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The Situation Room

Biden Says, Every Indication Russia Will Attack In Next Several Days; Judge Says, Trump, Ivanka And Don Jr. Must Testify In Civil Probe; California About To Unveil Endemic Approach To COVID-19; Prosecutors in Hate Crimes Trial Present Mounting Evidence of Racist Slurs Used By Arbery's Killers; Russian Skater Kamila Valieva Finishes Fourth After Multiple Falls Amid Doping Scandal. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 17, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And as COVID forces are shift in more flexible work, Belgium is now transitioning to a four day work week. This week in the deal workers also have the right to ignore their boss' emails after business hours. That is not a right that anyone on my staff should expect any time soon.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: On the brink of war. President Biden says all signs now point with invasion of Ukraine within the next several days. CNN is on the scene of an attack that Moscow might use as a pretext to invade.

Also breaking, a judge orders former President Trump to testify under oath along with his daughter Ivanka and son Don Jr. The New York attorney General says the Trumps now have 21 days to answer her questions about their business practices. But the former president plans to appeal.

And we're standing by for California to unveil the next phase of its COVID response, shifting to an endemic approach to the virus, the most populous state taking a leading role right now in the accelerating push to return to normal.

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 this hour with President Biden's most urgent warning yet that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent, the U.S. and its allies sounding the alarm that Vladimir Putin may be in the midst of plotting a pretext to attack.

We're covering this breaking story with correspondents and analysts in Ukraine, in Russia and here in the United States.

First, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the president says the threat of a Russian invasion is very high right now. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you are right, Wolf. It is the most blunt warning yet that we have heard from President Biden. And what you're seeing are two very different versions of reality right now, with Russia claiming that they are moving forces back from Ukraine border, but officials here in Washington say that they are very much on the path to an invasion. And officials coming out today one-by-one, including President Biden himself, warning that they may be manufacturing a reason to invade.


COLLINS (voice over): Tonight, President Biden is delivering a blunt warning about an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Every indication we have is they're prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine.

COLLINS: As the Kremlin insists it withdrawing troops from border areas, the White House is disputing that and says Russia is adding forces and could attack at any moment.

REPORTER: Is your sense that this is going to happen now?

BIDEN: Yes. Not -- my sense is this will happen in the next several days.

COLLINS: Biden leaving the door open for a diplomatic resolution with a dose of reality.

BIDEN: There is a path. There is a way through this.

I have no plans to call Putin right now.

COLLINS: Led by the president, U.S. officials came out one by one to make clear concerns that Russia will invent an excuse to justify an invasion.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: It could be a fabricated, so- called terrorist bombing inside of Russia, the invented discovery of a mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians or a fake, even a real attack using chemical weapons.

COLLINS: In abruptly scheduled remarks, Secretary of State Blinken cast doubt on Russia's claimed pursuit of diplomacy and instead laid out in vivid detail what an attack could look like based on U.S. intelligence.

BLINKEN: Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukrainian. Communications will be jammed. Cyberattacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions.

COLLINS: The Pentagon still gathering details tonight as Ukraine and Russia are blaming one another for an artillery strike on a kindergarten in Northeast Ukraine.

LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We've said for some time that the Russians might do something like this in order to justify a military conflict.

COLLINS: Defense Secretary Austin warning that despite talk of de- escalation, Russia is only moving forces closer to Ukraine's border.

AUSTIN: We see them fly in more combat and support aircraft. We see them sharpen their readiness in the Black Sea. We even see them stocking up their blood supplies.

COLLINS: With diplomacy already on thin ice, the State Department is revealing that the number two at the U.S. embassy in Moscow was expelled last month, which a spokesperson called an escalatory step by Russia. In the same room where then-Secretary of State Colin Powell made the case for invading Iraq in 2003, the nation's top diplomat today addressed skepticism of U.S. intelligence.

BLINKEN: Some have called into question our information, recalling previous instances where intelligence ultimately did not bear out.


But let me be clear, I am here today not to start a war but to prevent one.


