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CNN TONIGHT: Biden: "Not Walking Anything Back" After Saying Putin "Cannot Remain In Power"; Mayor Calls For "Complete Evacuation" Of Mariupol; January 6 Committee Votes To Recommend Two More Trump Advisers For Criminal Contempt. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired March 28, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Stay with CNN, for the latest, from Ukraine. The news continues. Want to hand it over to Wolf and CNN TONIGHT.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you very, very much.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. This is CNN TONIGHT. We want to welcome our viewers, here, in the United States, and around the world.
"I'm not walking anything back." That vow, from President Biden, today, getting defensive, in this first extensive explanation, of his ad-lib, heard around the world, this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That remark, about Vladimir Putin, at the close of President Biden's address, in Poland, on Saturday, has been looming, over his White House, ever since. It's had some aides scrambling, to counter interpretations.
The President was signaling, the U.S. would be actively seeking regime change, in Russia. But he says that's not what he meant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I'm not walking anything back.
I wasn't then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing the moral outrage that I feel, and I make no apologies for it.
Nobody believes we're going to take down - I was going to - I was talking about taking down Putin.
The last thing I want to do is engage in a land war or a nuclear war with Russia.
It's more an aspiration than anything. He shouldn't be in power. There's no - I mean, people like this shouldn't be ruling countries. But they do. The fact they do - but it doesn't mean I can't express my outrage about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The President says he wasn't talking about taking Putin down, though, his rhetoric on Russia's leader has only been toughening, by the day.
He's now called Putin, and I'm quoting him, a "Butcher," a "Killer," a "War criminal," a "Brute," a "Pure thug," a "Murderous dictator," and someone who cannot be in power. He changed that today, to "Shouldn't be in power."
But should President Biden stay away from that kind of language? We're going to get the take of a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, in just a moment.
First, though, to the very latest, on Russia's brutal invasion. Shelling intensified, around the suburbs, of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, today. A defense official there, says Russian forces are attempting to block supply routes.
New drone footage shows how viciously the Russians are continuing to attack the port city of Mariupol, in the southeast. These are more destroyed buildings and homes, after very heavy fighting. Russian forces consolidated control, around the city. But Ukraine's Military says it is maintaining a so-called circular defense.
A Mariupol city official, will also be with us, tonight, with what he's hearing. Standby for that.
Meanwhile, Russia is also continuing missile strikes, in western Ukraine, including in the city of Lutsk. That's where massive fires have been raging.
The next round of talks, between the two countries, will be held tomorrow, in Turkey. But there is certainly no peace, or any ceasefire, in the meantime, tonight.
Let's go to our Senior International Correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. He's joining us now, from Kyiv, the capital.
Fred, as we hear these reports, from Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister, that Russian forces are trying to block supply routes, to the capital, what does that increase, in shelling, look like, on the ground? You're there.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty constant. And I would say that the operations that we see here, on the ground, certainly have picked up pace. And it's been quite interesting, over the past week or so, Wolf, in that we have seen a lot of shelling, but that seems to have increased once more.
In fact, the video that we're seeing right now, that's from when we went to one of the suburbs, above Kyiv, north of Kyiv. And there, the residents tell us that the Russians really haven't been able to make much headway, on the ground, but they've just unleashed this massive shelling, on these suburbs, obviously destroying a lot of the houses that are on the ground there.
And that's also what we saw throughout the entire day, today, Wolf. It's been a day of air raid sirens. But first and foremost, it's been a day of massive shelling. We've heard it, the entire day. And we also saw it, with gigantic plumes of smoke, especially towards the northwest of the city. And that's certainly where a lot of the fighting has been concentrating.
And one of the things that the Ukrainian forces said today, Wolf, is they said that they've regained 100 percent full control, of the suburb of Irpin. Of course, we've been talking about that place, over the past couple of days. It's been highly contested.
The Ukrainians, now, they say they have all of that, but there certainly still is shelling going on. And they also say, as you rightly point out, Wolf that the Russians apparently are trying to make corridors, around the city. That was a Deputy Defense Minister seeming to suggest they were trying to stop Ukrainian supply routes.
