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The Situation Room
Biden Says, Will Move U.S. Troops to Eastern Europe in Near Term as Pentagon Warns of Horrific Outcome if Russia Invades Ukraine; 1/6 Committee Subpoenas 14 Republicans Tied Fake Trump Electors Scheme. Now, States of Emergency as Historic Winter Storm Closes In; Delay Average of Cases Falls Below 600,000 for First Time in 3 Weeks; Stormy Daniels Fires Back at Michael Avenatti As He Cross-Examines Her. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 28, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: This Sunday on CNN State of the Union, my colleague Dana Bash talks to the top two senators on the foreign relations committee, Democratic Chairman Bob Menendez and Republican James Risch, plus New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. That's at 9:00 A.M. and noon Eastern.
Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room. Have a great weekend.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden says he will move U.S. troops in NATO allied countries in Eastern Europe in the near term, this as the Pentagon warns Russia now has the capable to attack Ukraine with potentially horrific consequences.
Also, tonight, the January 6 select committee subpoenas 14 Republicans allegedly tied to a scheme involving fake Trump electors aimed at overturning voting results in multiple states. I'll ask Select Committee Member Congressman Adam Schiff what these witnesses might reveal.
And as many as 75 million Americans are now bracing for life threatening winter storms. Parts of the East Coast are under states of emergency as risk of being hammered with historic snow near hurricane force winds and an explosive bomb cyclone.
We want to welcome the viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
And we begin with the breaking news on President Biden's new plans to begin moving U.S. troops to Eastern Europe soon. Let's go straight to the Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt. Update our viewers, Alex.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. President Biden was asked just moments ago when he would be moving more U.S. troops to Europe. Remember there are some 8,500 U.S. on stand-by on alert to go and support NATO operations in Eastern European NATO countries. He said that those troops would be moving to Europe in the near term. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll be moving U.S. troops to Eastern Europe in the NATO countries in the near term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: So those thousands of U.S. troops heading to Europe in the near term. Wolf, today, we also saw a rare joint appearance by two of the most senior leaders at the defense department, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs. It really highlighted how serious this crisis is.
LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don't think this is about trusting Putin. This is about our allies trusting us.
MARQUARDT (voice over): The Pentagon most senior leader warning today that an invasion would be both painful for Russia's military and devastating for civilians.
GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: If that was unleashed on you Ukraine it would be significant, very significant, and it would result in a significant amount as it is but they would be horrific, it would be terrible.
MARQUARDT: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and General Mark Milley trying to make the point to Vladimir Putin that a move across the Ukrainian border by his forces would be a terrible mistake. But there still time to avoid war. It's not inevitable.
AUSTIN: And Mr. Putin can do the right thing, as well. There's no reason that this situation has to devolve into conflict. He can choose to deescalate. He can order his troops away. He can choose dialogue and diplomacy.
MARQUARDT: 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on alert to be sent to Europe but Austin said no American forces have been moved yet. While they watched a massive Russian buildup.
MILLEY: This is larger in scale and scope in the massing of forces than anything we have seen in recent memory and I think you have to go back quite a while into the cold war days to see something of this magnitude.
MARQUARDT: The Pentagon says Russia continues to amass the forces along Ukraine's multiple flanks but Ukraine's president has appeared far less alarmed than President Joe Biden, who has warned an invasion may be imminent.
Today, President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters he understands the situation around Ukraine better and that the situation isn't any worse than what Ukraine has seen in the past. Across the border, in Russia today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he doesn't see room for compromise and Russia would not let its rights to be trampled. But Russia does not want war he insisted. In remarkably blunt terms, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, John Sullivan, said Russia's actions tell a different story.
JOHN SULLIVAN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: If you and I were having a discussion or negotiation, If I put a gun on the table and say that I come in peace, you know, that's frightening and that's what we see now.
MARQUARDT (on camera): So what comes next? These diplomatic efforts to try to prevent war continue. The U.S. is expecting to hear back from Moscow on a written response that the U.S. recently gave the Russian on their security priorities.
But we did see a preview, Wolf, of what they think today. The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, saying that the U.S. response is, quote, so full of itself and he said he feels embarrassed for the people who wrote it. Wolf?
BLITZER: And that's not encouraging at all. Alex Marquardt, thanks for that report.
Let's go live to Ukraine right now. Our Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is on the ground for us.
