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Trump And DOJ Face Off In Mar-A-Lago Special Master Hearing; Prosecutors Unseal Charges Against Michigan Man For Threatening FBI Director And California Congressman; First Hearing Set For Nightclub Shooting Suspect Tomorrow; Friends & Family Mourn Victims Of LGBTQ Nightclub Massacre; Texas Judge Rules Alex Jones Must Pay Full Jury Award Of $45.2 Million In Punitive Damages Despite State Cap. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired November 22, 2022 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman John Garamendi is standing by live. We'll discuss what's going on. He'll join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we're learning new information about the Colorado nightclub massacre. The alleged gunman is now out of the hospital and formally in custody. His first court appearance is set for tomorrow. The mayor of Colorado Springs joins me live this hour.

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

First to the major legal battle brewing right now over the Mar-a-Lago documents case, it's the first big test for the new Trump special counsel, Jack Smith.

Our Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz is on the story for us. Katelyn, so what happened in court today?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, this was not an easy day for Donald Trump in court. This was a court hearing before a federal appeals court, so three judges, two of them who were appointed by Trump, and a third who has been closely aligned for his career with conservatives, the conservative legal movement. And these three judges, they gave really hard questions to Trump's lawyers, and really cast a lot of doubt that they believed Trump was making a good case to them.

What Trump had to do today, this is about the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, and he was there to try and convince these three judges that he was wronged when the FBI and the Justice Department searched his home and took all kinds of documents out of there in August. The reason he's making that is because he had convinced a lower court judge, a trial level judge, to step in and basically cordon off some of the documents that were taken out of Mar-a-Lago. So, the Justice Department at least now couldn't access them, and potentially in the long-term might not get access to some of that evidence. But the judges were very harsh, that there was even a role for the court there. These are some of the things that they said. One of the quotes, Judge William Pryor, what are we even doing here? That's one thing he said. He also pressed Trump's lawyer, can you cite a single decision that has allowed a court to get involved at this stage in the case? I mean, it would not be the types of things that you would want to hear if you were Donald Trump's legal team trying to get this through the appeals level.

At another point, Donald Trump's lawyers called the search and seizure of Mar-a-Lago a raid. Another judge, Britt Grant, she stepped in, cut him off and said, is that really the correct term for a warrant that was executed? So, this was not a court hearing where there was a decision today but it seemed pretty clear which way the justices were leaning.

BLITZER: Yes, it did. Katelyn Polantz on the scene for us, I want you to stay with us. We have more questions. That's coming up.

We're also following developments out of the Georgia probe into the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, Senator Lindsey Graham testifying today before a Fulton County grand jury.

CNN's Sara Murray has details for us. Sara, so what did prosecutors want to ask Lindsey Graham about?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, this is an appearance Lindsey Graham fought for months, but he did show up today. And what prosecutors really wanted to know is they wanted to know about his interactions with Georgia election officials after the 2020 election. You know, one of those phone calls he made was to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. And Raffensperger said on CNN at the time that he felt like Graham was asking him during that call to discard ballots.

Now, Graham has walked away from that, insisting that was not the case, that that was not something he was ever asking Raffensperger state to do. But, nevertheless, prosecutors wanted to get to the bottom of those calls, they wanted to get to the bottom of any interactions that Graham may have had with the Trump campaign.

After his appearance today, Graham's office put out a statement saying, today, Senator Graham appeared before the Fulton County special grand jury for just over two hours and answered all questions. The senator feels he was treated with respect, professionalism and courtesy.

BLITZER: So, how soon should we expect charges to actually be brought down in Georgia?

MURRAY: Well, we have been told that indictments could come as early as December. We don't know who those could be indictments of. We know there are a number of people who have been named targets in this investigation, including Rudy Giuliani, including the people who's -- the Republicans who served as fake electors for Trump. And, of course, this investigation at the heart of it is about Donald Trump. So, we could begin seeing some of this movement as early as December. The X factor for the district attorney is there are still witnesses she wants to hear from, people like Mark Meadows, people like Michael Flynn, that she has not been able to get testimony from yet. And she's going to have to decide, do I keep this grand jury going in the hopes of getting all of the witnesses I want or do I eventually have them move forward with a report and then make decisions about indictments, even if that means I can't get all the witnesses I might want to hear from?

