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The Situation Room
Biden Says, This is the Beginning of a Russian Invasion of Ukraine; Biden Orders More U.S. Forces and Military Equipment in Europe; All Three Arbery Killers Found Guilty of Federal Hate Crimes. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 22, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time. Today, we'll be thinking and praying of the people of Ukraine.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. President Biden condemns Vladimir Putin's military moves in Ukraine, saying he's beginning an invasion. Tonight, the president of the United States is hitting Russia with tough new sanctions and he's moving more U.S. troops and military equipment into Europe, warning that Putin is poised to go much further and launch what the president is calling a massive military attack.
CNN is covering this crisis from every angle with our correspondents in Ukraine, in Russia, and here in the United States.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we begin with President Biden hitting back hard at Vladimir Putin for his decision to order Russian troops into Ukraine. CNN White House Correspondent M.J. Lee is following the breaking story.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, President Biden announcing new steps to punish Russia for its increased aggression in Ukraine.
BIDEN: Who in the Lord's name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors?
LEE: In an address to the nation, Biden condemning Vladimir Putin for ordering troops into Eastern Ukraine shortly after the Russian president declared the independence of two separatist pro-Kremlin regions.
BIDEN: Last night, Putin authorized Russian forces to deploy into these regions. Today, he asserted that these regions actually extend deeper than the two areas he recognized, claiming large areas currently under the jurisdiction of the Ukraine government. He is setting up rationale to take more territory by force.
LEE: The president announcing a series of sanctions in response, aimed at dealing a major blow to the Russian economy.
BIDEN: I am going to begin to impose sanctions in response far beyond steps we and our allies and our partners implemented in 2014.
LEE: Those measures target two Russian financial institutions, U.S. investment in Russian sovereign debt and some of the country's most elite. Biden also promising that if Russia were to invade further, the U.S. was ready to announce additional punishment.
BIDEN: If Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as with sanctions.
LEE: The speech also aimed at delivering a measure of assurance to Americans that the U.S. is not going to war with Russia.
BIDEN: We have no intention of fighting Russia.
LEE: Biden continuing to signal full support of American allies, announcing sending additional troops to fortified NATO presence in Europe.
BIDEN: The United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made into NATO.
LEE: U.S. allies also responding to Russia's latest incursion into Eastern Ukraine, the United Kingdom announcing its own set of sanctions on Russian banks and wealthy individuals.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: By denying Ukraine's legitimacy as a state and presenting its very existence as mortal threat to Russia, Putin is establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive.
LEE: Germany saying it would halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, a move that would deal a serious blow to both countries' economies.
OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: No certification of the pipeline can now take place. And without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot go into operation.
LEE: Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceling a previously scheduled meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
ANTONY BLINKIN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Now that we see the invasion is beginning and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting at this time.
LEE (on camera): Now, in light of that Blinken/Lavrov meeting being called off, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki just announced in the White House press briefing that this future potential meeting between the president and President Vladimir Putin, that that is not in the plans right now either.
When I pressed her a little bit, and asked her, so what does diplomacy with Russia at this moment look like, she said, look, that meeting right now can't happen but that every option remains on the table in terms of future conversation.
But, look, the reality, Wolf, right now is that this is a White House that is confronting the fact that their efforts at diplomacy so far was not successful at preventing the beginning of an invasion into Ukraine.
BLITZER: Yes. This is such, such a tense moment right now.
M.J. Lee at the White House, thank you very much.
Let's discuss with our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward, she's on the scene for us in Ukraine, Jill Dougherty, our Contributor on Russian Affairs, is in Moscow and Oren Liebermann is over at the Pentagon.
Clarissa, President Biden says this is an invasion. He warns Russia is, quote, and I am quoting the president right now, poised to go much further in launching a massive military attack. How dire, Clarissa, is this moment?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it is safe to say, Wolf, that here in Ukraine, things feel as though they're on a knife edge. President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier did not call it an all-out invasion but made clear that he believes that Russia has essentially established a pretext now for further military incursion deeper into Ukraine.
