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The Situation Room

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Shakes Hands With Trump, Touts Positive Meeting; Biden And Zelenskyy Sign Ten-Year Security Deal; Fani Willis Lashes Out At Anti-Christian Attacks From Critics; USAID Administrator On Difficulty Of Getting Aid Into Gaza; Russia Formally Sends Gershkovich Espionage Case To Court. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 13, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: After a few reassuring head pats, Misty was safely carried out and reunited with her owner. That is awesome.

We're now exactly two weeks out from the CNN presidential debate with President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. I will be moderating the discussion with my colleague, Dana Bash. That is Thursday, June 27th, 9:00 P.M. Eastern, streaming on MAX. Don't miss it. If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts.

The news continues on CNN with Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I like to call The Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Donald Trump returns to Washington to rally Republicans on Capitol Hill. We're learning new details from our sources inside the meeting, including the moment the former president shook hands with one of his toughest critics turned supporter, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Plus, we're following President Biden at the G7 summit in Italy, where he just signed a historic ten-year security agreement with Ukraine. The Ukrainian ambassador to the United States joins me.

Also tonight, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is lashing out at her critics. What the woman leading the Trump prosecution in Georgia said about her detractors during a fiery speech at a church.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

First up tonight, Donald Trump's trip here to Washington, where he's trying to unify Republican lawmakers behind his candidacy. The former president glad-handing allies, coming face to face with critics, and ranting about his personal grievances.

CNN's Kristen Holmes has more.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have to take this beautiful place and we have to make it really something very special again. Right now, it's not special.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Former President Donald Trump returning to Capitol Hill as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and a convicted felon.

TRUMP: This is an outstanding group of people. I'm with them a thousand percent. They're with me a thousand percent.

HOLMES: Hoping to rally Congressional Republicans and streamline the messaging ahead of the presidential election. House Republican leadership, unsurprisingly, giving the meeting positive reviews.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): We just concluded a very successful special political conference with our special guest, President Donald J. Trump. We are 100 percent unified behind his candidacy.

HOLMES: The Trump team said his meetings were expected to focus on policy, but sources inside the House meeting told CNN Trump tore through a list of complaints, lamenting about his legal woes, calling the Justice Department, quote, dirty, no good bastards, wondering about Taylor Swift's endorsement of President Joe Biden, quote, why would she endorse this dope, calling Milwaukee, the site of the upcoming Republican Convention, quote, horrible, a comment allies said was in reference to crime in the city.

But Republicans said Trump did also talk about some policy, offering guidance on how Republicans should discuss abortion rights.

REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): He said, make sure that you exercise your own conscience, talk about it, share your conviction and do that in a way that makes sense to people, and I think he had made a good point. He has said that after the Dobbs decision that the states are handling the issue right now, and that's where he's comfortable keeping it.

HOLMES: And Trump addressed inter party politics after a year of infighting over the speakership.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): He saw me in there and he was like, Hello, Marjorie. He's always so sweet and recognizes me. And he said, are you being nice? He was joking. Are you being nice to Speaker Johnson? And I said -- and he said, okay, be nice to him, and I nodded my head.

HOLMES: After the meeting with House allies, Trump moved on to the National Republican Senatorial Committee for another closed door meeting.

TRUMP: Everybody here, you're all either elected or you're going to be elected again and re-elected and I'm with every one of you and you know that.

HOLMES: Ahead of Trump's return to Capitol Hill, the Biden campaign releasing a new television ad seeking to remind voters about Trump's role leading up to the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is nothing more sacred than our democracy, but Donald Trump is ready to burn it all down.


HOLMES (on camera): Now, Wolf, you'll notice that we had far less information coming out of that Senate meeting. That is because those Republican Senators are a lot less chatty than the House Republicans. But I do want to point to one of the most notable moments which was caught on camera of this meeting. It is in this photo here. Mitch McConnell shaking hands with Donald Trump. This was the first time the two of them have spoken since January 6th, since that election of Joe Biden was certified, and Mitch McConnell congratulated President Joe Biden, despite the fact that Mitch McConnell had endorsed Donald Trump.


The two still had yet to have a conversation. Clearly here, though, a handshake, later, McConnell saying that the entire meeting was entirely positive, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for that report.

