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Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Ends Historic Run As Democratic Leader; Obama Says, Democracy Under Assault In U.S. And Around The World; Ukrainian Experts Arrive In Poland To Join Missile Probe; Police: Still No Suspect In Killing Of Four Idaho Students; Attorneys: Brittney Griner Moved To Russian Penal Colony. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 17, 2022 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: More on his very impassioned remarks, that's coming up this hour.

And later, my exclusive interview with the incoming mayor of Los Angeles, Karen Bass. She'll be the first woman to serve in the city's top job and just the second African-American.

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

Our top story this hour, Nancy Pelosi's historic run as leader of the House Democrats is coming to an end after some 20 years. Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is up Capitol Hill with more information. Manu, Pelosi's announcement is setting off a shakeup inside her party.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. For months, Democrats have been preparing for this possibility, maneuvering behind the scenes and waiting for the possibility Pelosi could step aside. Now that she has, it appears that Hakeem Jeffries, the New York Democrat, appears poised to take reins as a new leader for the party, and if he does, he would make history of his own, becoming the first black leader of any party in Congress.


RAJU (voice over): After two decades at the top of her party in Congress, ushering through massive legislation --

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The bill is passed.

RAJU: -- winning the majority twice, becoming the first woman to lead the house and now losing the majority for the second time as speaker --

PELOSI: The House will be in order.

RAJU: -- Nancy Pelosi announced she will step aside.

PELOSI: I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. For me, the hours come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I am grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.

RAJU: At 82, the Democrat has represented San Francisco in the House for 35 years, saying she would continue serving in a Congress whose makeup has markedly changed.

PELOSI: When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now, there are over 90 and we want more.

RAJU: The news prompting an immediate shakeup, Pelosi's current number two, Steny Hoyer, announcing that at the age of 83, he would not run for leadership. Her current number three, 82-year-old Jim Clyburn signaling he also will let a new team ascend, paving the way for Hakeem Jeffries, a 52-year-old Brooklyn Democrat, as the likely next Democratic leader.

REP. JOYCE BEATTY (D-OH): I'm very comfortable saying, I believe that every member of the Congressional Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries.

RAJU: Jeffries' top two deputies could be 59-year-old Katherine Clark and 43-year-old Pete Aguilar, all expected to run in the November 30th leadership elections. It's a generational change some have long sought.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): I think she's a historic speaker, has accomplished an incredible amount. What else, I think there are a lot of Democrats ready for a new chapter.

REP. MARK POCAN (D-WI): I think the world biggest focus group is the November 8th election for all of us, and I think people really are looking for that generational change.

RAJU: The donor of a Baltimore mayor who rose the rank in her state party first became speaker in 2007, leading the opposition against George W. Bush over the Iraq war, three years later shepherding through the Affordable Care Act under Barack Obama.

After the party was swept into the minority, becoming speaker again in 2019, where she battled Donald Trump, making him the only president impeached twice, including after January 6th, where pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol and targeted the speaker.

Mr. Nadler, can you imagine a caucus not run by Nancy Pelosi?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Well, I hope that we don't have to see that.


RAJU (on camera): And, Wolf, tonight, there are still questions about the next House speaker under the Republican majority. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, still is trying-to-work behind the scenes to lock down the votes he will need in January to take that top position. Two members of the hard right Freedom Caucus told me tonight that McCarthy does not have the votes, as Bob Good, a Virginia Republican, as well as Andy Biggs, both of them saying that probably McCarthy still has work to do to get the votes, and he is not there yet, and Biggs even saying there should be a consensus candidate who should emerge that could unite the warring wings of their party. Wolf?

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

As Republicans prepare to take control of the House of Representatives, they're vowing to investigate President Biden and his family.

CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is joining us with more information. Now that you're learning that Republicans aren't just focusing in on the president but also his family, including his son, Hunter Biden.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They want to make it all about the president, the sitting president, Wolf.


And, look, they have a broad set of investigations. We heard today from Jim Jordan, who is going to be the incoming head of the judiciary committee, James Comer, who is going to be the head of oversight. And you can see here a list of investigations that they have planned, border security, the Afghanistan withdrawal, COVID origins, the Justice Department investigations of Trump, but it's Hunter Biden where they have their focus squarely. They are asking -- they want about a hundred bank records, which are known as suspicious activity reports that they say will prove that not only Hunter Biden but the sitting president and members of his family were benefiting from shady business deals that Hunter Biden was involved in.