You heard President Biden there in M.J.'s piece talking about the difference between existing frontlines and stated borders of these breakaway republics, which Putin has now recognized as independent. The stated borders are much more expansive, deep into Ukrainian territory, containing serious cities, like Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, city of half a million people, and NATO is saying that they're already seeing Russian troops coming in. So, there's a real concern now that there's going to be a further push or escalation.
We heard again from President Zelensky recently. He said that while there will be no general mobilization of the army, he is calling up reservists. But I think, what was most interesting that we heard was something that the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said in his press conference that he just had with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, he basically outlined Ukraine's response as this. Plan A is to use every tool of diplomacy to deter Russia, but plan B, is to fight for every inch of our land. And at this stage, Wolf, it is simply not clear here in Ukraine whether it is going to be plan A or plan B.
BLITZER: Yes. It is a problem. Oren, you're there at the Pentagon. How is the U.S. military preparing for Putin's next move?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Joe Biden was very clear in his wording there. He said the U.S. would help protect every inch of NATO territory. It has been clear and it remains clear that the U.S. will not send troops into Ukraine. And then the goal is to avoid a confrontation or encounter between U.S. troops and Russian troops.
To that end, the U.S. is sending a number of forces that are already in Europe and pushing them, moving them towards the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Biden said, as well as NATO's south eastern flank, countries like Romania, and Bulgaria.
Eight F-35 advance fighter jets, half of those will head towards the Baltic States, half towards NATO's southeastern flank. 32 Apache attack helicopters, 20 of those, again, towards the Baltic States, 12 of those into Poland, as well as approximately 800 troops on infantry battalion task force. Those will move as well from Italy towards the Baltic States.
Biden's goal here, not only to make sure that those Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, have reassurance of U.S. and NATO troops there, but also to send Putin a message that NATO remains united and that his efforts to find division and discord within NATO have not been successful.
Wolf, those troops will be in place by end of the week, and those, of course, in addition to some 90,000 other U.S. troops already in European command.
BLITZER: Yes, already in NATO countries in Europe.
You know, Jill, you're there in Moscow for us. How is all this being sold to the Russian population? What is the Putin propaganda machine around Ukraine, what they're saying, what does that look like?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: Well, I think there are two parts to it, Wolf. One is that the message is a complete reverse of what you get in the west. In other words, in the west, it is Ukraine that's under attack or potentially. In Russia, it is Russia that's under attack from the west. And that the west, and this is all in quotes, of course, that the west is exploiting and using Ukraine as a weapon to get at Russia. So, it is very, very different.
There's also another message, I think, that the Russians are getting, which is we don't want war, we are being dragged into it. We have to respond. It is the west that's doing all of this. And then I think also the message that President Putin is giving is a sense of, I'd have to say, inevitability that he is not slowing down, he is not pausing. There's a real sense of this kind of pushing forward and doing with a sense of almost anger and defiance with what he wants to do. Today was witness. You know, the parliament rubber stamping President Putin, giving him the green light to send troops into Ukraine, in the -- I should say, into Donbas, and it does have this horrible sense kind of inevitability.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, Donbas happens to be in Ukraine, as we all know.
You know, Clarissa, the president, President Biden, announced this first wave of sanctions against Russia. What impact does it have, if any, on Putin's calculations?
WARD: Well, you know, the Ukrainian leadership has said it is grateful for these sanctions, which it regards as being robust. They're targeting two major Russian banks, as well as Russia sovereign debt, as well as a number of oligarchs, elites around President Putin. That one particularly has been greeted favorably by most people.
But let's be very clear about this. President Putin understood very well what was coming down the pipeline. He knew he was going to face sanctions. And I don't think there's any real sense that this has actually changed his calculation in any meaningful way. And actually when the Kremlin was asked what President Putin's response was to President Biden's announcement, and whether he have been watching the announcement, the response given was that President Putin didn't have time to watch the Biden speech and that he was busy with another meeting, which I think really plays into what Jill was saying about this sort of sense of inevitability now, that the train is in motion.
