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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Blinken Reiterates Support For Two-State Solution; Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) Is Interviewed About Two-State Solution; Rep. Santos Steps Down From Committees As His Claims Are Investigated; GOP Rep. Gaetz Undecided On Removing Rep. Omar From Key Committee; Winter Storm Brings Ice, Sleet, Snow To Southern & Central U.S.; Alec Baldwin & Armorer Formally Charged In Movie Set Death; Study: Eating Ultra- Processed Foods May Increase Cancer Risk. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 31, 2023 - 17:00   ET



NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLAMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Even experts in the art of diplomacy here see irony in Blinken's visit that ultimately weakens their leaders.

HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGNER: It only enhances the Palestinian people's lack of trust, and of course, it turns people towards individual actions. Reacting to the occupation by saying we will defend ourselves, we will resist.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Inside the meeting, not an easy dynamic. Blinken wanting what Abbas can ill afford to give, improve cooperation with Israel, absent concessions. Abbas wanting what Blinken can't give either, parity of U.S. support with Israel. Saying, our people will not accept a continuation of the occupation forever. Blinken offering a small bump in aid, help with a legacy phone network and a warning for Israelis and Palestinians not to threaten the possibility of a two state solution.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We oppose any action by either side that makes that goal more difficult to achieve, more distant. And we've been clear that this includes things like settlement expansion, and of course, incitement and acquiescence to violence.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Stronger words than many expected, but here, actions speak loudest.

ASHRAWI: The fact Israel has destroyed the two state solution. Israel is making sure that there is no viable sovereign Palestinian state.

ROBERTSON (on camera): By expanding settlements?

ASHRAWI: It is expanding settlements, stealing more land.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): For the young, Blinken's diplomacy a double whammy, no faith in their own leadership and no hope Blinken can deliver.

Our leadership is incapable of delivering what we want, 18-year-old Nihad (ph) tells us. I don't see a two state solution, he says, maybe between us and the Jewish people, but with the Israeli occupiers, never.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And Nic Robertson is here in studio with me. And Nic Robertson, what was your takeaway from being there?

ROBERTSON: Yes, I think the big takeaway is the lack of credibility that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President has. One of the reasons is because Israeli troops are able to come into the West Bank and Palestinian citizens are getting killed. So that undermines his ability to stand up for the Palestinians and say, hey, I can take care of your security.

What does that look like? That looks like Palestinian gunmen coming outside synagogues and killing people here. But I think underneath that, it's important to understand the terror groups in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad and Hamas are purposely going after his credibility, Abbas's credibility. How do they do that? Because they do things that tempt the Israeli troops deeper and deeper into the West Bank.

You'll notice that Gaza has been pretty calm. They're keeping a lid on that. They're drawing Israeli troops into the West Bank, which allows situations to develop where Palestinians get killed that inflames a situation undermines Mahmoud Abbas. That's the game for them.

TAPPER: Pretty devious. Nic, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in CNN's Kylie Atwood at the State Department for us now.

And Kylie, Nic just referred to the U.S. pushing this two state solution as something from yesteryear, that U.S. talks about it but, you know, it's been talked about for decades and it's gone nowhere. And Netanyahu is no longer advocating for it even though he once did. But is this the only stance that Secretary Blinken thinks he can take?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: At this point, yes, and he made that pretty clear today. When we talk to U.S. officials, their rationale is because they don't believe there's an alternative that would make Israel a Jewish state and also a democracy and would also give equal rights to Palestinians. But realistically speaking, Jake, this administration simply has not prioritized the Israeli Palestinian issue in terms of what their focus has been on the foreign policy front. And so, I think that it's key to consider that they haven't really had fresh ideas to put on the table because they've been focused on other issues overseas.

TAPPER: Blinken did not call for new peace talks in his meetings in the region, even though he met with Netanyahu and he met with Abbas. Is this something the State Department thinks is basically not even worth raising publicly?