So, that's where a lot of their focus, you can bet, is going to be on over the next two years. They're demanding these records from the Treasury Department. They're asking for information from the FBI to see whether the FBI has thoroughly investigated these things. Of course, we know, Wolf, that Hunter Biden is currently under investigation by the Justice Department. We know that that is being handled by the U.S. attorney in Delaware, a Trump appointee, by the way, and a decision on whether those charges will come is coming probably in the next few weeks.

BLITZER: We know -- we're learning that the Biden administration has been preparing for this for quite a while, right?

PEREZ: Absolutely. For months, they have brought in staff, they've hired lawyers, they brought in communication officials and they've also prepared the homeland security department in particular because we know that the Republicans say that they -- one of the persons that they want to go after is Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, and possibly impeach him as well.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. All right, stand by, Evan, don't go too far away.

I also want to bring in our Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN National Politics Reporter Eva McKend, they're both with me as well.

Abby, Speaker Pelosi's historic leadership in the House of Representative, it's coming to an end right now. So, talk a little bit about how significant this moment is for her but also for the country.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Speaker Pelosi is a historical figure not just for Democrats but, really, for the whole country and for probably a whole generation. She's really the only Democratic leader that much of this country has ever known.

One of the interesting things especially in the last several years watching how Pelosi has gone from being someone who faced a somewhat serious effort to displace her several years ago to turning those very same people into her allies. I think her handling of the Trump era really converted a lot of people who were critics of hers into supporters of hers.

There's still a desire for generational change but it was notable to me that Pelosi really was able to -- you know, you saw Seth Moulton at the end of Manu Raju's piece a little earlier. He was one of the key figures, even after trying to move her out of leadership in the Trump years, those very same people became some of her biggest cheerleaders.

BLITZER: So, this is going to be a new moment in the U.S. Congress, Eva, right now, new challenges, new leadership. Nancy Pelosi will remain a member of Congress but she will no longer be in the leadership of the Congress. So, what challenges will the new Democratic leadership face?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: So, I think for Democrats, there are going to be some growing pains. We have seen Democrats call for this, for new leadership for a long time. But I think that they will quickly realize that it's much harder when you're actually in the role. And then there's also a diversity there within the Democratic conference. I'm not talking about racial diversity but diversity in terms of leadership style, in terms of policy provisions that they champion.

So, I think that it is going to be sort of difficult for Democrats to come together. Also, I think that it is worth noting some of the most high profile, vocal, progressive members of Congress, the ones that challenge Speaker Pelosi the most, they have never been in Congress with Republicans in power. So, that is going to be an interesting dynamic to watch as well. If Hakeem Jeffries ultimately does ascend to be the Democratic leader, he is going to be doing so in the minority, and the most vocal members, the ones that get the most attention, are going to be in that position for the first time.

PHILLIP: And I just want to highlight just the other part of Manu's report. The leadership team that is emerging is really emblematic of the Democratic Party as it is today. You have Hakeem Jeffries, a black man from Brooklyn, a younger person, a Katherine Clark, who was a member of Pelosi's leadership team, a woman, and then Pete Aguilar, a Latino man, that's the Democratic Party in a nut shell.

And I think that there's an attempt here, even as Pelosi passes the baton, to say to younger members and also to speak to this generational shift in the party that you are a part of the leadership of this party. And I think the hope is also that those three also represent ideologically a lot of different factions and that that will lead to a little bit of an easier time wrangling the moderates and the progressives and the newer voices, you know, those folks who, you know, maybe we call them the squad, the expanded squad, who are sometimes the ones who are the loudest when it comes to wanting their priorities spoken to.


MCKEND: But for some of those newer, younger members, Hakeem Jeffries is not progressive enough. So, that's going to be an interesting dynamic to watch.

BLITZER: But, apparently, he's unopposed, at least for the time being. So, it looks like he's going to get that leadership position.

You just reported a whole bunch of investigations the new Republican leadership in the House wants to go through with. Which ones do you sense have the most significant traction?

PEREZ: Well, Wolf, I mean, I think the goal for the Republicans is really just to try to damage the president. I mean, a lot of this is about the political damage that they can inflict. So, the model is a little bit of the Benghazi model from 2016, where, really, it didn't really add up to much but it did damage Hillary Clinton. They found the email server, of course.