Sam, as President Biden is planning to move troops into Eastern Europe, to the NATO allies of Eastern Europe, the Ukrainian president, as we heard, publicly pushing back on the U.S. assessment of the Russian threat. So what is this message, the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, what is his message for President Biden?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I think in the first instance he sounds a little childish in many, ways particularly given the over $600 million worth of aid to the country of Ukraine over the last year, 200 million recently announced, large numbers of weapons being poured in almost every day in support of this country militarily.
But there was something a bit more nuanced going on, even though he put it rather firmly frankly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINE PRESIDENT: I'm the president of Ukraine. I'm based here and I think I know the details much deeper than any other president. It's important the president should know what the situation is from me not from intermediaries.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KILEY: Now, what he means by that really is not to sound too rude. He can be a bit abrasive, the Ukrainian president, Wolf, but ultimately what he's been also saying is that by talking up the danger of invasion and particularly the imminence of the invasion that's already having an economic impact on Ukraine. There is capital flight from this country. Last year did very well raising a lot of international capital investment, over $6 billion worth of investment last year. He doesn't want to see that being undone because that plays straight into the hands of the Kremlin.
That is part ultimately of the hybrid warfare combined with cyberattacks and potential political instability here that would form part of the whole conflict map being used by the Kremlin. Wolf?
BLITZER: Sam Kiley in Ukraine for us, Sam, thank you.
Let's get some perspective now from the former NATO Supreme Allied commander, Retired General Wesley Clark, he's a CNN Military Analyst. Also with us, Evelyn Farkas, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine.
General Clark, moments ago you heard President Biden said he will be moving U.S. troops to NATO's eastern flank. He says he will do so in the near term, his words, near term. How critical is it right now to see this ramping up, this deterrence ramping up as the threat of a Russian invasion apparently rises?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it's very important. And I welcome that announcement. And that's what we have to do because Mr. Putin has escalated his forces, he's escalated the nature of the threat. In order for the deterrence to hold, the president has to show resolve and he has to bring that resolve not only from the United States but for NATO.
So, this is U.S. leadership. You're seeing it in action. And right now if you look at the gives and the takes in this, you would say the United States is doing -- and NATO are doing extremely well. NATO is holding together, NATO is pushing back and showing resolve. It is the right strategy.
BLITZER: At the same time, Evelyn, how disturbing is it to hear that the chairman of Joint Chiefs say this Russian build-up is on a bigger scale than anything he says they have seen since the cold war?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: I think it is really important, Wolf. And thank you for having me back in The Situation Room. I think it's really important because what he is trying to do and this gets at the discussion you have with Sam is to really make it clear to the international community, to everyone who doesn't want to pay attention to what's happening, what's at stake and how dangerous this is.
So, that's why it's important for the president, for the leaders in the Pentagon to raise this. Otherwise there might be an interest and a desire that we have seen in the past to ignore it and there's a real danger in ignoring it now. BLITZER: There certainly is. You know, General Clark, I know you're concerned about Russia potentially taking what are called destabilizing military actions, short of a full scale invasion. What would that look like potentially?
CLARK: Probably would look like first an attempt to kidnap the president or announce that he has resigned. You would have crowds in the street. You would have Russian operatives in Ukrainian uniforms. People would be running around confused and there would be a period of obfuscation and then someone would invite the Russians in. It probably will be accompanied by cyberattacks, power shutdowns, T.V. would be off the air and the next thing you know Russia would say they've restored order.
I'm sure that's a scenario that Mr. Putin has thought about and would love to achieve.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Evelyn, what do you think about that, the potential, the Russians kidnapping President Zelensky of Ukraine?
FARKAS: I think as the general said it is completely in the realm of the possible and probably one of the scenarios they would consider. Having said that, it is incredibly risky because the Ukrainian people, especially in the capital of Kyiv, are very nationalistic. They're the ones after all who went to the streets in 2014 and shed blood in order to join the European Union. So, they will go to the streets again and the situation will become very messy very fast for the Russian government.
BLITZER: Evelyn Farkas, thank you very much. General Clark thanks to you as well. We're going to stay on top of this very, very worrisome story.
Just ahead, there's more breaking news were following. We have exclusive CNN reporting on a January 6 select committee subpoena now for a spokesman who served in the Trump White House, this as the committee also reveals subpoenas for 14 people said to have knowledge of a plot to install fake electors.
