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The Situation Room

President Biden And President Vladimir Putin To Hold High- Stakes Video Call; China To Retaliate Over Diplomatic Boycott By The U.S.; Hospitalizations, Deaths And New Cases Trending Upwards In The U.S.; Texas Sued Over Redistricting Maps; GOP Rep. Devin Nunes To Retire, Join Trump Media Group; Prosecutor: School Officials Had Legal Grounds To Search Shooting Suspect's Backpack And Locker But Did Not; Sheriff: MI Shooting Suspect And Parents Isolated In The Same Facility And Under Suicide Watch; Climate Change Triggers Biblical Flooding In South Sudan, Displacing Hundreds Of Thousands. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 06, 2021 - 17:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And this afternoon we learned that Dole will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda on Thursday. Right now, flags are flying at half-staff in honor of Dole following an order from President Biden. I'm Dana Bash in for Jake Tapper. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, President Biden is tested by two of his most powerful foreign adversaries. We're getting new information about his high-stakes video call with Vladimir Putin tomorrow and the red lines that are being drawn. This as China is threatening to retaliate for a new U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

Also tonight, new COVID-19 requirements as U.S. cases, deaths and hospitalizations are all on the rise. Will the upward trend be impacted by stricter travel rules that are now taking effect and an expansion of New York City's vaccine mandate?

And the Trump-fueled split in the Republican Party is worsening in Georgia. An ousted U.S. senator and ally of the former president is now running against the top Trump target, the state's GOP governor.

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

Let's go straight to the White House and our chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny who is joining us right now. Jeff, President Biden is facing very significant new tests with both Russia and China. And there are now new developments unfolding on both fronts. Update our viewers.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the White House is announcing a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, not for athletes but for U.S. Diplomats. They are simply not sending a delegation to Beijing next year, calling out human rights abuses. Now, this is coming on the eve of a critical phone call between

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. They are searching for a diplomatic solution to the rising tensions on the Ukraine border, but they're also talking about new tough economic sanctions.


ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, President Biden preparing for critical talks Tuesday with Vladimir Putin as the U.S. weighs new sanctions in hopes of deterring Russia from invading Ukraine. The president speaking today with European allies to present a united front on imposing those economic sanctions against Russia as new U.S. intelligence obtained by CNN estimates Moscow could invade Ukraine as soon as next month.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is the moment for Russia to pull back their military buildup at the border. That diplomacy is the right path forward here.

ZELENY (voice-over): The Russian president is expected to issue an ultimatum of his own. A written guarantee from Biden to oppose NATO and weapon systems from the military alliance from expanding into Ukraine. Putin has called this a red line and an urgent threat to Russian sovereignty.

The virtual meeting between Biden and Putin comes at a low point in relations between the two countries. It's their first conversation since July, following their face-to-face June summit in Geneva.


ZELENY (voice-over): Since then, tensions have soared. Based on these images obtained by CNN, new U.S. intelligence reports now estimate Russia could amass as many as 175,000 troops on the Ukraine border with half already there. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying the sanctions are aimed at Putin's inner circle and critical sectors of the economy.

PSAKI: We have consulted significantly with our allies and believe we have a path forward that would impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy. You can call that a threat, you can call that a fact, you can call that preparation. Whatever you want to call it.

ZELENY (voice-over): The escalation of troops on the Ukraine border is reminiscent of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea. A brazen move alarming U.S. and western leaders.

BIDEN: What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be -- will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.

ZELENY (voice-over): Tonight, tensions also escalating with China as the U.S. takes a rare step of imposing a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

PSAKI: The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games.

ZELENY (voice-over): Psaki said the president is intent on calling out forced labor and human rights abuses in China, but the White House stopping well short of a full boycott like the U.S. did in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter protested the Moscow Olympics, keeping American athletes from taking part in the games.


PSAKI: I don't think that we felt it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training, preparing for this moment and we felt that we could send a clear message by not sending an official U.S. delegation.


ZELENY (on camera): So that diplomatic boycott certainly a symbolic move but a significant one as well that will certainly complicate the tense relationship between the U.S. and China. Now as for that phone call scheduled for tomorrow morning with Russian president Vladimir Putin, it's going to be a virtual meeting.

