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Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) And Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) At Odds Over GOP Censure Resolution; U.S. Diplomat Says Russia Locked And Loaded For Ukraine Invasion; White House, CDC Urged To Update Guidance As State Mask Mandates Lifted; Questions Follow U.S. Military Findings That No One Was Hit By Gunfire After Kabul Airport Attack. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 08, 2022 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the Senate and House Republican leaders at odds right now over the RNC's censure resolution that's clearly dividing the Republican Party. Mitch McConnell just rejected a description of January 6th as legitimate political discourse while Kevin McCarthy is defending it.

Also tonight, a key U.S. diplomat warns Russia that Russia had its guns, quote, locked and loaded, this diplomat says, for a potential invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin now pouring cold water on claims that Vladimir Putin wants to deescalate the crisis.

And as more states are preparing to lift their mask mandates. The Biden administration is facing new pressure to update its COVID guidance and clear up the confusion.

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.

We begin with a growing disarray among Congressional Republicans over the RNC's resolution calling the Capitol insurrection, quote, legitimate political discourse. Our Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean reports the division is clearly on display at the GOP's highest levels.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, pushing back tonight on the Republican National Committee's resolution censuring Representative Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. And describing the events of January 6th as quote, legitimate political discourse.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We're here. We saw what happen. It was a violent insurrection. For the purpose of trying to prevent a peaceful transfer of power at after a legitimately certified election. From one administration to the next. That's what it was.

With regard to the suggestion that the RNC should be in the business of picking and choosing Republicans who ought to be supported, traditionally, the view of the national party committees is that we support all members of our party regardless of their positions on some issues.

DEAN: A number of Senate Republicans agree.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD) (voice over): I just think it's not a good use of their time right now when the goal is to try to get the House and Senate back to be taking on or looking back at the last election or taking on other republic.

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I've told anyone, that the minute you enter the Capitol building, it was no longer discourse. It was riot. They need to be held accountable for what they did. That's not discourse.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT) (voice over): It could not have been a more inappropriate message, one, to sanction two people of character as they did. But number two, to suggest that a violent attack on the seat of democracy is legitimate political discourse is so far from accurate.

DEAN: But House Republican leadership would not go that far.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Everybody knows anybody who broke in and caused damage, that was not called for and those people have said from the very beginning should be in jail. What they were talking about is, the six RNC members who January 6th has subpoenaed, who weren't even here, who were in Florida that day.

REPORTER: So you're supporting that resolution?

REP. ELISE STEFANIC (R-NY): The RNC has every right to take any action and the position that I have is that you're ultimately held accountable to voters in your district, voters who you represent. And we're going to hear the feedback and the views of voters pretty quickly here this year.

DEAN: Still, Kinzinger and Cheney remain steadfast in the importance of their work on the January 6th committee and finding the truth behind that day.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Right now, there's just a few of us willing to tell the base voters the truth. There's a lot of people hiding in the sand because the truth is hard and it makes their life a little uncomfortable. I think we have to fight for the soul of not just the party, but the country.


DEAN (on camera): This is certainly not what Republicans want to be talking about as we head into the 2022 midterms. They want to make that a referendum on the Biden administration and they want to be unified with their messaging, not going against one another.

So, Wolf, what we've heard time and time again from lawmakers here on the Hill, especially here on the Senate side, is that they want to be looking forward and not back. BLITZER: Good point. Jessica Dean up on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Let's get some analysis of what's going on. Joining us now, our Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger, CNN Senior Commentator, former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich, and CNN Political Commentator, the Host of CNN Smerconish, Michael Smerconish.

Gloria, we're seeing two very different sides of the Republican Party on display with these statements from leaders McConnell and McCarthy. Could this rift within the GOP be any clearer than it is tonight?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. It's completely clear and what, excuse me, what we're seeing is a Republican Party now as exhibited at the RNC. It's not good enough to just say, okay, the election was rigged. Now you have to say the insurrectionists were fine. It was fine. It was legitimate political discourse.