ATWOOD: I think they believe it's a not right now issue because you spoke about the fact that you have Netanyahu back there, prime minister again for a 6th time not endorsing a two state solution. You have Abbas who has been the president of the PLO for more than 15 years. These are just not leaders who are showing a willingness to work together and haven't historically. So they don't believe that is a great starting point.

And I also think that when it comes to this cycle of violence that we have seen over the last week or so in Israel and in Palestine. You also have the Secretary of State really honing in on the fact that they need to deescalate things before they can go anywhere. He used the term today one step at a time, and it's very clear that he's leaving officials behind in the country to try and work on things that they can progress forward in terms of small steps. Again, focused on small things, not a bigger solution at this time. Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood at the State Department, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. He is the former chairman and current ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, good to see you. So, you just heard Kylie Atwood discuss that the U.S. is still pushing the two-state solution despite no signs of any progress and no endorsement of it from the Israeli prime minister. Is the two state solution now an unrealistic goal for the U.S., to have? Does it undermine our own impotence to keep pushing for something that Netanyahu is pretty clearly not on the program for?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I think that is much needed and very important to say that we have to have a two state solution. To not to have one is not good for Israel, not good for the United States, not good for the Palestinians. You know, if you talk about a one state solution, then you're talking about having 6 million Palestinians in Israel where they may not have the equal rights.

So, we need to make sure that there is a two state solution. We need to be strong on that with all parties. And there's mechanisms that we've got to try to get there by having the dialogue and conversation that I think that Secretary Blinken was talking about and deescalating. That's what has to happen right now, the deescalation of violence.

Too much violence is going on right now. We saw the Palestinian terrorists killing a number of Jews in synagogue, and then we see the increased violence in the settlements to the Palestinians. That tension must be reduced, and it has to be reduced immediately.

You know, we met today with King Abdullah of Jordan, and he said that, you know, we need to reduce it before Ramadan. And so -- and that we should do so in a collective way. So I think that the focus first is reduce the tensions that currently exist and then push forward so that we can again start talking about the whereabouts of a two state solution. And we know that means, you know, telling the Palestinians that they

have to have a coordinated effort to keep peace and to stop, you know, Palestinian terrorists from coming over, as well as telling Prime Minister Netanyahu that they've got to stop the settlements would have taken place to the expansion, what prevents a two-state solution from occurring.

TAPPER: So, Netanyahu's new government was formed with members of two parties that are to the right of Netanyahu. A couple of the ministers in his cabinet are -- have some really controversial actions and statements in the past, not even that far in the past. Even some of Israel's most staunch supporters, such as former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, said, quote, "The more things get out of hand in the West Bank, either from settlement activity or from violence, the more pressure from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party on President Joe Biden will grow. While he will resist it because he's fundamentally pro-Israel, nevertheless he cannot ignore it."

Do you think that there are going to be some serious fractures in the U.S. Israel friendship because of this new far right Netanyahu government?

MEEKS: Here's what I know, the United States Congress will stand strong in supporting the security of Israel. The memorandum of understanding that we have is unequivocal, and we will stand with Israel and its security, you know, that we understand the region, whether you're talking about what's taking place in Syria, what's taking place in Lebanon, what's taking place with Iran, so we've got to make sure that we -- that will not break, that's not going to tatter, that's going to stand strong.

At the same time, I do have concerns about people in the Netanyahu government who are to the extreme also. And I think that is something that we have to speak up about. And I have surely a lot of disagreements with what they said. So, just as, you know, there's differences of opinion on different leaders, we're strongly, the United States Congress is strongly for the security of Israel and want to develop an economic strategy to give the people of Palestine some hope.

And I think that here's where the members of the Abraham Accords become really important, because then we can talk about a collective coming together so that the young men and women that you showed on your report can have a sense of hope in Palestine. You know, and I visited there and I've talked to them as well as talking to young people in Israel, and that's what they want. They want a sense of hope. And then their chance of living together side by side in peace, that's what the Abraham Accord is about. And I think that we can do that and coordinate that with some of the other Arab countries that are part of it.