BLITZER: We have breaking news in the insurrection investigation. CNN has just learned exclusively that a former Trump White House spokesperson has been subpoenaed by the January 6 select committee. Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is working the story for us. Ryan, tell us more about this latest subpoena.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. This is the former White House deputy press secretary, Judd Deere, somebody that was very close to the former president Donald Trump and was in the White House and in the west wing both on January 5th and on January 6th. And its activity are during those two period, those two days specifically that the committee is very interested. And according to this letter that they sent to Deere, requesting that he appear in front of them and submit information.
They want to know about any role that Deere played in formulating the White House's response to the January 6 insurrection that includes the video that the White House produced that was eventually put on the president's Twitter feed asking people to leave the Capitol. They wanted to know if Deere has access to any outtakes or early drafts of that video that he can supply the committee. And they're also interested in a meeting that he took part in on January 5th with a number of people of where Trump reportedly said to the group, what are the ideas to get the RINOs to do the right thing tomorrow? How do we convince the Congress?
So, Deere, a central player in all of this, they're asking for him to come forward. One thing that could complicate this though, Wolf, is that he currently works for the United States Congress. He is a Deputy Chief of Staff to a United States senator, Republican senator. So, we will have to see how this all plays out as the committee attempts to compel him to cooperate with their investigation.
BLITZER: Yes. RINOs, Republicans in name only. This January 6 select committee, Ryan, also issued 14 new subpoenas related to this fake elector scheme that we're learning a lot more about. Give us the latest on that.
NOBLES: Yes. It seems with its passing day, Wolf, everyone investigating what happened on January 6 is becoming more and more interested in this plot to send in an alternate slate of electors in the United States Congress in the national archives in the hope that they would replace the duly impaneled electors that were sent by the voters of these seven swing states. So, the committee has asked, sent subpoenas to 14 individuals that served as the chairpersons and secretaries on the alternate slate of electors to ask them what they know about this plot.
And what's interesting, Wolf, is that they point out in the letter that not only to these electors go to the national archives but they also went to the Congress and they specifically went to Vice President Mike Pence, as well. And there seems to have been some effort to, if Mike Pence was able to stand in the way of the certification process that he could use as alternate slate of electors to try and keep Donald Trump in office. Obviously, that didn't happen.
So, the big question here, Wolf, is, was this a criminal act? We know this is something the Department of Justice is already looking into. Listen to what the Deputy attorney general told us earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LISA MONACO, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, first, on the issue you raised in terms of fraudulent elector certification is reported. We have received the referrals. Our prosecutors are looking at those and I can't say anything more on ongoing investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP) NOBLES: And it is interesting how the posture on this plot has changed. Initially, people kind of laughed it off, said it was just a joke, that it was symbolic, it did mean anything. Wolf, it is becoming more and more clear that those that organized this were taking it seriously and now the committee, the Department of Justice and others trying to find out if there's something even bigger, perhaps even a crime. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes. Let's find out presumably fairly soon presumably. Ryan Nobles reporting from Capitol Hill, thank you.
Let's discuss with a key member of the January 6 select committee, Congressman Schiff. He's also the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. So, what can you tell us? What is your committee hoping to learn through the 14 new subpoenas to these key players in what's called this fake elector scheme?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, there were multiple lines of effort to try to overturn the election and this appears to be one of them, that is having these alternate slates of electors meet on December 14th to present themselves to the Congress, to the National Archives, which is where these supposed certificate of electors should go and these fake ones did go, and have the vice president used these alternate, these false certificate to justify either delaying the counting or to count some of the alternates instead to count the real ones.
So, we know these people that were the chairs and the secretaries who have been asked to come in from the seven states have information about it. In particular, we want to know who was organizing these effort, who brought them together, who assembled them? What role did the Trump campaign play? How much of this was centralized organized? Because so many of these certificate look quite identical with other states. So we want to know about the level of coordination and who was really running this show.
BLITZER: As you heard, the Deputy attorney general of the United States, Lisa Monaco, told our Evan Perez earlier this week that federal prosecutors are investigating these fake elector certifications. Potentially, and I want your assessment, was a crime potentially committed here? What is your opinion?
SCHIFFF: Well, first of all, I would say, in terms of Lisa Monaco's statements, she was careful in the words and I'm reading maybe less into it than others are reading into those words. She said she was -- they were looking at the referrals. That doesn't mean that they opened up an investigation into these false electors.
