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The Situation Room

U.S. Appeals Court Pauses Release Of Trump Records To January 6th Committee; Testimony Ends In Kyle Rittenhouse Homicide Trial; Astroworld Disaster Death Toll Rises To Nine; U.N.: Situation With Migrants At Border Of Poland And Belarus Is "Catastrophic;" Russian Troops Assemble Near Ukraine Border; Biden Calls Veterans "The Soul of America." Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 11, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can find all the items that, Homes for Our Troops. Bidding ends Sunday. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, a temporary legal win for former President Trump. A federal appeals court just granted his request to pause the release of his White House records to the January 6th select committee. I'll talk with a key member of the committee, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's standing by. We'll discuss what happens next.

Also breaking, the last witnesses have now been called in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial a day after Rittenhouse broke down while testifying about the fatal shots he fired. Tensions flaring again between the judge and the prosecutor as the case is now moving to closing arguments.

And the death toll in the Astroworld concert disaster is now up to nine. An injured victim died just a short while ago as dozens of lawsuits are now moving forward.

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

And we begin with the breaking news. The release of Trump White House records now on hold after an emergency ruling by a federal appeals court. This derails tomorrow's deadline for the January 6th committee to get the documents.

Let's bring in our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider. She's working the story for us. This is a win, at least in the short-term, for the former president.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This is a win, Wolf, and it's a win for Trump's legal team in terms of running out the clock here because a portion of these documents were set to be turned over to the committee tomorrow. That deadline now is pushed until at least early December at the earliest.

So, what the appeals court did today was decide two things. They said the National Archives could not give the documents they were expecting tomorrow. That was 46 documents that included call logs, visitor logs, three handwritten notes from then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, but what it also blocked were 700 more documents that are expected to go to the committee in the coming weeks. But because of this court order, that will no longer happen either.

So, this is a big roadblock for the committee. They were supposed to get these documents. Now, they won't. Not tomorrow and still not by the end of the month because what the court also did was set up a briefing and argument schedule and this pushes it until the end of November, well past Thanksgiving.

So the Trumps legal brief, their team, the brief is due on Tuesday. The committee brief then isn't due until the Monday before Thanksgiving and arguments in this case aren't even until November 30th. That means the appeals court likely won't even decide the case until late November at the earliest, but likely that first week of December.

So, all of this really setting up this roadblock for the committee. Of course, first, we've had Steve Bannon defying the subpoena. The DOJ still hasn't decided whether or not to prosecute him for criminal contempt, and now this other roadblock from the appeals court.

Notably this is an appeals court though made up of judges, appointed by all Democratic presidents. They noted that this was a win for Trump's team in the short-term, but they indicated and they said that this was by no means a ruling on the merits here. That won't be until at least later this month, maybe the beginning of December.

BLITZER: A few more weeks to go. We will see what happens. All right, Jessica, thank you very, very much.

Let's bring in CNN's Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, the author of True Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Investigation of Donald Trump. So, Jeffrey, how big of a bump in the road is this for the select committee?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well it's definitely a bump because tomorrow was going to be the day they started to get the documents. And this is a win for the Trump legal team, no question about it, but it may just be a reprieve, not a win for all time because this is an aggressive, fast schedule that the panel has set up and the panel, the three judges, are extremely favorable for the House plaintiffs in the case and not the former president.

BLITZER: Because the three judges, the federal judges were all appointed by Democratic presidents. Is that your point?

TOOBIN: That's exactly right. Judges Millett and Wilkins were appointed by President Obama. Judge Jackson, Judge Ketanji Jackson, she was just appointed by President Biden to the D.C. circuit. She's considered a very likely possibility for the Supreme Court if there is a vacancy in the next year or so.

So, this is a dream panel for the Democrats, but I think they recognize that if they didn't issue a stay, that was the same as deciding this case because that means the documents would have been turned over.


They had set this aggressive schedule but it does mean that there is no chance that the committee will get these documents until December at the earliest. And if the Trump team loses before this panel, you can be certain that they'll be asking the Supreme Court to review and then there could be more delay.

BLITZER: Yes. That could certainly be more delay. All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.