Let's break all of this down with our political experts right now. And David Chalian, let me start with you. You saw that picture of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump today, shaking hands after both of them over the past few years were blasting each other repeatedly. What do you make of this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, first God bless Doug Mills, the photographer from The New York Times, who just has documented so many historic moments, but I think he captured here an amazing depiction. To me, this encapsulates the modern day today Republican Party, because we know what Mitch McConnell stood on the floor of the Senate and said about Donald Trump's culpability and responsibility as it related to January 6th and that the justice system would catch up to him when he made the decision that he was not going to support conviction and impeachment at the time.

We know they haven't spoken since December of 2020 when Mitch McConnell believed Donald Trump's behavior was out of bounds, and yet there he is, shaking his hand because this is what today was all about for Donald Trump, showing unification of the Republican Party behind the presumptive nominee, and you don't get that more accurately than seeing the leader of the Senate Republicans join forces with him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And don't forget what Donald Trump said about Mitch McConnell's wife, using a racial epithet, and here they are. And if you look at the picture with Donald Trump, it's two hands. It's a two-hand clasp, which is unusually warm. I mean, we know this isn't -- I mean, honestly, it's not real. It's just something that Mitch McConnell has to do.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's part of what David to what you're saying with regard to, yes, that is the Republican Party. Behind the scenes, I can't stand the guy, but if a camera's in front of us, I'm going to -- we're going to smile for the cameras, we're going to shake hands and take a picture, because he is the head of the Republican Party, and I'm terrified of what his voters might do to me and my caucus should we not -- yes.

BLITZER: Shermichael, I want to play for you and our viewers what Mitch McConnell said after the January 6th riot about Donald Trump. Listen to this.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.


BLITZER: So, how does Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate, go from saying that to all of a sudden shaking hands, smiling and being so friendly with Trump?

SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, Wolf, I think Mitch McConnell may go down in history as one of the most successful Republican politicians ever in terms of what he has been able to do in the United States Senate for Republicans and the conservative agenda. I know a lot of people vilify him, they don't particularly care for him. But there aren't too many Republican leaders. who have surgically laid out a roadblock, if you will, for Republicans to follow to gain and access power. And if you're thinking about that in the electoral context, and you recognize that former President Trump may be the vehicle to continue moving forward with that agenda, whether you like him or not, you're going to do what is politically expedient.

I think this was a smart move for the former president to showcase that the party is coalescing around him, particularly on the heels of many questions about Nikki Haley voters. I think the question ultimately becomes, though, what does that policy backdrop look like headed into the --

FINNEY: But that's the thing. We know there is no policy backdrop. We've heard some of the reports that basically he went to grievance. He talked right and his request was that he would find a way to get these charges reversed, right? That's the agenda that he's interested in.

And to Shermichael's point, I mean, I think there are many in the Republican Party who question whether or not -- I mean, the party has been losing as they've been following Donald Trump in the last several election cycles. Many of the candidates that he's endorsed have lost. And so I think there are a number of people in the Republican Party very concerned about the kinds of candidates that he will back and whether or not they'll be viable.

And the last thing I'll just say about Mitch McConnell, what a coward, what an absolute coward. I mean, he had the courage to stand up for the United States of America, the rule of law and our democracy, immediately following what happened on Capitol Hill, and yet here we are just a short time later and he's kowtowing to Donald Trump.

BLITZER: David, hold on for one second, I want to play for you and for our viewers some of Trump's attacks against Mitch McConnell over these past few years. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Mitch McConnell is a loser.

We do have to do something about Mitch McConnell.


He's a disaster.

These Washington Republicans, like Mitch McConnell, who's the absolute worst.

I had to fight Mitch McConnell, another beauty.

Mitch McConnell and his wife, Coco Chao, Coco, we got to get the McConnells of the world to do their job.


CHALIAN: There's what Gloria was referencing before about the racist comments about his wife. But, to Karen's point, you know, you played that clip of Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor, what was he doing on the Senate floor that day? That was his speech -- I don't want our viewers to be confused. That was his speech explaining why he did not believe Donald Trump should be convicted in an impeachment trial, why he shouldn't be ruled out of contention going forward to serve as president again.

Mitch McConnell could have made a different choice at that point, he believed, because Donald Trump had already left office. That was his reasoning for why they didn't pursue that and yet he gave voice to all this concern that he said is out there and clearly what you see in this handshake, to Shermichael's point is that concern is secondary now to the need for political unity and political power in the context of this election.

