. But the federal judge rejected that argument. So, perhaps Trump's lawyers thinking it would be an uphill climb if they tried to remove the case to federal court.
So, Trump's case will, in fact, now officially go forward in state court in Fulton County, Georgia. That case proceeds, as his other cases are moving. And we're seeing a lot of pre-trial motions in the cases of the Mar-a-Lago classified documents, as well as the subversion case in January 6th here in Washington, D.C.
But for now, we know that at least one more case will not be added to the federal court docket and it will remain in Fulton County, Georgia, where Trump is charged with numerous other co-defendants for a racketeering scheme that Fani Willis, the D.A. there, has alleged. So, Wolf, a bit of surprising news on the legal front when it comes to Trump's team tonight.
BLITZER: Yes, indeed. Jessica Schneider with the breaking news, thank you, Jessica, very much.
We're also following new developments in Trump's upcoming civil fraud trial in New York. An appellate court has denied Trump's motion to delay the trial, which is now set to begin Monday, this coming Monday. The former president and his three oldest children are on the list of possible witnesses.
CNN's Kara Scannell is in New York. She's watching all of this. Kara, how is this trial shaping up now?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you say, this New York State Appeals Court clearing the way for the trial to start Monday, denying Trump's motion for a delay of the start of the case. This follows a ruling by the lower court judge earlier this week where he found that Trump and the Trump Organization liable for fraud, saying that they had inflated the value of their properties on their financial statements. And the judge also canceled the business certifications for some of these limited liability companies. Now, there still remains a big question about what that looks like and how the future of the Trump Organization will look and whether Trump will own any buildings in New York where he built his brand.
But as for the trial, it's now going to move forward with the focus on damages and the New York Attorney General's Office also looking to prove claims of insurance fraud, falsifying business records among others.
Now, the A.G.'s office said they plan to call 28 witnesses, including former President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump and Michael Cohen, whose testimony before Congress in 2019 is what set off this investigation. Cohen said at the time that he believed the Trump Organization and the former president had inflated the value of assets and that is exactly what the judge found this week.
Now, Trump's attorneys have a witness list that includes 127 people, also including the former president, Trump. So, it is likely that he could be called as a witness in this case. Now, the New York Attorney General's Office following this judges, this court ruling this afternoon saying we are ready for trial and look forward to presenting the rest of our case. We have not heard back from the Trump side yet tonight for comment. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Kara, thanks very much, Kara Scannell in New York for us.
Let's discuss all of these major developments. Joining us now is CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe.
Elie, first, on the breaking news we just reported, what's behind Trump's decision not to try to move his Georgia state case to federal court?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this one was a genuine strategic stunner, in my view. There were plenty of good reasons why Donald Trump would want to be in federal court, starting with the fact that he would have a more favorable politically jury pool to choose from.
That said, there are countervailing considerations here which may under underlie Donald Trump's strategic decision here to stay in state court. First of all, the judge, and if you look at the filing that Kara just highlighted, it seems that Donald Trump is quite satisfied with the state level judge, Judge McAfee, who has indeed given fair rulings. He's given some rulings, I think, that Donald Trump's team likes, where on the opposite side of it, the federal judge, Judge Stephen Jones, is an Obama nominee. That does not mean he's biased against Trump, but he has firmly rejected prior motions by others to come over into federal court. You start with that.
There's also the uncertainty about timing. It could be that Donald Trump feared that if he went into federal court, he'd be pushed to trial very quickly, but in state court, those cases seem to be on a much slower track. And then, finally, there's the fact that if he did want to make this motion to get into federal court, he'd have to survive an evidentiary hearing. He'd have to go into court and either testify, as Mark Meadows did, or make some other showing. And there's risk in that. So, now he doesn't have to do that.
So, it's an interesting strategic decision. It's going to have major consequences.
BLITZER: Yes, it will. Andrew, Mark Meadows' efforts to try to move his case to federal court was rejected by the judge. How does that factor in here?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think it's reasonable to assume that Trump's lawyers looked at of the very tough treatment that Meadows received from the federal court on his motion to remove and decided potentially that it just wasn't worth the effort.
Meadows, of course, took the road that Elie just mentioned in terms of testifying himself in his own motion hearing. And many people believe that he damaged himself by making statements that could be used against him in other proceedings in Fulton County, or if he's ever indicted on the federal level. So, that hangs out there. We'll have to see how that plays out.
