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The Situation Room
Holiday Travel Rush Under Way as Omicron Cases Hit New Highs; Ex-Cop Kim Potter Guilty of Manslaughter in Daunte Wright's Death; January 6 Committee Asks Supreme Court to Expedite Review of Trump's Appeal; Lawmaker Opens Up About Harrowing Armed Carjacking in Broad Daylight; Putin Doubles Down on Blaming the West for Tensions Over Ukraine During End-of-Year Conference. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 23, 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: Also tonight, there's breaking news out of Minnesota, the former police officer, Kim Potter, convincted of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright. How did Potter's defense that she mistook her gun for her taser play with jurors?
Also breaking, the January 6 select committee just asked the United States Supreme Court to expedite a new appeal by former President Trump in the battle to keep his White House records secret. I'll ask a key member of the House select committee about the escalating battle over Trump's claim of executive privilege.
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.
And we begin this hour with breaking news. The CDC has just moments ago updated its guidance on how long health care workers should isolate if they get COVID-19, shortening the time from ten days to seven days if they are no longer positive and if they are asymptomatic.
Let's go to our National Correspondent Athena Jones. She has more on the omicron surge as the holiday travel rush is underway.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With holiday air travel surpassing pre-pandemic levels, according to the TSA, tonight, long lines at airports and at testing sites.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This whole thing is frustrating, obviously.
JONES: As people scramble to do what they can to keep themselves and their families safe through the holidays.
Doctors are applauding the FDA's decision today granting emergency use authorization to a second antiviral pill, this one from Merck, that people can take at home, adding another COVID fighting weapon to the nation's armory. But they stress even these game-changing medications must be given within five days of symptom onset, making timely access to tests all the more important.
DR. JAY VARMA, DIRECTOR, WEILL CORNELL MEDICINE'S CENTER FOR PANDEMIC PREVENTION AND RESPONSE: We can't give the medications to everybody. We want to give them to people who test positive. But, as you know, there is a real testing bottleneck, so we need to solve that problem first.
JONES: Omicron is confirmed in all 50 states. But there is good news, three early studies now adding to the evidence it may be less likely to cause severe disease. Still, experts warn it is too early to say for sure.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is dangerous business to be able to rely on what you perceive as a lower degree of severity.
JONES: Doctors fear even if omicron is milder than delta, the huge spike in case numbers, particularly among the unvaccinated, could still strain hospitals in some places, like Cleveland, Ohio.
DR. HASSAN KHOULI, CHAIR, DEPARTMENT OF CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE, CLEVELAND CLINIC: We are overwhelmed. Our ICUs, our hospital are overwhelmed.
JONES: But the hospital picture nationwide appears more promising. So far, while new daily cases average nearly 165,000, 36 percent higher than a week ago, and nearly as high as the mid-September peak of the delta surge, hospitalizations and deaths remain well below their peaks of delta.
Washington, D.C. and New York State each setting new single day records for new COVID cases, but New York's governor says the hospitalization rate is only two-thirds what it was this time last year.
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): We're not panicking. We have the resources we need.
JONES: The state's high vaccination rate may be helping to keep those numbers down as experts continue to stress getting vaccinated and boosted is the best way to fight the latest COVID threat.
Meanwhile New York City announcing a scaled down New Year's eve celebration in Times Square, fewer people, about 15,000 instead of nearly 60,000, with revelers required to show proof of vaccination and wear masks.
JONES (on camera): And this update we've just gotten from the Centers for Disease Control is a really big deal and it addresses some concerns we're hearing from doctors given the spread of omicron, it is highly contagious and spreading very quickly all over the place. Now, health care workers won't have to isolate for ten days, instead they can return to work after seven days provided they are asymptomatic and they test negative for COVID. This only applies to health care workers. And, of course, the CDC is saying that the isolation time could be cut down even further depending on staffing shortages. This is all to address concerns that with omicron spreading so much, you're going to have a lot of health care workers forced to stay home for too long, which would add to stresses on hospitals. So, very important announcement by the CDC.
