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Joel Osteen Speaks After Shooting at His Mega Church; Secretary Lloyd Austin Taken to Walter Reed Medical Center Today; Houston Police Say Female Suspect in Church Shooting is Dead; Nikki Haley Pounces After Trump Attacks Her Husband; Impact of War on Ukrainian Children. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 11, 2024 - 18:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Emergent bladder issue, and at this point he has not been admitted to the hospital.

All right, first, let's begin in Houston where Jean Casarez continues to follow the developments out of Houston at Joel Osteen's mega church there. We just heard that press conference. Help bring us up to date on everything.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this happened mid-afternoon in Houston at the Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen's church. It was all ready to begin the Spanish language service. It had ended the afternoon service. And then suddenly what walked into that church, that is what began the events.

I want us to listen to the chief of police of Houston, Texas. He will explain it from the beginning. Take a listen.

All right. It looks like we don't have that sound yet. So what he said was about 1:53 this afternoon, that there were two off-duty law enforcement officers, one being from the Alcohol and Beverage Commission, but obviously they were armed. And they were in what we believe was the foyer. And they saw someone come in. It was a female, 30 to 35 years old. She had a trench coat. She had a backpack. And she had a rifle, a long gun.

According to the chief of police, she started shooting her rifle. At that point, they engaged the shooter. They killed the shooter, but she -- accompanying her, with her, they say, was a 5-year-old child, 4- to 5-year-old child. And during the exchange of gunfire, we do know that this 5-year-old child was shot, taken to the hospital, is now in critical condition along with a man, 57 years old, shot in the leg or thigh, which he also was rushed to the hospital. He is in, we believe, satisfactory condition at this point.

But at that press conference was also the pastor of that church, who was actually greeting guests, saying good-bye to those that had been part of the afternoon service. Joel Osteen spoke to the microphones, and he says that he is in a fog. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL OSTEEN, PASTOR, LAKEWOOD CHURCH: I thank the chief and the mayor and all of these men and women did an amazing job. And it's just -- you said it, Chief. It could have been a lot worse. Of course we're devastated. I mean, we've been here 65 years and have somebody shooting in your church. But, you know, we don't understand why these things happen. But we know God's in control. And we're going to pray for that little 5-year-old boy and pray for the lady that was deceased, her family and all, and the other gentleman.

But, I don't know, it's just, kind of, in a fog. But, you know, just believe that, you know, we're going to stay strong. We're going to continue to move forward. There are forces of evil, but the forces that are for us, the forces of God are stronger than that. So we're going to keep going strong and just, you know, doing what God's called us to do, lift people up and give hope to the world.

Again, I want to thank all these gentlemen, because, you know, I can only imagine if it were to happen during the 11:00 service, we were in between services, going into the Spanish service. So, you know, if there's anything good of it, you know what, she didn't get in there and do a whole lot worse damage. So we thank God for that, that he's watching over all of us. And as the chief says, we're going to keep going strong and bringing hope to the world. But thank you again, gentlemen.


CASAREZ: And Joel Osteen services are always packed with Houstonians in their very diverse congregation. He has the capacity of that church, it's believed to be 16,000 people. And now we do have that part of the press conference from the Houston police chief ready, in his own words, to let you know what happened.


CHIEF TROY FINNER, HOUSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT: So, approximately at 1:53 p.m., a female approximately 30, 35 years old, entered the property on the west side here in the parking lot of Lakewood Church. She entered the building. She was armed with a long rifle and a trench coat with a backpack, accompanied by a small child, approximately 4 to 5 years old. Once she entered, at some point she began to fire.

I want to compliment the off-duty officers, who were working extra employment here. One GABC agent, four years of service, 38 years old, an HPD off-duty officers, 28 years old, two years of service.


Both officers, the officer and agent, engaged, striking the female. She's deceased here on the scene. Unfortunately, a 5-year-old kid was hit and is in critical condition at our local hospital. It was a 57- year-old man who didn't have anything to do with it, I don't think, was shot in the leg. He's seeking treatment in the hospital. So, let's all pray for each and every one of them. Once she went down, officers reported back to us that she threatened

-- that she had a bomb. So we searched her vehicle, our bomb squad, and also the backpack. No explosives were found. But she also was spraying some type of substance on the ground. So, HFD came, and the fire chief will speak briefly on that. But, again, we're going to stand strong. Again, I want to commend those officers. She had a long gun, and it could have been a lot worse.