So, I don't know the status of the Justice Department if there's an investigation or there will be. And we are trying to fully flesh out the facts, so I'm not ready to opine on whether it would justify a referral by the Justice Department by the Congress.
And our role is oversight and reform and legislation. It is not as a prosecutor. But, of course, I have a background and so I take a particular interest in what the Justice Department is doing.
BLITZER: Well, let's see what you guys learn.
CNN has also exclusively learned, Congressman, that your committee has subpoenaed the former deputy White House press secretary during the Trump administration, Judd Deere. What specific gaps can he fill in your investigation?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, those days of January 5th and obviously January 6th are key to the investigation and he has the information we believe know into what was going on, you know, in the moment. And so January 5th, there was a large gathering on the mall and, of course, January, 6th that gathering would turn violent. But on January 5th, reportedly, the president in the Oval Office with Judd Deere and others listening to that crowd out here and how angry they sound and commenting on it and then having a conversation about how do we get the those Republicans in name only to do the right thing, meaning presumably Republicans in Congress the following during the joint session.
So, he was reportedly asked his thoughts by the president or others in the room where about how they could get Congress to essentially stop the peaceful transfer of power, to stop the results of the election. And then, of course, the following day, Mr. Deere was reportedly involved in the White House response. What was there press strategy, what were they going to say? And so, whatever the president was thinking, what he was doing and most importantly what he was not doing while we were being attacked in the Capitol, he could shed a lot to light on.
BLITZER: Yes, lots going on right now. You guys are learning a lot. We will stay in close touch. Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks so much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, as states of emergency are going into effect up and down the East Coast as a blizzard threatens to dump up to two feet of snow in New England. The storm is rapidly gaining strength right now and has the potential to become what they're calling a bomb cyclone. Stand by for the latest forecast.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news. A state of emergency being declared as a powerful and life threatening storm threatens impact 75 million people from the mid-Atlantic to the northeast.
CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us in Atlantic City. Brian, weather officials are warning that this storm could develop into what's known as a bomb cyclone with hurricane force winds and blizzard conditions.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And here along the boardwalk in Atlantic City, temperatures are really starting to drop very quickly. You see the boardwalk behind me and the hotels down there, the boardwalk is near deserted as people sort to hunker down ahead of the storm. The blizzard warning starts in about 30 minutes and they say that whiteout conditions are going to make it near impossible to see almost anything. Visibility in the coming is going to be almost impossible.
Now, over here, we can tell you about flood warnings here in Atlantic City, the high tide is going to be in about ten hours. They're worried about streets down here like this one getting heavily flooded in the coming hours. We are told by our CNN weather team that this storm is going to be like being in a hurricane with heavy snow replacing heavy rain.
TODD (voice over): Tonight 75 million people from the southeast to New England in the path of a major winter storm with the potential to be a bomb cyclone.
MAYOR MICHELLE WU (D-BOSTON, MA): This has a potential to be a historic storm, a huge one.
TODD: 10 million people under blizzard warnings in ten states along the northeast coast and near hurricane strength gusts predicted.
GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): Storms could be devastated. They can be deadly. They can be dangerous.
TODD: Massachusetts has deployed 40 members of the National Guard to perform rescued if needed.
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): Because of the wind there would be extremely hard to see anything a various point in time along the way.
TODD: Authorities urging residents to stock up, be prepared, don't go out.
GOV. DANIEL MCKEE (R-RI): Make sure things like your phone and smart phones, smart devices are charged. Make sure you have a flashlight and batteries that are handy.
TODD: And don't get stranded, as hundreds did on I-95in Virginia earlier this month.
STEVE BELLONE, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Stay off the roads. This is a very serious storm.
TODD: Already, more than 3,000 flight cancelations for tomorrow, according to FlightAware, Amtrak suspending service between New York City and Boston overnight, commuter trains on Long Island and in part of Connecticut also suspended.
In places like Scituate, Massachusetts, which has been inundated by past nor'easters, blockades of sandbags in place to fight coastal flooding.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't overfill my freezer in case I lose power.
TODD: And plunging temperatures across the east could compound any flooding problems in coastal cities like Atlantic City New Jersey.
MAYOR MARTY SMALL (D-ATLANTIC CITY, NJ): Our concern with the flooding is the monumental drop in temperatures that we're going to experience. We're forecast a negative five degrees forecasted. So that water would turn into ice on top of the elements and everything.
TODD: The mayor tells us they have been preparing for days and he just asks people to sit tight and let the emergency crews do their work.