BLITZER: Yes, this is really a big deal. Athena, thank you very much for that report, Athena Jones reporting.
Let's bring in our pandemic experts. Joining us, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, author of the important book entitled, Lifelines, A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health.
Dr. Wen, what do you think about this breaking news? Is this the right move by the CDC changing these isolation guidelines for health care workers from ten days to just seven days?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It is because it was made out of necessity. The most important thing right now is to preserve the integrity of our health care system. We cannot have our hospitals be at such overcapacity simply because we don't have enough doctors, nurses and other workers. And so this is the right move for that reason.
But I also hope that the CDC will quickly look at shortening the isolation period for everyone because I'm really concerned at this point about compliance. I think if they're able to shorten the window to seven days or even five days with a negative test, basically test to return to work, then even if you end up missing some individuals who may still be infectious, if you're able to get many more people to comply with a shorter period instead of disincentivizing them for having such a long isolation period, that maybe worth the trade-off as well.
BLITZER: I want Dr. Jha and Professor Osterholm to respond as well. First, to you, Dr. Jha, what is your reaction?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, I agree with Dr. Wen. I think this is a step in the right direction. I think it is long coming. There is no reason that people are fully vaccinated need a ten-day isolation. By the way, there should be high quality studies happening right now. We can figure out what the exact time period is.
But the key in my mind is five to seven days, a negative rapid test, possibly even require up to two rapid tests if you want to be more careful, but getting people back out of isolation is really critical to keeping things going and also just creating an incentive for people to get tested so they know they are not going to have to be isolated for ten days. BLITZER: What do you think Professor Jha -- I mean Professor Osterholm, I mean. Sorry.
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Okay. Thank you. Yes. Well, first of all, this is a start, and I think an important start. But we have to remember in the next two to eight weeks, we're going to see this viral blizzard across the country. And if it is like what we're seeing in Europe, for example, where today in London, over 5,000 national health system employees were off because of COVID infection themselves, we are going to get in many places to the point of where we will be considering, I think, having health care workers if they are mildly ill or asymptomatic but infected because having someone there is likely to be a much safer situation than having no one there.
BLITZER: Dr. Jha, as we see cases of omicron exploding in this country right now, are you optimistic this variant will prove to be less severe resulting in fewer hospitalizations and, God willing, fewer deaths?
JHA: I'm hopeful that that will help. We now have several studies that suggest it may be somewhat milder. But here is the key issue, Wolf. If we have a massive number of infections, it is still going to cause real strains to our health care system. And I think it will almost surely be pretty mild for those vaccinated and boosted. But for unvaccinated people, I'm not sure that the somewhat milder version is going to helping out that much. I still think for unvaccinated people, it is going to be a really rough period of time.
BLITZER: Dr. Wen, the FDA, as you know, has now authorized a second pill to treat COVID-19, this one from Merck. What are you learning about this drug and the role it will play when it is really ready to be distributed in huge numbers against -- in the fight against this pandemic?
WEN: Well, we need all of the tools that we could get. And I'm optimistic overall about these oral antiviral medications because this is what we're going to need. We will have people who will remain unvaccinated. We need to keep them out of the hospital. Also some people who are vaccinated but medically vulnerable, they still may get severely ill. And so having pills can help to reduce the likelihood of them progressing to severe illness.
Very good, although I will say that on peer review, the Merck medication is definitely inferior, it appears, based on the study so far, to the Pfizer pill, Paxlovid, but the reason we need both right now is that the Pfizer pill is going to be in really limited supply. And so I think the Merck pill will be important in this time period that it takes to scale up production of that Pfizer oral antiviral medication.
BLITZER: And if these pills are taken very quickly after symptoms emerge, potentially could save hospitalizations and lives down the road.
Professor Osterholm, I spoke with Moderna's chief medical officer, Dr. Paul Burton, in the last hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He told me they will begin clinical trials of an omicron-specific booster shot early next year. Are variant-specific boosters going to be the key to combating this pandemic, because, presumably, this is not going to be the last variant, last mutation that emerges?
OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, just again to remind everyone, the next three to eight weeks are going to be critical. That is where we need to keep focused on right now, what are we going to do to get through that period, whether it be testing, how could we get more people vaccinated with a third dose, who already were willing to get the first two doses.
As far as the long-term, Wolf, I don't think that variant-specific vaccines are going to be what we want. I think we're going to be talking more about what we call pan coronavirus vaccines, ones that could handle many different potential variants with protection, the same thing we're trying to do right now with influenza vaccines.
BLITZER: Very interesting. Dr. Jha, as we approach the Christmas holiday, the New Year's, omicron cases are surging, as we keep reporting. What preventative measures do families need to have in place right now in order to gather safely?
JHA: Yes. I think gathering safely obviously in the holidays hugely important for most Americans. Obviously, the biggest you can do is make sure everybody who can be vaccinated is vaccinated and everybody that can be boosted is boosted. Having the rapid tests, I know they are hard to get, but being able to get your hands on some of them, using this just before people gather, that makes an enormous difference.
I do think people can gather safely, but the question here really is can you use both vaccinations and testing as part of your strategy for doing it in a way that keeps everybody, you know, from getting infected and getting sick.
Yes, good advice. Dr. Wen, if you had one bit of advice to give families as they gather for the holidays, what would that be?
WEN: I would say use the two out of three rule, that you need two out of three things in order to gather safely at this point when there is so much virus around us, vaccinations, testing or masking. So, if there are people that are unvaccinated, ideally, you have both testing and masking. But if you are vaccinated and boosted and you want to get together indoors with others that have dinner together, use those rapid tests, as Dr. Jha was just talking about.
Everybody should get tested right before that gathering. If you have very limited tests available, test the individual who is the highest exposure, not at the highest risk of illness. As in don't test grandma, who's been hunkering down and being very careful. She's unlikely to be spreading COVID to everybody else, test the college student who just came home who may have been in bars and restaurants last week. So, use those tests in a judicious way and think about the two out of three rule, vaccines, masking or testing, you need to have two out of three things to gather safely.
BLITZER: Yes, great advice, as usual. Dr. Leana Wen, Dr. Ashish Jha, Professor Michael Osterholm, I appreciate everything you guys are doing. Thank you very, very much. And I hope all of you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
There is more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The former police officer, Kim Potter, now convicted on two counts of manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright. Tonight, his family is speaking out.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, guilty verdicts in the manslaughter trial of former Police Officer Kim Potter, convicted on two counts of manslaughter in the shooting death of Daunte Wright.
CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Minneapolis for us. He has been covering the trial. So, update our viewers on the latest, Omar. Tell us what happened.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when the verdict was read, Daunte Wright's mother burst into tears and Kim Potter stood there emotionless. It was later on that Wright's mother said today we've gotten accountability and that is what we've been asking for from the very beginning. There was also celebration outside the courthouse when the verdict was read, including from some that didn't they the verdict was going to be guilty, especially after 27 hours of deliberations and over three days total, three-and-a-half days total.
The crux, of course, of what they were considering was Kim Potter claimed that she meant to grab her taser instead of her gun when she shot and killed Daunte Wright at a traffic stop earlier this year. Her defense claims that -- or her defense argued, I should say, that if Daunte Wright had just complied, none of this would have happened. Well, the jury disagreed.
And this is the second jury to convict a former Minneapolis-area officer this year, the first being Derek Chauvin, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who led the prosecution in both efforts said this sends a clear message that jurors want to maintain high standards and that law enforcement shouldn't see this as a symbol of shame but instead a moment that reinforces trust through accountability. He also though said this isn't full justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Justice would be restoring Daunte to life and making the Wright family whole again. Justice is beyond the reach that we have in this life, for Daunte. But accountability is an important step, a critical, necessary step on the road to justice for us all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: Ellison went on to say, Potter, who is in custody without bail, seen her smiling in her latest mug shot after she was convicted on two counts of manslaughter for killing Daunte Wright, she will still have the chance to correspond and speak to her family, Daunte Wright will not.