BLITZER: Sara Murray, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss what's going on.


Joining us, CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen, and our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe, CNN's Katelyn Polantz is still with us as well.

Andrew, let's start with the fight between the U.S. Justice Department and the former president, former President Trump's legal team right now over the special master issue in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents probe. Based on what we heard today, do you think federal prosecutors are making a winning argument?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it sounds like they are. If we take the reactions of the judges during today's hearing as an indicator of where they're likely to rule, then the Justice Department is probably feeling good tonight.

But let's remember that they're appealing this simply because the ruling, the initial ruling from the Judge Cannon in Florida was so unprecedented, so off-base and it put the department in a very dangerous position, potentially having to put up with a precedent that could wreak havoc in all sorts of other cases.

This is simply not done in criminal investigations when the subject of a search warrant can walk into court and request the imposition of a special master to slow things down and review all the government's evidence. Just no other defendant is treated that way in this country, and the Justice Department can't leave the door open for this poor ruling from Judge Cannon to set that sort of precedent.

BLITZER: Norm, how do you expect this will all play out?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, the underlying issue in the argument today was should a former president get special treatment? His lawyer, Jim Trusty, pressed that again and again, claiming it was context. The court was hostile to that. That leaves us -- in fact, at one point, they said how would this -- forget that he's a former president. Could we apply the rule here of the lower court in every case? Of course, they can't. And for that reason, because no one is above the law, we have to have the same rules for everyone. The great likelihood is that Trump is going to face defeat in the 11th Circuit. BLITZER: Good point. Kaitlan, this fight comes just a few days after the new special counsel, Jack Smith, was announced. How would a win on this matter unfolding right now impact his work?

POLANTZ: Well, right now, Jack Smith is coming into place. We know that he's telling his teams don't slow down, keep doing what you're doing. He's coming in as a supervisor. But at this point in the Mar-a- Lago investigation, he can't access some of the evidence that was collected by the Justice Department during that search and seizure in August.

I mean, today Trump's lawyer, Jim Trusty, was saying, well, it was Celine Dion poster, it was golf shirts that the FBI had taken out of Mar-a-Lago. But, really, there were classified documents intermixed with all kinds of other things. The classified documents, the Justice Department has those, the intelligence community has those, they're able to work on those. Smith is able to direct his team what to do with that as part of the case. But everything else that would have been gathered in that search and seizure, I'm sure, as Andy knows, those things become part of the evidence, as well.

And right now, of course, that really is shut off to him. We don't know how quickly the court will rule here but this was a very, very short hearing today. And so it could affect him long-term if they sit on things but perhaps they won't.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's not forget, those documents, some of them at least, were not just classified but they were the most sensitive, highly classified documents that should never have been there to begin with.

Norm, let's turn to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow the House of Representatives to review former President Trump's tax returns. Why do lawmakers want to access these records to begin with? And what sort of relevant information might they actually contain?

EISEN: Wolf, we wanted these, and I worked on the case when I was co- counsel in the impeachment, because they contain evidence very likely of Trump's entanglements with, for starters, foreign governments. We know that's an issue. Information has continued to come out. It's something that's so serious, they put it in the Constitution, Wolf, forbidden, they call it emoluments.

So, I think those kinds of indications will be in the tax returns. Congress will pore over them. Trump is also under investigation in New York for alleged business improprieties, both civil and criminal. That kind of information may come out. And then, of course, we've never had a president in modern times refuse to turn over tax returns. So, this will help Congress frame legislative and policy initiatives to deal with that kind of secrecy, very important day for Congress in the Supreme Court.

BLITZER: And the Democrats are still in the majority at least until January, that's when the Republicans take over the majority. We'll see what happens between now and January. Andrew, could information from these tax returns actually advance any of the multiple investigations the former president is currently facing?


MCCABE: Well, I mean, it certainly simply could. We don't know exactly what's in those returns. But once they're subjected to the sort of analysis, that I'm sure Congress will do, we'll see what sort of referrals potentially come from that analytical work and maybe get sent over to the Department of Justice.

