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The Situation Room

Ukraine Says, Russia Razing Everything To The Ground In East; Russia On Nuclear Threat, The Danger Is Serious; Blinken, Austin Meet Zelenskyy In Highest Level U.S. Visit To Ukraine; More Than 2,000 Of Mark Meadows' Text Messages Reveal Trump's Inner Circle Communications Before & After January 6; Elon Musk Buying Twitter In $44 Billion Deal. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 25, 2022 - 18:00   ET



NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And on that, could take a months and she will remain behind bars in the meantime. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He is right next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, Ukraine says Russians are razing everything to the ground during their offensive in the east as we're getting new video of a village wiped out amid heavy fighting, Putin's war machine launching new attacks in Western and Central Ukraine as well striking five, five railway stations within an hour.

Also breaking, the Kremlin's top diplomat is again keeping the door open to the use of nuclear weapons, calling the danger serious and real. This after the U.S. secretaries of state and defense held truly critical talks with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv, expressing hope that Russia will be weakened by its brutal invasion.

Our correspondents are standing by at key locations in Ukraine as well as over at the White House for CNN's live global war coverage.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in The Situation Room.

There is breaking news this hour on heavy, very heavy fighting in Eastern Ukraine right now, part of Russia's major new offensive in the region. There's new drone video just in that shows there isn't much left of a small village near Luhansk. A Ukrainian official says it was decimated by repeated Russian airstrikes as Kremlin forces are, in his words, razing everything to the ground.

We're also following new comments by Russia's foreign minister about the war and the Kremlin's nuclear stance.

Let's go to CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto. He's joining us live from Ukraine right now. Jim, hours after two U.S. cabinet secretaries visited the capital of Kyiv, we heard from the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. Tell us more about what Lavrov is saying tonight.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we should be clear, Wolf, that it did not appear that Lavrov was speaking specifically about the potential use of nuclear weapons in this war. In fact, he said, I wouldn't want these risks to be artificially inflated now, though he did go on to say the danger is serious. It is real and cannot be underestimated while going onto repeat what has been a frequent lament from Russian officials, and that is the end of a number of nuclear arms control treaties, including the intermediate nuclear forces treaty during the Trump administration.

So, it appears that his comments meant to be more general, but, of course, in the midst of a war in which you have the U.S. and the west on one side, Russia on the other and a bloody battle underway here in Ukraine, any comments about nuclear weapons are sure to raise nerves, this particularly after you had such a high level visit here to Ukraine in the midst of this conflict.


SCIUTTO (voice over): It was the highest level visit to Ukraine since the invasion. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the risky journey to visit Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in the capital of Kyiv. There, the U.S. promised the return of diplomats to Ukraine and new military aid.

President Biden also finally announced a nominee for ambassador to Ukraine, the current ambassador to Slovakia, Bridget Brink.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't know how the rest of this war will unfold but we do know that a sovereign, independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin's on the scene. And our support for Ukraine going forward will continue. It will continue until we see final success.

SCIUTTO: Following his visit, Austin made the administration most aggressive comments toward Russia so far, saying it intends to see Russia, quote, weakened.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine. So, it has already lost a lot of military capability and a lot of its troops, quite frankly. And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.

SCIUTTO: Austin and Blinken, as well as other world leaders, traveled in and out of the Ukraine by train. Within hours of their departure, Russia struck train lines in West and Central Ukraine five times. The focus of the Russian military offensive, however, remains in the east and south. A Ukrainian official says that the Ukrainian forces are bracing for a new push in the Kherson region. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am seeing in the last three days that there's a lot of troop movement in the city of Kherson. The Russian troops are changing their deployment and the deployment of their checkpoints and there also been quite an increase in troops.


SCIUTTO: According to the mayor of Odessa, Russian missiles killed eight people there over the weekend just as the country was celebrating the Orthodox Easter holiday. Among the dead, said the Ukrainian president, a mother and her baby.

PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Among those killed was a three- month-old baby girl. How did she threaten Russia? It seems that killing children is just a new national idea of the Russian Federation.