BORGER: He also said that the courts ought to take care of Donald Trump, that it shouldn't be impeachment on the floor of the Senate. And, you know, I didn't hear him applauding the felony convictions either.

You know, look, I think, you look at Mitch McConnell, he's the ultimate pragmatist. He believes he has a job to do. And the one job he has right now before he retires is get the majority back in the Senate. That is singularly what he is devoted to, and I believe he would have given him a bear hug if he could have.

SINGLETON: And he's on the cusp of that, and Republicans are also raising a lot of money right now, Wolf, for some of those Senate candidates.

BORGER: But there are a lot of Republicans, by the way, in the Senate who did not go to this event.

BLITZER: Not a lot.

BORGER: Not a lot. Okay. I know. I know.

BLITZER: Everybody, thank you very, very much.

We're also following another major, major decision from the United States Supreme Court today, the nine justices unanimously ruling a widely used abortion medication is, I repeat, is allowed to remain on the market.

Our Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is joining us with details right now. Paula, walk us through this ruling and what it means.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a unanimous decision from the Supreme Court on abortion is virtually unheard of. But here, the justices collectively decided to sidestep the question before them, which is whether the FDA had exceeded its regulatory authority in making Mifepristone more broadly available.

But here, a lot of folks were watching this very closely, not only women who would potentially need this medication, but also the FDA. I mean, this could have really challenged their regulatory abilities, the pharmaceutical industry also watching very closely, as well as anyone running for office in 2024.

Now, because they sidestepped this issue, they did not actually decide it. It's possible, even likely that it will reappear on the docket in the coming years. And in the interim, here's what Justice Kavanaugh suggested for people who have concerns about Mifepristone. He said, quote, citizens and doctors who object to what the law allows others to do may always take their concerns to the executive or legislative branches and seek greater regulatory or legislative restrictions on certain activities. So, he's basically saying if you have an issue with Mifepristone and you don't have standing to bring a case, call your congressman.

Now, right now, all eyes will be on another abortion case before the justices and that case comes out of Idaho and raises questions about what you do in a state that has restrictive abortion laws and they come up against more permissive federal laws. And that will now likely take on even more significance depending on what the justices decide to do.

BLITZER: Paula Reid reporting for us, thank you, Paula.

Just ahead, President Biden signing a truly historic security deal with Ukraine today. We'll ask Ukraine's ambassador to the United States about why its future may be in doubt.

Plus, breaking news coming in on the U.S. Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas. We have new details just released about previously unknown trips he took aboard the private jet of a very wealthy Republican donor.



BLITZER: Turning on some breaking news, President Biden's trip to the G7 summit in Italy, where he just signed a major new security agreement with Ukraine. The president juggling a jam packed international agenda today as he deals with domestic and personal issues as well.

CNN's M.J. Lee is traveling with the president. She has our report.


M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Joe Biden back on the world stage, but unable to escape a deeply sensitive and painful saga for his family back home. After a full day of meetings with fellow G7 leaders here in Southern Italy, the president signing a historic bilateral security agreement on everything from training Ukrainian Armed Forces to joint cooperation on weapons production and intelligence sharing. Biden pledging America's continued support for its ally.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Our goal is to strengthen Ukraine's credible defense and deterrence capabilities for the long-term. A lasting peace for Ukraine must be underwritten by Ukraine's own ability to defend itself now and to deter future aggression.

LEE: The president also facing questions about his son Hunter, who just days ago was convicted on three felony gun charges. Biden publicly commenting on that painful development for the first time.

BIDEN: I'm extremely proud of my son, Hunter. He has overcome an addiction. He is one of the brightest, most decent men I know. I said, I abide by the jury decision. I will do that and I will not pardon him.

LEE: When reporters asked whether he would commute Hunter's sentence, Biden giving a one word answer.


President Zelenskyy, who had also spent time with Biden the previous week in France, thanking the U.S., including members of Congress, for continuing to send funds to aid Ukrainian wartime efforts.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your leadership, which is reflected in particular in this agreement. And I'm very grateful to all Americans.

LEE: The Biden-Zelenskyy news conference capping off the first day of the G7 summit. But no issue looming larger than Russia's continuing assault on Ukraine. The G7 alliance wishing to send a collective message to Vladimir Putin, you will not outlast us.