So, by not pursuing this motion, thinking of it as likely a long shot for success, they also avoided that tough situation of having to provide evidence and possibly deliver testimony in court.
We should also remember that Jeffrey Clark tried to provide his evidence and his removal hearing by just submitting an affidavit and the judge rejected it. So, I think it was probably a wise move to figure that they would likely be unsuccessful.
BLITZER: Elie, I want to turn to Trump's New York fraud trial, which starts, as we reported, this coming Monday. Just how high are the stakes for Trump there and how likely is it that he and his adult children eventually do take the stand?
HONIG: Well, the stakes are Donald Trump's entire business enterprise really know less than that. If he loses, he could get hit with a nine figure verdict and he could have his business certificate suspended as to the issue of who might be a witness here.
In a criminal case, the prosecution cannot force the defendant to take the stand. That would violate the Fifth Amendment. But this is a civil case. So, the plaintiff in this case, the A.G., can subpoena Donald Trump and his children and compel them to take the stand.
If that happens, then they'll be given a difficult choice. Either they can testify, but we saw Donald Trump's deposition in this case. That went disastrously, or they do have the right to invoke the Fifth Amendment. And given that this is a fraud case, they would have every basis to do that. But in New York's civil courts, if a party takes the Fifth, then the fact-finder, the judge, can hold that against them. You're allowed to assume the worst about what that testimony would have been. So, it's a tough decision either way here for Donald Trump.
Andrew, let me quickly get your thoughts on this New York trial that begins this coming Monday, what it means for Trump and his business empire, especially in New York State.
Could he really lose his most prized property, properties like the Trump Tower, even Mar-a-Lago down in Florida?
MCCABE: Well, he absolutely could lose any properties that are within the jurisdiction of the New York court. So, those would be any of the real estate holdings that he has, certainly in New York.
Let's remember that the judge in this case has already determined that he committed fraud, and the purpose of the trial is simply to determine damages. How much money is he going to have to pay to resolve these claims of fraud? It's entirely possible if he's a large judgment that he's left to have to satisfy, the court would seize and sell some of his assets, things like Trump Tower, in order to satisfy this judgment.
So, it's really a devastating place that he's in with respect to his business but also with respect to he and his family's personal finances. So, this is a very tough spot for the former president.
BLITZER: Yes, lots at stake for Trump and his family, as far as their businesses, especially in New York State are concerned.
Andrew McCabe, Elie Honig, guys, thank you very much.
Just ahead, President Biden's new warning today about the threat to American democracy directly targeting Trump as a danger to the country.
And as the clock ticks toward a government shutdown, we'll take a closer look at the almost immediate impact on millions of Americans. Federal workers aren't the only ones who will feel the pinch.
BLITZER: Tonight, a new attempt by President Biden to convince Americans there is a real and present danger to democracy here in the United States and to drive up the stakes in the 2024 election.
CNN's Kayla Tausche has more on the president taking on Donald Trump in the battleground state of Arizona.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden with a stark warning for American voters.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: There's something dangerous happening in America now. There's an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy, the MAGA movement.
TAUSCHE: The president issuing a blistering critique of the far-right wing of the House GOP.
BIDEN: Extremists in Congress more determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down.
TAUSCHE: And making a not so subtle reference to his top 2024 rivals, Trump and DeSantis.
BIDEN: Consider these as actual quotes from the MAGA movement. Quote, I am your retribution, slitting throats of civil service.
TAUSCHE: The impassioned speech from battleground Arizona, the state whose 2020 election results Trump tried to overturn.
BIDEN: The defeated former president expressed when he was in office and believes it applies only to him. And this is a dangerous notion. This president is above the law, no limits. Trump says the Constitution gave him, quote, the right to do whatever he wants as president, end of quote.
TAUSCHE: It's a familiar rebuke from Biden spurred to run for president while watching the Charlottesville riots, cautioning on political violence from Capitol Hill to Independence Hall ahead of the midterms.
BIDEN: Equality and democracy are under assault.
TAUSCHE: This address just one day after the Republican debate, where 2024 hopefuls fought for airtime on the debate stage at the Reagan Library.
Biden unveiling a library for his late friend and longtime Senator John McCain, says not all Republicans are extreme.
