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Biden: I'm Convinced Putin Has Made A Decision To Invade Ukraine; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, (D-IL), Is Interviewed About Russia, Ukraine, Invasion; Sources: Biden Admin Urges Ukrainian Pres. Zelensky Not To Leave Ukraine And Attend Munich Security Conference; National Archives Confirms It Found Classified Documents In Boxes Of Trump Records Taken From Mar-A-Lago; Judge: Civil Lawsuits Seeking To Hold Trump Accountable For Jan. 6 Can Move Forward; Ex-Officer Kim Potter Sentenced To 2 Years In Daunte Wright's Death; Olympic's Bring New Scrutiny Of China's Alleged Genocide Of Muslim Minority. Aired 5- 6p ET
Aired February 18, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Secretary of State Blinken and Foreign Ministers Lavrov should meet on February 24th, February 24th in Europe. But if Russia takes military action before that day, it will be clear that they have slammed the door, shut on diplomacy, they will have chosen a war. And they will pay a steep price for doing so. Not only from the sanctions that we and our allies will impose on Russia, but the more outraged the rest of the world will visit upon them.
You know, for many issues that divide our nation and our world, but standing up to Russian aggression is not one of them. The American people are united, Europe is united, the transatlantic community is united, our political parties in this country are united, the entire Free World is united. Russia has a choice between war and all the suffering it will bring or diplomacy that will make a future safer for everyone.
Now, I'm happy to take a few questions. Nancy from Bloomberg.
NANCY COOK, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much, sir. Do you think that it is wise for President Zelensky to leave Ukraine if an invasion is as imminent as the U.S. says it is?
BIDEN: That's a judgment for him to make and the determination as to whether or not. I've spoken with Zelensky a dozen times, maybe more, I don't know. And it's -- in the pursuit of a diplomatic solution, it may not be for -- maybe the wise choice. But it's his decision.
COOK: And do you have any indication about whether President Putin has made a decision on whether to invade? Do you feel confident that he hasn't made that decision already?
BIDEN: As of this moment I'm convinced he's made the decision. We have reason to believe that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There seems to be a unanimity a spirit to do between the United States and Europe to do some sanctions, the comprehensive sanctions that are -- is everyone on board with the exact same sanctions that you want to do?
BIDEN: Yes. There'll be some slight differences, but none -- there'll be more add ons than subtractions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And President Putin is going to oversee some nuclear drills this weekend, how do you see that happening? What's your reaction to that, sir? Thank you.
BIDEN: Well, I don't think he is remotely contemplating nuclear using nuclear weapons. But I do think it's -- I think he is focused on trying to convince the world that he has the ability to change the dynamics in Europe in a way that he cannot. But I don't how much of it is a cover for just saying we're just doing exercises and there's more than that. I just can't. It's hard to read his mind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, to be clear -- Mr. President, to be clear, you -- to be clear, you are convinced that --
BIDEN: I'll take one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- you are convinced that President Putin is going to invade Ukraine? Is that what you just said few moments ago?
BIDEN: Yes, I did. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, is diplomacy off the table then?
BIDEN: No. There's always -- until he does, diplomacy isn't always a possibility.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What reason do you have to believe he's considering that option at all?
BIDEN: We have a significant intelligence capability. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys. Thank you, guys. Thank you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So there you have it. Very, very strong words from the President of the United States.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
We're following this major, major breaking news. President Biden, as you just saw, speaking on the Russia Ukraine crisis right now as it's escalating big time by the hour. Our correspondents are on the scene in Ukraine and Russia, here in the United States, covering all the growing threats of a war in Europe.
Let's begin with our senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, we just heard, we just heard the President say that he's convinced that Putin has made up his mind that he's going to invade. He says in his words, now, this is from the President of the United States, he believes -- we have reason to believe, he says, that an attack on Ukraine by Russia will happen, in his words, in the coming week, in the coming days. This is the first time he's said that by -- that Putin has actually made up his mind to invade Ukraine within the coming days.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a significant statement that administration officials over the course of several weeks have been unwilling to make, either saying that they did not believe he had made up his mind or not wanting to comment on it at all. The President now explicitly saying that based on intelligence capabilities, the U.S. and he believes that President Putin has made up his mind to invade.