COLLINS (on camera): And, Wolf, this comes as just a short time ago the vice president arrived in Munich for a security conference where U.S. and European leaders are going to be meeting as they are trying to avert a war and a potential Russian invasion. Secretary Blinken has just arrived there as well. He said before he left that he has reached out via letter to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, to propose another meeting between the two of them but no word on a response yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much, Kaitlan over at the White House.

Now, let's get more on that attack on a kindergarten in Ukraine and fears that Russia might use it to justify war. Our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward was at the scene earlier today. She's now back in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Clarissa, tell us what you saw.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, it is pretty rare for the Ukrainian military to suddenly summon a group of journalists, fly them nearly 400 miles away and take them to the frontlines when it is already dark. But they very much wanted us to see the aftermath after a heavy morning of shelling in the town of Stanytsia Luhanska.

They wanted the world to see it. There is great concern that this situation could be escalating. Because while that war, that frontline has been going on for many years between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists, as you mentioned, there are broad concerns that this could be used as the situation, if it continues to escalate, as a pretext for President Putin to try to launch some kind of an incursion. Take a look at what we saw when we turned up in the dark at this kindergarten Stanytsia Luhanska.


WARD: This kindergarten is less than 3 miles from the so-called line of contact, the frontline. And witnesses in this area said that around 8:00 or 9:00 this morning, they started to hear shelling. It was loud enough that they could hear the whistle of the shells going by and two of them landed here at this kindergarten. Let's take a look.

So, she's saying that the children fortunately were over there having their breakfast and playing. But if they have been in that room there, this could be a very different story.

So, this is where the Ukrainian military says that one of those artillery shells hit, and you can see, this is a room where children would be playing every day. It happened that this morning there were no kids in this room at the time of impact. But three people who work in the school, in the kindergarten, I should say, are now being treated according to local authorities for concussions.


WARD: So, those three people are now out of the hospital, Wolf. But what this really goes to illustrate, I think, is the fact that this conflict where the frontlines have mostly been frozen for some years now, and you might see something like three or four major ceasefire violations in one day and they would usually be taking place in the night.

Well, today, the Ukrainian military says they saw more than 30 ceasefire violations, major ceasefire violations in one day including during the daytime, while we were on the ground doing a live shot with John King, there was more shelling. The Ukrainian military got very nervous, pulled us all on to a bus and took us out of there.

And in the hours after we left the scene, yet another shell hit a house in the same town, hit a gas pipe, starting a huge fire, and that fire and that heat in general in this kind of escalation is exactly what is not needed right now. And this is the big fear that in the fog of war and in these chaotic moments and with, you know, anxiety on such a high edge at the moment, that things could quickly escalate out of control at a time when calm, Wolf, is what is so desperately needed.

BLITZER: Yes. That video from the Ukraine Defense Ministry is really pretty awful.

Clarissa, I want you to stand by as we bring in retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, he's a CNN Military Analyst, a former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe.

General, let me get your reaction, first of all, to the shelling of this kindergarten. The defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, says this is something they've been expecting Russia might to do to justify an invasion. How much does this raise tensions?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: A lot, Wolf. And I'm just going to reinforce what Clarissa said. There is several agencies that monitor the violation of the Minsk accords by Russia in the Donbas Region. Four or five a day is normal, it sometimes spikes to 15, 45 today is significant and what is also significant is the vast majority of those were artillery strikes.

When you're talking about weapons that have been outlawed in the Minsk Accords, you're seeing the Russian-led separatists doing things that are law of war violations when they're targeting civilians and it is just reprehensible across the board.


And we've seen in the past, unfortunately, when the United States even partnered or coordinated with Russia in Syria, these kinds of things would take place, the shelling of schools, the shelling of hospitals, purposely done.

Now, I don't know if this strike was purposeful on that kindergarten but they have been known to do this in the past and in Syria, in Georgia, in Moldova and many other places. So, you're going to see, I think, the attempts at the Russian military, again, as President Biden and Secretary Blinken said today, really push some things that seem to be incredulous but they are a way of making the Russians feel like they can go into a territory and attack it. And it is just unfortunate and just horrific.

BLITZER: It comes, General Hertling, as the president, the defense secretary, the secretary of state, they all laid out an incredible detail how they expect Putin to launch an invasion. At this point, are they still hoping to deter Putin or is this a warning telling the world, basically, get ready, brace for impact?