As Norm said, we already have a pretty extensive record, at least within New York State, of authorities looking into not just former President Trump, but also his company's business practices with respect to potentially inflating and deflating the value of assets to benefit himself in terms of loans and taxes and that sort of thing. So, there could be relevant information in these returns that actually adds fuel to those already simmering investigations in New York State.

BLITZER: Katelyn, what I thought was very interesting, there were no public dissents to the Supreme Court decision from any of the justices, including those appointed by Trump himself. Does that tell you anything?

POLANTZ: Well, Wolf, they didn't make quick work of this. A denial with nothing else said on the record, allowing those tax returns to go over to House Democrats. It doesn't really tell us whether there was any internal dissent at the Supreme Court. It is possible for justices to disagree and not publicly come out and say that.

But one of the things that is always surprising when you are watching courts, especially appeals courts, is when things are handled quickly. And there was always a possibility here that this case would have never been resolved by the end of this Congress, the end Democrats' control of this Congress.

This case was opened two years ago. We really are in the last quarter of the House Democrats having the Ways and Means Committee. And it does appear they are going to get these things with the Supreme Court's blessing very quickly and with no dissent. So, it is notable in that.

BLITZER: I thought so, too. All right, Katelyn Polantz, Norm Eisen, Andrew McCabe, guys, thank you all very much.

Just ahead, my exclusive interview with a Democratic lawmaker who received death threats from a suspect now facing federal charges. Congressman John Garamendi is standing by live to join me. He'll be here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll discuss right after the break.


[18:15:00] BLITZER: This afternoon, prosecutors unsealed charges against a Michigan man accused of threatening to kill the FBI director, Christopher Wray, and California Democratic Congressman John Garamendi. According to court documents, Neil Matthew Walter left a voice mail at Congressman Garamendi's office saying, and I'm quoting now, John, hey, John, you're going to die, John, you're going to die. That's quote.

Congressman Garamendi is joining us now. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. What went through your mind when you actually heard that message?

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Well, unfortunately, this is not the first, and it was a repeat of what's happened in the past, not only to me, but to many, many members of Congress and to their families, serious concern. We take each and every one of these seriously. We immediately contacted the Capitol police. They got in touch with the FBI. And then when Christopher Wray was threatened, it got really serious.

BLITZER: Yes, it's very worrisome, indeed. It's hard to believe this is going on so extensively in our country.

This threat against you, Congressman, comes in the wake of that horrific attack against the House speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi. That attack took place not far from your district out in California. I wonder if that violence was top of mind as you learned of this serious threat made directly against you.

GARAMENDI: Well, the answer is, absolutely, the Pelosi tragedy very, very much in my mind, also the others that have been out there, Steve Scalise, on the Republican side having been shot. And it's just all of the hate talk that's readily available on all of the social media platforms. It incites people to these kinds of violent threats and violent action.

And we're going into Thanksgiving here, and I'm just thinking about families gathering, and what's going to be the talk around the table. Is it going to be talk of peace and reconciliation or is it going to be talk of hate? The children are always listening. And one or another of those kids, younger or maybe even older, are going to take up that talk, they're going to look at social media, they're going to see this kind of violent rhetoric and threats and they're going to act out. The Club Q recently in Colorado Springs is the latest example, and school shootings.

I've got my children who are teachers, and they're scared to death in their classroom.

BLITZER: Really?

GARAMENDI: Because they know that at any moment. So, it's got to calm down, and I think each and every one of us, Wolf, as we go into this holiday, need to be very, very aware of what we say, what we read, what we hear on social media and other platforms, does influence people, and maybe it's going to be one or another of our families that are out there that will be influenced by all of that.

So, we ought to tone it down. We ought to seek reconciliation and peace and move away from this kind of violent rhetoric, where we choose in this case a representative, a person in politics. Think about those poor people out there that were trying to run an election, being threatened with their life, and these are volunteers in their own communities. We're in a bad space now, but we can gain a better space if we just can turn our attention to what is really good about America and what is available to us in our own personal, and our families and community lives.

BLITZER: The man accused of making these threats against you and the FBI director, Christopher Wray, has been charged.


Do you and your fellow lawmakers and federal officials have the security right now that you clearly need?

