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Biden And Trump Clash Over Immigration In Split-Screen Border Visits; Gaza Officials Say, 100-Plus Dead After DIF Opens Fire Near Food Line; Transcript Of Hunter Biden's Closed-Door Deposition Just Released; Putin Threatens West, Warns Of Nuclear War In Marathon Speech; Air National Guardsman Accused of Posting Classified Docs Online Expected To Plead Guilty. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 29, 2024 - 18:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, it's anywhere from six to ten feet of snow could bury parts of the Sierra in just two to three days with wind gusts as much as 100 miles per hour on the highest peaks. Lower elevations, including cities like Reno, Nevada, could see several inches of snow with wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour.

One bright note here is that many of these areas have been struck by drought in recent years, so the snow melt could provide some much needed help for the region.

Thank you all so much for joining us. I'll see you tonight back here on The Source at 9:00 P.M. Eastern. Of course, if you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to it wherever you get your podcast.

For now, our coverage continues here on CNN.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden and former President Trump just clashed over immigration during competing visits to the Southern border. It's a split screen preview of their likely general election rematch as the migrant crisis weighs heavily on the minds of voters.

Also tonight, new carnage and anger in Gaza, local officials say more than 100 people are dead after Israeli forces opened fire near a crowd of Palestinian civilians waiting for food.

Plus, another breaking story, the transcript of Hunter Biden's closed- door deposition on Capitol Hill has just been released. We're going to tell you what it reveals.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with the breaking news, President Biden and former President Trump putting the immigration crisis front and center during dueling stops in Texas right near the border with Mexico, both of them seeing openings to use the politically charged issue against one another. Our correspondents are on the scene where the likely 2024 rivals just spoke. Kristen Holmes is covering Donald Trump for us. Priscilla Alvarez is covering President Biden. Let's go to Priscilla first.

What was the president's message, Priscilla, just a short while ago?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Wolf, going into today, White House officials made clear that what they wanted to do was to hammer Republicans over that failed Senate border bill that included some of the toughest border security measures in recent memory.

And that is something that President Biden and his remarks alluded to repeatedly, making the point that Border Patrol and other federal immigration officials need more resources and that there needs to be change in the immigration system because what it is now is just not working. And he repeatedly said that it was time to act.

I'll also note that in multiple occasions he referenced Republican talking points like fentanyl, cartels, criminals in relation to the U.S.-Mexico border to make the point that resources are needed to stop all of that and calling on Congress to provide that.

But, of course, it is former President Donald Trump and his encouragement of Republicans to walk away from that failed Senate border bill that is the reason for its failure, and former President Biden also mentioning his predecessor in his remarks.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I understand my predecessor is in Eagle Pass today. So, here's what I would say to Mr. Trump. Instead of playing politics with the issue, instead of telling members of Congress to block the legislation, join me, or I'll join you in telling the Congress to pass this bipartisan border security bill. We can do it together.

You know and I know it's the toughest, most efficient, most effective border security bill this country has ever seen. So, instead of playing politics with the issue, why don't we just get together and get it done?


ALVAREZ: It's just a really remarkable moment. That goes to show how far this White House has come on this issue. It's one that they kept at a distance for years. It's one that sources told me whenever it came up within the White House was always tense.

But here, President Biden making clear that he could be tough on the U.S.-Mexico border too and inviting former President Donald Trump to join him on that front.

BLITZER: Priscilla, stand by. I want to bring in Kristen right now. Kristen, then Trump spent most of his remarks stoking fear about migrant crime. Did he offer any solutions at all to the crisis along the border? KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the solution was vote for me in 2024 and I will, quote/unquote, fix the border. They have continued to say that he could do what Biden can't.

And we have to remember that he's really taking a page from a playbook that he's been using since 2015. This messaging of fear-stoking around immigration is something that he has done since the day he launched his presidential bid in 2015, saying that Mexico was sending over rapists and drug dealers. This is something that he plans on continuing to do.

They believe that there is that because of the recent polling that shows that more and more voters are deeply concerned about immigration, that they can play up this angle, that there is so much crime in America and it's being caused by undocumented migrants.


