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Ukraine Facing Offensive In All Directions In East And South; Ukraine Says, Russia Has No Right To Blackmail World With Nuke Threats; Meadows' Texts Reveal New Details About The Key Role Of A GOP Congressman In Efforts To Overturn Election; VP Kamala Harris Tests Positive For COVID-19; Surge Of Anti-Semitic Attacks, Harassment Across U.S. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 26, 2022 - 18:00   ET



NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the D.A. down there says that once they have all this evidence, only then will they make the determination whether criminal charges are going to be filed. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Nick Watt, thanks so much.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Ukrainian forces face stepped-up Russian attacks in the east and south as a third mass grave appears to have been found near Mariupol. The mayor of the besieged city claims Kremlin troops are forcing Ukrainian civilians to bury the dead in exchange for food and water. I'll speak to a key adviser to the Mariupol mayor this hour.

And breaking news tonight, Ukraine's president is slamming Russia, saying it has no right to, quote, blackmail the world with the threat of using nuclear weapons. This as top Pentagon officials are sharpening their stance toward Moscow following critical talks with other military leaders in Germany. We have an exclusive new CNN interview with America's top general.

Our correspondents are standing by at key locations in the war zone for CNN's live global coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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

We're following the breaking news on Ukraine's angry response to Russia's new talk of potential nuclear war, accusing the Kremlin of trying to blackmail the world, more on that just ahead.

But, first, we want to take you to the front lines of this brutal, brutal war. Ukrainian forces say they're facing an offensive in all directions as Russia intensifies its attacks in the east and the south.

CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward traveled to the northeastern city of Kharkiv and filed this powerful report on the widespread destruction there.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no rest at night for the people of Kharkiv. Flares light up the sky as artillery thunders through the air. For nearly nine weeks, Ukraine's second largest city has been shelled relentlessly. Only by day do we see the full scale of the destruction.

The neighborhood of Pavlove Pole was hit repeatedly last month as Russian forces tried to push into the city. No site was spared, not even the local nursery school.

So, it looks like this was some kind of a dormitory. You can see children's beds here all around. And then in the next door room over there was their classroom.

Their shoes still litter the locker room. Mercifully, the school had been evacuated, so no children were killed in the strikes.

The mayor of Kharkiv says that 67 schools and 54 kindergartens have been hit here since the war began. And what's so striking when you look around is that it's so clearly not a military target. This is a residential neighborhood.

Just a few blocks away, the bare skeleton of an apartment building. Authorities say more than 2,000 houses have been hit here. The sounds of war are never far away.

You can see this is what's left of the bedroom here. It's just astonishing.

Two doors down, we see a figure peeking out. 73-year-old Larisa Kremina (ph) is still living there alone.

So, she's saying that she does have a sister who she could stay with but she also lives in an area that's being heavily hit and she's living in a shelter at the moment.

It's from all sides, she says. From there and there they can shell. With her fresh lipstick Larisa (ph) is a picture of pride and resilience, much like this city, still standing tall in the face of a ruthless enemy.


WARD (on camera): Now, Wolf, Kharkiv's governor says that three people were killed in the shelling today. Seven were injured. This is what it is like day in and day out. And when you talk to the residents of Kharkiv, they fear that their city could become like Mariupol.

Of course, that's some of the worst horrors that we've seen in this war, and these new Maxar images appearing to show that third mass grave just outside the city with harrowing reports emerging of people being forced to dig those graves in exchange for just a little bit of food and water to survive. [18:05:13]

You can imagine why it is that those Kharkiv residents are so fearful that their city could be the next. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's so heartbreaking to hear those stories. Clarissa Ward, stay safe. We'll get back to you. Thank you very much.

Let's get some new assessments right now on this war from top Pentagon officials, the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, speaking out after critical talks with other military leaders today in Germany. And the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, sat down for an exclusive interview with CNN's Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto, who's covering all of this for us right now.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESONDENT: At a gathering in Germany of military leaders from America's closest allies, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said they must move together, quote, at the speed of war to help defend Ukraine.

LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We don't have any time to waste. The briefings today laid out clearly why the coming weeks will be so crucial for Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: in an exclusive interview with CNN, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, told me the stakes of the war in Ukraine are global.

GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: If this was left to stand, if there is no answer to this aggression, if Russia gets away with this cost-free, then so goes the so-called international order. And if that happens, then we're heading into an era of seriously increased instability.

SCIUTTO: I pressed General Milley on whether the U.S. and NATO intended to weaken Russia in addition to defending Ukraine, as Defense Secretary Austin said Monday.

Has the U.S. aim in this conflict expanded beyond just helping Ukraine defend itself to an aim of degrading Russia's military so it cannot attack other countries?

MILLEY: At the end of the day, what we want to see, what I think the policy of all of our governments together, is a free and independent Ukraine with their territory intact and their government standing and the Russian aggression has been halted and stopped. And at the end of the day, I think that's going to involve a weakened Russia, a strengthened NATO.

SCIUTTO: Austin made clear the U.S. does not want war with Russia but touted the western-led resolve to rein in Russia's bloody onslaught.

AUSTIN: In less than a week's time, we were able to bring together 40 nations not just from Europe but nations from the Indo-Pacific and a number of places because they are interested in helping a country protect its sovereign territory and also maintaining a rules-based international order.

SCIUTTO: A coalition of defense leaders pouring weapons into Ukraine, including a new batch of tanks from Germany as an increasingly isolated Russia resorts to deadlier tactics and more threatening rhetoric. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov drew the attention of U.S. officials Monday when he said the danger of nuclear war is real. General Milley called the comments irresponsible.

MILLEY: Well, anytime a senior leader of a nation state starts rattling a nuclear saber, then everyone takes it seriously. And it's completely irresponsible for any senior leader to be talking like that in today's world.


SCIUTTO (on camera): Ukrainian President Zelenskyy echoing General Milley today, saying that Russia has no right to blackmail, in his words, the world with a nuclear threat. And today, another notable nuclear moment, the 36th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and today, the IAEA director visited the Chernobyl site, one, to mark that notable day but also, Wolf, to bring radiation monitoring equipment, because, remember, when the fighting in the early stages of this invasion reached the Chernobyl area, there were concerns about striking, perhaps disturbing some of the radiation there, the risks of fighting a war in a country that has active nuclear power plants, of course, all the worse. It makes it all that more pointed a danger. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jim Sciutto reporting from Ukraine for us, Jim, excellent report, as usual. Thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, the Russian human rights activist, the former world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. Garry, thanks so much for joining us.

Is President Zelenskyy right when he says Putin is now trying to blackmail the world with these threats of a nuclear war?

GARRY KASPAROV, CHAIRMAN, RENEW DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE: Absolutely. Putin is a master of bluff, and he has been doing it for years and years. He kept raising the stakes. And, unfortunately, the opposition, I mean, the leadership of the free world, kept folding the cards. And now Putin's only card left on the table is nuclear blackmail. I still think it's a blackmail only but he's seeing that nothing else works and he's trying to use it as a last resort.


BLITZER: Well, do you think Putin would be prepared to become even more of an international pariah if he were to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, for example? Do you think that's at all realistic?

KASPAROV: I don't think Putin cares about being a pariah. It's about staying in power. And also when we're talking about being pariah, so I heard it so many times, Putin will be a pariah after the Republic of Georgia being attacked in 2008 or after annexation of Crimea, oh, he will be a pariah.

So, Putin looks at the outcome of his actions. He doesn't care about spilling blood, about killing people, carpet bombing, anything else, poisoning his political opponents with nerve agents.

I think the only reason he may not use nukes is that he may not find Russian generals and admirals willing to carry this suicidal order.

