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Biden Vows NATO Stronger Against Russia If Finland And Sweden Join; CDC Weighs Vaccines For Americans At High Risk Of Deadly Monkeypox; Washington Post Reports, 15 Signed On To Buffalo Suspect's Chatroom Ahead Of Shooting; Russia Targets Important Hub For Ukrainian Military In East; Biden Admin Secures First Overseas Shipment Of Baby Formula; Oz, McCormick Locked In Tight Pennsylvania GOP Senate Primary Race. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Be sure to join me this Sunday to CNN Special Report, Finally Home, The Trevor Reed interview. It's this Sunday at 8:00 P.M. Eastern only on CNN.

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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in the place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Biden vows in expanded NATO will be stronger against Russian aggression, standing with the leaders of both Finland and Sweden as they seek to join the NATO alliance.

We'll get an up to the minute assessment about the war from the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby. He's standing by life live.

Also tonight, there's growing concern in the U.S. about the potential spread of yet another deadly virus. The CDC is now discussing whether to offer vaccinations for people at high risk of what's called monkeypox now that a rare case has just been confirmed in this country.

And as the Buffalo shooting suspect appears in court, there's a new report just out that some 15 people actually signed into an online chat room where he invited people to watch the racist attack as it happened.

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 begin with President Biden hitting Vladimir Putin with a one-two punch. The United States now poised to send billions of additional dollars in new aid to Ukraine as the president is promoting new efforts to expand NATO right now. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us live from Seoul, South Korea. Kaitlan, the president is heading to Asia, where you are right now, but he remains deeply focused on the U.S. response to the Russia's brutal and totally unprovoked war.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, and that was clear by what was happening on the ground in Washington as the president was preparing for this, his first trip to Asia since taking office. And it was only hours after he departed on Air Force One that the Senate passed that staggering $40 billion aid bill to Ukraine, billions more than what the president had initially asked for actually, Wolf.

And actually they're flying that bill here to South Korea so the president can sign it, given the Senate passed it hours after he had already left Washington but it came after he also welcomed the leaders of Finland and Sweden to the White House, and really what was a remarkable moment, Wolf, talking about their applications to the military alliance known as NATO.

These two actions, that $40 billion bill and, of course, welcoming them to the White House is something that really would have been unthinkable just a few months ago. But today the president talked about what the moment meant, not just for the United States, not just for Finland and Sweden but also for NATO.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Today, there's no question, NATO is relevant, it is effective and it's more needed more than ever. The bottom line is simple, quite straightforward, Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger.


COLLINS: Of course, Wolf, that is a step that President Putin did not want to see happen. There are big questions about what happens in this interim process while they are waiting for those applications to be ratified by the members of NATO.

But the president's focus is going to turn here to Asia, of course, his first trip, one that got delayed mainly because of COVID-19 restrictions that had been in place. And while his here, he's visiting South Korea. He's visiting Japan. But, really, this entire trip is going to be focus on countering China.

And one other challenge on the president's plate while he's here is White House officials are preparing for the possibility that North Korean could test another missile while the president is here or at least on the way here. That is, of course, something you've seen North Korea increased in recent weeks. That is not something that, of course, the White House has been able to discuss with North Korean officials since there's been relatively little contact between the two sides since Biden took office.

But all that happening while the president is here on the ground, Wolf, of course, everyone is still keeping an eye on what's happening in Ukraine.

BLITZER: It certainly will. We'll stay in close touch with you. Kaitlan Collins reporting live from Seoul, South Korea.

Let's go to Ukraine right now. CNN is getting a firsthand look at the terror and devastation left behind by Russian forces in the Kharkiv region. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is out there on the frontlines.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice over): The noise is maybe further away from Kharkiv in its distant field or villages. The part of the city still stays hidden underground in the subways near apocalyptic dark warrants.

They came down to shelter just for the night but that was two months ago.


Homes now destroyed but the fear of the bombs remaining, most have nowhere to go.

Officials have asked people to leave soon and stopped the people sleeping, at least in train, wish they have to get moving again. Ludmilla (ph), keeps her place tidy and welcoming, but is alone here. Her flat bombed twice.