And President Biden spent some time this afternoon on the phone with European leaders and allies trying to get on the same page here before that conversation tomorrow. Now, we do know that President Putin is focused on Ukraine joining NATO. He does not want that to happen. He's looking for guarantees from the U.S., but a senior administration official tells us they are not accepting any red lines, even on this NATO subject, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff, I want you to stand by. I want to bring you back but I also want to bring in our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and CNN contributor Evan Osnos. He's a staff writer over at "The New Yorker." He's also the author of the new book "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury."

Kaitlan, Putin is making demands. He's only gotten a lot more aggressive since he met with President Biden in Geneva back in June. You and I were there. What sort of tone do you expect President Biden will take in this critically important video conference call with Putin tomorrow?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think President Biden is going to bring a pretty clear warning with him because the White House is hoping that Russia will de-escalate here. That they are looking at all the signs. And while they say they don't believe President Putin has made a decision to invade Ukraine that it's looking like they could.

And if they wanted to do so, President Putin could pretty quickly given you now see Russian troops surrounding basically three sides of Ukraine. And so I think that will be the approach that the White House is taking, the U.S. is taking during this conversation tomorrow.

But I think President Biden and President Putin come at this with very different agendas. And so the White House is going to be watching to see how many demands the Russian president is making because you heard Jeff mention there that of course, one of their clearest ones that they have made before is they don't want Ukraine getting anywhere near NATO.

They don't want them joining. That has been a big complaint that they have said that Ukraine is getting too close to the west and that has kind of been behind all of the actions that you've seen lately. But I think the White House will be watching to see what else is involved in this conversation and what else the Russian president brings with him.

And I think President Biden will be trying to talk about ways where they hopefully can de-escalate, but they also have to be prepared for the situation that that may not happen. And so that is going to be a big focus of this conversation. We'll have to wait to see what the outcome of it is going to be.

BLITZER: Yes, we will find out. You know, Evan, you're a Biden biographer. How will the president draw on his decades of foreign policy experience, his longstanding relationships with key European leaders to address Putin's brinksmanship that's unfolding right now?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, in the case of their relationship specifically, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have a very low level of trust. I remember flying to Ukraine actually with then Vice President Biden in 2014 having a conversation with him on the flight home in which he expressed to me the fact that he said, I had never trusted this guy and, you know, I'm paraphrasing there.

He told the story about how he met with him in the Kremlin and said I looked into his eyes and didn't see a soul. So look, they are coming from a point where they know each other, but they don't trust each other. And Kaitlan raised a really crucial point, which is that this is also about the rest of Europe.

How is President Biden going to draw on these other relationships? The United States has a lot of strong relationships in Europe and he can bring that to bear as a threat in effect against Vladimir Putin to say, if you do this, you will go into the deep freeze. You will become, as the Brookings Institution put it today, a pariah, and you don't want that. So that's one of the things he has up his sleeve.

BLITZER: He certainly does. You know, Jeff, the Ukrainian defense minister predicts, and I'm quoting him now, a bloody massacre if Russia decides to invade Ukraine. How wary is the Biden administration of being dragged into a potential military conflict in light of a potential Russian invasion?

ZELENY: Very wary, Wolf. I mean, diplomacy is really something that this president, this administration is trying to turn to, and they hope work. So they are going to present a series of diplomatic alternatives. And those of course include putting a financial squeeze on Russia as well through the international financial system as well. There is no appetite here for military intervention. On a briefing

earlier with a senior administration official, there was several moments of silence when that question was asked about a military solution to all of this. Does the U.S. have the stomach for that?

So of course they're not ruling anything out, but they simply do not want to add another thing, which would be, you know, a significantly dangerous thing to the plate of this Biden administration which is already quite full quite frankly. So they do hope diplomacy works in some respects. But they see the intel there. They see the troops amassing on the border.


That's why this phone call tomorrow morning, this virtual meeting if you will, without question, is the highest stakes, most critical conversation President Biden has had since taking office with a foreign leader. Things have not been as tense or at a low point in their relationship. We were all back in Geneva for that summit in June. Seems like a very long time ago for this president, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Kaitlan, in addition to Russia, President Biden is also juggling this really growing tension right now with China. What more can you tell us first of all about your excellent reporting on this diplomatic boycott by the U.S. of the Beijing Olympics?