HERTLING: Well, in Secretary Blinken's comments today at the U.N., Wolf, I was fascinated by that because usually you don't hear a diplomat of his stature talking about military operations. But what he did is went tick by tick all of the things that he expected Russia to do.

Why did he say that? First of all, it's because they are thing that's they have done before. Secondly, I predict, or I analyze that he must have some pretty good intelligence and they must be reading some mail. He knows what is coming next. And he knows the kinds of plots from our intelligence facts that Russia may do.

And that was what was really concerning to me, that the secretary of state is doing that kind of outlining of military actions to prevent the kinds of things that could occur when diplomacy is no longer viewed as valuable by the Russians.

BLITZER: Clarissa, you were there at that kindergarten, you saw the little soccer balls the toys, these kids. It could have been so, so much worse than it turned out to be. First of all, I want you to be very careful, you and your team over there, but give us your thoughts as a mother when you saw this?

WARD: I mean, Wolf, it is horrifying, right? It is every parent's worst nightmare. By the grace of God, those children were in a different room in that building. But I will say as well, we've been talking about how things feel normal here and people seem kind of relaxed here.

But when you talk to people working in the school and that teacher, Ulyasi Manyanko (ph), you felt a significant change. You felt the anxiety. You felt the nerves. You felt the shock, because as well as being a parents' worst nightmare, it is a teacher's worst nightmare. It is your job, your duty to look after those children.

And to be if a situation like that, where you are frantically trying to shepherd them into a hallway, which is the first thing she did to try to get them away from any windows, any glass that could be blown in and then fire -- the fire crews arrived and they were quickly evacuate from the building and out to their parents. They are safe now, which is, again, as I said, a huge mercy, but, clearly, a shocking situation and frankly deeply ominous.

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward, one of our courageous journalists, be careful over there, Clarissa, we'll be in touch. General Hertling, thanks to you as well.

There's more breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a judge orders former President Trump and two of his children to testify under oath in the New York civil investigation of the Trump Organization's business practices. We'll go inside the ruling and what it could mean for the Trump family. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: There is more breaking news we're following tonight. A New York judge ruling that former President Trump, hid son, Donald Trump Jr., and daughter, Ivanka, must, repeat, must testify in the state's civil investigation of their business practices.

CNN's Kara Scannell is working this story for us. She's just outside of Trump Tower in New York City for us. So, Kara, what is the latest?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's right. So, following a two-hour hearing today, the judge issued this eight-page opinion in the hearing. Trump lawyers for the Trumps said that they shouldn't have to comply with the subpoena for their testimony, saying that because the New York attorney general is working in parallel on the criminal investigation, they should have the same right they would have then, that is to mean that they wanted immunity if they were to testify.

Now, the judge fully rejected their arguments, writing, in the final analysis, a state attorney general commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious amounts of possible financial fraud and wants to question under oath several of the entities principles, including its namesake, she has the clear right to do so.

Now, the judge also criticized the Trump Organization's response earlier this week when their long time accounting firm quit and said that their nearly ten years of financials should no longer be relied upon. Trump Organization said that essentially because Mazars did not declare that there was fraud, it meant that the New York attorney general's investigation was moot. Well, the judge called that preposterous. He also said it was reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, George Orwell and alternative facts.

Now, lawyers for the former president and his two sons said they will likely appeal this ruling. They're going to ask the appeals court for a stay, that is to put off this three-week deadline when they would have to testify.

Now, it's not clear what will happen next but the lawyers did suggest if they assert their Fifth Amendment and not answer any of these questions.



BLITZER: All right. CNN's Kara Scannell outside Trump Tower in New York, thank you.

Let's get some more in all of this. Joining us now, CNN's Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN's Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip, she's the anchor of Inside Politics Sunday.

Jeffrey, former President Trump and his kids argued that sitting for a deposition now would violate, they say, their constitutional rights, this judge certainly disagreed. What do you make of this ruling?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it was actually very straightforward. This is a legitimate investigation and the attorney general of New York has subpoena power. She subpoenaed the former president and his two children. And they have a choice. They can testify or they can take the Fifth.

