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One-Sixth Committee Preparing New Letter To Meadows And New Subpoenas; Biden Sells Infrastructure Win, Faces More Agenda Hurdles; Judge Expected To Ask Jurors If They Want To Keep Deliberating Tonight; Citing CNN's Exclusive Reporting, Nigerian Judicial Panel Condemns Toll Gate Shooting As "A Massacre"; Violence Erupts On Belarus-Poland Border; Inside Steve Bannon's History Of Defiance. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Will juries keep going into the night? We're going to have the latest on what's happening at the courthouse.

A damning new confirmation of atrocities in Nigeria following CNN's exclusive reporting on the brutal shooting of protesters by the military. A government-appointed panel is now calling it a massacre.

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.

We begin with a new flurry of activity by the January 6th select committee as it fights to get cooperation and answers from diehard Trump loyalists.

Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is putting it all together for us. So, Ryan, what are you learning? What's the latest?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this committee has already issued 35 subpoenas to people that are close to the former president, Donald Trump. Today, their committee chairman telling CNN that they're prepared to issue even more this week and they are also attempting to get Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, to comply with the subpoena request. The chairman saying he is signing a letter with the list of demands that they have for Meadows.


NOBLES (voice over): Tonight, the January 6th select committee is weighing its options trying to find a way to compel former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to come forward and share what he knows about the events leading up to the Capitol insurrection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've set the precedent for non-compliance.

NOBLES: The committee has been frustrated with his lack of cooperation. Last Friday, Meadows blew off a scheduled deposition, leading the committee chair, Bennie Thompson, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney to warn that the next steps may be referring him to the Justice Department for criminal contempt of Congress. Mr. Meadows' actions today choosing to defy the law will force the select committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena, the statement read.

But while the committee has made their threats and discussed their options during a meeting Tuesday morning, Thompson telling CNN today that they have not made a decision on the next steps with Meadows. Criminal contempt, however, is a step that they've already taken with Trump loyalist and podcast host Steve Bannon.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.

NOBLES: Bannon made his first court appearance Monday kept up his trademark defiant tone.

BANNON: We're taking down the Biden regime.

NOBLES: His new lawyer, David Schoen, is the same man that defended the former president at his second impeachment trial. He is arguing that Bannon did nothing wrong, that he was just following the advice on his attorney.

DAVID SCHOEN, ATTORNEY FOR BANNON: He acted on the advice of counsel. His counsel has been clear. He directed him not to appear and provide the documents because executive privilege had been invoked.

NOBLES: Select committee members aren't buying it and believe Bannon's legal troubles will send a message. To their other subpoena targets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody is above the law. The chairman has said that. The vice chair has said that time and time again. We're going to continue this pursuit of getting the truth. And stonewalling Congress is not an answer, and that has consequences.

NOBLES: Meanwhile, the Trump legal team continues to argue against the release of the former president's White House records to the committee. Today filing a legal brief in their appeal of a lower court decision, finding the material is not covered by executive privilege and the committee should have access to it. Trump's lawyers warning, the release of the documents has the potential of, quote, forever changing the dynamics between the political branches and arguing, in these hyper partisan times Congress will increasingly and inevitably use this new weapon to perpetually harass its political rival.


NOBLES (on camera): And there's another development tonight in another big controversy here on Capitol Hill. Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar set to be subject to a censure by his House colleagues tomorrow on the House floor. That censure will include removing him from a key committee that he serves on with Representative Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. Of course, Ocasio-Cortez was subject to a video that Gosar posted on his Twitter page that depicted Gosar actually killing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The question will be how many Republicans will vote for this censure. Many Republicans rallying behind Gosar, one Republican saying that she will vote yes, and that's Liz Cheney of Wyoming. In fact, she called out Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, saying that the fact that he's not come out more strongly against Gosar's actions are indefensible. Wolf?

BLITZER: Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill watching all of these developments, thank you.

And let's get some more on all the late breaking developments, our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is with us, CNN Senior Commentator John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio, is with us, and CNN's Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin with us. He's the author, by the way, of the book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Investigation of Donald Trump.

Jeffrey, the committee is sending Mark Meadows yet another letter, but how hard is it?


Realistically, how hard is it going to be for them to get the information they want from him?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's going to be difficult but it just got a bit easier because they now have new leverage. Now that the Justice Department agreed to indict Steve Bannon, this threat of an indictment is now real.