BIDEN: For John, it was country first, honor, duty, decency, freedom, liberty, democracy. And now history has brought us to a new time of testing.
TAUSCHE: And that another era of cooperation is within reach.
BIDEN: When we put partisanship aside and put country first, I say we must and we will, we will.
TAUSCHE (on camera): Meanwhile, lawmakers in Washington appear farther apart than ever, with Republicans embarking on hearings to impeach the president and barreling toward a government shutdown that could begin this weekend. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Kayla Tausche at the White House for us, thank you, Kayla.
Let's break all of this down with our political experts, and, Gloria Borgia, let me start with you. This was a very stark warning from President Biden today.
I want you to take a look at this exit poll from the 2022 midterm elections. You see it there in this exit poll. 68 percent of voters said they agree that democracy in the United States is threatened. Is this an issue that you believe will continue to resonate with voters going forward?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it will. And I think Donald, I think that Joe Biden's audience was those anti- Trump Republicans and independent voters. Don't forget he did this in the state of Arizona, which is, of course, a battleground state that he won last time, but is very, very important to him.
I think what we saw today was a different Joe Biden. He's been out there talking about Bidenomics, and it has not resonated. The poll numbers show that people in this country believe he hasn't done a good job on the economy. And he's been pushed by a lot of Democratic strategists to start taking on Donald Trump directly, and that is what he did today.
And what he said that sort of was very affecting, I think, was, you can't love your country only when you win. And I think that was his sort of message to the public, which is, beware.
And he went point by point by point over things that Donald Trump has said, threatening Milley, for example, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, saying, I am your retribution. And I think it was an important shift in Biden's tone and kind of foreshadows what we're going to see.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Scott Jennings, that President Biden claims that today's Republican Party, in his words, is driven and intimidated by Trump and MAGA Republicans.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, some people certainly are. And to Gloria's point, the people he's trying to appeal to with a speech like this, he wants to hearken back to a Republican party that they remember that came before Trump, you know, people who might remember Ronald Reagan or might remember Mitt Romney or, you know, other kinds of people.
And he doesn't have to get all the Republicans. He's just looking to slice off a few because, you know, you think about this race being run in four states and maybe 70,000 people could make the difference. You get just a sliver of those Republicans that you would ordinarily depend on to vote for the party to switch sides and you could be home.
BLITZER: Ashley Etienne is with us as well. Ashley. President Biden today, he directly went after Trump. Until now, basically, he was avoiding talking too much about Trump, as you well know. Is this effectively now the beginning of the campaign of Trump and Biden?
ASHLEY ETIENNE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR V.P. HARRIS AND SPEAKER PELOSI: I mean, I sure hope so. I mean, I think if Biden doesn't do it, who's going to take it to Donald Trump because the Republicans haven't proven that they're interested in taking it to Donald Trump?
But here's the thing, one, Gloria pointed out a really good line. The line that I appreciated most was that he said -- he made the point that this issue of democracy is not a partisan issue. It's an American issue. And where, and I agree with the president on that, I also agree with Judge Luttig, who actually testified at the January 6th hearing, the conservative judge who said that the party that is tearing down democracy has to be responsible for building it back up again, that the Republican Party now has to be part of the coalition that's building up the democracy and securing democracy, and we're not currently seeing that from the Republican Party. They continued to turn a deaf ear and lie and deceive the American public about Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the election and the threat that he presents to democracy.
So, for me, I agree with the judge. That's the greatest threat to democracy. If we don't have two healthy parties at the table, what do we have?
BLITZER: Yes, good point. You know, Gloria, it's interesting you mentioned the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mark Milley. And Milley says he's now taking security precautions based on what Trump has recently said about him. Very disgusting words he's saying about the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs. But listen to Milley, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: As much as these comments are directed at me, it's also directed at the institution of the military. And there's 2.1 million of us in uniform. And the American people can take it to the bank that all of us, every single one of us from private to general, will be loyal to that constitution and will never turn up back on it no matter what, no matter what the threats, no matter what the humiliation, no matter what.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried about your safety?
MILLEY: I've got adequate safety precautions. I wish those comments had not been made, but they were. And we'll take appropriate measures to ensure my safety and the safety of my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I thought it was interesting, Gloria. Today, President Biden said that Republican silence on this issue, his words, is deafening. What's your reaction?
