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Mass Graves, Bodies Exposed As Russians Retreat Kyiv Area; Biden Calls Bucha Massacre A War Crime, But Not Genocide; CNN Team Narrowly Escapes Incoming Artillery; Reports: Will Smith Projects On Hold After Oscars Slap; GOP's Murkowski & Romney Will Vote To Confirm Judge Jackson. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 04, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If you ever missed an episode of "THE LEAD," you can listen to "THE LEAD" wherever you get your podcasts. I'll be back tonight at 9:00 P.M. Eastern for CNN Tonight with more from Lviv and from our reporters on the frontlines of this bloody invasion.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer who is in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you in a few hours.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, gruesome new evidence that Russia has turned parts of Ukraine into killing fields, as mass graves and trails of bodies are exposed after Kremlin forces retrieved from the Kyiv area. President Zelenskyy, touring the scene, is flatly declaring the slaughter of civilians is an act of genocide.

President Biden meanwhile also condemning Russia's brutality in the town of Bucha but he's refusing to label it as genocide, even as he calls for Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes and vows additional sanctions against Russia.

And in Southern Ukraine, a CNN crew narrowly dodges incoming artillery fire with the camera rolling. We'll get a firsthand account of their harrowing escape.

Our correspondents are covering all that and much more on the frontlines in Ukraine, with refugees in Hungary and with President Biden over at the White House.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's go right to Ukraine and the breaking news on the truly barbaric massacre in the Kyiv suburbs Bucha. CNN's Phil Black is following this story for us from his post in western Ukraine.

Phil, as we learn more and more about the horrors that these Russian troops are leaving behind, Ukraine is warning that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is the real concern, Wolf. We're not just talking about the indifference to civilian. We've seen too much of this war, through Russia's indiscriminate bombardment of people's homes and other non-military targets. What we are hearing from Bucha and other areas where Russia has recently pulled back, the images, the disturbing images we are about to show you, they indicate civilians have been deliberately targeted, killed, some execution style, some tortured as well.


BLACK (voice over): There is little point closing the backdoors of this van. It's stopping frequently, picking up those who didn't survive Russia's brief occupation of Bucha.

Each person is photographed with possible I.D. is checked and when necessary bindings are removed. Their clothes, their belongings and in some cases their restraints all indicate these people were a threat to no one in the moments before they were killed.

In normal time, Vladyslav Minchenko is a painter. Now, he collects bodies. This one was carrying potatoes, he says. You can see they are all civilians. And snipers shot them all in the head. This is how they were having fun. Tatiana Valudmurivna (ph) weeps besides her husband's shallow grave.

She says he was taken from their home and weeks later found in a basement tortured, mutilated, shot in the head.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry released this video of another basement in Bucha. A CNN team visited the site and saw five dead men, their hands were tied, most were shot in the head and legs.

President Zelenskyy came to Bucha and walked its streets saying, it is very difficult to negotiate with Russia when you see what they have done here.

BLACK: Ukraine says it will investigates Russia war crime. The European Union says we'll help. No need, says Russia, because all of these has been staged.

A resident says this equally sincere message scribbled with lipstick in a Bucha home by a Russian soldier. Thanks for the warm welcome, it says. Sorry about the mess.

Russia's mess, the extraordinary suffering, deaths and trauma inflicted during just a few weeks of occupation is only starting to be understood. But those who lived through, it is unlikely to ever been forgiven.


BLACK (voice over): So, Wolf, Russia, through multiple statements today, denied that it was responsible for all that you just saw, insisting that, yes, these things have been staged and faked. The overwhelming view of western government is no one else could be responsible for these atrocities. And indeed the concern really is that what we are seeing in Bucha is a small window into what may have taken place may still be taking place in other areas across the country that have been under Russia's occupation since the start of the invasion, Wolf.


BLITZER: Yes, horrendous situation indeed. Phil Black, reporting for us, thank you very much.