Biden racing to cross the finish line on a number of initiatives ahead of his November election. His rival, former President Donald Trump and his isolationist foreign policy views could throw into question the strength of America's continued support for Ukraine, whether the G7's moves could be undone.

TRUMP: Why are we hundreds of billions of dollars more money? Why is this happening? Why is Europe spending a fraction of the money that we're spending?

LEE: The president also announcing Thursday a $50 billion loan program for Ukraine, paid for by interest accrued from hundreds of billions of dollars in frozen Russian assets.


LEE (on camera): And the president is skipping the G7 leaders' dinner tonight. The White House wouldn't give a reason for why. And just looking ahead to tomorrow, the president has a bilateral meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. And then Pope Francis is joining the G7 leaders for a discussion on climate on A.I. And then, of course, still to come is the G7 communique, and we did learn today that President Biden fought to keep language in that statement about the importance of reproductive rights. Of course, that is such a politically important issue for him back at home. Wolf?

BLITZER: M.J. Lee reporting from the G7 summit in Italy. Thank you very much, M.J.

And joining me now, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. How significant is this latest series of U.S. commitments that Ukraine received today from President Biden and other G7 leaders?

OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Hello, Wolf. And thank you for having me. I can only use a word which President Zelenskyy used today, historic. It is a historic day in the middle of very active week of our strategic friendship engagements, from meetings of our president to sign unprecedented security arrangements today to vice president participating very soon in the peace formula summit, and more importantly, U.S. leading G7 into, again, a historic idea as we work on the confiscation of the Russian sovereign assets on how we can use it to the benefit of Ukraine and that Ukraine will have additional resources in order to sustain the effort. So, it's a great day for our friendship. It's a great day for Ukraine.

BLITZER: At the same time, though, and I'm sure you heard it at the news conference earlier today, President Biden ruled out allowing Ukraine to use U.S. weapons to strike deeper into Russia beyond the Kharkiv region along the border. Does that make it harder for Ukraine to fight this war?

MARKAROVA: Well, on the other hand, let's say how grateful we are to the president, to Congress on a bipartisan basis, to everyone for supporting us in so many ways. And we are grateful that the decision actually to allow us to hit across the border, which also was historic after two years of war has been very helpful and useful, and we will definitely make full use of it. But we will continue discussing with our friends and partners.

As you know, today, also, there was a meeting of secretary of defense with our minister of defense and already a monthly meeting of so called Rammstein group, the Ukraine contact defense group. We will keep working on all capabilities. We will keep working on joint decisions on how to get to just and lasting peace faster. And this is going to be one of this -- not public discussions.

BLITZER: Why is this U.S. security agreement that President Biden and President Zelenskyy signed today so important? And, Ambassador, what is your level of concern about Donald Trump potentially walking away from the security agreement if he were to retake the White House?

MARKAROVA: Well, first of all the security agreement is really important. Now is just going back a little bit during the Vilnius NATO summit. That's when the G7 countries announced the idea of having this framework and these agreements. And now we have more than G7 countries, all G7-plus now joining and signing bilateral agreements with Ukraine, which shows how this infrastructure, new security infrastructure is forming not only in our region but in the transatlantic family of countries that have similar values, shared values and principles.


And I believe everything we discussed there is actually very much Ukrainian, but also very much American.

So, as I said, Ukraine really values bipartisan support, which we have. We have the strong bipartisan support. And fight for freedom is not for any of the separate parties in the United States. I believe Democrats and Republicans alike support what this country is based on, freedom, democracy, dignity. And this is what we are fighting for and this is what U.S. is supporting us to do.

So, look, this strategic friendship that we have with the United States is not for one year or two years. It's forever.

BLITZER: Ambassador Markarova, thank you so much for joining us.

MARKAROVA: Thank you for having me. God bless America.

BLITZER: And coming up a bold new comments today from Fulton Fani Willis, what she's now saying about her critics and why she says she's being overly sexualized.



BLITZER: The prosecutor leading the case against Donald Trump in Georgia is lashing out at her critics today for, quote, anti-Christian attacks.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on the fiery speech Fani Willis just gave at an Atlanta area church.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A defiant Fulton County district attorney delivers a message to her detractors.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Black women are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

TODD: During an appearance today at an African Methodist Episcopal Church outside Atlanta, Fani Willis talked about what she's gone through since former President Donald Trump tried to get her removed from prosecuting his election subversion case in Georgia, and since Nathan Wade resigned as a prosecutor in the case because of their previous relationship.