SCIUTTO: In Mariupol, there is still no safe way out for civilians from the Azovstal steel plant, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the city. Ukrainian officials continue to accuse Russia of forcibly deporting Mariupol residents, telling CNN that Putin is trying to depopulate Eastern Ukraine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia is sending a message not only to us but also to other countries around Russia and to the rest of the world, surrender or be erased.


SCIUTTO (on camera): Russian forces have repeatedly attacked Ukrainian railways. In fact, the chairman of a state railway service here says that Russia is attempting systematically destroy Ukraine's railroad infrastructure. Part of the intention appears to go after the supply lines that the U.S. and NATO have used to get weapons from Poland into Ukraine to Ukrainian military forces, but U.S. and NATO officials remain confident, Wolf, that those supply lines remain open.

BLITZER: Yes. The process are killing a lot of innocent civilians. Jim Sciutto, in Ukraine for us, stay safe. We'll be in touch. Thank you very much.

Let's dig deeper right now on these latest remarks by the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, that the U.S. wants to see Russia weakened, his words, weakened. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us right now.

Kaitlan, you heard the words of Secretary Austin. This seems to be an apparent shift of the tone in the U.S. What are you hearing from your sources over there at the White House?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, and it's certainly the sharpest language that we have seen coming from officials as we are now stretching into the third month of this invasion, the way they are talking about what they ultimately want to happen and what they want to do when it comes to limiting Russia's capability to conduct invasions like this one. And now, that was precisely the question that Secretary Austin was asked, just after he became one of the highest profile officials to go into Ukraine since this invasion started.

And he was asked specifically, Wolf, how the U.S.'s view has changed in the last two months and what they wanted the outcome here to look like and now where they stand in that. And this is probably the sharpest language, the most explicit language that we've heard coming from Secretary Austin talking about limiting Russia's capabilities, though the administration said today, that's in line with how they see this.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would say it's consistent with our view and the president's view and Secretary Austin's view that we are going to do everything we can to push back on President Putin's aspirations to subsume Ukraine, to take over their territorial integrity and sovereignty and aspirations he had as of two months ago to go beyond that.


COLLINS: So you heard Jen Psaki there talking about limiting what Russia can do here, not just when it comes to Ukraine but other goals that they have.

And, Wolf, we should note this comes as they also made big news today by announcing that they are going to start sending in U.S. diplomats back into Ukraine. They won't be going into the capital of Kyiv yet. That, of course, is where they were before this invasion started. Instead they'll start making day trips into Lviv. That is the city that is on the western side of Ukraine, much closer to the Polish border.

Secretary Blinken said over the next several weeks they'll discuss how to get them closer to Kyiv, but, of course, the number one concern behind the scenes here, Wolf, has been the safety and security of officials if they did go back to Kyiv.

We should note this comes as President Biden did say today he does intend to formally nominate Bridget Brink as the next ambassador to Ukraine. That is a huge deal, Wolf, given that is a post that has not had a permanent ambassador for three years.

BLITZER: It's an important development, indeed. All right, thanks very much, Kaitlan Collins, at the White House for us.

Now to Northeastern Ukraine and the embattled city of Kharkiv hit by intense new Russian attack. Our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, got an up close look at the extensive damage in a bombed out government building. Watch this.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And what people here fear in this city is that Kharkiv could be the next Mariupol, because of the amount of bombardment and the real intensification that we've seen of that bombardment, especially in the last week.

Now, I just want Cameraman Scottie McWhinnie and Producer Brent Swails to be a little careful here, but I do want to show you this because it gives you a real feeling for just the enormity of that blast, I mean, absolutely astonishing. It literally took out six stories.

And that's why as you can probably imagine we're hearing from authorities here that they do believe some people are still trapped under that rubble, but that it is just simply impossible for them at this stage with bombardment continuing day in and day out in this city for them to try to dig down underneath that and get a sense of just how many people may have lost their lives here.



BLITZER: Clarissa is joining us now live from Kharkiv right now. Clarissa, as you said in that report residents of Kharkiv, they fear that they could be the next Mariupol, but you still see people living there, right, refusing to leave. Give us the latest. Tell us more.