Now, Bannon obviously sees an environment as a marketing opportunity. He seems to be having the time of his life as a defendant but most people actually don't feel that way about being a criminal defendant. Mark Meadows lives more in the real world. And the idea of being a criminal defendant is probably a lot less appealing to Meadows than it is to Bannon.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you're totally right on that.

Gloria, the committee will soon be issuing yet more subpoenas. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a member of the committee, told me in the last hour they want information from people with personal knowledge of January 6th. But could lower profile witnesses yield more information than the high-profile battles, let's say, that are ongoing on with Meadows and Bannon?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they certainly could yield a lot of information, Wolf. I talked with a source who is familiar with the committee's thinking, and they want people, not just the Meadows and the Bannons who communicated directly with the president, but they're talking to people who are coming in over the transom who were present, say, for certain meetings but were standing in the back of the room, who heard things, who overheard things, who were not directly talking to the president, per se, but did hear things that he had to say and things that Bannon may have said and things that Meadows may have said.

So, I think this is very important to get not only the bright lights -- the bright shiny objects, but also the people whose names that you may not know but who were witness to certain things. And I think that's really important for the committee.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Governor Kasich, you're a former member of Congress yourself. So, what do you make of the Trump legal team argument just released that handing over his presidential records would give Congress too much power?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Wolf, what's been happening over a number of years now is powers have actually shifted to the executive branch. I think that's an absurd argument. The tragedy here is that this should have been a bipartisan investigation, House and Senate, to get to the bottom of one of the ugliest days in the history of the United States of America. But instead, it's broken down largely along partisan lines.

And now in order to -- here is the issue. Congress doesn't have the teeth. So, then they go to the Justice Department. The question is, are we now going to be in a situation where, if the Republicans win the House, they're going to be doing the same thing? I mean, is everything just caving in? I think Congress needs to think about the way in which they can have real teeth in these investigations, because if they keep relying on going to a grand jury, which is what they did in the case of Bannon, how do they ever get anything done?

So, there's a lot of questions and a lot of concerns that I have, and I know people watching have as well.

BLITZER: Yes. Jeffrey, I want to ask you about this House vote tomorrow to actually censure Republican Congressman Paul Gosar for that animated video he tweeted depicting him killing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. What does it say that it's up to Democrats to provide accountability here?

TOOBIN: Well, it's just part of the embrace of violence that has begun to pervade the Republican Party. And it is a very scary thing. There is actually some real consequences to this censure motion. The censure is meant to be embarrassing, but taking Gosar off a committee is actually very significant in terms of his work as a Congressman.

The day-to-day work of Congress is conducted in committees. If he can't serve on a major committee, that makes him very much a lesser figure in the House. So there's some teeth in this censure resolution, but perhaps the most significant part of it is that even though this is an acted out murder that he has taken part in, it's only the Democrats who seem upset about it.

BLITZER: And, Governor Kasich, you're a Republican, but the Republican -- the GOP is now turning a blind eye to the promotion of this violence by this congressman. But get this, the Wyoming Republican party actually voted to no longer recognize Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney as a member of the Republican Party. Does that make sense to you at all?

KASICH: Well, I don't think Liz Cheney cares. It's going to be interesting to see how her re-election goes. I'd personally fly out there to help her, whatever would help her.


But here is another interesting thing, I think, Wolf. I think the Republicans right now, when you look at the way they've stripped this -- they have not been willing to look at January 6th, when you take a look at the way they behave in terms of this Gosar, by not condemning him, I tell you, the Republicans are likely the people who aren't following this thing carefully. Because if the people actually understood the shenanigans that are going on there, the unwillingness to condemn somebody who puts something up there, a meme up there that shows him killing one of his colleagues, it's completely crazy.

And I'll tell you, the Republicans are lucky that the people don't watch this stuff as carefully as we do, because if they did, their ability to take over that House, in my opinion, would be in question. People don't support this kind of nonsense. They don't.

BORGER: Wolf, there are also Republicans who want to strip Republicans of their committee assignments who voted for the infrastructure bill in the House, a bill that is hugely popular with the American public. And McCarthy had to say to them, well, maybe not now, because McCarthy wants to be speaker of the House and he doesn't want this infighting to kind of break out in public.

