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U.S. Warns Ukraine Full-Scale Russian Invasion Is Imminent; State Of Emergency Imposed Across Ukraine Tonight; Trump Praises Genius Putin For Moves In Ukraine; Ivanka Trump In Talks With 1/6 Committee. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 23, 2022 - 18:00   ET



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Our coverage now continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, Ukraine is bracing for a full-scale invasion by Russia based on the most ominous warning yet from the United States. Tonight, the Pentagon says Russian troops are ready to go and an attack could happen at any time.

A state of emergency just went into effect in Ukraine as darkness falls and conditions may be ripe for Vladimir Putin's troops to make their move. I'll speak with a top State Department official who says Putin is poised to start a war of carnage.

CNN is on the scene in Ukraine, in Russia, here in Washington for our special coverage of this global crisis. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

This hour, U.S. officials are on high alert fearing Vladimir Putin is about to take Russia's invasion of Ukraine to the next level and launch a full-scale attack.

We begin our special coverage with CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto in Ukraine.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A further invasion has begun. The Russian military is entering the separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine, now recognized by Russia as independent.

KRISJANIS KARINS, LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER: According to the information that's at my disposal, Putin is moving in additional forces and tanks into the occupied Donbas territories.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We certainly believe that Russian -- additional Russian military forces are moving into that region.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. and NATO are warning the Ukrainian government that intelligence indicates a full-scale Russian invasion is about to take place, Ukraine, U.S. and other western officials tell CNN, and the Australian prime minister saying an attack is likely as soon as tonight.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Russia is at peak readiness to now complete a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and that is likely to occur within the next 24 hours.

SCIUTTO: The U.S. has given such urgent warnings previously. However, the Russian military buildup has increased in just the past several days with Russian armor building up near Ukraine's northeastern border.

Satellite images show a new field hospital as well as additional troops and equipment. This observed in Russia and in Belarus, just 24 miles from the Ukrainian border.

A senior defense official tells CNN that 80 percent of the Russian forces near Ukraine's border are in forward positions, ready to go, some as few as three miles from the border.

KIRBY: Putin has a lot of capability at his disposal right now, as I've said earlier, they are ready to go.

It won't be bloodless. There will be suffering, there will be sacrifice. And all of that must and should be laid at his feet because he's doing this by choice.

SCIUTTO: The warning comes as the Ukrainian government has put in place a state of emergency for the country. Ukraine is already feeling the impact of Russia's power play. In recent days the separatist regions have been firing shells into Ukraine, destroying homes, a preview of a full-scale invasion that could start at any time.


SCIUTTO (on camera): We've heard for some time about the buildup of Russian forces along Ukraine's border. We don't often get to see it. But take a look at this video. This is a tank formation just across the border from Ukraine to the northeast in Belgorod, Russia. This is very close, within striking distance of Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. It's one of the reason there's so much focus this evening on the threat to Kharkiv. Look at all those tanks, so many in attack position right now tonight around Ukraine.

And one measure tonight, Wolf, of the concern here in Ukraine. President Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, announced on his Facebook page, that he tried to contact Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday but did not get a response. He said in a statement, silence, although there should be silence in the Donbas, so an attempt at diplomacy there that failed, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto, I want you to standby, stay safe over there. We're going to be back to you in a few moments. But I want to get some more right now on the breaking news. I spoke just a little while ago with the number two official at the State Department.


BLITZER: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, thanks so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

As you well know, the U.S. has warned Ukraine that the latest intelligence suggests an imminent full-scale Russian attack.


What's the latest you can tell us, madam secretary, on when Putin may actually move and how this attack would unfold?

WENDY SHERMAN, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to be with you. Wish it were under better circumstances, Wolf, to all of your viewers. President Putin has a very critical choice to make about whether he is, in fact, going to move forward with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It appears that he is poised to do that, as you have reported today.

Our military has said and you can see from overhead pictures, that they have deployed a great deal of their military, and they're ready to go and they're just waiting for President Putin's order. This is going to be a devastating attack by Putin, really undermining sovereignty, territorial integrity and the choice that a country makes for itself, the brave Ukrainian people who have chose freedom and democracy. Somehow, President Putin thinks they should have a different future.

