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President Biden Calls White Supremacy A Poison; Primary Night In Five Key States, Test Of Trump's Clout; DOJ Seeks Transcripts From January 6th Committee; Ukraine's Battle For Mariupol Ends With Azovstal Fighters Evacuated. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 17, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): I'm also going to talk to the families and love ones of other Americans being wrongfully detained around the world. We'll have Trevor Reed wants us to bring attention to their stories too. That airs Sunday at 8:00 P.M. Eastern, only on CNN.

I will see you back here for our special election coverage in just one hour. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news across the board. In Buffalo, President Biden visits a community in mourning and says the racist ideology that led to mass murder there cannot be tolerated anywhere.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: White supremacy is a poison. It is a poison running through -- it really is, running through our body politic, it has been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes. No more. I mean, no more.


BLITZER: More on the president's visit coming up, including new words that the alleged gunman was not put on a red flag list after making a prior threat. We're also joined by the Buffalo's mayor, who is standing by live. He says he won't let what happened be forgotten.

Also tonight, key primaries in five states, including here in Pennsylvania, and especially here, a key test of the former president's influence. We'll have the very latest and a close look ahead to CNN primary night coverage just under an hour or so from now.

And later, even as Ukrainian fighters give up their 82-day defense of Mariupol, a retired Russian military expert on Russian T.V. says his country is now isolated in the world and in real trouble in Ukraine.

We want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer in Philadelphia. That's Independence Hall behind me. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. We begin with the very latest we're learning right now about the alleged gunman, now in custody, charged with first degree murder in the racist mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Supermarket on Saturday. He was not, as you know, from Buffalo, and more than three hours away from Buffalo, where details of a very troubled past are just now coming to light.

CNN's Brian Todd has the latest.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In June of 2021, the gunman made a reference to a murder suicide while attending Susquehanna Valley High School in Conklin, New York.

MICHAEL KORCHAK, BROOME COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: On an online class, he said to a teacher that he was contemplating a murder suicide. The teacher followed up on that and the suspect indicated that he was just kidding.

TODD: In a post, he writes he was sent to the hospital for a mental evaluation, but it only lasted 15 minutes, quote, because I stuck with the story that I was getting out of class and I just stupidly wrote that down. That is the reason I believe I am still able to purchase guns. It was not a joke. I wrote that down because that's what I was planning to do.

Despite this incident, the alleged shooter was allowed to buy firearms under federal law. The D.A. says it is hard to tell if he fell through the cracks.

KORCHAK: The New York State Police spoke with him, transported him to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation, he was cleared and released.

TODD: The suspected gunman put out a 180-page racist statement that include details about the firearms he had, including an illegally modified military-style rifle he allegedly used in Saturday's attack, and a rifle he says his father bought for him. The document says he planned to use the rifle and a shotgun to continue targeting black people elsewhere in Buffalo if he wasn't stopped at the supermarket.

And from his social media posts, CNN has learned how meticulously he planned the shooting, making several visits, even drawing a map of the inside of the store. In one post he wrote about a quote, black armed security guard who questioned him. On March 10th, the shooter wrote I am going to have to kill that security guard at Tops. I hope he doesn't kill me or even hurt me instantly.

In another post, the gunman considered attacking a church or an elementary school, but decided on the grocery store because of how busy a spot it was, carefully selecting a time when it would be busiest.

LAKESHA DIVINE CHAPMAN, NIECE OF GERALDINE TALLEY: I'm blaming everyone for this happening and continuing to happen to our communities.

TODD: Police say the gunman shot people in the parking lot, exchanged gunfire with a security guard, and shot more people in the store before surrendering. We spoke to one of his former classmates.

LUCY RAMIREZ-PATTERSON, FORMER CLASSMATE: He gave me a weird feeling in my stomach for some reason. I don't know why. I mean, he was nice but he was just really shy.

BLITZER: Did you sense that he might have been racist or did you sense that he was just maybe odd, strange or creepy?


PATTERSON: Odd, mostly weird sometimes.

I mean, I don't like to judge people but that's the impression I got of him.

