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House Votes To Formalize Biden Impeachment Inquiry; Judge Pauses Trump Election Interference Case, Trial May Be Delayed; Families Of U.S. Hostages Meet With President Biden At White House; New Audio: Key Witness Testifies On Briefing Trump On Fake Electors; Georgia Election Worker Testifies In Giuliani Defamation Trial; New Climate Deal Makes Landmark Call To Phase Out Fossil Fuels. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 13, 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 HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the full House of Representatives just formalized the impeachment inquiry of President Biden as Republicans seek to move the probe forward. The vote coming hours after Hunter Biden defied a GOP subpoena to testify behind closed doors, accusing Republicans of lying over and over about him and his father.
Also breaking, a federal judge is pausing Donald Trump's 2020 election interference case while major appeals play out. The order could delay Trump's scheduled March trial date, potentially pushing it closer to Election Day.
And President Biden meets with the families of American hostages held by Hamas amid new fractures in his relationship with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, over the war in Gaza.
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 the breaking news, House Republicans putting an official stamp on their impeachment inquiry of President Biden just moments ago in the midst of a subpoena showdown with his son, Hunter Biden.
CNN's Melanie Zanona is following it all for us up on Capitol Hill. Melanie, give us the very latest.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, there was a big vote here in the House just moments ago. The House Republican Conference voted in uniform to formally authorize their impeachment inquiry into President Biden, potentially bringing them one step closer to eventually impeaching the president.
Now, every single House Republican voted in support of this. So, that is a big win for leadership. And this inquiry, we should note, has been already going on for months after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy unilaterally opened this inquiry back in September.
At the time, they didn't have the votes to be able to formally authorize this inquiry. Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the time opted to just forgo that step. But a key turning point in recent weeks was this White House letter that said they don't view this inquiry as legitimate because there wasn't a formal vote on the House floor.
So, Republicans really hoping to strengthen their hand in court with this vote today and also looking to show some momentum for what has been a struggle for them with their impeachment probe.
But it is far from certain that Republicans are going to have the votes to actually impeach the president. They have struggled to prove that Biden profited off his son's foreign business deals or took any official actions because of those deals. And so that is why we still have key, swing district Republicans saying they are not sold yet on articles of impeachment, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, Melanie, what's the next step right now for House Republicans in their investigation of Hunter Biden?
ZANONA: So, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee and of the House Judiciary Committee are planning to start contempt proceedings for Hunter Biden after he refused to appear for a closed-door deposition this morning. But Hunter Biden did say he was willing to testify publicly and that he just didn't want his testimony to be selectively cherry-picked and leaked by the Republican committee.
And even though Hunter Biden did not show up for that closed-door deposition today, he did appear for some remarks and address the press right outside the Capitol earlier today. Let's take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: I have been the target of the unrelenting Trump attack machine shouting, where's Hunter? Well, here's my answer. I am here.
There is no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business because it did not happen.
I am here to testify at a public hearing today to answer any of the committee's legitimate questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: So, some pretty forceful and remarkable remarks there from the president's son, who we haven't heard a lot from at least publicly. But the showdown now set to escalate between Hunter Biden and Republicans here on Capitol Hill in the days and weeks ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Let's get to the breaking news now in Donald Trump's federal election interference case, the judge ordering a pause until major appeals play out, potentially delaying Trump's March trial date.
We have CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, why is the judge making this move?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, essentially, she has to.
She doesn't really have another option. Because in Donald Trump's criminal case, before he goes to trial, the courts have to figure out two things, if Donald Trump can even be tried, he was already tried by the Senate, is that double jeopardy now that he's charged again in a criminal court of law? So, they have to decide that. And also they have to decide a question about presidential immunity. Is Donald Trump protected from being charged with any crime for something he did while he was president, something that he may argue was part of his role as the president of the United States.
Now, all of this is up in the air. There's a lot of wheels turning in the courts right now. What's happening at the trial level before Judge Tanya Chutkan Washington, D.C., is Trump essentially wanted her to cancel everything, pause everything. The Justice Department said, no, we're actually doing a bunch with appeals. They're going to the Supreme Court. They're trying to get an order very quickly determining what is happening here.
And what Judge Chutkan said is the trial date is still standing. It's still March 4th, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the things that are happening in this case don't have to pause while the Supreme Court determines if they want to do anything, what the appeals court above her might do.