WALSH: In the damp, cold coffin (ph) with food in one bucket, urine in another, this is the desperation Russia's war on Ukraine wanted to inflict.

Luba is sat between her family and people whose name she didn't even know.


WALSH: Even if Ukraine wins, this is still where it hurts, in the lost of presumptions about the most ordinary parts of life.

Victor Shy, his mother says, sheltering in a game of two pirate ships attacking each other.


WALSH: We see some deciding to leave already, yet still, the framework of permanence sets in and the outside sunnier days turn noisy at night.


WALSH (on camera): Now, Wolf, there are indications that Ukraine officials are looking to final alternative accommodation for those people in the metro at this time and they will emerge into Kharkiv significantly less pressured than it was when they first went down into the metro seeking shelter from the shelling.

But still, we have seen ourselves repeatedly even though Ukrainian forces are pushing Russia back towards its own border, they find themselves shelled repeatedly. Advances made are often faced with intense shelling from Russians in terms of the areas reclaimed by the Ukrainians.

In the east and more central areas, there seems to be limited advances being made, but the broad equation here is the persistent new announcements of American assistance to Ukraine here and Ukrainian morale frankly being pretty sky high. It's rare we meet people who do not feel this is going well for Ukraine. Fundamentally, you have to ask in the longer term, how much Russia can sustain in the face of Ukraine not allowing it to make the progress it keeps advertising. Wolf?

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh reporting live from Kharkiv, in Ukraine, Nick, thank you very much. Heartbreaking to see what those families are going through right now.

Let's get the latest U.S. assessment on the war and the Biden administration's support for Ukraine. Joining us now, the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby. John, thanks very much for joining us.

With President Biden, now poised to sign this latest $40 billion aid package for Ukraine into law, the Pentagon is preparing to send an additional $100 million in earlier approved military assistance to Ukraine. Is this new package targeted to the specific new challenges Ukraine is facing on the battlefield right now?

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: It absolutely is, Wolf. In fact, you'll see in this package that we just talked about today, 18 full battalion of howitzers as well as 18 tow vehicles so they can move those howitzers around, as well as counter-artillery radars.

Now, these are the same types of radars we have sent in the past but they are very useful to helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian artillery, the kind of artillery attacks that Nick Paton Walsh was just reporting up there near Kharkiv. So, yes, this is very much tailored to the fight that they are in today.

BLITZER: Let's turn to NATO. A very dramatic, historic developments unfolding, and amidst to all of this, Turkey is trying to block to prevent Finland and Sweden from joining the NATO alliance. Are you 100 percent confident, John, that Turkey will eventually agree to let those nations join the alliance? You need every NATO ally to support additional new members.

KIRBY: That's right. You need a unanimous vote and we're working with other allies throughout the alliance, including Turkey, to explore their concerns and to make sure they have got a vehicle to express those concerns. But I think we can all agree that Finland and Sweden becoming members of NATO is, as the president said, good for NATO.

[18:10:00] It will strengthen our ability to defend ourselves in accordance with Article 5, Collective Security. These are two modern militaries that we've operated together with, we exercised together with. Their contributions will be only additive to the alliance. And so we're going to work closely with them and with other allies as they go through this application process.

BLITZER: As you know, there's a recent NATO assessment that the momentum of the war now has shifted significantly in Ukraine's favor. Is that the Pentagon's assessment as well?

KIRBY: Look, it depends on where you're looking at. I mean, clearly, where Nick is, in Kharkiv, the Ukrainians have achieved remarkable success, pushing Russian forces closer to the border now away from Ukraine, even to the east as well. In the Donbas, in the east itself, there's a lot of back and forth.

What we can say for sure is that the Russians have not achieved the objectives they wanted to in the east. They are way behind schedule. And with every village or hamlet they take, the Ukrainians take one or two back. And so it's a very, very active, kinetic fight, and it's close infighting too, and that's why these artillery pieces are going to be so important.

BLITZER: Very significant indeed. Now, the Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Mark Milley, as you know, he spoke today with his Russian counterpart, this less than a week after the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, actually spoke with his Russian counterpart after nearly three months of war. Why are the Russians, do you believe, suddenly ready to engage with top U.S. officials?

