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The Situation Room
First U.S. Case Of Omicron Variant Confirmed In California; Teen Suspect In School Shooting Arraigned On Terror, Murder Charges; Report Says Trump Tested Positive Three Days Before Debate With Biden. Abortion Rights At Stake In Historic Supreme Court Arguments; House Progressives Demanding Boebert Lose Committee Assignments. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 01, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the omicron variant is detected in the United States for the first time in a patient who traveled from South Africa to California. Our medical experts are assessing the threat as federal health officials are doubling down on their push for vaccines and boosters and warning mornings not to panic.
There's also breaking news on that deadly school shooting in Michigan. The 15-year-old suspect was just arraigned on terrorism and first- degree murder charges. We have new information about his very, very concerning behavior and the horrific rampage that has now claimed a fourth student's life.
And fresh evidence of former President Trump's deception while he was in office. His former White House chief of staff reportedly reveals in a brand-new book that Trump tested positive for COVID-19 earlier than we knew, just three days before his first debate with Joe Biden.
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 omicron now variant, the omicron variant's spread to the United States.
Let's go immediately to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, what are you learning about the omicron patient in California?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, the California governor says this person started feeling mild symptoms on November 25th, three days later they took a COVID test and the next day got a positive result. After that, it only took 30 hours for the scientists at the University of California in San Francisco to figure out it was omicron.
COLLINS (voice over): It's what scientists were bracing for.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We knew that it was just a matter of time.
COLLINS: The omicron variant now in the United States.
FAUCI: This is the first confirmed case of COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant detected in the United States.
COLLINS: A fully vaccinated person who recently returned from South Africa to San Francisco, the first to test positive for the new variant about which little is known.
Had they had a booster shot yet?
FAUCI: To my knowledge, no, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: This person returned to the United States on November 22nd, tested positive a week later and is now isolating as close contacts are being traced and tested.
FAUCI: All close contacts thus far have tested negative.
COLLINS: The news coming as the CDC prepares to tighten testing restrictions on all travelers entering the United States, shortening the time frame for a negative test from 72 hours to 24.
FAUCI: This person, I mean, did what we hope other people would do. They got off and as soon as they became symptomatic they went and got tested. And it was positive.
COLLINS; A mandatory quarantine not currently under consideration as Dr. Fauci is calling on the 100 million eligible Americans who have yet to get boosted to do so.
FAUCI: If you look at the peak following the third shot boost, it goes way up here.
COLLINS: Fauci warning not to wait for an omicron tailored booster shot.
FAUCI: The mistake people would make is to say, let me wait and see if we get one.
COLLINS: More than 20 countries have now detected the variant in their nations, raising questions about the value of travel bans.
FAUCI: No one feels, I certainly don't that a travel ban is going to prevent people who are infected from coming to the United States. But we needed to buy some time.
COLLINS: Fauci offering this advice for Americans hoping to attend holiday parties.
FAUCI: Indoor type settings with family that you know is vaccinated, people that you know, you can feel safe with not wearing a mask, but when you are in a public, congregate setting in which you do not know the status of the vaccination of the people involved, it is very prudent to wear a mask. COLLINS: Tomorrow, President Biden is set to deliver a comprehensive speech laying out his plan for combating COVID in the coming months.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We'll fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion.
COLLINS (on camera): Wolf, another change we're seeing tonight in light of this new omicron variant now here in the United States is the CDC is requiring airlines to get contact information from passengers, then turn that information over to the CDC who then in turn gives it to public and these local health departments throughout states in case they need that information for contact tracing and testing, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very important information indeed. Kaitlan, thank you very much, Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
Let's bring in our COVID experts. Joining us now, CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's the author of the new book entitled World War C, Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One, very important book. Also with us, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
Sanjay, we knew this was coming, but now that the CDC has confirmed the first case of the omicron variant here in the United States, how do you see this playing out? Could this become the dominant variant here?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think we know yet, Wolf. I've been talking to lots of folks about this.
I mean, there's a couple of critical questions that need to be answered. Is this more transmissible? Does it spread more easily than the delta variant? And does it escape some of the protection from vaccines.
So far, it looks like the vaccines are holding up pretty well. But when you look at South Africa and the trajectory of what's happened over there over these different phases, that middle peak there, beta, that became the dominant strain in South Africa in October and going into March, but it did not become the dominant strain here. So, that's a data point.