Let's go to our Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour, she's on the ground of Kharkiv, Ukraine, for us. Christiane, you've spent your career reporting in some of the worst atrocities at least over these past several decades. What do the disturbing images and accounts coming out of Bucha, for example, revealed to you?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, in the immediate, obviously, the horror of it but also, very importantly, you know, this is a small slice of the country and taking place over a relatively short period of time. God only knows what we might find as this war progresses, and depending on the balance of power, whether we are able to see other areas that Russia has been able to occupy or hold for periods of time.

So far, they have not in many places. We know we are going to find something extraordinarily difficult in Mariupol. We have already seen that. But this in Kyiv and around in those suburbs is truly revealing and it reveals one of two things, either that this is command and controlled and businesses as usual amongst these forces, you remember we had terrible crimes witnessed by Russia and its supported troops in Syria, in Aleppo, before that in Grozny, in Georgia, and in many of the other places that these forces are being in operation.

Either it is business all usual or it is a complete and utter dereliction of command of control to get the forces to pay due concern to civilians, which is a fundamental rule and law of war. So, whatever it is, it is a terrible, terrible crime.

Now, it is up to prosecutors to decide whether it meets the highest level of international crime and prosecution, which is genocide. And that, as you know, is usually around a deliberate attempt to wipe out a particular ethnicity or religion exactly dependent on that kind of specific targeting of race and the like, or whether it fits into, the other more broader categories of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

But this is the kind of thing that established tribunal will be able to judge, to adjudicate once things are collected of all forensic evidence. But what we have seen so far makes up a huge bulk of the evidence.

Now, here I am in Kharkiv, where they are very afraid the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense had said that Russia, as it tries to regroup and heads further to the east, may go for this city, may try to take this city. It is only a few miles from the Russian border. We are here under a total blackout and curfew, sitting in a hotel room with curtains to avoid the lights going out. It's really serious. And here is our report from the last 24 hours in Kharkiv.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) AMANPOUR (voice over): Here in Kharkiv, former Ukrainian capital, second biggest city and one of the most important cultural sites, the great 19th century poet, Taras Shevchenko, is hungering down for the rest of this war. Workers covered him in sandbags against the kind of destruction that's pounded this city center since the start.

The most spectacular strike was this one a month ago, a Russian missile slammed low and hard, straight into the corner of the regional administration building.

The missile struck right here. And the idea of hitting a building like this is to deny the legitimacy of the state. But the terror against civilians continues, playground by playground, mall by mall, park bench by park bench.

Which is what we find in this residential neighborhood, people were sitting outside chatting on a Sunday afternoon, kids were playing, we find the telltale patent of a mortar landed right here. Authorities say seven people were killed in this neighborhood, many more were injured.

Kharkiv sits 40 miles from the Russian border. It is the last major city before Donbas, where Russia is directing its war efforts to the east. Just last week, the nearby village of Mala Rohan was liberated from the Russians. This civilian says he was captured and held.


AMANPOUR: When dusk falls, children are outside playing and getting the last bit of fresh air before descending underground into one of the capital's many subway stations.


After 40 days of war, they have turned their temporary homes into a neighborhood. Some have even decorated with fresh flowers.

Zina (ph) says, she's been living down here since the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, this is my house, this used to be my house. Now, we cannot leave here, obviously, because it has been bombed three times in a row.

AMANPOUR: But this is a safe space for you and for the kids?


AMANPOUR: Kids do what kids do, homework and handicraft. Even this is organized, Marina (ph) works for an organization that plan ways to keep the children busy, entertained and their minds off of trauma.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here, we equipped the playing grounds, this is a place for kids, where they can play with toys, with tractors, make puzzles and to do the things they did in their usual life before the war. AMANPOUR: But the trauma is never far away, as we found this underground station, where civil defense teaching kids how to protect themselves, how to recognize weapons and ordinance and to remember never to touch. The adults show how to protect themselves in case of a chemical weapon attack.

Even this maternity hospital was damaged in a mortar strike. Now, the basement is being turned into a shelter and delivery room if necessary. Birth, life continue. We met Alena (ph) 30 minutes after she delivered her baby Yarislava (ph).