The problem with taking the Fifth is, first of all, it is embarrassing but that is no bar to having to do it, but, second, in a civil case, as opposed to a criminal case, a jury can draw what's called adverse inference. If you take the Fifth in a civil case, the jury can assume, if it comes to that, that you did something wrong, that there is an incriminating answer there. So, that is why the Trump family wants to avoid having to take the Fifth.

But the answer to that is too bad. That is what the law is and so it is not a surprise that the judge ruled this way.

BLITZER: Abby, after dodging accountability through scandal after scandal after scandal, what will it say if Trump is deposed in this investigation or if he decides, let's say, to plead the Fifth?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, frankly, if Trump decides to testify, it could end disastrously, I mean, partly because he could simply tell the truth, which would likely incriminate him. I mean, the reality is that Trump is not the person to be relied upon for giving an accurate assessment of his financial -- his financial standing. I mean, it is evidence by this lengthy statement that he issued earlier this week in which he made all kinds claims and put all kinds of numbers and statements out there that I'm sure sent his lawyers running for some Tylenol for a headache.

I mean, this is a really, potentially incriminating situation for Trump if he were to testify because I'm not sure that he really understands the significance of what he could say that could incriminate him. And as Jeffrey said, if he doesn't testify, then the jury could make a negative inference from that and that too could be damaging for the outcome of the case, perhaps less so for his standing in the public sphere, what the public learns eventually about what he has to say on this topic.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, Trump's lawyers had argued that he didn't have enough information to answer questions, but as Abby just pointed out, Trump then goes out there and issues this lengthy statement for claiming to have, quote, fantastic assets, including a breakdown in dollar amounts. He's not an easy client, is he?

TOOBIN: He's not an easy client. However, he has testified under oath many times. As we know, he's very litigious. But before he became president, you know, he is actually expert as a filibustering through these examinations.

It is a very different story now, now that he's a former president, now that there is -- he's under all of this scrutiny. But, you know, I have made the mistake of counting him out before. And even though this investigation is very serious, you know, it is a long way from an indictment or a conviction of Donald Trump for anything.

BLITZER: And it is just one of several legal issues, Abby, that Trump is facing.

PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is -- but this is probably the one that he's the most concerned about, because this has to do with his personal and his business finances. And we all know that this is something that Trump has been very sensitive about. He has fought to hide his tax returns for this very reason. And some people around him believe that he sees the presidency as a way to shield himself from some of these types of investigations.

TOOBIN: And just one more point, this is not like January 6, where there is a time limit in how long the investigation can go on. Letitia James has a four-year term, she's likely to get re-elected to another, so this could go on for quite some time.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, Abby Phillip, guys, thank you very much.

Coming up this hour, California is unveiling a new playbook for responding to COVID-19 as the state looks to move out of crisis mode.


BLITZER: Tonight, the U.S. and its allies seem more convinced than ever that Russia is on the verge of attacks Ukraine. Vladimir Putin keeping the world on edge.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, What do we know about Putin's motives?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know that Vladimir Putin has long viewed Ukraine as essentially part of Russia. He's wanted it back in his sphere of influence for years. But this crisis is also about Putin's view of his country's place in history.


TODD (voice over): As he pulls Europe to the brink of war, former KGB colonel in the Kremlin is accused by U.S. officials of fabricating pretext for invading Ukraine. For Vladimir Putin, analysts say, Ukraine is personal. Early in his presidency, he told his nation, quote, the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. And there was one Soviet republican he especially regretted losing.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: For him, Ukraine is the crown jewel that was lost. Ukraine is a sister country he wrote a whole essay essentially spinning a kind of pseudo historical tale about why Ukraine really shouldn't be separate from mother Russia.

TODD: In that essay last summer, Putin wrote that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, a single whole, that modern Ukraine was shaped for a significant part on the lands of historical Russia. Experts say Putin has always had the view that countries on Russia's periphery have to be pro-Russian and he sees a western-friendly Ukrainian government as a threat to that ideal. But they also say that the man born and raised in what is now St. Petersburg, the seat of czars, has his own legacy in mind when it comes to what happens in Ukraine.