Again, so we still don't know but if you look you look at the far right of the screen when omicron began to increase in numbers in South Africa, there wasn't a lot that it was competing with here in the United States and many parts around the world. Delta is still circulating quite robustly. So, it would have to compete against delta and we don't know how it would do there yet.
BLITZER: You know, Dr. Jha, the Dr. Fauci also says Americans should not wait for variant-specific boosters. Why is that? DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Wolf. Dr. Fauci is totally right on this, and there's a couple of reasons. One is the boosters that we have right now, when you get that booster shot, gives you very, very high levels of antibody protection. And even if you have some amount of immune evasion from this variant, those high, high levels of antibodies are still going to offer a very good degree of protection. We don't know how much but it should be pretty high if you're boosted.
I think leaving yourself vulnerable for many, many months waiting to see if we need a new variant-specific booster does not make a lot of sense to me. It's unnecessary, it's risky and probably not all that helpful. So, I am encouraging everybody -- I'm boosted -- encouraging everybody to get a boosted if you're six months out from your second shot.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a good advice. You know Sanjay, top health officials both in South Africa and Israel for that matter say it appears current vaccines are effective against this new omicron variant. What exactly are you learning? When can we expect to know with certainty?
GUPTA: Well, it can still take a couple of weeks. So, we'll probably know more about how -- what kind of severity of illness this is causing earlier than just how effective the vaccines are. But the early signals are good, as you mentioned.
If you look at some of the data from South Africa, the majority of people who are getting sick are people who are unvaccinated. So, that's an indication the vaccines may be holding up and you heard similar sort of things out of Israel.
Hospital rates are going up in Gauteng Province in South Africa, where Johannesburg is located. That is maybe not entirely surprising, but keep in mind it is late spring there so you're not seeing as much respiratory pathogen spread typically. So, hospitalizations typically don't go up. But these are still small numbers compared to hospitalizations during the rest of the pandemic.
As cases goes up, we know hospitalizations go up. But it will be a question of what proportion of the people who are actually getting infected are actually getting severely ill as well.
BLITZER: You know, Dr. Jha, we now know that the individual in California who tested positive for this new omicron variant, the first official confirmed case here in the United States, that this individual was fully vaccinated but not boosted and now reportedly has mild symptoms and those symptoms are improving. Just one example, but what does this information tell you?
JHA: Yes, it's reassuring, right, that, I mean obviously, it's just anecdote. It's one person doesn't give us a lot of information. But it's good to see that this vaccinated person is not having severe symptoms. It does to a very small degree tell us if maybe vaccines do continue to protect against severe illness. I suspect they will. We don't know for sure. But we're going to have to track this as more people come down with omicron variant-specific COVID, we're going to have to get a much broader picture into how people are dealing with this infection.
Dr. Ashish Jha and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, guys, thank you very, very much. We're staying on top of this story.
An important note to our viewers as well, be sure to join Sanjay and Anderson Cooper for a CNN global town hall on coronavirus and the omicron threat. Dr. Anthony Fauci is the special guest. That's later tonight, 9:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.
And just ahead, the new revelation about a positive COVID test that former President Trump apparently kept secret days before he debated Joe Biden, and later, the former president was hospitalized within a few days.
And we're also following breaking news on the Michigan school shooting suspect now charged with first-degree murder and terrorism. The prosecutor says his parents may be charged as well.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: There's a new twist tonight in former President Trump's legacy of mishandling the pandemic and spreading false information. He reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 just three days before his first debate with now President Joe Biden.
Our Brian Todd is working this story for us. Brian, Trump came in contact with a lot of people around this time and we didn't know that he had earlier, just within a few days, tested positive.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. He did, and it was a very, very busy time. Trump came into contact with many people at the time. Dr. Anthony Fauci said a short time ago he was not aware of this positive test that Trump had at the time. It seems the White House did not want that information to be made public.
TODD (voice over): At the first presidential debate last year, then- President Trump made fun of Joe Biden for wearing a mask.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He can be speaking 200 feet away from him. He shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen.
TODD: But tonight, new reporting suggests that while Trump was trash talking, he was also behaving recklessly. According to a new book by Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, excerpts from which are reported by The Guardian Newspaper, Trump tested positive for COVID-19 just three days before that debate.