TAPPER: The U.S. provides nearly $4 billion in aid to Israel each year as part of a long term agreement. President Obama made U.S. -- it has, of course, helped Israel develop as one of the most advanced economies and militaries in the world. Are you at all concerned about how that funding could be used by this new, more conservative Netanyahu government?

MEEKS: Jake, I am not concerned yet. That's why I think that there has to be the dialogue. That's why I'm glad that Secretary Blinken happens to be there at the right time. I think there has to be that continued conversation. But the United States will stand by.

You know, look, the Middle East is a region that is very dangerous and because of the other countries that I've talked about, we know the threat from Iran, we know the threat from, you know, Syria, we know what a Lebanon that becomes a failed state, what that would mean. And so therefore, we have to make sure that the people of Israel is safe, that's unequivocal and the United States Congress will stand by that. The people of Israel must be safe, and that's why there will be no separation therein.

And if we see somebody crossing the line, then we will have to stand up and say, this is not tolerable. I mean, this is what we've got to do. That's why I've said that it's got to be on both sides. It's got to be a way that, you know, for example, the United States has programs that are on the ground now of which we need to move further so that we could talk about diplomacy a little more, reduce tension and get compromised.

And I think bringing the sides together, in fact, King Abdullah said there should be some kind of way summit, if you will, of all of the Abraham Accords and individual out of states in Israel. Unfortunately, on the Palestinian side, as you have indicated on this show, the head of the Palestinian Authority is very weak. And so, there's a problem there on that side because of the weakness of the leadership of the Palestinians. But --


MEEKS: -- right now, reduce the tensions and then let's try to figure out how we get this compromise and some diplomacy in so that we don't have a devastation.

And, Jake, I'm worried because as King Abdullah said, a lot of this has to be done before Ramadan, because if not it could be --


MEEKS: -- catastrophic.

TAPPER: Democratic Congressman, Gregory Meeks, Ranking Democrat on House Foreign Affairs, I hear you have a vote there. Thanks so much.

My exclusive interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will air this evening. You can see that conversation in its entirety at 09:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

CNN is also live in Ukraine, near the front lines of some of the fiercest fighting yet. What Ukrainian troops are telling us about their desperate attempt to hold the city of Bakhmut? Plus, sources tell CNN of yet another search for classified documents. We're now learning the FBI went into Biden's D.C. think tank office. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our world lead in Ukraine, Russian troops are turning the key eastern city of Bakhmut into, quote, "total ruin," according to the region's top military official as Ukraine claims its forces killed nearly 300 Russian troops there in just the last 24 hours. CNN's Pleitgen was just outside Bakhmut this morning.

And Fred, you spoke with Ukrainian troops, are they starting to feel pessimistic about the grinding ground fight there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they certainly say it's a really difficult fight. But you know, one of the things they also say, Jake, is that they're really surprised, actually, at how well they are still able to hold on even though the Russians are gaining some ground just looking at all the numbers that the Ukrainians are facing.

Now, of course, one of the main adversaries that the Ukrainians have there, Jake, is the Russian private military company called Wagner, and they use some really brutal tactics, just essentially sending waves of people at some of these Ukrainian positions, often people that the Wagner group recruited from jail. So these are convicts that they essentially just send to try and storm Ukrainian positions.

And we spoke to a Ukrainian soldier who said he was in his position with about 20 other guys from his unit and they got attacked by 200 people from Wagner, they say they fought for about 10 hours. And he says that he believes that they either killed or wounded about 140 of those Wagner storm troopers, essentially, until they themselves had to retreat. So, that's the way that the Ukrainians on that front line are losing some position and are losing some ground. There's a lot of Russians who apparently die and are wounded in that whole process. So, certainly very bloody, those small victories that the Russians might be having there.