SMALL: I'm sure the casino's are happy because it's guaranteed that their customers won't go anywhere.
TODD (on camera): Now Mayor Marty Small has told us they have been warning residents not to leave the vehicles on certain streets. They will be towed. They are really concern, Wolf, about people venturing out, getting in the way of snow plows, first responders and other professionals who are going to have to be out there doing the work in the coming hours, Wolf. It is going to be very treacherous here.
BLITZER: Yes. Just be careful over there. I know it's going to be very awful in Atlantic City and elsewhere along the eastern sea board. Brian Todd reporting for us, thanks.
Let's get the latest right now on this very, very dangerous weather. Our Meteorologist Tom Sater is joining us. Tom, tell us more about who's in the path of what they call this possible bomb cyclone.
TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well it's mainly going to hug the coastline from areas at the lower eastern shore all the way up through the coastal main. But I know you, Wolf, like me and so many others, remember the blizzard of '78, the benchmark just crippling storm. That really was the biggest storm that we've seen in history until 2003. These numbers here are two-day totals for Boston. But this is a single day storm for the most part.
So, let's look at the Boston record for the greatest snowfall in 24- hour period. Again, it's 2003, notice the number here, 23.6, they are looking at 18 to 24 inches. That's the sweet spot. Boston down in toward Plymouth County where I wouldn't be surprised to see a three- foot total somewhere.
But, again, now, we couldn't forecast this right away because we were waiting for the storm to develop off the Southeastern Coast.
The energy from this just ejected from the Rockies yesterday. We knew there's a storm for four or five days but the models went back and forth. While that energy along with the cold front and there's snow here, we have snow squall warnings that is, in part of Kentucky and you're getting a dusting to an inch or two in few other areas, such as part of Delmarva.
But now the storm is going to crank up. The sea surface temperatures in the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic are warmer than they should be. That's fuel for the storm to really start to crank and bomb out. That's where the pressure drops dramatically in 24 hours but also those warmer sea surface temperatures provide more water vapor, which, in turn, means heavier snowfall.
When we talk about one to two inches a rates per hour, that's heavy snow. We're talking about three, four maybe five inches an hour. I'm most concern about this heavy snow with the winds. We can have drifts several feet high possibly up to the second story buildings. We're worry about roof collapse come day two, day three. But, again, now that we have the sweet spot, all the warnings are in place, ten states blizzard warnings, again, that sweet spot from Province Rhode Island up to Portland Maine. It's going to be a long day tomorrow. Just stay home.
BLITZER: Yes. In the last few minutes it's begun, it's just started to snowing here in Washington D.C. as well. Tom Sater, we will stay in touch. Thank you very much.
Just ahead, authorities in Pittsburgh are scrambling to try to figure out why a major four lane bridge collapsed, sending cars and a city bus plunging into a ravine. The Pittsburgh fire chief is standing by live. We'll get an update.
BLITZER: We are learning more tonight about the collapse of a bridge that sent cars and a bus crashing into a Pittsburgh ravine hours before President Biden came to the city to push his infrastructure spending plan. Our National Correspondent Athena Jones is on the scene.
BIDEN: This side up by the crane.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A stop President Biden did not plan to make, a bridge that collapsed this morning.
BIDEN: There are literally more bridges in Pittsburgh than any other city in the world. They'll going to fix them all. Not a joke. This is going to be a gigantic change.
A. JONES: The collapse happening miles from where Biden later travelled to tout his trillion dollar infrastructure plan.
BIDEN: I've talked about it every time I've come to Pittsburgh and we finally got it done, a bipartisan infrastructure law. We saw today when a bridge in disrepair it literally can threaten lives.
A. JONES: Residents living near the bridge described hearing the structure fail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It sounded like a huge snowplow pushing along a raw tarmac surface with no snow.
A. JONES: Several vehicles were on the bridge when it fell early Friday morning, including this Pittsburgh port authority bus.
DARYL LUCIANI, PITTSBURGH PORT AUTHORITY BUS DRIVER: As I was driving across it, in my mind, I knew the bridge was collapsing. And I just can feel it, the bus bouncing and shaking.
A. JONES: Officials reported ten injuries, three transported to the hospital.
MAYOR ED GAINEY (D-PITTSBURGH, PA): The good thing at this point is there's no fatalities.
A. JONES: Described by city officials as a vital artery for the city the bridge's condition rated poor and inspection by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in September.