But imagine that. There are Republicans who are saying strip them of their committees because they voted for a popular bill that Donald Trump opposes. And that is what this is all about. It is about not crossing Donald Trump. So Donald Trump doesn't like Liz Cheney, so they try and say to her, well, you're excommunicated from the Republican Party. That is absurd.

KASICH: The leaders better watch that with these people that they're picking on, the people that they're going after, they're going to create a rebel group that's going to fight them tooth and nail if they continue this nonsense.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very much, excellent conversation.

Just ahead, President Biden hits the road to sell Americans on the benefits of the new law, the new infrastructure law. But can he get his larger spending bill passed? I'll ask a key Biden ally about potential setbacks that are emerging right now.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: President Biden is on his way back to the White House after making a quick trip to New Hampshire to tout the new infrastructure bill that has just passed.

Let's talk about the hurdles he's still facing with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

In a new poll, ABC News/Washington Post poll, taken after the infrastructure bill passed the House and the Senate, 63 percent say President Biden hasn't accomplished very much or nothing at all in his presidency so far. So, what does the president need to do right now, Senator, to change that to prove this bill would really make a difference in people's lives?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, Wolf, what's going to happen in the months ahead is that people are going to begin to see and feel the very positive impact that this infrastructure bill will have on the American economy in every single state and community.

He was in New Hampshire today. But he and other leaders from the administration, like the secretary of transportation, the vice president and, of course, many senators will be fanning out to states across the country to make it clear and concrete exactly what the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill will mean for American families going forward.

I'm not surprised the numbers are still, frankly, negative because the pandemic continues, because there are concerns about the economy. But with the bill signing yesterday, President Biden has demonstrated that what he ran on, bringing people together to get big things done that will actually impact the lives of middle class Americans is well on its way to being true.

BLITZER: It was a very impressive bipartisan -- key word, bipartisan, infrastructure bill that became the law of the land when he signed it at the White House.

The big question now though, senator, is whether the president can get the larger spending bill passed, but Democrats are expecting the Congressional Budget Office, the score that's going to be released in the coming days to show this bill will actually add to the federal deficit. Will a bad CBO, Congressional Budget Office score, send negotiations back to square one?

COONS: They certainly won't send them back to square one. It may mean there needs to be some trimming or adjustments. But, Wolf, frankly, we have worked very hard on the Build Back Better agenda over the last couple of months, and we've come to a good place where this bill is going to tackle the costs that keep middle class families up at night, the cost of elder care, health care, day care. It will provide universal pre-K. It will have an impact on climate change. It will make a significant investment in the future of the American people, American workers, American jobs and America's economy. I frankly believe this will be the most significant bill of the Biden presidency, and I am optimistic we will get it through the Congress and to his desk before the end of this year.

BLITZER: It looks like it's going to pass the House. The key question is the Senate, 50/50, as you know, in the Senate. The Moderate Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, is again pointing to inflation here in the United States, saying he has a lot of concerns about the timeline of having this bill on the Senate floor before Christmas. Will negotiations slide into next year? And should they be considering the inflation, the impact of inflation that we're all seeing and feeling?

COONS: Wolf, we have to be mindful of the ways that rising costs impact people of all backgrounds and at all levels of our society and economy.


But as I just said, a core part of the Build Back Better agenda, as President Biden crafted it, was to impact the costs that working families worry about week in and week out, whether those are housing costs, health care costs or education costs. The Build Back Better bill, which at this point would be $1.75 trillion over a decade, will have a big impact on those costs.

And I'll remind you that one of the things that Senator Manchin secured in the negotiations here in the Senate was a commitment to raise more revenue than this bill would spend and to have some of that excess dedicated to deficit reduction. So, there is some running room for us to work with.

Let me mention one other big agenda item that we are taking up this week. That's the defense authorization bill. Senator Schumer has taken a bold step to make sure that a bipartisan bill that was passed here in the Senate in the summer is going to get attached to that bill and will be taken up by the House and sent to the president's desk. That's a bill that invests significantly in American innovation and manufacturing to help us be more competitive with China.

Frankly, Wolf, if President Biden gets those three bills signed into law, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the bipartisan bill investing in America to be more competitive with China and the Build Back Better agenda, that's a really strong profile of things that he will be able to point to as we move towards the 2022 midterm elections.