TODD: Was it a manner of speaking or things he said that gave you --

PATTERSON: He didn't make eye contact with me, when I talked. He like looked around.


BLITZER: And Brian Todd is joins us live. Brian, investigators I understand are piecing together more of his actions in the months and days leading up to the brutal attack. What more are you learning?

TODD (on camera): Right, Wolf. The operations manager of the Tops Supermarket told ABC News that she saw the suspect at the supermarket on Friday, the day before the attack, and that she asked him to leave, saying that he appeared to be bothering customers.

The manager's brother backed up her account saying that the suspect was there posing as a beggar and asking for change. The local police commissioner, of course, has said that he was there on Friday on a reconnaissance mission.

Also this in tonight, Wolf, a state police spokesman has told CNN that New York State Police did not seek a red flag protection order against the suspect after he was picked up by state police following that threat that he made at the school.

Law enforcement officials have told us that the suspect's threat was general in nature, that it wasn't targeted toward anyone in particular and didn't mention firearms. But we have to reiterate in that threat, he did threaten to commit a murder suicide, Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Brian Todd from Binghamton, New York. Brian, thank you very much.

Sadly, Buffalonians are not only deep in mourning right now, many are also on edge in wake of the revelation today from Buffalos mayor, who is joining us shortly. But, first, I want to go to CNN Shimon Prokupecz. He is in Buffalo. He's got more on that late breaking development. What more can you tell us, Shimon? What are you learning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, certainly, people are taking advantage sadly of what happened here in that they are calling in threats, trying to keep the fear alive here in Buffalo.

A pizzeria, there was one man who called in a threat to a pizzeria, a local brewery. That man was arrested. Police yesterday saying that they are arrested that man and he was charged with making a terroristic threat.

There was also a Walmart that was facing some threats. As a result, they were forced to close. Of course, you know, what police are saying, these are kind of like copycat-style things that people are doing to try and instill fear in this community.

But, Wolf, as you know this area very well, people here are not going to live in fear. Just over my left, there are hundreds of people gathered outside here for a prayer vigil, diverse group, and kids, and people from all over this area are now gathering here, despite the continued threats that people are trying to make and are trying to keep this fear in this community alive.

People here say they're not going to go for it. They're going to stick together and they're going to keep fighting and they're just going to keep trying to move past this and mourn together, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, this threat of copycats is really, really a serious problem. Shimon Prokupecz in Buffalo for us, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, if you are a longtime viewer of CNN, you probably know that Buffalo is my hometown. Growing up there taught me a lot about the toughness and the tenderness and simple strength of the people I grew up with and am in touch with to this very day.

People like the mayor, Byron Brown, who's joining us now. Mayor, thanks for joining us. I know you have a lot going on.

You heard Shimon's reporting about these arrests. Have there been additional copycat threats in recent hours? We spoke about this yesterday. I know the community is very worried about that. What can you share with us?

MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: There have been two arrests at this point, the one Shimon mentioned and another one over the internet where someone was making threats over social media, that individual was arrested as well.

Police here on high alert at every level, federal, state, Buffalo Police, Erie County sheriff's office and any kind of threat, any kind of prank, any kind of copycat activity will be taken extremely seriously. Persons doing that will be found, they will be arrested and they will be prosecuted. BLITZER: What's your reaction, Mayor, to the fact that New York State Police did not put this shooter on a red flag alert?

BROWN: I don't know enough about that. I would defer that to state police for their comment. There's just not enough information that I have to comment on that at this point.


I think the state police would be the appropriate agency to talk to about the red flag law in this particular case.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

I know you had a chance to meet with the president of the United States and the first lady today during their important visit to Buffalo. I want to ask you about that. But, first, I just want to play some of the president's remarks earlier today. Listen to this.


BIDEN: What happened here is simple, straightforward, terrorism, terrorism, domestic terrorism, violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group.


BLITZER: What would it mean for you, Mayor, and for the city of Buffalo for that matter, to hear the president of the United States call this domestic terrorism?

BROWN: The president came to Buffalo, New York, out of deep concern for this event and the pain and anguish of people in this community, the pain that the families of the victims of this brutal attack are feeling. And the president did not mince words. He called this out as domestic terrorism motivated by hate.