Were it not for poor weather conditions, the story could have been very different.
LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): This could have been much worst. We were fortunate that there's a public school delay and the traffic could have been much more pronounced.
We're the city of bridges, I mean, and how many other are out there?
A. JONES: The collapse in Pittsburgh a stark reminder of the seriousness of the nation's crumbling infrastructure system. Biden's law set aside $110 billion for roads, bridges, and major infrastructure projects. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers nearly 21,000 bridges nationwide are at risk of a potential disaster in extreme weather.
BIDEN: The next time, we don't need headlines saying that someone was killed when the next bridge collapses.
A. JONES (on camera): Now the investigation into the cause of the collapse of the bridge into the ravine behind me which you can barely make out is just getting under way with the national transportation safety board team having arrived. There first sort of business would be mapping out the accident scene or the incident scene using a\ drone. And the Allegheny County executive told me that fixing this bridge is a top priority, state engineers expect it will take at least a year to get up and running again and that's the best case scenario. Wolf
BLITZER: Yes. Sadly so many bridges in the country are in awful, awful shape right now. Athena Jones in Pittsburgh, thank you very much. Let's get more on the disaster. Joining us now the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau Chief Darryl Jones, he's on the scene of the collapse.
Chief, thank you so much for joining us. Do you have any indication yet of what caused this dangerous collapse or a timeline for when you'll get answers?
CHIEF DARRYL JONES, PITTSBURGH FIRE BUREAU: Well, first, thank you for having me, Wolf. And no, we do not have any timeline. The investigation is just beginning.
BLITZER: How are the survivors of this collapse doing? We know, ten people were injured, three went to hospital. Are they all okay right now?
D. JONES: None suffered any life threatening injuries. And I am very grateful for that. If this collapse happened a half hour, 45 minutes later it may have been 40 or 50 cars on the bridge at that time and the results may be very well not have been so good.
BLITZER: I know you met with President Biden today when he was in Pittsburgh. He warned that many of the Pittsburgh bridges and there so many bridges in Pittsburgh in his words are just as old and just as decrepit as the bridge that collapse. Is that true?
D. JONES: I believe they are in various stages of just repair. Maybe none as bad as this one was. I don't think we knew exactly how bad this was until after the incident happened. We have approximately 445 bridges here in this city and so there's a constant loop of inspections and repairs so that any money to help improve our infrastructure would be greatly appreciated.
BLITZER: Well, there is money now in that new infrastructure law, bipartisan law that passed the House and Senate. Good luck over there. Darryl Jones is the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau Chief. Appreciate it very much. Thank you for joining us.
D. JONES: Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Coming up, the former FDA Chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb, says the U.S. needs to be willing to relax COVID measures as conditions improve.
BLITZER: There's more evidence that the omicron surge is easing here in the U.S. The daily average of new COVID cases has fallen below 600,000 for the first time in 3 weeks.
Let's discuss with CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, and Dr. Ala Stanford, founder and CEO of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.
Dr. Wen, the former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb says the U.S. needs to be, in his words, willing to relax COVID measures as conditions improve. Should we be willing as lift restrictions as we are to put them in
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, we should. And, by the way, I'm not saying that we should be throwing caution out the window. There are parts of the country that are still in the middle of a terrible omicron surge where hospitals are still getting overwhelmed. We definitely do not want to relax restrictions in those areas. But, rather, there are many others where the infection numbers are clearly coming down. Hospitals are coming right and we've talked a lot about how public health depends on public trust.
Well, that public health authority also depends on knowing that when the emergency is over you need to lift restrictions and that way people go about the daily lives, and then if there is a new variant that arises to the future, if hospitals are overwhelmed again, then those restrictions can come back and I do think that planning for that future needs to happen now.
BLITZER: Let me get Dr. Stanford's thoughts. Do you think it's necessary to relax conditions so people go along with restrictions again if God forbid another wave hits?
DR. ALA STANFORD, FOUNDER & CEO, BLACK DOCTORS COVID-19 CONSORTIUM: I think so but not immediately. We need to see a consistent trend. We need to share with the American people what those numbers are. Are they containment levels? Meaning, we're 3 percent or less with positivity and you see it plateau or reduce every day over several days. And you share that.
And then, that way, if you have to reintroduce the restrictions, again, you can say because now, we see an uptick. And then, the trust is there and there is not an idea that this is flip-flopping, or mixed messaging.