COLLINS: Yes. This is a decision that became pretty clear the White House was going to make several weeks ago. I think they had still been meeting and discussing it privately discussing when was the right time to announce that yes the U.S. is going to implement a diplomatic boycott of those winter games in Beijing in February of 2022, which means no government officials, of course, including President Biden, will attend.

And so this is something that "The Washington Post" first reported on several weeks ago that this was under consideration. And of course, ultimately, it is a symbolic gesture, but the question is what message does it send not just to the world but also to China? And that is really what's driving this. And that's something that many lawmakers were calling on the White House to do, of course, in protest of those human rights abuses in China.

BLITZER: Evan, you've spent years in China reporting on the latest developments. What's your analysis?

OSNOS: You know, I think one of the things to watch will be what the other countries do now? The United States has come forward and said in a bold way they're not going to send any diplomats, any officials. So now what do other countries do? What does Australia do? What about the United Kingdom?

You heard in China's response they said they would have firm countermeasures in response. That's a vague threat but what that's really directed towards is other countries, other people. What do individuals do? Do business leaders go? So there's a lot of questions that are now going to begin to unfold. And the United States has made a big decision by going forward and

doing this. And it's a reflection of the growing sense in Washington that they could not stand by and allow it to be an Olympics business as usual.

BLITZER: The escalating tensions with both China and Russia right now. All right, guys, thank you very much.

Coming up, the latest very disturbing numbers. Infections, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are all climbing in the United States.



BLITZER: We're following a disturbing rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths here in the United States. It comes as health experts are scrambling right now to learn more about the new omicron variant. CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us. Brian, almost two years into this pandemic, these numbers are still way too high.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are too high for everyone's liking, Wolf. New York City is one of the places going through another surge and the city is taking a bold new step to combat it.


TODD (voice-over): An aggressive new measure by officials in New York City. Starting two days after Christmas, all private employers in the city, no matter how small, will have to have their employees vaccinated.

BILL DE BLASIO, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: I describe the actions we're taking today as a preemptive strike. Get ahead of this problem before it deepens and use the thing that works, vaccination.

TODD (voice-over): The mayor says the new rule will affect about 184,000 businesses and they won't have the option to test as an alternative to getting their workers vaccinated.

Another new measure being introduced for protection, as of midnight last night, international travelers coming into the U.S. will have to show proof of a negative COVID test within one day of travel into the U.S. That's narrowing the window from the previous requirement of a negative test within three days of traveling into the U.S.

MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: We know that travel is a big way that we spread not just the existing variants but also new variants from place to place so, these new testing requirements will help.

TODD (voice-over): For the first time in two months, the U.S. is averaging more than 100,000 new cases each day. COVID deaths are also on the rise in the U.S. largely among the unvaccinated. An average of more than 1,600 people dying each day. Average daily deaths have not been that high in more than a month.

CARLOS DEL RIO, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: We have a major delta surge and if you are not vaccinated, delta will find you and you will get sick and you may end up in the hospital and may end up dying.

TODD (voice-over): But with cases in deaths rising in the U.S., so too is the rate of vaccination. According to the CDC, more than 2 million doses of the vaccine are being administered in the U.S. each day.

RANNEY: It's a combination of folks being worried about both the delta variant surges that we're seeing and the omicron variant.

TODD (voice-over): U.S. officials have now detected the presence of the new omicron variant in at least 17 states. The epidemiologist who led the response to omicron in South Africa where it was first discovered gave an update to CNN today on that variant's rapid rate of transmission.

SALIM ABDOOL KARIM, AFRICAN TASK FORCE FOR CORONAVIRUS: The omicron variant is at a -- is doubling faster than any of the three previous waves. I have to say it's very early. Preliminary evidence suggests that it is more transmissible.

TODD (voice-over): America's top infectious disease expert says while it's too early to make a determination, there could be some good news regarding the omicron variant and how hard it hits its victims.

ANTHONY FACUI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It does not look like there's a great degree of severity to it.


TODD (on camera): America's Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, says another bit of positive news regarding the omicron variant is that unlike at the beginning of the pandemic, we now have more tools and more knowledge to protect ourselves. Still, officials are anxiously waiting to see how the omicron variant really measures against our vaccines. Wolf?


BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting. Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us, Dr. Richard Besser, a former acting director of the CDC. Dr. Besser, thanks for joining us.

As we see these trends here in the U.S. clearly right now heading in the wrong direction, just how concerned are you about the spread of this virus in the United States right now?

RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: You know, Wolf, I have been very concerned about this. As we've been having more and more conversations about the omicron variant, it struck me that there's a general complacency and acceptance that a thousand people in America could die every day from the delta variant and that would be okay. But what if a new variant comes.

I think we have to double, triple our efforts to reach people who haven't yet been vaccinated, to address their concerns. I think every single person who has a loved one who hasn't been vaccinated needs to talk to them and share their concerns. And recognize that, really, the largest risk for getting this infection, having severe infection, and dying from this infection is not getting vaccinated. And it's so tragic when you have something that is clearly so preventable.

BLITZER: And if you are eligible, get a booster shot. That's so critically important as well. New data does show, Dr. Besser, that the coronavirus positivity rate in South Africa has jumped 24 percent since the omicron variant was detected only two weeks ago. Dr. Fauci says early data on the severity, as you heard, of this variant is a bit encouraging. A bit encouraging. But just how worried should we be?

BESSER: Well, you know, I think that the general approach to this has been the right one. You go at it hard. You go at it strong. You take serious measures to try and protect communities. And then if the data shows that you can back off, then you start to do that. With encouraging signs, I would hope that things like travel restrictions, not allowing people in from certain countries, certain African countries, that those would be lifted much sooner than some of the other restrictions.

The measures to encourage people or require people to be tested within a day of traveling to the United States, I think that makes a lot of sense. Travel is one of those risky things and you want to make sure that the people sitting near you on a plane or coming into our country have been tested and are not spreading COVID.

But we need to make sure that vaccines are getting to every individual, in every community and not give up on anyone who has declined vaccination so far.

BLITZER: Yes. Good advice as always from Dr. Besser. Thank you very much for that, Dr. Richard Besser.

Up next, a Georgia Republican who actually lost his Senate seat earlier this year says the Republican governor is to blame and now he wants to replace him.

Plus, a Kentucky Republican defends his truly eyebrow-raising family holiday card. Look at this. He says the backlash will only make him double down. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The U.S. Justice Department today is suing the state of Texas over the state's controversial new redistricting maps. CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is joining us right now. Evan, what's the latest?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Justice Department says that the -- that this new -- the new legislative and congressional voting maps from the state of Texas are discriminatory against Hispanic voters and especially particularly because it dilutes their voting power.

For instance, one of the statistics that the Justice Department says in this new lawsuit that was filed today, they say that about 4 million people were added to the Texas population between 2010 and 2020 -- 95 percent of that growth was from Latinos.

Texas added two congressional seats from that redistricting process, and of those two seats, both of them were drawn with a majority white voting population. So this was shown to -- the Justice Department says this shows that this is a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. And that's the reason why this lawsuit was filed.

This is the second voting rights lawsuit that has been filed against Texas in the last couple of months. And we can expect, Wolf, that you'll see more of these types of lawsuits. There are a number of states, including Florida and Arizona where the Justice Department is already weighing in on lawsuits against those redistricting maps. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Evan, thank you very much for that update.

Also tonight, a bitter Republican showdown is now brewing in Georgia. The former senator and loyal Trump ally David Perdue has officially announced he'll challenge the incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Joining us now to discuss, CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Gloria, what is Perdue's entry into this race and the former president's expected, expected endorsement tell you about Trump's enduring power within the GOP?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: His power is alive and well, Wolf. You know, the president -- the former president talks about how Kemp is responsible for the loss of two seats in Georgia when, in fact, we all know that it was Donald Trump who was responsible for the loss of two seats in Georgia by suppressing the vote there, by telling people, you know, the election is rigged before that special election.


So his Republican voters didn't go out and vote and it cost Perdue his seat. Now, Perdue is running against Kemp in this primary. The President is expected to endorse Perdue. So they're splitting the Republican Party.

And what this tells you about Donald Trump is that he really doesn't care about unity in the Republican Party. What he cares about is vengeance. And it -- and his eyes are set on Kemp. And so he wants to put him out of power.