BLITZER: That's a good point. Putin did meet in Moscow today with the visiting U.N. secretary-general. Is this essentially just political theater for Putin or is there possibility, possibility of some sort of diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine?

KASPAROV: Of course, it's a theater for Putin. And I think it's a shame for U.N. secretary-general visiting Russia at a time when Russia violated every chapter of the United Nations. What's the point of having these conversations that are serving only Putin?

I'm going to remind people that in 1939, the Soviet Union was expelled from League of Nations for attacking Finland. And now it's even much worse. We are in 2022, and after annexing part of Ukraine in 2014 and starting war in Eastern Ukraine, now Putin is occupying a great chunk of this country and he has plans. It's not that I'm saying that. He kept saying that. His propaganda machine kept repeating it 24/7, that the Russian plan is to destroy Ukrainian statehood. What's the point of having any conversation or visiting Moscow and sitting in front of Putin and giving Putin some sort of credibility?

BLITZER: He is killing thousands and thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians, men, women and children, in the process of whatever his objective happens to be.

Garry Kasparov, thanks so much for joining us.

KASPAROV: Thanks for inviting me.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming up next. Ukraine's president reacts to the latest nuclear saber-rattling by Putin. We're going to talk about that and more with the top Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee. That's coming up next.



BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying Russia has no right to, quote, blackmail the world with nuclear threats after the Russian foreign minister said there's real and serious -- there's real and serious danger of nuclear confrontation.

Let's discuss this and more with the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: First of all, do you agree with President Zelenskyy that Putin is using the threat of nuclear war, God forbid, to blackmail the world and could Putin become desperate enough to actually cross that horrible line?

MCCAUL: I do agree with Zelenskyy. I think these are bold threats. It's very irresponsible for the foreign minister, Lavrov, to make these comments, for Putin to be a bully and a thug, like he is, to try to blackmail the west from helping.

And I think it shows how aggravated Putin is getting now. He was told this was going to be over in four days. Here we are past the second month. And the Ukrainians have really proven that they're battle- tested.

More and more weapons are coming in. I just came back from the region, and I saw a lot of 18-wheelers going into Ukraine with a lot of lethal weapons. And I think this is becoming very frustrating for Putin as he tries to have some military victory by May the 9th, which is their victory day over Nazi Germany. That would be May the 9th.

BLITZER: Yes. No matter what's going on, I'm sure he will declare a victory on that day.

The defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, said today that Russia is weaker militarily than it was at the start of this war. But is Russia weakened to the point that Ukraine can, in fact, fight Russia off its territory entirely?

MCCAUL: And who would have thought we'd even be talking about this, right, the fact that Ukraine could beat perhaps the second or third greatest military in the world? I think the Russians have shown to be somewhat incompetent. And I think Secretary Austin is correct in the fact that they don't have fresh recruits coming in.

Now, remember, they're redeploying the same worn-out low morale soldiers, you know, from Kyiv through Belarus to the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, and they're shelling the Donbas region. But their military has been greatly weakened. Almost 30 percent of their combat forces taken out by either killed or casualties. And seven of their generals have been hit by sniper rifles on the battlefield, extraordinary on the part of Ukraine. And we've got to keep fighting for them.

What I'm seeing most interesting, Wolf, is the narrative within the administration is changing from one of, well, we don't want to get provocative, not sure we want to send in weapons to now let's send in everything we can because we can -- the Ukrainians can actually win this war.


BLITZER: And on that point, it's interesting because the U.K. today said 15,000 Russian troops already have been killed since the start of this invasion. Do you have any specifics on the U.S. estimate as to how many Russian troops have been killed?

MCCAUL: Yes. The estimate ranges between 10,000 to 15,000. And you know what's really sad is that they don't take them home. I mean, they don't want the expense. They don't want the mothers to know that their sons have died on the battlefield. The sons have texted their mothers saying this is not what we signed up for, we told we were going to liberate the Ukrainians from the Nazis, it's not the case. And they leave their own soldiers on the battlefield to rot. I can't imagine any advanced civilization doing something like that.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a horrible situation indeed. Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, thanks, as usual, for joining us. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

MCCAUL: Thanks so much, Wolf, great to be on your show.

BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up, a third mass grave allegedly found right near the Southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. We're going to get the latest on the devastating loss of life there from a key adviser to the mayor of Mariupol. That's next.



BLITZER: We're following the brutal Russian offensive in Ukraine right now. The mayor of Mariupol now saying that a third mass grave has just been found in the city in what's being described as intense and constant shelling of both southern and Eastern Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's forces.

CNN International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh is on the scene for us.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice over): These southern fields conjure a peace-long past, a world away from Ukraine's hell. It's quickly ruptured by Russia's new offensive, sending waves of evacuees fleeing the growing unthinkable world of Russian occupation, families for whom the shelling over the last two hours was finally too much.

Just saying Grads hit one of the villages further down here. I don't know if the Russians are actually close to them yet but it's impossible to stay. A woman was injured there.

Antonina was three when the last war ended but doesn't know when this one will. Hour by hour, everything changes. Things are moving fast enough here that just 24 hours ago a village about four kilometers in that direction was the meeting point from which people would get evacuated. Now, it seems to be under fire, and we just see panicked locals rushing in to collect their relatives.

Distant tree lines are packed with troops. The blue horizon sometimes pockmarked by smoke.

There is a rumble of rockets still here, and you can see the damage of what they've done before. But somewhere like this has felt to some degree that it survived the worst of the war. But now in this second phase of the Russian operation, the brutality of those forces is essentially coming straight their way.

The flag flies still in the spot here where Lenin used to stand, and it needs an army to hold it in place. People don't want and cannot live under occupation, he says. We've managed to get 7,000 out across our 100 miles of front line, some by bicycle, some in wheelbarrows or on foot.

Here's where they're welcomed in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's hometown, Krivyi Rih. Talk of a sham referendum on Wednesday, trying to gentrify the Russian occupation. And many flee these past days, with queues of cars backed up for miles.

For this family it was about saving the eldest, fearing their 18-year- old son would be conscripted after the sham vote. The first time we tried to leave, they shot at us. The second time we got out, she says. We are completely occupied, she says. There's no food, no money. We have nothing. They'll do a referendum and take our children. My son is 18, and they'll take him as cannon fodder. We ran as fast as we could.

It is jarring among the generosity of donations and offers of new homes to hear of the casual brutality of the occupiers. Mikhail was tortured for days in a basement after Russian troops mistook his rough builder's hands as a sign he'd been a soldier.

One got out a gun, a real one, he says. I saw it was cocked, two shots. They hit the concrete wall. I think it was a starting pistol. Two other men then came in and talked less. They were drunk. One must have been a boxer as he beat me in the same place on my ribs, breaking six of them, rupturing a lung. Broken in parts here but even as Russia closes in still breathing.


WALSH (on camera): Now, Wolf, it is unclear at this stage if that referendum you heard about that the Russians want to hold essentially a sham in their occupied city of Kherson will, in fact, go ahead tomorrow. There are suggestions maybe a rush appointment by the Russian occupiers there of new local government officials in their eyes may be happening in place of that.


But still the impact of that referendum was intense as was the impact of the shelling in the offensive south of here, Kryvyi Rih. It is deeply symbolic because it is where President Zelenskyy comes from. It is certainly under pressure now.

Certainly, the Ukrainian forces here claimed victory in the past 48 hours in terms of holding Russian forces back. But I have to tell you having spent two days to the south of here in those winding roads around the fields, things are changing quite fast and there's great uncertainty about what may come ahead, particularly whether or not that Russian onslaught is headed toward here, this large city, or going to curve round to the east, to where the other fighting you've been talking about and link up with that to perhaps encircle Ukrainian troops there, Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, stay safe over there. Thank you very, very much.