How are you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm well. She's well too, my first daughter.

AMANPOUR: Your first daughter?


AMANPOUR: Your first child?


AMANPOUR: As we're living, she tells us, I love my country, I love my daughter, my family, my husband. And in the delirium of new motherhood, she says, everything will be great for us.


AMANPOUR (on camera): Now, we have been hearing artillery duels between both sides regularly for the last 24 hours and it is persistent, and, of course, they are concerned as to whether Russia will again try to take this city. They failed the first time though. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Christiane, thank you very much with that report. Stay safe over there. We'll be in touch.

Also tonight, the Biden White House says, the atrocities in Bucha, in Ukraine, are further evidence of war crimes by Russia.

Our Senior White House's Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now. So, update our viewers, Phil, on the latest.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Biden was actually before most of his top officials in calling President Vladimir Putin a war criminal, and he made clear today by himself that, that still very much the case based on the horrors he's seen in Bucha.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: He is a war criminal.

We have to gather all the details so this could be an actual war crime trial. This guy is brutal and what's happening in Bucha is outrageous. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now, the president hit on a key point there, Wolf, that this will take time. The U.S. is part of a multilateral process gathering, processing and analyzing evidence. But in the meantime, the U.S. is also assessing Russian military is making a very clear shift as the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, laid out today. Take a listen.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: At this juncture, we believe that Russia is reviving its war aims. Russia is repositioning its forces to concentrate its offensive operation in Eastern and parts of Southern Ukraine rather than target most of the territory. All indications are that Russia will seek to surround and overwhelm Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine.

The next stage of this conflict may be well be protracted. We should be under no illusions that Russia will adjust its tactics, which have included and will likely continue to include wanton and brazen attacks on civilian targets.


MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, Jake Sullivan laying out a very detailed assessment of where the U.S. believes the Russia's military is, and also making clear that the U.S., while shocked, was not surprised by the actions that they have seen, the atrocities in Bucha, saying that they predicted that as well and predict more will be coming.

When he talk about a protracted process ahead, though, he made very clear, Wolf, he's not talking about weeks. At this point, they are looking at months, underscoring the need, according to Sullivan for no complacency between the U.S. and its allies. More lethal weapons are expected to be delivered in the days ahead. Also new sanctions will be applied on a multilateral basis in the days ahead as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. It certainly looks like it's going to go on and on and on. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you very much.

Just ahead, we are getting new insights right now to the next days of Russia's war against Ukraine. I will ask a key member of the House Intelligence Committee what he's learning. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We are back with breaking news on the mass graves and the other horrors uncovered in the Kyiv suburb now that Russian forces have retreated from that area.

A CNN crew is on the scene say multiple bodies of civilians scattered in the streets and others removed from a basement.

Let's discuss with the key member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Jim Himes. Congressman, thanks for joining us.

As you know, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian atrocities in Bucha amount to genocide but President Biden wouldn't go that far today. He said there were war crimes, should be tried for war crimes but not as seriously as genocide. Do you see potential evidence of genocide at least at this point?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Wolf, the concept of genocide is a complicated one legally. Are the Russians set about to exterminate a class of people? That's I guess important to the lawyers. What's really important to the rest of the world is the fact that what we knew were war crimes and we knew that there were war crimes in that abstract.


We saw a bombs falling on residential buildings. Now we know that it's a step worse than that, that there were executions summary of execution of civilians, that women were raped, that children were killed, that people were thrown into wells. I mean, it's the worst form of war crime. So I don't know that we need to spend a tone of time between, you know, worrying about the distinction between genocide and war crimes.

There are really two things that come out of this Wolf. Number one, and I would not have allowed to have said two weeks ago, but the Ukrainians now must win the war. This war must be won by the Ukrainians and we need to do what we need to do to facilitate that happening because there is no circumstance based on what we've seen that the Russians can come out of this misadventure with any gain.