And this gives you a window, Wolf, in what we've seen over a dramatic last 48 hours of top U.S. officials really around the globe making very clear that they believed an invasion was imminent, laying out in detail what they believe Russian plans are for that invasion, trying to essentially front run anything that may happen. And it's in large part because there is a sincere belief, as the President just alluded to, that the U.S. believes President Putin has made that decision.
Now, a couple other elements that stood out from the President's remarks right there, the point that he was trying to make up top with his decision to call in to the bipartisan delegation and members of Congress that are in -- at the Munich Security Conference now, as well as the conversation with a transatlantic leaders just a few hours ago of the unity, not just on world leaders, not just with Western allies, but also in political parties trying to make the point to President Putin that if the goal was to split NATO, to split Western alliances or even to split political parties in the United States, that effort has failed up to this point. In fact, the opposite has happened.
The other element, too, is the President really echoing what we heard from his Secretary of State, from his Secretary of Defense over the course of the last day or two, laying out in detail what the U.S. knows about potential efforts for pretext of invasion, false flag operations, perhaps media reports that are false to try and lay the groundwork for an invasion, but also how an invasion would actually play out, Wolf. The President detailing those things, once again, making very clear that the U.S. is trying to stay on its front foot for the president now says, is a decision that's already been made.
BLITZER: Yes, he was very, very flat on that. Let me just repeat what he said. He said, Putin has made a decision, as of this moment, he's made a decision. There's reason to believe that.
And then when he was pressed, are you convinced he is going to invade? The President of United States said yes, he is convinced of that. There's reason to believe in attack, he says could come in the coming week in the coming days. Matthew Chance is in Kyiv in the Ukrainian capital for us right now. Powerful words from the President, I'm sure it's going to startle all the folks where you are.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I've not heard -- obviously, none of us have heard the U.S. President talk about it in such stark terms as that. He was even pressed by one of the reporters there in the briefing room. How do you know he's made that decision? He said, because we've got considerable intelligence capability revealing there that they or saying at least that they have got an insight into what Vladimir Putin intends to do.
And look, it's such a massive departure, Wolf, from the situation we're in, you know, just a few minutes ago or just six months ago, just last week. You know, we've been talking for that whole period about the buildup of 10s of 1000s of troops by Russia near the borders of Ukraine, we've been talking about how Russia poses a, you know, a real threat or gives the impression of posing a threat, but right up until the 11th hour, the 59th minute of the 11th hour as we keep on saying, you know, Vladimir Putin could decide whether or not to pull the trigger on an invasion.
What the President of the United States is now saying is that he believes that decision at the Kremlin to invade Ukraine has actually been taken by Vladimir Putin.
I've already reached out to my contacts at the Kremlin to see what reaction they've got. They haven't got back to me yet. But when they do, I'm going to bring it right to you.
BLITZER: And it's still on President Zelensky of Ukraine, going to leave the country head off to this Munich Security Conference, even though U.S. officials are deeply concerned the Russians will take advantage of that.
CHANCE: Yes, I mean, maybe after hearing those remarks by President Biden, he'll think again about his travel plans. But I spoke to Ukrainian officials just a few minutes ago about those travel plans and about those concerns that have been raised by the White House that if President Zelensky leaves the country, there could be a conflict starting and flights would stop and he won't be able to get back again or it could be perceived as a sort of, you know, a sense in which, you know, the president of the country has left the country ahead of an invasion, president of Ukraine that the country had an invasion.
And what the Ukrainian officials I spoke to said is, look, diplomacy at the moment is just as important as the front line in eastern Ukraine. And it's inconceivable, I'm slightly paraphrasing them here, but it's inconceivable they say that government representatives that the president of the country wouldn't engage in that kind of diplomacy at the highest level. And that's what they see this Munich Security Conference as, particularly as because there's a meeting scheduled with the U.S. Vice President and President Zelensky.
