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Justice Department Seeks Pence Testimony In Jan. 6 Criminal Probe; Mass Shooting Strikes Another U.S. Community; AAA Says, U.S. Travel Demand Very High Despite Soaring Inflation; Russian Missile Strikes Kill Multiple People In Kyiv; Police Give Update On Probe Into Killings Of Four Idaho College Students. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 23, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a potential breakthrough in the Justice Department's investigation into the January 6th insurrection, prosecutors seeking testimony from former Vice President Mike Pence as part of their criminal probe into Donald Trump.
Plus, gun violence in America striking yet another community. We're learning new details tonight about the gunman who killed six people inside a Virginia Walmart, this massacre coming just days after the mass shooting inside a Colorado nightclub.
And Thanksgiving travel is ramping up tonight despite soaring inflation, airfare, gas prices and hotel rates all hitting or nearing record highs as Americans return to their pre-pandemic holiday habits.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world, Wolf Blitzer is off tonight. I'm Alex Marquardt, and you're in The Situation Room.
Let's get straight to our top story this hour, the Department of Justice pursuing testimony from former Vice President Mike Pence in its criminal probe of January 6th.
CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz has been working her sources. Katelyn, what is the likelihood of Pence agreeing to this request?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Alex, this is at the very least a starting point for Mike Pence. And for the Justice Department, a lot would have to happen before they would be able to get him to come in to testify. But our reporting Evan Perez and I have been able to confirm that Pence is open to the discussing a possible agreement to speak with the Justice Department about what he knows about after the election in 2020 and that lead-up to January 6th.
Now, this is a watershed moment for this Justice Department investigation into January 6th. We know that there has been a lot of interest in what exactly was said in the Oval Office in those days, especially on the 6th. The Justice Department has tried to nail down things, including direct conversations with Donald Trump.
We know that there's a special counsel that is coming in. And I should note this discussion, this request that the Justice Department sent over to Pence's team, it did happen before the special counsel was appointed. And so now we're going to be watching to see how any negotiations behind the scenes may be playing out as Jack Smith, that new special counsel, comes in and leads this investigation forward. MARQUARDT: And Pence did reject the request by the January 6th
congressional committee to testify. He said this in a CNN town hall last week. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Congress has no right to my testimony. The very notion of a committee in Congress summoning a vice president to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House, I think, would violate that separation of powers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: So, Katelyn, if Congress has no right to his testimony, why would DOJ?
POLANTZ: Alex, he might not end up having a choice with the Justice Department. This is a criminal investigation. It is different ultimately than any sort of congressional investigation. When congressional investigations play out, Congress is a separate but equal power of government. And so often they can't really pry that much out of the executive branch.
When the Justice Department is doing a criminal investigation, they often can get lots of information, and often all of the information that they really want, especially around the presidency. I mean, if you look back historically, even in Iran-Contra, in that affair, there was a criminal proceeding that arose out of it, a prosecution of a defendant and former President Ronald Reagan did testify in court for that. Alex?
MARQUARDT: Right. Katelyn, I want you to stay with us as we bring in CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan and Defense Attorney Shan Wu. Thank you both for joining Katelyn and me this evening.
Shan, I want to start with you. It is sounding like the former vice president is considering complying, but, of course, his former boss, Donald Trump, has fought to stop testimony from his inner circle. So, Shan, how do you think this is going to unfold?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, legally, at the end of the day, implication of the executive privilege here should lose. As Kaitlan was alluding to, there's precedent about this, and a criminal prosecution, criminal investigation would trump the executive privilege.
The problem is how long is all that going to take. It's quite obvious that Trump is going to try to invoke it, delay it through the courts, and Pence in that clip that we just played is signaling that he thinks whatever he was talking about was part of the deliberations, which I would disagree with.
I mean, frankly, the idea that you could easily, quickly resolve this is highly unrealistic. And if I were the special prosecutor and I was ready to charge, I would just go ahead charge without Pence's testimony and let the defense worry about Pence.
MARQUARDT: And, Paul, we have already seen two top members of the Pence team. His counsel and his former chief of staff testified before the grand jury last month. So, what do you think prosecutors are going to be trying to learn from Pence himself that will fill in some of the gaps?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Pence is a key witness, a critical witness in the investigation, because, in a sense, he was a victim of Trump's alleged actions. Remember, the crowd was screaming that they were going to hang Mike Pence, seemingly inspired by comments that the president himself had made earlier in the day at the rally.