BLITZER: Yes. He's got to raise the debt ceiling by early December as well. He's got a lot going on.

COONS: We've got a lot going on here.

BLITZER: Senator Coons, I know it's your anniversary. Happy anniversary, thank you so much for joining us.

COONS: Thank you.

BLITZER: And to your wife as well.

Coming up, we're going to have more developments, including a live report on the status of deliberations in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, including a request jurors made to the judge.



BLITZER: We're closely following the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial on this, the first day of deliberations.

Let's go to CNN's Sara Sidner. She's on the ground for us in Kenosha, Wisconsin. So, Sara, what's happening with the jury as we speak right now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are waiting and expecting to hear from the judge in the next few minutes actually, Wolf. The judge said that he would collect in with this jury to see if they wanted to continue to deliberate this hour or if they wanted to go home. He said it is really up to them. He is letting them, as he said, run the show. They can decide to stay as late as they want or leave any time now. We are waiting to hear that.

But in the meantime they are still deliberating. And we have learned that they have asked a couple times for a couple different things. First, they said they wanted the first few pages of the jury instructions and then they asked for pages 7 through 36 which is the entire jury instructions, basically trying to get 11 copies of that, which they have. They want to really be able, I think, each one of them, to look at those instructions and compare the evidence that they have been hearing over these past couple weeks with what the jury instructions instruct them to do.

And so, clearly, they're being diligent about this, wanting to be able to see clearly what the law is and how to apply that law. They have listened to so much. I mean, hours of video, hours of testimony, more than 30 people testified, including remarkably the defendant, Mr. Rittenhouse. He took the stand and spent a day on the stand going through both the questions from his own attorney and, of course, the cross-examination from the prosecutor.

We also heard from the one person who survived being shot by Kyle Rittenhouse. And he made an impact, the defense using a lot of his testimony against him and saying, well, it proves that Kyle Rittenhouse did what he did, shot people in self-defense. This case then taken up in closing arguments and wrapped up by both the prosecutor and the defense. And now, of course, the jury has and they have had it for about seven hours now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by to see what the judge has to say. Sara, stay with us. I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst, criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson and Dave Aronberg, the state attorney of Palm Beach County, Florida.

Dave, this case now rests in the hands of the jury. Just how difficult is this decision before them?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: It is difficult, Wolf. And it wasn't made easier by the judge's jury instructions. They were very confusing. So, I'm not sure that the jury asked the judge for some clarification right away. It means they're doing their jobs.

There are also other difficult issues to tackle, like provocation. Was Rittenhouse the initial aggressor? And they have to show he was doing an illegal act, something unlawful to the aggressor. Well, when the court got rid of the charge of underage possession of an AR-15, then what is the illegal act? Well, it's, according to the prosecutors, when Rittenhouse raised the AR-15 not at Rosenbaum but at Ziminski, and then the two of them chased Rosenbaum afterwards.

So, it's going to be up to the jury to decipher these hazy videos to determine whether or not the defendant actually raised that AR-15 at these guys because provocation is the linchpin to the prosecutor's case.

BLITZER: Joey, does the inclusion of some lesser charges make the jury's job easier or harder?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it makes it harder, right?


And here is why, Wolf. When we talk about lesser offenses just briefly, as we look at the actual counts, that's what he's actually charged with. However, the jury may conclude, Wolf, that he's not guilty of these but he perhaps is guilty of something as we look at the lesser offenses. So, they may say, well, he's not guilty of that but we'll say that he's guilty of something else.

Now, this is risky also, because from a prosecutor's perspective, you get more bites at the apple, you get a conviction. But from a defense perspective, it's risky, because if they're not inclined to convict on a top count, they may be inclined to convict you on something else. And so these lesser-included defenses are a big deal.

Last point, Wolf, and that's this. I'm one that buys the notion that if the jury concludes that it was self-defense, that he acted in the manner in the way in which he did because he was in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, that his actions were proportionate to the threat posed and that he acted reasonably and they buy self- defense, I think then they have got a good shot at winning. In the event they're murky on that issue, then they'll go to the lesser includeds and make a determination as to whether he's guilty on one of them.

BLITZER: Dave, I'm just curious what you think. The trial obviously has gained enormous national attention, but the jury is not sequestered, not formally sequestered. Is that a mistake?