And so the question really becomes now, is this going to be a larger invasion or has President Putin done all of this in lieu of a full- scale invasion. Does this give him enough leverage if you like to try to extract more concessions without having to go for a full-scale invasion, the likes of which, of course, the U.S. and other allies warned about for some time?
BLITZER: Yes. U.S. officials clearly fear that what the Russians have done now is only just the beginning, but we shall see. All right, guys, thank you very much. Don't go too far away.
Just ahead, how far will Vladimir Putin go into Ukraine? We are taking a closer look at the troops he's already deployed and what they're capable of.
And we'll breakdown the verdict in the federal hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers, all three defendants found guilty.
BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden is ordering more U.S. forces and military equipment into key positions in Europe as he confirms that Russia is beginning an invasion of Ukraine.
We are joined by CNN Military Analyst, retired Major General James Spider Marks. General, walk us -- walk our viewers through the region right now that's considered the frontlines where Putin is ordering Russian troops to move in.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES SPIDER MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, will do, Wolf. What we are looking at, is obviously this is where Putin has had close to 200,000 troops deployed for close to a month. The area where mostly concerned about is right here, and let me dive into that. This is Donbas region.
Now, specifically, what was just annexed officially in Putin's eyes is this area right here. And this is the line of separation that has been in place for close to eight years. Russia has had forces in this area for eight years supporting the separatists as they try to separate from Kyiv. What's most important, however, and what we're talking about now is what happens in the greater Donbas. Is Putin ready to move forward?
Now, we have some video that shows the movement of forces, logistics, self-propelled artillery, infantry-fighting vehicles, and all these videos are taking place in this area here, Rostov-on-Don. And what you're seeing is the movement of capabilities that reinforce the existing presence in the Donbas region, in these two renegade provinces, if you will.
And this invasion of forces -- this is invasion, let's not beat around the bush. This invasion could be an invasion without a shot being fired because forces already exist there and the separatists are facilitating and the Russian forces that are there are already facilitating that movement.
The next step is what's most important. If Putin decides to extend beyond this line of separation, we're now talking about engaging forces here, this area is completely occupied by Ukrainian forces. This is where heavy combat will take place. This is where we would see dead bodies.
And I suspect that what Putin understands is that if he can move in very quickly over the course of the next day or so, he could then establish an election that gives credibility to this, and we would see this movement into greater Donbas more frequently.
BLITZER: Because the president, President Biden, General Marks, he said today that he expects Putin is simply laying ground work to take even more territory of Ukraine by force. So, tell us what that might look like.
MARKS: Well, What you're going to see is the movement of these forces in will give Putin some additional fire power. So, he's going to move in his rockets and his artillery, his long range fire, he's going to conduct cyber-shaping operation, so that he can prep the battle space, as we call it, this area here, to conduct a strike into the Donbas.
Also, what you might see is a movement not only here, the Donbas region, but you could also see a movement here that further expands that so that he can create a land bridge between Crimea, the Donbas and the rest of Russia.
BLITZER: Spider, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in the former NATO supreme allied commander, General Philip Breedlove.
General Breedlove, as you know, and we are looking at the map of Russian forces surrounding Ukraine right now, more than 150,000, maybe 190,000.
Do you suspect Putin is simply setting the stage for a full-scale invasion? And if so, where do you expect Putin will move his military next?
GEN. PHILIP BREEDLOVE (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: So, Wolf, thanks for having me on. And I don't like those words, full- scale invasion, because I think Spider will tell you that forces there may not be adequate for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But what he does absolutely have is enough force to do great damage to the Ukraine military, to the Ukrainian people and the nation of Ukraine. And that would be along several accesses in the north through, through the center in the Donbas where we're looking now, whereas Spider is described along the south.
And one of the functions of what he is doing right now in Donbas fixes some of the Ukrainian military's best military forces on that line of contact, making it hard for them then to respond either to the north or the south should the next push come there.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you're absolutely right. As you know, Russian-backed separatists, General Breedlove, they have been fighting in Eastern Ukraine in an area along the Russian border for, what, eight years. What is the level of coordination with the Russian military, which Putin has now ordered in, in big numbers?