He also spoke very powerfully and condemned white supremacy as evil. He talked about white replacement theory as a fallacy, as false information being spread by pundits over airwaves and in social media and he said that type of hate needed to stop. It needed to be denounced.

And I am suspecting very strongly that the president intends to take action to prevent hate speech over social media.

BLITZER: What did you tell the president, Mayor, about the needs of the city of Buffalo going forward? And what was the president's message to you? I know you met privately with him for a while.

BROWN: I talked to the president about the need for additional resources in urban areas in the city of Buffalo. Certainly, we are very thankful for the American Rescue Plan Act and the tens of millions of dollars that will be coming to this city through that, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which will have significant money for infrastructure.

But for decades and decades and decades, urban areas of this country have been left out, they've been left behind, they have been forgotten and more resources are needed to invest in economic development, in business development, business growth, job creation, employment training so that the inner-city, the urban community in Buffalo and across this country has the hope and opportunity for people to lift themselves out of poverty and be full participants in the American dream.

I did share that with the president. The president talked about his strong conviction to do something about the availability of guns in this country. I saw a president with a strong resolve to get something done on these issues that plague our nation, guns, hate over social media, and it was very comforting to the families to have the president here and for him to spend such quality time with them expressing his deep concern for their well-being.

BLITZER: Yes. My heart goes out to the grieving families. It was so important for the president of the United States to visit Buffalo and meet with these families today. Thank you very much, Mayor Brown of Buffalo, a city I clearly love.

We're going to have much more news coming up, including our election primary coverage that's coming up just ahead, including some more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now on the January 6th investigation, a potentially major sign of growing interest at the U.S. Justice Department.

And later, as Ukraine's defense of Mariupol ends, why the war's momentum now seems to be going Ukraine's way. We're going to get perspective from a former U.S. Army three star general.

Stay with us, much more of our special coverage right after this.



BLITZER: There's more breaking news tonight, one of the clearest signs yet of a very wide ranging inquiry at the U.S. Justice Department in Washington in connection with the January 6th Capitol attacks.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is joining us live from Capitol Hill right now. So, Ryan, update our viewers on the latest you're learning about this move by the U.S. Justice Department. Tell us what's going on and what does it signal?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf, the chairman, Bennie Thompson, confirming to reporters here on Capitol Hill today that the Department of Justice has requested that the committee turn over some of their witness depositions as part of the Department of Justice's growing investigation into events that took place here on Capitol Hill.


Now, what's interesting is that the January 6th select committee turned down that request, Chairman Thompson saying that this information is property of the committee, it's their decision as to how to handle this material. He said that there may be an opportunity for the Justice Department to review this information in-house, but they're simply just not going to hand over the hundreds and hundreds of witness testimony that they've compiled up until this point.

That being said though, Wolf, there are two important aspects of this development that have a lot to do with two biggest investigatory bodies as it relates to January 6th. First, it shows, as you rightly point out, that the Department of Justice is widening their investigation into what happened here on January 6th, but it also shows perhaps a degree of tension between the DOJ and House select committee, who both have similar goals but have gone about it in different directions. And that could be a problem as both of these investigations move forward. Wolf?

BLITZER: Is there any sense, Ryan, of whether Department of Justice is following, actually following the select committee's lead to a certain extent? Is it known if there is any level of coordination, for example, between the select committee and the Justice Department?

NOBLES: Well, exactly the opposite, Wolf. The select committee has gone out of their way to say that their investigation is completely walled off from the investigation that the Department of Justice is conducting and that their work is separate from any work that the Department of Justice is conducting.

And in part, there's a reason for that because the DOJ needs a level of neutrality, as it relates to the select committee investigation, because as you know, Wolf, the select committee has handed over a number of criminal contempt of Congress referrals to the Department of Justice asking them to indict, for instance, Mark Meadows, the former Chief of Staff, to indict Steve Bannon, which they've already done. They have not of course moved on Mark Meadows.

So, they've gone to great pains to not just share information back and forth without any kind of cooperation or coordination or without a specific request. And the fact that the DOJ has made a specific request and the select committee has turned them down shows that these two investigations that not coordinated in any way, shape or form.