And just reading between the lines with Mitch McConnell, he cannot believe how stupid this was. He wants to win back the Senate. He wants to get the Senate back and here he's got the Republican National Committee taking action against two of its members. They're going to endorse people against Liz Cheney, her opponent, and they're going to take sides in primaries and he thinks that's stupid.

He doesn't want to do that. He wants to win. And when you attack people inside the so-called big tent, the big tent gets a lot smaller and Mitch McConnell knows it.

BLITZER: You say absolutely right. You know, Governor Kasich, I want to revisit what McCarthy said about president Trump in the days immediately following the January 6th insurrection. Listen to this.

The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump in the days immediately following the January 6th insurrection. Listen to this.


MCCARTHY: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts immediate action but President Trump except to share responsibility, quell the brewing unrest, and ensure president-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.


BLITZER: Governor Kasich, what happened to that Kevin McCarthy?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: It seems as though like somebody took him out and gave him a narrative and he just changed his mind on everything. But I really like what Gloria had to say about McConnell believing this is not only stupid, but I think, Wolf, we've got to give McConnell credit tonight.

I mean he said this was a violent insurrection. They were trying to stop the legitimate transfer of power. He's the, you know, next to Trump, you've got to say McConnell is the most important voice in the Republican Party. And we're beginning to see the cracks form. And we've been talking about this for weeks. We're beginning to see it happened and those people who have in the Senate who came out and condemned this silly, ridiculous thing the RNC, maybe the RNC did that whole thing, Wolf. The RNC, these local political parties, they don't matter as much we would give them credit for, but as the end of the day, McCarthy, it's not worth the power. I don't know what he's thinking. McConnell, give him an A plus today for what he has done.

BLITZER: I don't know what Ronna McDaniel, the leader of the RNC was thinking, calling this legitimate political discourse. You see the video. It's all over the place.

You know, Michael, one of the core issues here is the Republican National Committee's use of these words, legitimate political discourse to describe that clearly violent insurrection. Who's more in line do you believe with the majority of Republican voters right now? Would it be the RNC or these lawmakers like Mitch McConnell, for example, who are speaking about against it?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's the RNC. I'll give Mitch McConnell credit for consistency because at the time of the Trump impeachment, he voted to acquit on constitutional grounds over the removal language, but he said then that the insurrection had occurred because wild falsehoods had been told by the most powerful person on earth because he was angry that he lost an election.

So he's been saying the same thing when he's spoken consistently. Kevin McCarthy has not done so. The specific answer to your question though, Wolf, is take a look at ABC'S Ipsos survey a month ago. Seven in ten Republicans believe Joe Biden's election was illegitimate.

So I would say it's those RNC members who are closer to their constituency than Mitch McConnell and others who have broken ranks.

BLITZER: That's pretty disturbing. You know, Gloria, I want to get your take on a disturbing account that Congresswoman Joyce Beatty tweeted about earlier this afternoon. She writes this and let me put it up on the screen. Today, while heading to the House floor for votes, I respectfully asked my colleague, Representative Hal Rogers, to put on a mask while boarding the train. He then poked my back, demanding I get on the train. When I asked him not to touch me, he responded, quote, kiss my ass.

Rogers has now apologized, but what does it say that this kind of interaction is taking place in the halls of Congress?

BORGER: Honestly, what it says is that you cannot expect the country to behave in a civilized manner when you, the office holders, do something like that. He did apologize and good for him for doing it very quickly, but what's so wrong when somebody says to you, please put on a mask? [18:10:00]

Put on a mask.

I mean, I know we're having these huge fights in this country about freedom and whether to wear a mask, et cetera, et cetera. These are people who know each other. These are people who serve together in the Congress. They may not be best friends, but he's a senior member of the Congress and how dare he speak to a colleague like that.

I don't think anybody I work with would do that to me or to any of my other colleagues and it's inexcusable, good for him for apologizing, but what is going on up there on Capitol Hill?

BLITZER: Yes. That's a good point. You know, Michael, and as part of the black caucus' response, Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence had this to say. Listen to her.


REP. BRENDA LAWRENCE (D-MI): This was harassment of a woman, a black woman, and a woman in leadership because he put his hands on her. He told her to kiss his part of his body. And I can tell you, being a little black girl from the east side of Detroit, I would not take that standing or sitting.