BLITZER: You know, Dr. Wen, you heard Dr. Fauci say he is urging Americans to hang on he says for just a few more weeks. How much better do you think things will look by then?
WEN: I think we could be in for a much better spring and summer because so many people have been infected during this last omicron wave. And also, we have many people who are vaccinated and boosted, and so the overall immune protection could actually be very high. Of course, we hope that that's the case.
We have to prepare for what happens if that's not, and also what happens if there is a new variant that comes along. And so, the role of our federal government should be to ramp up testing, make sure that people have high-quality masks as they are available, and in the meantime, I do think that we should be introducing off-ramps for things like masking, especially off ramps for masking in schools. Things that were already difficult for people to accept, in the first place. But now, that things are looking better. And also, I think we need to set new metrics. I don't think the metrics should only be infection numbers. We should
also be looking at whether vaccines continue to provide very good protection and also whether hospitals are full.
BLITZER: You know, Dr. Stanford, what worries me is that the death rate here in the United States is still alarmingly high. Every day this week, about 2,200 Americans were dying from COVID. Most -- mostly unvaccinated Americans.
When should we expect to see a drop in the death rate in the number of Americans dying from COVID as the number of cases and hospitalizations seem now to be dropping?
STANFORD: So, it's when transmission is reduced. Transmission is reduced when there is less virus in our community, and we can stop it from replicating and forming more variants. That comes from more people getting COVID, which we don't want you to, or getting first and second shots and certainly boosters.
And so, that's when you see the levels start to come down with those hospitalizations and deaths and so forth. And so, the push is still vaccination, boosters, and reduce transmission. So, when does it stop? That really depends on us.
BLITZER: Bottom line, get vaccinated and get boosted, as well.
Doctors, thank you so much for joining us.
Coming up, some truly bizarre moments from Michael Avenatti's four- hour cross-examination of his former client, Stormy Daniels, who told the court she communicates with dead people.
BLITZER: Some very unusual testimony as porn star Stormy Daniels wrapped up her testimony in the fraud trial of her former attorney Michael Avenatti.
CNN's Kara Scannell is joining us with details.
Kara, another rather bizarre day in court. What can you tell us?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, Wolf, another four hours of cross- examination and he seemed to focus on trying to undercut Stormy Daniels' credibility. He questioned about her beliefs in the poltergeist phenomena, seeing shadowy figures and visions of a woman. He also asked about her statements in 2018 when she denied having an affair with Donald Trump and denied receiving any hush money payments. Avenatti suggesting that Daniels' testimony today was a lie because she had lied in 2018.
Well, Daniels said that in 2018, that statement was written by Trump's then-attorney Michael Cohen and she said it was complete B.S. Now, Avenatti also sought to bolster his claims he did a lot of work for Stormy Daniels and that he was entitled to the money prosecutors say he stole. He asked her about several statements she made, including one to "The New York Times."
He said Ms. Daniels, did you tell "The New York Times" in 2018 every time I watch him work, I think this is what it must have been hike to see the Sistine Chapel being painted? Daniels says, yes, that's what you told me to say.
He also showed some financial transactions, bank statements in which he paid $100,000 he claimed on Stormy Daniels' behalf to buy two videos of her right before her interview with "60 Minutes." One of those interviews was from a man called Bubba Loves Sponge.
Now, prosecutors say they will recollect rest their case on Monday. Avenatti says he is considering whether he will testify, strongly leaving in favor of that and will tell the judge on Monday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Kara Scannell, thank you very much. Kara Scannell in New York for us.
A powerful and very emotional tribute to the slain New York police officer Jason Rivera, one of two officers who died last Friday after being shot responding to a 911 call. His widow sharing her anguish over his death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINIQUE LUZURIAGA, WIDOW OF NYPD OFFICER JASON RIVERA: Seeing you in a hospital bed wrapped up in sheets not hearing you when I was talking to you broke me. I asked why? I said to you, wake up, baby, I'm here. The little bit of hope I had that you will come back to life just to say good-bye or say I love you one more time had left. I was lost.
The system continues to fail us. We are not safe anymore. Not even the members of the service.
I know you were tired of these laws, especially the ones from the new D.A. I hope he's watching you speak through me right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And we send our deepest, deepest condolences to the families of Officer Rivera and fellow Officer Wilbert Mora. May they rest in peace, may their memories be a blessing.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.