But I think one of the things that they're really focused on is the border. I think they believe that they can use that against the sitting president and perhaps even, you know, force out Alejandro Mayorkas at the Homeland Security Department. Because I think even Democrats understand that there is a problem there and it is something that voters care about and they're going to have to deal with before 2024.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Abby, Republican Senator Mitt Romney, he is urging his fellow Republicans to focus in on the economy, for example, and not necessarily these investigations that the new House Republican leadership clearly wants to do. Do you think this is a miscalculation now by the new Republican leadership in the House?

PHILLIP: I think that what you're hearing from Republicans right now is the plan that they thought that they would have in place if they had a huge wave that validated their desire to go after some of these base plays. What Romney is saying is what I'm hearing a lot of other Republicans saying. That is a total misreading of what happened in the midterm elections.

The voters soundly rejected the kind of chaos politics that some of candidates who lost were peddling. And I think that senators like Romney and some of the more moderate House members are going to be very uncomfortable with a strategy that does not entail a forward- looking agenda. Some of this stuff is cultivated in this online Fox News world. And I think a lot of Republicans right now are saying, you need to listen to what voters said, which is that being anti-Biden was clearly not enough to give Republicans a wave in a very favorable year, they need to put more on the table.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We have a lot more to discuss, including this, the former president of the United States, Barack Obama, warning just a few moments ago about the threat to democracy here in the United States and indeed around the world.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: We have powerful remarks just in from former President Obama, warning that democracy is in peril here in the United States and around the world. Listen to what he said just moments ago over at the Obama Foundation's first ever democracy forum in New York City.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Democratic ideas are currently under assault around the world. We see a manifestation of it in the unjustified and brutal war in Ukraine. We see it in the backsliding that's taking place in what were well established democracies. We see it in the escalating polarization and disinformation that's so evident in recent elections, whether it's in Brazil, the Philippines, Italy, Sweden, right here in the United States.

And let me be clear here, the threat to democracy doesn't always run along a conservative, liberal, left-right axis. This has nothing to do with traditional partisan lines or policy preferences. What we're seeing, what's being challenged, are the foundational principles of democracy itself, the notion that all citizens have a right to freely participate in selecting who governs them, the notion that votes will be counted and the part that gets more votes wins, that losers concede, that power is transferred peacefully, that the winners don't abuse the machinery of government to punish losers and entrench themselves and make it impossible for other parties to compete in future elections, the notion that judiciary should be independent, that nobody is above the law and that our political debate should at least aspire to be rooted in facts and logic rather than fabrication and propaganda.


BLITZER: All right. Let's bring back our correspondents. Abby, what stands out to you from the very powerful statement we just heard from the former president of the United States?

PHILLIP: I think if you are paying attention, it is broadly true. That's the first thing, is that he's talking not just -- he's not delivering a domestic message, he's talking in general about what is happening around the world when it comes to the backsliding of democracies. But I also think that the idea he was trying to present, he was very clear that this isn't just about left and right.

I think he's aware people are going to criticize him, claiming that he's just making a passive statement about Republicans in the United States. That's part of the statement. But I think he's also issuing a warning to the world that if we don't start being vigilant about democracies at home and also abroad, we could start to see globally really a shift toward autocracy. This is something that has been talked about for years and years. It accelerated certainly in the last, let's say, six to eight years globally, but it's a huge problem. And I think that Obama understands he's a partisan figure.


He was trying to make this less of a partisan issue.

BLITZER: It's interesting, Eva. The current president of the United States, President Biden, he was criticized by some for focusing in on the threat to democracy in the final days before the midterm elections, but it clearly did resonate with a lot of voters out there.

MCKEND: It has. And former President Obama and President Biden speaking to this, well, they're addressing the concerns of voters. I have been out in the country the last couple of months and I was struck by the amount of people that told me that their number one issue, their number one concern was the health and future of our democracy, you know, saying above all else if we don't have a democracy, then we can't even debate all of these other issues.

So, I think some might get sort of annoyed, especially in Washington about the persistence of this argument because we hear it time and time again but they are clearly speaking to the concerns of many Americans.

PHILLIP: And I think it was really surprising, and I should just in full transparency, there were a lot of people who came on CNN and said, I don't understand this closing argument from the Democrats, from President Biden, from former President Obama, telling voters democracy is on the ballot.