So far, the Ukrainians say they're pushing back on that. They've stopped any sort of attempts, at Russian advances, and are launching counteroffensives themselves. And they say, those have been quite effective, Wolf.
What's the status, tonight, Fred, of Mariupol, which is certainly key to connecting Russian-held territories, in the south and east?
PLEITGEN: Yes. There's been some confusion throughout, today, when the Mayor of Mariupol, in a statement was quoted as saying, "We are in the hands of the oppressor." And there were some, who believed that maybe Mariupol, had actually fallen, to the Russian Military. But that certainly doesn't seem to be the case.
As the Ukrainians point out, they still have those circular defensive positions, as they call it. And it seems as though the Mayor of Mariupol, there, was referring to the fact that of course, these humanitarian corridors that they've been trying to establish, depend on large parts, on the Russian Military, because that city is simply encircled.
Now, the urgent plea that was uttered, by the Mayor of Mariupol, is he says these civilians there, really need to get evacuated, as fast as possible. There are, of course, still a lot of people, in that city. But it is completely destroyed.
We keep seeing these images, like we're seeing right now. Those huge residential buildings, just annihilated, completely burned out, and destroyed. There's no electricity. There's no water. There's very, very little, in the way of food. It is a full-on blockade that's going on there. So certainly, an urgent plea.
But, at the same time, the Ukrainian defenders of that city, saying they have not given up. The defense of that city continues. And they certainly say, they are going to continue, to put up a fight, even as though they are absolutely surrounded, by Russian forces, Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen, reporting from Kyiv, the capital. Fred, be careful over there. We will stay in touch.
And here, to give us a little deeper perspective, on the diplomatic front, is the retired U.S. Admiral James Stavridis. He spent four years, as the NATO Supreme Allied Commander. He's also the co-author of the book "2034: A Novel of the Next World War."
Admiral, thank you so much for joining us. Let me get your reaction, first, of the President's latest remarks. His remarks today, essentially doubling down, on his view that Putin shouldn't remain in power. He made it clear that it was his own personal feelings, and not necessarily official U.S. policy.
But does airing a view, like this, put the U.S., potentially, Admiral, on a more dangerous ground, as far as Putin is concerned?
ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER, AUTHOR, "2034: A NOVEL OF THE NEXT WORLD WAR": I don't think so, Wolf. I mean, let's keep this in perspective. Putin has invaded a neighbor. He's destroyed it. He invaded Syria. He destroyed it. He's killed people with nerve gas, including his leading political opponent.
For the President, to simply say, in all honesty, he should not be in power, doesn't move the needle, a shred. What this speech ought to be remembered for, Wolf, is none of that. It ought to be remembered for the pledge to NATO, by the United States. The President said, it's a sacred obligation.
And more importantly, even than that, direct shot to Vladimir Putin, he said, "Don't even think about it." You know that's American English. But it is a pretty clear signal, "Don't even think about attacking a NATO country." That's the real message of this speech. Everything else is white noise.
BLITZER: Yes. But the White House immediately - immediate, within a half an hour or so, walked back, what the President was saying. That was pretty awkward, wasn't it?
STAVRIDIS: I don't feel terribly awkward about it. We've all - those of us, who've been around, you, me, we know Joe Biden. He's emotional. He thinks about things, like we do, like a person does. And for him to say, "Putin should not be in power," normal human reaction.
Again, what this speech was all about was reassuring Europe, focusing the American people, in the importance of this, and, by the way, putting a shot across Putin's bow, saying, to the people, in Russia, who are starting to doubt, as I hope they are, whether Putin is taking them in the right direction. I thought it was a very effective speech, overall, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I was there, in Warsaw, listening very, very closely.
In a recent Op-Ed, in Bloomberg, you say it's becoming increasingly clear that Putin could resort to a nuclear or chemical attack, because his effort to take over Kyiv, the capital, has stalled. You've said a chemical weapon would be more likely.
BLITZER: Here's what the President said, today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When you said a chemical weapon used by Russia would "Trigger a response in kind?"
BIDEN: It will trigger a significant response of an attack (ph).
DOOCY: What does that mean?