One of the things that the Ukrainians say, though, that's really difficult for them as well, though, Jake, is that right now they say it's not only Wagner that they're fighting against anymore down there in Bakhmut, they say that increasingly the regular Russian military, also Russian paratroopers, are becoming involved, obviously making it even more difficult. However, the Ukrainians also say that they are not going to give an inch of their territory without a fight, Jake.

TAPPER: And Fred, Wagner boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, responded directly to CNN's reporting on accusations of abuse in their ranks, accusations from a former Wagner mercenary. What did Prigozhin have to say?

PLEITGEN: Yes, well, there were several things. And first of all, it's quite remarkable that he responded at all. This was on his telegram channel, so via social media. Well, first of all, he said that he wouldn't respond at all to CNN and talk about his military tactics because he saw us as enemy media and felt that it would be, sort of, like responding directly to the CIA. He then also said that he believes that his unit was an exemplary military organization, that there were no crimes that were committed.

One of the other things that he also did, Jake, is he actually called on Americans to also join Wagner if they wanted to and said it was a completely legal organization. Certainly some pretty interesting rhetoric coming there from Yevgeny Prigozhin, who certainly isn't shy, to use some pretty strong words himself, Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in eastern Ukraine, thanks so much.

Coming up, the plans announced today from embattled Republican Congressman George Santos in an effort to become less of a distraction. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our politics lead, sources tell CNN that the FBI searched President Biden's former office at a Washington, D.C. think tank in November after classified documents payments were first discovered there. CNN's Paula Reid is following this for us.


And Paula, this search has not previously been disclosed by the White House or by Biden's personal attorneys. We knew they found the documents, but we didn't know they searched for them. Why are we only learning about this now?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That is the question, Jake, because both the President's attorneys and the Attorney General have had the opportunity to previously disclose this. Now, the Attorney General, the Justice Department, they don't tip talk about specific investigative steps that they have taken in cases, but this isn't your usual case.

And the Attorney General, of course, held a press conference where he announced the appointment of a special counsel and he also took an unusual step of laying out a timeline of things that had occurred in the course of this investigation. And one of them, he notes that on November 9, the FBI began an assessment to determine whether any classified information had been mishandled.

Well, Jake, we have learned from our sources that assessment included the FBI going with the consent and permission of the President's attorneys to the former office. We've also learned from our colleague Jamie Gangel that by the time the FBI got to the office, all the relevant materials had been removed, sent to the archives, so they were likely just checking to make sure nothing was left. We've also heard from previous Justice Department officials who have told us, look, this is all standard operating procedure. But Jake, this is not a standard case. This has to do with the President of the United States and a Justice Department that is trying to prove to the American people that this case is being handled fairly and like the one into the former president. So this whole incident just raises a lot of questions about just how transparent the White House and the President's attorneys are really being here.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks so much.

House Republican leaders are working to lock down enough votes to make good on Speaker McCarthy's pre-election vow to remove Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from Minnesota from the Foreign Affairs Committee overpassed anti-Israel comments she has made using anti- Semitic tropes. Three Republicans have already said they are not in favor of the move. Republican leadership can only afford to lose four Republicans if everyone else is in attendance. CNN's Manu Raju is following this live from Capitol Hill.

Manu, we should note that Congresswoman Omar has apologized for at least one of those comments. Some Republicans have suggested a compromise resolution that would allow her, Omar and any other future evictees from committees to appeal to the House Ethics Committee if ousted. Where does that compromise stand?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that looks to have worked to flip at least one of those no votes. You mentioned three of those no votes, well, that included Victoria Spartz of Indiana, the Republican, saying in a statement that she plans to support this resolution now that they've been making this change to deal with these due process concerns, essentially allowing Omar to appeal, getting kicked off the committee to the House Ethics Committee. So that means that only two Republicans who are voting no at the moment.

I just talked to Congressman Matt Gaetz, he had wavered on this issue as well. He just walked out of Speaker McCarthy's office. McCarthy lobbying Gaetz to back this measure. Gaetz telling me that he is reviewing this, he is taking it seriously. In the aftermath of the inclusion of this language, he may back it as well.