Meadows claims Trump tested positive using a test done with an old model kit, then tested negative using a test with the Binax system, an antigen test which the FDA says is not always reliable. Meadows wrote that Trump took the negative test as, quote, full permission to press on as if nothing happened. The positive test was never revealed at the time.
DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BROWN UNIVERSITY: This was an incredibly reckless thing to do. It put not only Candidate Biden but also the reporters, the producers of the debate and everyone else who was close contact with President Trump over that time period at tremendous risk.
TODD: But that wasn't the only event where Trump might have put others at risk. According to The Guardian's reporting of Meadows' book, Trump received the positive test on September 26th, 2020, the same day he hosted a White House ceremony and rose garden event for Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Medical experts later called the rose garden event a super spreader with at least 12 people there testing positive. Washington Post Reporter, Seung Min Kim was also there.
SEUNG MIN KIM, WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: But we were seeing a lot of, you know, activity, no social distancing, a lot of hugging, kissing, no masks. And they weren't willing to tell the public until it was kind of forced out by reporters.
TODD: During that period, after the first positive test on September 26th and before the debate on the 29th, Trump held other events with a lot of people, including a White House reception for gold star families, after which he talked about how dangerously they behaved.
TRUMP: They come within an inch of my face sometimes. They want to hug me and they want to kiss me, and they do. And, frankly, I am not telling them to back up. I'm not doing it. But I did say it's like -- you know, it's obviously dangerous. It's a dangerous thing, I guess, if you go by the COVID thing.
TODD: Trump received another test that was positive on October 1st, 2020, two days after the debate. He finally announced he was positive the next day and was hospitalized that night.
TODD (on camera): Former President Trump has responded to this new reporting with a statement saying, quote, the story of me having COVID prior to or during the first debate is fake news. In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID prior to the debate, end quote. CNN has reached out but has not been able to get comment from Mark Meadows and then White House Physician Dr. Sean Conley. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd reporting, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on this. Joining us now, our CNN Chief Domestic Correspondent Jim Acosta, CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, she's the Washington Correspondent for The New York Times, and Michael Shear, the New York Times White House Correspondent.
You know, all three of now covered the former president as this was unfolding. Jim, let me start with you. What do you make of these new revelations?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you from talking to former senior White House officials, I mean, there are a number of them who were disgusted by this. That was the word used by one senior White House official I spoke with earlier today.
But, Wolf, I mean Brian Todd laid it out perfectly. I spoke with a Trump adviser earlier this evening who confirmed what is in The Guardian book -- excuse me, what's in Mark Meadows' book as reported by The Guardian, that initially Trump tested positive but that they were hanging their hats on this negative test that came after the positive test.
But, Wolf, it just goes back to what we all saw, you know, in real time throughout Trump's handling of the coronavirus, from when he was downplaying testing to telling people that they can inject themselves with disinfectants to saying it was a miracle it would all go away. He was essentially patient zero in our disinformation pandemic, and as it turns out, may have been patient zero in an outbreak at the White House.
BLITZER: Maggie, what was your initial reaction to this news that was reported today that the former president had, in fact, tested positive for coronavirus, disregarded it, potentially endangering a lot of folks?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Frustration that I couldn't get my tip that he had had a positive result before the debate confirmed when I was trying to report this at the time, and then my next reaction was, you don't say. I mean, it was very clear that it happened. I was frankly stunned that Mark Meadows put this in a book and then seemed surprised or at least a bunch of folks supporting him seemed surprised that people didn't take the, but he had a negative result too as some mitigating factors.
Those tests are really imperfect. We don't know specifically what test he was getting on the first one, anyway. They claim there was a Binax test for are the second one. We don't know whether they tried to use an actual PCR test, which is, you know, more productive at the result, but still there are false negatives and false positives with these tests, and it was very obvious something was going on with Trump during the debate just looking at him.
And so in his statement, I should say, the fake news statement that he put out about Meadows' book didn't say that he didn't get a positive result. It just said that there is one that said he had a negative test.
So, it's a reminder, Wolf, of the fact that this White House treated COVID as if it was something they could wish away, as if it was something Trump didn't want to deal with, and as long as he was safe, everything was fine. So, many people got sick after that, that whole Amy Coney Barrett press event that Trump was inviting people into.
And then one other point that I just want to make in terms of a reaction, Trump tried to essentially blame one of his aides, Hope Hicks, for getting him sick when he gave his first interview after we learned for certain that he was sick on October 1st, when it was likely then October 2nd it was confirmed. Clearly, based on the sequence of events, he was under the weather before that and there are all these other people who caught it after him.