BLITZER: This is a perfect example, Michael, of the breakdown of decorum in the Congress right now, isn't it?

SMERCONISH: Well, incivility is now a fund raising magnet. I won't be surprised if Rogers now fund raises on his bad behavior and you know things have changed even since when Governor Kasich was Congressman Kasich.

The demonization of the other side of the aisle I think in part is due to the fact that they don't know one another. They don't socialize with one another. They don't have a cocktail with one another. And it's much easier to vilify someone from the other side of the aisle when you have no relationship with them.

BLITZER: Yes. It's pretty awful what's going on right now. Guys, thank you very much.

There's more news we're following here in The Situation Room. Just ahead, a top U.S. diplomat now says Russia has quote, locked and loaded its guns as NATO allies try to fend off a potential invasion of Ukraine. We'll have a live report coming in from Kyiv right after the break.



BLITZER: Tonight a truly chilling description of the standoff over Ukraine. A key U.S diplomat warning that Russia has quote, locked and loaded its guns and it's pointing them at Ukraine. This comes as western leaders are urgently trying to avert a war.

CNN Alex Marquardt is in the Ukrainian Capital for us tonight. Alex, the French president is clearly leading those diplomatic efforts at least right now. What's the latest?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. French President Emmanuel Macron has really taken a central roll in this back and forth for the past few weeks as really been dominated by the U.S. Joe Biden and the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Macron has become something of a middle man, a moderator between the two sides. Of course France is much closer in its position to the United States and we've seen Macron just in the past 24 hours go from Moscow to here in Kyiv and on to Berlin.

And tonight, he said alongside the German chancellor, that he does see an emergence of new leads when it comes to the prospect of deescalating the situation and having Russian forces pull back from the border with Ukraine.

He says that he believes that there are some concrete, practical solutions that can be found. And he really zeroed in on two of them, Wolf. The first is how to solve the ongoing fighting in the eastern part of the country. That fighting has been raging for eight years, ever since Russia invaded Ukraine back in 2014. And he said that the conversations should continue over the Minsk Agreements, and those were the agreements that will put in place following the Russia invasion. But they've never really been implemented. So he had some hope that those talks could get back on track.

And then he talked about security cooperation and guarantees of European security and Russian security between the European side and the Russian side. That of course is something we've heard a lot about from Russian President Vladimir Putin who says that NATO is in fact threatening Russian security.

So there has been some progress. There has been some optimism from President Macron. At the same time, the Kremlin raining a little bit on Macron's parade after he left Moscow saying that they did not agree as France had said, that there would be no more military escalation. That the Kremlin had not agreed to that and saying that they would not agree to a firm date to remove their troops from Belarus following exercises. Those troops threatening Ukraine, Wolf.

And of course, the big question now is Putin simply biding his time? Is he truly embracing these diplomatic talks to avert a war, which a senior Biden administration official told CNN could result in tens of thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands of refugees. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a horrible situation that's unfolding right now. Alex Marquardt in Kyiv for us. Thank you very much.

Here in the United States, officials are indeed increasingly concerned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a blood bath for civilians, which as many as 50,000 people killed.

Let's go the our Chief White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the administration is hoping diplomacy will diffuse the situation. What is the White House saying about all this tonight?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They still don't know much, Wolf. They're watching and seeing how this is playing out with the French leader taking the moves that he's been taking, going from Russia, going to Ukraine today and watching all of this happen and the White House said they do expect President Biden to get an update from the French president in the coming days based on these lengthy conversations, extended talks he had with Putin in Russia on yesterday.

And they're still waiting to see exactly what the outcome of this is going to be. Because if you look at what happened today, as Alex just laying out, the Kremlin has been undercutting some of the claims the French officials are making in the wake of those meetings.


And so I think there's still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the situation. They haven't got a lot of clarity from these kind of Russia diplomacy that you've seen playing out not just the meetings that the French leader is having, but also President Biden himself, hosting the German chancellor here yesterday, talking about this delicate situation that's underway.