WARD: Well, Wolf, this is a city, Ukraine's second largest city, that has been pummeled day and night now for nearly nine weeks, cruise missiles into government buildings but also just relentless shelling. We went to one area on the northeastern outskirts of the city called Saltivka, where it is often raining artillery. And yet you do still see people who are living in that area.

We went to one apartment building. There were three or four people there at least in the city center. They estimate roughly half the population, so up to a million people potentially, are still living here, which is extraordinary when you think of just how hard hit Kharkiv has been.

It is in the northeast. It is less than 30 mile from the Russian border, and it's an important strategic point as Russian forces have been trying to push down, take the city of Izyum and sort of launch this three-pronged attack in this new offensive on Donbas. That eastern flank of Kharkiv has become strategically very important.

It's also interesting to note, though, Wolf, that this is not a one- way street. While Russia has been pounding this place with cruise missiles and artillery, Ukrainian forces have also launched a number of successful counter offenses. At one stage, Russians forces were actually in the city very briefly. They successfully pushed them out. And while we do hear steady booms throughout the day and throughout night, a lot of that is outgoing as well as Ukrainian forces continue to try to stave off any potential encirclement of this city.

You heard, as I said, people fearful that it could be the next Mariupol, but if the fight they have put up here, Ukrainian forces is anything to go by, it seems very unlikely that Russia in its current state would be able physically, logistically to completely surround and take over this city. This is a very resilient and courageous place, Wolf. BLITZER: It certainly is and you're one of our courageous journalists.

Clarissa, we just showed our viewers some new drone video coming in from the area around Luhansk. This village totally decimated by this latest Russian assault. This village posing absolutely no threat to Russia at all, yet they went in decimated. They leveled basically so many residential apartment buildings, hospitals, hotel, churches, all sorts of areas in this, and you can see how this village has really been destroyed by the Russians. Is more of this going on based on your eyewitness accounts?

WARD: I mean, we were getting some facts from the mayor and some statistics here in Kharkiv, and it's just staggering, Wolf. 67 schools hit since the beginning of the war, 54 kindergartens or nursery schools, 16 hospitals, universities, government buildings. There is nothing really that appears to be off-limits. And particularly now with this new Russian general who's been put in place to lead the Russian charge, who was nicknamed the Butcher of Syria, you are seeing a doubling down on these sort of very brutal tactics where there is no regard for civilian life, Wolf.

BLITZER: We want you to be careful over there. Clarissa Ward, on the scene for us, as she always is, thank you very much. We'll stay on top of these developments.

Meanwhile, just ahead, is the U.S. Congress willing to give Ukraine more funding to defeat the Russians? I'll speak live with a key member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Chris Murphy, is standing by. We'll discuss that and more when we come back.



BLITZER: We're getting new reaction to the highest level U.S. visit to Ukraine since the start of the war and what it means for the Biden administration's response to Russia's brutal invasion.

Joining us now Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, he's a key Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

As you heard, the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, says the U.S. wants to see Russia weakened, his word, weakened, so it can't repeat what it has done in Ukraine. Is this an acknowledgment the U.S. can't simply contain Russia right now, that the U.S. may need to take even more forceful positions against Putin down the road?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, I think this is reiteration of what our policy has been from the beginning. What we are trying to do here is make Russia pay a significant price for this unprovoked, brutal invasion of Ukraine, a price that will affect its ability to conduct this war but also a price that will be noticed by other countries, countries like China, which, you know, clearly have designs on ultimately getting control back of a place like Taiwan. So, I think it may just be a different way of saying what we have been saying from the beginning, while U.S. troops are not going to be in Ukraine fighting this battle, we are absolutely going to use U.S. policy to weaken Russia to the point that, ultimately, the money necessary to conduct this war will dry up and other countries get the message.


BLITZER: Russia has just struck five key railway stations right in the heart of Ukraine, killing a lot of innocent civilians. It's also intensifying its assault on the eastern part of the country. What does that say to you about the scope of Russia's military goals at this point?

MURPHY: Well, they're desperate. I mean, first of all, let's just state the obvious, it's remarkable that Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary Defense Austin were in Kyiv because everybody thought Kyiv was going to be gone, was going to be in Russian hands within days.