BLITZER: Yes, this is potentially a very significant development we are watching. Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill, thank you very, very much.

Up next, John King is getting ready to preview a very busy and important night of primary races here in the United States. Stay with us. We'll update you when we come back.


[18:25:00] BLITZER: Polls have just closed in portions of Kentucky. Part of a primary night almost certain to make headlines especially here in Pennsylvania, where the Democratic Senate primary is dominated by a last minute health crisis and the Republican Senate primary is at the center of a political free-for-all, and that's not all.

CNN's John King is joining us right now with a closer look at what's in store tonight. Lots at stake, John. Update viewers what you're looking at.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, certainly. Let's just start by setting the table. You're in Pennsylvania. Look at this map of the Senate races up this year, blue states held by Democratic incumbents, red have Republican incumbents, obviously a 50/50 Senate. So, control of the Senate is a huge prize in this midterm year.

And when Democrats look at this map, that Republican held seat where you are in Pennsylvania is there one possible target. Now, Democrats say, we'll compete in Ohio, we'll compete in North Carolina, but deep down, they think that is there best target, which is why that race is so important. So, we will wait to get the nominees tonight.

You mentioned the three free-for-all on the Republican side. Donald Trump has endorsed T.V. Dr. Mehmet Oz. Dave McCormick is a former hedge fund manager, more of a typical Republican, if you will. A lot of for former Trump aides work for him. Kathy Barnette is the surprise conservative surging candidate at the end of the race. The question is can she win.

So, what to look for? When polls close, we look down here, philadelphia and the color counties around it. Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, Bucks County, that's about 30 percent of the state population right here. And there are a lot of Republicans who live in those suburbs. How do they vote? Do they break for one candidate?

And then out here in what Pennsylvanians call the T. This is conservative country. It's all gray right now because we have no votes yet. But let's just go back in time, Wolf. This is where Donald Trump runs it up, in Pennsylvania, in the rural counties.

Does that endorsement for Dr. Oz make a difference, do Trump voters support Dr. Oz or does Kathy Barnette, who campaigns saying she's actually the true Trumpism carrier of the race if she'll win out here? So, when we count votes, watch Philadelphia, watch the suburbs and then watch this giant swathe of rural counties, and see if one candidate can break out.

BLITZER: And we, of course, will be checking in with you throughout this night, a very important night.

There's also attention on other states tonight, John, as you know, including North Carolina, where the fate of the embattled congressman, Madison Cawthorn, hangs in the balance. What more can you tell us about that? KING: Let's pull up the state of North Carolina. Let me turn this up so I can pop it out here. Madison Cawthorn has been involved in scandal after scandal, controversy after controversy since taking office. Twice CSA stopped him, carrying a gun into an airport, he was driving with a suspended license, he angered the Republican leadership, Wolf, as you'll recall, by saying he had been invited by members of leadership to orgies where cocaine was used. He has since backed away from that, but the Republican establishment has broken from him.

This is his district, the 11th congressional district in the southwestern corridor. It's a Republican district. If Madison Cawthorn wins the primary, he is likely to go on to win re-election. If anyone else can beat him in the primary, likely he could go on and win the re-election. But this is a battle where Trump came in at the last minute, said give Madison Cawthorn a second chance.


Both of the state's Republican senators, the House Republican leader says, please, Republicans, nominate somebody else. So, we'll count the votes here, Asheville and the areas to the west a bit later tonight.

BLITZER: All right, John King, reporting for us. So, John, we will be in touch obviously throughout the night. Thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more now on key races that are about to get results. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Pennsylvania for us, not too far from where I am.

Jeff, as we heard from John, a very tight three person GOP Senate race here in Pennsylvania tonight, what more can you tell us on energy within Oz, Barnette, and McCormick campaigns?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is surprisingly tight and uncomfortably tight for Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick. That is all because of the energy from Kathy Barnette, really developed over the last several days here. While both campaigns were busy attacking one another, she essentially came up to the middle through her hard arguments, and complaints, and charges that the election in 2020 was stolen from President Donald Trump. Of course that is not true but those undoubted claims really have propelled for her candidacy.