And so now, essentially, all of the things that Donald Trump's lawyers would have to do to show up in court to determine -- to get to trial, they're not going to have to do that right now, but there's still a gag order over Trump and there's still bail conditions. And this case still exists and the trial date still is in March.
BLITZER: Very interesting. Katelyn, the Supreme Court, meanwhile, is taking up a different issue that potentially could impact Trump's criminal charges. Tell us about that.
POLANTZ: Right. The issue that the Supreme Court decided to take today is a question of how the Justice Department uses the charge of obstruction, criminal obstruction against January 6th rioters and other people. So, Donald Trump is one of the people charged with this particular crime, obstruction of the official proceeding that happened on January 6th at Congress.
But in this case, there is a violent rioter who has gone through the appeals process and now is before the Supreme Court asking them to look at whether the Justice Department even can charge people with obstructing the official proceeding of Congress as it relates to what happened on January 6th. So, whatever the Supreme Court does there, it very much could affect Trump because they're going to be meditating on the use of this law and what happened in that Capitol riot. Obviously, not just the rioters themselves are people that are being looked at by prosecutors. Trump too is charged with this crime. So, whatever they say could very much impact his case.
BLITZER: It certainly could. Katelyn Polantz reporting for us, thank you, Katelyn.
Let's bring in our legal and political analysts right now. Elliot Williams, how significant is this order from Judge Chutkan acknowledging that she no longer has jurisdiction over parts of this case?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's significant, Wolf, but it was absolutely the right move, and Katelyn touched on this a little bit. It would be impossible or grossly unwise for a judge to move forward with a case that might have some sort of big legal problem in it.
And even if it doesn't have a legal problem in it, you have to give an appellate court, a higher court, the opportunity to at least consider, have considered the questions that are outstanding in the case.
And so she sort of had to do this. It would have been a pretty profound mistake if she'd allowed the trial to proceed and then learned from an appeal court that the whole thing should have never happened in the first place. So, most judges, I would think, would have taken the same step.
And I think, you know, we've talked about this quite a bit on air over the months. This was sort of inevitable.
BLITZER: Interesting. Elie Honig, how long could it take for the appeals process to play out and what are the chances the case begins in March as currently scheduled?
ELIE HONIG, SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think this makes it highly unlikely that that March 4th, 2024 trial date holds, and here's why. Judge Chutkan has now ruled, and I agree with Elliot, correctly that I can't do anything while this immunity issue is making its way through the appeals courts.
And if we think about how long that could take, even if this goes at the fastest possible pace, even if the Supreme Court grants direct review, even if they expedite it, we're looking realistically at a final decision from the Supreme Court, I think, at the earliest in February.
And you can't come back from that and then restart and deal with all the complicated issues that you have to deal with, pre-trial discovery, pre-trial motions starting in February and then start a trial three weeks later on March 4th.
So, I think as a practical matter, this is going to require the judge to move that March 4th trial date back at some point.
Gloria Borger, Trump's attorneys are arguing against an expedited appeals process, writing and I'm quoting now, this proposed schedule would require attorneys and support staff to work round the clock through the holidays, inevitably disrupting family and travel plans. It is as if the special counsel, quote, growled with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming, I must find some way to keep Christmas from coming, but how, end quote.
What's your reaction to that?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's kind of hard to believe that's an illegal brief, but there you go. Now we've seen it. Look, they want a delay. The rest of the brief was talking about how there shouldn't be a rush to judgment. This is an important case. And you need to give the time for the council to do their jobs and for due deliberation, et cetera, et cetera.
So, look, the Trump team, as we've been saying over and over again, is about delay. And so that was just part of their argument, I guess, Wolf. But there's no doubt where they're headed on this. And Judge Chutkan's ruling today is good news for them, very good news for them.
BLITZER: A very creative legal writing, I must say.
Elliot, let's turn to this other very significant legal development for Donald Trump today, the U.S. Supreme Court saying it will consider whether a federal obstruction law is being properly used in the January 6th cases. How does this potentially impact Jack Smith's federal election subversion case?
WILLIAMS: Well, it's not uncommon for provisions of laws to be taken up to the Supreme Court, partly because laws are written in a somewhat open-ended and vague way, and lawyers, prosecutors, defense attorneys apply individual cases to laws as they've been written.
This has never -- as in so many areas related to Donald Trump and January 6th, this has never really been tested, sort of the scope of the obstruction law. And the particular law, as it was crafted, was written in the context of financial fraud, to be quite honest, and certainly there may be questions as to its application here.