BLITZER: Standby. I want to bring Jim Sciutto into this analysis of what's going on. He's also in the Ukrainian capital for us. Jim, you've been reporting all day and you've been ahead of the curve on this, that there has been in recent days of palpable change among U.S. and NATO officials. And we heard that directly from the President moments ago.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The puppet (ph) will change plea (ph) that they have a bleak assessment of Russian intentions here. And you heard that very directly, very publicly from the President there. I think we need to reiterate to hear that from the U.S. president saying the decision has been made, because to this point the position had been they have the capabilities, they have all the forces they need to launch a comprehensive invasion of Ukraine but that Putin had not yet made that decision. So the U.S. president says, in fact, the latest assessment is that he has made that decision.
The other notable comment, I think, was the President saying that attacking here in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv is part of the plan. I've been reporting for some time that at the higher end of Russian options here, a Putin has options here, was a broad scale invasion from the south, the east, including down here in the capital, Ukraine. But that considered not an outlier but the most dramatic decision that the Russian president could make here.
The U.S. President just said he believes Ukraine -- sorry, Kyiv is a target of that invasion plan. That's a remarkable thing to say that this is a capital, a free capital of a sovereign European state in the year 2022. And the U.S. believes Russia not only has the forces to take over this capital, but now the Russian president has made the decision to do so as well. That's quite a moment in these weeks, frankly, a build up to the threat to Ukraine.
BLITZER: And let's not forget where you are in the city of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, the city of almost 3 million people right now.
BLITZER: And we just heard President Biden say that city is about to be attacked by the Russians.
Abby Phillip, give us a sense of how critical a moment this is right now for President Biden, indeed, for the world.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR, INSIDE POLITICS: I think President Biden was basically preparing the American public as he and his administration have for several weeks now for a really significant event, a significant event for the United States and for Europe. If Russia were to invade Ukraine in the way that Jim just described, that could mean some of the most significant fighting in Europe since the end of World War Two. That's nothing to take lightly.
And you see the significance of it in the way that the President's aides have been trying to say to the American people that while we are not going to put our soldiers on the line, this matters to us. And corollary to that is, this could have effects on us as a country in terms of how gas prices are affected and in terms of our broader security. So, the President is in a very pivotal moment for his presidency. He just came off of the experience in Afghanistan that was embarrassing for his administration. This is his moment to show leadership on the global stage and to restore a sense of competency from the American public that he and his administration are capable of managing a really thorny and tricky situation in Ukraine.
BLITZER: Yes. This is a very, very dangerous moment, indeed, not just for Europe, but indeed, for the world.
Everybody stand by. I want to bring in retired U.S. General Philip Breedlove, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
General Breedlove, give me your immediate reaction to those ominous words we just heard from the President of the United States.
GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Thanks, Wolf.
Well, for sure we have seen for a number of days that Mr. Putin had a force that was ready and capable. Not being exposed to everything the President is exposed to, it's clear now that he believes this is going to happen. And I think that is a tough judgment to have to deal with.
Apparently, Mr. Putin has looked at what he sees the West is prepared to do. And he's decided that it is worth it for him to make this adventure.
BLITZER: But you heard the President also say he will pay, Putin and the Russian people will pay a very, very steep price, not only sanctions from the U.S., the NATO allies, the European Union, so many other countries around the world, but an enormous political price, Russia will be isolated. And also in terms of casualties, if there's a full scale war, a lot of Russian troops are going to be killed. Is Putin ready for that?
BREEDLOVE: Well, if he invades then he's made the decision that he's ready for it. I mean, that's pretty straightforward.
You are right, though, there are things that are not in his favor. Remember, it was the Moms in Moscow that gave him so much trouble after the last invasion of Ukraine. And his own problems at home with the young soldiers coming home in body bags. And so, he'll -- he's got to have this in his calculus.
I think, though, that when it comes to sanctions, what he has seen in the past is that he can weather them. People often ask, has it changed or affected Mr. Putin? And clearly our sanctions have affected Russia. But what is also not clear is -- or is clear is that it has not changed his behavior because after '08 we sanctioned him, after '14 we sanctioned him, and now he's right back on the border of Ukraine. So I think this time the West has to really deliver so that he doesn't come back again in two or three years.
[17:15:16] BLITZER: Let me go to Moscow right now. Our Nic Robertson is on the scene for us.