There has been outrage from the international community for the steps he is already taken since 2014. This will be really shredding much of the rules-based international order for how we ought to conduct ourselves and our ability to let states make their own choices and decisions.

BLITZER: And you think this could happen in the next few hours?

SHERMAN: I think this is going to happen whenever President Putin gives the order to move forward, but Russia is poised to do so.

BLITZER: How extensive, Madam Secretary, could this envision actually be? Does Putin have his sights set, for example, on the capital of Kyiv?

SHERMAN: His forces are arrayed to give him a wide variety of choices, so we will see. But, indeed, he could have a massive invasion of Ukraine. I want to say that and hope that President Putin understands that Ukraine is not just going to sit there and take it, that body bags will return to Moscow, that Ukrainians will fight back. They are very proud of their country and the choices they have made. And they are going to fight back hard.

All of that said, Russia has the largest conventional military in Europe. And so this is a massive and grave threat.

BLITZER: When you say, body bags will come back to Moscow, how many lives on both sides could be lost if there is this full-scale Russian invasion?

SHERMAN: I think thousands of lives could be lost, Wolf. And I think there will folks who we call IDPs, people who will be internally displaced peoples, and there will be refugees that will flow across the borders into Poland probably in the first instance, but into other countries as well. This will be a humanitarian disaster and catastrophe as well.

BLITZER: Because I have seen some reports there could be hundreds of thousands of refugees, people fleeing Ukraine, maybe even millions. Is that right?

SHERMAN: I think anything is possible in this circumstance but we are talking about proud Ukrainian people who are going to stand up for their country, and the whole world is in solidarity with them. We have seen that even in the last couple of days, not just from our allies and partners but from others around the world.

We heard and you heard, Wolf, at the Munich Security Conference Foreign Minister Wang Yi of the People's Republican of China, the PRC, say that sovereignty and territorial integrity are critical principles, and that included Ukraine.

I hope that Putin will listen to the PRC. They obviously connected in front of the Olympics to say that they had an important partnership with each other. I hope that President Putin listens hard to the PRC in this instance. They have it right, sovereignty and territorial integrity, a country's right to make its own choices is quite critical.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of us thought the Russians were waiting until after the Winter Olympics in China to begin their invasion.

The State Department said today, as you well know, that the U.S. will no longer engage, and I'm quoting now, in a pretense of diplomacy. Is the diplomatic path now officially dead?

SHERMAN: I don't think diplomacy can ever be dead, but there's no question that President Putin has shut the door to diplomacy. He shut the door to diplomacy when he declared two, quote/unquote, republics in Donetsk and Luhansk, when, in fact, this is sovereign territory of Ukraine. He killed diplomacy when he really wouldn't consider any of the proposals that we made starting some time ago, when I met bilaterally with Russians in strategic stability dialogue, when the NATO/Russia council meeting was held, when the OSCE had its meeting, when proposals were put in front of Putin to consider his security concerns.


What we would not do was to decide for Ukraine what its choices were. What we would not do is turn the clock back to 1997 and tell current NATO states they had to leave. And what we would not do would be to make unilateral decisions that we would have no offensive weapons, NATO would have no offensive weapons in Europe. So, NATO is only a defensive alliance, as you well know.

So, President Putin has shut the door to diplomacy. We hope he deescalates and creates the space and the platform and the atmosphere for serious diplomacy. Right now, it looks like he's not looking for that and that's and that is a grave mistake on his part.

BLITZER: The former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, a man you know, told me this week that he fears Russia won't stop at Ukraine. Do you share those fears?

SHERMAN: I certainly know that the frontline states, the eastern flank, former states of the old Soviet Union have those fears. We want to provide them reassurance. We want to provide them defensive capabilities. They all have their own. But we have flown some troops to provide additional reassurance to them.

You know, one can never underestimate Vladimir Putin. This is not just a war of choice he has made. It's going to be a war of carnage. And I certainly hope he doesn't make this choice and I certainly hope he does not go further. He could set off an enormous conflict in Europe.