BREEDLOVE: So, again, Spider had it right. These forces that are in those areas were being propped up, financed and facilitated by Russian forces all the time in there. So, the forces coming across the border now, and it is an invasion, the forces coming across the border now are lashing up with Russian forces and proxy forces that have been in there for some time. And that level of coordination is high.
BLITZER: Very high indeed. All right, guys, thank you very, very much, General Breedlove, General Marks. We'll continue this conversation. Sadly, this story is not going away. It's only escalating.
There's more breaking news we are following here in THE SITUATION ROOM, more breaking news on the Ukraine crisis, also other important news, a verdict in federal hate crimes trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery. Emotional reaction from his parents, that's coming up as well.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:25:00]
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, President Biden declaring that the movement of Russian forces into Eastern Ukraine is but the beginning of an invasion, saying he believes Russia is now poised to go much further and launch a massive military attack against the country. Much more on that coming up, stand by.
There's other major news we are following as well. A jury in Brunswick, Georgia has found three men that killed Ahmaud Arbery guilty of federal hate crimes following their murder convictions in state court. Tonight, all three face possible additional life sentences.
CNN National Correspondent Ryan Young is joining us from outside the courthouse in Brunswick. So, give us the latest, Ryan.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. I was actually in that courtroom for this hearing, and you could see the emotion all over the courtroom. I was sitting just behind the family. And as soon as that verdict was read, you could feel the emotion from them. Marcus Arbery was kind of shaking back and forth as it happened. Wanda Cooper Jones started crying.
But when I looked up at the jury, you could see pure emotion in their faces as well, the jury foreman started crying. You could see he had to wipe away tears several times from his face. This case had ramifications all across the state.
YOUNG (voice over): Holding their hands high outside a Georgia courthouse, another victory for the family of Ahmaud Arbery nearly two years after his murder.
WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I knew we would get victory on the state level and in the federal level.
MARCUS ARBERY SR., FATHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I give all glory to God and we got justice for Ahmaud.
YOUNG: A jury found Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory MicMichael, and William Bryan guilty on all counts in their federal hate crimes trial. All three men were convicted of interference of rights, which is a federal hate crime, and attempted kidnapping of Arbery. The McMichaels were also each found guilty of an additional firearms charge.
The McMichaels and Bryan are already serving sentences for the felony murder of Arbery after a separate state trial in November. Only Bryan is eligible for parole after 30 years. But these new federal convictions could add more life sentences.
COOPER-JONES: We got a victory today. But there are so many families who don't get victories. YOUNG: This is a federal hate crime case that almost did not go to court due to a plea deal with the defendants which was ultimately rejected by a judge. Arbery's mother expressed her outrage with the Department of Justice today.
COOPER-JONES: I told the DOJ that, yes, they were prosecutors, but one thing they didn't have, they didn't have a son that was lying in a cold grave and they still didn't hear my cry.
What the DOJ did today they was made to do today.
YOUNG: The U.S. attorney general reacting to today's verdict and Wanda Cooper-Jones' comments on the DOJ.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Justice Department has a legal obligation to prosecute hate crimes.
I cannot imagine the pain that a mother feels to have her son run down and gunned down while taking a jog on a public street.
YOUNG: And, remember, today's decision and the previous convictions almost did not happen. Glynn County Police and local prosecutors did not arrest or charge Arbery's killers after they chased and fatally shot him on February 23rd, 2020. When the video that Brian recorded of the encounter came out nearly two and a half months later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation intervened and arrested the McMichaels first and later Bryan.
COOPER-JONES: We waited without any arrest for 74 days. And now, today, that we are actually here with another guilty verdict, I mean, it is great.