Now, the court may well rule that all of these obstruction cases related to January 6th can still go forward, but sort of as we were saying earlier, the only entity that can really decide that is the Supreme Court, it's not for even the lawyers in the case to decide. And so it could have a profound impact on the case, and we'll just have to see how the court ultimately decides it.
BLITZER: Yes, very important point.
Elie, what are the, what are Special Counsel Jack Smith's options here? HONIG: Well, Wolf, I see three options for Jack Smith here, none of them are great, by the way. The first option is to go ahead, try the case. Two of the four counts that he has charged Donald Trump with, as Katelyn pointed out, could be in jeopardy with the Supreme Court ruling.
So, option one, try the case, hope for the best, and then hope the Supreme Court doesn't throw out those cases. But it could be that the Supreme Court then has to come back and say, no, that trial was no good, we throw it out. That would be disastrous.
Option two, Jack Smith can just drop the two obstruction charges, proceed on the other charges. I don't think he's likely to do that. I think that would be a concession and a sign of weakness. I think Donald Trump would absolutely seize on that as a massive victory.
And then option three is to wait until the Supreme Court rules so then he'll know and try the case. But now we're back to the timing issue.
But it wouldn't surprise me to see DOJ ask the court to expedite this one as well so they can get a ruling from the Supreme Court, know if they're on firm ground, and then try the case.
BLITZER: Gloria, if this case is pushed back possibly to 2025, that's a big win for Donald Trump, right?
BORGER: Oh, it's what they want, of course, because the thinking goes that if Donald Trump were to be elected president of the United States, then he could just get the charges dropped. He could fire Jack Smith, for example. And then the public would not have had the opportunity to hear any of this evidence. And so I think this is their goal, to put it off after the election.
BLITZER: Interesting. All right, guys, thank you very, very much. We're watching all of these important developments.
And just ahead, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider restricting access nationwide to a widely used abortion drug. We're going to take a closer look at the potential impact over a year after the high court's bombshell decision to overturn Roe versus Wade.
BLITZER: The U.S. Supreme Court has just announced it will hear its biggest abortion case since overturning Roe versus Wade. At issue, whether to restrict nationwide access to a widely used abortion drug.
CNN's Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid has the story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Supreme Court says it will consider whether to restrict access to a widely used abortion drug. Mifepristone, when taken with another drug, is one of the most commonly used methods of abortion in the U.S.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): Has this abortion drug been on the market for more than two decades?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, 23 years, I think.
COLLINS: And has it been used by millions of women during that period?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many millions.
REID: Right now, the drug remains available nationwide. The Supreme Court put on hold lower court rulings that would impose restrictions that abortion opponents would like.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I am concerned because more than half of the abortions in this country are medical medicinal and these drugs have been legal in our country for years.
REID: Last year, the conservative-leaning court overturned Roe v. Wade, altering the landscape of abortion rights in the U.S. Now, more than half of states outlaw or severely restrict the procedure. By agreeing to take up the case on Mifepristone, the court will once again wade into the abortion debate. A decision, which is expected by July, could put the justices in the middle of the presidential election.
Abortion, it has become a hot issue.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm pro-life. I believe in creating a culture of life.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Now you have this tremendous power to negotiate something, and something will be negotiated because we have to bring our country together on this issue.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Court got Roe right 50 years ago, and I believe Congress should restore the protections of Roe v. Wade once and for all.
REID: Abortion battles are also heating up at the state level. This week, the Texas Supreme Court ruled against a woman who sued for the right to an abortion just hours after she fled the state to get her procedure.
KATE COX, PLAINTIFF WHO SOUGHT EMERGENCY ABORTION: There's no outcome here that I take home, my healthy baby girl, you know, so it's hard, you know.
REID: And this week, the Arizona Supreme Court heard arguments from abortion opponents who want to revert back to an 1864 state law banning nearly all abortions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abortion is health care. And what that means is that this court's decision will have a profound impact on the ability of pregnant Arizonans to access that health care.
REID: State Supreme Courts in Wyoming and New Mexico are also hearing arguments this week on abortion restrictions, and in Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill to expand access and repealed a state insurance coverage requirement.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Let's protect the freedom to make your own decisions without interference from politicians, and let's get it done.