Now, the other thing I want to point out here, Wolf, is that there have been some recent high-profile cases that have been committed by undocumented migrants. But overall, statistically speaking, this is much lower than average crime rates all together. However, Donald Trump, he knows that he can use this to his advantage, and that's what he did today. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, the United States is being overrun by the Biden migrant crime. It's a new form of vicious violation to our country. It's migrant crime. We call it Biden migrant crime, but that's a little bit long.

So, we'll just leave it. But every time you hear the term migrant crime, you know where that comes from, allowing thousands and thousands and actually millions and millions of people to come, could be 15 million, could be 18 million, by the time he gets out of office.


HOLMES: And just to be clear again, linking immigrants and all immigrants to violent crime, first of all, it's just inaccurate. Like I said, it's a much smaller percentage that are committing violent crimes. However, it also is the way that Donald Trump feels like he got elected in 2016. This was the message that carried him into the White House and he believes it can take him into 2024.

I just want to remind once again, this is exactly where he wants to be when it comes to immigration. In a space where there are unprecedented number of people crossing the border, in a space in which Joe Biden is on defense and in a space where he can really hammer home immigration.

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes, thank you very much. Priscilla Alvarez, I want you to stay with us.

I also want to bring in CNN Political Commentators Scott Jennings and Kate Bedingfield into this conversation. Kate, we just heard from President Biden as the White House has changed its strategy on immigration, now taking this issue on directly. Can this work for them politically?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it can. I think this is very smart of them. The Donald Trump and the Republicans have given them a huge opening to go on the offensive here. Basically, what you see Biden doing today is calling Trump's bluff, saying, you know, we worked through this package that included some of the most intense, strictest measures that have been considered in the last two decades to deal with this problem. We included funding for more agents. And you directed the Republicans to walk away from it. You said no, you'd rather have the political issue. And I think people will see through that.

I mean, the other problem that Donald Trump has here is that people don't -- the independents and more moderate Republicans don't embrace the proposals that he's putting on the table. I mean, he's talking about family separation. He's talking about mass deportations. Those are not things that anybody except for the very hardcore MAGA base views as the solution here.

So, I think it's smart for Joe Biden to go on the offensive, to be aggressive, to not give Donald Trump his photo op today at the border alone, and to call his bluff and say, I'm the one who's put solutions on the table. You're the one who's playing politics with this issue.

BLITZER: And on that point, Scott Jennings, President Biden is slamming the Republicans for killing that bipartisan deal that included money for border security. But if the border remains a problem, will voters actually remember this months from now? Trump is betting they won't.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think Donald Trump is right. I mean, look what happened in the last week in the Gallup poll. Immigration became the number one issue in the country. And it didn't become the number one issue because of wrangling in Congress. It became the number one issue because people are tired of what they're seeing at their border. They are tired of the crime. They are tired of a lack of attention by President Biden.

And then at the same time, they tested issues on Biden. The worst issue for his job approval was immigration, negative 39 points underwater on the issue of immigration. He's only at the border today because he has nowhere to go but up here. I admire my Democratic sparring partner's pluck today in trying to put a good face on this. This issue is killing Joe Biden right now. He has no choice but to go to the border and try to do something because, right now, it is literally the most important issue in the country and the worst issue that Americans have for him on job approval.

BLITZER: You know, Priscilla, you've covered these issues rather extensively. Trump and Republicans say Biden can act on his own without additional legislation. But how critical is more funding to getting the situation over at the border with Mexico under control? ALVAREZ: Well, it really can't be overstated. I regularly talk to Homeland Security officials who always come back to they need more money. And it was the case also with the Trump administration and the Obama administration. The Department of Homeland Security is chronically underfunded.

And so what they're facing here when they're also dealing with surges at the U.S.-Mexico border is immense strain on their resources. And so that was something that came up quite a bit today when President Biden had his operational briefing with federal authorities, in which he also talked about the fact that this border bill would also get them more personnel, more money and more technology.

But there are two things happening at once here. There's the Senate border bill, which would prove pivotal for this White House, because it gave them an opportunity to go after Republicans after they tanked it, despite the tough measures in it.


But the border crossings are also lower than where they have been.

In December, we were talking about record levels of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. They have dropped by 50 percent in January following talks with Mexico. And so it gives the president runway to really seize on this issue.

What happens when border crossings go up again as they are expected to? It's unclear, but for the moment, they can make the point and the argument that they need the money, because otherwise the system simply cannot handle what the situation is today.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Kate, what did you make of the direct appeal President Biden made to Trump to work with him to try to get Congress to pass a border security bill? What's going on there?