The second thing that needs to happen is that the Russian people need to realize, and we have seen reports that they're rallying to Putin, they need to realize that their leadership will never ever be welcomed outside of Russia again, that as their economy slides back into the stone age, that their leadership will never be welcomed outside of Russia. And if they do come outside of Russia, they will be arrested and tried for war crimes. Until the Russia people understand the magnitude of what that means for them, we're going to continue to deal with Vladimir Putin and what he is willing to do.

BLITZER: Do you think the U.S. has a moral responsibility, Congressman, to do more in light of these atrocities? Does the U.S. need, for example, to ramp up its military support big time?

HIMES: I do. I do. I think, it is more on a moral and a practical responsibility. Of course, it is a moral responsibility in the phase of what we have seen.

Think about at this way, Wolf, and I have listened to the White House's arguments, concerned about sending MiGs and that sorts of things because Putin may escalate.

Now, look. I am not going to dismiss the importance of not going into a realm where there's a use of a tactical nuclear weapons, but how much more escalation do you want than the murder of children and women, the summary execution of people with their hands tied behind their back?

More than ever, I think the world understands and I think the White House needs to understand, but carefully we need to put armor into the hands of the Ukrainians. We need to put fighter jets and other military capability into the hands of Ukrainians, not so that then we can achieve what we hope to achieved two weeks ago, that is that they would put up a good defense, but so that they can win this war. We need to change our aims in this country and in the west to the Ukrainians winning this war.

BLITZER: And you know this because you are on the Intelligence Committee, but U.S. intelligence suggests Putin is actually eyeing May 9th, that's Russia's Victory Day, as they call it, marking the defeat of the Nazis of World War II, to show some sort of progress in Ukraine. Will you frame this is a victory even as Russia is beaten back by the Ukrainians and so many of these key cities?

HIMES: Well, it is an interesting question. Of course, he's going to try to spin it as some sorts of victory, and we don't quite know what's happening. As you heard Jake Sullivan say, a lot of military capabilities is being shifted into the far east of Ukraine. So, maybe there will be some advances there. And this is again why the provision of more weapons and different and better weapons is so important.

But what's interesting, Wolf, is that, you know, the Russian people are not getting the truth about this, but there is no way you can lie about eight or nine or ten or as high as 15,000 dead Russians. You can't lie about that. Those dead Russians have families. There will be funerals.

And just as this country, we experienced in places like in Iraq and Afghanistan the tragedy of our young men and women returning to Dover Air Force Base, the Russians, whatever Putin tries to tell them, there is no hiding the dramatic losses that he has already taken. So, good luck in trying to pitch it as a victory.

BLITZER: Yes, thousands of Russian troops dead and many more thousands injured, they're going to have to deal with all of that obviously as well. Congressman Jim Himes, I appreciate it very much, thanks for joining us.

HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, a dramatic new video of a CNN crew narrowly escaping, thank God, incoming fire in a region under Russian assault. Up next, we're going to get update from the reporter who survived the attack.

Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: Tonight, a CNN team reporting from Southern Ukraine has survived a very, very close call, narrowly escaping as artillery fire hit just yards away. The camera was still rolling as our Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman and his crew raced to safety.

Watch this.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Down here, John, down here. Keep on rolling. You see it over there?

We hugged the earth. Two more artillery rounds. And so we run with full body armor to the cars.

Go, go, go, go, go.

All right, right now, we are trying to get out of this area as quickly as possible. Our other car is completely destroyed.


BLITZER: Thank god, Ben Wedeman and the crew, they're okay. Ben is joining us now from Mykolaiv. Ben, tell us more about this truly harrowing experience.


WEDEMAN: Well, we arrived after these trenches of six or seven kilometers from the Russians frontlines and it was relatively quiet. And were just trying to engage the soldiers there to find out how the situation was and this shell comes slamming in very close to us. We took cover and then another two shells landed, one of them maybe ten yards from one of our cars.