But they stepped up and they did their job. And I want to thank them for that. As you know, when an officer is involved in a shooting, we conduct a criminal investigation. Harris County district attorney's office and also both agencies conduct administrative investigations. That will take place. Both of these officers, the officer and agent, will be placed on administrative duty. But, again, let's pray for everybody. And we stand strong here in Houston.


CASAREZ: And what they are doing right now, we understand, is a methodical search of that church building because she did say that she had a bomb. She said there were explosives. And also she was spraying something on the ground. But to note, they have not found anything at all. But out of an abundance of caution, this investigation not only will continue, but that methodical search of that church.

And Fredricka, one more thing just to reiterate, that she fired, the female, 30 to 35 years old, with the trench coat and the backpack fired multiple shots once she was inside what we believe was the foyer of that church before you go into the sanctuary area.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jean Casarez, thank you so much.

We're also joined now by former D.C. and Philadelphia police chief, Charles Ramsey, on the phone with us.

So, Chief, you heard from the Houston police chief, who said, you know, those two off duty officers made all the difference in the world. They were there when they saw this suspect, who was a 30 to 35- year-old woman with this rifle, you know, target people.

Can you hear me OK, Chief?


WHITFIELD: Right. So I guess you concur with the Houston police chief, who says those off-duty police officers made all the difference in the world.

RAMSEY: There is absolutely no question about it. Had they not been there, there is absolutely no telling how much damage, how much injury, how much death could have happened at that location. You know, it's a shame. We're talking about a church, a place of worship, and yet it can happen any place at all. And it just, again, goes to highlight the problem we have in this country with guns and violence. And I don't know if this individual suffered from mental illness or

what the situation was, but they're very fortunate that you only had two people shot in this incident. It could have been far, far worse.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And you know, also unique here is that this suspect, you know, was believed to have brought in a 5-year-old child, and the 5-year-old is among those that was shot and injured in that, kind of, you know, melee of gunfire, along with a 57-year-old man, who you heard the police chief said he didn't think had anything to do with this but he was shot and injured. The 5-year-old, the 57-year-old, are both being injured.

And while the police chief, you know, underscored that it seems as though the threat has been removed there at the church, they've looked for any kind of substances because this shooter said that, you know, she had explosives as well. What are some of the things that are taking place there at the church to make sure, you know, in addition to looking at surveillance tape, but to make sure that this is safe and that this was someone who acted alone?

RAMSEY: Well, out of an abundance of caution, they have to go through and thoroughly search the church. They don't know if she was in there previously and could have left something there prior to making the entry with the firearm.


They just don't know. So they're going to make doubly sure that that particular facility is cleared. I heard Chief Finner mentioned that they've already searched the car. They found no explosives. Once they have identified this individual, which perhaps they already have, then obviously if there's a residence or any place elsewhere they need to search, they'll do so, but because she made the threat of having, you know, explosives, they'll have to be very careful there to make sure there are no booby traps and things of that nature.

So they'll be going through the social media footprint. They'll be going through everything trying to find a motive, trying to find out if that 5-year-old was her child or is this part of another crime. Or maybe she snatched some kid off the street. I mean, there are a lot of unanswered questions right now. And the police are working behind the scenes to try to get answers to all those questions.

I have to say, I thought Houston PD did an excellent job at that press conference. Not that much time has elapsed, and they were able to provide quite a bit of information during that press conference. So I think they did a very, very good job in that regard as well.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And I think perhaps it was the mayor who also talked about how quickly they were able to respond, not just because of the two off-duty officers, but it also helped to coordinate the evacuation, getting people out to safety, and then even reunifying, you know, them with family members or people they may have gotten separated from during this incident.

RAMSEY: Yes, you know, that's a huge church. My wife and I watch Pastor Osteen periodically on TV. That is a huge, huge church. And that many people. And I think it was Pastor Osteen who said it was between services.


RAMSEY: So, it may not have been as crowded as it would had been had it occurred maybe an hour earlier, thank God. But there were still a lot of people. People panicked, people running in all different directions, trying to get people out of there. Again I heard Chief Finner mentioned if you were there, if you ran out, please contact their homicide unit because they do need to get statements.