So, it's shocking. I mean, it is a tremendous disregard for other people's safety.
BLITZER: Yes. And as you correctly point out, you did have a tip that he had tested positive. You tried to get it confirmed but they weren't confirming it, but you knew that.
You know, Michael, you say this news actually does confirm your suspicion that you contracted COVID-19 from Trump after you flew on Air Force One with him. Tell us more about your contact with the then- president at that time and why you grew so suspicious.
MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. Look, I can't say for 100 percent certain that I got it from him, but, frankly, the only -- the suspicion that I've had for a long time is that I got it when I flew on Air Force One. It was the evening after the Amy Coney Barrett event in the rose garden, which, of course, later, as we've reported, became a super spreader event.
The president left that evening for a rally in Pennsylvania. I was on Air Force One with him. And after the rally, on the way back to the White House, he came back to the back of the plane and spent about ten minutes with those of us, the reporters in the very small cabin at the back of Air Force One, wasn't wearing a mask. The rest of the reporters were, but the president wasn't.
And so, you know, I always sort of suspected that I must have gotten sick, you know, on that flight. But, of course, when I woke up this morning and saw the news that he actually had tested positive just before getting on the plane, I mean, again, I can't say for certain but that certainly seems to confirm that suspicion.
BLITZER: Yes, and that timeline, let's put it back up on the screen. He did test positive on Friday, September 25th. Then tested negative, but only a few days later right after the debate basically by October 1st. October 2nd, he was already hospitalized at the Walter Reed Medical Center. And he was very, very sick, had to take that Regeneron monoclonal antibody cocktail that helped save his life presumably. And so for days, he probably had it, although he wasn't acknowledging it. And what is unclear to me, why he wasn't getting really tested with an accurate PCR test.
Jim, you were there. You were covering all of that.
Go ahead. Make your point. SHEAR: Well, I was just going to say, Wolf, that Maggie and Jim will remember. We all sort of suspected that it wasn't likely that he had just tested positive the day before he had to be shipped off to the hospital so sick. I mean, that's not the way COVID works. You get -- you know, you get infected and then at least at that time it took several days before you really got that sick. So this really did sort of, you know, kind of underscore what we all knew, which was they just weren't taking any of this seriously.
He got the test. As you say, Wolf, he walked around kind of, you know, regardless of the impact on other people and I think that's -- we all reported that at the time, the sort of indifference that they had to all the restrictions but this sort of brought it into relief.
BLITZER: Yes. Go ahead, Jim.
ACOSTA: I just want to going to say Wolf, I mean one reason why I think you can put some stock in what Mark Meadows is saying here, maybe not with a lot of other things that he says, but what he's saying here is that remember, when Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, had that press conference outside of Walter Reed and downplayed Trump's illness from the coronavirus, it was Mark Meadows who tried to go around the White House physician and tell the press that, no, Trump was actually much worse condition than what was being disclosed to the public.
The other thing I would say just very quickly, Wolf, is that the former president of the United States endangered the life of the man who was the president of the United States right now. To go into a presidential debate, Wolf, and you've covered so many of these over the years, sick with a virus that could kill people, it is just the height of recklessness.
And Donald Trump should be held accountable for that, quite honestly. To me it's just shocking that Mark Meadows and others inside his inner circle would have kept that secret for so long.
BLITZER: Yes. And Maggie, he was tested just before the debate but apparently got there late so they said, you know what, forget about it.
That was pretty awkward, wasn't it?
HABERMAN: It was awkward and I think that Jim is exactly right. I think that the then president put the man who is now president in danger. He also put a lot of staff in danger, a lot of people in the crowd in danger. But certainly, you know, Biden was at a heightened risk for COVID. You know, his staff had taken great protections to try to keep him from getting it throughout the course of the campaign and that Trump's essential position on COVID over and over and over, Wolf, was as long as I'm fine and people are getting tested around me, the real concern is whether I have it. It was never what he could be giving to other people. There was just a bizarre disconnect as to how virus transmission works, as if it only -- it was only on door doorknobs and glasses on restaurants, it wasn't airborne, when he knew it was airborne.
So, it is just all, it is a stunning admission and it is so strangely cavalier to do in a book, but that's a whole other thing.
BLITZER: Yes, guys, really, really significant. Thank you so much to all three of you. Thanks for your excellent reporting as well.