Sentencing for Potter is set for February 18th, which, based on the guidelines, she will likely be in the range of a little over six years and a little under nine years for that sentence. But when it comes to today, Daunte Wright's mother said 23 was his favorite number and here we are with this verdict on the 23rd of December. Wolf?
BLITZER: Omar, I want you to stick around. Stay with us. I have got some more questions for you. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson, as well as CNN Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates.
Laura, are you surprised Potter was found guilty on both charges?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, given the earlier in the week question about the idea, what would happen if we can't reach consensus, I think we're all thinking that potentially there was the opportunity for a hung jury. But, again, when she took the stand, she really confirmed the elements that needed to be proven by the prosecution to carry their burden of proof.
Remember, this case did not involve a requirement to prove intent. So, two things could be true here, Wolf. You could be sympathetic toward her and think that she did not intend to kill Daunte Wright, and that she did mistake her firearm for a taser, and you could also prove that she did something that requires criminal culpability under two theories, recklessness and, of course, culpable negligence.
And so when she took the stand, and Joey and I talked about this in the past, when she took the stand and confirmed what the prosecution was required to show, it is not shocking that jury nullification did not occur here.
BLITZER: Joey, as Laura pointed out, the jury had previously asked the judge what they should do if they could not come to consensus unanimous decision. It seems like this was a rather tough decision for these 12 men and women, six men and six women who were members of the jury.
What does that tell you?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. It tells me, Wolf, that, look, we're in a new era of accountability that continues. This is what equal protection under the law looks like and this is what our system should be. I think there was a lot of concern around not only the jury composition, as you mentioned, Wolf, six men and six women, nine of which happen to be white, two Asian, one African-American woman, and that was a source of major concern. But it shows you that after 27 hours, they got it right.
And to Laura's earlier point, jury nullification was a big concern here. Would the jury excuse this? Would the jury say that we don't want to convict a police officer, we believe she was contrite, we believe she made a mistake and would the jury they follow the law? And when I say, would you follow law, and I'll leave it here, the law is clear as to not needing intent, not needing deliberation, not needing premeditation in order to take someone's life.
In the event that you're reckless as it relates to your conduct, because you have 26 years of experience and know the distinction between a firearm and a taser, in the event that you were negligent that is careless and make a mistake and take someone's life, that is tragic but it's also criminal, and that is what the jury said.
And so I think today is a big moment and it's a big moment because notwithstanding what that jury looked like and notwithstanding what Daunte Wright looked like, this jury fought and tuggled and went after each other but they reached a conclusion that was consistent with the law based on the facts in this case, and that is a really big deal.
BLITZER: Unanimous decision. I, at one point, like everybody thought, maybe there could be a hung jury. But it didn't turn out to be that way.
Laura, Potter took the stand, as we all know, in her own defense, she became very emotional as she recounted what happened during that routine traffic stop. What impact do you think her testimony had on the jury?
COATES: I think it was very impactful in the sense of eliciting an emotional response from the jurors, to look at somebody who had remorse and a demonstration of remorse. I mean, the idea here, of course, is even after she shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, you heard her through her own police camera saying, oh, my God, and she was talking about the reaction to it. It was very clear that she believed that she had made a tragic mistake and it was going to cost her her own freedom and end up in jail. So, there was already this notion of this person believing understanding what had gone wrong.
But I think the jurors look at this case, again, two things can be true, that they can be sympathetic towards her and the idea of it being a tragic mistake, but we prosecute mistakes all the time, because we have the ability to prosecute things that are negligent, that you actually created an unreasonable risk and didn't take precautions against it.