Do they appreciate the enormity of what is about to happen? The President of the United States saying in the next few days, this week, Russia is about to invade Ukraine, and there's going to be enormous fallout. Do the folks in Moscow where you are, Nic, appreciate that?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLAMATIC EDITOR: I don't think that they fully appreciate what might happen. I think that they think that there's a resilience in Russia at the moment. And I think part of Putin's calculation may also be that even when he had the problem with the Moscow Moms and the body bags coming back from his invasion of Ukraine back in 2014 in the annexation of Crimea, his own popularity rating went through the roof, it was up in the '90s, it's in the 60s now.
I think to get into what President Biden had said there, you know, about this, you know, more and more disinformation and the fabrication of a case and cause to go to war, that is absolutely what Russian viewers have been seeing on their T.V.s this afternoon, as those two rebel leaders from Donetsk and Luhansk in the east of Ukraine called on the civilians in those areas to get on buses and drive to take shelter inside Russia. The images that were being played on state television here. And I have to tell you quite incredible, because on the main screen that was playing, it was how to -- it was redecorating your house, yet in a little box on the screen where people, where young children be getting ready to be loaded onto buses, all people packing bags to evacuate on a permanent loop. So it really was ginning up, ginning up that idea that people are under threat, that the vulnerable are under threat that Russia needs to help them.
And just to get to President Biden's point that he's appears to have made the calculation that Putin is going for the invasion, Biden was asked that question, is there still space for diplomacy? And he said, I'm not sure that he wants diplomacy. And I think gets to that underlying thing that beside this military buildup, all the time has been this potentially fabricated narrative for diplomacy. That again, fits with what Biden's talking about with fabrications, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Sciutto --
SCIUTTO: Disturb by the largest --
BLITZER: Go ahead, Jim.
SCIUTTO: -- world war since World War II, if these predictions bear out, that's a remarkable, it's a sobering moment to witness. I think we have to be conscious of the many costs involved on all sides if this goes forward. It is quite a moment to be and quite a sobering moment to be in.
BLITZER: You know, Jim, you're there in Kyiv in the Ukrainian Capitol earlier about an hour or so before the President spoke. The White House officials publicly on the record said they have confirmed it was Russia, the intelligence units in Russia that launched the cyberattacks against Ukraine, the banks, the Defense Ministry, other critically important institutions in Ukraine in recent days. Earlier was unclear who was responsible. They now say it was Russia. And they're also warning the Russians could launch further attacks as well as going after locations here in the U.S. What's the reaction there?
I'm not sure that Jim Sciutto heard us. But we're going to continue to follow this because this element, this element of a cyberwarfare is exploding right now. And there's enormous fear at the White House, the Defense Department, the CIA, that it's about to get so much worse.
Everybody stand by. We're following all the breaking news. Very, very strong words from the President of the United States.
Also, another major story we're following, breaking news, the National Archives now confirming that it has found classified documents and boxes of former President Trump's records in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Plus, former police officer Kim Potter sentence for the killing of Daunte Wright. We're standing by for more reaction from the family.
BLITZER: The major breaking news this hour, President Biden only moments ago saying he's convinced, convinced the Russian President Vladimir Putin has made up his mind, has made a decision to invade Ukraine. He says within this week, within the coming days, that from the President of the United States.
Let's discuss with Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He's a key member of the House Intelligence Committee. He's fully briefed on what's going on.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. How concrete does the evidence have to be for a President of the United States to make a determination, a historic, very ominous determination like that?
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think it has to be substantial, Wolf. And as you know, in the intelligence business assessments are usually given with high confidence or low confidence or somewhere in between. And although I haven't been privy to this latest information that he has been exposed to, I would suppose that he's making this statement with a high degree of confidence.
BLITZER: And what do you make of the fact that the President also has said they're not only going to invade Ukraine but they're going to go into the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv, a city of nearly 3 million people and attack there as well.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I guess I have two reactions. The first is that he's basically telling people to prepare for an attack. Kyiv is about the size of Chicago. So this is a very, very large city.
I think the second aspect of what he's doing is in disclosing that we know that Putin is intending to do this and to go after Kyiv into invade, it might also be an attempt to wrong foot the Russian leader to get him guessing, to get them thinking, what else do the Americans know? And does that create a little bit of hesitation, and perhaps just a little more time for diplomacy to work.