Let's discuss with a key member of the January 6th select committee. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger is joining us right now. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

What's your reaction to this ruling blocking your committee from immediately getting Trump White House documents? They were supposed to get them tomorrow. How big of a setback do you think this is?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Look, I actually don't think it's a huge setback. I think, you know, obviously Trump's folks will spin this as a win because there's a block of wins, frankly, on any of their legal side. This is not unexpected. I think we expected, frankly, that there would be a stay issued by the appeals court. Let's be clear the first judge that heard this said the president has no ability to declare kind of executive privilege or to stop this and we also see a very accelerated timeline to hear this case.

So, yes, I mean, of course, we wish we'd have gotten these documents tomorrow, but this doesn't come as a surprise. It's not going to slow down our investigation and I expect that keeping the Supreme Court potentially aside will have these documents fairly soon.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see if Trump loses. He might go to the Supreme Court. We'll see what happens on that, if that happens.

How sure are you, Congressman, that the committee will ultimately prevail, because the stakes are clearly enormous right now? These include hundreds of White House documents during the Trump White House, visitor logs, call logs, even handwritten notes.

KINZINGER: Yes. I'm sure ultimately we'll prevail. The question is the timeline. But, look, the American people, through Congress, have a right to know what happened. It's the whole reason we have an archive. The president, the former president, has no ability to declare executive privilege when the current president didn't take that declaration. This is nothing short of a stall tactic. It's significant part of this too. In fact, this investigation has to do with campaign activities, which isn't covered by executive privilege. So we'll ultimately get to that. We'll ultimately prevail. But I think have no doubt, the Trump legal strategy, because they don't have a strategy to actually win or to actually have a committee show there was no culpability of responsibility on January 6th, the strategy is to run out the clock.

And so we're continuing to investigate witnesses. We've interviewed witnesses. We've interviewed over 150 with many more to come. We'll get to the bottom of this.

BLITZER: Yes. As you well know, testimony for some top Trump allies clearly also in jeopardy. It's been, what, three weeks since you made that referral to the Justice Department to hold Steve Bannon, for example, in criminal contempt. Do you have any indication on whether the attorney general, Merrick Garland, will move to prosecute, because this clearly has huge implications for other witnesses as well?

KINZINGER: Yes. We don't have any indication yet. I know there's a new -- I believe it's U.S. attorney in the area and so there may be a process to get them spun up. We certainly hope and expect the Department of Justice will do their job and refer this to a grand jury and get it done.

Look, Congress has the right to subpoena, similar to what a court has. If a court makes a subpoena of a witness and the witness doesn't show up, they are held in contempt. It is the same thing with Congress. What we don't do is send out the congressional police force to arrest somebody though with some rule changes, he actually probably could do that. We rely on the DOJ to do that enforcement because we believe in those separation of powers when necessary.

So, we expect and certainly hope that the DOJ will. If we start sending the precedent that people can simply on something so agreed just as what happened on January 6th, that somebody can simply ignore the will of the people, AKA, Congress, that's not going to be good for the congressional branch in the long-term for the American people on the long-term.

BLITZER: Let me get your thoughts on a different issue while I have you, Congressman. Some Democrats, as you know, have already introduced a resolution to censure Republican Congressman Paul Gosar after he tweeted an anime video depicting him killing Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If there is a vote on this, would you vote to censure Gosar?

KINGZINGER: Yes. My lean would be yes. I'd have to see, of course, what's written in the resolution. You know all that matters, the text to the resolution. But, you know, look, I don't care if it's a Republican or a Democrat. We cannot in this country, Wolf, get to a point where using anime even, which is creepy in and of itself, but using anime or regular videos or deep fakes or even just tweeted threats against a sitting member of Congress can be acceptable. It is never acceptable. It can't be acceptable.


And I think, you know, barring any egregious language and a resolution to censure out, I would intend to vote yes.

BLITZER: And, finally, it's, of course, Veterans Day. And you're a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Air Force. I know you just did your active duty military service in recent days. You were just deployed. How are you reflecting on this very, very special day?

KINZINGER: You know, I contacted a lot of my veteran friends. We all just -- we tell each other thanks and then, of course, we joke around with each other. But, you know, for me, it's obviously coming off a big tragedy and Afghanistan has a different somber moment. But even though Veterans Day is intended to celebrate all veterans, obviously we think of the fallen veterans and the fallen heroes.

And you know I've always worn on my wrist, the name of Andres O'Keefe. I've worn it since 2018. He was a friend of mine that was killed in Iraq. So, I think of him. And you know we think of the fact that there are 18 and 19-year-olds today that went and raised their right hand to defend this Constitution, to defend this country. And we need to expect that of future generations and we need to expect that, frankly, of political leaders too.