So they're in the process of trying to get as much information as possible, reunify families, people that are just hearing about this. So there are a lot of things going on right now. But thank God we've only had two injured. And let's pray that that 5-year-old and that 57- year-old make it through.

WHITFIELD: Right. You mentioned mega church, 16,000 people. You know, it can seat and accommodate 16,000 people.


WHITFIELD: And Joel Osteen, who came out and he was very grateful for the first responders and also counting the blessings that it wasn't worse. But indeed, he did describe it was in between -- this happened in between services, a Spanish language service was about to begin, just as the earlier afternoon service had wrapped up, where he did have upwards of 16,000 people. But as far as we know, right now, according to police, two injured, the 5-year-old and the 57-year-old, who remain hospitalized.

Chief Ramsey, appreciate you being with us. Thank you so much.

RAMSEY: No, thank you. Take care.

WHITFIELD: And Jean Casarez, thank you so much for your reporting on this.

Our other top story. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin back in the hospital at Walter Reed. The latest next.



WHITFIELD: All right. More breaking news that we're following this hour. The Pentagon says U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has been transported to Walter Reed Medical Center for the second time in the past three months.

CNN White House correspondent Priscilla Alvarez has more. How's he doing?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we know from the statement from the Pentagon press secretary is that he was transported by his secretary detail to Walter Reed Medical Center at 2:20 p.m. this afternoon. It goes on to say that this was because of symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue.

The statement also says the secretary is retaining the functions and duties of his office and that the secretary travelled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties. Of course this is a visit to the hospital that comes after he was hospitalized in early January, for complications following prostate cancer surgery.

Now that time in the hospital did ignite a fire storm on Capitol Hill and at the White House because the Defense Department had not notified lawmakers or the president that he had been hospitalized for days, or the reason for his hospitalization. In this case, the Pentagon is saying that they have done those notifications both to the White House and to Congress.

Now Secretary Austin has previously said and apologized for the way that his January hospitalization was handled. And that is also something that we're seeing in this, with the Pentagon press secretary saying that they are going to provide updates as soon as possible. But for now, all that we know is that he was taken to the hospital earlier Sunday afternoon because of symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue.

The Pentagon will provide updates as they come. But that is the information that we have at this point. The White House and lawmakers have been made aware of it.

WHITFIELD: OK. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you so much.

All right, let's bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, OK, so one more time for those who are just joining us, what is an emergent bladder issue?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, typically, especially in the wake of having had prostate surgery, it means that someone who's unable to empty their bladder. It's something known as urinary retention. It can be really painful. It can cause a lot of abdominal pain. But it can also cause other symptoms in the body as well. People can actually drop their blood pressure. They can have heart rate abnormalities.

As Priscilla was just talking about, this was described as an emergency. So, you know, in addition to the pain, he may have had some of those other things going on there. Also just again, the time line of this, just to remind you, it was in early December that he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer. And then December 22nd, when he had the operation. Probably scheduled it over the holidays. Some people do that.

And it sounds like that operation went well. He was discharged the next day. But it was a couple of weeks later, or actually January 1st, not even two weeks later, that he was admitted to the hospital for an infection at that point. And it's significant hospitalization, two weeks at that point.


And now, as you point out, he's back in the hospital again. It's described as a bladder, sort of, issue here. We don't know specifically what that is. But, again, in the context of having had prostate surgery, the possibility that he has developed what is known as retention, urinary retention, that seems to be the most likely culprit here. And that can lead to an emergency.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and a lot of pain. I mean, he's got to be really in a lot of discomfort.

GUPTA: Poor guy.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And so, is there -- I mean, without really knowing, you know, all the details of what he's experienced, of this issue, is this something where he would be admitted and be there for, you know, a period of time or is this something where they can treat him, and then he might be released, won't have to, you know, overnight at Walter Reed?

GUPTA: Yes, it's a good question. I think it's still hard to know. I think a lot of times it may involve placing a catheter into the bladder to drain the bladder. That is something that is commonly done. Whether or not he stays in the hospital overnight at least, you know, to see if -- keep an eye on him, especially if he had any problems with his heart rate or his blood pressure. We don't know that that was the case, except that this was described as an emergency.