And joining us now, Petro Andriushchenko, he's a key adviser to the mayor of the southern city of Mariupol. Thank you, Petro. Thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for all your hard work.

Your mayor, the mayor of Mariupol, says a third mass grave has now been found near the city. How many people have been killed in your city so far?

PETRO ANDRIUSHCHENKO, ADVISER TO MAYOR OF MARIUPOL, UKRAINE: Yes, it's absolutely -- it's absolutely right information about mass graves that we found some days ago. Because we know in our cities, the Russian troops kill near the 22 -- hundred thousand people.

And we know all this time when our city -- lots of parts of the city occupied by Russian troops, they tried to hide the traces of their own war crimes. And they prepared three big graves for mass graving of our people.

So, in the first, the biggest mass grave, it's near the 300-meter long. And it's prepared for we think near the -- from 300 to 800 people. Sorry?

BLITZER: We heard your mayor, the mayor of Mariupol, say that Russia has forced Ukrainians, people who live in Mariupol, to work on mass burials in exchange for food and water. What can you tell us about that?

ANDRIUSHCHENKO: Yes. You know, in our city, as you know, our people stay without food and no water near the two months. And now what the Russian did, they take our men and say if they want to eat, they have -- they must work for Russian. And they work for Russian and prepared the mass graving and they must to clean the city from dead bodies and from results of bomb shelling. But in reality, it's not a normal food for this world because it's very, very small. It's some piece of bread and bottle of water.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to you. Good luck to all the people in Mariupol. Petro Andriushchenko, thank you so much for joining us.


BLITZER: And for information about how you, our viewers, can actually help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, go to and help impact your world.

There's more breaking news next. New audio reveals that House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy feared that some far-right lawmakers would actually incite violence against their own peers after the January 6th insurrection. We're going to hear a new, just released recording. That's next.



BLITZER: Right now, we have some breaking news on the January 6th investigation and new details just in on very revealing text messages involving former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is joining us with CNN's exclusive reporting. Paula, I know you're learning of yet another Republican congressman's attempts to overturn the presidential election.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. A batch of text messages obtained by CNN show how Congressman Scott Perry, a little-known Republican lawmaker from Pennsylvania, played a key role behind the scenes in trying to push, to reverse or delay the certification of the 2020 election.

Now, these texts, which have not been previously reported, were among those provided by former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the House select committee investigating January 6th. And these texts show Perry pushing to have the nation's top intelligence official investigate baseless conspiracy theories.

For example, on November 12th, five days after the election was called for Joe Biden, Perry texted meadows, quote, from an intel friend, DNI needs to task NSA to immediately seize and begin looking for international comms related to Dominion. Was china malware involved?

So, here, Wolf, Perry appears to be encouraging the White House Chief of Staff to get John Ratcliffe, then the director of national intelligence, to look into false conspiracies about Dominion voting machines being hacked by the Chinese.

Also on November 12th, Perry texted Meadows claiming the quote Brits were behind the plot and that the CIA director was, quote, covering for them. He writes, DNI needs to be tasked to audit their overseas accounts at CIA and their national endowment for democracy.

And so far, Perry has refused to appear voluntarily before the House select committee.


He's called the investigation illegitimate. Perry did not respond to CNN's request for comment on these texts. Wolf?

BLITZER: Paula, I understand we've also just received some new audio from The New York Times revealing House Republican leaders feared members of their own party would incite yet more violence after January 6th. What can you tell us about that? REID: Well, here, Wolf, The New York Times has obtained this audio of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy expressing concerns about far- right House Republicans inciting violence against other lawmakers in the aftermath of January 6th.

So, here, during a January 10th call, McCarthy urged Republican leaders to monitor the public statements of lawmakers, including Representatives Mo Brooks and Matt Gaetz, and alert him of any potentially dangerous messages. Let's take a listen to what he said.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) (voice over): Tension is too high. The country is too crazy. I do not want to look back and think we caused something or we missed something and someone got hurt. I don't want to play politics with any of that.