JOHN SIPHER, FORMER HEAD OF CIA RUSSIA PROGRAM: He wants his legacy to be like the great czars of the past or the heads of the Soviet Union. He left Russia as a great power to be feared, respected and treated seriously in the world.

TODD: Analysts say Putin said he chafed at what he's perceived as past U.S. administrations treating Russia like a lesser power and that flexing his muscle with Ukraine is a way to keep his country relevant.

SIPHER: He wants people to be coming to Russia, to solve world problems than being a threat to others, that is better than being disrespected or ignored.

TODD: But Kremlin watchers say the man viewed as the ultimate strategist may have overplayed his hand this time.

GLASSER: Look, it could be a terrible miscalculation. War, you know, leads to unpredictable consequences. The economic consequences of an invasion would be massive on Russia.


TODD (on camera): As powerful as Vladimir Putin is, analysts say a drawn-out, bloody war would in Ukraine would harm his legacy and could even start to threaten his hold on power. As one expert points out, significant losses from the war in Afghanistan did contribute to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Wolf?

BLITZER: It certainly did. All right, Brian Todd reporting. Thank you.

Let's bring in two longtime Putin watchers, CNN Contributor Russian Affairs Jill Dougherty, she's joining us from Moscow, also with us Julia Ioffe, founding partner and Washington Correspondent of Puck.

Jill, does Putin has grand delusions about restoring Russia to the greatness, in his mind, of the Soviet Union?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: You know, I think when we use the word, Soviet Union, we begin to get off track. I think what he wants is, if you look at Russia, he feels that when Russia became an independent country in 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart, that it became very vulnerable and the -- that vulnerability was exploited by the west. And the rules were set by the west, the United States. So, I think what he wants is a sphere of influence in which Russia controls that periphery and that means that Ukraine, in his world, cannot be a fully independent country. It will always have to be influenced or controlled in some way by Russia. That is his view. What is going to happen could be very different.

BLITZER: Julia, let me get your thoughts on how Putin actually views Ukraine right now. Does he think he would be welcomed as a conquering hero?

JULIA IOFFE, FOUNDING PARTNER AND WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: I think he images that he would be welcomed by the Russian-speaking east, at least, of Ukraine. Although, you know, people reporting from the ground there show that it is not the Ukraine he thought it was and it is not the Ukraine it was before he invaded in 2014, started a war in the east in 2014, annexed Crimea.

A friend in Moscow put it really well. He said, before 2014, Ukraine was kind of -- went back and forth between the west, between Russia, had this internal push and pull between the east and west of the country. But after 2014, Putin himself, while wanting to bring Ukraine back into Russia's orbit, gave it an organizing national principle that is basically an anti-Moscow principle. So, in fact, he's accomplishing the very opposite of what he intends and I think might be making a grave miscalculation here.

BLITZER: You know, Jill, where do you see this heading?

DOUGHERTY: Well, there are many ways that it could head. It could end up in a conflict, a very bloody conflict. Or it could be that this is our life for the foreseeable future. That President Putin continues to have forces more or less coming, going, stationing equipment and essentially threatening while at the same time saying it is no threat, we're not going to invade.

He will continue, I believe, because the more this goes on, the more dangerous and destructive it is for Ukraine, economically, politically. I think President Putin probably believes that this pressure might lead to the downfall of the Zelensky government, and that is exactly what he would want.


BLITZER: Yes, certainly, he would want that. Jill Dougherty, Julia Ioffe, thanks to both of you for joining us.

Just ahead, we're going live to California for details on the state's new plans in terms of responding to COVID-19.


BLITZER: There is breaking news this hour out of California. The state is unveiling its new COVID-19 strategy, marking a dramatic shift toward what is called the endemic phase of the virus.

Our National Correspondent Nick Watt is in Los Angeles for us. We're also joined by Dr. Peter Hotez, co-Director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

Nick, the news, first of all, from you, you've been listening closely to the governor, Gavin Newsom, out in California. What is the latest?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is right, Wolf. He's just wrapping up now. He is talking in a warehouse full of COVID supplies. And the real message here, as he's saying that we're moving into the endemic phase, is not that this is game over.