WILLIS: What can I say? I live the experience of a black woman who is attacked and oversexualized. See, I'm so tired of hearing these idiots call my name as Fani in a way to attempt to humiliate me. Because like silly schoolboys, the name reminds them of a woman's rear, of her behind.

TODD: Willis did not mention anyone by name in her speech but alluded to the moment Trump's former attorney, Rudy Giuliani, made an offensive remark about her at a Michigan church event last week.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I've got two prosecutors, Fani the Hoe.

TODD: Willis responded to that this morning.

WILLIS: Very anti-Christian behavior celebrated. In fact, they cheer, celebrate it and laugh loudly.

TODD: This came just hours after CNN's Kaitlan Collins interviewed Nathan Wade. A tense moment came with this question.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHNOR: When did the romantic relationship between the two of you start?

NATHAN WADE, FORMER FULTON COUNTY PROSECUTOR: There's been this effort to say that, okay, these, these exact dates are at issue, and these exact dates are -- I'm getting signaled here.

TODD: A consultant to Wade interrupted the interview. They moved aside and spoke for a few moments. Then Collins resumed.

COLLINS: Everything okay?

WADE: Yes.

COLLINS: Just to revisit the question, it was to clarify when the romantic relationship started and when it ended. WADE: Sure. So, you know, I believe that the public has -- through the testimony and other interviews, the public has a clear snapshot that this is clearly just a distraction. It is not a relevant issue in this case.

TODD: As Willis continues to fight Trump's appeal to get her kicked off the case, Analyst Norm Eisen believes she's got a good shot at staying on.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Her relationship with her former deputy, Nathan Wade, did not prejudice Donald Trump in any way. He was not a witness in the case. There's no allegation that they shifted the evidence in any way.


TODD: Three times Kaitlan Collins asked Nathan Wade if he thought his personal involvement with Fonny Willis played any role in the delay of the Georgia trial, likely until after the 2024 election. Three times, Wade said he did not think the relationship played any role in that. Like Willis, Wade said there have been threats against his life, which he described as being constant. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, Brian, thank you very much.

Let's discuss this and more with CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams and former Federal Prosecutor Alyse Adamson.

Alyse, what are your thoughts on what we just heard from the district attorney, Fani Willis?

ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, Wolf. I think Fani Willis is not wrong in what she said about this ugly trope of the oversexualization of black women. This full overfocus on a black woman's body in an effort to degrade black women is very, very real. And I can tell you from my own experience as being a woman of color that it happens and we can validate D.A. Willis in that experience. And we have seen examples of these attacks against her. I believe the president even mispronounced her name as Fanny and made it very clear that he was referring to a rear end.


And there have been many examples of attacks on D.A. Willis since she indicted this RICO case. And it is absolutely despicable and she has every right to be upset.

Now that being said, I think it is also important to note that we should not be conflating all of those horrendous attacks with the inquiry into her appointment of Nathan Wade. I think if any defense attorney had been given the evidence that Ashley Merchant was that there had been a relationship between Nathan Wade and Fani Willis, they would have been duty bound to make hay out of it, just like they did.

And I think Judge McAfee was also right to hold a hearing, an evidentiary hearing, to develop those facts and make sure there was no conflict of interest or financial benefit. And I understand that there were some tawdry elements about her love life that came out during that hearing. But I don't think that was the effort to discredit her through oversexualization. I think that was an inquiry that quite frankly, she opened the door to, she invited to by having a relationship with Nathan Wade.

So, I think both can be true. I think Fani Willis can be upset and I also think that the inquiry was valid.

BLITZER: Elliot, you heard Nathan Wade sidestep that question from Kaitlan Collins about the timeline of that romantic relationship. How much does all of this hurt the optics around the Georgia case?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I would say all of it hurts the optics, Wolf, because what we're seeing here is something we're really not used to seeing, which isn't common, which is prosecutors speaking publicly. This is why prosecutors, and, quite frankly, people who are involved in litigation, typically don't speak. Every single word he says can get him -- can gum up the case further and jeopardize the chances of convicting the defendants that he was trying to investigate and go after.