BLITZER: They're still hoping for diplomacy. But it looks like that's not necessarily happening right now.
As you know, Congressman, the U.S. had urged the Ukrainian President Zelensky not to leave Kyiv this weekend, go to the Munich Security Conference, you think Zelensky should not go, should stay put?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I wouldn't pretend to know everything that Mr. Zelensky is facing. But all things being equal. Right now is a very perilous moment to leave the country and it could offer the Russians just the opportunity that they need to basically decapitate the leadership. And that would be obviously very convenient for the Russians to do and part of their plan anyway.
BLITZER: Because the Russians would say he's escaped. He's trying to save himself so he's left Ukraine, headed off to Munich, and that would be an opportunity for them.
Congressman Krishnamoorthi, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you so much.
BLITZER: Up next, more breaking news, the National Archives confirming it found classified documents and boxes it retrieved from Mara Lago last month. Is the former president of the United States now in legal jeopardy?
BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following. The National Archives that has just confirmed it found classified materials and boxes taken from Mar-a-Lago after former President Trump left office and that they've discussed the findings with the U.S. Justice Department.
Let's discuss with former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. Andrew, just how serious of a violation potentially is this?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think it's important that people focus on the thing of most importance to federal investigators and folks at the Justice Department, and that is determining whether or not this potential mishandling of classified information has created a threat to national security. So it's imperative that FBI agents and DOJ prosecutors get a look at this material to determine whether or not sources and methods and, you know, classified information and National Defense Information has, in fact, you know, gotten out in a way that could create a problem for our national defense, compromised sources and expose sensitive collection matters.
That's the really the first and most important thing they needed to discern right now. And then figure out the question of potential criminal liability later.
BLITZER: Does this mean, Elie, that the former president actually may have committed a crime? Is there a chance he could be prosecuted for it? I asked the question because a sitting president could declassify anything he wants?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, absolutely could be in criminal territory here. It is a federal crime to intentionally remove or destroy classified information, if it was done not by accident. But if it was done intentionally and knowingly, if, as reported, these documents were marked classified, then anyone who could read would know they were classified. And if there is proof after an investigation, that it was done intentionally, then you have a potential crime.
Yes, a sitting president can declassify documents, no, a former president cannot retro actively declassify. If Donald Trump did declassify these documents while he was president, presumably there would be some witness or some record to reflect that. In the absence of that, we could be in criminal territory here.
BLITZER: That's a good point. A very important point. Andrew, the Archives also confirmed today that the former president continued to tear up documents after being told not to do so. Do you see this, potentially is further evidence that he didn't think the rules actually applied to him?
MCCABE: Well, I think it's undeniable evidence of that, Wolf. We know this president had all kinds of problems handling sensitive and classified information. He took a highly classified satellite imagery and put it out on his Twitter feed. He exposed highly sensitive intelligence that we had from a foreign government to a different foreign government.
So this is not the first time we've seen a former president, play fast and loose with the rules around national security. And, you know, in my opinion, it indicates a persistent disregard for national security. These rules are in place for a reason. It's to protect all of us. And it's incumbent upon the president to do that.
BLITZER: You know, Elie, a federal judge just ruled that the civil lawsuit seeking to hold Trump accountable for January 6 can, in fact, move forward. How significant is it to see a judge rule that a president can be sued, a former president, for something that happened while he was actually in office on January 6?
HONIG: Well, Wolf, that's significant as a legal doctrine, the notion that a former president can be sued for something that arguably touched on the office. I think I would argue that it went well beyond his presidential duties, but it's also an important statement by this judge of President Trump's or former President Trump's potential responsibility for the January 6 attack.
And more importantly, it keeps Donald Trump in this case, meaning the next phase here is discovery where you gather documents, where he could be subjected to depositions and other testimony under oath. So we'll see what comes out of that.
BLITZER: Elie Honig, Andrew McCabe, gentlemen, thank you very much.
HONIG: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead, a very emotional day in court for the sentencing of Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer who killed Daunte Wright. Why the Wright family says they feel cheated and hurt by the judge's sentence.