GUPTA: Sometimes someone will stay in the hospital just so they can keep an eye on somebody.

WHITFIELD: Precaution.

GUPTA: It's unlikely I would say, Fred, that he would need anesthesia for this. This is an issue that has come up, obviously, in the past in terms of his -- you know, his duties as Defense secretary. Not typically something that requires anesthesia. But, again, we're just going based on a pretty brief statement here, describing this as a bladder emergency.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And we do understand the deputy secretary is prepared, you know, has been informed and is prepared to assume any duties if it comes to that.

All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Of course, we wish the secretary well. Hope he feels better soon.

GUPTA: Yes. Of course.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, we are continuing to follow that shooting that took place at Joel Osteen's mega church in Houston that injured two people, including a 5-year-old, who remains in critical condition. What we're hearing from witnesses next.



WHITFIELD: All right. Back now to our breaking news from Houston, where there was a shooting at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church. Listen to what witnesses described happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were escorted during the evacuation by SWAT team, by the police, the local Houston police, and also by the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Describe what you saw and/or heard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we were leaving the service and Joel was meeting and greeting everybody right outside on the second floor, where all this happened. And I was one of the last people to meet and greet with Joel, the pastor here. And I went into the lady's room. And when I came out, I headed towards the nearest exit on the second floor, and I heard this, like, bam, bam, like mechanical sounds.

Like it almost sounded like folding tables were being dismantled and dropped to the floor. And there was, like -- but they were erratic, OK? And then there was another set of, like, bam, bam, bam. And then all of a sudden, it sounded -- I stopped, and I looked at the entrance, and people were screaming and scattering. And I went, oh, no, no, no, no, no. This is not equipment being dismantled. There's something going on.

And then I saw a gentleman, I'd say late 20s, early 30s, but I couldn't get a look at his face. But he was, like, standing like this, and he had, it looked like a pistol, because it had a long -- it had a long pipe on it, OK? And it was, like -- and he was pointing in the -- not the opposite direction, but, like, at an angle to me.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You think he was one of the shooters or the shooter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had to have been because there was a gun. There was a gun in his hand, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And he wasn't an officer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No, no, no. He was dressed in normal clothes. I couldn't describe it because it happened so fast. I just saw him, you know, near the entrance, and he was standing like this, like almost, you know, the feet apart. And he was like this. I mean, evidently that's where the shots were coming from.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we hear some bangs and then our teacher -- I was in a dance group in the chapel in church when I heard some guns shooting. Well, I didn't hear it. My teacher said she heard some. And then we ran into, like, the bathrooms. But there's a hallway that leads to the bathroom. And I peeked out the windows and I saw cops coming, so I knew there was something inside the church that would do damage to us.

So my dance group ran into the bathroom. We had -- and all we had to defend ourselves is a knife -- a box cutter and a wooden -- and some wood to block the doors.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Ethan, I'm so sorry you had to deal with this. I doubt you've ever heard a gunshot. Is that what it sounded like or did it sound like a balloon popping or what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like gunshots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I experienced was that I was asleep, and I was -- I don't know how I fell asleep. But when I woke up -- what woke me up was the repetitive bullets and the gunshots that were occurring at Lakewood Church in the sanctuary. And the only thing I could do was look towards my left and yell for my mom. And I said, mom, mom, and my mom was screaming. And then my mom said, come, come. And we ducked because the -- while I called my mom, the bullets were still repetitive, and they were still going. And the attacks were in the sanctuary.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What was going through your mind? I know you said you were trying to get to your mother. But what was going through your mind when all that was playing out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I made sure that no fear came in, and I started praying immediately. And I -- you know, I was trying to protect my mom as soon as possible as I can and get to her as possible because this was very tragic. You know, and very devastating. And I continue to pray and claim the blood of Jesus Christ that protected us, by his grace, by his mercy and compassion.


WHITFIELD: Wow. These eyewitness accounts are just so remarkable.

Joining me right now, CNN's Jean Casarez, who's been following this developing story. And CNN law enforcement analyst, Steve Moore.

All right. So, Jean, you first. I mean, you know, these witnesses really do, kind of, help fill in the blanks, right? We heard from the police and mayor earlier, who talked about the sequence of events. I mean, you pick it up from there.