He's not saying that we should be out there close talking with strangers again. That's not what he's saying. He's saying, we're moving into a new phase and we need to take with us what we have learned over the past two years. We've got to learn to live alongside this virus. We just got to snap a new acronym, as well, SMARTER, stands for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education, Rx, treatment, so it almost works.

And, basically, what they're going to be doing is they are going to have a huge mask stockpile. Right now, about 70 percent of Californians are fully vaccinated. That effort will roll on. They're also going to continue analyzing the wastewater so that we will get a heads up if there is a new outbreak anywhere in the state. He also wants to drop the cost of testing by starting some partnerships.

You know, again, not mission accomplished, but this is how we roll on and how we live with this virus. Take a listen to a little bit of what he had to say.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): What we're announcing here today is about turning a page, moving from this crisis mentality, moving from a reactive framework to a framework where we are more sentinel in our approach, that we stand firm and confident as we lean into the future, moving away from a reactive mindset and a crisis mindset to living with this virus.


WATT: Now, we also heard earlier from the HHS secretary out in California and, you know, he said this is -- he called this virus a sneaky shape-shifting virus, stressing that we really do need to be aware that there could be more variants, more surges further down the line. But the way he summed it up with this metaphor, we are not out of the woods yet but we no longer need to be fully scared by what is behind the next tree. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Nick, thanks very much.

Let's bring in Dr. Hotez. Is now the time, do you think, Dr. Hotez, for California and indeed for the rest of the country to shift the focus to this new so-called endemic phase, away from the pandemic to the endemic?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, : Well, not quite, Wolf, but we're getting there pretty soon. So in parts of the East Coast, we're already getting down below ten new cases for 100,000 per day. So, that is pretty exciting. Maybe we'll get down below five new cases. California is a little bit behind. But when moving rapidly, if you look at shape of the curve, the deceleration is pretty rapid. So, this is all good news.

The way I think of this, Wolf, is that we really should be thinking about a national reset. And so the kind of language that the governor is using, don't be surprised if we hear similar types of words coming out of the CDC director and others in the White House, because the numbers are going down.

But here is going to be the tough part, is that anticipatory guidance of if and when a new variant arises. And many of us are expecting a new variant across the southern states, in Texas, over the summer, just like we saw in 2020 and 2021. And possibly we'll see regular winter peaks, as many are predicting, such as the Marc Lipstich at Harvard and Harvard School of Public Health.

So, here is going to be the balance, making the public feel comfortable with loosening restrictions but getting ready for what is to come.

BLITZER: Yes. That I keep saying, I fear the possibility of another variant down the road. Dr. Peter Hotez, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

Coming up, outrage over how police treated a black teen and a white teen who got into a fight at a New Jersey mall.



BLITZER: Prosecutors in the hate crimes trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery are presenting mounting evidence of the defendants' past use of racial slurs as they try to make their case that Arbery was chased down and shot because he was black.

CNN's Nick Valencia has the latest.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, more disturbing testimony in the federal hate crime trial for the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery. The judge offering free counseling to the jurors once the trial concludes. Federal prosecutors today called to the stand the medical examiner who performed Arbery's autopsy as well as a Glenn County police officer who had responded to the property where Ahmaud Arbery was caught on surveillance video the day he was killed.

This on the heels of the most explosive testimony. FBI agent Amy Vaughan Wednesday testifying about the litany of messages, some racist and violent, she investigated from Travis McMichael and his father Gregory, as well as their neighbor William Roddie Bryan.

Much of Vaughan's testimony focusing on Travis McMichael whose racist rant appeared to be commonplace. In one message responding to a text from a friend, Travis McMichael discussed a new job and why he liked that he didn't work with Black people. They ruin everything, he writes. That's why I love what I do now. Not an N-word in sight.

In January 2019, in a text from a friend about what he called other kinds of people at a local Cracker Barrel restaurant, Travis McMichael responds, need to change the name from Cracker Barrel to N-word bucket.

Travis McMichael's racist messages also appearing on social media. In a comment on a Facebook post reacting to a video of primarily black teens beating up a white teenager, Travis McMichael writes, I say shoot them all.