KIRBY: You know, it's difficult to know that, Wolf. I don't think we have a perfect sense of exactly why they have all of a sudden decided to pick up the phone. But we're glad that they did. I mean, this is not for lack of trying on our part, certainly not for the lack of trying on Secretary Austin or General Milley's part. But it is good now that we have reestablished a line of communication at the very senior levels of the Russian military. We want to see those lines stay open.

And we were able to be very candid with our Russian counterparts and we want to be able to continue to have those conversations going forward. Now is exactly the time where there should be top level communication. So, we hope it continues.

BLITZER: Well, let's see if it does. John Kirby, the Pentagon Press Secretary, thanks as usual for joining us.

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll have the latest on an outbreak of what's called monkeypox with a confirmed case now here in the United States and several suspected cases in Canada and Europe. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Growing concern right now about an outbreak of monkeypox has CDC officials discussing whether to offer the smallpox vaccine to healthcare workers and to others who may be at high risk of exposure. There's at least one confirmed case here in the United States in Massachusetts. And New York City health officials, they are investigating a possible case there as well.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is working the story for us. Elizabeth, a lot happening just in the past hour. First of all, what's going on here in the U.S. and in Canada for that matter?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, so much is changing, we want to sort of get it down all in one place. Let's take a look at what's been happening just recently.

So, there are 17 suspected cases in Canada, and that's according to Montreal public health. There's one case in Boston, who have traveled privately to Canada, in other words, hadn't gone on a commercial air flight or anything like that. There is one case being investigated in New York City.

The CDC is monitoring six passengers who are on a Nigeria to U.K. flight with a different infected symptomatic passenger. We will say that those folks, no symptoms yet, and the flight was not recent. It was in early part of this month. So, hopefully, all is fine there.

The CDC is discussing whether to offer smallpox vaccine to those who are at high risk, so, example, health care workers taking care of a patient who has smallpox or other people at high risk. The smallpox vaccine, smallpox is related to monkeypox.

It's not a small thing to get a smallpox vaccine. People can have adverse reactions. You can get other people sick if you get vaccinated. So, the fact that they are even thinking about offering this means that they -- there is some concern for those folks. Wolf?

BLITZER: What exactly are the symptoms of monkeypox and how does it spread, Elizabeth?

COHEN: So the symptoms start out as the symptoms of many other things. It starts out with a headache and swollen lymph nodes and fever. But then after those symptoms, you get lesions all over the body. And then it's very clear that it's monkeypox. The transmission is through prolonged face-to-face contact and direct or indirect contact with bodily fluids or with skin lesions.

Now I want to point out, and I think this is really important. In 2003, there were 47 cases in the U.S. What this tell us, is this is not COVID. It doesn't spread like COVID or something like measles. There were 47 cases. That was it. It didn't go any further. This is more difficult to contract than something like COVID. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's important to know, indeed. All right, Elizabeth Cohen. Thank you very much. Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, Dr. Peter Hotez, co-Director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Hotez, thanks for joining us.

How worried should we be right now, should Americans be right now? Will public health authorities be able to contain these outbreaks of monkeypox?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: Well, I think there's some optimism there, Wolf, partly because if you have monkeypox, you visibly have the pustules. So, it's relatively straight forward through the contact identification and tracing. And as Elizabeth points out, it's not nearly as transmissible as something like COVID-19.


So, it requires fairly intimate contact.

But I think it is a wakeup call that reminds us that we are seeing more and more of these virus infections, which are transmitted from animals to humans, and then subsequently we see human-to-human transmission. So this whole field of what is called one health where we look at everything holistically with animals and people and then the environment to understand the rise of the disease.

Now, this explains ebola, it explains nepovirus infections, that's explains COVID-19, which came from bats, and now we had monkeypox to the list. So, this is a new normal in the sense of what we call zoonotic illnesses.

BLITZER: Also tonight, CDC vaccine advisers, as you probably have already just heard, they have just voted to recommend a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for children ages 5 to 11. How important are boosters for those young kids?

HOTEZ: I think it's important we have been seeing declining immunity in the face of this omicron variant with kids 5 to 11 who received two doses. So, it was not protecting very well against infection and even against hospitalization, although it was a small study that wasn't necessarily statistically significant. It looked like the hospitalizations declined. Protection against hospitalization declined to 48 percent.