It's just evidence of how badly this war has gone for Russia. They have been forced to resort to terrorist tactics, tactics designed to kill civilians so as to try to bring Zelenskyy to the table to stop this carnage. I just came back from the Balkans. Many of my colleagues were spread around the world trying to deliver a message to countries right now that are on the fence.

I was in Belgrade, in Serbia, a country that matters very much to Russia that's still on the fence. Those countries are watching Putin's action. And as they becomes more brutal as he targets more civilian, my hope is the countries like India, like Serbia, like Israel will get off the fence and join U.S. sanctions. That will make those sanctions even more effective.

BLITZER: After three years without a U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, President Biden has now announced a new nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink. How essential is it for the United States to have an ambassador in place in the capital of Kyiv to reopen the embassy there? How soon do you think she can be confirmed?

MURPHY: I hope that she can be confirmed in a matter of weeks. This is a career State Department leader, somebody who has deep experience in the region, no question about her qualifications. It comes at the perfect moment when the Europeans are beginning to send diplomats back in. I know that we are beginning to think about the conditions upon which we can reopen the U.S. embassy.

A little bit different for U.S. embassies. We tend to be the first embassy that gets targeted so we have to make sure that if we're going to send diplomats back in that they are 100 percent safe, but I think that we can confirm her hopefully in a matter of weeks, if not sooner.

BLITZER: Yes. She's a career diplomat, a Foreign Service officer, I'm sure she will be confirm relatively, quickly. We'll see what happens. Senator Chris Murphy, thank you so much for joining us.

MURPHY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, is there any viable diplomatic solution left to the war in Ukraine? I'll ask a key member of the Ukrainian parliament. That's next.



BLITZER: More now on the Russian attacks on Ukrainian rail stations, the infrastructure there including some in NATO's doorstep right very close to Ukraine within hours of a visit to Ukraine by two top members of the Biden administration.

CNN's Scott McLean is joining us with the very latest.


BLINKEN: We took a train into Kyiv from Southwestern Poland, so didn't see a lot except looking at the train windows on our way in. And in Kyiv itself, we went right to the presidential palace.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Just hours after the U.S. secretaries of state and defense left Ukraine by rail, air raid sirens sounded in western Ukraine. The head of Ukrainian railways says that within one hour, rail infrastructure in five places was hit by Russian strikes. The farthest west was near a town of Krasny. Natalia Rudak is working in this building next to the tracks when she heard the explosions.

NATALIA RUDAK, HEARD AIRSTRIKE ON RAIL STATION: From this side air defense shot down a missile, then silence. The second explosion was on that side. We've seen black smoke.

MCLEAN: How loud was it?

RUDAK: Very loud. Windows rang and we panicked. We were afraid.

MCLEAN: The governor's office released this video showing fire and heavy smoke near the tracks. They say an electrical substation was hit, though on the ground we weren't allowed to get close.

In several places scattered throughout this area, police and military are finding what they say are remnants of a Russian rocket. This is one of them, a twisted pile of melted, charred metal. They're finding these all over the place. What they have not found, though, is a large crater, and so they think this one was shot down.

In the Vinnytsia region, the governor there said that two separate strikes killed five and injured 18. Ukraine's military command said in an online post that Russia is targeting vital railway supply routes in order to disrupt arm shipment from Ukraine's partner states.

Just across the border, Russia reported that a fire broke out in an oil storage facility on Russian soil. Russian official say the cause of the fire is unclear but it comes not long after the Kremlin accused Ukraine of striking another Russian oil depot in the city of Belgorod.


MCLEAN (on camera): Now, of the five people killed in Vinnytsia, we now know that one of them was a rail worker. Ukrainian Railways is constantly shifting and adjusting its routes depending where it's safest, and we don't know the exact route that Blinken and Austin took, but there is a very good chance, Wolf, that that route would have passed through one of the areas that was targeted by Russian missiles just hours before they hit.


BLITZER: Yes, that's worrisome indeed. All right, Scott McLean, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with Yevheniia Kravchuk. She's a key Member of the Ukrainian Parliament. She's joining us from Strasberg in France right now, where she's been attending meetings with the council of Europe. Yevheniia, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck with all those meetings.