And so we went running towards the car to try to get out of the area after the officer in charge of that position told us we should leave because there might be more in coming rounds, only to find that our car, one of the two cars, was completely destroyed, all the windows shattered. There was petrol all over the ground the car, all the tires were flat from the shrapnel. So, we had to pile into the second car where a total of six people, and that's a car really for only seats for five. And our producer, Karim Hadar (ph), had to get into the back of the car and drive like crazy out of there.

The second car was also hit by shrapnel but it was still able to get us back to Mykolaiv. So, it was indeed a close call. And I had a few close calls in my time but we got back to Mykolaiv to find out that this city today has been hit by multiple rocket attacks, Russian rocket and missile attacks killing ten people, wounding 46.

One of those strikes which killed nine people was on a marketplace not far from here. And this seems to be the pattern while we are seeing this artillery barrages on the outside of town, the city itself is getting pounded every single day, even hospitals have been hit. Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank God you are okay and thank god the crew is okay, a truly horrible, horrible experience. And you have covered several wars over these years here at CNN, so I'm grateful you are okay and that your whole team is okay. Thanks very much for that report, Ben Wedeman, pretty scary stuff.

Meanwhile, the children of Ukraine are paying in especially a brutal price for Putin's invasion. CNN's Matt Rivers reports some are being forced to flee the country without their parents.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): She's got a pink backpack, a warm smile and she's already made friends, even though the 17-year-old Alla Renska, a Ukrainian, has only been here in Budapest, Hungry, for a month.

In an empty classroom of her new school, we sit and talk about how she never thought she would end up here.


RIVERS: You didn't believe it?

RENSKA: Yes, it's 21st century. It's Ukraine. It's Europe. Why?

RIVERS: Before the war, she was just a normal teenager, making goofy videos with her friends, taking selfies. But then the war reached where she lived in Kyiv.

When did your family decide it was not safe for you to be in Ukraine anymore?

RENSKA: When we heard explosions and our house was just like --

RIVERS: Your house was shaking.


RIVERS: Her parents made the agonizing decision to send her to stay with friends in Budapest. Alla's dad took her to the train station on March 4th. But in the crush of people also trying to leave, they were separated.

Could you see your dad when the train was leaving?


RIVERS: Was that hard?

RENSKA: Yes. I cried and maybe all night.

RIVERS: She took only these pictures from the train, a bleak landscape she says matched how she felt, but then an idea. She wrote an email to Quarashi Baptist High School, one of the best in Hungary, talking about the war and what happened to her. I really want to go to school and continue studying, she wrote. I kindly ask you to help me, and help they did. The school converted these old containers into dorms where Alla now lives and studies. Her days are spent in classes and at night she chats with a few other Ukrainian girls just like her who also fled and now living there too even though she does still miss her family.

RENSKA: I try not to try and be strong because my parents, I know that when I cry, they feel not very good.

RIVERS: That strength on full display when Alla video calls with her parents later that day. It's all smiles and updates on school and work. We say hello and ask an obvious question.

How difficult is it right now to have Alla with you.


INDIRA RENSKA, ALLA'S MOTHER: I cannot explain, I feel, because it is too hard for me. I'm happy that my daughter, I love her very much, that she's safe now is the main for me.

RIVERS: A few minutes later though, the call is over and Alla's stoic facade falters.

How was that for you?

RENSKA: I try not to cry.

RIVERS: They love you very much.

RENSKA: Me too.

RIVERS: What are you thinking?

RENSKA: It is unfair. It is so unfair that I should be here and my parents there.

RIVERS: This is what war does to a happy 17-year-old. But she is determined to stay optimistic

This is a photo she wanted us to show. Her parents sent it to her right after she left. The first spring flower to push through the snow near her house, a sign they said of brighter times to come.


RIVERS (on camera): And, Wolf, after Alla got on that train, her dad was still in the train station when air raid sirens went off in Kyiv. He was forced to spend the night in that station. He wouldn't find his daughter was safe and sound in Hungary until the next day.

BLITZER: So heartbreaking indeed. Matt Rivers, excellent report, thank you for bringing it to us. I appreciate it very much.