ARONBERG: No. Jurors hate being sequestered because they're away from their families, and you have to trust them when they say they're not going to look at the media. After all, we're trusting them that they can be impartial. It's such a high-profile case, that you know that many of them have seen stuff about this case in advance, but that doesn't exclude them. It's just can they be impartial. So, at some point, you have to trust jurors.

And also if you sequester them, that can also be bad for the defendant because that may seem, well, if I get the wrong verdict, then there's going to be violent or maybe someone will take action against me. So, as prosecutors, we don't expect there to be a jury sequestration. It's very rare. And I don't think it's going to matter. I'm trusting the jury to do the right thing in the end.

BLITZER: They jury -- the 12-member jury, Joey, consist of seven women, five men. If you're trying to predict what the verdict will be, does that breakdown give you at all -- and you're an experienced trial attorney -- any indication?

JACKSON: You know, it does not, and I say that, Wolf, because stereotypes are exactly what they are. And that's why we have jury selection. It gives you an opportunity to speak to jurors. Don't tell me about a stereotype about how you look, about where you live, about anything else. Tell me who you are, what you do, what you read, who your friends are, what are you about, can you be fair, have you heard about it? And I want to get a sense of who you are, not a sense that you're a man, you're a woman, you're from here, you're from there. It matters. But at the end of the day, what matters most is the individual. And that's why it gives no indication at all, Wolf, in my view.

BLITZER: Sara, you're there outside the courthouse. What's the scene where you are outside the courthouse?

SIDNER: Throughout the day and including up until now, this evening, there have been somewhere between 15 and 25 protesters who have come out, some who are rooting for Kyle Rittenhouse to be declared not guilty, others who think that he is guilty, so they have their opinions on the trial itself.

But the person that's been leading much of the protesting today has been Jacob Blake's uncle, who has been out here every single day. He is here because he says he's here to support the two people who were shot and killed and the third who was injured who were there in the name of Jacob Blake because of the police shooting here back in August.

BLITZER: All right, guys, everybody stand by. We'll see if the judge makes a statement. We'll, of course, monitor that.

There's more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a major FDA decision on booster shots for all American adults, 18 and older, could come as soon as this Friday. We have new information. Stay with us.



BLITZER: There's breaking pandemic news we're following tonight, word that the FDA is now planning to authorize Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for all U.S. adults, 18 and over, by Friday.

Let's dig deeper with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. She is the author of the very important book, Lifelines, A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health. Dr. Wen, thanks for joining us.

Is authorizing booster doses for all adults the right decision at this stage in the pandemic? DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. It is the right decision for individual health and for public health for the following reason. Right now, there is so much confusion about who should be getting booster doses. There are clinicians, patients who are unsure.

And for the FDA to say everybody, all adults should be getting a booster dose will be really huge to clarify that muddled messaging that never should have happened in the first place. Because at this point, we know that immunity wanes overtime, we also know that a third dose of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine will substantially increase immune protection again.

And so especially as we're coming into the winter, into a potential new winter surge, we really want to protect people from getting breakthrough infections, from spreading it to others, and I frankly, don't understand why we couldn't have said that at the very beginning, because, really, who wants to get a breakthrough infection and potentially have long-term consequences and be able to spread it to others?

BLITZER: On average, it's really sad, 1,200 Americans are still dying from the coronavirus each day, according to Johns Hopkins University, and cases are up 24 percent compared to last week alone. How concerning are these trends?

WEN: We're not going in the right direction. This is exactly where we did not want to be coming into this winter, but we do have tools at our disposal. We certainly should be, for example, making use of rapid tests before people are getting together to are the holidays. Getting a rapid test the day of will help reduce the number of people who are showing up potentially infectious and able to spread COVID-19 to others.


And again, booster doses, I think, will be very important. People who are gathering over the holidays should really plan on getting their boosters now so that they are protecting those around them too.

BLITZER: Even as cases climb, cities across the country, including right here in Washington, D.C., are starting to get rid of indoor mask mandates. Is that wise, especially, as you point out, we're heading into the winter months?

WEN: Well, the cases are going in the wrong direction. And we really should be following the science and following the evidence here. It does not make sense if you're in a local community with lower vaccination rates and there are climbing infection rates, why would that be the right time for us to be getting rid of indoor mask mandates?