And so we do expect Biden and Macron to speak soon. That would be -- they already speak twice about in the last week. They'll be their third conversation in recent days, but really, the White House is just watching to see of course what Putin is saying because as they reiterated today, they don't believe he's made a decision, but they know that decision is really only up to him.

BLITZER: They're absolutely right. On a very different subject, very worrisome development here in Washington today, what are you learning, Kaitlan, about this bomb scare involving the second gentleman, Vice President Kamala Harris' Husband Doug Emhoff?

COLLINS: Well, he had to be rushed out of an event that he was at, at a local high school here in Washington D.C. Dunbar High School. He had arrived at an event honoring black history month and was only there a few moments, Wolf, before secret service had to rush him out of the event. You can see the photo there of him going in the room and then the secret service ushering him out of the room after a bomb threat had been called into the school.

We were told by officials that happened about 2:15 P.M. at 2:18 P.M. They got the second gentleman out of there. Of course we have gotten a statement from the secret service since then where they said at this time, there is no information to indication that the threat was directed toward our protectee referencing the second gentleman of course and his communications director later tweeted he was home, he was safe. But certainly, of course Wolf, a very concerning event given the second gentleman was involved. BLITZER: Very concerning indeed, right here on the nation's capital. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you very much.

Coming up, more and more states are now lifting school mask mandates as the omicron surge fades, but the CDC still hasn't updated its guidance. Is that about to change? We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Tonight, the CDC director says COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are simply too high for changes to mask guidance. Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaking out just a little while ago pushing back on calls for the CDC to clear up confusion as multiple states are now set to end their mask mandates. CNN Alexandra Field has more in our pandemic report.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A mask-off tensions in schools erupting at a school board meeting in Illinois. Outrage and confusion brimming after a judge temporarily halted the governor's school mask mandate, leaving school districts to call their own shots.

DR. ALI RAJA, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: What we really need is we really need good criteria where by which local agencies can actually make those decisions because otherwise, you have individual parents trying to gauge whether or not they should listen to the CDC or whether or not they should listen to their school board and that's a really tough decision to make.

FIELD: Nationwide, the American academy of pediatrics says COVID cases among children are still extremely high, though they are falling fast, down about 40 percent from the peak two weeks ago. Governors in Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and Oregon announcing plans to end school mask mandates.

DR. JENNIFER KNIPS, INTERNAL MEDICINE SPECIALIST: Children are highly reliant on non-verbal feedback, looking at people's faces and that's how they help, that's how they develop their social and emotional intelligence skills as well as cognitive skills.

FIELD: But the White House is still encouraging masks in schools while issuing no clear guidance yet for when states should roll back restrictions or how to do it.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: States that are saying that sometimes March, mid March, end March, that makes a lot of sense. To stop them next week? California's rate is twice what Connecticut's rate is. So I think you've got a little bit of a problem there.

FIELD: A new study of the effect of COVID on kids, the largest of its kind looks at pediatric infections before omicron, finding 6 percent of children who tested positive for hospitalized. Nearly 14 percent of those children had severe illness with about 1 percent of hospitalized children losing their lives.

DR. LUCY MCBRIDE, PRACTICING INTERNIST: The best way to protect kids is by vaccinating them if that's appropriate for them, and then vaccinating the adults around them.

FIELD: Protests around vaccine mandates and other COVID related rules now causing more chaos at the Canadian/U.S. border where a demonstration started by truckers last week is backing up traffic at one of the busiest crossings.


FIELD (voice over): And when it comes to getting rid of masks, the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is saying we just aren't quite there yet. She does point to the high number of hospitalizations and high number of average daily deaths, saying those numbers remain higher than what we have seen during other peaks throughout the pandemic.

She goes on to points out that it's up to states and municipalities to determine their policies, but the CDC does continue to encourage the wearing of masks for children in schools, Wolf.

Let's bring in CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Wen, thanks for joining us. So you heard the CDC director believes cases and hospitalizations here in the U.S. right now are still too high right now to lift mask mandates. Is she right?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I understand why she and the CDC want to be cautious, but I think what governors across the country are looking for is guidance. Many have laid out these arbitrary timelines in large part because they haven't received any type of guidance from the federal government that makes sense as to when those off ramps should be. And that's the problem.