BLITZER: We are so grateful to all the veterans and thank you, Congressman Kinzinger, for your service to our country. We're grateful to you as well. Thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: Just ahead, there's more breaking news we're following. Testimony in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial has just wrapped up. We have new details on today's action in the courtroom as well as what comes next. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Breaking news, the final testimony in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial has just concluded. Court has been adjourned until Monday setting the stage for hours of closing arguments and jury deliberations.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has the story.



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): But politics and bias emerged from the backdrop of this trial from the defense's tenth witness, Drew Hernandez, the self-described commentator on the streets of Kenosha the night of the shooting. BINGER: Have you ever posted anything on social media --


BINGER: -- in support of Kyle Rittenhouse?

HERNANDEZ: One could argue yes.

JIMENEZ: It was a recurring theme brought out by the prosecution.

BINGER: Your videos that you have captured of these incidents that you call riots, they're very slanted against the people who are rioting. You characterize them as Antifa, Black Lives Matter rioters. Correct?

HERNANDEZ: Because they are rioting in the footage, yes.

JIMENEZ: Hernandez was called by the defense largely to draw a contrast between Joseph Rosenbaum, the first killed by Rittenhouse in August 2020 in the aftermath of protest in Kenosha.

HERNANDEZ: Rosenbaum was charging Kyle Rittenhouse from behind.


HERNANDEZ: Hear it and saw it in real-time.

JIMENEZ: Compared with Kyle Rittenhouse.

CHIRAFISI: Did you observe him acting in an aggressive manner to anyone that you observed?

HERNANDEZ: In no way, shape, or form. The first time I saw Kyle, he actually deescalated a situation.

JIMENEZ: But notably an objection led the judge to admonish the prosecution for the second consecutive day.

JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER, JUDGE, KENOSHA COUNTY, WISCONSIN: I'm a little bit challenged when you say is there something that I'm seeing that draws the face that you're making? Go ahead. Say what you wanted to say.

BINGER: I have to say, your honor, yesterday, I was the target of your ire for disregarding your orders. Today, the defense is disregarding your order.

JIMENEZ: On the testimony side, the day began with establishing a meticulous timeline, what happened, looking at slowed down video of the moments in and around the shootings that night, including the second set of shots fired that began with the still unidentified person known in court as jump kick man.

MARK RICHARDS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What occurred first, a kick to the face by jump kick man to my client or the first gun shot.

JOHN BLACK, TRIAL WITNESS: Based on my analysis, the kick to the face occurred prior to the gun shot.

JIMENEZ: Those shots missed. The next one to the chest of Anthony Huber would be deadly, and then the shot to the arm of Gaige Grosskreutz, all of it just shortly after the four shots that killed Joseph Rosenbaum.

BINGER: Can you tell us the amount of time that passes between the first shot, observation number eight, to Joseph Rosenbaum and the final shot to Mr. Grosskreutz?

BLACK: Approximately one minute and 20 seconds.

BINGER: In that one minute and -- approximately one minute and 20 second, the defendant fires all eight shots.

JIMENEZ: A day after Rittenhouse is at times emotional account of what happened in that minute 20, Gaige Grosskreutz the only survivor of those shot that night, felt it wasn't genuine.

GAIGE GROSSKREUTZ, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: To me, it seemed like a child who had just gotten caught doing something that he wasn't supposed to, or upset that he was caught and less upset about what he had done and what he had taken and the numerous lives that he affected.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And, of course, what Kyle Rittenhouse did is the main focus of the trial that is now in its closing stages. Now that both sides have rested its cases, both juror instructions and closing arguments are going to come on Monday, not tomorrow. And then on the juror selection process for the decision, the names or numbers of the 18 jurors will literally get placed in an old lottery tumbler and then the 12 names will be drawn from there to decide the fate of Kyle Rittenhouse. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Omar, stand by. I want to also bring in our Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson.


Joey, now that testimony in this trial has concluded, do you think the defense did enough to convince the jury that Rittenhouse was acting out of self-defense?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I really do, Wolf, based upon just the pure facts of what we have seen. Now, we can have the debate as to whether or not Rittenhouse should have been there, whether or not he's not a police officer, he's not a technician, why is he there in the first instance, why would he interject himself, that's a separate issue. That's not what the jury's being there to decide. Those political questions are left to debate.