BORGER: I think his point was that it's complicit. That, you know, his question was, why aren't Republicans calling out these kinds of statements? And he went, again, over and over again, some of these statements, including the reporting that Donald Trump had called people who died during war as suckers and losers. And he asked, and I think very movingly, you know, was my son, one of those suckers who lived next to a burn pit in Iraq and then died of a brain tumor. And he said, well, was my son a sucker? And I think, you know, when you personalize it like that, it's hard to avoid it.
BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right. Ashley, I'm showing our viewers this video of Milley walking out of the Pentagon today being applauded by members of the U.S. military and his colleagues called the Clap-At, as we know.
And it's interesting, tomorrow is his last official day, what do you think about this? The way the former president of the United States was saying these really ugly, disgusting things about the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, a man who has served in the military for decades, risking his life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
ETIENNE: No, I mean, I think that, you know, this creates an opportunity for the Democratic Party really to characterize the whole of the Republican Party as really complicit to quote the president in these acts. I just -- I think from my perspective, in watching all of this, I think what's heartbreaking is it reminds me of this MLK quote, which is, the silence of my friends is the greatest betrayal. And right now, the silence that we're hearing from the Republican Party is the greatest betrayal against our democracy.
BLITZER: What do you think?
JENNINGS: It's shameful. Mark Milley served his country honorably. You can have policy differences with people, but this kind of language has no place in our discourse, and it ought to be repudiated.
BLITZER: And it potentially threatens him as well.
That's why he's had to beef up his own security.
BORGER: And let me say one thing, none of this came up in the Republican debate, none of it.
BLITZER: All right, guys, everybody, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, with only two days until a possible government shutdown, what happens to the families who rely on government benefits to feed their families? A closer look at what a shutdown really means for millions of Americans, that's coming up next.
BLITZER: A federal government shutdown in just two days now appears to be almost inevitable, as hard-line Republicans in the House threaten to revoke Kevin McCarthy's speakership if he works with Democrats to pass the Senate funding bill.
CNN's Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is joining us right now. Manu, you're up on the Hill and you just had a chance to speak directly to the speaker. What did he say?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I asked him if he's willing to cut a deal with Democrats if his first plan to pass a Republican-only bill to keep the government open for a short period of time, if it collapses tomorrow, which is expected.
Is it a time for him to work with Democrats? He would not say. He said that he is not going to talk about his plan B. He said that he does have a plan in mind, though he wouldn't reveal what that is.
But at the moment, Kevin McCarthy is facing resistance from a handful of conservative hardliners who simply say that they will not agree to a short-term bill to keep the government open. As Democrats say, they are opposed to that plan because of the spending cuts and other measures attached to it, all leading to a round of finger-pointing and concerns that the government could shut down on Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): I think everybody loses. I think the Republicans lose. I think the Democrats lose. I think the administration loses. I think the country loses. That's why we got to figure out how we do our job here.
REP. MIKE GARCIA (R-CA): It's not great. I mean, you know, there's no one in that conference and within our conference that wants to shut down. I don't hear people saying they want to shut down.
REP. ELI CRANE (R-AZ): You know, I think that members should be looking at for stronger leadership. And you know what? Quite frankly, I know that people in my district that I represent want to see stronger leadership, so I'm all about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So, that last comment from Congressman Eli Crane, who said that he is willing to vote and support a vote seeking Kevin McCarthy's ouster. That is something that continues to linger over the speaker, threats from the far right that could push him out if he were to cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government open, perhaps one reason why the speaker has not yet gone that route is he's trying to corral Republicans to back a GOP-only plan, even though it doesn't have the votes in the House and certainly doesn't have the votes to get through the Democratic-led Senate. But that threat continues to loom.
And just moments ago, when the speaker was asked about all that, he contended that he is not concerned about that vote, suggesting perhaps he could win it if the vote to come to oust him comes to pass on the floor.
BLITZER: Yes, lots going on. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
While Congress is mired in dysfunction right now, there are broader warnings about the economic impact of a government shutdown. Brian Todd takes a closer look at how this will impact millions and millions of Americans.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This Wisconsin food pantry is bracing for a surge of needy families if the federal government shuts down this weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people might come through and be like, this is my first time here, how does this work?
TODD: Two reasons for more hardship, federal workers won't get paychecks and families who rely on food assistance could lose it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't get those benefits, they might come here every week instead of only once a month.