I think another reason for the booster is we know that this was probably a three-dose vaccine since the beginning, since you get a big bump in virus neutralizing antibodies from that third dose. This was true of adults, it was true of adolescents and it's basically now stepping it down to kids.

So, I think it's the right move to do. And I think it will afford kids better protection not only against omicron and this BA2 variant, BA 2.1.2, but also for future variants to come. So, it makes a lot of sense.

BLITZER: All right, Dr. Peter Hotez, as usual thank you so much for joining us.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM. CNN is now learning that 15 people actually saw the Buffalo shooting suspect's plan online before the massacre took place. We'll talk about the case with the NAACP president, Derrick Johnson, who is standing by live.



BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, a source now telling CNN that 15 people actually joined the private online chat where the Buffalo massacre suspect revealed his plan before carrying out the shooting that left ten people dead.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Buffalo for us, where the suspect appeared in court today.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, new details about who the suspected Buffalo gunman revealed his plans to beforehand. 15 people accepted his online invitation to view the diary he kept, which spelled out plans his plans and preparations in detail. That's according to a person with knowledge of the probe by Discord, an online chat service.

The invitation header read, quote happening, this is not a drill, The Washington Post reported. It was sent 30 minutes before the attack and linked to an alleged livestream of his attack on Twitch, as well as to six months worth of racist notes and details about surveying the store, drawing a map and taking note of how many black customers were there. It is not clear if authorities are seeking to contact each of those users.

JONATHAN LACEY, FORMER FBI SEPEICAL AGENT: The FBI will be investigating the identities of these individuals, trying to identify them and to either speak to them or investigate them further.

TODD: Evidence collection at the site of the shooting is complete, the FBI said today, but the probe continues.

STEPHEN BELONGIA, FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, BUFFALO: There are interviews to be done. There are information and data to be gathered from social media and other internet companies. There are analyses that need to be done on the evidence that was collected.

TODD: The suspect appearing in court today under heavy security, handcuffed in an orange jump suit. In addition to a first-degree murder charge Saturday to which he has pleaded not guilty, he has now been indicted by a grand jury.

As he's taken out of the courtroom, an onlooker calls him a coward. The suspect claimed in a diatribe posted online that he got one of the guns, a Savage rifle, from his father for Christmas in 2020. A Savage box can be seen in this family photo posted on Facebook. A Savage rifle was not used in the Tops shooting, but one was found in the suspect's car.

The hateful rant said the gunman planned to use the Savage rifle along with a shotgun to kill more black people in the neighborhood as he drove away from the Tops Supermarket.

Jeffrey Peace is an administrator at the State Tabernacle Church. He was a followed deacon there with deceased shooting victims Hayward Patterson for several years. I asked Peace, about how the man who was so loved and trusted in the church community would have responded to his killer.

The gunman was clearly full of hatred. Do you think that Deacon Patterson might forgive this man if he were able to?

JEFFREY PEACE, WORKED WITH SHOOTING VICTIME HEYWARD PATTERSON: The bible tells us to forgive. You know, it tells us to forgive. I can't speak -- He's gone. But if surviving, yes. I would say, yes. I would have to say, yes. And we're going to have to forgive the gunman because we're here to tell you get that out of there. He's going to live there forever and you don't want that.


TODD (on camera): When we asked an FBI official what the evidence here at the scene told them about the shooter's movement, he declined to comment, but he did talk about the high-powered capability of the shooter's AR-15 assault rifle.


He said that its rounds could penetrate walls, could penetrate shelving units and could ricochet about -- off of just about anything. Wolf, he said there's significant damage inside this store.

BLITZER: Brian Todd in Buffalo for us, Brian, thanks very much.

Let's get some more right now on the breaking news. Joining us is the NAACP president, Derrick Johnson. Derrick, thanks so much for joining us.

Give us your reaction to this new reporting about how and when the suspect actually revealed his racist plans.

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well there's more evidence for us that we have to step up efforts particularly on social media platforms to prevent these type of incidents from taking place. Social media platforms have created a political reality where they are not held accountable for monitoring, for enforcing and permitting white supremacist activity.