So, what do you fear Russia is now trying to achieve with these specific attacks on Ukrainian railway stations?

YEVHENIIA KRAVCHUK, MEMBER OF UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT: Thank you, Wolf, for having me. Well, first of all, they try to target the ways we get the supplies of weapons and other aid. But we have a very good structure of railroads, different ways. And our workers can fix, you know, those railroads that were targeted and hit, you know, pretty fast.

And other thing why Russians are using these missiles that, you know, put alert onto the whole country, I mean, we have like air alerts on all territory of Ukraine, is trying to put terror to all the nation, you know, to all the population, to not to feel secure anywhere the Ukrainian's state. But it just makes us more determined and angry and more determined to finish this war by kicking Russians out of our country.

BLITZER: Yes. And I see the Ukrainian military is clearly determined to try to achieve that goal. All this is coming right now as Ukraine's Defense Ministry has publicly accused Russia of what they're calling a planned provocation in neighboring Moldova. How worried should allies be that Putin will allow this fight in Ukraine to spiral beyond Ukraine into Moldova, for example? Is this a serious concern?

KRAVCHUK: We have to explain -- I had to explain that they tried to target the Transnistria, which is actually occupied a part of Moldova by Russian troops since the 90s. So, they sort of want to put this bout from Eastern Ukraine to Southern Ukraine and to connect to Transnistria.

But, I mean, it's been 62 days of war. Yesterday, we had the ministry of defense of -- you know, the head of defense and foreign affairs from United States in Kyiv, and Russians thought they will be having a parade by this time in conquering Kyiv.

So, it didn't go the way they wanted, and it will not go the way they want with Southern Ukraine and go to Moldova. But they will accuse and try finding the excuses about the terrorist attacks. They do invade with these neighboring villages that are close to Ukraine. They say that someone has taken them. We don't care about these villages in Russia. We want to liberate our land.

And that's why we need the support in weapons to take them out and to liberate the people who are right now suffering from this occupation.

BLITZER: This is clearly a critical moment, indeed. The Ukrainian Parliament Member Yevheniia Kravchuk, Yevheniia, thank you so much for joining us, good luck over there in Strasberg as well. We will stay in touch. Thank you.

KRAVCHUK: Thank you.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news just ahead. Russia now raising new concerns about nuclear conflict, as a top Kremlin official is calling the danger, and I'm quoting now, serious and real.



BLITZER: A Ukrainian official now says Russia is gearing up for a major new attack on the Kherson region of Ukraine.

CNN International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh is on the ground for us in Ukraine.

Nick, there's growing concern Russia is preparing this military offensive against where you are tonight, Ukraine's eight largest city, President Zelenskyy's actual hometown. Tell our viewers what you're learning.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes. Here in Kryvyi Rih, there are increased fears, I think, that something may be approaching from the south, from the direction of Kherson, Wolf, as you point out, the first city occupied by Russia at the start of the war, where a referendum is likely to happened tomorrow, essentially a sham to suggest there's popular will there to join that area closer towards the Russian Federation.

We've been traveling to the south outskirts of here, Kryvyi Rih, today seeing fears, I think, and the defense being put in place, suggestions too that about 30, 40 kilometers to the south of the city, there are, in fact, Russian forces that are pushed up on the western side of the Dnipro River that splits the country in two.

Now, there was a sort of lofty plan floated last week, Wolf, if you'll remember, by the Russian sort of general command that the second phase of their operation would involve pushing in the south of the country all the way across to Moldova, to the Transnistria region. You were discussing earlier the breakaway of that country funded and supported by Russia military.

That seemed perhaps a little farfetched given how Russian forces have struggled for two months to get past Mykolaiv to the west of where I'm standing. The alternative possibility to this clear buildup of forces around the Kherson region is they might head here towards Kryvyi Rih, symbolic because it is Zelenskyy's hometown but also too because it might better take them towards the other onslaught by Russian forces in the east of the country by curbing round to the west, so to speak, and joining up there.


So, a lot of fears here that we are beginning to see something as referred to by the local military head here intensifying attacks towards this city. Wolf?