YOUNG (on camera): Yes. In court, I watched Travis McMichael actually slumped over when the guilty verdict was read in court. Wolf, you've had Wanda Cooper-Jones on your show several times, the strength that this woman has shown throughout this, the fact that she keeps fighting, and she says this is not over yet. We know the D.A. who was involved in this case, she also faces a court date of her own.
This entire family is rallying behind this. And let's not forget, tomorrow is the two-year anniversary. This family plans to march more because they want to continue fighting in the name of Ahmaud Arbery. Wolf?
BLITZER: Ryan Young reporting for us from Brunswick, excellent report, Ryan, thank you very, very much.
Joining us now, Ben Crump, he is the attorney representing Ahmaud Arbery's father. Ben, thank you, as usual, for joining us.
You were there. Take us inside the courtroom, Ben. What was it like for the Arbery family as the verdict was actually being read? BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: Well, it was awfully emotional. His mother, Wanda, wept. His father, Marcus, had an audible outburst, if you were sitting close to him, where he said, thank you, God. Remember, Wolf, this has been a two-year journey for them to get to this point where they can tell their son as they look up in heaven, we did it, we got you justice.
BLITZER: This case would never have been heard, as you well know, Ben, had it not been for the work of the Arbery family. Does the Department of Justice realize that, do you think?
CRUMP: I think so. And I think Attorney General Garland, as well as his civil rights chief, Kristen Clarke, they heard Wanda Cooper-Jones' words. And as they said, she and Mr. Arbery are parents who are in a fraternity that no one ever wants to be in, but to watch your son lynched.
Remember, this was a lynching, Wolf Blitzer, a modern day lynching in 2020 of this young black man simply jogging and he was lynched for jogging while black.
BLITZER: Yes. We saw how emotional the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, got in simply talking about Ahmaud Arbery's mother. What message does the verdict, from your perspective, Ben, what message does the verdict send?
CRUMP: You know, my co-counsel, Attorney Lee Merritt, and I, we were talking about it, this is historic. It is the first time in the state of Georgia, as we understand it, that there has been a conviction for a hate crime. And, hopefully, there's a new precedent set now that if you kill an unarmed black person unjustly, that the Department of Justice will hold you accountable for a long time after Trayvon Martin.
We would always ask the Department of Justice to bring hate crime case against people that killed our young people unjustly, and they would normally decline in almost every instance. But today, we see what happened in Brunswick, Georgia, of all places, that it is possible for the federal government to come and do what they were meant to do with their Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
BLITZER: Bottom line, Ben, does the Justice Department here in Washington need to be more aggressive in pursuing hate crimes prosecutions?
CRUMP: Well, that has always been our request. But I have to give this Department of Justice administration under Biden, they have charged more civil rights hate crime cases than I've seen in my career. You know, in Minneapolis right now, you have the civil rights trial going against the three officers who were responsible for helping to, I guess, Derek Chauvin, kill George Floyd. And so that trial was going on, and that was brought by Department of Justice. I haven't seen that in years past where they would bring these cases.
BLITZER: Good point. Attorney Ben Crump, thank you very much for joining us. CRUMP: Thank you, Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Just ahead, a new assessment of Vladimir Putin's next moves in Ukraine from the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, he is standing by live.
BLITZER: We are getting new reaction right now to Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine and President Biden's new moves to punish him. We're joined by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez. Senator, thanks for joining us.
What's your reaction to the sanctions President Biden announced today? Are these measures, from your perspective, strong enough to deter Putin from escalating this crisis?
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NHJ): Well, they give Putin -- should give Putin a lot of cause to deter from ultimately escalating. Look, I mean, when you take one of the largest banks in Russia and you do blocking sanctions, the most severe sanctions you can do, when you take Russia's sovereign debt, which means it won't be able to borrow in the west, and you sanction that, when you take the military bank that operates and does financing for military operations of Russia and you sanction that.
And when I look at the five oligarchs that have been sanctioned, who are they, director of the Federal Securities Service, the president of the state-owned -- the deputy president of that state-owned bank, BTB, the deputy staff of president of Russia, the CEO of their most significant top social media platform, and others, you're now finally going after the oligarchs that hold Putin's money and help him do what he does. And for them, these are serious consequences as well.