BEDINGFIELD: Well, you know, this is actually a really underappreciated political dynamic because it's -- I think it's easy, particularly on cable news and on Twitter, where people are really trying to score points and make their case. Actually, most voters across the country want to see their elected officials work together. It may sound strange, you know, to hear Joe Biden saying, Donald Trump, come to the table with me. But, actually, most people who are just going about their lives, they actually want to see their elected officials work together.

So, again, I think this is another case of Biden calling Trump's bluff. He's saying, listen, I'm willing to take measures here. I'm willing to find solutions. We're at the one-yard line, and you fumbled the ball. So, if you want to come to the table and get things done, I'm willing to work with you. It shows people that he's serious about the issue.

BLITZER: Yes, that's important as well. Scott, how likely are swing voters out there to look past any potential reservations they may have with Trump if they see him as better on what they regard as the most important issue facing the country? As you see in this new poll, 28 percent saying it's the top issue.

JENNINNGS: Yes. I mean, obviously, it's becoming more and more important as people get familiar with these stories like the Laken Riley story out of Georgia. I mean, Republicans and I think independent swing boaters are on fire about this because they wonder at the same time Joe Biden's administration was telling us the border was secure in 2022. The person who's alleged to have killed that young lady, that's about the time he was coming across.

And people wonder how can you tell us the border is secure, but at the same time, apparently violent criminals are coming in and then committing unspeakable acts against American citizens, young people like that college student? It's despicable.

So, you can call it anecdotal and you can throw charts and graphs at people, but these are emotional, visceral stories and they put a human face on what people now believe is a complete failure by the executive branch to handle and secure the southern border.

BLITZER: Very strong analysis from all of you, thanks once again.

And there's more breaking news just ahead as we dig into the just released transcript of Hunter Biden's closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill. Details on how he challenged your Republicans, that's next.



BLITZER: Breaking news, House Republicans have just released the transcript of Hunter Biden's closed-door deposition.

Let's get straight to our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, I know you're going through this very lengthy transcript. What can you tell us?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was a combative interview. It went on for several hours. And the bottom line from Hunter Biden is what we've heard from him and from his legal team, that the president of the United States, his father, never benefited from his business dealings in Ukraine, with Chinese companies over the years. This is what, of course, is at the center of this investigation by Republicans, and what they believe is what undergirds their effort to hold the president, to try to impeach the president of the United States.

I'll read you just a part of this exchange that Hunter Biden has with his questioners from the Republican staff, and in some cases from Republican members of Congress. Here is one exchange from Hunter Biden, in which he says, all I know is this, my father was never involved in any of my business, ever, never received a cent from anyone, from anybody, or never benefited in any way.

He goes on later on as part of this exchange with an unidentified questioner from the Republican side. Well, if he says, I appreciate the job that you all have, but I am telling you this, is that if you can show me where any money that I've ever had went to my father, other than, for instance, the repayment of a $1,500, $1,300, $for a loan, for a truck, okay?

So, what he's going after there, Wolf, is a claim from Republicans of some of his banking records, which appear to show money going from him to his father, and what they have said is that this shows he was trying to share some of his earnings from some of his business dealings in Ukraine, in particular, with his father, Hunter Biden saying, no, that's not true, and you can look at some of the records.

A lot of this, Wolf, again, is him being defiant and combative with some of the Republicans. He goes after some of them for examining his dealings, but not Jared Kushner, who got into business with Saudis, $2 billion, after his father-in-law left office, Wolf.

And then there's also another exchange with Matt Gaetz over the use of drugs, something, of course, Hunter Biden has acknowledged very widely, you know, as part of his public explanation of some of his legal problems. Wolf?

BLITZER: Evan, thank you very much for that update.


I want to get some reaction right now from a key Democratic lawmaker who attended Hunter Biden's deposition, Congressman Dan Goldman. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

First of all, what was your key takeaway from this more than six hour long deposition of Hunter Biden? You were there.

REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): I mean, the key takeaway is that there is absolutely nothing there as part of this impeachment investigation. There hasn't been all of the other witnesses who have come before this committee have said that they were unaware or they did not believe that there was any involvement of Joe Biden in Hunter Biden's businesses. And there are no bank records that the Republicans can show to identify any money that did go to Joe Biden.