BLITZER: Stay safe over there. Nick Paton Walsh on the ground for us, thank you very, very much.

CNN National Security Analyst James Clapper is joining us. He's the former director of National Intelligence. General Clapper, thank you so much for joining us.

Let me get your analysis of these new comments, first of all, from the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. He said today nuclear deterrence. He used the word, nuclear, is Russia's principle position but that the nuclear threat, he says, is, quote, serious, he says it is real and cannot be underestimated, direct quotes. How do you interpret that?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, with concern that we -- I think CIA Director Bill Burns put it very well when he said statements like this cannot be taken lightly.

Now, at the same time, this is kind of Russia's security blanket, if you will, to make them feel strong when they can, you know, bring out the nuclear card, so to speak. So, it's something we have to be mindful of, and I personally have viewed it with concern ever since Putin's initial mention of nuclear weapons. So, it's something that we have to watch.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is concerning. What do you expect -- how do you expect Putin will react to the visit to Ukraine by these top two U.S. cabinet officials and specifically Defense Secretary Austin's comments that the U.S. wants to see Russia weakened? He used the word, weakened.

CLAPPER: Well, there may be a relationship there. I don't know what the sequence was and the timing, but, obviously, Putin is not happy, I'm sure, about the visit of Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken.

And for my part I was really pleased about what Secretary Austin said about, you know, our objective here is to weaken the Russian military so that they can't do these invasions of their neighbors whenever they feel like it. And I think there should actually be more rhetoric to match what I believe we're actually doing, meaning we're not there just to defend -- help the Ukrainians defend their country, but we're there to help them push the Russians out. So, I thought that was a great statement by Secretary Austin, and it could not have pleased Putin.

BLITZER: Certainly could not have pleased Putin, you're absolutely right. James Clapper, thank you so much for joining us. Always good to have you here in The Situation Room.

Coming up, a CNN exclusive, more than 2,000 text messages reveal former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' eye-popping exchanges with members of the Trump inner circle before and after the January 6th insurrection.



BLITZER: Right now, we have exclusive new reporting on the January 6th investigation. CNN has obtained more than 2,000 of Mark Meadows' text messages revealing the former Trump White House chief of staff's communications with key Republicans both before and after the January 6th insurrection, including key members of former President Trump's inner circle.

CNN's special correspondent Jamie Gangel broke the story for us.

Jamie is with me here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

These texts you've uncovered, Jamie, they paint a very vivid picture of what was going on both before the election and after the election leading up to January 6.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly right. We've obtained 319 text messages and it really shows you what Trump's inner circle was saying, was doing behind the scenes, also what Republican lawmakers were saying to Mark Meadows, what GOP activists were saying. As you said the texts are from everyone from the president's children, Don Jr., Ivanka, Jared Kushner to GOP lawmakers around the country. And it's -- there are even people like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell in them.

I think what's important here is big picture when you look at these texts, Wolf, this is not normal for White House chief of staff. Mark Meadows was not doing what a White House chief of staff would do. He's doing what a campaign manager is doing, and you never see him standing up to Trump or these conspiracy theories about election fraud. They are very damning.

BLITZER: Specifically, I know you've got these notable texts from Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a staunch Trump ally. Tell us about those.

GANGEL: Well, as we know on Friday there's this lawsuit and she says she doesn't remember it -- what happened. We can now prompt her memory. One of the surprising things is on January 6th, she has actually according to the logs the first person to reach out to Mark Meadows. And guess what? She's worried. She's upset what's going on.

So, let me just read to you. Quote, Mark, I was just told there's an active shooter on the first familiar of the Capitol.


Please tell the president to calm people. This isn't the way to solve anything.

So, here's this firebrand, this staunch Trump ally, saying please get the president to stop it.

The next day, January 7th, she's not so scared anymore and she's actually apologetic and she says to Meadows, quote, I'm sorry nothing worked. They weren't able to stop the certification.