Others, including Tony Gonzales of Texas, told me that he is still thinking about backing this measure. Now, the Republican leadership is still confident they will get the votes, but that may have to wait, Jake, until next week, because some members are an absent, they're not going to be here this week. And so they may not have the votes this week, but they expect to have one as soon as next week, Jake.

TAPPER: And Manu, embattled Congressman George Santos, the Republican who has lied about pretty much every single thing on his resume, we're told now that he's not going to sit on committees, at least right now. Tell us more about that.

RAJU: Yes. He announced it last -- this morning after meeting with Speaker McCarthy last night saying that he would step aside from the Small Business Committee and the House Science Committee even after he was awarded those spots from Speaker McCarthy and McCarthy's allies. But saying that because of these investigations that are swirling that he would step aside until his name is cleared.

Now, there is still support within the Republican leadership for him maintaining his seat in Congress. Kevin McCarthy has not called on him to resign, saying it's up to voters in his district. And I asked New York Republican Elise Stefanik, a member of the Republican leadership, someone who raised money for George Santos, someone who campaigned for him, whether she regretted doing so now, in light of the revelations of all these fabrications about his past.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY), REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE CHAIRWOMAN: Like all of my colleagues, particularly in New York State, I supported George Santos as the nominee, and the people of his district voted to elect him. Now, we just got out of conference and George has voluntarily removed himself from committees as he goes through this process. But ultimately, voters decide.

RAJU: Should he resign? Do you think he should resign?

STEFANIK: Again, this process is going to play itself out.


RAJU: So I asked her there, what does she think that he should resign? And Stefanik said, not going that far, saying it's just up to essentially the voters there. And that is the position of the Republican leadership on down.


And Jake, poll today coming out saying that a wide, vast majority of voters in this district, Republicans and Democrats, believe that Santos should resign. But again today, Santos defiant saying that he will not step aside from his seat in Congress, even though he did decide to step aside, at least temporarily, from his committees in the House. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thank you so much.

We're going to squeeze in a quote quick break. We'll be right back with more discussion of all of this with my political panel.


TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead, embattled Republican Congressman George Santos, who has lied about nearly every single thing on his resume, is now speaking out after announcing he will temporarily not serve on committees. He just gave an interview to the MAGA friendly network OAN. Take a look.



REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R), NEW YORK: And I've learned my lesson. And you can -- I can guarantee you that from now on, anything and everything is always going to be above board. It's largely always been above board. I'm just going to go the extra step now to double check, cross reference everything.


TAPPER: Let's discuss with CNN Anchor and Correspondent Abby Phillip, along with Washington Bureau Chief for the Boston Globe and CNN Political Analyst Jackie Kucinich. I'm sorry I'm laughing, Abby, but --

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're all just going to keep straight face here.

TAPPER: Well, I'm just like, oh, it's just a matter I'm going to double check everything. Dude, you lied about your -- being a -- your grandparents being Holocaust survivors. You lied about your name. You've lied about your businesses. This isn't like about like, oh, I accidentally misspoke about what year I graduated. It's -- well, but I guess that's the era we're in.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I don't even know what more there is to say about all of this. I mean, it was notable to me that he had a piece of paper in his lap, maybe notes on what he should say about telling the truth because at this point it's really hard to know what he has said about himself, what he has represented about himself. That is actually the truth.

And this interview was, as you noted with a conservative outlet, didn't cover the vast majority of issues related to George Santos, but it's telling to me that he felt like he had to do it. He's trying to rehabilitate his image, but it just simply does not undo the straight up lies that he's been telling for so long.

TAPPER: Although, we should note, Jackie, that he does seem to be kind of leaning into this idea where, you know, he's just another MAGA victim of the biased media and the deep state and blah, blah, blah, but like, that's not -- I never even heard of this guy. Nobody's out to get him. Like, it turned out he has lied about nearly every single thing about him.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I would like to know what member of the media told him to lie about his mother dying in 9/11 when she wasn't even in the country, according to various reports. But listen, he is trying to move past, as he said in his statement today, he was trying not to be a distraction for the House Republican Party.