And as a result of that, we're seeing more harm. This is one incident but there have been multiple incidents. And the real question now is will social media platforms be held accountable because they cannot self-regulate. We have to address Section 230.

Secondly, it's important for the Justice Department to step up their efforts. It is unfortunate for these families in Buffalo, but now I'm concerned about the future families, because white supremacist activity is on an uptick. And we e have seen it in El Paso, in Pittsburgh, in Louisville, Kentucky, in Charlottesville. At what point do we, as a society, begin to be aggressive, proactive to stop these type of violent acts?

BLITZER: The NAACP as you know, Derrick, just released actual policy recommendations in response to the Buffalo massacre. What specifics in this plan -- what are the specifics in this plan and how will it help prevent these kinds of attacks down the road?

JOHNSON: Well, there's nothing new what we stand. We need to have some more gun control. Social media platforms must be accountable for the content and activities on their platforms. You could not go to a newspaper and publish this. And then there has to be some corporate responsibility and stop supporting news outlets like Fox News that sow the seed of division and hate. And many people look at that station and think it's factual, when, in fact, that it's manipulative news that's created more tribalism and harm in our society than we've seen in my lifetime, for a fact.

So just sensible policies that all been out there for awhile, nothing new. But can we get the political will as the whole society to address white supremacist activity. African-Americans are concerned about it. The Jewish communities are concerned about it. The Latino communities are concerned about. The Muslim communities are concerned about it. America, we should be concerned about it because it's eroding our democracy.

BLITZER: I know you're meeting tomorrow with the U.S. attorney general, Merrick Garland, here in Washington. What are you hoping to hear from the attorney general?

JOHNSON: Well, what is the plan? What are you going to do? I mean, is NAACP, and as many other groups, we're going to sit there, we need to understand what are you going to do to prevent these acts from taking place in the future? How are you using the tools of the Justice Department? How is the federal government working across agencies to stop the rise in white supremacist harm, injury and deaths? That's important.

For the NAACP, we don't know. I do know one thing, we're tired of seeing these same incidents happening over and over when we have a federal government that's charged with responsibility of keeping communities safe, and this is a national issue that's having a devastating effect on our communities, our society and our democracy. So, the question to the A.G. Garland, what are you going to do about it?

BLITZER: All right. We'll check in with you after that meeting. The NAACP president, Derrick Johnson, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the House January 6th select committee now turning its attention to a tour of the U.S. Capitol given by a Republican lawmaker on the eve of the January 6th insurrection. We're learning new details. We'll share them with you when we come back.



BLITZER: Tonight, sources are telling CNN that the former attorney general, Bill Barr, has tentatively agreed to give sworn testimony to the House select committee investigating the January 6th Capitol insurrection.

CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is working the story for us. Tell our viewers, Paula, what are you learning.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the former attorney general left his post in December 2020, so he was not in office at the time of the insurrection. But for quite some time, he's been in conversation with the committee about possibly cooperating because we know he could potentially provide evidence about what was going on inside the Trump administration before and after the election, including his assessment that there was no widespread election fraud and how the former president reacted to that news.

Now, what we don't know, Wolf, right now is when this interview will take place or whether Barr will be one of the witnesses in these upcoming public hearings.

BLITZER: And there's another major development that's been breaking now involving the committee deciding to investigate a tour of the U.S. Capitol, Paula, a tour given by a Republican member of Congress right on the eve of the insurrection. What are you learning about that?

REID: One letter this afternoon, the committee is asking a fellow Representative Barry Loudermilk, a Republican from Georgia, to share information about a tour of the U.S. Capitol complex he led the day before the insurrection. Noting in this letter, there were reports that individuals were trying to gain information, learn more about the layout of the Capitol in advance of January 6th. But, Wolf, Loudermilk responded to this request in a statement saying, this was a tour with a constituent family with young children and they never entered the Capitol building.

Now, in looking at the letter from the committee, they haven't provided many specific details about this tour in their letter.


They mentioned that Republicans on the committee, on House administration, on which Loudermilk is a member, claimed to have reviewed the security footage from the days proceeding January 6th, and they determined that there were no tours, no large groups and no one in MAGA hats.