Then, on January 17th, we see, this is three days before Biden's inauguration, she's trying to figure out how to keep Donald Trump in power and she says, quote: In our private chat with only members, several are saying the only way to save our republic is for Trump to call for marshal law, she doesn't know how to spell martial, I don't know about these things I just want you to tell him, they stole the election, we all know they will destroy our country next. Please tell him to declassify as much as possible so we can go after Biden and anyone else.

This is stunning. Three days before Election Day, she's trying, still, to overturn the election.

BLITZER: And you also obtained some text messages from so-called prominent voices of reason unfolding with Mark Meadows, right?

GANGEL: So this is Trump's inner circle, all allies and what are they saying on January 6th? They are reaching out to try to get Trump to stop the violence. So let's just give you three here.

Mick Mulvaney, former acting chief of staff, says: Mark, he needs to stop this now. Can I do anything to help?

Representative William Timmons: The president needs to stop this ASAP. And from Reince Priebus, another former chief of staff, head of the RNC, all capital letters, tell them to go home, three explanation points.

It's not just that, his own family. Donald Trump Jr., he's got to condemn this, you can read it on the screen, ASAP, the Capitol police tweet is not enough. Meadows, I'm pushing it hard, I agree.

And then this next is new, Donald Trump Jr., this is one you go to the mattresses on. They will try to F his entire legacy on this if it gets worse.

These texts underscore what the committee has been saying which is what Donald Trump wasn't doing was dereliction of duty even though people closest to him trying to get him to act.

BLITZER: Really eye-opening stuff, excellent reporting. Jamie, thank you very, very much.

And we'll continue coverage and much more news right after this.



BLITZER: There's more breaking news. Billionaire Elon Musk is buying one of the world's top social media platforms, in a truly massive deal.

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

Brian, certainly lots of talk what this could mean for Twitter and what it could mean for all of us.


This news led the stock market to reverse course today. Twitter's stock value gotten a big boost but raising concerns with groups like the NAACP imploring Elon Musk not to let Twitter become a platform for hate speech.


TODD (voice-over): The world's richest man, buying up one of the world's most powerful social media companies, generating huge buzz tonight. Twitter has agreed to sell itself to Elon Musk, the flamboyant, controversial CEO of Tesla and SpaceX for about $44 billion, a deal that could bring enormous change to the popular platform.

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: What we're talking about here is the confluence, really, of a number of conversations we're having nationally and internationally about, you know, the power of billionaires, for example, the influence of tech platforms on democracies.

ELON MUSK, TESLA CEO: We're going to have an option --

TODD: With this purchase, Twitter will now led by one of the quirkiest business titans America has ever known. Musk himself has used Twitter and his more than 80 million followers to build his brand but also to troll others.

In recent days, he posted a tweet making fun of Bill Gates' physique. He recently questioned the relevance of Twitter, writing, quote, is Twitter dying? And he suggested that Twitter should consider removing the W from its name.

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, HOST, "RUN TELL THIS" PODCAST: You know, it's hard to take him seriously because he is so eccentric so when this idea came up, we know this will cost him billions of dollars. TODD: Even with his quirks, why should the average consumer care that

Elon Musk will lead Twitter?

FUNG: Many of its users are government officials or government accounts politicians or business leaders. That could have really important effects on how the rest of us perceive many of these topics that have so many influential people engaging on.

TODD: One concern critics have, Musk's goal of bolstering free speech on Twitter and his complaints about Twitter censoring too much content and its permanent bans of some users.

JESSICA GONZALEZ, CO-CEO OF FREE PRESS: I don't think we actually want any anything-goes Twitter, because we've seen that white supremacists and conspiracy theorists are willing to use the platform to spread lies and disinformation to suppress people of color from voting and to spread hate and harassment campaigns.

MUSK: Something that --

TODD: Musk's push for more free speech lead to see questions about the accounts of the former president, barred from Twitter last year after the January 6th attack.

FUNG: The big question about how Twitter handles Donald Trump's account going forward is one that Musk has not touched at all but one that he will inevitably be forced to confront.


TODD: Today, Donald Trump told Fox News that even if Twitter moves to reinstate his account under Elon Musk's leadership, Trump himself says he's not going back to Twitter. He says he's going to join his own social media platform called Truth Social within the next few days.

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

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.