So, that timeline question is proof positive of sort of the pitfalls here for, for prosecutor's staff talking. He could end up contradicting himself, making a statement that could undermine public faith in their work, but more to the point, could just taint the jury pool. So, there's all kinds of reasons this is why it's so rare. You very rarely see prosecutors, you know, or senior staff speaking publicly in the media.

BLITZER: Alyse, do you see this having any bearing on your work? On Trump's continuing appeal to get Fani Willis kicked off the case.

ADAMSON: Yes. I don't think these two recent incidents are going to have any bearing on the appeal. Quite frankly, we don't know what the appellate court is going to do, but there's a high burden here. This is based on factual findings. The trial court, Judge McAfee, did a very good job, letting the defense make their case. The defense ultimately failed to do so. And an appellate court does not like to disturb those factual findings. They can review to see if Judge McAfee was wrong on the law but not really on the facts.

So, I think they have -- the D.A.'s office has a very good chance of prevailing here in the sense that she will not be disqualified and I don't think Nathan Wade's recent appearance nor Fani Willis' public comments at the church will have any impact on the court's ruling.

BLITZER: Alyse Adamson, Elliot Williams, to both of you, thank you very much.

Coming up, there's more breaking news we're following right now, this time on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. CNN is learning the justice took even more trips on the private jet of a GOP mega donor than previously known.



BLITZER: Breaking news, a top Senate Democrat now says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took several, several more trips on the private plane of a Republican mega donor than previously known.

I want to bring in CNN's Melanie Zanona. She's up on Capitol Hill. Melanie, more luxury travel by Justice Thomas. How did this come to light?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, we certainly didn't learn this information from Justice Thomas himself. We are only learning this information because Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed for this information. And according to this new evidence, Thomas took three previously unknown trips and flew on Harlan Crow's jet. He did that in 2017, 2019 and 2021 for various trips between and around the United States.

And, again, Thomas did not disclose these trips. So, it really just adds to a pattern of Thomas accepting lavish gifts from a GOP mega donor, going on these privately funded trips around the country, and in some cases around the world, and then not disclosing that information.

Now, Thomas has not commented just yet, but in the past, he has said he was following disclosure rules as he understood them at the time. And meanwhile, Harlan Crow's camp has continued to insist that the two of them never discussed matters before the Supreme Court. But these new revelations, Wolf, are really only adding to the increased scrutiny that we are seeing on the highest court in the land.

BLITZER: And, Melanie, how does this fit into the wave of recent controversies around the Supreme Court justices?

ZANONA: Yes. Well, Clarence Thomas is not the only justice under fire right now. Justice Samuel Alito and his wife have come under fire for flying a flag associated with right wing politics after January 6th outside of their home, and they're also facing some criticism for some unflattering, unsavory comments that they were caught making on tape. Let's listen to some of those private and secretly recorded audiotapes.


LAUREN WINDSOR, FILMMAKER: Like people in this country who believe in God have got to keep fighting for that, to return our country to a place of godliness.

JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Oh, I agree with you. I agree with you.

MARTHA-ANN ALITO, JUSTICE ALITO'S WIFE: I want a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag because I have to look across the lagoon at the pride flag for the next month.

WINDSOR: Exactly.

M. ALITO: And he's like, oh, please don't put up a flag. I said, I won't do it because I'm deferring to you. But when you are free of this nonsense, I'm putting it up.



ZANONA: Now, in the wake of all of these controversies, Senate Democrats are renewing their calls to reform the Supreme Court. They did try to pass on the Senate floor a bill that would impose a Supreme Court code of ethics, but they were denied by Republicans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Melanie Zanona, up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Coming up, fading hope of an immediate deal on a ceasefire in the Middle East, as the humanitarian crisis grows more dire in Gaza. We'll talk with a head of the U.S. agency responsible for humanitarian aid, Ambassador Samantha Power.


BLITZER: More news now from the G7 summit in Italy. President Biden tamping down expectations for an imminent ceasefire in Gaza. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've laid out on an approach that has been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council, by the G7, by the Israelis. And the biggest hang-up so far is Hamas refusing to sign on, even though they have submitted something similar.


Whether or not it will come to fruition, remains to be seen. We're going to continue to push. I don't have a final answer for you.