With respect to the facts, I think what the defense did is three very important things. By putting him on the stand, Wolf, number one, they humanized him. They want to present to the jury a person who has feelings, who indicates that, hey, I didn't want to do anything, I didn't want to kill anyone, I needed to. We saw him breaking down into tears. I thought he was prepared, that was very effective.

Pivoting to issue number two with respect to explaining, why was it that I had to shoot one person, because they were pointing a gun at me, another, because they were tussling for my rifle, yet another, because they were ripping the skateboard across my head like a baseball bat.

And then finally, Wolf, when it came to issue of what he did thereafter, he turned himself in. We often as lawyers talk about this consciousness of guilty issue. It means we're running, right? Defendants are running because they did something wrong. He ran, but he ran to a police station.

So, from those prospective, I think they were very effective and certainly have a very good shot of having him acquitted when the jury ultimately deliberates after closing examinations are -- closing arguments, excuse me, on Monday.

BLITZER: If you're the prosecution, Joey, how are you preparing for closing arguments on Monday? What do you -- what do they need to do to secure a guilty verdict?

JACKSON: I think it has to be consistent with their theme here, and their theme here, he was an active shooter, that he was not justified. There are three pillars in places they have to go. One is the immediacy of the threat posed. There was not the immediacy of the threat that would force him to otherwise shoot and fire.

Number two, the proportionality. On cross-examination, the prosecutor was saying when you shot at him four time, didn't you? And he was falling back and you were shooting. He was falling back and you were shooting. If the force is disproportionate, that's unacceptable. It doesn't get you where you need to be.

Finally, they have to go, the prosecution does, to demonstrate that his actions were unreasonable. The problem is, Wolf, and the final point, is that you have to examine this in context. And the defense is really arguing that people were enflamed. People were rioting. There were things in flames. People were just -- it was a mad house. It was referred to as a riot and mob, and that's the context in which the jury has to evaluate whether Rittenhouse was legitimately and reasonably under attack such that he needed to defend himself.

BLITZER: Joey, let's take a closer look at the moment when the judge asked the prosecutor about a face he's making. Watch this.


SCHROEDER: Yes. I'm a little bit challenged when you say. Is there something that I'm saying that caused the face you're making?

Go ahead. Say what you want to say.

BINGER: I have to say, your honor, yesterday, I was the target of your ire for disregarding your orders. Today, the defense is disregarding your order. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let me just get Omar's -- you're there in Kenosha, Omar. The judge still hasn't given a final decision on this mistrial motion, right?

JIMENEZ: That's right, Wolf. At this point, this was something the defense brought up yesterday and it doesn't -- we haven't gotten a ruling just yet and it doesn't seem like it's front of mind for the judge as he went very specific into scheduling these next steps for the jurors and attorneys on both sides of this case, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Omar Jimenez, Joey Jackson, guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, how President Biden's has overhauled his message about inflation here in the United States after months of claiming rising prices were simply temporary.



BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden can't shrug off rising consumer prices anymore after inflation soared to a 30-year high. He's changing up his message with a sharper focus on the pain so many Americans are feeling right now.

Let's bring in our chief White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, there's a clear shift in messaging were hearing from the White House when it comes to inflation now. What more you learning from what's going on behind the scenes?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And that shift is going all the way up to the president himself who is now describing this in different terms than what we have been hearing from officials over the last several months. When they were pressed with questions not just from reporters but also lawmakers on inflation, when they've been insisting that they believe these price hikes would only be temporary.


JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: All of the economists that the president has been relying on suggest that there's a transitory nature.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIR: We said expect it to be transitory first of all to show uncertainty around that.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The vast majority of the experts including Wall Street are suggesting that it's highly unlikely that it's going to be long-term inflation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: Now, of course, Wolf, the question of whether it's going to be long-term and how long it's going to go on for is one that still remains unanswered, but you are no longer hearing officials really use the word transitory here at the White House to describe what's happening. And instead, President Biden is bluntly acknowledging that this is an issue and that consumer prices remain too high and that there's something he says that are top priority for him to bring those prices down and reverse this trend.

And one person that he has been talking to at times during his presidency, Wolf, is Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary who's been warning about inflation for months and this concerns and he says he believes lawmakers in Washington got it wrong.