But the January 6th committee says it has reviewed evidence that directly contradicts that assessment. It has not specified how. What did they see? A group, MAGA hats? We'll get to the bottom of this. They said, Loudermilk and fellow Republicans are calling on Capitol police to just release the tape so we can all see what it is at the center of this controversy. But Capitol police just responded saying they cannot make additional evidence public while the committee's investigation is ongoing.

BLITZER: We'll see happens. Paula Reid reporting for us, Paula, thank you very much. Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

Elie, what unique insight does William Barr, the former attorney general of the United States, have into Donald Trump's state of mind during the weeks leading up to the insurrection?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, Bill Barr's testimony here, if he testifies truthfully, could be crucial because it goes directly to Donald Trump's state of mind. We know that Bill Barr came out in December about three weeks after the 2020 election and said, DOJ, the largest investigative body in the country, has found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

And Barr claims that he said the same thing directly to Donald Trump's face. If that is true, that shows Donald Trump knew he did not win the election, knew there was no evidence of election fraud. And so all of Donald Trump's efforts to steal the election after that were based on a fraud or based on a lie. So, that's going to be a crucial issue for the committee.

BLITZER: Gloria, why do you think Barr is agreeing to testify when so many other former Trump officials have resisted?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Barr left the White House before January 6th. He's also gone on the record and has written a book. And he went on the record saying the election wasn't stolen, Trump lost it. And he has also written a book in which he describes the president's state of mind after the election. In fact, he said he lost his grip. He went off the rails. He stopped listening to advisers. And he became manic and unreasonable, he said, and he surrounded himself with sycophants. And some of those people that Barr is referring to are, in fact, the ones who are refusing to testify.

BLITZER: Elie, Let me get your thoughts also on this tour of the U.S. Capitol given by a Republican member of Congress right on the eve of the insurrection. Why is it so important for the select committee to get to the bottom of this?

HONIG: There's a pointed and very high stakes dispute going on here. Certain House Democrats dating back more than a year have accused certain House Republicans of giving these tours on January 5th designed to facilitate and assist the January 6th attack. If that's true, that's remarkably serious, potentially even criminal.

Now, Republicans have strenuously denied this. We have not seen any evidence in public to support this allegation. The most interesting thing in the letter that the committee sent to Representative Loudermilk today is that committee says they have evidence that, quote, directly contradicts those denials. So, we will see that evidence, if they have the evidence and it is as the committee describes, that's an enormously big deal.

BORGER: We're not going to be able to look at these tapes and there's no place that has more hidden tapes than the United States Capitol. So, there's got to be plenty of evidence. But these folks are disagreeing completely. One side is saying he was only there with a family and its young children. And the committee is saying that you are not telling the truth. These are in direct conflicts and we have evidence.

If they do have the evidence and if Loudermilk says he's telling the truth, I don't see why he wouldn't testify.

BLITZER: And more close circuit cameras up on Capitol Hill than probably almost place else, that's right.

Gloria Borger, Elie Honig, guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we'll return to the war in Ukraine. Will the conflict hit a standstill in the days and weeks ahead? Stay with us.



BLITZER: Right now, we are following all the latest developments in Russia's war against Ukraine. Kremlin forces are now targeting in the hub for the Ukrainian military, part of its offensive in the east.

Let's discuss the state of the war with the former CIA director. The former head of the U.S. military's Central Command, retired General David Petraeus.

General, Petraeus, thanks so much for joining us.

According to this recent NATO assessment, the battlefield in Ukraine will essentially be at a standstill for the next several weeks. Which side do you believe is poised to benefit from that standstill right now?

DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think it really remains to be seen. Whether the Ukrainians can capitalize on the progress they made in their counteroffensive outside their second largest city Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, and continue to capitalize on the momentum that they achieved there, or if the Russians who are preparing for the operation that you just described in the eastern part of the country, can seize that particular area and put the Ukrainians on their heels somewhat. The next few weeks really are critical because I think this is a

period when we are going to see whether the Ukrainians, with all the additional arms and ammunition provided by the U.S. and other NATO countries, can make use of, that tipped the scales in their favor, and roll back the Russians.


Or if the Russians could make a little gain in that one operation, and more importantly solidify the front lines of the areas that they have seized already, in the eastern, south eastern and southern Ukraine.