There really is an intermediary step which I hope cities and counties consider, which is if you have settings where everyone is vaccinated, for example, a workplace where everybody is vaccinated, or a school even, where everybody is vaccinated, or a classroom, where everybody is vaccinated, maybe, say, for those settings, indoor mask mandates are not needed.

But in public settings that are indoors that are crowded with many people of unknown vaccination status, really, there should be mask mandates still in place to protect our unvaccinated kids to protect those who are particularly vulnerable.

BLITZER: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much for your expertise. We are grateful to you.

Coming up, CNN's exclusive reporting results in a startling admission of wrongdoing. A Nigerian judicial inquiry have just concluded its military is responsible for a massacre, repeatedly citing the results of an in-depth CNN investigation.



BLITZER: Tonight there is important new fallout from a bombshell CNN report. Our investigation uncovered evidence Nigeria's military fired into a crowd of people waiting at a toll gate in October of last year, killing and wounding several people.

Now in a highly unusual move, a judicial panel of inquiry in Nigeria just concluded a massacre did, indeed, occur. Its report cites CNN's findings dozens of times.

CNN's Nima Elbagir worked on the original CNN investigation for us. She's joining us live from London, right now. Nima, this is a damning report spurred in part by your reporting and your team's reporting.

Tell us more about the atrocities it found.

NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it comes after a year of denial, obfuscation, and the report has found a covert attempt at covering up by Nigerian authorities including accuse CNN of being fake news and threatening to sue and censor us.

Our investigation at the time found that not only the Nigerian military and police had used both live and blank ammunition, but intentionally fired at protesters. It's exactly what the report says. Citing our original reporting, it says not only did the Nigerian military shoot both blanks and live ammunition, but shot them with the intent to kill or maim.

And in a particularly heartbreaking piece of testimony, one of the survivors verified our finding that there had been a cleanup attempt at the scene, both bodies and bullets had been removed, Wolf. This woman spoke about an appalling situation where she was shot, presumed to be dead and put in the back of a van by military officers. She was able while in that van to have the presence of mind to count how many other bodies were being carried away. She said she counted 11 before she was able to escape.

What we heard from the panel inquiry will be incredibly good news for survivors. But what they're telling us, Wolf, that while this there is a sense they've been heard, but there is no sense of justice. For justice to happens, one survivor told us, there needs to be accountability. And they're worried that given how hard the Nigerian authorities fought to cover up our findings, that there won't be real justice as long as the Nigerian government is in charge of providing that, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, bottom line, will anybody be held accountable, Nima, for the brutal killings?

ELBAGIR: That is the key question. The recommendations on the part of the panel are very clear. They say those officers involved at the scene need to be sanctions, that there needs to be a human rights committee set up to look into violations such as these, but also other potential violations and there needs to be broad scale police reform.

As the survivors told us, Wolf, it is the same entity, the Nigerian government that is in charge of bringing in that reform. We, Wolf, are continuing to reach out to the Nigerian government to ask them for answers as to where they go to for now.

We're also looking at Secretary Blinken and the U.S. is a key donor and partner in the war against terror in West Africa with Nigeria, Wolf.

BLITZER: You and your team have been doing amazing reporting.

Nima, on the behalf of all of our viewers, thank you. Thank you so much, Nima Elbagir, reporting from London.

We're also following a dangerous situation right now along the border of Poland and Belarus where rock-throwing migrants clash with Polish border guards who responded with water cannons and teargas.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is on the Polish side of the border for us.

So, tell us what happened, Fred.



Yeah. Certainly was another escalation that happened earlier on today when all of the sudden, the Polish border force said migrants who, of course, stuck at that border and have been stuck at that border for over a week now, all of a sudden, arm themselves with rocks and started acting the Polish border forces who are at the checkpoint. That's actually a little -- less than a mile behind me. I am at the last checkpoint before that border crossing is there.

Now, the Poles say that they responded with water cannon. Only after they were hit by those rocks but they also say that some of those migrants were also armed with gas and stun grenades. The Poles are saying the only place those migrants could have gotten those weapons, those gas and stun grenades would have been from Belarusian forces. Of course, from a very long time, the Poles have been saying they

believe that Belarusian strongman, Alexander Lukashenko, is actually steering all the things that are happening at the Polish-Belarusian border. That he is artificially manufactured what they call a political crisis, and not a migration crisis.