TODD: First to feel the pinch, almost all of the country's more than 3.5 million federal workers going without pay.
EVERETT KELLEY, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: They live from paycheck to paycheck. When they don't get a paycheck, it could be devastating. A matter of fact, it could be disastrous.
TODD: Over a million are active duty military.
SABRINA SINGH, DEPUTY PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: These service members have rent to pay, mortgages, child care. So, those bills are going to mount up. It's an incredibly stressful time.
TODD: Some workers will still have to work without pay, those deemed essential. For example, soldiers, border patrol and air traffic controllers.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: It certainly doesn't help with that safety critical job for them to come to work with the stress of not getting paid.
TODD: Among the many services at risk, food and water safety inspections, services at national parks, disaster funding for places like Hawaii and Florida, passport processing. We can expect airport delays with many unpaid TSA screeners likely to be absent. And thousands of preschool kids could be shut out of the Head Start program.
MARISOL GARCIA, ARIZONA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: We're talking about kids that are living in extreme poverty. Not having this system up and running would really, really impact the kids and the communities that need it the most. TODD: Other impacts, immigration court cases put off and no new
government aid to help states cope with migrants.
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): New federal funds will not be available to help states like New York deal with the asylum seekers crisis.
TODD: Social security and Medicare payments will continue uninterrupted, but service --
EVERETT: A person come and want to apply for a new claim, that won't happen. A person have an issue with their benefits. You know, they have no one to call, no one to talk to.
TODD: The broader economy would take a hit, experts say, because things like permitting for construction projects and loan approvals for farms and small businesses could be paused.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A government shutdown is just yet another drag on the economy because it ends up disrupting lots of supply chains and lots of services that people and businesses rely on them to keep other parts of the economy running.
TODD (on camera): What should the average American do to prepare for a possible shutdown? Analyst Catherine Rampell advises, check on what benefits you're receiving from the federal government, whether it's food stamps or your child's preschool, and find out if those benefits are going to be disrupted.
And she says, contact your representative in Congress and urge them to work as hard as possible to reach a funding deal, Wolf. But as Manu explained, that may not be likely.
BLITZER: Yes, good advice from her. Thank you very much, Brian Todd reporting.
Just ahead, the GOP-led House holds its first hearing on a potential Biden impeachment. Why even some Republicans say it was an unmitigated disaster.
BLITZER: House Republicans officially kicked off their push for a Biden impeachment today, holding their first public hearing. At least one GOP insider is calling it an unmitigated disaster after the Republican's own witnesses said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the president.
Here is CNN's Sara Murray.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): House Republicans putting forth plenty of bombast. REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): If we had a box of all the foreign money the Bidens took, it would have reached to the ceiling.
MURRAY: But, as Democrats noted, no new evidence.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): What's missing, despite years of investigation, is the smoking gun that connects Joe Biden to his never do well son's corruption.
MURRAY: As the GOP convened its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
REP. JASON SMITH (R-MO): Whether it was lunches, phone calls, White House meetings or official foreign trips, Hunter Biden cashed in by arranging access to Joe Biden, the family brand.
MURRAY: Republicans kicking off an impeachment inquiry that's set to explore whether Joe Biden performed any official acts, traded access or offered the perception of access in exchange for money from foreign interests to either him or his family.
Also on the GOP agenda, whether Joe Biden meddled in investigations into Hunter Biden. But the GOP has not uncovered any proof Joe Biden benefited from his son Hunter Biden's overseas business deals or intervened in Hunter Biden's criminal prosecution.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): In your testimony today, are you presenting any first hand witness account of crimes committed by the president of the United States?
PROF. JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: No, I'm not.
MURRAY: Even as Republicans tried to drive home claims of Biden family corruption --
REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Hunter Biden referred to access to his father as the keys to his family's only asset. Those words are going to come back and haunt Hunter Biden and his family forever.
MURRAY: Their own witnesses failed to back them up, noting that Republicans are currently operating on allegations rather than hard facts.
TURLEY: I do not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment. That is something that an inquiry has to establish.
BRUCE DUBINSKY, FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT: I'm not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud or any wrongdoing. In my opinion, more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment.
MURRAY: In a hearing that at times grew testy. COMER: You keep speaking about no evidence. Why don't you all just listen and --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to introduce evidence.
COMER: You've already had your --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it in?