Now, this is something -- that if you talk to a campaign officials from the Oz campaign and the McCormick campaign, they overlooked and underestimated her. And now they say she would be a risk to the Republican Party, should she become the nominee this evening.

She pushes back on that, and she says look, she is authentic Republican. She's a different kind of Republican, never run for public office except in 2020 when she was defeated by nearly 20 percentage points here in the Philadelphia suburbs.

But, Wolf, she's also pushed back on that saying that Donald Trump lost the district by 26 points. She outperformed him. So we will see how it works this evening. But in the final 90 minutes or so of voting, it is undecided voters at the end of this race that of course will make the difference. Did Kathy Barnette convince enough of them to come to her or were negative onslaught of ads against her by Oz and McCormick campaigns enough to raise doubt about her. Those are the dynamic here as we head into the final again, hour, hour and a half of voting, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, so much at stake tonight. On the Democratic side of the Senate race here in Pennsylvania what more are you learning, Jeff, about the condition of Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. As you know, most of our viewers I'm sure know he was hospitalized earlier this week after suffering what he called to be a minor stroke.

ZELENY: Wolf, he has been in the hospital since Friday, actually. And will not be at his campaign rally, that is because he spent much of the afternoon in surgery getting a device inserted inside him, a defibrillator. So the stroke more serious than it initially seemed. His doctors in his campaign said he will eventually recover but he will not be on hand for the race.

Doesn't necessarily change the race. Democrats believe that he is likely to become the nominee this evening, but he is running in a race with two other people as well. So will let those votes be counted. A very unusual circumstance for a leading candidate to be hospitalized and not at election headquarters, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what happens tonight. Thanks very much, Jeff Zeleny on the scene as he always is.

Coming up, focus on North Carolina Republican Senate primary especially after former President Trump spoke out about candidates he is backing, the embattled Congressman Madison Cawthorn. I'll talk it over with our political experts, that's coming up next. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're now waiting for results in primaries races in five states. Polls already closed now in portions of Kentucky. I want to bring in our political team on this very big night. Joining us now, CNN's Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger. CNN Senior Political Commentator, former Senior Adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod, and CNN National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt with me here in Philadelphia.

Gloria, let's start with you. The effects of tonight's primaries certainly could be far reaching indeed. What are you watching?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania. I think it is usually important when you consider control of the Senate when you take a look at the Republican Party and see the way it is going to behave post Donald Trump, and also when you look at that race for governor. If you have this conservative Mastriano running and winning, he gets to the point the secretary of state, in the state of Pennsylvania. He has been an ardent election denier, and that's going to be a hugely important role in 2024. So in every way it is Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Among Republicans, David, is this a race to out Trump Trump?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's interesting, Wolf. What you have in the Senate race, are in the view of some of the hard MAGA voters, you have one MAGA candidate and the two counterfeit MAGAs. And the two counterfeit MAGAs are the one who spent $40 million beating the hell out of each other, each trying to certify their own acceptance to Trump and Trumpism.

And the MAGA voters, or at least the far right of MAGA saying, no, we don't believe you. She's the real deal. We're going to be with her. And she twinned up with that governor candidate, Mastriano, in Pennsylvania. And the two of them are threatening to take Pennsylvania pretty far to the right here, to the delight I think of some Democrats.

We'll see if they say that in November. But one point on this, Wolf, the Democratic candidate for governor spent over $2 million on advertising attacking Mastriano in the governors' race on the Republican side for being too Trump.


And the clear objective was to make him a stronger candidate in the Republican primary. He wants to run against him, he may get his wish tonight.

BLITZER: Let's see if he does. You know, Kasie, you're here with me in Philadelphia, you're going to be in Philadelphia here throughout the important night. You know the state well. You're from here, from this area. You know Pennsylvania well. You know the stakes.

I know you had a chance recently to profile the Democratic Senate Candidate John Fetterman. You know, he is doing well right now. What can you tell us about it?