BLITZER: And it's just -- let me interrupt, it is not just the oligarchs, it is their families as well. That could be very, very significant.
MENENDEZ: As well.
BLITZER: As you know, President Biden called Putin's moves, and I'm quoting President Biden right now, the beginning of an invasion. Does the U.S. have clear evidence that Russian troops have moved across Ukraine's border into Eastern Ukraine?
MENENDEZ: Wolf, I don't have access to that information. I am back in New Jersey, so I have not had classified information. But from all the accounts that I draw from our NATO headquarters, it certainly seems that there's elements of the Russian troops that have moved into Eastern Ukraine. And let's not forget, they have had what they call irregular forces there, people that may not have the Russian patch on their shoulder but they're Russian soldiers.
I think that that whole suggestion, that whether they have or haven't, seems to me invasion is an invasion. They have clearly created an invasion into Ukraine, and that's why you see the E.U. reacting as it is as well.
BLITZER: Yes, it is clearly an invasion. The president also warned, and quoting President Biden now, Russia is poised to go much further in launching a massive military attack against Ukraine. What are you bracing for in the coming hours and days, Senator?
MENENDEZ: Well, you know, I would not think in the 21st century that we would be talking about the aggression of one country against another trying to change the map of Europe, trying to change sovereignty of a nation by force, as Putin is trying to do. But I am concerned that that aggression goes further than the Donbas region, the eastern region that borders Russia.
I am concerned that they will go more into the heartland of Ukraine. They have well over 150 -- maybe 190,000 troops. They have 500 airplanes. They have all types of -- they have submarines. They have everything surrounding this nation. You don't do that in order to achieve diplomacy. You do that either to strangle the country, bring it to its knees, or you do it to invade it. In either case, there have to be continuing severe consequences for what Putin is doing.
BLITZER: Yes. Putin yesterday said in that lengthy speech Ukraine basically has no right to exist. It is part of Russia. He was very blunt in saying that.
Senator Menendez, we will continue the conversation.
MENENDEZ: That's a perversion of history.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
MENENDEZ: That's a perversion of history, for sure. Kyiv existed a couple of hundred years before Moscow ever did.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Senator Menendez, thanks for joining us.
Coming up, more news we are following in THE SITUATION ROOM, major legal setback for former President Trump. He's now reached the end of the line in his effort to keep some White House records from January 6th out of the hands of house investigators.
BLITZER: Former President Donald Trump's legal fight to keep documents pertaining to the January 6th insurrection out of the hands of the House Committee investigating the riot is over. The U.S. Supreme Court saying today it will not hear the case.
Let's dig deeper with CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. What do you make, Jeffrey, of this ruling from the Supreme Court?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's yet another loss for the president in his efforts to protect all sorts of information from all sorts of investigators, but it is worth remembering how long this took, and this information from National Archives has still not been turned over to the January 6th committee.
So, now, it clearly will be. But the goal of these cases has been delay as much as defeat, and he was defeated but he has certainly succeeded in delaying the investigation.
BLITZER: The case only applied to a particular set of documents being sought by the committee. Does that mean Trump could still potentially challenge other attempts to keep information he wants to keep secret?
TOOBIN: Absolutely. And he is.
And one thing we have learned about the former president's response to all of the investigations, whether it is in New York state or Georgia or in Washington with the January 6 he is appealing every time he loses, because as I said, his goal is delaying these investigations as much as defeating each individual subpoena.
BLITZER: So what does this mean for Trump's efforts to block the overall January 6th investigation?
TOOBIN: Well, frankly, I don't think it means a because each case will be considered separately.
There was an important opinion in the D.C. Circuit about this case and so I think if there are further requests that are similar to this one to the National Archives -- yes, it will be an important precedent, but when you consider all the different investigations and all the different legal issues, this is just one and the president is going to fight on every front.
BLITZER: For the first time today, the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed these documents found in Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Garland said that he'll examine the facts in the law as he reviews the case.