MURRAY: Democrats ultimately slam their colleagues for pressing ahead with an impeachment inquiry amid a looming government shutdown.
DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: It is incredible that we are holding this sham hearing two days before the government will shut down.
MURRAY (on camera): House Oversight Chairman James Comer wrapping up this impeachment inquiry hearing with a promise to move forward with subpoenas for James Biden and Hunter Biden's bank records. This comes after several Republican lawmakers and Republican aides that CNN spoke to. We're not particularly impressed with how the hearing went. One senior GOP aide telling CNN it was an unmitigated disaster and pointing to the fact that there were these Republican witnesses who could not fully back up what Republican lawmakers on the panel were saying.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Sara Murray, thanks for that report.
Let's get a key Republican's perspective on all of this. We're joined now by the former governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
As you heard, the Republicans own witnesses today admitted the current evidence doesn't necessarily show corruption or wrongdoing. One senior GOP aide told CNN, and I'm quoting now, this is an unmitigated disaster. Do you agree?
FMR. GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Well, look, well, if I think that these are serious charges and that we really ought to get to the facts in a fair and impartial way, and I'm not sure we can do that in this Congress, because it's just more of the divisiveness and dysfunction.
But, look, I spoke out when the Democrats were going through impeachment proceedings, and I said Democrats shouldn't rush to judgment and already determine guilt before they actually collect and see all the evidence, and Republicans shouldn't ignore the evidence and not consider the facts when they made the decision in the House and the Senate. It seems to me it's the same kind of a situation.
Look, I don't know that there's criminal wrongdoing, but just dismiss it with all of the smoke out there and say it's not worth gathering evidence and it's not worth at least gathering the evidence to do an inquiry. We're not at the end of an inquiry or an investigation. It's the very first day. So, of course, you don't see the smoking gun. There's not evidence. We don't know if it's a sham or whether there are serious violations of law.
So, look, I come by this with a historical background. My dad was on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment of Nixon, and he was fighting for Nixon's defense and fighting against Democrats that he thought were being overly partisan. And months later, after seeing the facts, he was the first one to arrive at the conclusion that the president was guilty of impeachable offenses.
So, I don't know all the facts yet, but I don't think Democrats should be so quick to dismiss and I don't think Republicans should be so quick to convict. I think we ought to just try to get to the facts in a fair and impartial way, which is really hard to do in a divided Congress like this.
BLITZER: As you know, Governor, it was taking place as President Biden today delivered a truly blistering speech condemning the MAGA movement. He called them extremist and dangerous, a real threat to democracy here in the United States. Is he right?
HOGAN: Well, look, I've been probably more outspoken than nearly anyone in the Republican Party that I think the extreme MAGA wing is just terrible for the Republican Party and bad for America.
We've already heard these same kinds of comments from the president. He made a speech that got a lot of attention already. I'm concerned about the same day, the first day of the impeachment inquiry, he goes to make a partisan political posturing speech that repeats some of those things.
I'm not saying some of the things he said weren't true. I appreciate the fact he was honoring John McCain, but look, I think the president should have shown leadership and been back in Washington trying to work together to resolve this budget crisis instead of you know, it was playing politics. If you're going to go all the way to Arizona, why not go to the border where we've got a terrible crisis instead of just taking political shots at Republicans?
BLITZER: Who do you blame most for a potential shutdown that's coming we believe this weekend?
HOGAN: I think it's a disaster. I think I would blame the kind of MAGA wing of the Republicans in the House. A handful of kind of folks that are more interested in performative politics and social media and getting attention that actually solving problems, and threatening Kevin McCarthy.
I think McCarthy's trying to get to an agreement. He's trying to work with Senate Democrats. I was in a state with 70 percent Democratic legislature. We balanced the budget every year, but we did by sitting down and negotiating. I think, frankly, there's a lack of leadership. I think it's -- but
it's not just the Republicans. President Biden should be down there sitting down with both houses of Congress and trying to hammer this out instead of campaigning in Arizona.
BLITZER: Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, governor, thank you so much for joining us.
HOGAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, U.S. Army Private Travis King is now back in the United States after being held in North Korea for more than two months. What we're learning about his return. We have new information. That's next.
BLITZER: U.S. Army Private Travis King is now back in the United States after spending more than two months in North Korean custody. He landed at a military base in San Antonio, Texas, this morning.