In our law, we give officers a benefit of the doubt, Wolf. And in that we say, because of your expertise, because of your training, because of your ability to deal with stressful situations, we're going to give you what no one else is supposed to have, the ability to stop, arrest people, to be able to fire your weapon, to be able to have a form of a license to kill in the event it is necessary to do so. And so when you do that, you give those benefits, along with it comes responsibility that you must do so in a responsible, non-reckless, non-negligent manner. The jury here found that both were true. BLITZER: Omar, I think it is really important not to lose sight of the victim in all of this, Daunte Wright. Tell us a little bit about that.
JACKSON: Well, at the end of the day, and this is something that Keith Ellison really tried to emphasize and you got a sense of hearing from the family at the end of the day, one family is going to get to speak to their person, the other family isn't going to. And with Christmas Eve and Christmas, one of the things that made the mother, Katie Bryant, break out in tears earlier in the trial was during closing arguments when the prosecution emphasized that there is going to be an empty seat at their Christmas dinner table this weekend. And it is going to be empty where it should have been Daunte Wright, a father, a son and, of course, family member here.
And moving forward, when you talk about the factors playing into sentencing, we are expecting to hear victim impact statements, where members of family are going to detail just how this has devastated their family dynamic and it is likely going to be something that will play in the sentencing when we get there in mid-February.
But, again, one other aspect I want to touch with something that the father said, he says, I don't usually speak much, this was after the verdict. But he said one thing he wanted to make clear, was that there were a lot of nights they didn't know how they were going to get through, but that they looked to the messages they were received and saw support and that is part of what held them or kept them together throughout this whole time. Because with all of the fanfare and all attention and legal back and forth there is, at the center of it all is a family that is going through a tragedy and trying to find a way to grieve through it all and, of course, this family was the embodiment of that, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, well said, indeed. Omar Jimenez, Joey Jackson, Laura Coates, to all of you, Merry, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
Coming up, tips on how to stay safe if you're flying during the holidays right in the midst of the omicron surge.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on new COVID guidance from the CDC. It is now recommending that infected health care workers can return to work after seven days instead of ten if they test negative and have no symptoms.
This comes as the omicron surge is converging with the holidays and a huge increase in airline travel at the same time.
Let's go to our Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean. He's joining us from Reagan National Airport, just outside of Washington, D.C. Pete, this year, holiday travel, what, it's roaring back, right?
PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Roaring back, Wolf. It is getting busier by the moment here at Reagan National Airport. The traffic is building and, in fact, some of the numbers of yesterday were higher than what we saw back in 2019, before pandemic. The TSA screened 2.08 million yesterday, compare that to 1.4 million two years ago.
A bit of context here though. That same Wednesday two years ago, that was Christmas Day when passenger loads are typically lower. Although even still we have seen at or near 2 million a day numbers for about seven days in a row now. And the TSA says today is going to be one of the busiest, January 3rd when everybody comes home all at once also going to be one of the busiest.
About 20 million people in total will fly according to the TSA between now and then. We have seen long lines of people at airports across the country trying to get COVID testing either because of international travel restrictions or ahead of holiday gatherings. Airlines continue to insist that flying is safe, so safe that they are asking the CDC to reduce the isolation period for somebody who gets a breakthrough infection, somebody who has COVID and is also vaccinated. Right now, it is ten days. Airlines want that reduced to five days. They say that will allow them to keep more airline workers on the job and avoid operational issues like we saw back in the fall.
And we're just learning this now. United Airlines is telling pilots that there is a bit of an issue with breakthrough coronavirus infections and United tells me that they are canceling some flights, FlightAware says about 100 flights in total because of a pilot shortage. United is proactively canceling these flights, it says, not trying to leave people stranded at the airport but there is a bit of an issue with breakthrough infections here. Remember, United Airlines is the airline that required all of its employees to be vaccinated. Wolf?
BLITZER: Pete Muntean over at Reagan National, thank you very much.
I want to look now at some of the ways you can fly as safely as possible right into the midst of this surge in omicron cases. Our Brian Todd has been talking to experts on this really important issue. What are you learning, Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this information is crucial tonight because as Pete just told us, there are so many people taking to the skies right now. Experts tell us this is all about being vaxed, distancing and not taking those masks off.