Well, I think to a lot of people's surprise, that message did actually resonate. Voters took a pretty sophisticated view of candidates up and down the ballot, across the country, and said we are not, by and large, going to vote for people who they thought were essentially threats to democracy, election deniers, people running to be secretary of state to manage our elections, who didn't believe in the basic principle that votes should count and that you can't use the levers of government to stop the votes of people that you don't agree with from counting.

I think that that actually was a kind of reassuring thing for the country just to say, first of all, voters are more sophisticated than a lot of people give them credit for. And, secondly, there was a clear understanding of when things went too far, when it's not about policy provisions on one side of the aisle or another, when it's about whether or not you ever believe in the rule of law or not.

BLITZER: You know, Eva, I want to play for you and for our viewers a clip from the town hall that CNN did last night with the former vice president, Mike Pence. Listen to this.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Our candidates that were focused on the future, they were focused on the challenges facing American families today, whether it be inflation or crime or crisis at the border or high gas prices, those candidates focused on the future did very well. By contrast, I think you could argue that candidates that were focused on the past, that were focused on re-litigating the past did not fare as well.


BLITZER: What did you think?

MCKEND: Well, I think that that is sort of a muted rebuke of the former president, and that is sort of on brand for former Vice President Pence. But he has a point. And he is trying to steer the ship, so to speak, and try to define the Republican Party in a new vein.

I don't know how much it will help him, benefit him personally. He clearly wants to run for president himself. I don't know how much it changes the calculation for him, but him as a sort of definitive or prominent Republican voice out there with this message, I think, allows for others slowly but surely to bring them along, even if he is not successful in his effort to be president.

PHILLIP: But he did sort of undermine himself a little bit, Wolf. I mean, Jake asked him about the fact that he campaigned for some of these candidates who, as he described them, were focused on the past, election deniers. He campaigned for Blake Masters and Don Bolduc in New Hampshire. And he basically said, well, I'm a Republican first.

And I think that a lot of voters are going to look at that and ask, then does it matter that you think that these folks were focused on the wrong issues? I think he did not do himself any favors by failing to explain that but also failing to stick to some kind of principle about whether or not those views are a bridge too far for him.

BLITZER: Abby, Eva, guys, thank you very, very much. Good discussion. Coming up, we'll go live to Ukraine for the latest on the investigation into the missile incident that killed two people in Poland.

Plus, we go one-on-one with the first woman elected to become the next mayor of Los Angeles. My exclusive interview with Congresswoman Karen Bass, that's also still ahead.


BLITZER: Ukrainian experts have now arrived in Poland to take part in the probe of the missile incident that killed two people near the border with Ukraine.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is in Eastern Ukraine for us tonight. Sam, first of all, what are you learning about the investigation?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think mainly just that, Wolf, that the Ukrainians are now joining an investigation that the preliminary findings of which have been that there was an incident obviously in Poland in which two Polish farmers were killed. The preliminary findings are that it was a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile or anti-missile missile that landed in that field.

I think what is going to be crucial from the Ukrainian perspective is whether or not that missile actually made contact with an incoming Russian cruise missile. There were 13, for example, fired close to the city of Lviv. Three got through, ten were shot down, if perhaps one of those ten were hit.


I think it will be easier for the Ukrainian president, Zelenskyy, to climb down from his position at the moment, which has still been essentially no Ukrainian missile was involved in that at all based on the advice that he had had before. They are trying to, I think, back away from that position but really want to be able to make sure that the international community keeps the finger of ultimate blame pointing at Russia, Wolf.

BLITZER: And at the same time, Sam, Ukraine has now found evidence of torture by the Russians throughout Kherson. What can you tell us about what was uncovered?

KILEY: Well, this is a report coming from the ombudsman, who you'll recall is responsible for bringing the world's attention to those atrocities in Bucha and Irpin and recently to the east of Kharkiv, following the relief of areas captured by Russia.

Now, we are looking or they are looking at the long-term occupation of a substantial chunk of a province of Ukraine. The Russians came into Kherson in March. What they're saying is that they believe that there were 11 locations of what they're calling torture chambers. And some of these are very extensive inside, he said. They are saying, and we have got no corroboration on this other than the Ukrainian ombudsmen, that there are 63 bodies that they have found that the ombudsmen's office is also saying that they believe there could have been far, far more. Because this was an area in which there was a very significant partisan activity against the Russian occupation. There were lots of people working secretly against it and, therefore, many, many people have disappeared, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Sam Kiley, be careful over there. We'll stay in touch. I appreciate it very much.