There's more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. A high school sophomore now charged with murder and terrorism in the Michigan school shooting. Tonight, another student, another student victim has died.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the 15-year-old suspect in the deadly Michigan high school shooting has now been charged as an adult with first-degree murder and terrorism.
CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has chilling new details of the attack.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, do you understand all the charges against you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I do.
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, an arraignment for the suspect in Tuesday's school shooting in Michigan. 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley appeared virtually in court while both of his parents watched the proceedings via video as the charges were listed and the victims were named.
LIEUTENANT TIM WILLIS, OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Victims identified were 16-year-old male who was deceased, a 14-year-old female who was deceased, a 17-year-old female who was deceased, a 17- year-old male who later was deceased.
BROADDUS: Police saying the suspect talked about shooting and killing students in videos recorded the night before the shootings and wrote in a journal about shooting students.
MARC KEAST, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE: He methodically and deliberately walked down the hallway aiming the firearm at students and firing. Right outside the bathroom, he began firing, judge. This continued on for four or approximately five minutes. The defendant went to another bathroom. As deputies arrived, he set the firearm down and he surrendered.
BROADDUS: Today, the prosecutor included one charge of terrorism causing death among the charges filed and announced he will be charged as an adult.
KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTRY PROSECUTOR: We have charged four counts of first-degree murder, which requires premeditation. And I am absolutely sure after reviewing the evidence that it isn't even a close call. It was absolutely premeditated.
BROADDUS: The suspect's attorney asked the court to enter a not guilty plea on his behalf. And prosecutors say they may charge the parents as well. The gun allegedly used was purchased by the father just days before the incident.
WILLIS: There was a weapon recovered from Ethan. It was a nine millimeter Sig Sauer automatic handgun.
BROADDUS: CNN has reached out to prosecutors for details on the evidence used to support charging the suspect's parents. Also new tonight, new information about the suspect's behavior prior to the shootings.
SHIRIFF MICHAEL BOUCHARD, OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN: The schools did have contact with the student the day before and the day of the shooting for behavior in the classroom that they felt was concerning.
BROADDUS: The parents were brought in the morning of the shooting but the suspect returned to the school after the meeting. Police were not notified.
BOUCHARD: Prior to those two meetings, there was no contact and nothing in his file by either concerning behavior or discipline.
BROADDUS: When police took him into custody, the suspect still had 18 rounds of ammunition. The Oxford, Michigan, school student shot 11 people, killing four, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, 16-year-old Tate Myre and 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana. Justin Shilling, just 17 years old, died earlier today.
BROADDUS (on camera): And, Wolf, when that news was revealed, we were with two of Justin's friends. At the time, they were telling us about their friend, Tate, when they learned about Justin's death. Tonight, you can feel the tremendous amount of grief. Wolf?
BLITZER: So, so, so awful. Adrienne, thank you for that report, Adrienne Broaddus on the scene for us.
Let's get more on this. Joining us is now CNN Counterterrorism Analyst Philip Mudd and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates.
Laura, the suspected shooter, as we heard, is being charged as an adult even though he's only 15 with terrorism and murder. Can you walk us through how the prosecutor landed on these charges and just how serious they are?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they are very serious charges. Although he is only 15, Michigan is entitled to be able to bring charges for somebody, depending upon the nature of the violent behavior, as an adult. And, of course, the penalties here including first-degree murder, premeditated murder, include a minimum of 25 years but, of course, it also includes oftentimes life without the possibility of parole as a mandatory sentence. And so this is a very serious crime.
But the crime of terrorism is perhaps extraordinarily rare for a school shooting case. And just saying that statement, Wolf, makes my stomach turn given just how frequently we have school shootings, that there are charges that correspondent with that.
But the act of terrorism in Michigan is somebody who is trying to -- committing a felony, somebody who tries to intimidate a community or somehow try to induce the government to do some sort of action or be intimidated in some way. They are charging right now the community, being the actual high school itself, and an act of intimidation through violence and terroristic behavior.
So, this is honestly a very rare charge to have, but the elements, if the prosecutor is correct, can be proven to suggest, obviously, a felony, the severity of the crime and an attempt to intimidate. But the most concerning aspect of this is the premeditation, the idea of having, she said, a mountain of evidence. This was not impulsive behavior. I'm curious to see that mountain of evidence, including social media and the like, to show that he actually planned this.