BIDEN: I'm not going to tell you. Why would I tell you? You've got to be silly.
DOOCY: The world wants to know?
BIDEN: The world wants to know a lot of things. I'm not telling them what the response would be. Then, Russia knows the response.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what do you think, Admiral? Is it better that Putin doesn't know how the U.S. would respond? Or would laying it out actually further deter him, from launching some sort of chemical attack?
STAVRIDIS: I think you can make a case, on both sides. But I'm going to go with strategic ambiguity, here, Wolf. In other words, let Putin figure that out.
We have too often, in the course of this conflict, with Russia, said, "Oh, we won't do this. We won't do that. We will never think about doing that." I think it's time to let Putin be the one, who's wondering what's coming next.
And I'll give you a couple options. If Putin uses a chemical weapon, I would say, response number one is a NATO no-fly zone. Response number two, NATO troops around Lviv. NATO response number three, cyber.
We don't have to respond in kind with a chemical weapon. We're not going to do that. We don't use that. We can broaden this to respond in ways that will make Putin very uncomfortable. That's what we ought to be thinking about. Let's let Putin, try and figure it out, for a change.
BLITZER: Strategic ambiguity. That's an important policy, to be sure.
The - President Zelenskyy, of Ukraine, he seemed to offer some concessions, ahead of these peace talks that are supposed to take place, tomorrow, in Turkey, including that Ukraine would consider neutral status, as part of some sort of peace deal, meaning pursuing NATO membership would be off the table. How significant is that?
STAVRIDIS: I think it's important, Wolf. And if you think about how this ends, here's one for folks, to go back, and Google.
Look at the Winter War with Finland, 1939. Russia invades Finland. The Finns fight him to a standstill, much the way the Ukrainians are. It ends with Finland taking neutral status. But Finland stays, and sails on as an independent sovereign nation. The initial Russian intent, in 1939, to dominate all of Finland. The Finns were ready.
I think the Ukrainians are ready. We've helped them. I think that's probably how this ends up, with some kind of neutral status. But we've got a long way to go. We've got to continue the fight. Above all, Wolf, we, the West, need to support the Ukrainians, so they can create the conditions, for a sensible settlement, here.
BLITZER: Yes. You got to give the Ukrainians a lot of credit, over these what, first 33 days of this war.
Admiral James Stavridis, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
STAVRIDIS: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, escaping the siege, in Mariupol, families who could barely see out their car windshields, are talking to CNN, about the horrors, they witnessed, back home.
And I'll be joined by a local official, as the city's Mayor accuses Russia's Military, of genocide. Yes, genocide. That's next.
BLITZER: The Mayor of Mariupol, is urging a complete evacuation, as he says the city is now in the hands of the occupiers. His words.
That doesn't mean the city is necessarily falling. He's referring to Russian troops that are now surrounding the area, from all sides. 90 percent of the homes are damaged, or completely destroyed, after these first several weeks of fighting.
I'll speak live, with the Mariupol City Council Deputy, who fled with his family, in just a few moments. Standby for that.
But first, our Senior International Correspondent, Ivan Watson, talks to evacuees, racing to get away from the attacks, and their devastation.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shattered by Russian artillery, the windshield of a car that a Ukrainian family used, to make their two-day escape, from the besieged port city, of Mariupol.
We meet Natalia, shortly after her family reaches relative safety, in the parking lot, of a superstore, on the edge of the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.
NATALIA, FLED HOME IN MARIUPOL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WATSON (voice-over): "The day before yesterday, an artillery shell, hit our house," she says. "Half of the house is gone. This is what was left."
NATALIA (through translator): If Russia sees this, I want them to know that they aren't defending us. They are killing us. Because, they seem to think they're defending us, and that's just not true.
WATSON (voice-over): This parking lot, an unofficial gateway, to Ukrainian-controlled territory, for more than 70,000 Ukrainians who, officials say, fled Mariupol. The evacuees look shell-shocked. They arrive, in vehicles, draped with white rags, and signs that say "Children."
And some, like 4-year-old Alisa Isaeva, show up in yellow school buses.
ALISA ISAEVA, FLED MARIUPOL: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WATSON (voice-over): "They were bombing us," she says.