Let's some more in all of this. Joining us now, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor. Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us. You heard President Zelenskyy's most recent statements seem to be shifting a bit. How important is it for the allies that President Zelenskyy be completely transparent on what happened?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Wolf, I think he is going to be completely transparent. He was told earlier that it was not his missile and that's what he said to the world. He's now heard other bits of evidence and he's come out and said, if we hear -- he's glad he's got people there doing the investigation, as Sam just reported, and he wants to hear from there. If he hears from that, he's going to come forward. He said, we're honest people, we'll apologize if it turns out it was one of our missiles.

BLITZER: And everyone makes the same point that the Russians are to blame because they're the ones who are brutally invading and launching missiles all over Ukraine, including the eastern part of Ukraine, not far from the Polish border.

TAYLOR: It's exactly right, Wolf, this invasion and this bombardment, this horrible bombardment of civilian targets, of infrastructure, of heat, of water going into the winter. It snowed today in Kyiv. You've been there. It's really cold there. And for him to be taking out heating systems, electricity systems, water systems. I was talking to a woman lives on the 17th floor of an apartment, no electricity, no water, up and down the stairs just to get water, it's hard.

BLITZER: President Zelenskyy now says some 10 million Ukrainians are without electricity right now.

TAYLOR: And they have a rotating rolling blackout, which they can't really predict. So, it's very hard to do it. You can't charge your phone, you can't do business, you can't talk to your people in your own offices because they may be out of electricity while you're on.

BLITZER: And what do you make of these reports now that the Russians have been routinely torturing Ukrainians whether in Kherson or elsewhere?

TAYLOR: Wolf, we've seen this every place where the Russians have been kicked out. I was in Bucha. We've heard about it, say, in Kharkiv. We've now heard about it in Kherson, the horrible torture, the killings, the rapes, the abductions of children, these are all war crimes. There's going to be accountability for them.

BLITZER: Yes. Ambassador William Taylor, thanks very much, as usual, for joining us.

Up next, a CNN exclusive, we go one-on-one with the first woman elected to become the mayor of Los Angeles. Congresswoman Karen Bass joins us to talk about her historic victory and her plans for the country's second largest city. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Now we have a CNN exclusive with the incoming mayor of the second largest city in the United States after a hotly contested race.

We're joined now by the first woman elected mayor of Los Angeles, Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass. This is her first national interview since being declared the winner yesterday. Mayor-elect, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on this historic win.

I want to talk about your historic election in just a moment. But, first, let me get your reaction to the speaker of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi's decision today not to run for leadership again. You served alongside her in the House for many years. Is this the end of an era for Democrats?

MAYOR-ELECT KAREN BASS (D-LOS ANGELES, CA): Well, I will tell you that I will be so glad when the history books actually give her the credit that she deserves, especially the leadership during the Trump years. Because I think what people don't quite realize is that she really kept the entire government steady when things were very rocky, when McConnell essentially abdicated his leadership, she kept us stable. And I hope that she gets that credit one of these days.

I told her the other day that one of the things I enjoyed the most about being in Congress was serving with her, watching her lead because she is an absolute master.


BLITZER: And you served with her for many, many years. It's looking, Mayor-elect, like Congressman Hakeem Jeffries will run unopposed for Democratic leadership in the new House. That would make him the first African-American to hold that position. Do you think believe he's the right choice for your party?

BASS: Oh, absolutely. And I think that's wonderful that he runs unopposed. I think that Mr. Jeffries has done the work. He's been doing the work for years. And I think that it shows that one of the things that I always believe is important, when you are a leader, it's so important to prepare the next generation of leaders, and I think that that's who Hakeem Jeffries represents.

BLITZER: Yes. We've interviewed him many times over the years.

And as I say, you'll be making history as the first woman to serve as mayor of Los Angeles, the city's second African-American mayor, I should point out. How does that feel for you personally?

BASS: Well, it feels tremendous. I mean, it adds to your responsibility. And right now in Los Angeles, we are facing an absolute crisis. You know, we have 40,000 people in our streets who sleep in tents and several of them don't wake up every morning. And that was the reason why I decided to run, because I believe that we need to treat it like it's a natural disaster, it needs to be treated like the emergency that it is.