The CDC is increasingly making itself irrelevant if decisions are being made without them and people are doing their own thing. Also, there is a big difference between ending mask mandates and saying that mask are no longer needed. Ending mask mandates simply says it's not up to the government to be requiring individuals to be masking, but people can still choose to mask if they wish.

BLITZER: You have two young children. Would you feel comfortable with your kids going to school without masks?

WEN: I would not. And that's because my children are under 5. They are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. However, at the point that my older son who's 4, in preschool, at the point he becomes vaccinated, I would feel comfortable with mask restrictions being lifted in school because he will be able and all of his classmates will have the opportunity to get vaccinated for that extra protection and if they so choose, they can still wear a mask.

And so I think this is the key then, we are in a very different place than we were even a couple of months ago. We are seeing cases declining. We have vaccines available widely for kids 5 and older. We know that one way masking protects the wearer very well. And so our policies should adapt to the changing circumstances.

BLITZER: You write in a new op-ed which I read today in The Washington Post, that we should all be aware of what you call the extremes. While we navigate the next phase of the pandemic. Tell us what you mean by that.

WEN: There have been two camps all along in the pandemic. One that's pro restriction and the other that's against, but actually, there is a large third group that's growing in size. And that's the group that says there was a time and place for restrictions, but now we're at a point when these restrictions need to start getting peeled back.

And I think it's listening to this group, recognizing there are pros and cons, that there are risks and benefits to everything, including masking, especially for our youngest children. That we need to think about the potential harms to our kids of prolonged masking. At the same time, that we also recognize that masks have their place.

Good health is not just about infection control in the absence of COVID and its weighing nuance having a thoughtful conversation that we need to get to as we move through the next phase of this pandemic.

BLITZER: Dr. Leana Wen, as usual thank you very much.

And just ahead, the January 6th select committee chairman says Congressman Jim Jordan's evasive answers about his phone conversation with Donald Trump on the day of the riot are, in his words, earth shaking. I'll talk to a key committee member right after the break.



BLITZER: The chairman of the House January 6th committee said Congressman Jim Jordan's evasive answers are quote, earth shaking, as the Ohio Republican and Trump ally struggles to recall his conversations with then President Trump on the day of the siege. Listen.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I talked to him that day. I've been clear about that. I don't recall the number of times. I'd have to go -- I -- I spoke with him that day after. I think after. I don't know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don't know. I don't, I don't know that -- when those conversations happened.

I talked to the president's -- I've talked to the president so many -- I can't remember all that has been talk to him. But I've certainly talked to the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, let's discus that and more with a key member of the January 6th select committee, Democratic Congresswoman, Zoe Lofgren of California. Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. As you know, the chair of your committee is blasting Congressman Jordan's selective memory, but you still haven't decided, I understand, whether to go ahead and subpoena Jordan. Are there any consequences for this type of stone walling that seems to be going on?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, he should come in and talk to us. We know for a fact that he spoke with president, then-President Trump in the morning before the riot. I can't believe, it's just hard to believe that he wouldn't remember that. Surely he must want to come in and tell his side of the story. I mean, you've got to understand, Wolf, that when we got the information from the national archives, I mean, it's -- it shows every call made from the White House switchboard. Who was called, how long did the call go on.

Every single person who went in to the Oval Office, who was there, how long did they stay, it paints a very detailed picture of the former president's activities and so we know who he talked to, including Mr. Jordan. He ought to come in and talk about it.

BLITZER: Yes. It shows that there was apparently a ten-minute phone conversation that morning between the president and Congressman Jordan.

Your committee had also just postponed depositions with some of the key figures of this coup attempt including Rudy Giuliani. Are those interviews ever going to happen?

LOFGREN: Well, not all of the people that we want to see are eager to see us. We do believe they have an obligation to do so and we are vigorously pursuing it. But we expect to get all the information we need to get the full picture.

BLITZER: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who serves on the select committee with you. He joined me here in The Situation Room last night and said he believes, and was pretty stunning to hear this, he believes a civil war in the United States in his words, is a real possibility. Watch what he said when I pressed him on that.