CNN's chief national security correspondent Alex Marquand is covering this story for us.
Alex, tell us about King's return and what happens next.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the focus now for Private King is on his medical condition, his emotional and his physical health. There are certainly questions about some -- any kind of discipline or punishment that he may face. We were told by officials that those questions will be addressed later on.
But he did land overnight in San Antonio at that military base. He then went to the Brook Army Medical Center. That is the biggest hospital in the defense department network. That's also where there's a specialized program for people like returning U.S. prisoners to be evaluated, to get specialized treatment, to help them get re- acclimated with normal life.
We did get a bit of sense of what the coming days will look like for Private King from a spokesperson from the Defense Department. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SABRINA SINGH, DEPUTY PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: He'll be going through medical screenings, medical evaluations, and then he'll be meeting with professionals to assess his emotional and mental health. He will be getting debriefed by U.S. military officials. What we are focused on is his well being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: Wolf, this is the same medical facility where Brittney Griner and Trevor Reed went after their ordeals in Russia, but of course, those cases are very different, Wolf. They were considered to be hostages, to be wrongfully detained but in the case of Private King, he was disobeying military orders. He was fleeing from the U.S. military.
He bolted into North Korea and then was held by the North Koreans for more than two months. Intense democracy was needed to get him back. So, once he has gone through the program at the medical facility, there will, of course, be questions about what kind of discipline, what kind of punishment he may face. Will it be a court martial for going AWOL, for those assault charges that he faced in South Korea?
Those questions we are told by the Biden administration, they will be addressed once he is rehabilitated, once he's back on his feet and only then, Wolf.
BLITZER: Alex Marquardt reporting, thanks very, very much.
And take -- and we'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Finally tonight, we're joined by CNN anchor and chief correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. She's up on Capitol Hill right now. That's where she'll anchor her program "THE SOURCE" later tonight.
Kaitlan, what are you covering here in Washington?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's a lot of drama happening here on Capitol Hill. As you know tonight, we're expecting late night votes here in the House that are going to happen as they are trying to stave off a government shutdown. It doesn't seem like that is going to be possible. But we'll be watching that closely, Wolf.
But the other reason I am here in THE SITUATION ROOM is for a very special reason, to make sure our viewers now about the award you received last night in New York, a Lifetime Achievement Award, of course, a very big deal, and also a great tribute to the amazing career that you have had here at CNN, that everyone has been, you know, so grateful to watch and to learn from you, Wolf.
I know you know that, but I also want our viewers to have a taste of what that career has been and how expansive it has been as Dana Bash let us know.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For over 50 years, he has been the right man for the job.
Since his start as a reporter in Tel Aviv --
BLITZER: Seven Scud missiles tracked coming toward Israeli. BASH: -- to anchoring THE SITUATION ROOM for over 18 years on CNN.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: The only other man in America with his own Situation Room.
BASH: -- Wolf is there when history is being made.
BLITZER: We're sharing with our viewers in the United States and around the world that Bin Laden is dead.
BASH: From presidential scandals --
BLITZER: The White House has received subpoenas from the independent counsel seeking all of the records involving Monica Lewinsky.
BASH: To presidential announcements.
BLITZER: Barack Obama will become the president of the United States.
BASH: To the world's darkest hours.
BLITZER: We're here in Oklahoma City.
BASH: To culture-defining conversations.
BLITZER: How concerned are you that white generals and military officers might attempt to overthrow your government?
NELSON MANDELA, FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT: We will be able to deal with them swiftly and decisively.
BASH: He doesn't just break the news.
JOHN KING, FORMER CNN HOST: Will there be more Iraqi surprises?
BASH: He breaks the mold.
DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Frankly, you're out of line with that question.
BLITZER: It's a responsible, fair question.
BASH: With his in-depth coverage, unbiased story telling and solid expertise.
COLLINS: I loved that moment there, Wolf, where you were defending your question as a fair question. But I speak for not just myself, everyone at CNN, when I say where it's been just a joy to work with you and to watch you. This award is so highly deserved.
BLITZER: It was really, really very exciting for me. A great honor and I'm grateful to the academy for this Emmy. I really appreciate it.
And, Kaitlan, I'm grateful for all the great work that you do. Important note to our viewers, be sure to watch Kaitlan later tonight,
every weeknight on "THE SOURCE", 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll be watching for sure.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.