And so I will be stepping in to lead at a time of crisis and it will remind me of my days in Sacramento when I served as speaker when the state was undergoing the worst recession since the great depression. And so I'm prepared to step up and do that on day one.

BLITZER: And let me follow up on that, Mayor-elect. You're vowing to solve L.A.'s rising homelessness problem and plan to declare a state of emergency in the city. But do you have the buy-in to do that or is this merely a symbolic gesture?

BASS: No, no, no, no, no. It's absolutely not a symbolic gesture. I think the Angelinos are tired of symbolic gestures. We have got to solve this problem. The root of it is that L.A. has become basically unaffordable. It's one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. And we have neighborhoods that have been declared the most overcrowded in the nation.

And so the bottom line in L.A. is that we need to make room for more Angelinos. It's terrible the idea that people are dying in our streets and that people have encampments, which are groups of homeless people who have set up tents anywhere and everywhere. It's just not acceptable. It shouldn't happen. But we have a lot of bureaucratic red tape that needs to be eliminated. And that's the basis of calling a state of emergency so that I can have the power, not to eliminate all of the red tape but specifically to address some burdens, some hurdles that people have to go through in order to build.

BLITZER: I know it's a huge problem right now.

While I have you, Mayor-elect, let me quickly turn to fears over crime. You say the burglary of your own home back in September, and I'm quoting you now, shattered your sense safety. And you say the anger festering in Los Angeles right now, once again, in your words, is frightening. Your plan to put more police officers on the streets, will that go far enough?

BASS: Well, you know, I mean, I believe very strongly in a comprehensive approach. I don't believe putting police officers on the street alone solves -- will solve crime. There are some neighborhoods that want to see an increased police presence, and that should be the case, but there are other neighborhoods that want to see other solutions.

And so I've been involved in this for many, many years and there are very specific crime prevention and intervention strategies that work that need to be doubled down on. So, you have to -- you have to stop crime when it happens but you also need to double down and triple down on preventing crime so that it doesn't occur again.

BLITZER: Congresswoman and Mayor-elect of Los Angeles Karen Bass, congratulations to you on your victory. Thanks very much for joining us.

BASS: Thank you for having me on. BLITZER: And coming up, just in to CNN, new details on how four Idaho students were killed. What police are now telling the community four days after the brutal incident.

Stay with us. That's next.



BLITZER: An entire Idaho community son edge right now four days after the brutal killing of four University of Idaho students.

CNN's Veronica Miracle is on the ground for us in Moscow, Idaho.

Veronica, we're hearing the coroner just confirmed the cause of death. What can you tell us?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The autopsies have now been complete. The coroner's report confirming what police already revealed, which was that those students were all stabbed to death.


CHIEF JAMES FRY, MOSCOW POLICE: We do not have a suspect at this time, and that individual is still out there.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Many questions and fear in Moscow, Idaho.

FRY: The four were stabbed with a knife, but no weapon has been located at this time.

MIRACLE: Ava Driftmeyer lives nearby.

AVA DRIFTMEYER, STUDENT, UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO: We're 100 feet away. You know, how close is this person, are they still around?

MIRACLE: The investigators say that the attacks took place early hours Sunday, sometime after 1:45 a.m., but they didn't find the victims Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves until that afternoon when a 911 caller reported an unconscious person.

CATHY MABBUTT, LATAH COUNTY CORONER: There is quite a bit of blood in the apartment, and it is a pretty traumatic scene to find four dead college students in a residence.

MIRACLE: The prosecuting attorney telling NBC police do know who the 911 caller is, but they will not release their name or information they received.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The investigators are trying to ascertain why there was a delay, and what occurred and what was heard.

MIRACLE: Police say there were no signs of forced entry into the home.

AARON SNELL, IDAHO STATE POLICE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The evidence inside of the home says that they believe somebody targeted these individuals for some reason.

MIRACLE: Law enforcement says that surveillance video shows that two of the students ordering food from a food truck is being used to establish a timeline. Two of the victims attended a campus party, the two who visited the food truck had earlier gone to a bar in downtown Moscow. Police say two roommates at home in the time of the stabbings did not witness the attacks.

SNELL: They were not injured and that these two roommates have fully cooperated with the detectives and they have assisted in the investigation.

MIRACLE: Are they considered suspects?

SNELL: They haven't been ruled out.