LARRY SUMMERS, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: I think that the policymakers in Washington, unfortunately, have almost every month been behind the curve.


They said it was transitory, it doesn't look so transitory. They said it was due to a few specific factors, it doesn't look to be to a few specific factors. They said when September came and people went back to school, that the labor force would grow and it didn't happen.


COLLINS: Now, Wolf, as the White House is working to combat inflation, one big question is whether or not this complicates President Biden's economic agenda. Because of course you know he just got infrastructure passed, but he has a much bigger part of his economic agenda that he is now trying to get passed on Capitol Hill and you're already seeing concern from people like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia that more government spending could make inflation worse. Of course, whether or not that happens remains to be seen and the White House is arguing that is not the case with the president's plan.

BLITZER: Yes, since no Republicans in the Senate are expected to vote for it, you can't afford to lose one Democrat and Joe Manchin could be up in the air right now. We'll see what happens.

Kaitlan, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss all of this with our Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger and CNN's Senior Commentator, the former Ohio Governor, John Kasich.

Gloria, Americans have certainly gone through nearly two years now of the COVID pandemic and now they're facing these higher prices heading into the holidays. You feel like people just can't get a break right now?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. It's been a long couple of years, Wolf, and I feel like -- the White House feels like it can't get a break either. Because they feel like the good news that they have brought to the American people like increasing jobs, higher wages, stock market surging, is being overtaken of course by inflation, which they had said, as Kaitlan pointed out, was temporary.

It doesn't appear to be that way. So now they have to have a recalibration about how they talk about this to the American public and what they're going to do about it.

BLITZER: You know, Governor Kasich, how much political pressure does all this put on President Biden right now?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, Wolf, when you think about inflation and Gloria's absolutely right. When you think about inflation, I mean this is something that affects people every day, right.

You go to fill up your car with gasoline, you look at the price of what it was and it's staggering to you. You go into the grocery store, I don't care what you're buying, commodities are going up. So it's not something that sort of, you know, not clear. It's something people deal with every day so they're able to measure how they feel and as you've seen, Wolf, and I know Gloria knows this, is that the economy has risen to the top of the list of all the concerns that people have and inflation's tough to beat. It's insidious. And I'm glad to see they're beginning to recognize that this is a serious matter.

BLITZER: Yes. And has enormous impact on middle class and working class people when all the prices simply are going up and up. You know, Gloria, the inflation we're seeing today still nowhere near the level in the late 1970s when Jimmy Carter was president, but is there a Jimmy Carter comparison looming down the road?

BORGER: Well, a lot of conservatives are already making the comparison. I don't think it's accurate in the at least as you say that inflation was double under Jimmy Carter. Interest rates were in the double digits. Now they're what, 1 percent, something like that.

So you know, there isn't, but you know, there is a political case that is being made that Joe Biden is doing nothing about this. I think the frustration is of course that while wages have gone up, as Governor Kasich is talking about, people don't feel it because they're paying more for things.

So if your wages rise but you're paying a dollar more per gallon at the pump, you know, it's sort of a wash. And this is what people are feeling and this is why the president at the Port of Baltimore yesterday said you know, I feel your pain. I get it. You're suffering and we are figuring out what to do about this. Don't forget, the country has been through a pandemic and is coming out of it.

BLITZER: What's his best option, the president, Governor Kasich? What should he do?

KASICH: You can't keep doing what you're doing. You can't keep printing money because printing money a monetary is issue -- it's the issue around inflation, number one.

Number two is, you know, we got the think about the supply side. So, a lot of people want gasoline, well, you don't stop frocking and you don't shut down pipelines. That's killing the supply, same thing with the supply chain. I mean, you've got to do things you don't want to put too many regulations on truckers, for example, because you've got to be able move what is in demand out of those ports and get them across the country. You've got to figure that out and there are some things that they can do about that.

But the last thing is, Wolf, and I think we can all agree. If there's a supply chain problem, it certainly can't affect the North Pole.

BLITZER: Governor Kasich, thank you very much. Gloria, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, the Astroworld death toll is rising. It's now nine.


Coming up, I'll speak with an attorney for several victims who attended the festival. Ben crump is standing by.


BLITZER: The Astroworld concert disaster in Houston has claimed another life. Bharti Shahani, a 22-year-old college student died from her injuries last night, pushing the death toll to nine people.