BLITZER: A good point. You know, Charlie, it's worth remembering that Perdue lost his re-election bid earlier this year to a Democrat -- now Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff. Do you view this as the former president putting his interests clearly over the party's interest once again?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course, I do. And by the way, Gloria's analysis was spot on. I mean, to suggest that Governor Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, who refused to violate the OSA, their office, and did the right thing and certifying the vote, you know, that's not the reason that Donald Trump lost. I mean, that Perdue lost. Perdue lost because Donald Trump said the system was rigged. That the -- you couldn't trust the vote.

He suppressed the Republican vote net primary costing two Republican seats. So I -- it seems to me that David Perdue is simply doing this, running, because he wants to be governor and he wants the Trump endorsement and Trump certainly does have an outsized influence in Republican primaries. And this primary fight will accrue to the benefit of the Democrats.

That said, this is a year when Republicans should do well, when there's at their back. It's a midterm. The election is about the Democrats far more than the Republicans. But it's really a sad state of affairs.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, the last few minutes, we learned that Devin Nunes, the Republican Congressman from California, a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, former chairman, at one point of the House Intelligence Committee, is resigning from Congress in January next month, in order to go to work for Trump -- Trump's new media and technology business. What do you make of this?

BORGER: It's really kind of surprising. I mean, he's going to be the CEO of this newly formed company. But if Republicans were to take over the House in 2023, Nunes was said to be chairman of the very powerful tax writing Ways and Means Committee. And that's, you know, that's a post that a lot of politicians covet. It's very, very important.

And he's giving all of that up. He's been a loyal Trump person for a very long time. And I think that he's been railing against social media, and saying that social media is -- that it's biased against conservatives, particularly the people who run Facebook and the like. So, you know, I think he probably sees this as an opportunity to run a very different kind of company. But he's giving up an awful lot in Congress.

I mean, he may be redistricted to a certain degree. Charlie would know more about that than I do. But, you know, it was really a surprise.

BLITZER: He's, clearly, Charlie, going to be making a whole lot more money, at least in the short term, running this new Trump media operation. You're a former member of Congress, what do you think?

DENT: Well my thought is like I've known Devin Nunes for a long time. We actually were pretty friendly. But the evolution of Devin Nunes has been quite striking.

BORGER: Yes. DENT: I remember back in 2013, he was one of the guys who was working with me to stop -- to reopen the government. He called the Freedom Caucus back then. Lemmings was suicide vests or I should say those very conservative members who were shutting down the government for no good reason. And, you know, now he's evolved, obviously, with Trump times and became one of Trump's most ardent loyalists.

So this is kind of striking to me. His seat is a very safe seat. So I can't imagine --


DENT: -- that Republicans would have trouble holding it unless it's changed dramatically in redistricting, which I don't think it will be. So this is a -- I guess, I'm not totally surprised that he's going for this opportunity on this Trump TV. That's where he is ideologically these days.

BLITZER: Yes, he certainly is. It's not a surprise he supports Trump. It is a surprise to senior member like this, especially since there's a good chance that Republicans, Gloria, will be the majority --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- in the House next year, is going to give up that seniority.

BORGER: Right. And as I was saying, you know, being chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is important. And it's a thing a lot of House members, I'm sure Charlie Dent would have liked to have been chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee --

DENT: Appropriations.

BORGER: -- at a certain point. It's really -- it's a top leadership post that he is saying goodbye to.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Gloria, thank you, Charlie, thanks to you as well. We'll stay on top of this story as well.

Just ahead, the Michigan high school shooting suspect and his parents all now behind bars in the same jail, all in isolation and all under suicide watch.



BLITZER: A local prosecutor says last week's deadly school shooting in Michigan was preventable and she's not rolling out charges for school officials. New questions are emerging right now about why Oxford High School officials didn't search the suspected shooters backpack in a locker when they had legal grounds to do so.

This, as CNN's Alex Field reports officials are keeping watch over both the suspect and his parents at the county jail. Alex, update our viewers, what can you tell us?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, they can't see each other, they can't speak to each other but they are all aware that they are in the same jail as this criminal case moves forward. At the same time, though, Wolf, we are seeing new investigations being launched into what happened in the high school behind me. New calls to try and understand how warning signs were missed and what red flags appeared before that attack last week.