TODD (voice over): From LAX to Atlanta Hartsfield, America's airports are jam packed. Some passengers worried about taking to the skies during the omicron variant surge.
G.F. GRANT, TRAVELER AT HARTSFIELD-JACKSON ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: I don't like the fact that the planes are all full. We're squashed in when I came out here from California, squashed in and I anticipate the same thing going home.
TODD: With some 20 million people estimated to be flying this holiday season in the U.S., health experts are urging passengers to take new precautions to avoid contracting the omicron variant.
GAVIN MACGREGOR-SKINNER, SENIOR DIRECTOR, GLOBAL BIORISK ADVISORY COUNCIL: It is all about staying away from people you don't know, strangers. You don't know whether they have got the virus or not.
TODD: Are surgical masks still the best ones to wear on planes?
PROF. SHELDON JACOBSON, PUBLIC HEALTH DATA EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN: The entire flying experience requires protection and using K-95s and N-95s is the gold standard right now that people should be considering and investing.
TODD: Experts advise us to use layers of protections on flights, not just masks but face shields too, especially on longer flights.
Given the higher transmissibility of the omicron variant, should passengers avoid taking masks off completely, even to eat or drink during a flight?
DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Don't take it off at anytime. This idea of eating or taking it off to have a drink, not worth doing that.
TODD: But if you have a drink, experts say, try to sip through a straw with your mask still on.
We caught up with Biorisk Analyst Gavin MacGregor-Skinner, as he just gotten off a series of intercontinental flights lasting 30 hours and asked him a key question. What about seating? Is a window seat the best option for protection from droplets?
MACGREGOR-SKINNER: If you can seat on the window seat and not move for whatever duration of flight it is, then you have got less likelihood, less risk of being in contact with those people that are moving up and down the aisle and that is where it is safer.
TODD: Health experts tell us we can't expect airlines to go back to their policies of putting fewer people on flights so there can be more spacing. But if they can, passengers should still sit at least six feet away from others inside of the cabin. Still, one analyst says, being inside of the cabin in flight isn't as dangerous as many might think because of the sophisticated air filtration systems in passenger planes.
The riskiest places, he says, the terminals.
JACOBSON: The real risk is when you're waiting to board the plane when you're on checking in and you're getting off the plane, where people are congregating, people are tired, people are fatigued wearing the mask and it easily comes off their face.
[18:35:00] They want to get something to drink or eat. Very vulnerable times.
TODD (on camera): One health expert told us passengers should interact with airline personnel about COVID safety. Ask them questions as you board a plane or beforehand, questions like when was the last time they fully cleaned the plane and whether the plane has certain safety features, like HEPA filters. Wolf?
BLITZER: Really useful information for all those getting ready to fly. Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.
There is more breaking news coming up next. The House January 6 select committee asked the U.S. Supreme Court to expedite an appeal from former President Trump as he tries to keep his White House records secret.
BLITZER: There is more breaking news we're following. The House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has just asked the U.S. Supreme Court to expedite a review of former President Trump's request to block the release of White House documents.
Let's discuss with a key member of the select committee, Democratic Congressman Pete Aguilar of the California. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
As you probably know, former president's legal team is arguing he could suffer what they call irreparable harm if these documents are not turned over without judicial review. What do you say to that?
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Well, I say that we're going to let this process play out but they should have to detail what harm they're talking about. But the district court and the court of appeals both sided with us that these documents that we've asked the National Archives for, that the president has already turned over to the archives, those documents themselves far exceed the value of a general executive privilege that the president has put forward.
So, the courts have already ruled in our favor. Our anticipation is that the Supreme Court will uphold that ruling in an expedited manner.
BLITZER: As I just noted, your committee is also now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to expedite its review of the case. Are you concerned that the former president is going to be successful at running out the clock here, if you will?
AGUILAR: Well, the district court and the court of appeals both had expedited reviews for us and we appreciate the manner in which they -- that they accepted these. And so if the Supreme Court does the same thing, these will be argued and we could have a resolution quickly. But just, again, we've already been ruled in our favor by the court of appeals that these documents of a national interest and so we anticipate that the court will uphold that.