What is really fundamental here, Wolf, which you know from all of your years covering international relations and foreign policy and international security is what Putin is doing here is not only affront to Ukraine, to Europe, but to the rules-based international order. It says that authoritarian leaders can act with impunity to throw out the rules and do whatever they want. That is a great threat to security of countries all over the world.

BLITZER: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, we really appreciate all you're doing and appreciate you joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you very much.

SHERMAN: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: Just ahead, live reports from CNN journalists in Ukraine, in Russia and over at the White House and the Pentagon, lots going on right now. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: We're back with our breaking news coverage of the Ukraine crisis as the United States warns a full-scale Russian invasion is now imminent.

Let's bring back our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto, he's on the ground for us in Ukraine. CNN Contributor on Russian Affairs Jill Dougherty is joining us from Moscow. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is over at the White House. Our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann is at the Pentagon, of course.

Jim, you're there in Ukraine, how stunning is it to hear the deputy secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, tell me that Putin is poised to launch a, quote, war of carnage that could leave thousands on both sides dead?

SCIUTTO: It's the culmination of warnings we've been hearing from the Pentagon really going back to November. That's the first time I heard descriptions of what U.S. intel was picking up about Russia's buildup, the forces headed this way to surround Ukraine but also the plans in place for a full-scale invasion involving really every level of military power you can imagine. And that is ground power, it's armor, it's air power, it's missiles, electronic warfare, as well as military intelligence, and the FSB, the successor to the KGB with the whole plan to politically take over this country as well. And now, at sort of the 11th hour and a half, if you want to call it that, the U.S. sees this all coming together in the coming hours or days.

And I know, Wolf, that we've heard those warnings before. What has changed in the last several days is those forces are just gotten closer to the border. The U.S. has observed via surveillance and other means those forces put into combat positions, and other steps taken that indicate final preparations. Of course, we'll see if the final order is delivered but that's the picture that U.S. intelligence is seeing.

BLITZER: Yes, it could be imminent, as U.S. Intelligence believes.

Oren, you're there at the Pentagon. What is the latest assessment from the U.S. military on Russia's own military readiness?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Let me build on the point Jim just made. The U.S. has been watching this build up for months now and had an assessment on the types and numbers of forces that Russia would need if it were to conduct an all-out invasion of Ukraine, and that's essentially what they're seeing right now.

The Pentagon is saying, a senior defense official, that Russia is near 100 percent of the forces needed and in position to conduct that invasion, an all-out, not just trying to take Donbas or the Luhansk People's Republic, or the Donetsk People's Republic, those breakaway republics in Eastern Europe, but the major city in northeastern of Ukraine, Kharkiv, the capital itself, Kyiv.

The defense secretary said just over the weekend, he thought tanks rolling into Kyiv was highly likely. That senior defense official saying some 80 percent of Russian troops are in forward positions. And that builds on what we heard on Friday, that 40 percent to 50 percent of troops are in attack positions.

So, you get a sense and a feeling of the momentum here, the troops, Russian troops, that is, getting closer to the border with all the capabilities Jim mentioned, air, sea, land, cyber and surrounding Ukraine on three out of four sides. The only escape, west into Poland, and that's where U.S. troops are currently positioned.


Russia has the forces it needs.

What they're waiting on is that decision from Putin and that's what complicates the waters here. An official has said that it's not on autopilot. Putin is reading the situation. He is acting and reacting. And that makes it all the more difficult to find out how this goes and how he does with the massive buildup of forces.

BLITZER: You know, Jill, you're there in Moscow. The president of Ukraine just revealed that he actually tried to call Putin today but was met, and I'm quoting now, met with silence. How do you interpret that?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: Well, obviously, it's on purpose, but I think there might be a couple of things going on.

Number one, it makes it impossible for any type of discussion to go on, and the other thing is that President Putin considers the leaders in Ukraine illegitimate. So, he can make an argument, at least in his mind, that he doesn't have to talk to them because they are illegitimate.

And that is kind of -- if you look at what's going on right now, Wolf, you have the drama, the military drama taking place in Ukraine. But here in Moscow, there's another type of drama, and that is really building the case, building the pretext for possibly taking military action.