And what Hunter Biden did yesterday was put a ton of context around what we already know, which is that this is a baseless sham investigation with no facts and no evidence. And he methodically went through every single deal that he was asked about to explain exactly how it worked, how he was very intent on making sure that his father was never involved, and that to the extent that he ever had introduced any business associates to his father, it was merely to say hello, as Devin Archer testified to as well, and that there was never any discussion of any of his businesses.

I urge everybody to read the transcript. You are going to hear a tremendous amount of distortion from the House Republicans about what he said. I have just looked online at what Chairman Jim Jordan has tweeted out. It is embarrassing that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee is trying to make the feeble points that he's making that are both wrong, but also even if they're right, it is so pathetic that this is an impeachment investigation of President Biden when there's nothing that connects the president to anything that Hunter did.

BLITZER: Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace accused Hunter Biden of being dishonest, saying his answers, in her words, conflicted with other witnesses. Is that what you heard?

GOLDMAN: No, this is what happened. Hunter Biden said repeatedly that he does not -- did not remember seeing in a document, an email, he did not remember writing it eight years, ten years ago. But he, in many cases, did not dispute the documents and what they said, and he responded to the substance of those documents.

So, what they are trying to do is say, oh, I didn't remember, I don't remember seeing this eight years ago, but now that I'm looking at it, this is what it means or this is what it says. And they're trying to turn that into him being dishonest or having contradictory testimony. He didn't have any contradictory testimony. And to the extent that he did have contradictory testimony, it was because he has better knowledge than the other witnesses that the Republicans are trying to hang their hat on.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Congressman, that Republicans will still go ahead with this impeachment of President Biden despite failing to turn up key evidence implicating him at least so far?

GOLDMAN: Wolf, it would be a real, real disservice to the American people and an abuse of power if the House Republicans continue with this investigation. Hunter Biden put the nail in the coffin of any allegations related to foreign-influenced peddling with China or any other countries.

And what we know about the Burisma allegations related to Ukraine is that they were a plant by Russian intelligence through a double agent working with the FBI to try to interfere in our election. There is no evidence to continue this investigation, none whatsoever.

And if the House Republicans do continue with this investigation, they are doing that knowing that they are aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin's effort to interfere in the upcoming election. This needs to end now.

BLITZER: That former FBI informant has been accused by the FBI of lying and passing along false Russian information in all of this.

Congressman Dan Goldman, thank you so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, more than 100 are dead in Gaza after Israel fires on an aid convoy. Civilians trampled and run over by trucks in the deadly aftermath.


[18:25:00] BLITZER: Officials in Gaza say more than 100 people are dead after Israeli forces opened fire near an aid convoy. The incident comes as Palestinian authorities announced the death toll since the beginning of the war has just hit a staggering milestone, 30,000.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has our report and we want to warn our viewers it contains graphic images.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Bodies piled on the back of donkey carts. Dignity and death does not exist here. A day that started with hope of aid finally reaching this neighborhood of Gaza City ended in carnage. Details of what happened and when they happened are contested.

Eyewitnesses say Israeli tanks escorting humanitarian aid trucks opened fire.


One journalist tells CNN some were shot, but most of the casualties were from the following panic, a stampede and aid trucks running over desperate residents as they fled.

This woman says, our children are dying of hunger. They went to get a bag of flour to feed the children. Some were run over, others were shot.

The Israeli military, however, says there were two incidents. The first, where residents rushed the trucks in a deadly stampede ensued. The second, when the Israeli military fired on a group of Palestinians who they claim posed a threat and did not move away from their military position, came afterwards.

LT. COL. PETER LERNER, IDF SPOKESMAN: We are operating in order to maintain operational activity and combat, our combat on one hand and maintain the ongoing flow of humanitarian goods, humanitarian supplies on the other.

HANCOCKS: What cannot be disputed is the sheer desperation of people here. Aid rarely reaches northern Gaza. Fighting is never far away.

This man says of the body he is cradling, he just went to get a bit of bread, a bag of flour for his family, displaced at a school in Jabalya camp.

U.N. agencies warn of famine, saying this is the worst level of child malnutrition anywhere in the world. Gaza's health ministry claims at least half a dozen children have died in recent days of dehydration and malnutrition. UNICEF says it could only get worse.