CASAREZ: Well, you see the terror. You see the horror that they had to live through, even just hearing the shots. But we know from that female witness, that was the first one that you played, remember, she said she saw a long barrel. So, she, apparently, saw this person. Because what law enforcement was saying that it was a woman, 30 to 35 years old. She had just entered the church from the west side. And that she had a trench coat. She had a backpack. And she had a rifle. And she started shooting the

rifle. And then the off-duty law enforcement, one from Tobacco and Alcohol Enforcement of the state of Texas, along with the Houston police officer, off-duty, they started to engage. They were armed. They started to engage. They got her on the ground. She was deceased before she could get to anyone else. But there were two shooting victims, one, a young child, the other, a man in his late 50s, shot in the leg or the hip.

Both rushed to the hospital. At this point, the child, who accompanied her in -- we should make sure that law enforcement reinforced that, that she walked in with this child with her -- is in critical condition right now. The man, satisfactory condition. But that wasn't all. Because while she was shooting, before she was down, she said that there was a bomb. And so the hazmat unit, the police, the fire chief, Troy Finner, said they have hazmat on the scene, they have the bomb squad on the scene making sure that nothing goes unnoticed here.

They have been doing a search through that entire building, a very large capacity building. They haven't found anything at all. They believe it was an isolated incident here. But this is a criminal investigation. We heard the district attorney will be involved in this. And there is a lot left to learn here of why this happened, what motivated this woman to come into this church.

WHITFIELD: Thank you, Jean.

I want to bring in Steve Moore now. I mean, Steve, this was so unusual on so many levels. And remarkable, too, that the outcome was not worse, and borrowing those thoughts really from the pastor Joel Osteen who said this happened at a time where the Spanish language service was about to begin and a larger service was about to end. We're talking about the mega church of 16,000 seats there. And he was counting his blessings that it wasn't worse.

What are some of the questions you have about how the investigation might go forward? I mean, these eyewitnesses were so descriptive and really put you there.

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes. Fredricka, they're going to be looking, obviously, at motive and what caused her to do this. The other thing is it's very unusual for an active shooter to be a woman. It's wildly unusual for her to bring a child along with her to do that. But that's never happened before. You have what appears to be either security people at the church -- you know, all mega churches have security personnel, usually made up of off-duty officers, federal officers, local, state, and they engaged immediately.

I think what you're also going to be trying to determine is who shot who. What was the -- how was the child injured? How did the mother -- or did the woman, I made an assumption. Did the woman kill herself? Was she killed by off-duty officers? And what rounds actually hit the man in the leg? I'm wondering -- you know, it's possible -- she sure didn't shoot very many people if at all. So I'm curious as to how she came in with a rifle and there wasn't a higher body count. [18:35:09]

WHITFIELD: It said that she was wearing a trench coat. I think, Jean, you heard that too, right? She was wearing a trench coat, a backpack. I mean unclear whether that rifle was concealed, whether, you know, she raised it. I mean, we didn't hear that kind of minutia. We didn't hear that kind of detail coming from the investigators. And they made it very clear, too, they said, look, we're trying to do this in a pretty quick fashion, you know, to allay the fears of the people in the community, to let them know, you know, that they are safe now.

But those are our burning questions, too, Steve, because we do need to -- I guess we want to know -- I don't know if we need to know, the public does. But we do want to know more details about, you know, I guess, yes, the minutia of this sequence of events.

MOORE: You know, obviously any time you see somebody coming in wearing a trench coat, who eventually produces a gun, that's usually a way to get from the parking lot into the church without having the doors locked on you before you get there. That's a common way of hiding a long gun. The backpack likely contained other weapons or ammunition.

A lot of people make a plan for what they're going to do when they begin their shooting spree. And then reality hits them when they're in there, when they're beginning their action. And frequently their plans change. I would be curious. I would suspect in the backpack you're going to find more ammunition.

They're also going to be looking for any kind of manifesto, any kind of association she had with that church or anybody in it. The fact that she brought the child really seems to me to indicate that there was a point to that. It wasn't that she didn't have daycare. So there's something involving that child and that church that probably has something to do with this.