GARAMENDI: No, we do not. And we are now in the process with Pelosi's leadership, adding to the security programs. None of us -- there's 435 of us, plus 100 senators. We're not going to have guards with us every day. Some of the folks that are, for example, on the January 6th committee, they do have 24-hour security. But the rest of the Congress and the Senate, we do not, and I don't think we ever will. But we are wrapping up our personal security and all of us are paying attention, situational awareness, where are we? What kind of building are we in? And what's happening as we get out of our cars and so forth. So, all of us are paying much, much closer attention.

But we also know that we cannot be safe from everything. I would just ask all of Americans, wherever they happen to be, Democrat, Republican, conservative or liberal, progressive, whatever, to tone it down, be aware that the hate talk has consequences. For me and actually for Hakeem Jefferies, we were threatened about a year-and-a- half ago. That individual is now in jail. And perhaps this newest threat will wind up in the same place. There are consequences for those people that are threatening public officials, whether they are members of the Congress, the Senate, or local officials. It's a crime and it's punishable by serious prison time.

BLITZER: Hard to believe these -- this is going on here in the United States of America. Congressman Garamendi, thank you so much for joining us. Stay safe over there. I usually tell our reporters in the war zones in Ukraine and elsewhere to stay safe. I'm telling you to stay safe as well. Thank you so much for joining us.

GARAMENDI: Well, Thank you, Wolf, and for all of us. We all seek safety.

BLITZER: All right. Coming up, our live report from Colorado, we have an update right now on the nightclub massacre suspect now formally in custody after being released from the hospital. The mayor of Colorado Springs joins me live right after the break.


BLITZER: Right now, we're following new developments in the Colorado nightclub shooting investigation. Let's get right to CNN National Correspondent Nick Watt. He is joining us from the scene in Colorado Springs.

Nick, the suspect, I understand, is scheduled to appear in court for the first time tomorrow now that he's out of the hospital and is custody. What else can you tell us?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct, Wolf. The suspect was released from the hospital today, handed over to the sheriff's department. He will appear 11:30 local time by video link. And this first appearance here in Colorado, basically, he will be told what he's under investigation for, formal charges should follow a day or two later. Meanwhile, we've been hearing from the man who took him down.


RICHARD FIERRO, VETERAN WHO TACKLED GUNMAN: I told him, I'm going to kill you, man, because you tried to kill my friends. My family was in there.

WATT (voice over): Three tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan prepared Army Vet Rich Fierro for a night out back home.

FIERRO: I was done doing this stuff.

WATT: He had a helper.

FIERRO: I told him, push the AR, get the AR away from him. The kid pushed the AR, I don't know what his name was.

WATT: Now we do. Information Systems Technician Petty Officer Second Class Thomas James, injured, according to the Navy. James is currently in stable condition, and we remain hopeful he will make a full recovery.

Another patron took over kicking the gunman in the head with her heels identified by a survivor as a trans woman. We don't know her name. Fierro's daughter was hurt, her boyfriend, Raymond Vance, killed.

FIERRO: I still feel bad. There're five people that didn't go home. And this guy --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they breach, I'm going (BLEEP) to blow it to holy hell.

WATT: Apparently, this is the suspect summer of last year, surrounded after his mom told authorities he threatened her with a bomb, big talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So go ahead and come on in, boys. Let's (BLEEP) see it. WATT: He gave himself up to deputies, hands raised, and a year and change later, allegedly murdered five defenseless people here at Club Q.

Today, Derrick Rump's friend remembered him and fellow bartender, Daniel Aston.

JESSI HAZELWOOD, FRIEND OF DERRICK RUMP: Derrick and Daniel were the light and the heart of Club Q. It's a facility that gave us a safe space to be who we are all the time. And Derrick and Daniel especially were always the glue.

WATT: I hate to name the suspect, but maybe it's relevant. Because in 2016, just before he turned 16, court records show he changed his name. Nicholas F. Brink became Anderson L. Aldrich. Unclear why, but he was the subject of online bullying on a parody website in 2015.

Back to a hero, this morning, thanks.


NIC GRZECKA, CO-OWNER, CLUB Q: Richard, thank you. You were a big part of saving many more lives and stopping this from being worse than it already was. We applaud you and I can't wait to give you a big hug.