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, he had a little bit of health scare here at the last minute. He's in the hospital having a pace maker and defibrillator put in. He won't be at his own election night party. But he really has consolidated, Democrats behind him. A lot of Democrats in Washington thought voters would get behind Conor Lamb. He's a Marine Corps Vet, somebody who won a pro-Trump district out in the western part of Pennsylvania. But he really didn't catch on.

And instead, many Democratic voters seem to be -- nor seems regardless of political ideology. They're looking for candidates who aren't necessarily part of the traditional mold, people who seem like they're coming across as the word I heard over and over again when I was talking to voters in Pennsylvania was real. John Fetterman is -- I mean his a big guy. You can't escape his physical presence, when you're campaigning with him. He wears cargo shorts, gym shorts and the hoodies when he campaigns and he really has made a concerted effort to try to win over some of those blue collar voters. They were traditionally union Democrats and then they were won by Donald Trump especially in the western part of the state.

So he hasn't shied away from trying to attract those voters back to the Democratic Party. So I think that's interesting to watch about him as we approach the fall. I think one challenge that he have is energizing particularly black voters in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, he's going to have some work to do there.

But it does seems like at least tonight unless there's a major surprise, he is on track to be Democratic nominee for Senate.

BLITZER: Yes. I know we wish him only a speedy, speedy recovery from the stroke the other day. Let's hope for the best for that. Hope for the best for that. Kasie don't go too far.

Gloria, how much does former President Trump have at stake tonight, especially here in Pennsylvania?

BORGER: Well, he has a lot because he has been talking about it nonstop and what he wants to do is just put check marks next to victories to show that that is his strength and that he is still all powerful king maker, puppet master, whatever you want to call it within the Republican Party.

He is nervous tonight, because his chosen candidate, Dr. Oz, whom he often describes as a T.V. star who was on T.V. for 13 seasons and therefore must have a full lot of appeal to voters, particularly women, is suffering, even after millions and millions of dollars have been poured into his campaign.

So I think it would be a major embarrassment for Donald Trump if Oz lost, particularly if he lost to Kathy Barnette who is more Trump than Trump and who has come out and said we were here first. Donald Trump, you were the one that climbed onto our movement, not the other way around, and so this movement is about us and she's clearly making the case that yes, we'd like to have you, but you're not the boss of me anymore as my kids would say. We don't need you. We are moving on.

BLITZER: Very interesting. You know, David, as you know well, Democrats are going into midterm elections this year are up against strong head winds. JPMorgan, for example, just today indicating that the average price of a gallon of gas could hit $6 by August, not just in California but across the country. How would that play going into November?

AXELROD: I assume that's a rhetorical question, Wolf. Obviously it wouldn't play well, and there are strong winds facing Democrats. That's why these elections are going to be watched so closely because Republicans think they could have a chance to hang onto the Senate seat in Pennsylvania, but they fear that if they nominate the wrong candidate they won't be able to hold onto that seat. And so yes, I think that everything -- if you were a doctor and you looked at the checklist of vital signs, they're all rather negative for Democrats right now. What they're hoping for is that Republicans will save Democrats by nominating candidates who are more beatable in November and that they can withstand the head winds they're sure to be facing.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, is it clear to you how much of an impact the draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade could have on races tonight, and in other states in the weeks and months ahead.

BORGER: Look, I think it is way too early to tell about the impact on the election. I believe that it is going to have a large impact if the ruling is as we think in the 2024 election, because people are going to have to start dealing with consequences of the overturning Roe v. Wade, who do you arrest, the doctor, the woman?


But tonight, I think Kathy Barnette is pro-life, so are Republican candidates. I don't think on that side it's going to have that huge an impact. But I think in the future this is something the Democrats will be talking about an awful lot.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, David Axelrod, Casey Hunt -- guys, thank you.

One quick note, on John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, his wife tweeted he is out of surgery and the procedure to implement a pacemaker -- to implant the pacemaker I should say, was in her words perfect.

Just ahead, we'll have the latest on the war in Ukraine and the battle for the steel plant in Mariupol. Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling is standing by to join us live with his assessment. Much more of our coverage coming up.



BLITZER: Ukraine's battle for Mariupol has come to an end. The bloody defense of the besieged city and Azovstal steel plant lasted weeks.