REID (on camera): And the decision will come this summer in the middle of the presidential campaign season. So, no matter what they decide, this case will impact millions of Americans. But, Wolf, it will be especially important for the presidential frontrunners.
BLITZER: They certainly will. Thank you very much, Paula Reid, reporting for us.
Coming up, CNN's Dana Bash just dove into the abortion issue, Trump and much more with Republican presidential candidate who just scored one of the most coveted endorsements of this race, Nikki Haley. That's coming up next.
BLITZER: Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley hit the campaign trail today with the New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu, after picking up his key endorsement.
Earlier, both sat down for a joint interview with CNN's Dana Bash. And Dana is joining us now live from Concord, New Hampshire.
Dana, you pressed the former U.N. ambassador on Donald Trump's fitness for office. Tell us about that.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf. Earlier this week, she was asked in a different interview about Donald Trump whether or not he was fit for office. And she said, yes, she does think he is fit for office. He shouldn't be president, but he is fit to be president.
And when I asked her about that, asked her to clarify that, Wolf, she suggested that she was talking about his mental capacity, his physical abilities. And then I asked this follow up question.
BASH: So, when you say fit to be president, that he is, you're talking about his age and his mental capacity. The other people, particularly people here in New Hampshire who are looking for somebody other than Donald Trump, don't think he's fit because of his approach, because of his personality, because of his policies. Do you think in those areas he's fit to be president? NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLCIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't look at the personal side of things as much as I look at the policy --
BASH: What about the policy, like democracy?
HALEY: The reason that I'm running is because after I saw the fall of Afghanistan, after I saw inflation going through the roof, after I saw us lose the midterms so terribly, that's when I said we have to run.
When I look at the situation, the economy under Trump, was it good? Yes, but he put us at $8 trillion in debt to do it and we're all paying the price for that. I look at the fact that I don't want a president who's going to praise dictators by saying Kim Jong-un is his friend or praising the -- you know, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party or sitting there saying Hezbollah is smart and hitting Netanyahu when his country's on its knees.
With me, I have a different approach. No drama, no vendettas, no whining.
BASH: Pretty tough there on Donald Trump when it comes to some really fundamental policies and pronouncements, like what he said about Hezbollah after October 7th.
Still, she said that she understands, Wolf, that there are people here in New Hampshire and around the country who don't think that she is tough enough on Donald Trump. Those who don't like him and those who do like him think that they think that she goes too easy on him.
BLITZER: Interesting. I know, Dana, you also asked Nikki Haley about the U.S. Supreme Court now taking up the biggest abortion case since Dobbs. Tell us about that.
BASH: Well, we talked generally about abortion and the notion that she says that she agrees with the fact that states are dealing with abortion. I asked her about that case, Wolf, in Texas where a young mother of two, pregnant, sued to try to get an abortion because the health of the fetish, she was told, was fatal. And I asked her about that. She said that women need to be treated more humanely.
And so, again, I followed up on what that means when it comes to abortion policy.
BASH: How do you turn that compassion you talk about humanizing into policy? Because like, just for example, if you have states rights, which I understand you both believe in on this issue, what do you say to a woman in a state like that who she was able to leave who doesn't have the means to leave?
HALEY: I think what you're going to see happen in Texas is what you're going to see in some other states that went on the pro-life side is they're going to go and look at, okay, when you have the exceptions of rape, incest, life of the mother, medical conditions, like Texas had the medical side of it, is they're going to get more detailed on it.
They're going to go and say, okay, how can we make sure --
BLITZER: Should they?
HALEY: They should. They should look at when the situation between the doctor and the woman sees something that's dangerous that might prevent her from having more babies or might be damaging to her body or something. I think you're going to see the medical board make a decision on where is that line. I think you're going to see that play out.
Look, when you do something in a state, it's never perfect right off the bat. You learn how to tweak it. And I think all of these states need to tweak it in a way that our number one goal is how do you save as many babies as possible and support as many moms as possible.
BLITZER: Dana, excellent interview indeed. Dana Bash reporting for us, thank you.
I want to bring in two of our political experts right now, CNN's Audie Cornish and Nia-Malika Henderson.
Nia-Malika, you heard Nikki Haley criticizing Trump on policy. How did you read that?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, listen, I think it's about as far as she's going to go. If you look at where the candidates in this race who are going up against Donald Trump, who are most critical of him, somebody like Chris Christie, it really isn't doing any good, right?