WATT (on camera): Now, our CNN investigative unit has been looking into the suspect's pretty chaotic childhood. Apparently, his father was a porn actor and a MMA fighter with federal a marijuana smuggling conviction. He had little contact with his father. He was raised partly by his grandmother while his mother was dealing with her own criminal issues.

But, listen, there is no excuse, there is no explanation for what happened. What happened here looked very much like hate. And right now, investigators are writing warrants, interviewing people, investigating laptops, computers to try to prove that this was hate. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, it was certainly murder, as well. All right, Nick Watt, thank you very, very much.

Let's bring in the mayor of Colorado Springs, John Suthers. Mayor, thank you very much for joining us. Let me get your reaction first to the news that the suspect is in jail and will appear in court tomorrow. What's your reaction to that?

MAYOR JOHN SUTHERS, COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO: Well, as a prosecutor, I know -- a former prosecutor, I know exactly how this takes place. They couldn't formally arraign him until he was out of the hospital. He was transported to the jail today. They will arraign him tomorrow. They will give him his rights within a couple of days. They'll come back and formally charge him.

We saw the -- you know, we had a sense from the prosecutor what we're looking at. Five counts of first-degree murder, and I suspect there will be enough evidence presented perhaps to support some bias-related crimes as well.

BLITZER: Hate crimes, that's what you're referring to, right?

SUTHERS: Absolutely.

BLITZER: As we learn more about the five victims of this massacre, how is your community -- Colorado Springs is a beautiful city. How is your community dealing with all this and how are you personally handling all this?

SUTHERS: Wolf, we're a city in mourning, but we're a city in recovery. You know, I, unfortunately, am like so many mayors in this country. There's been 603 mass shootings this year alone in this country. And the only message that we have to convey is that the actions of this lone individual, a 22-year-old individual, do not define our community. What should define our community is how we respond to it.

The community is rallying around the victims, their families, witnesses that were traumatized. We've had several ceremonies, you know, vigils. We're having a major one at city hall tomorrow. Folks are responding with financial contributions to help the victims. And we're doing what a good community does, doing everything we can to be defined by our response to the crime and not by the crime itself.

BLITZER: What specific actions, Mayor, are you taking to keep the LBGTQ+ community in your city safe?

SUTHERS: We're letting them know that the police are there for them and that they should not have any suspicions about the police. And to the extent they have any concerns about their safety, feel free to call upon the Colorado Springs Police Department. And I know that the chief and others in the department are, you know, promoting that message, as well.

This club was a perfect example, Wolf. It's been around for 21 years. It's been very well managed. The police tell me that they hadn't had a -- there's alcohol served in this place. They hadn't had a call for service from the police in about two months. There are clubs in this town that get five calls for service a night. This was truly a safe haven, and we want to make sure that those sorts of things continue exist in the future.

BLITZER: We certainly do. Mayor John Suthers, good luck to you, good luck to all the folks over there in Colorado Springs. I appreciate it very much.

SUTHERS: Thank you, Wolf. I appreciate it very much.

BLITZER: Thank you. Just ahead, we're going to take a closer look at the victims and the emotional memories their friends and family are sharing tonight.

Also, fighting is escalating in Eastern Ukraine big time right now as Russia steps up its brutal attack on the country's power grid, causing what one official calls colossal damage.



BLITZER: Tonight, Ukraine says Russian missile attacks on its power grid are causing, and I'm quoting now, colossal damage, leaving the country without enough electricity and forcing scheduled blackouts all over the country.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance is in Odessa for us tonight. Matthew, how catastrophic are these attacks on Ukraine's power grid?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they're pretty catastrophic in the sense that we're seeing dozens upon dozens of Russian missiles targeting critical energy infrastructure across the country, and that's having a really devastating impact on the ability of the country to generate and distribute power.

The Ukrainian government says millions of its people, 10 million people, are experiencing periodic power cuts, 10 million people.


So, that's particularly bad, of course, in any weather conditions.

But over the past couple of days, the temperatures have started plunging. Winter is really starting to set in. The first snows have fallen over much of the country. And, of course, that's a time when energy usage is at its peak. People need electricity for heating, for cooking and for communications as well. And all of that is becoming increasingly unreliable because of those missile attacks on those critical infrastructure targets.