BLITZER: We'll see what the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court decide to do, six appointed by Republican presidents, three by Democratic presidents.
Your committee is also seeking, Congressman, to interview Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. Let's listen to what he had to say in response to your request.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We just got the letter today, Brian. We're going to review the letter. But I have got to be honest with you, I have got concerned about any committee that will take a document and alter it and present it to the American people, completely mislead the American people, like they did last week. And it turns out it looks it wasn't just one document they did this with, it was other text messages as well. So, I have got real concerns with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What is your response to that, Congressman?
AGUILAR: Well, he's talking about our -- a few text messages where we left a period out of the message itself. My colleague is free to put out those text messages in full if he'd like them. But what we're doing here is we're calling Congressman Jordan to follow up with what he said, that he has nothing to hide. In fact, he testified in the Rules Committee that he's been straightforward all along. So, if that is the case, he will come forward, he will share his thoughts, but he clearly has firsthand knowledge of the strategy meeting that was held in the White House with the former president talking about overturning the election just days after the election itself, as well as the events leading up to. And we know from his own interview that he had conversations with the president potentially multiple conversations with the President on January 6.
All of those are of interest to the work that we are doing, that meet the legislative intent that we're trying to accomplish here, to follow the facts and to tell the truth and we hope that he comes and testifies and gives testimony and comments to the committee.
BLITZER: Before I let you go, are there any other members of Congress you'll be asking to speak to?
AGUILAR: Well, previously, to Mr. Jordan, obviously, Congressman Perry also played a hand in some of the efforts. There were other members of Congress who were having conversations with the White House and with those close to the president. But for now, what we've made public is Congressman Perry and Congressman Jordan. Both should fulfill their obligations to come speak before the committee.
BLITZER: Merry Christmas to you, Congressman Pete Aguilar, thanks very for joining us and Happy New Year.
AGUILAR: Have a good new year, Wolf. BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up a member of Congress is opening up right now about being the victim of a terrifying carjacking at gunpoint. We're going to hear what she went through. That is next.
BLITZER: We're getting a truly harrowing new account from a member of Congress who was carjacked at gunpoint in broad daylight.
Our congressional correspondent Jessica Dean is joining us right now.
Jessica, this sounds like a terrifying ordeal. What happened?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure does, Wolf. And we've got some news within the last hour that a 19-year-old Delaware man has been charged in this case. Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon in her home district including Philadelphia and some suburbs outside of Philadelphia, she's been at a popular park there when she says she was approached by men with a gun and asked her to turn over her keys.
I'll let you take a listen. This is the first time she talked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): Two people got out of the car and approached us with guns and one of them said, give me the keys. So I did. As I said, they were young people and they had guns and, you know, I was scared that someone would do something even more stupid than trying to steal a car.
So, that was scary. That was probably the scariest part, walking away before they left the area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: Truly harrowing experience for her. She also said that President Joe Biden did call and check on her after that happened, she said it was mostly a personal conversation but she did express frustration, Wolf, that Congress has not been able to move any gun control legislation.
Of course, a couple of bills have come out of the House but they get stalled in the Senate where they don't have the 60 votes to pass. But she wants something done there, and something else to note, Wolf, police in Philadelphia saying the carjackings there have tripled in the last two years.
BLITZER: Well, all right. Jessica Dean, thank you very much. Glad the congresswoman is okay.
Let's discuss with the former police commissioner in Philadelphia, CNN's senior law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey.
Chief Ramsey, you're the former police commissioner there. What goes through your mind when you hear the details of this crime?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That she's very lucky she didn't get hurt. She did the right thing. She turned over her property immediately.
You know, a lot of people don't realize it but armed robberies can turn bad very, very quickly. The last thing you want to do is try to hold on to your property. Whatever that property might be, when you're confronted with an armed gunman.