BLITZER: Tonight, Kim Potter, the former Minnesota police officer convicted of killing 20-year-old Daunte Wright after drawing her gun instead of her Taser has been sentenced to just two years. The judge pointing to Potter's lack of prior criminal history and her remorse for Wright's death in giving her a sentence which could see her serve as little as actually 16 months in prison.
CNN's Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is joining us from L.A. right now. Josh, what is the Wright family saying about the sentence?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are furious, they're calling this a miscarriage of justice. This sentence just two years was much less than what we were expecting. And that's because under Minnesota guidelines, the sentencing guidelines for someone in a situation like Kim Potter would call for the range of six to eight and a half years, someone who was convicted but had no prior criminal history.
The judge here, though, saying that a lesser sentence was warranted in her view for two reasons. She said that this scene was chaotic. Officers, in her words, are required to make split second decisions. But also she said that this officer did not intend to draw her service weapon when she fired that fatal shot. Nevertheless, we are hearing the family outraged in response to this verdict.
Take a listen to some of what we heard today in court and in the aftermath of the sentence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE WRIGHT, DAUNTE WRIGHT'S MOTHER: A police officer who's supposed to serve and protect so -- took so much away from us. She took our baby boy with a single gunshot through his heart. And she shattered mine. My whole life and my world will never ever be the same.
KIM POTTER, SENTENCED IN KILLING OF DAUNTE WRIGHT: I am so sorry that I hurt you so badly. My heart is broken, devastated for all of you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel cheated. I feel hurt. I'm very upset.
K. WRIGHT: This is the problem with our justice system today. White women tears Trump's -- Trump's justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: Now the judge in this case called this perhaps the most difficult case that she has had to supervise in her time on the bench, calling this a tragedy all the way around. Obviously, the Wright family grieving the loss of their loved one, this gaping hole in their hearts. She also spoke about how this has disrupted Kim Potter's life, obviously, a very difficult case.
Finally, Wolf, we are learning now from the statement from the Attorney General there in Minnesota, Keith Ellison. He says that he accepts the sentence, he urges other people to accept it. However, it's important to note, Wolf, he says, I don't ask you to agree with the judge's decision, which takes nothing away from the truth of the jury's verdict. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Josh, thank you very much. Josh Campbell reporting.
Let's discuss with CNN Political Commentator Van Jones. Van, thanks for joining us. Potter's two-year sentence significantly less than what, the six, eight and a half years recommended in state sentencing guidelines. What do you make of that?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's an abuse of discretion from my point of view. You know, it's really the jury's job to figure out what happened out there. It's not the judge to come back and say, well, I know the jury thought that it was, you know, very severe and inexcusable and need to be -- I have a long prison sentence, but I just feel bad about it, so I'm going to do what I want.
Lawlessness from the bench, lawlessness in police departments, lawlessness in the street is the problem. A judge needs to take seriously these guidelines, to take seriously with --of the jury's hard work, take seriously the pain of the family. I've never seen a judge crying for a killer.
I mean, the stuff that's going on now, in some of these cases is really, really shocking. And I think some people expected, at least the judge would -- the judge been obviously, you know, pro with the police officer the whole time. But I thought that people expected I think today the judge will at least follow the basic law, the basic guidance.
The fact that she departed so radically, and then shed almost tears for a convicted killer, it's just -- it's an insult to the family. It's an insult to the process. It's an insult to the entire thing we've been going through with the country.
BLITZER: Listen to the powerful statement from Daunte Wright's mother about the emotion that the judge actually showed today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
K. WRIGHT: To sit there and watch, pouring my heart out in my victim statement that took so long to write -- and I reread it over and over again -- to not get a response out of the judge at all. But then when it came down to convict the -- or to sentencing Kim Potter, she broke out in tears.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what do you make of that pretty stunning distinction?
JONES: Look, I mean, you had two women who were shedding tears. One, a convicted killer, the other, the mother of a child we will never see again, and the judge was only moved by one person, the judge was only moved by one side. So much so that the judge departed from -- radically departed -- it didn't come down by a year or two, eight years versus two years. I mean that is a radical departure from the guidelines. And it's not warranted by anything that came out in trials, certainly not warranted by what the jury had done.