ISAEVA: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WATSON (voice-over): "Bombing us with planes and tanks."
Alisa's aunt, Liliya, says she suffered, from a concussion, for days, after a strike hit her home.
LILIYA NALISKO, FLED MARIUPOL (through translator): We walked among corpses. There were bodies, under the evergreens, soldiers without heads, without arms. They're lying there. Nobody is gathering them.
There was such fear that I felt like I was underwater. I wanted to wake up. And now, I'm here, and this feels like some kind of a dream.
WATSON (voice-over): Inside the superstore, volunteers, and the city government, are trying to help.
(on camera): Newly-arrived evacuees are welcomed, at this support center, where they're offered warm meals, access to medics, and information about how to travel deeper, into safer parts of Ukrainian territory.
There's also a bulletin board here, where some people are offering free repair, of shattered car windows. And there are also postings here, looking for information, about missing loved ones.
(voice-over): For some, who survived, Russia's modern-day siege, this is the first hint of safety they've had, in weeks.
Outside, Yulia Mishodova, and her son, Stanislav (ph) have just arrived.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
WATSON (voice-over): Stanislav (ph) is chatty and upbeat. But his mother appears unsteady.
"When Russian warplanes bombed," she says, "the family hid under the dining room table, surrounded by pillows."
YULIA MISHODOVA, FLED MARIUPOL (through translator): When the plane flew past, we were sheltering, in the center of town. Until now, my ear still hurts, from the shockwave.
WATSON (voice-over): The unlikely safe haven, provided in this parking lot, is precarious. Ukrainian officials say Russian troops are positioned barely a half hour's drive, away from here.
BLITZER: And Ivan Watson is with us, right now.
Ivan, as you stated, these Russian troops are what, only a half hour away, from where many of these Ukrainian families, are escaping to. How concerned are these families, from Mariupol, about their safety?
WATSON: Very concerned, and especially because, if you consider that their homes were being shelled, for weeks, they were living in basements, and trying to hide and run for cover. And then, as they tried to escape, they then have to go through the checkpoints, manned by the same army that devastated and destroyed their whole city.
I was at that same superstore, again, today, witnessing as many vehicles were coming in, again. And some people said, "OK, it's nice, it's quieter here. But I'm going to get going. I'm going to get moving, because it does not feel safe here." We do hear air raid sirens. Much of the local Zaporizhzhia population is staying. But the kind of people, who've already fled Mariupol, they're not taking any chances. They want to go deeper, into safer parts of Ukraine, if there truly are safer parts of Ukraine, given the scale of this terrible war.
BLITZER: Or they can it's - try to leave the country, if still possible.
Ivan Watson, reporting for us. Ivan, be careful over there, yourself. Thank you very, very much.
I want to get to Maxim Borodin, right now. He's the City Council Deputy, in Mariupol. And he's currently in western Ukraine.
Thank you so much Maxim, for joining us. How, first of all, how are you and your family doing? I know you had surgery, not too long ago.
MAXIM BORODIN, MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL DEPUTY: I'm doing OK, in comparison, with people, who cannot leave the Mariupol. Because today, and the last three weeks, in Mariupol, it's totally chaos. And our prosperous and modern city is today, is totally bare bones, and today, totally destroyed.
Most of the buildings are destroyed. But buildings, we can rebuild. But the problem's, a lot of people, I don't know, a real count, and no one knows, because no one can really, because of war, count these people.
But I think it's more than - officials tell us, more than 5,000 people. I think it's number above 10,000s, because a lot of people are lied under the ruins. A lot of people don't, when Russians, planes are bombed with explosives, bombs.
And situation is - now, is main aim is to get the people, from Mariupol, get out, from the city. And all the civilized world needs to help Ukraine, to do this.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers, the pictures, of these residential areas, these apartment buildings, these schools, these hospitals that have totally been leveled, totally have been destroyed, with these Russian bombs.
What do you make, Maxim, of your Mayor's comments that the city is now, and I'm quoting now, "In the hands of the occupiers." What can you tell us about that?