FIELD (voice-over): Behind bars in isolation and all under suicide watch, tonight the Oakland County Jail keeping a close eye on a 15- year-old high school shooting suspect, Ethan Crumbley, and both of his parents.


KAREN MCDONALD, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: All of this could have been prevented if he hadn't had access or if just one of those parents had said, "I'm concerned about what I'm seeing right now. And I also want you to know, we just bought him a gun for Christmas." And that didn't happen.

FIELD (voice-over): Jennifer and James Crumbley made no mention of a gun in a meeting at Oxford High School hours before the shooting. Their son was never searched for a weapon despite a series of red flags.

MCDONALD: There was absolutely evidence to suggest that there was an indication he might harm somebody and even kill somebody.

FIELD (voice-over): The Oxford School District now defending a decision to send the 15-year-old back to class shortly before he allegedly started firing shots in crowded hallways, saying, "At no time, the counselors believed the student might harm others." That, after a teacher flagged him on the morning of the attack for making a gruesome and graphic drawing of a shooting.

The shooter insisted the school says that it was "part of a video game he was designing," when he and his parents were called into the meeting to discuss it. A day earlier, the shooter telling a counselor "shooting sports are a family hobby" after eight different teacher reported him for searching on his phone for ammunition.

A third party investigation events leading up to Tuesday's attack is underway, according to the district. The Michigan Attorney General's Office is also offering to conduct a full and comprehensive review into the events leading up to the shooting. There's still the question of whether school officials could face charges.

MCDONALD: It's under investigation. So, no, I haven't -- we haven't ruled out charging anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not guilty. FIELD (voice-over): The shooter's parents pleading not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter during an arraignment over the weekend. Jennifer and James Crumbley appearing for court via video hours after they were taken into custody in the middle of the night from a Detroit warehouse, where authorities say they were hiding.

The all out manhunt for the Crumbleys is kicking off Friday afternoon after the announcement of an extremely rare move from prosecutors to charge the parents of a school shooter. The victims of the attack honored over the weekend, the Detroit Lions dedicating the game ball to the Oxford community.

DAN CAMPBELL, HEAD COACH, DETROIT LIONS: Those names for all those, you know, will never be forgotten and they're in our hearts and our prayers.


FIELD: Along with that moving tribute from the Lions, the University of Michigan's football team also paid tribute to the Oxford community and to high school football player Tate Myre who was killed in the shootings inside Oxford High School. The team wearing the number 42 in honor of Tate and amazingly, Wolf, going on to score 42 points in the game. How about that?

Funerals for the victims starting this week. The funeral for Tate Myre to be held tomorrow, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's so, so heartbreaking indeed. Alexandra Field on the scene for us. Alexandra, thank you very much.

Coming up, a historic flooding triggered by climate change now posing a major threat to the nation of Sudan. CNN goes in depth, when we come back



BLITZER: Climate change is triggering flooding of biblical proportions in South Sudan right now where rising water has displaced hundreds of thousands of people. CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is on the scene for us. Clarissa, this is a very, very dire situation that clearly could get even worse.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I mean, what's really extraordinary here is that these floods hit back in the summer and the waters are up to people's necks in some parts of South Sudan. Roughly 800,000 people already affected. Diseases spreading and rainy season is just five months away.


WARD (voice-over): Just four months ago, this was a bustling town of 11,000 people. Then the floods came. Biblical and scale, leaving it submerged underwater and largely cut off. As we arrive in Ding Ding, there are few signs of life. Just some belonging stashed in the tree tops, the only protection from the waters that have inundated much of South Sudan.

(on-camera): So this entire town has been flooded since August and the waters are still getting higher and higher even though the rainy season is now over.


(voice-over): A group of women catch sight of us and want to talk.

(on-camera): Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Hello.

WARD (on-camera): Where are your homes? Have your homes been destroyed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): (Speaking in Foreign Language).

WARD (voice-over): They survived years of vicious civil war here. But these floods may pose the greatest threat yet. They tell us their crops have been completely destroyed.

(on-camera): So what are you living on right now? What are you surviving on?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): (Speaking in Foreign Language).

WARD (on-camera): The lilies?



WARD (on-camera): The lilies, the water lilies?


WARD (on-camera): Are people getting sick from the dirty water?

(voice-over): Many people have waterborne diseases, Masaryk Azhar (ph) explains. The wells were all covered so we have to drink this water.