I think that probably is not going to come true given the outstanding investigations that are currently working through the process. As Elise Stefanik said, shouldn't mention the investigations, of course. But, you know, some of these -- yes, all of the lies that we've talked about are, you know, they are what they are.

But I think some of his dubious reporting when it comes to his FEC reports are really going to turn out to be truly the most problematic in terms of what kind of illegal situations he might be in going forward.

TAPPER: I think it was Leslie Jones who said, do how much you have to lie to be known as the lying Congressman? But in any case, it wasn't just late-night hosts and comedians having -- making hay out of it. Democrats obviously are. Take a listen to the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Pete Aguilar.


REP. PETE AGUILAR, DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: I'm just struck by the chaos, confusion, dysfunction of the Republican Conference. They defended putting him on committees, and now they're announcing that he's not going to serve on a committee. So I just don't -- I don't understand what the play of the day is.


TAPPER: I mean, to be honest, it's pretty reasonable question, Abby, what is the play here for Republicans?

PHILLIP: Well, as it relates to George Santos and these committees, I think that Republican leadership, in particular, Speaker McCarthy, realized that it was kind of a problem to allow him to be on committees, given that he's fabricated virtually everything that he's said publicly about his life while also trying to kick off other Democrats from committees.

It just does not work, especially considering, as Jackie pointed out, there are real legitimate and very serious questions about the finances behind both his personal, you know, representations on these financial documents that were submitted to the government, but also about how he funded his own campaign.


PHILLIP: Those are serious issues. And I think there's an awareness here that it could totally blow up in the faces of Republican leadership if they just give it a pass for now. And the simplest solution would be for him to make himself less of a problem, at least for now, although I don't really think that it's going to end up in McCarthy or anyone else in the House of Representatives kicking him out of that body. I think they need that seat a little too much.

TAPPER: And Jackie, House leadership -- Republican House leadership is pushing hard to oust Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Some Republicans, including MAGA firebrand Matt Gaetz are expressing concern about such a move. Take a look.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA: I view the shift in Swalwell matter somewhat differently than I view the Ilhan Omar matter. The reason I think a lot of Republicans want to kick Ilhan Omar off of the Foreign Affairs Committee is because they don't like what she has to say. It's one thing to do dangerous things to the country with intelligence. It's quite another to say, I don't like your viewpoint and thus I want to remove you.


TAPPER: Now, to be clear, the reasons that they're giving the House Republicans for kicking Ilhan Omar from the committee have to do with anti-Israel things that she said that employed antisemitic tropes, at least one of which she apologized for. It's not the criticism of Israel. There are plenty of members of Congress who are critical of Israel.

But Congressman Gaetz tell CNN he just met with Speaker McCarthy over this issue and he's pleased with the compromise resolution that would allow her to appeal this to the House Ethics Committee. He wants to see the final language. How do you think this is going to play out?

KUCINICH: You know, the thing that strikes me about this, Jake and Abby, is the amount of political capital that House leadership is expending on this. After all the political capital they expended on getting McCarthy's speakership at all. We're not even -- to the point where they're actually trying to legislate. And this just shows how much power each of those members of Congress have on the Republican side to extract whatever they want from Kevin McCarthy.

And when things are actually on the line, when things are actually, you know, affect how the country does its business. This is -- this does not bode well for Kevin McCarthy, given, you know, just how much effort they've had to put in these things that are, frankly, party loyalty votes.

TAPPER: And Abby, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is defending herself amid this push to oust her. But she made some rather baffling comments to Dana Bash on State of the Union when talking about a tweet she sent when she said support for Israel was all about the Benjamins in 2019. Take a look.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So when you apologized for the -- all about the Benjamins' comment, you said antisemitism is real, and I'm grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of antisemitic tropes. What did you learn?

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D), MINNESOTA: A lot. I wasn't aware of the fact that there are tropes about Jews and money. That has been a very enlightening part of this journey.