WHITFIELD: Well, it's interesting, too, that the police chief had said that before she died, she said something about explosives. And they checked the backpack for explosives. There was a vehicle as well, right, Jean, you heard that. And that there was a vehicle. They searched that as well for explosives.

CASAREZ: Yes. And --

WHITFIELD: And that presumably -- go ahead.

CASAREZ: Yes. And she was also spraying substance on the ground conceivably outside before she entered the church.

WHITFIELD: Yes. What would that be? Or Steve, why would -- I mean, if you're talking about the psychology now, too, of, you know, of the shooter, you know, further terrorizing people. But why, as you're about to die, also say there are these explosives? And what might this spraying of substance mean?

MOORE: Well, to cause as much panic as possible, number one, so that her vengeance, if that's what it was, or her action, whatever it was, was more effective. It caused more panic, caused more terror, caused her to be more important in whatever she wanted -- whatever point she wanted to make.

The spraying of some kind of liquid substance on the ground outside hits me as sometimes ceremonial or a way of making a statement. We don't know what it could. It could be spray paint and she wrote something. We just don't know what was going on out there. But it was certainly part of her plan and part of her -- if it was retribution, usually these things are. She was -- that was part of the point she wanted to make.

And, you know, the three of us could sit here all day trying to figure out why she would do some things, and we'd never figure it out because we don't have the particular illness that she was suffering from.

WHITFIELD: Yes. What potentially is next, Jean, in the investigation?

CASAREZ: Well, they continue right now to go through that building, 16,000 capacity parishioner building. It is the church, Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen, and all law enforcement on all levels, including the bomb squads, the Hazmat, fire department, police departments, sheriff's department, they are all there going through to make sure that they have not missed anything in that very huge building.

But I think the investigation is just beginning. And they are asking anyone who is in that church who has left that saw anything to please contact law enforcement. They will want to get statements to fully understand this. And I'm sure they are ID'ing this woman, contacting family, just to try to find out how and why this happened.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right. Jean Casarez, Steve Moore, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

All right. Still to come, while on the trail, presidential campaign trail in South Carolina, former president Donald Trump taking a swipe at Nikki Haley's husband. How she's responding.



WHITFIELD: All right. Nikki Haley is firing back at Donald Trump today saying he has no business being commander-in-chief for disparaging military members like her husband. The criticism comes after the former president insulted Haley's husband during a campaign stop in South Carolina on Saturday.

During the rally, Trump launched personal attacks on Haley and questioned the whereabouts of her husband, who is deployed overseas for the U.S. Military.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where's her husband? Oh, he's away. He's away. What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband? Where is he? He's gone. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Well, today Nikki Haley called Trump's comments insulting to military members and their families. She also challenged Trump to have the courage to say the same thing to her in person.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, my sweet husband is deployed, as we speak. And what I said to him yesterday, and I'll say it today, is Donald, if you have something you have to say, don't say it behind my back. Say it to my face on a debate stage.



WHITFIELD: The latest round of tension comes less than two weeks before voters in South Carolina head to polls for the Republican presidential primary.

All right. We're also following a developing storm that is going to impact millions of people in the northeast. A winter storm watch that was in effect from Boston to central Pennsylvania has been upgraded now to a winter storm warning. The region bracing for a significant nor'easter, expected to hit Tuesday. And the south is also getting hit by this system.

CNN meteorologist Elisa Raffa has more.

ELISA RAFFA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Our storm is on the move. That severe risk is sliding east, as we go into Monday, from Alabama into Georgia and the Carolinas. That's where you're looking at that threat for the 70-mile-per-hour wind gusts, large hail, and a few tornados. Some heavy rain there, too. You can see that line continues to push east and then north into Carolinas as we go into Monday.

Then as we go late Monday into Tuesday, it starts to clash into system cold air up in parts of the northeast going into New England. And that's going to pump some snow from central Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and parts of New England. And we'll find that snow come with some gusty winds and could drop visibility late Monday, early Tuesday morning, and then going into Tuesday night, all of that starts to exit.

Here's your footprint of the snow. You see all the deep pinks and purples, that's where we're looking at some snow totals, six to eight, even upwards of 12 inches of snow. Snowfall rates could be one to three inches per hour. Couple that with gusty winds, gusts up to 40 miles per hour, and you're looking at some really messy conditions with low visibility kind of peaking as we go into Tuesday, really again exiting Tuesday night.