Look, I think a lot of people looking at this, you know, why do these young people keep saying, you know, Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter? There are cases like this and other things on social media today, black lives just don't seem to matter as much in cases like this. It's a complete shock, I think, to a lot of people. And I think people are rightfully disappointed.
BLITZER: Van Jones, helping us, appreciate what's going on. Thank you, as usual. Thanks very much.
Coming up, China accused of genocide against more than 1 million of its minority Muslim citizens. Are the Winter Olympics and effort to cover it up? We'll be right back.
TAPPER: The Beijing Winter Olympic Games are drawing increased attention to China's treatment of its Muslim minority population of ethnic Uighurs, which some are calling genocide. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, some human rights groups are accusing China of trying to entirely wipe out the country's Uighur population.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we spoke to one human rights monitor who said that flat out, Wolf. Tonight, we have new information on the plight of the Uighurs and China's attempts to whitewash it.
TODD (voice-over): The head of the International Olympic Committee attempting to keep politics out of the Winter Games in Beijing. Thomas Bach, saying today he delivered that message to the Beijing Olympic organizing committee after remarks Thursday by a spokesperson for the committee who answered a CNN question about accusations that the Muslim Uighur community in the Chinese province of Xinjiang is being subjected to forced labor.
YAN JIARONG, BEIJING 2022 ORGANIZING COMMITTEE SPOKESPERSON (through translation): I think the so called forced labor in Xinjiang is lies made up by deliberative groups and the relevant organizations have provided a large amount of facts to dispute that.
TODD (voice-over): But human rights groups say the Chinese government has forced hundreds of thousands of Uighurs to pick cotton, make computer parts and do other forced labor in Xinjiang. And the U.S. government accuses the Chinese regime of even worse crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Genocide has taken place in Xinjiang.
TODD (voice-over): Human rights groups believe the Chinese have detained up to 2 million Uighurs in what they call re-education camps in Xinjiang, and have documented the treatment they say they've received for years.
NAOMI KIKOLER, GENOCIDE EXPERT, U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM: That includes torture, sexual violence, detention, persecution.
TODD (voice-over): Naomi Kikoler tracks incidents of genocide for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
KIKOLER: We have seen an intentional effort to reduce their ability to have children through forcibly sterilizing women, placing IUDs forcibly in women, transferring children away from their families, separating men and women so that they cannot have children.
TODD (on-camera): Do you think they are intentionally trying to eradicate this group of people?
KIKOLER: From what we have seen, there are very strong indications that that is the case.
TODD (voice-over): The Chinese not only deny it, but at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Games, they had a cross country skier who is a Uighur, take part in the lighting of the Olympic cauldron which America's ambassador to the U.N. called out.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This is an effort by the Chinese to distract us from the real issue here at hand that Uighurs are being tortured, and Uighurs are the victims of human rights violations by the Chinese.
TODD (voice-over): For Naomi Kikoler, the image of the Uighur torch lighter was a jarring reminder of another disturbing effort at Olympic propaganda, Berlin 1936. KIKOLER: It really brings me back to thinking about how Jews might have felt in 1936. 1936, the persecution of the Jews was underway.
TODD: China has consistently denied committing any human rights abuses against the Uighurs in Xinjiang. The Chinese government claims that so called re-education camps are there to combat separatism and Islamist militancy in the region. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thanks for that report.
Coming up, breaking news, an ominous warning from President Biden just a little while ago saying he's convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a decision to invade Ukraine in the coming days. We're live in Kiev, we're live in Moscow and more with our correspondents and our analysts. That's next.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. President Biden now says he's convinced Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine in the coming days. The U.S. revealing about half of Russian forces masked on the border are now in an attack position.
Also breaking, the National Archives confirms and found classified documents in boxes of records former President Trump took with him to Mar-a-Lago. The Justice Department has been alerted, might Trump be prosecuted.
And Kim Potter, the former police officer who said she confused her gun for a taser gets a two-year sentence in the death of Daunte Wright. Wright's relatives are speaking out about the sentence, calling it disappointing and hurtful.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.