Just ahead, the U.S. sees as a huge luxury yacht as it works to punish Putin's cronies for his brutal war against the people of Ukraine.


[18:40:00] BLITZER: The United States is claiming a new success tonight in punishing Russia for its totally brutal war in Ukraine. A 255-foot luxury yacht own by a Russian billionaire was seized by Spanish officials at the request of the United States. It's the first seizure by a Biden administration task force dedicated to cracking down Putin's regime and his wealthy cronies.

Let's talk about this and more and the fallout from Putin and all of this. We are joined by the former director National Intelligence, retired General James Clapper. He's a CNN National Security. General Clapper, thanks for joining us.

As you know, a top western official says Russia's invasion of Ukraine needs to be a, quote, costly mistake that the Kremlin ever made. Is Putin feeling the pain?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that's a great question and I honestly don't know because whether he's feeling the pain or not is a function of how much information he's getting that's accurate. He must have some insights into this and he must have some inkling of the sanctions. But you really wonder how much of that reality bubble that he's in, that cocoon, information cocoon, that precludes him from actually knowing the facts. So, I sure hope so. And I imagine he must realize all that things are not going as well as was originally anticipated.

BLITZER: Yes, you would assume.

The devastating images that we are seeing now, the ones that are emerging from Bucha, not too far from the capital of Kyiv, showing mass graves, civilians killed in the streets. Russia falsely says these images are fake. What sort of alternate reality is Putin feeding to the Russian people right now?

CLAPPER: Well, I guess they're saying that this was a false flag essentially, that these things occurred after the Russians left, I guess. But I will tell you Wolf, it is my belief that, at some point, the truth is going to collide with all this fiction. And the magnitude of this horror has got to reach him and got to reach certainly the Washington people, which, in some ways, may be more important.

BLITZER: U.S. intelligence suggests that Putin is under pressure right now to show success by May 9th when Russia marks its victory over the Nazis in World War II. Do you expect Putin to claim victory in Ukraine regardless of how badly Russia is actually doing on the field and regardless how many thousands of Russian troops are killed in action?

CLAPPER: Oh, I imagine. I mean, this is a long tradition in Soviet Union and now Russia. And they'll try to paint a happy face on something in order to make this victory day celebration. But I think Congress is right, at some point, when these bodies, Russian soldier bodies come back to Russia, and they will at some point, people are going to start to figure out that maybe what we are hearing is not quite the truth.

But I am sure he'll conjure up something to fit the generated narrative that will make it look like the Russians are prevailing.

BLITZER: James Clapper, thanks so much for joining us.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, a new fallout from Will Smith's Oscars slap. Will his assault on Chris Rock cost him a major Hollywood payday?

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We are tracking new fallout today from Will Smith's Oscars slap.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, the movie star is now in jeopardy, we're told, of losing out some major -- some major new projects. What's the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is indeed, Wolf. We have new information tonight on that fallout for Will Smith, following his resignation from the Academy, including the tape from another major star who was there, speaking up for the first time.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, the fallout from the slap heard round the world continues to reverberate throughout Hollywood.

CHRIS ROCK, COMEDIAN: That was a nice one. Okay! I am out here.


Uh-oh! Richard --


ROCK: Oh, wow! Wow!

TODD: After Denzel Washington, who along with actor and producer Tyler Perry, was seen talking to Will Smith during a commercial break at the Oscars, after Smith slapped Chris Rock, has spoken publicly for the first time.

Washington was asked about that moment when he appeared at Bishop T.D. Jakes' leadership summit.

DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR: Fortunately, there were people there. Not just me, but others and the gap, Tyler Perry, came immediately right over there with me. We prayed. Keep it -- keep it -- I don't want to say what we talked about, but -- there but for the grace of God go any of us. You know, who are we to condemn?

TODD: "Saturday Night Live" also offering their take on the now infamous moment. Host Jerrod Carmichael playing the role of the seat filler, Chris Redd playing Will Smith.