BORODIN: It's hard to say now the real situation, in Mariupol. But a lot of Russian - Russian, how to say, militia, and a lot - a lot of them is occupied now, in Mariupol.
Mariupol is not totally taken. But the situation now is we understand the priority number one is to get out people, from there. Because a lot of the people, most of the people, don't have water, don't have food supply, and don't have electricity, for this three weeks. So, its main problem is humanitarian corridor. But Russians don't let it, for Ukrainian side.
And they show their TV picture that only they evacuate people, to the Russian side. But most of the people, who even equate, to the Russian side, they do it, not because they love Russia, but because they don't have any choice. And when they need to choose, between die and go to Russia, they choose, go to Russia. So, it's not their direct will, in most of the times.
BLITZER: What do you know, Maxim, about President Zelenskyy's claim that Russian forces took over more than 2,000 children, out of your city, Mariupol?
BORODIN: We only have some pieces of information. But in, I think, it's not affordable, in the 21st Century, to take any children, or any adult men, without their will, to any other country.
We live in Ukraine. And only Ukrainian government, only local government, can choose what to do, with our people, not another country. It's not - it's not normal.
BLITZER: Yes. As you know, and as you've said, the people of Mariupol, they don't have electricity, they don't have heat, water or supplies. What more can you tell us, about the actual conditions, on the ground, for those Ukrainians, who are still there?
BORODIN: Condition is catastrophic. There are a lot of people died, not even because of shelling, but because of the health problem, because there are no medicine at all. Even if someone injured, by the shelling, or bombing, they can't get real help, in the medical building, because there are no medicine.
As I know, Russian side, tried show on their TV that give some food, or some supplies. But we know, in real, what is amount of the supplies. Ukrainian side, we, how to say, about three weeks ago, we get a lot of buses, and trucks, to get help, to Mariupol. But Russian side said, no, only if the city totally surrender.
So it's, they know what they're doing. And it's catastrophic, in 21st Century, to see like, people can take in hostages, entire city.
BLITZER: Maxim Borodin, thank you so much for joining us. Maxim is the Mariupol City Council Deputy. Good luck to you. Good luck, to all the folks, in Mariupol, and throughout Ukraine, right now. We wish you only, only the best.
BORODIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Russia's also stepping up its invasion, of Ukraine's cyberspace. In hope of further crippling the country, Russia attacked one of Ukraine's biggest telecom companies, earlier today.
We're going to take a closer look, at the widening cyber warfare. The former U.S. Defense Secretary, William Cohen, he's standing by live. We will discuss, there he is, when we come back. [21:30:00]
BLITZER: The Ukrainian officials now say one of the largest telecom providers, in the country, was hit with a powerful cyberattack, today, another apparent attempt, by Russian hackers, to disrupt phone and internet communications, inside Ukraine.
Ukraine says this cyberattack was neutralized. But recovery from the hack continues. And that begs this question. As Russia's ground war stalls, could this be a precursor, to a more destructive wide-scale attack?
Let's discuss that with the former U.S. Defense Secretary, William Cohen.
Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.
WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON, (R) FORMER U.S. SENATOR, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, THE COHEN GROUP: Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: As you know, Ukrainian officials say they've seen a wave of these cyberattacks, on its infrastructure, since the invasion began, some 33 days ago. But what's surprising to so many experts, is that it's been on a relatively smaller scale.
If they have the capability, to launch something more destructive, why do you think the Russians haven't done that already?
COHEN: Maybe a couple of reasons. Number one, they're worried that the Ukrainians may be having access to U.S. technology, which can help prevent a more widespread cyberattack. They have to be worried that perhaps some of the technology that the United States, and the NATO countries have, could be given to the Ukrainians, to target them as well.
A number of reasons why they haven't gone to this level, because they've used it before, in Georgia. They've used it before, when going into Ukraine, in 2014. So, this is not something as unique.
I think, they're calibrating, "Is this the time to use it? And what kind of defenses do the Ukrainians have? Can they - do they have the kind of resilience that they can bounce back, once the attack is inflicted?"
We know that they used some of the tactics in the French election. So, they use cyber warfare, as such, in social media, other ways of influencing people, but, in terms of cutting off communications, radio communication, telephone communications, and secure communications, if they can.