KINZINGER: I do. And a year ago, I would have said no, not a chance. But I have come to realize that when we don't see each other as fellow Americans, when we begin to separate into cultural identities, when we begin to basically give up everything we believe so we can be part of a group, and then when you have leaders that come and abuse that faithfulness of that group to violent ends, as we saw on January 6th, we would be naive to think it's not possible here.



BLITZER: Do you agree with him? LOFGREN: Well, Adam is a very thoughtful guy and we I think we should listen to his words carefully. You know some of the scholars who look at the disintegration of democracies have joined in Adam's warning agree we're on very thin ice here as a society.

We've allowed and in fact some in the political world have encouraged people to go into their camps and to care more about the people on their side than the country as a whole. That's a recipe for disorder.

And as Adam pointed out, you've got people who are armed and dangerous who could meet up and not see each other as fellow Americans. You know, one of the interesting things serving on this committee is that the two Republicans on the committee, they're very conservative. If you put their voting record next to mine, you would see very little over, but they care about the country. And they don't see me as the enemy and I don't see them as the enemy. Even though we don't agree on a lot of issues because we're committed to the American democracy. And I hope that that would be taken up by every American. We should love our country and our democracy and stand up for it.

BLITZER: Good point. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

It was one of candidate Trump's staples during the 2016 campaign. Repeated attacks on Hillary Clinton over missing e-mails. Now we're learning President Trump's own recordkeeping was shockingly reckless and possibly illegal. Let let's bring in Brian Todd. He's working the story for us. What's the latest, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, watchdog groups, historians and others are openly questioning what could be missing from President Trump's records while he was in office. We have new information on Trump ripping up some records while he was in the White House and taking other material with him when he left.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is the biggest scandal since Watergate.

TODD (voice over): This from the man who would not stop slamming Hillary Clinton in 2016, accusing her of hiding something after she used a private server for e-mails.

TRUMP: 33,000 emails disappeared.

They should lock her up.

Likely including classified information.

Honestly, it's disgraceful.

Hillary Clinton is guilty.

TODD: But three former White House officials now tell CNN they saw Donald Trump on several occasions while he was president, rip up documents, drafts, and other materials that he'd finished reviewing or otherwise wasn't interested in, allegedly breaking the law. The same thing he once accused Clinton of doing.

TRUMP: People who have nothing to hide don't bleach. Nobody is ever heard of it. Don't bleach their e-mails or destroy evidence to keep it from being publicly archived as required under federal law.

TODD: Trump, now facing questions about whether he violated the Presidential Records Act. Critical for preserving a president's record in office.

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS CZAR: Most fundamentally, it's not his property. It's not the property of any president or others in an administration who create these documents. These documents are the property of the United States. The property of the American people.

TODD: The national archive says Trump's representatives have told the agency they are continuing to search for additional records that should have been turned over to the archives, but which could now be missing.

But that's not all. CNN has learned the national archives retrieved 15 boxes from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resident last month. Boxes containing documents, letters, other mementos Trump took with him when he left office. Things like a so-called love letter from the North Korean dictator.

TRUMP: I just got a great letter from Kim Jong-un.

TODD: Other items in those boxes according to the Washington Post and New York Times, a letter from former President Obama to Trump when Trump took office. And a map Trump drew on with a black sharpie to show what he falsely said was the track of Hurricane Dorian to Alabama in 2019.

Hillary Clinton is now trolling Trump's record keeping or lack there- off on tweeter, with this link to merchandise her PAC is selling, including a mug that Riley says but her e-mails. Historian Tim Neftali is concerned.

TIM NAFTALI, FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: What are we not getting back? The fact that the president had a habit and it's been documented, of tearing up records raises the question of what the go burned? What got shredded? Those are troubling.


TODD (voice over): Contacted by CNN, a person close to Trump denied that anything nefarious took place regarding the handling of documents or other materials. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we'll stay on top of the story. Brian, thank you very much.

Coming up, a special CNN investigation into the Kabul airport bombing which killed 13 American troops and 170 Afghan civilians.