And I think on this issue of executive privilege and separation of powers, something very important you have to consider. Congress is a separate branch of government but the Department of Justice is part of the executive branch of government. So, there is no separation of powers issued that's being presented. And there is no executive privilege that's legitimate here, because we're talking about the commission of a crime. And in Watergate, and as Katelyn pointed out, in Iran-Contra, executive privilege didn't apply. So, if they want to force Pence in, they'll have the ability to do it. And in a sense, he's a victim of this crime as much as the country was.
MARQUARDT: And, Shan, to that point, the former vice president clearly views this criminal investigation differently than the probe by the House select committee. He is willing to reveal also important details in a new book that he just put out. So, how do you reconcile all of that?
WU: I think it's hard for him, Pence, to reconcile, revealing details if he also wants to claim that it is some part of confidential deliberations here. I can understand from political standpoint, he would view Congress differently than the Justice Department. To Paul's point, he may think this is a criminal matter. So, you know, it's a little bit different from political motivations in Congress.
One interesting aspect is there's so little case law on executive privilege, but what is the sanction if Pence did the right thing and just said I want to testify, executive privilege be damned? Who's going to sanction him for it? He's not in a representative capacity? There's no attorney-client privilege, and he's not a federal employee anymore. So, clearly, what the real consequences are?
MARQUARDT: Katelyn, you mentioned the new special counsel, Jack Smith, now overseeing both this investigation as well as the documents that were recovered at Mar-a-Lago. Does this news today about Pence tell us anything about where this process stands? POLANTZ: Yes, I think it does. We have had a lot of hints recently that this is a pretty mature investigation, that there's been a lot of evidence gathered, and this is just another bullet point to speak to that, that this is a mature investigation where prosecutors are making decisions to do things that would ruffle feathers. I mean, this is the top person besides Donald Trump leading the country at that moment, and had quite a big responsibility on his shoulders heading into January 6th. For them to want to talk to him very likely about his direct conversations with the president of the United States, that is not an easy ask.
And we also know the other point of why this is so mature, is that Greg Jacob, Marc Short, his two deputies, have already been not just into the grand jury once but then forced to come back to reveal more after some adverse court rulings against Trump. So, there really is a lot at stake here with this request to Pence now. Alex?
MARQUARDT: In terms of the resistance from the Pence camp, Paul, do you think the Justice Department may have to issue a subpoena, even if it's potentially a friendly subpoena, in order to get Pence's testimony? And what could these next moves reveal, do you think, about the special counsel's approach?
CALLAN: Yes. The DOJ may have to issue a subpoena. It wouldn't be unusual. And a lot of times, a witness wants the cover of a subpoena to give him the right to go in and testify. And then if Trump wants to come in from left field and assert and executive privilege, that could be litigated.
But, of course, this all spells delay, Alex, once you get into executive privilege claims and litigating that in the courts. You could have months on your hands before that gets resolved. And, hopefully, Jack Smith is going to come in and we're going to see this investigation wrap up a little bit faster than the Mueller investigation. Let's hope so.
MARQUARDT: Shan, everything we have heard about Jack Smith is that he does move with some speed. What do you expect the first effects of him taking on these two cases to be?
WU: I actually think what's really telling is if we don't see much effect. As we saw with the 11th Circuit argument, he's approving the pleadings. He is not trying to stop things so he can take a fresh look at it. He recognizes the fact that an enormous amount of work has begun. As Katelyn said, this appears to be a more maturing type of investigation. And I think what you can really tell about his no- nonsense approach is he's not trying to grandstand or get in the way and say, let me take a fresh look at things.
So, I think that what we can expect going forward. I mean, there's going to come a time where he has to exercise discretion and make the recommendations. But right now, it shows that he is using very good sense to use the existing work and the momentum that's already been built up.
[18:10:02] MARQUARDT: Paul, we just have a few minutes left. We've heard Shan say that it wasn't necessary to name a special counsel. Now that it's been a few days since Merrick Garland came out, the attorney general came out, and put Jack Smith in charge of these investigations, do you think that was the right move?
CALLAN: I think it was the right move. With the presidential election coming up, I think this shows that we put a little distance between the current administration and the special prosecutors. So, I think it's important. And I think Smith will move expeditiously with this investigation.
MARQUARDT: All right. Paul Callan, Katelyn Polantz and Shan Wu, we have to leave it there, thank you all very much and wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving.
CALLAN: You too, Alex.
MARQUARDT: Thank you.
Just ahead, two American communities now reeling from mass shootings. We'll have live updates on the massacres in both Virginia and Colorado Springs. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
MARQUARDT: Chesapeake, Virginia, is the latest American city to reel from a mass shooting. Tonight, the scene of the carnage this time at a Walmart where six people are dead after a Walmart store manager opened fire.