REID: But he specifically took issue with Representative Gaetz's attack on his colleague, Representative Liz Cheney. Let's listen.


MCCARTHY (voice over): Well, he's putting people in jeopardy. And he doesn't need to be doing this. We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope, with everything else.


REID: And these recordings are just the latest instances of contradictory statements McCarthy made in the aftermath of January 6th, while, publicly, he sought to downplay Republicans' role in the attack, privately, he was expressing concerns about former President Trump, and now as we hear on these recordings, even members of his own party. Wolf?

BLITZER: Paula, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, you can hear the fear in McCarthy's voice in that audiotape, that someone might wind up actually getting killed as a result of what some of his Republican colleagues would be saying.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, what a difference 15 months makes. It's as if Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans seem to be having some sort of collective amnesia. They don't recall the way they were feeling or what they were saying to each other on January 6th, or in Kevin McCarthy's case, they're lying about it.

And you hear McCarthy on this call, not only is there fear but there's concern for fellow members. They're saying, let's not play politics with this. But we have seen in recent months that Kevin McCarthy has been very welcoming to a lot of these members. He has not punished these members, like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz. So, you see a very different McCarthy. And what's the reason for that? The reason is that he needs them if he's going to become speaker of the House.

BLITZER: These are basically the same Republican members that McCarthy essentially protected and enabled in the process.

BORGER: That's right. That's right. And he was saying these people are dangerous in this tape, Wolf. He's saying, we've got to be careful here. And now, what he is doing is essentially underplaying publicly the things that they have done and the things that they have said. And that is because he believes he needs their support and they have the support of Donald Trump, don't forget.

BLITZER: They certainly do. All right, Gloria, thank you very, very much. Paula Reid, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, tests positive for COVID-19. We're going to have the latest on how she's doing and the potential risk right now for President Biden. Stay with us. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: New tonight, Vice President Kamala Harris says she's isolating right now after testing positive for COVID-19. She says she doesn't have any symptoms and is grateful to be vaccinated and double boosted.

Let's bring in CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at the George Washington University here in Washington.

Dr. Reiner, thanks very much for joining us.

You've treated -- you used to treat another then vice president, Dick Cheney. So what do you think needs to be done now to make sure that the protocols at the White House are adequate to make sure the COVID that she has doesn't spread, especially to the president of the United States?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, the White House has been walking a very, very tight rope here, trying to portray some sense of normalcy while at the same time protecting the principals, the president and the vice president. And it's very difficult to do.

As we speak the White House does not require masks for staffers either in the West Wing or the entire complex, unless they are going to meet the president or vice president. But there's a lot of opportunity for viral spread in that compound. Staffers are tested but not tested every single day. And this virus is very, very promiscuous.

And it will -- it will get through that kind of defense. It's just a matter of time frankly I think before the president is infected as well. BLITZER: Why do you say that?

REINER: Because he meets with a lot of people. And they're trying to blanket the president by basically testing everybody who he comes into contact with. But the president can go off script, and we saw when he was in Poland with the troops where against I think the advice of his physicians, he basically couldn't help himself.


He's such a -- you know, an outgoing person and had, you know, lunch with the troops and sat and eat pizza with the troops.

That kind of close personal contact with a lot of folks who are not tested and unmasked will expose you to this virus and the more you do that, the more likely you are to contract COVID.

BLITZER: Yeah, someone of his age potentially, that could be pretty risky if he came down with COVID, right?

REINER: Yeah, so who's at risk? So, fortunately, vice-president and president are both vaccinated and boosted, we know the president had a second boost, so the likelihood he would need to be hospitalized or die from this virus is very unlikely but he can get sick and what we've seen from data out of Israel, the folks who do succumb to this virus despite being vaccinated are typically in the demographic of the president, typically people who are older and the president will turn 80 this year.