JERROD CARMICHAEL AS SEAT FILLER: Can I get a selfie real quick?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jada, I love you. "G.I. Jane 2", can't wait to see it.

REDD: Hey, I'll be right back, man!

TODD: This moment to was the subject of TV mockery --

WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Keep my wife's name out of your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mouth!

ROCK: I'm going to. Okay?

TODD: -- when host Trevor Noah made a brief joke about it at the Grammy Awards.

TREVOR NOAH, GRAMMY AWARDS HOST: We're going to be listening to some music, we're going to be dancing, we're going to be singing, we're going to be keeping people's names out of our mouths.

TODD: The question now, what will all this mean for Will Smith's career and his future projects?

Both "The Hollywood Reporter" and Elizabeth Wagmeister from "Variety" are reporting that at least one movie Smith was working on is now on hold, following the slap.

ELIZABETH WAGMEISTER, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, VARIETY: Netflix has an action thriller that was in development called "Fast and Loose", and that has been put on pause.

TODD: CNN has reached out to Netflix for comment. We haven't heard back.

"The New York Times" cites three talent agents, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private negotiations, as saying there have been indications that at least some of Smith's upcoming projects could be hanging in the balance. We asked a strategic communications specialist about Will Smith's carefully cultivated brand of likability and his future.

Do you see him losing movie roles and other things?

RICHARD LEVICK, CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST: I think Will Smith in the long term will be fine, but as an American, I don't know if I can use this word for Will Smith, but one of our sweethearts. That brand is slightly damaged at least for a while.


TODD: Crisis communication specialist Richard Levick says, if he was advising Will Smith, he would advise Smith to go on an apology tour. And to see if it's possible to appear publicly with Chris Rock to discuss what happened.

Wolf, we are still waiting to hear from Rock in more detail about how he feels.

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

Just ahead, there is breaking news. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson just won over two more Republican votes as the fight over her Supreme Court nomination now moves to the Senate floor. We'll have a live update from Capitol Hill right after the break.



BLITZER: Breaking news, Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney just announced they will vote to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court, becoming just the second and third Republican senators to do so.

Let's get an update on the confirmation fight. CNN's Lauren Fox is joining us from Capitol Hill.

A major boost, though, for Judge Jackson.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a significant increase in Republican votes, given the fact that you have two more Republicans tonight announcing that they will vote to advance Judge Jackson's nomination to -- when a final vote comes forward at the end of the week.

Now, Wolf, there is a little bit of drama today in the Senate judiciary committee because there was a little bit of a delay. Senator Padilla of California, a Democrat, had an issue with a flight. It was diverted back to Los Angeles. He got there late today. And there were questions about how late tonight's procedural vote in the Senate was going to go.

The vote tonight was to discharge this nomination from the Judiciary Committee. That is because this was tied, 11 to 11, in that committee. We expected that we will be watching closely to see how Romney and Murkowski would vote. We did not expect them to announce, however, that they will ultimately vote to support Judge Jackson for the Supreme Court.

They joined now Susan Collins, a Republican from the state of Maine, who already announced last week that she is going to support Judge Jackson for the Supreme Court. That brings the total number, of course, to three Republicans. And that comes with all of the Democrats supporting Judge Jackson as well.

So, she is going to be confirmed. Now, how long that process is going to take this week, we will have to watch and see how it plays out. But we do expect that this nomination will be confirmed by the end of the week. BLITZER: So, at least now, it looks like it could be 53 to 47. But

are there other Republicans who may yet decide to join these three Republicans?

FOX: Well, this vote on the discharge tonight from the committee was significant, in that it is an indication of where this mode might be headed. Given the fact that these were the only three Republicans who voted on this procedural step tonight, that is the indication that those will likely be the only Republicans who are going to vote for Judge Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court -- Wolf.

BLITZER: History -- historic moment indeed.

All right. Thank you very much, Lauren Fox. I appreciate i.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be back in half an hour, on our new streaming service at CNN+ with my new show called "The Newscast".

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