The Poles also acknowledge that this was a very, very tough day for their troops who are obviously trying to keep that border sealed. They say that seven police officers were injured. Two of them were injured severely.

So, obviously, another big escalation of that situation. However, the poles are also saying that border is going to remain shut and certainly they have no objective to open that border anytime soon.

What you have, at the same time, Wolf, is you have a big international effort by the United States, by the E.U., to sanction and further sanction Alexander Lukashenko to try and make him back down and to make all this stop at that border. One of the things that could be a positive note right now, Wolf, is that the migrants, of course, who have been camped out there and -- and it's really freezing out here, I have to say.

So, it really is a dangerous situation, especially for the families and children who are still camped out there. At least, some of them have been able to go into a shelter for the night to have a roof over their heads. Possibly, some blankets but that situation, certainly, not resolved yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, it's heartbreaking. All right. Fred, be careful over there. We'll stay in touch with you as well.

Still ahead. We are going to take you inside Steve Bannon's history of defiance as the Trump loyalist fights contempt charges and the January 6th Select Committee.



BLITZER: Steve Bannon is due back in court here in Washington on Thursday, as he vows to go on offense against contempt of Congress charges. The Trump ally, staying true to form, with a show of defiance against the January 6th Select Committee, the Justice Department and Democrats.

Our Brian Todd is taking a closer look at Bannon's history of fighting the establishment.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as Steve Bannon deals with his new legal troubles tonight, we have new information on Bannon's ascent in Washington and what drives him to be such a beacon for the far right.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I am telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.

TODD (voice-over): This notorious 67-year-old political operative is now one of the most embattled figures in Washington.

BANNON: If the administrative state wants to take me on, bring it because we're here to fight this and we're going to go on offense.

TODD: As he vows to fight charges contempt of Congress for defying the House Select Committee investigating January 6 --

BANNON: We're taking down the Biden regime.

TODD: -- those who have covered Steve Bannon and worked with him are not surprised that he is in the middle of this maelstrom.

KURT BARDELLA, FORMER MEDIA CONSULTANT FOR BREITBART, WORKED WITH STEVE BANNON: This is somebody who lives by confrontation, who believes that sheer force of personality is enough to undo our structures.

TODD: Tearing down the structures of government. Stirring chaos in the political establishment are at the core of Steve Bannon's beliefs and his goals those who have known him say. Something, Bannon alluded to as he started working for the Trump White House in 2017.

BANNON: Deconstruction of the administrative state and if you --

TODD: At that time, Bannon's power and proximity to it had few rivals. Credited with being the architect of Donald Trump's successful presidential run in 2016, Bannon had gotten Trump's attention, partially, because of his willingness to upend the GOP.

BANNON: What we need to do is bitch slap the Republican Party.

TODD: In the early months of Trump's presidency, Bannon had a top- White House adviser role, leveraged his relationship with Trump to even get himself a seat on the National Security Council, was called by "The New York Times" the de facto president.

Bannon found himself booted out of his White House job just seven months into it some say for committing one of the cardinal sins against Donald Trump.

JOSHUA GREEN, AUTHOR, "DEVIL'S BARGAIN": Bannon's falling out with Trump came because Trump was jealous and resentful of the media coverage that Bannon was getting.

TODD: But Bannon eventually got back into Trump's good graces by using his podcast and other platforms to amplify false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

BANNON: Biden can only win by cheating. He can only win by stealing Trump's victory. We are not going to let it happen.

TODD: And according to the house committee, Bannon helped plan Trump's stop the steal rally on January 6th partly by riling up the base the day before.

BANNON: It is all converging and now we are on, as they say, the point of attack. Right? The point of attack.

TODD: All this, from a man who, according to one of his representatives, was born into a family of Democrats, got a master's at Georgetown University, an MBA from Harvard, and served as a U.S. naval officer.

What do you think it was that drove him so far right?

BARDELLA: Opportunity and access and power and money and fame.


TODD (on camera): Kurt Bardella believes there is a good chance that Steve Bannon will return to the epicenter of Donald Trump's political world, especially if Trump runs for president again in 2024. But Bardella also says there is just as good a chance the two of them will turn on each other, again.

Contacted by CNN, a representative for Steve Bannon did not comment for our story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent report, Brian. Thank you very, very much.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.