Then makes reference to using a semi-automatic gun. Full saiga would have done wonders. F those GD monkeys.

Leaving court, Marcus Arbery Sr. saying he was left sick from what he heard, adding that the evidence should not leave a doubt in anyone's mind why his son was targeted and murdered.

MARCUS ARBERY, FATHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: They killed him because he was a young black man. You know what I'm saying? We don't need people like him in this world (ph). They hate black people that bad.

(END VIDEOTAPE) VALENCIA (on camera): Also highlighted in court on Thursday was the fact that the McMichaels had a vanity plate on their truck which featured an outdated version of the Georgia state flag. Within that is an emblem of the Confederate flag. Reacting to that evidence, Ahmaud Arbery's father said, quote, these are some good old boys who killed my son because he's black -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Nick, thank you very much. Nick Valencia reporting.

Let's get some more on this. Joining us now, CNN legal analyst, criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson.

Joey, does it make any sense to you that these revealing, disgusting racial slurs were not part of the first trial?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It does for the following reasons. We have to understand, Wolf, good to be with you, the federal trial is all about race. What prosecutors are doing is putting together compelling evidence, very disturbing evidence as to who these people are, what their thoughts were, what the state of mind was and how that facilitated and motivated their activities.

In the state case, it was about whether or not there was an actual murderer, a detainment, improper, unlawful conduct, as against Ahmaud Arbery. And, of course, prosecutors made the calculation that we're going to make it about that, not about race. This case is all about race, very difficult to hear, to listen to and to watch.

BLITZER: Certainly is. I want to turn also to a very disturbing incident in New Jersey where police officers broke up a fight between a black teenager and white teenager. Let's watch the very different treatment these two young men received.


BLITZER: What goes through your mind, Joey? You see the black teenager on the ground, his hands cuffed, police on his back, white teenager is sitting on the couch.

JACKSON: Concerned about the tactics, concerned about the measures, concerned about the strategy, concerned about the message, concerned about the attitude, concerned about the culture, I could continue.

The bottom line is that we have to ask ourselves what motivates that? What is it about the black male that makes people believe that there are people who don't love them, who don't support them, who are not in tune with having them be the best people they can possibly be in communities? Why is it that they are, right, African American males that we are targeted in a way that looks like this.

Look, police are out there, Wolf, doing good things protecting communities. This does not have anything to do or ultimately does not bridge the gap between trust between African American communities and police. We got to do better. We have to send a better message to our youth and communities. BLITZER: We certainly do. Joey Jackson, thank you very much.

Up next, drama in the figure skating competition at the Beijing Winter Olympics.



BLITZER: Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva failing to medal in the women's individual event amid a major doping scandal.

Here's CNN correspondent, Selina Wang.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kamila Valieva seen practicing hours before a performance she hoped could win gold. Instead, it ended in stunning disappointment.

The 15-year-old Olympian from Russia holding back tears as she finished the woman's single skating competition in fourth place. One of the world's best figure skaters walking off the ice bearing her head in her hands after a final performance riddled with stumbles and falls. It's a crushing end to a week marred by scandal for Valieva, after it was discovered that in December, she tested positive for a banned drug, now her two Russian team mates winning gold and silver instead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I was watching Kamila actually, her performance and I saw from her first jump how difficult it was, what a burden it was for her, and I understand what an athlete feels. It's more difficult to go on to the end after a couple of things like that happen.

WANG: The three single skate winners taking the podium, as the Russian Olympic Committee received gold and silver, and Japan took bronze. Had Valieva been among the medalists, that ceremony would have been postponed until the doping investigation around her concluded. Her first place winning the women short program already delaying that events medal awards as a scandal overshadows the Olympics and exposes the alleged dark underworld of Russian figure skating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A girl of 15 would not do something wrong alone.

WANG: In their investigation, the World Anti-Doping Agency is scrutinizing Valieva's entourage, including her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, known as a power house behind Russian figure skater with a reputation for brutal training regiments.


BLITZER: CNN's Selina Wang reporting from Beijing.

Thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" live from Ukraine starts right now.