Donald Trump in these early state polls, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, is still way, way up. So, if you're Nikki Haley, you can sort of carve out this criticism of him on policy that isn't deeply personal and might turn off some of these voters that she is going to try to get at her -- I think the past she has is consolidating the anti-Trump vote. But to sort of overtake him completely, she would need some of those voters.
It is a tall hill, I think, for her to climb, not only in Iowa and New Hampshire, but also her home state of South Carolina, where early polls are showing that even in that state, Donald Trump is preferred to the former governor, Nikki Haley.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting that both she and Ron DeSantis are also attacking Trump on the economy, which is the thing that, in matchups with Biden, voters are saying they remember. And you hear both of them using language saying, well, it was good, but, and they're trying to find some kind of weakness.
BLITZER: Speaking of DeSantis, Governor DeSantis today attacked Nikki Haley, and you probably heard him, saying she won't be able to win over the conservative Republican base. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DESANTIS: If it's a choice between Trump and Haley, conservatives are going to go with Trump. Even the conservatives that are supporting me, saying in Iowa, because they see me as a superior conservative alternative to Trump, they are not going to go embrace a candidate who represents the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think?
DESANTIS: He's following up on something you do hear from Steve Bannon and other folks, which is the sort of MAGA part of the party is not satisfied with Nikki Haley. The problem is Ron DeSantis has not proven himself to be a more appealing MAGA candidate than Trump himself. I don't hear how this argument alters that problem.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Nia-Malika, Trump just weighed in on Governor Sununu's endorsement of Nikki Haley, posting on his Truth Social site, he said this, this is Trump. Now, Sununu is unelectable in his own state, and can back Nikki who has no chance of winning.What do you make of that?
HENDERSON: Well, listen, I think we have seen in sort of the Trump era of the Republican Party, these endorsements by officials for sort of more establishment candidates hasn't really helped them. If you look how Ron DeSantis is doing in Iowa, at least in early polls, the endorsement from that governor there hasn't really helped him.
So, it's hard to imagine that this governor endorsing Nikki Haley, who I think is down by about 20 points in some of these polls I've seen out in New Hampshire, I don't know that it's going to help her very much in terms of her real fight in overtaking Trump in these states.
CORNISH: Add to this, remember, this is also about signaling to the rest of the group, hey, it's time to drop out. A lot of this is not just about the voters. It's like if there is a shot, this is a Hail Mary to say, everyone, like let's start to get behind a person and stop dividing this alternative to Trump vote.
BLITZER: An important point. Guys, thank you very much.
And be sure to tune in later tonight for the special CNN Town Hall with Vivek Ramaswamy. That begins at 9 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.
Just ahead, President Biden meeting face-to-face with families of American hostages held in Gaza. Up next, I'll speak with the parents of a young man kidnapped by Hamas about their meeting over at the White House today.
[18:38:44] BLITZER: Today, for the first time, President Biden met in person with the families of the eight Americans believed to be held hostage in Gaza. They've been desperately awaiting answers for more than two months now. Among them, the parents of 22-year-old IDF soldier Omer Neutra, a dual Israeli and American citizen.
Orna and Ronen Neutra are with us right now, and thank you both for joining us.
So, Orna, can you tell us, first of all, how the meeting with the president went today?
ORNA NEUTRA, SON KIDNAPPED BY HAMAS: Well, he spent a lot of time with us. He's very sincere and he was very compassionate. He knows the stories by now. We felt that he knew exactly who we are and who Omer is.
BLITZER: You think he specifically knew about Omer?
O. NEUTRA: Absolutely. I mean he met with us before on Zoom right after the war, right after October 7th that same week. And he said, you know, he was very personal then and I felt like we connected right away from that spot.
BLITZER: Interesting. And, Ronen, what was your message to the president today?
RONEN NEUTRA, SON KIDNAPPED: We really wanted to make sure that both the American administration and the Israeli administration are doing everything in their power to bring our kids back.
It's been 68 days, 68 days that we don't know anything about the whereabouts of our son, and so many people are asking the same question, where are our family members? How are they doing? There's no sign of life. We have no idea if they're wounded, if they are in desperate need of medicine. It has, we have to see some progress here, and we want to make sure that that's what the administration is doing, everything in their power to bring them back.
BLITZER: Let's hope he comes home soon.
Did you get the sense, Orna, based on the meeting you had with the president today and other family members who were there as well, that you're more encouraged, more hopeful now that your son will be freed?