JAMES ELDER, UNICEF SPOKESMAN: We're seeing a very dangerous form of malnutrition in the north, around 15 percent in children, three times what it is in Rafah in the south. Again, clear evidence that when we're able, when we are allowed to get in life-saving aid, it's making a difference.

HANCOCKS: Countries now resorting to airdrops to get aid into Gaza, an imprecise and imperfect way to save lives.

Paula Hancock's CNN, Abu Dhabi.


BLITZER: Paula Hancocks, thank you for that report.

Let's get some analysis right now from two guests, former State Department Middle East Negotiator Aaron David Miller, and a senior fellow over at the Middle East Institute here in Washington, Khaled Elgindy.

Khaled, let me start with you. How did we get to this point where starving civilians are being killed trying to get the very little aid, the food that actually makes it into Gaza and what accountability should Israel face?

KHALED ELGINDY, SENIOR FELLOW, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE: Well, how we got here, it's been a grueling almost five months now. And I think the trajectory began almost immediately after the October 7th attacks. Two days later, we saw an announcement by the Israeli Minister of Defense that all food, water and medicine and fuel would be cut off. There would be a total siege.

And so you could draw a direct line from there to where we are now. There has been very little humanitarian assistance going into Gaza over the past month. Even the trickle that was coming in has been reduced. And so we're seeing intense hunger and borderline famine.

I think the important thing to remember here is that the reason aid is not coming in, the reason people are starving is a function of Israeli decision-making. This is an Israeli policy to hold up food and water from the civilian population. I think everyone who's looked at the issue, including U.S. senators, have acknowledged that.

BLITZER: Aaron, do awful scenes like the ones we're seeing today, as this death pill in Gaza now passes 30,000, does all that increased pressure on President Biden now to change course in this handling of this war?

AARON DAVID MILLER, SENIOR FELLOW, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: I mean, it does, Wolf. And closer to home, you had the results of the primary in Michigan, which do not augur well for November, if, in fact, the pictures in Gaza can't be changed.

And that leads, I think, to the key issue. Is there enough urgency on the part of Hamas and Israel to sign on to at least a 45-day humanitarian pause, temporary ceasefire, call it what you will, that would essentially create reliable corridors and safe zones for the delivery, both in the Gaza and within Gaza, of the humanitarian assistance that's so badly needed.

BLITZER: That's critically important because from the beginning, Wolf, it's been these two combatants that have set the tone, the tempo, the escalation, the de-escalation at various points. And outside parties, including the United States, particularly the United States, has exerted very little leverage in trying to push, in this respect, the Israelis, to move more quickly.


BLITZER: It was interesting. It was very sad to hear earlier today, Khaled, that U.S. Defense Secretary Austin said that at least 25,000 Palestinian women and children have been killed in Gaza since this war began. What more leverage does the U.S. have to persuade Prime Minister Netanyahu to do more to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza?

ELGINDY: Well, I mean, the United States has enormous leverage as Israel's closest ally, as Israel's chief weapons supplier, as Israel's primary cover, diplomatic cover in the United Nations and other international forums.

Three different times, most recently, a week or so ago, the United States has blocked ceasefire resolutions. The United States could end this horror that we're watching on a daily basis. If it chose to do so, at a minimum, the United States could prevent, could slow down, at least if not actually stop the weapons flow to Israel.

Israel could not be carrying out this war without U.S. weapons. In fact, what we've seen is the opposite. The Biden administration has fast-tracked U.S. weapons, bypassed Congress on two different occasions. And so there is quite a lot of leverage. There just isn't really any political will to use it.

And it's not clear why. I mean, it's -- this war is horrific. It's unwinnable from Israel's standpoint, the notion of Netanyahu's delusions of total victory are just that. I think the longer this goes on, we're just going to see more death and destruction.

BLITZER: Yes, we are seeing it. I will point out, Khaled and Aaron, I will point out that more lawmakers here in Washington, especially Democratic senators, are calling for conditions to be placed on continued U.S. military aid to Israel as a result of what is going on.

Khaled Elgindy, Aaron David Miller, to both of you, we will continue this conversation down the road. Thank you very much.

Coming up, we're learning more about what the special counsel, Jack Smith, is anticipating now that Donald Trump's classified documents trial may be delayed tomorrow.

The breaking news coming up next.



BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming into the situation room just ahead of a key hearing in the Trump classified documents case tomorrow. The timing of the former president's trial under review in the aftermath of U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear Trump's immunity dispute.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is working the story for us. What are you learning, Jessica?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight, both sides are really looking to get ahead of tomorrow's arguments. They're both proposing new trial start dates in this classified documents case.

So, the special counsel now proposing July 8th, and also Trump's team is proposing August 12th. They're actually saying that he can't have a fair trial before the election, but if he does, they want it August 12th.

And these are significant time periods after this case was originally slated to go to trial here. And both of these sides are likely proposing these new dates, knowing that there is a very high likelihood that that initial May 20th date will get pushed back at tomorrow's hearing.

Looking at the legal calendar, you see that there is a lot going on between now and August. So, these new dates are very important because any July or August start date, it could potentially upend any summer start to the D.C. election case that's currently on hold because of the Supreme Court now agreeing to hear arguments on whether Donald Trump is immune from prosecution in that case.

So, there is a lot already unfolding in advance of tomorrow's hearing down in Florida. That hearing could last most of the day. Donald Trump is expected to attend.

And we're also seeing both Trump's team and prosecutors. They're moving forward with plans for this eventual trial. In advance in this hearing, they've submitted a list of questions they want given to potential jurors, prosecutors in particular. They want to ask prospective jurors if they believe the 2020 election was stolen.

So, that could be one of those questions. It could be one of many questions that Trump's team and prosecutors will actually argue over.

They're also arguing, Wolf, over the length of the trial here. Prosecutors are recommending four to six weeks, the defense suggesting eight to ten, again, Wolf, part of Trump, Trump team's legal strategy to really delay here by proposing maybe an even longer trial than the prosecutors do. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jessica Schneider reporting for us, thanks for that background.

Let's get some more with our CNN Legal Analysts Elliot Williams and Jennifer Rodgers.

Jennifer, how significant is it that the special counsel is now suggesting a July trial when he's been pushing for this case to be tried as soon as possible? Is that an admission the tentative May trial date simply won't hold?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it is, Wolf. I mean, you got to see the writing on the wall at some point. Judge Cannon has been slow in her rulings, dragging her feet a bit, particularly with the litigation over classified information at the trial, to the point where a May trial date just isn't feasible at this point.

So, I think Jack Smith and his team is trying to do the best they can at this time to get it tried as soon as possible, and that's the right position to take.

BLITZER: Elliot, between the special counsel's proposal for a July 8th trial, that would be the date they want, and Trump's proposed date for August 12th, how do you expect the judge, Judge Cannon in this case, to rule?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, goodness. You know, it's hard to know what the, how the Judge is going to rule. And to back up Jennifer's point, the judge has not acted with tremendous efficiency or speed up until this point. So, it is hard to see sort of where she's going go.

Now, judges, when deciding when to put trials on, they factor a number of things into consideration.


Number one, her own calendar, and the court's calendar is going to be relevant. What trials does she and other court personnel have in that time?

Number two, do they think the parties can adequately get ready for trial before -- between July 8 and that'll be the point of tomorrow's hearing. If the answer is yes, then certainly the judge could proceed with the July trial date. She could agree to the August 1, or frankly, just throw her hands up and kick it further down the road.

BLITZER: Jennifer, how will Trump's already very stacked legal calendar and we see some suggestions of that, how will that impact -- a way on Judge Cannon's decision here?

RODGERS: I don't think she'll be able to take that into account, because nothing else is currently scheduled for the summer. If there actually were a date for the other federal case, it would be different. But at this point, with everything held up and pending in the Supreme Court, I think she has to proceed based on her calendar and get it done as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: We will see what happens. Jennifer Rodgers, Elliot Williams, to both of you. Thank you very much.

Coming up, Vladimir Putin in his own words, new threats and new warnings of nuclear war during a marathon speech from the Russian president.


BLITZER: Tonight, Russian President Vladimir Putin is unleashing new threats against the West, including a warning of nuclear war.

Our Brian Todd is breaking down Putin's address to the Russian people and parliament.

Brian, the marathon speech was packed with saber-rattling.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was, Wolf. You know, in this speech, Vladimir Putin broke his own previous record for endurance, speaking for more than two hours and key portions of it were devoted to insults, threats, and other attempts to intimidate -- intimidate the enemies who he's most nervous about.