While South Sudan is no stranger to seasonal flooding, Unity State hasn't been hit like this since the earliest 1960s.


Scientists say the floods have become much more intense and unpredictable in recent years in part because of global warming.

(on-camera): James? JAMES LOIN, RESIDENT: Yes?

WARD (on-camera): Hi James.

(voice-over): James Loin (ph) is one of hundreds of thousands who have been displaced. He agrees to show us what's left of his family home.

(on-camera): Oh my god.

LOIN: Yes.

WARD (on-camera): That's your motorcycle?

LOIN: Yes.

WARD (voice-over): Nothing is left, except for his children's drawings on the walls.

Since the conflict erupted, we've never had a rest, he tells us. We've been constantly running displaced. Our children have had no relief from the dangers.

Now he is forced to flee once again. The journey to the promise of dry land is long and arduous. The lucky ones traveled by boat, most swim or wade, moving slowly but purposefully through the muddy waters.

Some push makeshift floats pile high with family members and possessions. We come across a group of women whose raft is stuck in the mud. The men of the family have gone to try to save their livestock.

Nerika (ph) tells us they left their destroyed home four days ago.

(on-camera): Have you been pushing this raft for four days?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): (Speaking in Foreign Language).

WARD (voice-over): Yes, they tell us. Along the way, they say their food ran out.

(on-camera): How old is your baby?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five to six months.

WARD (on-camera): Five to six months? Are you worried about your children?

Yes, I'm worried, she says. And that's why we keep moving.

WARD (voice-over): We still have several miles to push before they reach this narrow strip of dry land. According to UNICEF, some 6,000 people have now settled here completely dependent on aid to survive.

LUEL DING, UNICEF EDUCATION OFFICER: They don't have latrine. They don't have enough food for them to eat. So --

WARD (on-camera): They don't have bathrooms. They don't have food.

DING: Nothing.

WARD (on-camera): And there are more people arriving every day?

DING: People are continuing being displaced and continue coming.

WARD (on-camera): You're obviously doing everything you can, but is it enough?

DING: This is not enough. And that is the reason why we are calling for donor communities to ensure that, you know, children get schools, children get health care, they get nutri services, were to mention that, you know, we prevent them to die.

WARD (voice-over): As affected stagnant waters continue to rise, so the diseases like diarrhea and hepatitis E, malnutrition in children is now at its highest level since 2013. Those who make it all the way to the state capital Bentiu find little sanctuary. Some of the main roads have been turned into waterways. Cars replaced by canoes.

Just a mile further, the ghostly remains of what was once a commercial hub.

(on-camera): This used to be the central shopping area in town. As you can see, completely destroyed.

(voice-over): According to authorities, 90 percent of Unity State has been impacted by these floods. Here, the effects of climate change aren't a hypothetical problem in the future, but rather a real disaster in the present.


Minister Lam Tungwar concedes local authorities were completely unprepared and are now unable to cope with the scale of the crisis.

TUNGWAR KUEIGWONG: We don't have sufficient for survival.

WARD (on-camera): How much longer can you cope with the situation as it stands?

TUNGWAR KUEIGWONG: Realistically, I can tell you that, frankly, we don't know. But we are just worried about the next rain because we are told the water behind me will not go now. They will not recede right now or dry up. It going to take a while because it's deep water.

WARD (voice-over): They don't have long. The next rains are expected in May. And if the current waters don't recede, the fear is that this area will be wiped off the map.

Dikes are being built to try to hold back the encroaching waters. With a handful of diggers are no match for the vast flooding. Breaches are common, leaving many with no choice but to take matters into their own hands, hastily improvising protection for their endangered homes, as the waters quietly continue to rise.


WARD: Wolf, it's important to remember, this is the world's youngest country. There are barely 125 miles of paved roads here in South Sudan. They are not responsible for even a fraction of the global emissions and yet they are paying a very heavy price as a result of global warming. Wolf?


BLITZER: They certainly are. Clarissa Ward doing amazing reporting for us as always. Clarissa, thank you very, very much.

There's more breaking news we're following. We're learning right now that one of the highest ranking former Trump officials is not cooperating with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. This is a potentially very significant development.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. CNN has learned that another high-level Trump administration insider is now cooperating with the January 6 Select Committee.