I want to bring in Ben Crump. He's an attorney representing several other victims from the festival. Ben, thanks so much for joining us. Dozens of lawsuits as you well know have now been filed in connection with the deadly incident at the Astroworld Festival and officials and organizers, they're pointing fingers right now. Who in your view was responsible then for keeping those concertgoers safe?

BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR VICTIMS IN THE ASTROWORLD TRAGEDY: Wolf, as I sit here with the family of the 9-year-old catastrophically injured young child who on life support fighting for his life.

We are working diligently, our legal team, to get answers for everything that happened on that evening.


There are multiple people on multiple levels that are responsible. This never should have happened, Wolf Blitzer. This was completely preventable. Had the concert promoters, the organizers, the corporations who was putting on this festival would have made sure they had safety protocols in place, had crowd control protocols in place, and had medical assistance protocol. So we have sued 20 defendants. We have about 200 clients and that number is growing.

BLITZER: The Houston police chief, as you know, Ben, says he sees no reason for an outside independent investigation into this incident. What do you say? CRUMP: I think with this much loss of life and catastrophic injury, Wolf, I would be shocked if you did not have some outside agency come in and look at not only what the promoters and the organizers may have done wrong, but if there was any malfeasance or negligence on behalf of any of the city officials.

BLITZER: Yes, because if you don't learn from the mistakes, you're bound to repeat them as I always say. Let me turn while I have you, Ben, to the trial for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. You're representing Arbery's father.

The defense attorney objected to the Arbery family having nationally recognized civil rights leaders join them in the courtroom. I want you to listen to what he said.


KEVIN GOUGH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR WILLIAM BRYAN: Obviously, there's only so many pastors they can have. And the fact that Pastor Al Sharpton right now that's fine. That's it. We don't want any more black pastors coming in here. Or other Jesse Jackson whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim's family trying to influence the jury in this case.


BLITZER: What's your response to that Ben?

CRUMP: It's very offensive on every level that the family of Ahmaud Arbery cannot have the people who they choose to support them be in the courtroom. Nobody has said in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial people from national high profile positions can't be in the courtroom to represent him.

It seems to be what we always talk about, Wolf, this intellectual justification of discrimination. When you think about just the parallels going on between the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse and the trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery, when you think of the fact that and Kyle Rittenhouse trial, they say you can't refer to the deceased individuals as victims.

You have to call them arsonists and looters and rioters, but support, and Jacob Blake Jr., and similarly in Georgia, they don't want to refer to Ahmaud Arbery, a young man who was lynched. That jogging while black as a victim.

Now if the roles were revert you would not hear any of this. If that was a black father and son who chased a unarmed, young, killed him, everybody would say that this was bloody murder and the court's rulings would support such. It's only different when you have people standing up for the life and the liberty of black people in America.

BLITZER: All right, Ben. Thank you very much. Ben Crump. Appreciate your joining us as always. Thank you.

Coming up, we're following a horrific humanitarian crisis right now in Belarus in which some world leaders accuse Vladimir Putin of orchestrating and now there's growing concern Putin could also be preparing once again to invade Ukraine.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following a very disturbing humanitarian crisis unfolding on the border of Belarus and Poland.

Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is joining us right now. He's on the Polish side of the border crossing.

Fred, the United Nations is calling this situation catastrophic. What are you seeing? What are you hearing?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly is catastrophic. There's about 2,000 migrants, mostly from the Middle East, who are essentially camped out in the elements on border between Belarus and Poland. They are in limbo.

On the one hand, they can't get into Poland because Poland has sealed the border and on the other hand, they can't get into Belarus again or go back to Minsk and seek shelter there because the Belarusian security forces aren't letting them do that. They're camped out there in the elements. Some of the images we're seeing are absolutely awful. People trying to collect firewood to somehow stay warm, but of course with every day that passes, the situation continues to get worse.

Now, the European Union, and specifically Poland, Wolf, they're accusing Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of essentially luring these people into Belarus by promising them they could get into European Union from there. Poland is essentially saying that is not going to happen. They put up barbwire and 15,000 soldiers to stop anyone from getting through there.

The European Union is saying they want to levy additional sanctions against Belarus, against Alexander Lukashenko. The United States is saying the same thing.