BLITZER: President Biden today said, he doesn't care what Putin thinks about his comments that he shouldn't be in power, in Russia. Should he? COHEN: I think Putin should care. I don't think he does.
I think that Putin has one thing in mind, only. And that is to crush the Ukrainian people, to destroy their country. If they don't raise the white flag, then he's going to try and level the country, and just lay it to waste. It's "I'm going to conquer this country. And whether you give up early or late, that's my goal."
So, I think, President Biden is exactly right. I don't think the Russian people should have a man like this, in office, representing them, and directing them, to a course of conduct, and down the path of history, which is going to be, I think, disaster, for them, in the long-term. No, I think that President Biden had it just right.
BLITZER: The Kremlin spokesman, I don't know if you heard about this yet, Mr. Secretary, but just now, just gave an interview, to PBS. And says, Russia will only use nuclear weapons, and I'm quoting now, when there is a threat, to Russia's existence, and not as a response, to the fighting, in Ukraine.
So, do you take him, at his word?
COHEN: I don't take anything coming out of Moscow, at this point. They've lied, on every occasion that, we've watched the Military build-up, the promise not to invade, the promise not to target innocent civilians, the leveling of hospitals, schools, maternity wards, cancer wards. No, I don't take them at any of their words.
I think all we have to do is follow what they're doing, and then try and prevent it, as best we can. We have to keep our eye on the prize. And that is giving the kind of weapons and equipment that President Zelenskyy, needs, to defend his country.
And it goes back to the days, when you were covering DOD, I think, when President Bush 41 said, he foresaw, and hoped he would see, a Europe that was whole, free, and prosperous, whole, free, and at peace.
Well, as long as President Putin is going to continue to act the way he's acting, the European people will never be at peace. They may be whole or almost whole. They won't be at complete peace, because President Putin is determined to go back, and try to reconstruct the Soviet Empire, under the Russian flag. So, that's something. We have to keep our eye on that.
That's why President Biden needs to be praised, for what he did. And that is to marshal the NATO countries, in a short period of time, to get them all on board, to say, "We're going to suffer some of the heartache here, as well."
Prices are going to be up. We're going to have to bear that. But we cannot sit by, and bear witness, to the slaughter of innocent people, by the thousands, the tens of thousands, and the displacement of at least 10 million Ukrainians. We can't do that in good conscience. And that's what he was really revealing. But he made the speech, which he's been criticized for. That's Joe Biden, speaking from the heart.
COHEN: So, I think that President Putin cares. I don't think he's influenced by words. He's only influenced by deeds. And that's what we're trying to do, is help President Zelenskyy, defend his country.
BLITZER: Yes. It wasn't that long ago, we thought the Cold War was over. Not only is the Cold War back, but there's a real war, going on, in Europe, right now. And it's awful.
Secretary Cohen, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
COHEN: Wolf, thank you for having me. Appreciate it.
BLITZER: Thank you.
More on the exploding humanitarian crisis, just ahead. We're going to take you to Poland. That's where more than half of the nearly 4 million Ukrainian refugees are now, turning for safety and shelter.
But is there a limit to how many more people they could handle? We'll have details, when we come back.
BLITZER: So many Ukrainian refugees are fleeing into Poland that the population in Warsaw alone has increased by some 20 percent. And with cities like Mariupol, calling for total evacuations, that number could surge even higher.
Our Senior National Correspondent, Kyung Lah, takes us inside a Warsaw conventional that's packed with as many as 10,000 Ukrainian refugees, at any given time.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nothing can help 5-year-old Yan (ph) understand how he and his mother ended up here. A packed convention hall in Warsaw, Poland, filled with thousands of Ukrainians.
LAH (on camera): He's constantly afraid, he's always afraid?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAH (voice-over): "He's afraid to sleep alone," says his mother, Katyacrush (ph), after nights, in this basement, as Russian missiles leveled his neighborhood, two hours north of Kyiv.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAH (voice-over): "Everything is fine," she tells him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAH (voice-over): "Are you're sure there's nothing flying here?" he asks.