According to the Kremlin, both Ukrainian civilians and troops were allowed to leave the plant after the troops surrendered and laid down their weapons. Ukraine's deputy defense minister says 211 troops were evacuated through a humanitarian corridor and 350 seriously injured troops evacuated from the plant to a medical facility in Russian- controlled territory.

Ukraine's deputy prime minister says they expect to carry out exchange of Russian prisoners for the injured Ukrainian troops. All this comes as Kremlin guaranteed the troops will be treated in accordance with international law.

Joining us now to discuss what's going on, CNN military analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling.

General Hertling, thanks so much for joining us.

Just how significant is this? How worried are you for the surviving Ukrainian fighters in Russian control?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Wolf, well, we can't believe anything Russia has said in terms of treatments of prisoners thus far because they have not done so. They have shown us what they are.

But secondly, you know, what I would say in terms of the fighters of Mariupol, they have done a masterful job in terms of delaying and distracting Russian forces. Estimates are that somewhere between 12,000 and 14,000 Russian troops were involved in that action, trying to maintain the logistics supply from Rostov in Russia all the way to Odesa and it took them almost two months out of their norm that they could not allow the Russian troops to move further north into the Donbas area to fight.

So this action by the Ukrainian forces in the Azovstal plant, even though it was very troublesome and very worrying, a lot of casualties and a horrible condition, it really saved a lot of Ukrainians lives that they pinned down those forces in that plant.

BLITZER: I also want to get your reaction, General Hertling, to part of what was said by a former Russian colonel on Russian state television on Monday. Listen to this.


MIKHAIL KHODARENOK, RETIRED COLONEL (through translator): Let's not wave about rockets in Finland's direction, it just looks ridiculous. The biggest flaw in our military and political situation is that we are in total geopolitical solitude and the whole world is against us, even if we don't want to admit it, and we need a way out of this situation.


BLITZER: What do you think of that? Let's get a little reality check breaking through the Putin propaganda right now. What did you think of that statement from this former Russian colonel on Russian state TV?

HERTLING: Well, in listening to the entire clip, Wolf, that was just a small segment of it, where he was dashing Putin's desires to divide NATO, it was a strategic implication.

But I happened to listen to the entire speech by Colonel Khodarenok and what he basically did was a damning combination of every aspect of the Russian attack from the attack the can tell competencies of the soldiers and the generals to the operational design of the fight to the strategic requirements that Putin put on his forces.

They were not capable of achieving those kinds of strategic goals across the front. And many have saw that from the very beginning, when you're talking about only allocating 190,000 soldiers which seems a lot but when you're talking about allocating them along seven different axes to advance along a frontage of almost 1,400 miles with different military objectives to seize and secure cities of over a million, in one case, three million Ukrainian population, it's just not capable of coming true.

And I think colonel actually nailed it from the standpoint of addressing each one of Putin's strategic and operational tactical implications on this.

BLITZER: General Hertling, thank you so much for your analysis. We're always appreciative.

Coming up, an 8-year-old girl's bravery when shots rang out at the Buffalo supermarket.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We started this hour in THE SITUATION ROOM on the Buffalo shooting and that's where we end it, with a brave eight-year-old little girl named Londin Thomas. On Saturday, she went to the Tops supermarket to get a birthday cake for her mom.

When the shots rang out, London and her dad ran out with her mom. They decided to hide in a cooler.


LONDIN THOMAS, BUFFALO MASS SHOOTING SURVIVOR: We went to the back of the store where the milk is and like, we -- the door was locked and could not get out. Until, like, the manager opened the door. Then we had to go out the back door and then like, the cops lead us out.

I was scared for my mom. I didn't know what happened to her because she was at the front and I was at the back. I did not know where she was, I thought she was gone.


BLITZER: Thankfully, her mom wasn't hurt and neither was London or her dad and London says she was never scared because her dad was with her the whole time. So brave.

Thanks very much for watching, I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Philadelphia reporting in THE SITUATION ROOM tonight. I'll be reporting from here throughout the night along with colleagues, Erin Burnett, Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper and reporters around the country for "Election Night in America: The Midterm Primaries".