TAPPER: I don't want to read too much into Adam Schiff's face there, but I think there are probably a lot of House Democrats that find it difficult to believe that she'd never heard that there were antisemitic tropes about Jews and money. Do you think in some ways, Abby, Congresswoman Omar might actually be hurting her cause here?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, definitely, Congressman Schiff's face kind of spoke volumes there. But, yes, no, it's not helpful to say that you'd never heard of a pretty well-known trope about Jewish people. And so, at this point, I mean, I think that it's not necessarily helpful for Congresswoman Omar to be out there dealing with this issue.

In some ways, as Jackie pointed out, this is a problem that Republicans internally are wrangling about, and it's not clear that McCarthy even has the votes to do it. So, you know, from the Democrats perspective, it's probably best to let them fight it out. But comments like that certainly don't help. And -- but I would say to Matt Gaetz's point, I think there is some legitimate concern about where exactly the line here is when it comes to punishing members of Congress for things that they say. And that's still being worked out.

TAPPER: Yes, and I also think there's a larger conversation to be had about apologies and, you know, allowing people to grow, whether they're Democrats, Republicans are not affiliated at all.

Abby Phillip and Jackie Kucinich, thanks so much.

Now to our national lead, and an ice storm causing big problems on highways across several states. Take a look.

Brutal crashes and vehicles caught in dangerous slides. The scene playing out across the southern United States today from Texas to Tennessee. Let's bring in Jennifer Gray in the CNN Weather Center. Jennifer, this ice storm impacts several major cities and the danger, the threat of it, is not over.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're right. It's far from over. We're going to see another wave of this tomorrow. This isn't going to end until Thursday morning, most likely, and it is far reaching, you're right. We're talking about South Texas all the way over to portions of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and just a huge area of nothing but ice.

Freezing rain is the worst case scenario when you're talking about winter precipitation, because it doesn't look like much. You're not seeing snow piled high, but you just slide. There's no way you can drive when ice is coating the road, especially when you're getting up to half an inch of ice for some of these places across central Texas, Arkansas.


Look at all the reports of ice and sleet that have been reported from Texas to the Ohio Valley. We're talking about quarter of an inch, up to half an inch of ice potentially across these areas. And here's the radar here. We are going to get of a break, but more is to come by the time we get into tomorrow.

We still have those winter alerts up and if we go forward in time, you can see this is Wednesday morning, we have another huge batch of possibly sleet and freezing rain that's going to come for Texas, Oklahoma, as well as Arkansas. And so it's just going to be compounded on what has already fallen, Jake, so we could see more accidents as well as power outages tomorrow.

TAPPER: Jennifer Gray, thanks so much. Also in our national lead today, a little over an hour ago, prosecutors in New Mexico filed formal charges against Hollywood star Alec Baldwin and the armorer for the movie "Rust". Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed in October 2021 by a live round of ammunition fired from a prop gun that Baldwin was holding.

The armorer, who was responsible for handling all prop weapons on the set was also charged. CNN's Josh Campbell has been going through the newly filed court documents. Josh, we knew both would face involuntary manslaughter charges. That was announced already. What else did the documents reveal?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, these are very serious charges, Jake, involuntary manslaughter, and we're told that they could carry up to five years in prison for both Alec Baldwin as well as Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was the armor on the set, should they be convicted.

And in these court records, which we've been going through, the prosecutor really lays out, in her view, a pattern of unsafe practices that were occurring on this set before that fatal shot was fired in October of 2021. I'll read you one passage in which the prosecutor lays the blame squarely with Alec Baldwin.

She says that, "A training session for at least an hour or more in length was scheduled, but the actual training consisted of only approximately 30 minutes, as according to the armorer, Baldwin was distracted and talking on his cell phone to his family during the training."

So the prosecutor here not just focusing on that fatal shot, but what occurred before then, saying that Baldwin was allegedly not taking safety seriously. They also mentioned that per industry standards, actors are supposed to do safety checks with the staff on the set, saying that did not properly occur in this case.