BLITZER: And right now, I'm joined by the USAID administrator, Samantha Power.

Administrator, thank you so much for joining us.

How much is every day without a ceasefire actually worsening the already horrific humanitarian crisis in Gaza?

SAMANTHA POWER, ADMINISTRATOR, USAID: It's absolutely devastating, Wolf. This could not be more urgent. You have about 95 percent of the Gaza population has not had access to clean water in months. This last week, despite all our best efforts, only 95 trucks on average got into Gaza each day. That's in part because of the fighting, IDF military operations, Hamas fighting, Hamas hiding, of course, among the civilian population. But it's also -- it's so difficult for aid workers to move around inside Gaza. With a ceasefire, you would have multiple crossing points, open a full flow of assistance going in, and that mobility on the ground that would allow the displaced population because almost the entire population has been displaced since October 7, to be able to get access to food, to shelter. So many of them are living out in the open air rather than in tents, and, of course, to vital medicine as well.

So we need this so desperately to be able to support our humanitarian partner, who in turn are supporting the people of Gaza.

BLITZER: Administrator, you've said in the past that delivering aid is critically important aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. You said delivering aid by land is in your word, everything. So why isn't the U.S. using all of its leverage to get Israel to reopen, for example, the Rafah border crossing instead of investing in a pier that's breaking down repeatedly, and those sporadic airdrops.

POWER: Well, we have to take "an all of the above" strategy, but as you say, we have to recognize that land crossings are where you get maximum scale. So we are using our leverage with the government of Israel. Obviously, the Israeli-Egyptian dialogue on Rafah is ongoing. It's incredibly important for that crossing point to be open, its incredibly important that the Erez crossing be used.

But we have Kerem shalom open and we have the capacity to move trucks by land in two Gaza. But what's also important is that those convoys be able to move that they not be looted. And by in some cases desperate civilians, but also there are gangs at large there. And the conflict itself gets in the way of humanitarian partners being able to do their work.

With regard to the pier, look, the pier, of course, has had challenges whether is a major factor. I mean, this is why land is our first preference. It's much more reliable. But if we get the pier up and running and get proper throughput going through the maritime pier, that's going to be enough food to feed 500,000 people for a month.

So this is still an additive part of the solution, but the foundational means of getting food to people in Gaza has got to be by these land crossings.

BLITZER: One aid group says and I'm quoting now, the whole humanitarian community has been gaslit into celebrating the tiniest band-aid for a population with countless open wounds.

How do you respond to that?

POWER: Well, I don't think -- I haven't seen anybody celebrating anything, Wolf. This is the most devastating humanitarian situation. The fact that so many families have been placed over and over and over, the fact that you have nearly 300 aid workers who have been killed, the highest in any conflict, more journalists killed than in any conflict and of course, more than 35,000 civilians, many whom are women and children. There is no celebration happening. We don't celebrate incremental progress. We recognize that there needs

to be a wholesale change and we are hopeful still that a ceasefire will help us bring about that change and see the kind of massive surge. But it's not just about getting assistance to people. It's about lives of safety and dignity which our lives that the people of Gaza have not enjoyed for some time.

BLITZER: There's -- we did some checking administrator. There's not been a single day in more than eight months of war where the basic needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza, we're talking about at least 500 trucks according to the United Nations, has made it inside Gaza into civilians hands. How do you explain that?

POWER: Well, we need more crossings open. We need more efficient and effective system inside Gaza for these trucks to move. There are endless delays checkpoints, and we need across the entire Israeli system, there to be a full buy-in about the strategic importance, the moral importance of reaching people in need.


And again, we've made huge progress from where we were at the beginning, but we're not meeting basic needs and that has to change.

BLITZER: So critically important.

Samantha Power, the AID administrator, thanks so much for joining us.

POWER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, Russia is formally sending the espionage case against jailed "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich to court. The 32-year-old Gershkovich became the first American journalist arrested on such charges since the Cold War, when he was detained back in March of 2023, and accused of spying for the U.S. government.

"The Wall Street Journal" is calling the latest move toward a trial, quote, and assault of the free press and the U.S. State Department reiterated bringing Gershkovich home remains one of President Biden's highest priorities. As we say, free Evan. Let's hope he comes home soon.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow morning, 11:00 a.m. for "CNN NEWSROOM", back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM. Until then, thanks very much once again for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.