Now we haven't really seen too much snow up in the east. A lot of our snow dump so far this year has been to the west, 25 percent snow cover for the lower 48. And a lot of it from this year, in Nevada to the intermountain west, where we had that atmospheric river event unfold just a week or so ago.

Seasonal departure for normal from snow has been well below average for some places from the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes area, where you see all those brown dots, and then going into New England, some places that you really typically see snow. Minneapolis, Buffalo, haven't really seen too much so far this year. And part of the reason is we've had a really warm winter. You see all the red dots?

A lot of these cities in the Great Lakes region and then in the northeast there are looking at their warmest winter on record. It's just been kind of spring like, really lacking a lot of the cold and lacking a lot of the snow. We know that winter is warming across the lower 48 since 1970. You can see those same places, the upper Midwest, Great Lakes, going into New England, are some of the places with the biggest fever, four-to-five-degree fever since 1970. That makes winter the fastest warming season for a lot of these places.

WHITFIELD: All right. Elisa Raffa, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, the U.S. Senate in a key vote moved one step closer to passing a bill that would provide tens of billions of dollars in assistance and military aid for Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine. We're back in a moment.



WHITFIELD: On Capitol Hill this afternoon, the U.S. Senate moved one step closer to passing a bill that would provide tens of billions of dollars in assistance and military aid to Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine. Ukraine says that aide is desperately needed. And as the war drags on, every day is full of uncertainty for many children living there. Just going to school is filled with moments of terror as children are suddenly thrown into terror shelters.

Here's CNN's Fred Pleitgen taking us inside an underground school in Ukraine.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Extra special braids is what 6-year-old Elmira wants for school because simply going to school is special here in Kharkiv. And it's dangerous. So dangerous they had to move classes underground.

For many children here in Kharkiv, this is the reality of their school day. They go down into the subway because everywhere else in the city is simply unsafe.

(Voice-over): The city built classrooms here. They call it the metro school.

How are you this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm fine, thank you. How are you? PLEITGEN: Here we won't hear anything, she says.

"Hear what," I ask. "The bangs," she says. Bangs happen nearly every day here in Kharkiv. Russia's army shelling the city, killing and wounding hundreds since the beginning of the invasion. But down here kids can be kids. The classrooms are soundproof, blocking out not just the noise of the subway that's still running, but also the thunder of the war that has already affected these youngsters so much.

On my birthday, for some reason, a war broke out, Elmira tells me. February 24th, 2022 all Elmira wanted was to celebrate her 5th birthday. But Vladimir Putin's troops were already storming Kharkiv.

Firing from Russian territory towards the territory, I would say around Kharkiv.

(Voice-over): Reporting from the Russian side of the border, I saw the invasion firsthand.

On the receiving end, instead of the birthday party, Elmira and her friends had to go to the bomb shelter.

I even started crying, she tells me. I thought it would be the end.

They try not to talk too much about the war in the subway school, but the children coming back here now have been scarred for life, the teacher says.

They had the look of adults who had already experienced hardships," she says, "experience the hard days and months of this war."

There are no regular functioning schools in Kharkiv. It's either the subway or online classes. And the city doesn't believe that will change soon. They're building bunker schools because children here wouldn't even have enough time to get to an air raid shelter, the mayor tells me.


The S-300 missiles reach Kharkiv in about 35 to 40 seconds, he says. Therefore, no air alarm can work and the only way out is to build such underground facilities, real underground schools.

Back at the subway school, every day a minute of silence for those killed by Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine.

But then the kids sing their national anthem, showing the Russians and their leader that no matter how many missiles they fire, Ukraine is growing stronger, its future brighter every day.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Kharkiv, Ukraine.


WHITFIELD: King Charles stepped out in public this morning for the first time since his cancer diagnosis was announced. He waved onlookers as he and Queen Camilla walked to St. Mary Magdalene's church near the Sandringham estate earlier. Buckingham palace on Monday announced the 75-year-old was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer. Doctors made the discovery while treating Charles the king for an enlarged prostate last month.

Prince William and Queen Camilla are expected to take on more public engagements while the king steps away from public duties.

All right, thank you so much for joining me today. All weekend long. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.