But so far, Lukashenko is not budging. And, in fact, he himself has upped the rhetoric as well.


He's, today, essentially said that he could cut off gas supplies to the European Union. And, of course, Wolf, we know that Lukashenko's biggest backer is Russian President Vladimir Putin and Putin himself has flown two strategic nuclear capable bombers, heavy bombers over Belarusian territory and that's something that Alexander Lukashenko himself said that he approves of as well.

So, you can see there's this humanitarian element to this. The humanitarian disaster, but also a big conflict that is brewing here as well and it could very dangerous for this region, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, certainly could. Fred Pleitgen, be careful over there. We'll stay in touch.

And as this crisis in Belarus deepens and deepens, there's growing concern tonight that Vladimir Putin could be preparing once again to invade Ukraine.

Our Brian Todd has more.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The former KGB colonel in the Kremlin, tonight again menacing Ukraine, raising the hackles of U.S. officials about his intentions.

ANTONY BLINKEN (Secretary of State): We are concerned with the reports of the unusual Russian activity near Ukraine. We're looking at this very, very closely.

TODD: Exactly how many troops Vladimir Putin has amassed near Ukraine's border is unclear. U.S. and Ukrainian officials say the number of Russian units in the area has increased dramatically in recent weeks and it could be up to around 90,000.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the U.S. knows this playbook.

ANTONY BLINKEN: Our concern is that Russia may make the serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014.

TODD: That's when Putin, claiming he had been provoked, sent his forces to invade Ukraine and annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea. Putin in recent days indicating he won't give up Crimea anytime soon.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): They are with Russia forever.

TODD: With this latest move near Ukraine, how much is he testing President Biden?

HEATHER CONLEY, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Vladimir Putin is constantly testing the West, constantly testing the United States and Europe. He wants to see if there is resolve, if there's strength or there's weakness.

TODD: The latest concerns voiced U.S. officials come just days after CIA Director Bill Burns held an extraordinary phone conversation in Moscow with Putin and met with other top Russian officials, according to sources who spoke to CNN.

In those discussions, almost unheard of for a CIA director, Burns conveyed America's concerns about Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine. What would Putin's motives be for further invading Ukraine again?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), FORMER ARMY COMMANDING GENERAL, EUROPE AND SEVENTH ARMY: It's further disruption of the NATO alliance and the countries within Europe. Putin has an expression. He says he will insert the bayonet and continue to push until he meets steel. TODD: Despite the presence near Ukraine of Russian units who are

thousands of miles away from their headquarters and Russian special forces troops, according to people familiar with the intelligence, U.S. officials and outside experts say they don't see signs that Russia will invade Ukraine within days or weeks, but those sources say Putin could launch an invasion as soon as January. Despite President Biden's stern warnings to Putin over the Russians' recent aggressions on the ground, cyber and elsewhere, Putin could have an advantage over Biden.

CONLEY: We're constantly reacting to Vladimir Putin. He's not reacting to our agenda. He wants us to be uncomfortable, always reacting to him and offering him concessions.


TODD (on camera): But analysts point out Vladimir Putin has his own political risks. The Russian people are fed up with the pain of economic sanctions, burned out from Russia's involvement in recent conflicts, Wolf. If he invades Ukraine, they could push back on him.

BLITZER: It's a serious situation. All right. Brian, thank you very much.

Still ahead, President Biden's Veterans Day tribute to Americans who served in uniform and sacrificed for our country.



BLITZER: Finally on this Veterans Day, we honor all those who have served in the U.S. military. President Biden calls them the soul and the very spine of America. Here are some highlights of his visit to Arlington National Cemetery where he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on this, his first Veterans Day as president.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we pay homage to the unrelenting bravery and dedication that distinguishes all those who have earned the title of American veteran. It's an honor that not only a small percentage of Americans can claim and one that marks those who are able to claim it as brothers and sisters, it's a badge of courage that unites across all ages, regardless of background, because to be a veteran is to have endured and survived challenges most Americans will never know.

Our veterans represent the best of America. You are the very spine of America, not just the backbone, you're the spine of this country. And all of us, all of us, owe you.

We lay wreaths, we renew our oath and stand in solemn awe of such fidelity because for us to keep faith with American veterans, we must never forget exactly what was given us, what each of them is willing to put on the line for us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: On this day and every day, we say to America's veterans, thank you for your service. We are so grateful.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.