BLITZER: Yes, because we are, Phil, we're learning that there were these two videos have been recovered from the suspect's cell phone in which he actually talked about shooting and killing students. The suspect and his parents also had a meeting at the school, as we heard, to discuss concerning behavior before this shooting. Should authorities have acted on these warning signs?
PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, that's not the question I would ask. It's an appropriate question, Wolf. My answer is, no. But you're not talking just about whether they should have acted. You're talking about a timeframe. And that timeframe includes the acquisition of the weapon, that's four days before, and evidently the conversations with the family and what the child posted, and you're talking about, as far as I can tell, within 24 to 36 hours?
Look, you're talking about 220 million-plus people in this country on Facebook, 70 million-plus people on Twitter. The question is not about social media. They can't be looking at billions of postings and determining what's a violent rap video and what's a kid who is determined to do something in a high school. The feds can't be doing that unless they are spying on every American. Even if they wanted to, they couldn't.
The question here, Wolf, has to do with the parents. The parents have a responsibility to say, if you knew the child was troubled, why did you bring the weapon into the household and why didn't you secure it? This is not about the feds. It's not about Silicon Valley. It's about the mom and dad, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, you are a terrorism expert, Phil. What do you make of the terrorism charge? MUDD: At a federal level, this is not a terrorism case. Terrorism has three components, a violent attack. We have that. An attack against noncombatants, that is nonmilitary. We have that. Here's the dimension we don't have, and that is an attack for political purposes. This isn't a political attack, but to Laura's point, it's an attack that intimidates a community. That's the question we have here.
BLITZER: Yes. The community clearly was terrorized by this.
You know, Laura, we're also learning that the prosecutor's considering charges against both of the suspect's parents. How much culpability could these parents actually have here. And I do want to note that CNN has pressed the prosecutor for more information. We've attempted to reach out to the parents, haven't been successful yet.
COATES: Well, I would expect them both instances not to provide information until they know fully that the parents were involved, if they were involved. If they were involved in the planning, if they somehow knew this was going to happen and did not act to stop it, if they provided a weapon and the mechanism for the death to occur, if they did not properly secure a weapon as was required under the law, they would be culpable in all those capacities.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very much. We'll stay on top of this horrific, horrific story. Our deepest, deepest condolences to the families.
Just ahead, a vote soon that could lead to criminal contempt charges against a former U.S. Justice Department official who actually pushed election fraud lies.
BLITZER: We're standing by right now for a key vote by the House committee investigating the January 6th insurrection.
CNN Law Enforcement Correspondent Whitney Wild is following the story for us. So, Whitney, what's the latest?
WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's going to happen in the next few minutes is that this vote for referring Jeffrey Clark, a top department official, at very critical moments leading up to the January 6th riot. This is a man that the House select committee thinks played a key role in attempting to use the DOJ authorities to overturn the results of the 2020 election. They are now trying to refer him for criminal contempt. That's going through the committee tonight. It will probably hit the House floor tomorrow and then go on to the Department of Justice, his old agency.
And now, in light of all of this, we have learned that Jeffrey Clark's lawyer sent a letter to the committee saying, in effect, he wants a do-over, that he wants to now plead the Fifth, something he could have done when he went in for his initial interview, in which he basically refused to answer any questions which is why they're trying to move forward with this criminal contempt charge.
This action is sending a ripple through the community of people of witnesses that the committee wants to talk to, Wolf, because they want to show people that they really do have the authority to hold people in criminal contempt, certainly weighing on people like Mark Meadows, who now say that they're going to cooperate.
Here's what he told a British news agency earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MEADOWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: It would set a dangerous precedent if all of a sudden you have a president who speaks to his senior aides, myself included, that that subject to a partisan inquiry long after you're out of office. So, it weighs heavy on everybody. I can tell you, I am going to be honoring his executive privilege.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILD: He's trying to use the same argument that Jeffrey Clark did, which is that these communications with then-President Trump are protected under executive privilege, Wolf. So, we'll see how far that goes.
But what is clear from the Jeffrey Clark move is that they are more closely defining what they view as cooperation.
You can't just go into the committee and say no comment for 90 minutes and think you're going to be off the hook. They're not standing for that. Perhaps, Mark Meadows will have a different experience but this is certainly impactful.
BLITZER: We will certainly watch it.
Whitney, thanks for the excellent reporting. Whitney Wild reporting for us.