BLITZER: Last August, at the height of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a deadly terror attack at Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 Afghan civilians. A Pentagon investigation into the attack released last Friday says everyone died as a result of the blast, the work of a lone suicide bomber.

But a four-month CNN investigation into that attack now raises serious questions, if that has been investigated fully.

CNN international security editor Nick Paton Walsh has our report which contains graphic images that may be disturbing to viewers.



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): The blast tore into the dense crowd.

MORSAL HAMIDI, SURVIVOR: A very high bomb blast was found, I saw a lot of hands, legs, without their bodies.

WALSH: At least 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops died after an ISIS suicide bomber struck outside Kabul airport.

The Pentagon investigation of the attack released Friday said everyone died in the blast.

GEN. KENNETH "FRANK" MCKENZIE, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: The single explosive device killed 113 U.S. service members, my explosive directing ball bearings to a packed crowd.

WALSH: The review unearthed this brief glimpse of the bomber.

CNN spent four months investigating the incident, reviewing medical records and analyzing video photos and audio of the scene and speaking to over 70 witnesses, family of the dead, doctors, hospital staff and survivors, who insist some of the dead and wounded were shot.

The analysis and testimonies raised hard questions as to whether the bomb can explain all the deaths.

NOORULLAH ZAKHEL, SURVIVOR: I mean, the soldier came directly and they started firing. I laid down when they started firing like this.

WALSH: CNN spoke to doctors and medical staff at five hospitals who spoke of seeing or treating what they say were gunshot wounds. An Italian-run emergency hospital told CNN their doctors assessed quote gunshot wounds on nine victims who arrived dead in the hour after the blast. Seven were shot in the head, they said.

But there was no autopsy done, it was rare in Afghanistan. So they assessed the appearance of the wounds.

An Afghan military hospital, a doctor recorded two other victims that were, quote, dead due to gunshot injuries and blast injuries from the airport attack.

Then, there are the survivors. One Afghan survivor was treated in the U.S. military's own Walter Reed Hospital outside Washington. He showed us his medical record asking to be anonymous for his safety. They recorded a gunshot wound to the left chest and blast injuries, too.

Another survivor Morsal Hamidi had a bullet injury to the left side of her face, say her record from the Italian hospital in Kabul.

HAMIDI: I realize the blood is coming from my face like a water from a tap. I was it by a bullet in my face, in my right jaw here, and the blood extracted from this part of my throat.

WALSH: We spoke to a doctor who treated patients at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, one of the biggest hospitals in Kabul. He said he pulled bullets out of four injured patients at the airport that night. He said he found gunshot wounds on many dead bodies, suggesting the number of people shot may be much higher.

He asked me to hide his identity for his safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was two kind of injuries. People burned from the blast with lots of holes in their bodies. But with a gunshot, you see one or two holes, in the mouth, the head, in the eye and the chest. I removed bullets from four or five injured.

WALSH: U.S. military investigators insist that was not the case.

BRIG. GEN. LANCE G. CURTIS, U.S. MILITARY INVESTIGATOR: There were absolutely no gunshot wound. We found no evidence that post-blast U.S. service members killed other U.S. service members or Afghans.

WALSH: But investigators admit they did not talk to any Afghan civilians.

CURTIS: During the course of our investigation, we did not have an opportunity to speak with Afghans on the ground.

WALSH: Yet dozens of Afghans assert there was deadly gunfire after the bomb hit here at Abbey Gate.

CURTIS: We built a 3D model of the scene. Here's the canal outside the gate 45 minutes before the blast. And then just before the device detonated, it's packed and the marines are bunched up.

U.S. military said the device was sophisticated and could be reasonably expected to have killed all the people.

The U.S. military told CNN doctors might have mistaken wounds made by these bullet bearings for bullet wound, adding, they were-to-too similar to tell apart without study of the internal wounds and the finding of the projectile that caused it, which the Afghan hospitals could not do in a mass casualty event.