I think that is a big question, because if they can establish those front lines, very formidable, it is going to get much more difficult for Ukraine to take those areas back from them. So, again, an important time in their approaches.

BLITZER: Critical moments right now. I also want to get you thoughts, General Petraeus, on Turkey, another NATO ally, trying to block both Finland and Sweden from joining NATO, at least at the moment. Is Turkey sowing divisions within the alliance, that Vladimir Putin could potentially exploit? And do you believe Turkey is still a reliable NATO ally?

PETRAEUS: Well, Turkey is a very important NATO ally. That is really the bottom line. So we are going to work our way through this. What is happening is that President Erdogan is playing domestic and international politics.

His economy is foundering at home, the opposition is uniting against him, he has to be seen to be strong, a nationalist. And indeed to make some issues here with how Sweden and Finland have tolerated, at least allegedly, the presence of Turkish Kurd terrorist elements, in a sense, or those movements. The PKK, which we have designated as a terrorist organization and, of course, Turkey has well.

Beyond that, perhaps there is a little bit of a nod in the direction of Putin. They have been partners from time to time. And then maybe also, this is an effort to un-stick the issue of the F-16 refurbishment that the Turks have requested from the United States, and frankly to get some attention from President Biden as well.

I think this will be resolved. At the end of the day, you will see quite an efficient process. But certainly there is going to have to be some exchange with President Erdogan on these issues.

BLITZER: Big picture right now, General Petraeus, is this where you expected the war to be nearly three months in?

PETRAEUS: You know, it's hard to say, Wolf, because I think all of us have sort of recalculated several different times, you may, recall I did, say that the Russians would not take Kyiv and would never control the city. That said, I think the incompetence of the Russians has truly been stunning and the extraordinary resourcefulness, professionalism, just capacity to -- determine capacity to take the fight to the Russians on the part of the Ukrainians, has really been enormously impressive. Their leadership has been hugely impressive, Churchillian, if you will.

So, I think as we have seen this emerge, then you start to recalculate. I think this is actually happened with United States leadership but not of other Western countries. As they realize that Russia is not going to be able to overwhelm Ukraine. They decide, let's give them more weapons. And, of course, they have been flowing in at an extraordinary rate, and they have been putting them into the front lines very effectively and very quickly.

So the question now really comes down to that issue that we had earlier, about whether the Russians can solidify the lines of the areas that they last seized. If so, that's a problem.

BLITZER: We shall see. General David Petraeus, thank you as usual for joining us. We'll have more news just ahead. We are getting new information, by the way, about the Biden administration's efforts to ease the shortage of baby formula here in the United States.



BLITZER: All right. This just into CNN, the White House now says that the United States has just secured its first shipment of baby formula from overseas.

According to the White House, the formula is expected to arrive in the U.S. within days. The Biden administration has been scrambling to tackle major supply crisis, but there are questions over whether the new initiatives will ease the shortages in the short term. More of that will come up as we get more information.

Also tonight, a recount is looking more and more likely in Pennsylvania as the Republican Senate primary remains deadlocked.

Let's go to our national correspondent Athena Jones. She's joining us from Pennsylvania right now.

I understand that they are still counting ballots tonight where you are, Athena. Give us the latest.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. That's right. We are in Lancaster County, and they are down to their last fewer than 200 ballots. These are the mailed in ballots that arrived on election day, by the deadline. They started today with about 150 of those ballots that needed to take a look at and to count.

Unfortunately, some of those ballots also had the same problem with the misprint, with the wrong code. And so, they had to open up all the ballots and figure out which ones needed to be remarked and then scanned and counted. So, we are waiting for that process to end. You could see it happening behind me. There are very close to finishing. The chief register telling me that I am not leaving here tonight until I am done.

This is so important, Wolf, to note that this is not the only county where votes are outstanding. Many of the counting's are not being very clear about how the votes are left. Our best estimate is that it is under 10,000, but this is 10,000 votes out of millions cast.

And so, as you mentioned, this is still a very, very tight race, and observers from both campaigns have been watching here, as well as representatives from state parties have been watching the process here. But we are very close, but still not quite there yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones reporting for us -- Athena, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.