And I think one of the most important things today was a letter that was sent both from the leaders of Luhansk People's Republic and Donetsk People's Republic in that Donbas region. And they were asking President Putin, for help. Help us, protect us and they were saying military aggression from Ukraine is increasing. They were using the word genocide which, of course, Ukraine has said is absolutely a phony allegation.

And then just look at the language from President Putin, you know, talking about our security, not only Ukraine's, but Donbas, but Russia's security is not negotiable, some very strong language coming out of here as well.

BLITZER: Very strong indeed. Kaitlan, only moments ago, the Ukraine president, Zelensky, said the Russian leadership has approved a military incursion into Ukraine. That's a huge change from what Zelensky has been saying. How is the White House now bracing for Putin's next move?

KAITLAN COOLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they haven't said yet but they do believe that the Russian president has given this go-ahead. They know that they have said that they believe he's made a decision. We've heard that from President Biden.

But here's the thing into White House, they have been incredibly public here about what they believe he plans to do next. You've seen them lay it out in great detail, including from the secretary of state of what they believe would lead up to this. Now that they say this invasion has started as President Biden said for the first time yesterday. Of course, now, it's following what they said would happen afterward.

But what is happening here they believe, according to Jen Psaki and what she told us in the briefing today is, they believe President Putin is adapting and improvising its tactics based on what the White House has said. Because they believe that they have caught the Russian leader off guard with just how public they've been, with what his plans have been, who are -- he was creating these false pretext for an invasion, having these theatrical meetings with his, of course, top aide, as he did in that recently staged video that they have put out there. And now when it comes to the actual incursion and what this is going to look like, we know that they have warned about a full-scale assault. They have talk about it being imminent.

They would not say today whether or not they agreed with the characterization from the Australian prime minister that this is likely to happen in the next 24 hours or so, but they have definitely been warning that it is imminent and it could happen really, Wolf, at any time.

BLITZER: You know, Jim, I just wanted to get your reaction. You're there in Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: I think we should just take a moment to note how sad it is to be at this point, right? I mean, this is the prospect of war in Europe in the year 2022 between two otherwise intertwined nations. There's a lot of business that goes back and forth between Ukraine and Russia, a lot of blood lines, travel that goes back and forth, manufactured hostilities, really, by Russia over the course of a decade. This would be the second invasion, we should note, of Ukraine by Russia going back to the invasion of Crimea in 2014.

But, one, if Russia follows through on all the military capability it's put around this border here, that would be potentially much bloodier. It's a sad moment if what U.S. intelligence shows and U.S. officials are warning about comes to be, a sad moment for Europe and frankly a sad moment for the world.

BLITZER: And it could happen in the next few hours. We're watching it very closely. Everybody stand by. There's more breaking news we're following.

CNN, as you know, is on the ground near the front line on the Russia/Ukraine conflict where residents are facing escalating shelling right now and fear of an imminent full-scale invasion.



BLITZER: More now on the breaking news tonight. A full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine imminent, imminent, according to the United States Intelligence Services, with Russian forces prepared to attack, and I'm quoting now, at any time.

CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt reports civilians living near the front line are already seeing signs the conflict is escalating.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Dirt roads that connect the Ukrainian villages nearest to the front lines are meandering, covered in potholes and puddles. The empty landscape makes it easy to see the Russia-backed separatist territory and to hear the deep rumble of artillery in the distance.


Along the line of contact just over a mile away of contact, Valery Dudechko is one of the few remaining in this sparse empty village called Taramchuk, which over the past week has been hit with waves of artillery fire and the biggest spike in fighting in years, a farmhouse destroyed, his metal door cut by shrapnel.

Out in the field behind gives you a sense of how widespread it was.

You can see here the randomness of this shelling, craters all over this field, here, here and here, many of them as deep as I am tall. We're told it was just over the course of only two days last week that 16 shells were fired at this field.

Despite the renewed violence, Valery says he's not going anywhere.


MARQUARDT: His son lives in separatist-held land and has other family in Russia.


MARQUARDT: Out here it's mostly Valery and his animals, pets and livestock. His friend, Oleksiy, shows up to deliver some food and tells us there's definitely more shelling to come, but he doesn't believe there will be a full-scale war.