BLITZER: Yeah, so that's potentially a problem.

While I have you, Dr. Reiner, let me get your thoughts on this new recommendation from U.S. task force, no longer recommending baby aspirins for individuals out there, that they could be more problematic than helpful. What is your assessment right now? A lot of our viewers told by their cardiologists, their doctors, you know, it's a good idea to take a baby aspirin.

REINER: Right. Well, it's important to understand that the recommendation is for primary prevention, which means taking the aspirin before you have -- basically to ward off an initial event. And what the data shows for people who have not had a heart attack or stroke or bypass surgery or something like that, the evidence doesn't really support that taking an aspirin, the benefits outweigh the risks, principally of bleeding.

Now, the second group of people who take aspirin are people who have had an event like a heart attack or stent procedure like I do, for those people, aspirin is crucial and that's called secondary prevention. So it's important to understand, if you do take an aspirin everyday, before you stop it, talk to your doctor, understand why you are taking it.

And, in fact, there are certain folks who have such high level of cardiac risk who have not yet had a first event who should also take it. But again these are individualized physicians, discuss it with your physician.

BLITZER: Really important, always have a conversation with your doctors.

REINER: Absolutely.

BLITZER: So important.

Dr. Reiner, thank you very much as usual for joining us.

REINER: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you. Dr. Jonathan Reiner with George Washington University here isn Washington.

Up next, what could be a surge of anti-Semitic attacks and harassment across the United States. New information just coming in. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're following a very disturbing surge of anti-Semitic attacks and harassment across the United States.

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

Brian, I know you're looking at these new just-released numbers and they are alarmingly high.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. We've been looking at the numbers and tracking some of the more disturbing incidents. We have new information tonight on the record numbers of anti-Semitic incidents in America in 2021 and the causes.


TODD (voice-over): A horrifying surge in 2021 of anti-Semitic incidents in America, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: 2021 came in the year of the highest we ever tracked with 2,717 incidents. That was 34 percent increase year over year, including 167 percent spike in assaults.

TODD: While advocates can't pinpoint the exact motivation for the spike in anti-Semitism, the ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt says his group tracked a surge just after Israel and Hamas began fighting in Gaza in May of last year.

GREENBLATT: We had Jews being attacked and beaten in broad day light in midtown Manhattan, in Los Angeles, in southern Florida, in Las Vegas. TODD: Incidents like an attack an a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles,

witnesses said people got out of a car, asked who was Jewish and began beating people who w

JOSEPH BORGEN, JEWISH MAN ATTACKED IN NEW YORK LAST YEAR: And they were just wailing on my head --

TODD: In New York City, 29-year-old Jewish man Joseph Borgen wearing yarmulke was attacked walking to a rally in Time Square by a group of people who yelled anti-Semitic slurs at him.

BORGEN: I was attacked by a whole group of individuals who proceeded to kick me, punch me, assault me with weapons.

TODD: Those who track hate groups say unpoliced social media platforms have also contributed to the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Social media has changed the game for the spread of anti-Semitism and other hateful rhetoric and content. The far-right ecosystem has really weaponized social media.

TODD: This year, no signs of a let-up. In January, a harrowing stand off at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, lasted 11 hours when an armed man held four people hostage. The hostages survived. The attacker, killed by law enforcement.

The same month, two Chicago synagogues were targeted with vandalism during one weekend.

Also earlier this year, hundreds of anti-Semitic flyers falsely claiming the public health response to COVID was being orchestrated by Jewish people distributed in several states.


TODD (on camera): How can the spread of anti-Semitism be combated in America? Political leaders advised to call it out more often, law enforcement has to engage with communities and they say social communities have to step up and police content more than they do. Wolf, a lot has to be done.

BLITZER: A lot has to be done, disturbing indeed. Brian Todd, thank you very, very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT' starts right now.