TOMASZ SZYPULA, PRESIDENT OF PTAK WARSAW EXPO, HELPING RUN LARGEST UKRAINIAN REFUGEE HUB IN EUROPE: They even don't know why they're here. They think maybe they came for some kind of vacation, or it's--
LAH (on camera): They don't comprehend?
LAH (on camera): Because they're too young?
SZYPULA: Yes, too young.
LAH (voice-over): Multiply Yan (ph) by thousands of people a day, and that's who Tomasz Szypula, is trying to help, at what's now the largest Ukrainian refugee hub, in all of Europe, with up to 7,000 refugees here, a day.
SZYPULA: I must work, you know, and I don't have to think about such things too much, because it's really difficult, and it's a tragedy. You'll see that's - it's better not to think about that.
LAH (voice-over): The 1.5 million square foot expo is now a gateway to the rest of the world, where after crossing into Poland, refugees begin the real process, finding a temporary life, beyond war.
(on camera): They're waiting to go somewhere?
SZYPULA: Yes. (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Estonia.
LAH (on camera): Estonia?
SZYPULA: Yes, they - they're getting to Estonia.
LAH (voice-over): Those with no destination yet, wait.
(on camera): How long has this been going on?
SZYPULA: It's less than a month.
LAH (on camera): Less than a month.
LAH (voice-over): That becomes more challenging, as the war stretches on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAH (voice-over): "Thank you, Warsaw," says this woman, a Ukrainian, one of the more than 2 million Ukrainian refugees, who have arrived in Poland. More than 300,000, in Warsaw alone.
RAFAL TRZASKOWSKI, MAYOR OF WARSAW: The Polish people will welcome Ukrainians, whatever happens, because they are fighting for our freedom. And we do understand that. But, of course, there is a certain limit, human limit, what we can - what we can do.
LAH (on camera): When you say, you're at capacity, what do you mean?
TRZASKOWSKI: We've offered, as a country, free education, free health care, to all of our guests, which of course means that our schools are going to be filled, within weeks that our hospitals are going to jam.
LAH (voice-over): Warsaw's Mayor says no one will be turned away. But he needs help, to help Yan (ph), his mother, and the people of Ukraine.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
LAH (voice-over): "The Polish people accepted us well," she says.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good people.
LAH (on camera): Good people?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Good people.
BLITZER: And Kyung Lah is joining us now, live, from Warsaw.
Kyung, we just heard the Mayor of Warsaw. I too spoke with him, in Warsaw, on Saturday, when I was there. He says there's this human limit, on what they can do, to provide the help that these folks need.
What more can you tell us about the crush this has actually put, on the city of Warsaw?
LAH: Well, the Mayor, when he was talking about those numbers, actually boiled it down, in a very simple way, in a very understandable way, I think, for most Americans.
He said that in his city of Warsaw, there are now 30 percent, more school-aged children, children who need to go to school than there were a month ago. So if you imagine your child's school room, imagine it being 30 percent bigger, the strain on textbooks, what kids need, what the teacher has to do, the chairs you have to provide.
That is one snapshot, of the strain, on this city. Expand that out now to everything else that the city has to provide, for these Ukrainian refugees, the social help, the psychological help, the structure, all of it. And so, that's what the Mayor is talking about, the strain on this city.
And despite that, Wolf, and you know, this, from walking around this beautiful city, is you're not seeing anybody, sleeping on the streets, or tents, in the street, despite the influx of the city. And that is truly remarkable. They just don't know how long they can keep this up.
BLITZER: Yes. Got to give those Polish people, a lot of credit, taking in these millions of refugees, mostly women, and children, and the elderly. The men between the ages of 18 and 60, they're behind, they're fighting, in Ukraine.
Kyung Lah, in Warsaw, for us. Excellent report. Thank you very, very much.
Here, at home, the January 6 select committee has just voted to advance a contempt of Congress referral, for two more former Trump aides.
A panel member is here, fresh off that vote. We will discuss, when we come back.
BLITZER: More on-the-ground coverage in Ukraine, coming up, in a few moments.
But we turn now to other breaking news, from the January 6 select committee, members voting, just moments ago, to recommend criminal contempt of Congress charges, against then President Trump's former Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, and former White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro.