Does it sound like the Justice Department is seriously considering a criminal investigation?
TOOBIN: Well, I think what you can conclude merit garland is not going to answer that question, because he isn't going to answer a pending investigation. We will know from seeing the investigation, whether anything happens as a result of the discovery of this classified information. We will see lawyers start to get involved in those cases, in that investigation. But we will not hear from the Justice Department that they are announcing an investigation because under Merrick Garland and most attorneys general, that's not simply how they operate. So, I don't think you can conclude one way or another whether an
investigation is proceeding based on Merrick Garland's non-answers.
BLITZER: And very quickly, did potentially Trump commit a crime by taking classified documents with him to Mar-a-Lago?
TOOBIN: As we know from the Hillary Clinton investigation, in about her classified information, it is definitely a potential crime to remove classified information and handle it improperly. Whether the president did or not, I am certainly in no position to say. But it is a possibility.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, as usual, thank you very much.
There's more breaking news we're following. We are taking a closer look at the financial fallout from Americans here at home could face from the escalating crisis in Ukraine.
BLITZER: We are following breaking news. President Biden ordering tough new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for what he calls the beginning of an invasion of Ukraine. The growing crisis could have serious financial fallout for Americans.
CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us.
Brian, the president talked about gas prices specifically, but the impact could go beyond that.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could, Wolf. But tonight, the concerns of many Americans are centered on the gas pump. A senior administration official says today's sanctions were targeted to impact Russia's economy, not the U.S.'s, and they're designed not to affect oil prices. Still, the press is warning Americans they could feel some pain.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, President Biden's message to Americans, the escalation in Ukraine and the sanctions he is imposing on Russia as a result could hurt you in the wallet.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we respond, my administration is using every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and consumers from rising prices at the pump. As I said last week, defending freedom will have costs.
TODD: Pain that's already being felt at the pump.
ELLIS HUNTER, GAS CUSTOMER: It's like my second biggest expense to food. Gas is just out of control.
TODD: Russia is a major oil producer, second only to the U.S. If a conflict in Ukraine damages oil infrastructure, if sanctions are placed on Russia's oil sector, if Vladimir Putin decides to halt exports in retaliation, gas prices in the U.S. already at an eight- year high of $3.52 per gallon for regular could spike.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, WASHINGTON POST OPINION COLUMNIST: The last time we saw oil prices that high was 2014. And that translated into gas prices of about 3.70-something per gallon. So, you could imagine, you will see something similar today.
TODD: Other prices for energy could rise as well.
RANA FOROOHAR, GLOBAL BUSINESS COLUMNIST AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, FINANCIAL TIMES: Think about heating your home, keeping the lights on. A plane flight, driving to work will get more expensive.
TODD: Overall, inflation could get worse as businesses raise prices to offset higher energy costs and some goods or materials may see price volatility and interest rates could also go up faster.
FOROOHAR: When interest rates go up, your debt payments on everything from your home to your car to education to really any kind of did he tell you might have, credit card debt, that all goes up.
TODD: And markets could see a stock sell-off as they did today, so people's 401ks could drop temporary. Another possible concern, possible cyber attacks if Putin retaliates for sanctions. The Colonial Pipeline hack in the last year show hackers can easily disrupt America's economy. Just one attack on one company caused a price spike, panic buying set in. Many East Coast gas stations ran out.
ADAM POSEN, PETERSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS: Americans will feel that very imminently. It will affect their access to power to water. It will affect their emergency services. That's a very big escalation if the Russian choose to do it. Peoples' access to media cash and payments could be interrupted.
TODD (on camera): To prepare for possible economic fallout of a Russian invasion if that happens, the experts we spoke to say there are a couple of things you can do if you have debt like high rate loans for credit card, pay those down, put off purchases like big ticket items like appliances, for people that invest, don't take chances in the market.
BLITZER: Good advice indeed, Brian Todd reporting for us -- Brian, thank you very much.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be back in two hours later tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern with the latest on the situation in Ukraine and other major news.
Until then, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.