In really laying out her case, this is a really damning scathing summation here. I'll read you. The prosecutor says that, "By not receiving the required firearm training, deviating from the required duties of checking the firearm with the armor, not dealing with safety complaints on the set, not making sure the protocol of safety meetings was occurring, putting his finger on the trigger of a real gun and the overall handling of the firearm in a negligent manner, Baldwin acted with willful disregard of the safety of others."

Now, it's important to note that attorneys for both Alec Baldwin as well as it said armorer, have claimed that their clients are innocent. They expect to be exonerated here. Finally, as far as what happens next, I talked to the DA earlier this month. She said that there will be no arrests in this case. Baldwin and the armorer will receive what's called a summons. They will have to appear in New Mexico, either physically, possibly via video conference, and then they will enter their not guilty pleas, and then we'll see where this case goes. If the prosecutors can actually make that case, that they are negligent here for the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Josh Campbell, thanks so much.

Coming up, an alarming new study showing a possible link between ultra-processed foods and cancer, particularly in women. We'll have the specifics on this one next.



TAPPER: In our health lead now, a new study shows eating ultra- processed foods might be linked to an increase of cancer, especially for women. Let's bring in CNN's Dr. Tara Narula. Dr. Narula, which foods are considered ultra-processed, and how harmful exactly are they?

DR. TARA NARULA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a lot of the foods that you and I and our kids like to eat, Jake. This is things like breakfast cereal, snacks, some processed meats, frozen pizza, things that are highly palatable, marketed really aggressively, easy to heat, easy to reheat. The issue is that a lot of these foods are really low in nutritional value. They are chock full of fat, sugar, and salt.

And, you know, we have seen an association with these foods and type two diabetes and obesity, but was really a question mark is around cancer. And we know that cancer is responsible for one in six deaths worldwide. In fact, 50 percent of it is preventable. And so when you look at food as being a potentially modifiable risk factor, this is important.

So this study really looked at 200,000 British adults. They were average age of about 58. They had them take a food questionnaire, and they followed them for about 10 years. And they found that for every 10 percent increase in ultra-processed food content in their diet, they saw an increased incidence of overall cancer by about 2 percent, increased in developing ovarian cancer by about 19 percent.

And then when they looked at the death risk, Jake, there was a 6 percent increased risk of dying from any cancer, about a 30 percent increased risk of dying from ovarian cancer. So these numbers sound alarming, but I think it's important to always point out some of the caveats to these studies so that people don't get frightened and there are some limitations.

TAPPER: So tell me what the limitations are to the study and how ultra-processed foods might actually cause cancer or not.

NARULA: It's always difficult with these diet studies to really prove cause and effect, and that's not the type of study this was. It's an association study. So you can't always take out all the other factors that might have contributed. Like, did people who have bad lifestyles in general also eat ultra-processed food? And it was the bad lifestyle that was causing this.

Also this was predominantly a white population. There's always issues around food questionnaires and whether they were filled out appropriately. But there's a potential mechanism there when you look at obviously poor nutritional value.


We know that obesity is a risk factor for certain types of cancers. And then there are question marks around food additives and things that happen during processing and packaging of food and whether that might contribute to cancer risk.

TAPPER: Let's turn to a different topic. There's new data from the CDC showing that the U.S. saw a slight increase in the number of births in 2021. How significant was this baby bump?

NARULA: Yes, the baby bump. Well, it was about 50,000 increased births in 2021 compared to 2020. So it's a small increase. People think there may be some factors, you know, that contributed. For example, people were home more, maybe more financially stable, less commuting, so maybe more prone to having babies.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Tara Narula, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, more of my exclusive interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including his response when I asked him if he would serve, as some have suggested is possible as a mediator to stop Russia's brutal assault on Ukraine. That's coming up in The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

And, of course, you can see my entire interview with Netanyahu tonight at 09:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN. We'll be back right after this quick break.