Coming up, abortion rights at risk right now. We're going to take you inside a very dramatic day at the United States Supreme Court and what it could mean for Roe versus Wade.
BLITZER: Tonight, the future of abortion rights is on the line in the U.S. Supreme Court after the justices heard a major case challenging Roe versus Wade.
CNN senior legal affairs correspondent, Paula Reid, has the latest.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Today, the Supreme Court took up its biggest abortion case in a generation. Hundreds on both sides of the emotional debate gathered outside the high court, as the justices inside for two hours of dramatic arguments concerning a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. The law is a direct challenge to abortion lights established by the landmark Roe v. Wade in 1973 and reaffirmed by Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992.
Mississippi's Solicitor General Scott Stewart took aim at those precedence in his opening.
SCOTT STEWART, MISSISSIPPI SOLICITOR GENERAL: Roe versus Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey haunt our country. They have no basis in the Constitution. They have no home in our history or traditions. They damaged the democratic process. They poison the law.
REID: Justice Sotomayor, a consistent supporter of abortion rights, grilled Stewart.
JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I -- I don't see how it is possible.
REID: While Chief Justice Roberts appeared to be looking for a middle ground to allow states to ban abortion earlier than 23 to 24 weeks when a fetus is considered viable.
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: But if it really is an issue about choice, why is 15 weeks not enough time?
REID: Justice Alito seemed to want to go further.
JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The fetus has an interest in having a life. And that doesn't change, does it, from the point before viability to the point after viability?
REID: U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar who argued the case on behalf of the federal government warned about the dire consequences of overturning Roe.
ELIZABETH PRELOGAR, U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Women who are unable to travel hundreds of miles to gain access to legal abortion will be required to continue with their pregnancies, and give birth with profound effects on their bodies, their health, and the course of their lives.
REID: The court's 6-3 conservative majority appeared poised to uphold the Mississippi law, but it was less clear if there was a majority to end the federal right to abortion. A key vote Justice Kavanaugh appeared skeptical that the interests of pregnant women and fetuses can both be accommodated.
JUSTICE BRETT KAVANAUGH, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The reason this issue is hard is that you can't accommodate both interests. You have to pick. That's the fundamental problem.
REID (on camera): We don't expect an opinion on this case until June or early July when major rulings are released. The justices also recently held arguments on a Texas abortion law prohibiting most abortions in that state. But they have yet to issue an opinion on that case either. So, Wolf, we may have to wait until early summer to get answers on this critical issue.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Critically important.
Thank you very, very much, Paula Reid, with that.
Coming up, House progressives calling for far right Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert to be punished for anti-Muslim remarks.
BLITZER: House progressives are calling for far-right Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert to be held accountable for anti-Muslim remarks she made about Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar.
CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox is joining us right now.
So, Lauren, what are they demanding?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, progressives circulating a letter right now that has not been publicly released, Wolf, but we are told from sources familiar with that letter that they are seeking to ask leadership to take some form of punishment against Congresswoman Boebert for the comments that she has made repeatedly comparing one of her colleagues, Representative Ilhan Omar, to a terrorist. And the concerns for members of the Democratic Party and especially the progressive caucus are that these threats are doing more than just damaging the tone and tenor of discussion up here on Capitol Hill.
But it is really impacting potentially the livelihood and the safety of members of Congress. Ilhan Omar played a voicemail last night during a press conference, in which someone basically said they would like to kill her. Here is what that voicemail said.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't worry, there's plenty that would love the opportunity to take you off the face of the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) earth. Come get it (EXPLETIVE DELETED), you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Muslim (EXPLETIVE DELETED) jihadist.
We know what you are. You're a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) traitor. You will not live much longer (EXPLETIVE DELETED), I can almost guarantee you that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
FOX: And leadership has not made a formal decision about what actions they are going to take, Wolf. But in a private caucus meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear she does not stand for members of her caucus or anyone in the House of Representatives to be threatened because of their religious views or their religion. But she did say that they have to really carefully balance the actions that they take, and potentially giving Republicans more fuel for fundraising that they are doing off of these threats that they're making against Democratic members.
So, a very difficult position for leadership, as well because Republican leaders aren't taking action of their own members who are making these comments -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Disgusting comments could have really horrible, horrible consequences endangering members of the United States House of Representatives.
Lauren Fox, thank you very much for that report.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.