O. NEUTRA: I think it was one message that came clear for the president is that we need to stay hopeful, and I took that to heart. The administration is doing a lot. We need to make sure that the negotiations restart to bring the hostages home. It's urgent, like Ronen said.
BLITZER: It certainly is. It's so painful and my heart goes out to both of you. Ronen, CNN is learning that Hamas is not responding at all to the latest attempts to try to restart the negotiations to impose another little pause, for example, and so they're not -- they don't want to free any more of the women specifically before other groups. What is your reaction to that?
R. NEUTRA: I'm just hopeful that the pressure that has been put on the leadership in the area, whether it's Qatar, whether it's Egypt, whether it's Israel, with the sponsorship of the United States of America, is going to bear fruit and soon we're going to start seeing some renegotiation going on.
And hopefully all the hostages will be released, among them the eight American hostages, that it's time to bring them home.
BLITZER: What would you like the world, and we have viewers all over the world right now, Orna, what would you like the world to know about Omer?
O. NEUTRA: Omer has a big heart. He's a real connector. He makes people feel seen. I've been hearing that for so many kids that he's had connection with them.
You know, we're ending Hanukkah now, and we need a miracle. We're heading into the holiday season. You know, we really feel that it's time for it to make things happen.
BLITZER: I hope he comes home soon. Thanks to both of you very much. Good luck. I really appreciate you joining us for this conversation.
Coming up, a CNN exclusive new audio of critical witness testimony in the Trump fake electors investigation. The lawyer, Kenneth Chesebro, sharing new details with prosecutors about then President Trump's briefing on the scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
BLITZER: Tonight, we have exclusive new reporting on key witness testimony on Donald Trump and the 2020 fake electors plot. CNN obtaining audio of Michigan prosecutors interviewing Kenneth Chesebro, the lawyer who helped devise the scheme.
CNN's Marshall Cohen broke the story for us. He's joining us now live.
Marshall, what did Chesebro tell investigators and how significant is this?
MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Wolf, Chesebro described what was a photo-op gone wrong. This was back in December 2020. He was in the Oval Office with a group of attorneys from Wisconsin who had just unsuccessfully tried to overturn the results in that state. Before they went in for this photo-op, they were told do not give Trump any hope about overturning the election, do not indulge this idea that somehow he could still win. Wolf, some of the people in the room followed the instruction. Some
didn't. Let me play for you this first clip of Chesebro describing what Trump's lead attorney in Wisconsin, Jim Troupis, told the president about that state.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KENNETH CHESEBRO, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: It's clear that Troupis personally told the president there was zero hope for Wisconsin. As part of this message -- I think, crafted to try to get him to concede or just give up this long shot challenge. So there was -- there was a conscious effort to deflect him from a sense of any possibility that he could pull out the election.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COHEN: Zero hope. It doesn't get stronger than that. But then the conversation shifted to Arizona and that's when Chesebro chimed in. He had a very different take on the situation and started actually briefing Trump about the fake electors scheme that he had helped devise.
Here is Chesebro describing what he told the president.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CHESEBRO: I ended up explaining that Arizona was still hypothetically possible because of the electors voted. And I explained the whole logic because the alternate electors had voted, we had more time to with the litigation. So he -- so it was I think clear in a way that maybe it hadn't been before that we had until January 6 to win.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COHEN: So this is critical new evidence from a very important witness who was there with Donald Trump.
Look, Trump could use some of that to help his criminal case in D.C. that Jack Smith filed. He could argue that some people trusted people, lawyers like Ken Chesebro were telling him to keep fighting but you can't ignore the other part of the conversation where he was told that he lost over and over and over. The indictment is filled with those examples. That's why prosecutors say that Trump knew he lost but tried to stay in power any way -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very strong reporting, Marshall. Thank you very much. Marshall Cohen reporting for us.
There's other important news we're following tonight. A visibly shaken Georgia election worker testifying about the racist messages and threats she received after she was smeared by Rudy Giuliani in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
Brian Todd is looking into this important story for us. Brian, the testimony from yesterday was already very disturbing. How
bad did it get today?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It got just as bad or worse, Wolf. Today, it was Ruby Freeman's turn to testify after her daughter, also a former Georgia election worker, took the stand yesterday. And Freeman's accounts today were horrifying. We have to warn viewers that some audio in this piece is disturbing.
RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: The truth will come out.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, more damming testimony against former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Ruby Freeman, a former election worker in Georgia, read for the jury some of the racist threatening messages she received after Giuliani's public statements in the wake of the 2020 election, statements targeting her and her daughter, fellow election worker Shaye Moss.
Appearing visibly shaken on the stand, Freeman read a message, saying, quote: Hope they lock you up and throw away the key, you disgusting expletive traitor.
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LAWYER: Their testimony is extremely compelling. They present an emotional picture. They were a volunteer and a temporary employee. They were working on elections and the administration of elections.
And they had to move out of their homes. They were the subject of intense threats to their physical harm, to their physical safety.
TODD: Freeman read another message, quote, pack your S, they are coming from you. I'm not far behind. I'm coming for you also. Trash will be taken to the streets in bags.
Then, Freeman herself said: I took it as they were going to cut me up and put me in trash bags and take it out to my street.
Also today, a recording was played in court of a call between former President Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a call made in January 2021 where Trump mentions Freeman's name 18 times while attacking her.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Ruby Freeman, that's -- she's a vote scammer, a professional vote scammer and hustler, Ruby Freeman.
TODD: This follows testimony from her daughter, Shaye Moss, yesterday, about the threats they have received, and the playing in court of threatening voice mails sent to both mother and daughter.
CALLER: Have a nice life, what's left of it you have.
CALLER: You're all going to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) jail, you piece of (EXPLETIVES DELETED). TODD: Giuliani falsely accused Freeman and Moss of changing votes in
Georgia right after the 2020 presidential election. Now, they're suing him.
And the judge in this case has already ruled that Giuliani defamed them. The jury is weighing whether to award Freeman and Moss between $15.5 million and $43 million for the reputational harm they suffered from Giuliani statements and more for the emotional distress they've endured. Last year, they testified to the House January 6 Committee about that.
RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: I lost my name and I've lost my reputation. I've lost my sense of security.
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: What we don't think about is this unequal kind of power dynamic that's going on here. When you have someone with that kind of a huge platform and that fame saying something about someone who has no way to defend themselves on that kind of platform, so you're really seeing that effect here.
TODD: Plaintiff Shaye Moss told the jury that even now, she continues to face threats, despite her efforts to conceal her personal information from the public. She said, quote, they have found my new home, and that recently people have sent clippings of cut up pictures of her face to her in the mail. Wolf, tomorrow, Rudy Giuliani is expected to take the stand in his own defense.
BLITZER: Very disturbing indeed. Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.
Coming, up nearly 200 countries are agreeing to a landmark climate deal which calls for a transition away from fossil fuels. But some activists say it's being undermined by loopholes.
BLITZER: A record setting close out at Wall Street today, the Dow hitting an all-time high, gaining more than 500 points to surpass 37,000, the first time it has ever reached that mark. That surge coming after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged today amid new data showing inflation in the United States is now cooling.
Also tonight, nearly 200 countries have just agreed to an unprecedented new climate deal, which calls for a transitioning away from fossil fuels. But critics say the agreement contains loopholes that could allow some countries to take minimal action.
CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir is joining us right now.
Bill, so what does this deal entail?
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the big debate in Dubai the last couple of weeks is the will they or won't they have the words phase out or phase down of final fossil fuels in the final declaration. That got water down thanks to the lobbying of places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, oil states, petro states.
The final language says that the world will transition away from fossil fuels, but it's really nebulous language. There is a lot of loopholes for countries like Saudi Arabia for example to keep burning and selling fossil fuels for as long as they really want, as long as they are sort of trying to ramp up solar and other renewable powers at the same time.
This declaration lays out eight different pathways that a country could contribute to a net zero world by 2050, but I talked to Michael Mann, esteemed climate scientist at Penn State today. And he said this is kind of like your doctor telling you you're dying of diabetes and you're telling the doctor, well, I'm going to transition off of donuts overtime.
It has to end. The fossil fuel burning has to end at a certain point for the problem to stabilize right now. And at current rates, the world is decarbonizing at the rate of maybe 10 percent by 2030. It needs to be over 40 percent, the scientists say.
And so, this really gives cover to big oil companies and petrol states to stay with business as usual. The small island nations most vulnerable to climate change weren't even in the room as the gavel came down. They say this honestly won't get it done, Wolf.
BLITZER: Bill Weir reporting for us, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.