FRY: We are not just focused on them. We're focusing on everybody that maybe coming and going from the residence.

MIRACLE: Some family members say they are frustrated by the lack of information coming from police, leading to speculation about the murders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ethan was just stayed the night at his girlfriend's house, who was one of five girls who lived in the home.

MIRACLE: The campus now virtually empty. Students excused from attending classes and students also saying their sense of security has now been shattered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody went back home because they're scared.

DRIFTMEYER: The fact that there's no answers is like the worst feeling ever. Like I know that all of us are waiting to get out of here as fast as we can.


MIRACLE (on camera): Wolf, this has been a very active crime scene all day. We have seen investigators combing through evidence, taking photos inside the house, this as neighbors grapple with what has happened. We've spoken with students who say many of their neighbors left earlier had week, about half of them. The people that are remaining are just trying to get their affairs in order and get home -- Wolf.

BLITZER: People are very understandably scared right now.

Veronica Miracle in Idaho for us, thank you very much for that report.

And we'll have more news just ahead, including the latest on WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was just moved to a Russian penal colony. We'll have more information on the conditions there. That's next.



BLITZER: A very disturbing development in Brittney Griner's case. The American WNBA star held in Russia since February has been moved to a remote penal colony hundreds of miles away from Moscow.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. He's got details.

What are you learning, Brian, about conditions there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've spoken to human rights monitors who have given us new detail about this colony that's in the Russian region called Mordovia. And we have new perspective from a former detainee in one of the colonies and the conditions that Griner is likely facing.


TODD (voice-over): New unsettling information tonight on Brittney Griner's whereabouts. Griner's Russian attorneys saying in a statement to CNN, she is serving her center at the IK-2 penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia. It's remote, human rights monitor say, about 300 miles southeast of Moscow and bleak.

OLGA ZEVELEVA, GULAG ECHOES PROJECT, UNIVERSITY OF HELSINKI: Mordovia is known for being one of the harshest regions in Russia to serve a sentence. They say you haven't been to Russian prison unless you've been to Mordovia.

TODD: State Department officials upset that Vladimir Putin's regime has kept them in the dark in Griner's location.

VEDANT PATEL, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Formally, the Russian administration has failed to provide any official information for such a move of a U.S. citizen, which we strongly protest.

TODD: Griner recently lost her appeal of a nine-year sentence for drug smuggling, for what in the West might seem to be a minor offense of carrying cannabis oil and two vape cartridges when she was arrested in February, the 33-year-old former Olympian has been sent to a place that human monitors say is horrific.

SARAH MENDELSON, FORMER U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFIICAL AT U.N.: Conditions are not good. There is abuse both for women and men. This is the last place on earth you want to be.

TODD: Griner's lawyers tell CNN she's doing as well as she can be expected. But that's relative.

Nadya Tolokonnikova, a member of the activist band Pussy Riot, said she spent nearly two years in a Russian penal colony for protesting against Putin. Women are kept in cold, crowded barracks, she told CNN, places compared to gulags by human rights groups, with unsanitary conditions and little access to health care. From the moment you wake up, she says, conditions are brutal.

NADYA TOLOKONNIKOVA, MEMBER OF BAND PUSSY RIOT: Your morning starts from a scream, which means, get up, whores.

TODD: Many women worked as seamstresses through a long day that seemed to never end.

TOLOKONNIKOVA: In a Russian penal colony, you wake up at 6 a.m. and then you work or 16 hours a day making police uniforms and army military uniforms.

TODD: Psychological torture, Tolokonnikova says, is an especially cruel tactic in the women's penal colony.

TOLOKONNIKOVA: They turn other prisoners against you. They will punish everyone else, take away their warm clothing from them and they will tell them openly that it happened because of her, this all happened because of Brittney.

TODD: How might Griner come out on the other end, however long she's kept in Mordovia?

ZEVELEVA: I think it will harden her. She will probably come out very traumatized.


TODD: Nadya Tolokonnikova says Brittney Griner's status as an openly gay person might also work against her in the penal colony, that the guard might ridicule her for that. Tolokonnikova says she had a cell mate who was transgender who she says was sometimes be taken to the warden's office, get ridiculed mercilessly and come back in tears.

Wolf, it's brutal in those places.

BLITZER: Brutal indeed.

All right. Thanks for that report. Brian Todd working his sources for us, as he always does.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.