MARQUARDT: It is a confidence we have seen all over this country in part because people like Valery and Oleksiy have already seen so much fighting for the past eight years, a confidence that will likely soon be tested.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Taramchuk, in Eastern Ukraine.


BLITZER: Alex thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more on the breaking news. Joining us, the former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Retired Lieutenant General Douglas Lute.

General, thank you so much for joining us. I know you just returned from Ukraine. Moments ago the Ukraine President Zelensky announced that the Russian leadership has approved a military incursion into Ukraine and he says a trigger can happen, in his words, we're quoting Zelensky, any minute. What will you be watching for in the coming hour as Ukraine faces this looming invasion?

LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE (RET.), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, of course, we know that President Putin has amassed the military capability to generate many -- a variety of options. That he can launch from the separatist regions in Luhansk and Donetsk and take the rest of those two provinces. That would be probably the most incremental move.

He can also move directly on Kyiv, either on the ground or with an air assault or with precision fires, so air delivered fires or surface to surface fires, or he could go all the way down south along the waterways and try to create a land bridge between the Russian mainland and the Russian annexed -- illegally annexed, formerly Ukrainian Peninsula of Crimea. So, he's got options north, center and south.

BLITZER: The latest satellite images, General, they show new deployments, were talking about new Russian deployments within ten miles of Ukraine's border, just 50 miles or so from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The U.S. warning raised specific concerns about that specific city. So, what does that tell you about how Russia may move in?

LUTE: Well, Kharkiv is the largest city closest to the border. So, it's about 1.4 million people. And I think that if he chooses a massive multi-front approach, Kharkiv will be one of the early objectives. And so that's a point to watch.

BLITZER: General Lute, we'll watch it all very, very closely, we will stay in touch with you. Thanks so much for joining us.

Just ahead, Donald Trump's revealing response to the Ukraine crisis. He's staying true to form and actually praising Vladimir Putin.



BLITZER: Get more breaking news this hour, airports to the Eastern Ukraine have now been shut down at least until Thursday, this as the country's president is warning that Russia could trigger an invasion at any minute.

As this crisis plays out, the former president of the United States is actually praising Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump suggesting the Kremlin leader is, quote, a genius.

Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, Trump is picking up clearly where he left off as president, cozying up to Putin. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is doing that again, Wolf, just as he did throughout his presidency, and now, as then, many are worried that Donald Trump is undermining his country standing with Russia and with its own allies.


TODD (voice over): It was extraordinary, even by Donald Trump standards, the former president fawning over Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine during an interview with a conservative Clay Travis and Buck Sexton radio show.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): I went in yesterday, and there was a television screen. And I said this is genius. Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful.

TODD: Trump said Putin never would have dared to make these moves if Trump had been president, but he still pressed on with the compliments.

TRUMP (voice over): I said how smart is that, and he's going to go in and be the peacekeeper. That's the strongest piece force. We could use that on our southern border. That's the strongest peace force I've ever seen.

He's a guy who's very savvy, I know him well.


TODD: The Kremlin is also receiving praise from other Republicans, like Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, who wondered aloud why the former KGB colonel is disliked by Americans.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: It might be worth asking yourself since this is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle class job in my town to Russia?

TODD: And House Republicans with a venomous tweet yesterday, a picture of President Biden with a caption, quote, this is what weakness on the world stage looks like.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITIAL ANALYST: There is now a faction of the MAGA GOP that seems to be praising Vladimir Putin rather than recognizing him as an American adversary.

TODD: A stunning reversal among leading members of the party of Ronald Reagan, who is credited by many with winning the cold war.

RONALD REAGAN, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.

TODD: One analyst worries about the Trump GOP faction undermining Biden with America's allies. PROF. JORDAN TAMA, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL SERVICE: The prospect of Trump coming back into office certainly makes all of those allies question how long they can have confidence in the U.S. going forward.


TODD: More evidence of the GOP split on Russia, Donald Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Putin in an interview last month, calling him very talented, saying Putin, quote, knows how to use power, we should respect that, end quote, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, often one of President Biden's harshest critics also has praised Biden's response in Ukraine.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you very much, Brian Todd reporting.