They would become the third and fourth the former Trump aides, to face potential criminal charges, as opposed to the more than 750 people, who have cooperated, with the Select Committee.
Representative Elaine Luria sits on the January 6 select committee. She's joining us now.
Congresswoman, thank you so much, for joining us. I know you called on the Attorney General to, quote, "Do your job."
What makes you think he's any more likely to move, on these two cases that, given that he hasn't charged, for example, Mark Meadows, who the House referred to the Department of Justice, for contempt, more than three months ago?
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Well, Wolf, it's incredibly important, first of all, that, people uphold their constitutional duty, when a subpoena is preferred, that people have a duty, to show up, and to speak to Congress. And it's a little baffling to understand why three months later, we are still waiting, for action, on that one.
These two new contempt charges that we're referring, these are people, who were very close to the President. And, as I said, during the hearing, it seems as the closer and closer we're getting, to the President's inner circle, the more people are not speaking. What are they covering up?
And the truth is, is that we need these to be acted on quickly, so we can get information. You mentioned earlier. It's actually 800 people now, who have come, before the committee. They haven't objected to subpoenas, or even informal requests. They've come forward willingly, people in the former administration, to provide information.
Because, the work of the committee is important. We can't let something like this happen again, to overrun the halls of the Capitol, in an attempt to prevent the transfer of power, peacefully.
BLITZER: I know your committee, this is related, didn't make a decision on whether to interview Ginni Thomas, the wife of, U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. Why no decision? What more do you need, to know, in order to make this decision?
LURIA: Wolf, as with other potential witnesses, we don't comment, ahead of time, for all 800 witnesses, we've reached out to.
There's many people, who have valuable information, for the committee, and we hope to hear, from all of them. So, there's really nothing that I can say specifically about this witness, or, any other potential witnesses, who might be coming in the future.
BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal suggested you may need to speak with Justice Thomas himself. Given the evidence, you've seen so far, Congresswoman, should the committee speak with the Supreme Court Associate Justice?
LURIA: There is no evidence, specifically presented to the committee, at this point, that would lead us in that direction. But, of course, he, like his wife, if he has information that he thinks is meaningful, for the committee, we would like to have him share that information with us, as well.
BLITZER: Should Justice Thomas, though, recuse himself, from any cases involving the committee, for example?
LURIA: So, as far as cases, and Supreme Court justices, it is really their discretion, and their role, on the bench, to decide, if there's a conflict of interest.
Justice Thomas has not recused himself, so far. So, I would leave that to him to explain why he made that decision, in any case, that could be construed to be related to the events of January 6.
BLITZER: One federal judge today, said, and I'm quoting now, "The court finds it more likely than not, that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021." A month ago, it was your committee, saying, and I'm quoting, "Mr. Trump and others may have engaged in criminal and/or fraudulent acts."
What more could the Department of Justice need, to open up a formal criminal investigation?
LURIA: Well, the citing that you read there, was relative to a case for documents, from Dr. Eastman, who's a lawyer, who cracked - came up with these crackpot kind of conspiracy theories, of how we could overturn the election.
And that was to have the judge rule, to turn over emails, relative to his activities, surrounding January 6, and promoting these false conspiracy theories.
We are a legislative committee that is designed to determine the events, leading up to January 6, and provide legislative recommendations, to prevent something like that from happening, in the future. So, I really can't comment--
LURIA: --on any investigations, that the Justice Department has ongoing. But I know that they will seek to hold anyone accountable, who's broken the law.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Luria, thanks so much for joining us.
LURIA: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for watching.
A special invitation, log on, tomorrow night, for the premiere of "THE NEWSCAST WITH WOLF BLITZER," only on our brand-new streaming network, CNN+ that debuts 7:30 P.M. Eastern. You can sign up at cnnplus.com.
"DON LEMON TONIGHT," live from Ukraine, starts right now. And Don is joining us.
Don, I was watching, on Saturday, when all this was unfolding. You were in Lviv, relatively safe area. And all of a sudden, I see you there. And they had just attacked oil depots, not far away from where you were. And you show up. How scared were you?