BLITZER: And as you heard Jessica report, carjackings in Philadelphia where you were the police commissioner have more than tripled in the last two years. What does this tell you about crime and safety in your city right now?
RAMSEY: Well, there's a crisis in crime here in Philadelphia. Homicides are at an all-time high. I think there are 545 as of today. I mean, we've just never had this much crime in the city of Philadelphia. We have a district attorney here, though, who recently said there was no crisis in crime.
But he's wrong. I mean, it's not just -- it's robberies, it's carjackings. It's homicides. It's shootings.
It is -- it is a terrible problem right now that needs to be confronted and the only way to be able to deal with it in my opinion, at least one critical way of dealing with it, is some of these guys have got to go to jail. They've got to be locked up. They don't care. They'll do it in broad daylight.
They'll do it at night. They just don't care. And they need to be in jail.
BLITZER: And it's not just Philadelphia. We've seen an uptick in the violent crime in cities across the United States, whether New York or L.A., here in Washington, D.C. you were the police chief here in the nation's capital.
Do you expect things to improve or God forbid continue to get worse in 2022?
RAMSEY: Well, it's difficult to say, but when you start to see trends like this they tend not to suddenly stop. And it's unfortunate, but I fear that it could continue to show some increase over the next year or so. I hope I'm wrong.
But my experience tells me that, you know, trends like this tend to continue. Again, you've got emboldened criminals that are out there right now committing crimes. And unless they're dealt with and dealt with swiftly it's not going to change. They're not going to suddenly wake up one day and decides you're going to go straight. I mean, this kid that robbed the representative, 19 years old, long criminal history. You know, he was -- he had a court case already pending against him.
And so you know, characters like that just need to be off the street and put in jail. Period.
BLITZER: We need strong police forces all across the country to deal with this rise in crime. Chief Ramsey, thanks so much.
RAMSEY: That's right.
BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us. Merry Christmas to you.
RAMSEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: And happy New Year as well.
Just ahead, the Russian President Vladimir Putin uses an address to his nation to pour yet more fuel on the tensions, which are real, over Ukraine.
BLITZER: More breaking news. United Airlines has canceled more than 100 Christmas eve flights. It's citing the omicron variant, saying the nationwide spike in cases right now is having a direct impact on its flight crews and the people who run their operations.
United says it's in the process of notifying customers about the cancellations. We'll continue to watch this important story.
Also tonight, Vladimir Putin has found a new platform to point fingers at the United States and NATO.
CNN's Melissa Bell is in Moscow for us.
Melissa, tell us more about Putin's end of year news conference today. What did he say?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a nearly four-hour press conference, wolf, that really only served to highlight just how vast the chasm of misunderstanding is between Russia and NATO over Ukraine. Vladimir Putin expressing his suspicion, his belief that the Ukrainian authorities in Kiev might be planning a war against those Russian- speaking parts in the East, explaining how the sanctions being threatened by NATO and the United States only serve to reinforce his feeling that a war is being prepared and that's why those troops have been placed on the border. Also really underlining his deep distrust of NATO, the fact that his demands, he insists, must be respected as a whole if any progress is to be made and really only serves to show that whilst we're looking ahead to these talks that have been announced for January, it's very difficult to see what room for actual understanding there might be between NATO and Russia over Ukraine.
And bear in mind that this even as that front line continues to simmer with tension within east Ukraine itself. We heard from France and Germany tonight warning caution and urging reserve both on the side of pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces. And that's the great danger here, is the world awaits those January talks as that rhetoric grows day after day it seems, the fear that that front line where we've seen since 2015 in that Minsk agreement regular small-scale clashes, sniper fire, that those tensions might be exacerbated.
It is that front line that the world's going to be watching very closely even as it waits for those parties, NATO, Russia to sit down around a table on the basis of demands that the United States and NATO have already said are unacceptable, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Melissa, thank you. Melissa Bell in Moscow.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I'm taking some time off for the holidays, but I want to wish all of our viewers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
Let's hope 2022 will be a good year for all of us.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.