I want to get some more on all of this with our Chief Domestic Correspondent Jim Acosta. He covered Trump as our White House correspondent.

Jim, how outrageous is it for a former president of the United States to call an authoritarian like Putin a genius for invading another country?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I mean, how do you say there is no bottom in Russia? I mean, that is where we are right now with Donald Trump. And none of this should be surprise. If you look how Trump has treated Putin, fawned over Putin, kowtowed to Putin over the past five years, I mean, this is perfectly in character.

You'll recall back in 2016 when he invited the Russians to find Hillary Clinton's emails, his own family met with the Russians at Trump Tower. Of course, there is the Helsinki moment when Trump said he trusted Putin more than the U.S. intelligence community. At one point, Donald Trump held up military hardware to Ukraine in an attempt to shakedown the Ukrainians for dirt on Joe Biden. That was how he got impeached the first time around. And so this is completely in character.

I asked the Trump adviser what Trump has been saying about Putin over the last couple days earlier today. And this Trump adviser said, well, it was sloppy the way Donald Trump went around doing this. He meant to say that Biden got outplayed by Vladimir Putin. But this adviser went on to say there's no doubt about it. This is humiliating. It's humiliating to see an ex-president praising Vladimir Putin in this fashion.

BLITZER: Yes, in a sensitive moment like this especially. And it's not just Trump. As you know, other Republican politicians, conservatives and right-wing media, they are fawning over Putin as well. Does that make any sense to you at all?

ACOSTA: Wolf, it's baffling. I mean, imagine if Ronald Reagan had to deal with this when he was staring down the Soviet Union back in the 1980s during the cold war. You and I both know, there was nothing like a Fox News back then with Tucker Carlson, as Brian Todd was just showing in his piece, essentially echoing Kremlin talking points, saying, well, why do I hate Vladimir Putin, telling his audience of millions of people that they shouldn't hate Vladimir Putin either.

Tucker Carlson has been doing this for months now, essentially spewing what they say over at the Kremlin, what Vladimir Putin would like Americans to say, to the point that, Wolf, they play Tucker Carlson's bits on Russian state television. That's how bad it's gotten.

But as Brian Todd was just mentioning a few minutes ago, the former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo -- it's not just people on Fox, people like Mike Pompeo is praising Vladimir Putin. And, of course, he's doing that to some extent because he wants to position himself to run in 2024. This has exposed a rift, a split inside the Republican Party.

You do have some Republicans, like Ted Cruz, praising Joe Biden for how he's doling out sanctions at Vladimir Putin and the Russians and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and so on, but then you have people like Josh Hawley inside the Republican Party who are essentially spouting Russian talking points, asking why should Americans go and fight the Russians over in Ukraine when that's never going to happen.

And so this is just not the party of Ronald Reagan anymore, Wolf. It's the party of Donald Trump and its the party of appeasement.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, helping us appreciate what's going on, thank you very, very much.

There's more breaking news we're following tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, Ivanka Trump in talks right now with the House January 6th select committee about actually appearing for an interview, what she could reveal potentially about the capitol siege.



BLITZER: The United States warning a full scale Russian invasion of Ukraine is now imminent with the Pentagon saying Russian troops are, quote, ready to go. We'll have much more on this coming up. Stay with us for all the breaking news.

But there's other important news we're following as well, including the Manhattan district attorney criminal investigation into the Trump organization.

Let's dig deeper right now with congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining us.


So, Ryan, two top prosecutors in the case have now resigned. What does that mean for the investigation going forward?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it cast a lot of doubt about what the future of this investigation holds for the Manhattan district attorney's office. This is a probe into whether or not the former president inflated his assets in order to get more favorable loan terms from banks that he was negotiating with.

But we're learning that two key prosecutors that were directly involved in this case, Kerry Dunn and Mark Pomerantz submitted their resignation to the new district attorney Alvin Bragg this week. And "The New York Times" is reporting it's because they are concerned that Bragg isn't necessarily committed to moving forward with this investigation. He questioned whether or not the office had enough evidence to move forward and convict the former president or his associates in this prosecution and investigation that they have moving forward.