With a doctor who said he pulled bullets out of four patients disagreed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to my 15 years of surgery in Afghanistan, bomb and bullet injuries are very different. When a ball bearing enters the body, it makes a big hole. Different from a chard bullet. When a bullet enters, it makes a small hole with a specific border and when it leaves, it makes a big hole.


WALSH: Other staff at his hospital told CNN, they, too, have seen bullet wounds.

There is no dispute, there was some shooting. Some in this video, three minutes after the blast, you can hear gunshots but not see who is shooting. There is chaos and fear.

U.S. marines are likely tending to injured near the gate. Children are being carried away. Some crouch for cover.

U.S. military investigators released drone video they said started just after this. It is patchy, but they say their analysis of the footage showed nobody running away and panic from gunfire or any evidence of shooting.

The U.S. and U.K. militaries have said there were three busts of gunfire both at some point just after the blast. U.S. troops noticed a suspicious military-age male across the canal soon after the blast, U.S. investigators said, they fired four warning shots.

A U.K. defense official told CNN their troops on top of a tower, five warning shots at about the same time to prevent at crowd surge. U.S. investigators said the British 35 to 45-round over the crowd from two positions.

Another marine team fired again. This time at a male on a roof armed they said with an AK-47. Investigators couldn't say how many rounds they shot.

The U.S. and British military say all the shots were fired over the crowded canal but did not hit anyone.

It's important to remember that none of the dozens of eyewitnesses we've spoken to have recalled seeing any other gunman, be it ISIS or Taliban in that scene in the aftermath.

Doubt of the Pentagon story also emerged from Afghan survivors. They also recall troops opening fire but say civilians were hit. Morsal was there with her sister in the trench, 3 meters from the blast, she said.

HAMIDI: I heard, from, it was fired into my hand. I just put it under other dead people.

WALSH: You saw the soldiers on the wall of the trench shooting down into the trench?

HAMIDI: Yes. They were shooting in the trench.

WALSH: When the shooting started, did she see it or hear it?

SHOFOGA HAMIDI, SURVIVOR (through translator): Yes, I saw a soldier, exactly. Some came to save their own colleagues. Others stood there and fired directly toward people.

WALSH: Noorullah Zakhel her uncle said he was also in the trench, hit in the head by the blast and tried to flee with his cousin, Sahel.

ZAKHEL: I told to my cousin, Sahel, run, we need to go with, I tried to go climb out from the tunnel, I succeeded but I think my cousin is killed. The soldier came directly and they start firing.

WALSH: When did you find out that Sahel was dead?

ZAKHEL: In the morning time. When I come, my family, they said, is he okay? They said, he is murdered.

WALSH: And how was his body? What were the injuries on his body?

ZAKHEL: Shooting, two bullets, one hit in this side and taken out from this side, and another one on shoulder.

WALSH: A total of 19 survivors CNN has interviewed said they saw people shot, or were shot themselves. The U.S. military said the witnesses we spoke to had, quote, jumbled memories from a concussive event and are doing their best to piece together what their brain is likely to remember clearly.

The volume of testimony from Afghan survives, though, does present questions as to how so many witnesses could make such similar claims. CNN hired a forensic blast analyst to see what they can tell us about the bomb.

CHRIS COBB SMITH, FORENSIC BLAST ANALYST: There was nothing, the concrete infrastructure in this area, that has been damaged significantly by a big blast. I do not think that was big enough to kill 180 people at all.

WALSH: Other experts disagreed, saying the bomb could have killed all those people, but there are enduring questions here from survivors of the blast. For them, the Pentagon's narrative is disputed by memories that haunt them.


WALSH (on camera): Now, Wolf, I spent three-and-a-half hours at the Pentagon listening to their version of events, many e-mails exchanged, too. And there remains this extraordinarily gap between what they believe happened and the experiences we heard of Afghans on the ground.

U.S. admits -- the military that they did not speak to Afghan civilians who were there, who survived the blast. Their conclusions are based upon what U.S. personnel told them. The question is do they investigate further or are they satisfied with the version of events given to them by their own personnel at the scene?

For Afghans, there are demands for answers, certainly and a horror that they recall that is so different from the Pentagon narrative -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this excellent, excellent reporting.

Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much for what you're doing.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.