ANNOUNCER: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

TODD (voice-over): The Russian president using his annual state of the nation address to disparage the United States.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): They just want to show their citizens and everyone else that they still ruled the world.

TODD: And threatened the U.S. and NATO.

PUTIN: All of this is very dangerous, as it could trigger the use of nuclear weapons and therefore, the destruction of civilization. Don't they understand that?

They must ultimately understand that we also have weapons that can hit targets in their territory.

TODD: Remarks, seemingly in response to an idea floated this week by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said the possibility of sending western troops to Ukraine can't be ruled out.

PROF. KEITH DARDEN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Macron in many ways gave Putin a gift for Putin, the idea that Western boots might be on the ground rather than just western weapons and support I is exactly the kind of framing that he needs for his domestic audience about this war.

TODD: Referring to Macron's comments. Putin made an apparent reference to previous attempted invasions of Russia by Adolf Hitler and Napoleon, warning this time, it would be worse.

PUTIN (through translator): We remember the fate of those who once sent their contingents to the territory of our country. But now, the consequences for possible interventionist will be much more tragic.

TODD: Putin has repeatedly made veiled threats to use nuclear weapons since the Ukraine war started. SAMUEL CHARAP, AUTHOR, "EVERYONE LOSSES: THE UKRAINE CRISIS": I think the rhetoric has been about sending a deterrent message to the U.S. and its NATO allies.

TODD: This year's speech from Putin takes on more significance because in about two weeks, Russia will hold its presidential elections. The former KGB colonel is assured of victory, but the Kremlin has still mounted a major publicity campaign ahead of the vote. Putin speech was shown in movie theaters, put up on billboards.

CHARAP: I think reframing this war as one between Russia and NATO is going to play well. The Russian public still has difficulty adjusting to the idea that Ukrainians are their enemies.

TODD: One of Putin's worst enemies meanwhile is about to be laid to rest. The funeral of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who mysteriously died recently in an Arctic Russian gulag is scheduled for tomorrow in Moscow.

Navalny's widow is concerned that Putin security forces will crack down on mourners.

DARDEN: He very much does not want Navalny's legacy to be continued as a martyr, as a public figure. He wants to send the signal that no opposition will be tolerated.


TODD (on camera): Responding to Putin's threat to use nuclear weapons, a State Department spokesperson said today, that's no way for the leader of a nuclear armed state to speak. But he also said, the U.S. does not see any sign that Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.

Wolf, he threatens this constantly.

BLITZER: Very, very disturbing. Indeed, Brian Todd, thank you very much for that report.

Coming up, there's breaking news on the case the U.S. Air National Guardsman accused of posting a trove of classified documents to social media.



BLITZER: We have breaking news right now. And one of the most serious U.S. national security breaches in recent years. The case involving a U.S. air national guardsman accused of leaking a trove of highly sensitive military information.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann.

Oren, what are you learning? OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Jack Teixeira, the

Massachusetts air national guardsman who was accused of posting a trove of highly classified information online, is expected to plead guilty on Monday in federal court, according to a source familiar with the matter here. Prosecutors have requested a Rule 11 hearing on Monday.

That's a hearing where prosecutors and defense attorneys discuss a change in plea. If you'll remember back in July, soon after Teixeira was arrested at his home, the video you can see here, Teixeira had pleaded not guilty of six counts of retaining and transmitting classified information in relation to this case. Now here according to a source familiar for with the matter, he is expected to change that plea to guilty.

Had he been convicted on those charges, he faced decades in prison. Typically, when you see a change in plea here, you expect him to plead to perhaps lesser charges and expect a shorter prison sentence here. That, of course, that prison sentence will be up to the judge here, but that's how this is expected to play out.

Teixeira himself was a member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing. They're in charge of gathering classified information and putting it together into a package for senior DOD leaders here. Now, Teixeira's role in that, according to prosecutors, was essentially as a network technician, but that gave him access for the classified information.

Wolf, he was repeatedly essentially criticized and reprimanded for accessing information that he shouldn't have been accessing. Prosecutors say he took that info and from December 2022 on leaked it online in a Discord chat room when that was discovered, prosecutors moved very quickly here to zero in on who they say was responsible.

Teixeira was taken into custody in April here and indicted in June -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Oren Liebermann reporting for us -- Oren, 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.