The government said they're working 24/7 to connect the wires again, to connect the services. But it's just too big of an engineering challenge for them to keep up and to repair the distribution points and the cables and the power stations that are coming under incessant attack. And so it is a really dire situation, millions of Ukrainians facing a very dark, very cold winter ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: Awful situation. Matthew, CNN has obtained exclusive recordings of a Russian soldier on the frontlines. What did he reveal about the reality Russian troops are now facing?

CHANCE: Yes, I mean, quite a lot. We see these occasionally intercepts of phone calls, this one from a soldier apparently on the frontline, according to Ukrainian intelligence who gave us this recording, talking about the sort of grim reality of fighting this war on the frontlines in Ukraine, that morale is low, resources are scarce, the soldiers are scared. Take a listen just a clip that soldier's recording was saying on the telephone to his girlfriend earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being mobilized is crap. Nobody can go home until Putin announces the order. There's no way to return. My nerves are on edge. I'm afraid of every rustle, every bang, every click makes me drop to the ground.


CHANCE: Every bang, every click making him drop to the ground. That coming after Ukraine making significant advances, particularly here in the south of the country, really gaining territory around cities, like Kherson, in the city of Kherson, places like that.

There's more fighting taking place elsewhere in the country as well to the east, local Ukrainian officials reporting an upsurge in artillery strikes in the east of the country as well, as Russia really tries to sort of push back against Ukraine and, you know, intensify its offensive in other areas of the country as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Matthew Chance on the scene for us, stay safe over there in Odessa. Thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor. Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us.

As you know, Russia keeps pummeling Ukraine's power grid. What does Ukraine need to do now to survive the brutal winter ahead?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Wolf, Ukrainians are preparing for this winter. They know what's coming. They know what the winter is like and they can see what the Russians are doing. They can see that the Russians are targeting their water supplies, their electricity supplies, their heating supplies. So, they know what they have to do.

Some are moving to the countryside, to their villages where they have come from, where they have family. Some are organizing in the cities. Ukrainians are known, Wolf, you know them to be able to organize themselves. They're not waiting for government to tell them what to do or to provide for them. They are organizing themselves in their communities, their households, they working on all of these things to get through the winter. They have got a lot of work to do and they know it's going to be rough.

BLITZER: The U.N. reported today that over 6,500 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since the start of the war. That number is likely to be much, much higher. Do you fear Putin will only intensify civilian attacks as he grows more and more desperate for a win?

TAYLOR: You're right about him being desperate for a win, because he's losing. He's losing on the battlefield. His soldiers, his military, his army is not able to win against the Ukrainian military. So, Putin has to resort to targeting civilians and targeting infrastructure, targeting electricity. He is looking for some way to show his people that he's actually winning. This is cynical. This is cruel. This is inhumane. This is barbaric, Wolf. And that's all he can do because he can't win on the battlefield.

BLITZER: Ambassador Bill Taylor, thank you very, very much for joining us. We'll continue to follow this story, of course.

Coming up, emotional tributes to the five people killed in the Colorado nightclub massacre as family and friends share their grief.



BLITZER: We're learning more about the five people killed in the shooting at an LGBTQ night club in Colorado Springs. Tonight, some of their family and friends are sharing their memories and their grief.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with some of these very emotional tributes.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these people were all very young, selfless, loving people who made others feel comfortable no matter who they were.



TODD (voice-over): One of our first accounts of victim Raymond Green Vance came when we found out the 22-year-old was the boyfriend of the daughter of Richard Fierro, the man who took down the shooter.

Fierro broke down when he first told CNN about Raymond.

RICHARD FIERRO, TOOK DOWN GUNMAN IN CLUB Q SHOOTING: I lost my kid's boyfriend, I tried. I tried. I tried to -- everybody in there. I still feel bad that there are five people who -- there are five people who didn't go home.

TODD: Raymond Vance's family says he just gotten a job at FedEx, was trying to save enough to get his own apartment. Vance's family and Richard Fierro say Raymond had been Fierro's daughter's boyfriend since middle school.

FIERRO: I'm a protective guy. But Raymond was a very respectful. He was a good young man. I'm sorry, he's a young man. And I think he did -- I'll be honest, I hope to God that he was -- and I believe it, I believe he was doing his best to save people himself.