Now, there have been signs, Wolf, that this investigation was running into some roadblocks. They stopped questioning witnesses in front of the grand jury and recently cancelled an appearance of a witness in front of the grand jury.

So far, the district attorney office said they are committed. Bragg himself has said that he was going to be personally involved in this investigation and prosecution but at this point, it's certainly a cloud of suspicion as to what comes next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Trump's daughter, Ivanka, Ryan, we're told, now in talks with the January 6 Select Committee. What are you learning about whether she will appear for an interview?

NOBLES: Now, we have to be careful as to frame the talks between Ivanka Trump and the January 6 Select Committee. Her spokesperson did confirm to CNN that she is in conversations with the committee about setting the parameters for an appearance before the committee to testify about what she knows. But it's clear that there's as lot of back and forth as to what she'd be comfortable answering questions about, what lines she would not cross, and then as a result, what documents she may or many not submit to the committee.

This is the engagement stage that the committee often talks about. It's essentially the negotiations to get someone in front of the committee. It's important to note, though, Wolf, that they have not subpoenaed Ivanka Trump.

At this point, they've just asked for her voluntary cooperation. So she does essentially hold the terms as to what she be comfortable talking about when she comes before the committee. It is though encouraging from the committee's perspective that she's even having those conversations. They're very interesting in what she knows about what happened specifically inside the White House on January 6 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ryan Nobles, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, Ukraine's president says Russian leadership has now approved an excursion into the country.

Stay with CNN for more on Putin's moves. And just ahead, the trial begins for the lone Louisville police

officer charged in connection with the raid that killed Breonna Taylor.



BLITZER: We're following breaking news.

Ukraine's president striking a dire tone tonight, warning citizens that Russian leaders have approved an incursion into their country and a trigger could occur at any moment. Following that other important news we're also following, trial has begun for the only police officer charged in the botched raid in which Breonna Taylor was killed back in 2020.

CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll reports that charges don't involve Taylor's death but rather the former officer's conduct.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The trial now under way for the former Louisville metropolitan police officer involved in the raid which led to the shooting death of Breonna Taylor nearly two years ago.

Brett Hankison is the only officer charged in the incident. None of the officers involved in the botched raid were charged with Taylor's death.

BARBARA WHALEY, KENTUCKY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is not case to decide who is responsible for the death of Breonna Taylor. Breonna Taylor should not have died that night.

CARROLL: Hankison faces three counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly blindly firing shots that night, some rounds pierced the wall of a neighboring unit where Cody Etherton lived with his pregnant partner and her child.

Etherton told jurors bullets came within inches of hitting him.

CODY ETHERTON, NEIGHBOR OF BREONNA TAYLOR: Debris started going past my head, my face.

CARROLL: After hearing gunfire, Etherton says he heard someone in Taylor's apartment speaking.

ETHERTON: I heard somebody saying, I believe that was breathe, baby, breathe.

CARROLL: Prosecutors say he was not in the line of fire but the defense argues Hankison's actions were justified and responsible.

STEWART MATTHEWS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You're going to discover that this scene was total chaos. CARROLL: Hankison is expected to testify in his own defense.

MATTHEWS: Brett Hankison is going to tell you that when that door was breached, he had a straight shot in that hallway. He saw the muzzle flash from the gun that was fired at the officers.

CARROLL: The officers who were there that night were serving a no knock warrant, though police say they did announce themselves.

Taylor, who was standing hallway with her boyfriend was shot eight times and killed.

Do you feel like justice is being served?

TAMIKA PALMER, BREONNA TAYLOR'S MOM: No, not at all, but it's a start. I guess, for somebody. Not Breonna at all.


CARROLL (on camera): The prosecution trying to build a case, trying to build an argument showing that Hankison was firing into an apartment building where he could not clearly see a target.

And, Wolf, we should also tell you that on Friday, the jurors are going to be taken to Breonna's Taylor's apartment so they can get a first hand look at where it happened -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jason, thank you very much.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be back in two hours, 9:00 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.