TODD: For those who couldn't be saved like Raymond, the police chief made a subtle but riveting gesture, stating the pronouns of the deceased as they wanted to be identified.

CHIEF ADRIAN VASQUEZ, COLORADO SPRINGS POLICE: Kelly Loving. Kelly's pronouns are she/her.

TODD: At a vigil in Memphis, Kelly Loving's sister couldn't contain her grief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was really loving and kind, always trying to help people regardless.

TODD: Derrick Rump a bartender was described as someone who had found a community there that he loved, where he could shine. And a friend says he helped her shine, too.

ANNA OLIVER, FRIEND OF VICTIM DERRICK RUMP: I can pretty much be invisible anywhere I go, and he wouldn't let me be invisible. Even if I tried, he would find me and make sure I was seen. It's like he really saw who I was, and wanted to show everyone else.

TODD: Twenty-eight-year-old Daniel Aston seemed to share that same quality with Derrick Rump, making people feel comfortable who they were. Aston worked with Rump as a bar supervisor at Club Q and performed in shows.

DEVON RAPKEN, FRIEND OF VICTIM DANIEL ASTON: What I loved most about Daniel is how comfortable he made me feel.

TODD: Ashley Paugh was known for her work for a nonprofit that helps find homes for foster children. Her family says she traveled all over southeastern Colorado, encouraging people to become foster parents. A friend remembers her sense of humor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A sarcastic and happy-go-lucky, just truly was. Right now, our entire family is broken, and our entire family has no idea what to do except to try and heal itself.


TODD (on camera): That is a familiar refrain from other victims' relatives and friends as well simply being unable right now to process all this. Daniel Aston's mother says this is a nightmare she can't wake up from, that she keeps thinking that authorities have just made a mistake, saying that her son is gone. A friend of Derrick Rump and Daniel Aston says she doesn't think the community can ever replicate the sense of Club Q that the place had when those two were there.

So many young lives cut short.

BLITZER: So heartbreaking indeed. Brian Todd reporting for us.

May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: A Texas judge has ruled that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay more than $45 million in punitive damages as part of a defamation lawsuit by Sandy Hook parents, despite a state cap.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is working this story for us.

So, Polo, update our viewers on the latest.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, the same Texas judge who actually oversaw the defamation case, Wolf, back in -- against Alex Jones says that the conspiracy theorist will have to pay $45.2 million awarded to Sandy Hook parents, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis.

As we learned in August during the proceedings, that state of Texas actually caps punitive damages at $750,000 per plaintiff. However, today the court entered a judgment against Jones for that full amount. The judge in that statement writing that there is no question to her that this is a rare instance that the judge hopes that it remains a rare instance where a defendant intentionally inflicted emotional damage in a manner so unusual that the victims had no other recourse.

The judge then went on to say that it is her hope that this amount will be high enough that Alex Jones can no longer afford to inflict further emotional damage. The jury has also previously ruled Jones to pay another $4.1 million in compensatory damages. Again, that's separate from the punitive stage.

And this is in addition to a ruling in Connecticut where he was ordered to pay nearly half a billion dollars over the lies that he told people about the 2012 shooting; meanwhile, a trial date for yet another defamation case against Jones. That has been set for March of next year in Texas. This one, Wolf, has been filed by the father of Noah Posner, a 6-year-old who was killed in a 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Polo Sandoval, thank you very, very much.

Finally tonight, former Kentucky Governor John Brown Jr. has died at the age of 88. He was the father of CNN's senior Washington correspondent and anchor Pamela Brown, who has often filled in for me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Governor Brown was born in Lexington, Kentucky, attended the University of Kentucky and served in the U.S. Army Reserve before helping build Kentucky Fried Chicken into a fast food giant.

Pamela writes this: Every day was an exciting adventure for him. He was a true Kentucky original who beamed with pride for his home state and its people. He had many prominent accomplishments. But most of all, he loved his family with all of his heart. And we, in turn, loved him with all of our hearts.

Our condolences, deepest condolences, to Pamela and her loving family. May he rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing.

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. THE SITUATION ROOM is also available as a podcast wherever you get your podcast. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.