CNN National Correspondent Dianne Gallagher has this report.
KEVIN C. HARPER, WALMART SHOOTING WITNESS: You're a coward for that, man. You're killing people that ain't did nothing to you.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The nation's latest mass shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, happening just before the store closed the night. Kevin Harper who took this video says the gunman was a store manager.
HARPER: I just left out break room, (BLEEP) come in there, started capping people up in there.
GALLAGHER: Tonight, at least six people are dead and several others injured.
BRIANNA TYLER, WALMART SHOOTING WITNESS: The manager just came from around the corner. He never entered the break room but he just stood in the doorway and he just opened fire to anyone in the room. He looked at me and he shot near my head and it was about inches way. I'm not going to lie. There were people who were just dropping to the floor, everybody was screaming, gasping, and, yes, he just walked away after that.
GALLAGHER: Wednesday, the Chesapeake police chief provided a timeline of how it unfolded.
CHIEF MARK SOLESKY, CHESAPEAKE POLICE: Our 911 dispatch center received the first call at 10:12 P.M. last night. The first officers arrived on scene within two minutes, at 10:14, and entered the store approximately two minutes later at 10:16. And the scene was declared safe by 11:20 P.M.
GALLAGHER: Police say the gunman who died at the scene from self- inflicted gunshot wounds was a 31-year-old manager on the overnight shift. Authorities say that he was armed with a handgun and multiple magazines. What remains unclear is why.
SOLESKY: We don't know at this time. The investigation is still ongoing. So, there's no clear motive at this time.
TYLER: I am new, but I had heard from the very beginning that he was one to watch out for. He was just really standoffish. I would say, he kind of gave a like loner vibe.
GALLAGHER: The city says two of the victims were found in a break room, another near the front of the store. Three others died at the hospital. This woman's relative who works at Walmart was injured in the shooting moments after he started his shift.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He went in at 10:00 P.M. the night and we received a phone call -- well, his wife received a phone call about 10:18, saying that he had been shot. He clocks in at 10:00. So, he hadn't even been there ten minutes.
GALLAGHER: Walmart is releasing a statement saying it is shocked by the tragedy and, quote, we're praying for those impacted, the community and our associates.
This is the second mass shooting in Virginia in two weeks, something Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin calls horrific.
GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): This is a horrendous event. It's a horrendous, senseless act of violence.
GALLAGHER (on camera): Now, there were more than 50 people in the store at the time of the shooting. There's still wounded in the hospital, and, of course, the trauma that the people who survived that shooting are still trying to process.
But, Alex, I want to take a few moments and introduce you to the six people who were killed in this Walmart behind me, Lorenzo Gamble, Brian Pendleton, Kellie Pyle, Randall Blevins, Tyneka Johnson and a 16-year-old male from Chesapeake whose name the city has not released, and is not releasing his photo, because he is so young. Those are the six people who lost their lives to a gunman in that Walmart behind me, whose families will celebrate Thanksgiving without them at the table and the people in this community, like so many across this country, that are going to have to figure out what to do after the shooting came home.
MARQUARDT: Six families tonight devastated. Our thoughts, of course, are with them. Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much for that report.
Now, let's an update on the Colorado Springs mass shooting. CNN's Nick Watt has been there for the past several days. Nick, the suspect has just made their first court appearance today. What happened?
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alex. The suspect appeared by video from the jailhouse behind me. The suspect was seated throughout, slumped, slurring, wearing an orange jumpsuit with a lot of bruising around the head. Remember that during the attack, the suspect was brought to ground by a bar patron, and then two other people, a young naval officer and a trans woman, were kicking the suspect in the head, preventing the suspect from causing any further carnage. The appearance was short. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could the defendant please state his name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson Aldrich.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anderson Aldrich, did you watch the video concerning your constitutional rights in this case?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any questions about those rights?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATT: And that was pretty much it, apart from the lawyers and the judge talking about when the suspect will make the next appearance, scheduled right now for December 6th.
That is when we should have formal charges.
For now, Alex, the arrest want charges are five counts of first-degree murder and bias-related crimes. That's what they call hate crimes here in Colorado.
MARQUARDT: And, Nick, what more are we learning about the shooter?
WATT: Well, we learned from the lawyers in the filing that the shooter identifies as non-binary, goes by they/them. Now, this morning, I spoke with a neighbor of the suspect, a friend of the suspect. They bonded over video games, spent hours playing together. And this young man, Xavier Krauss (ph), told me that the suspect had never once raised with him that the suspect is non-binary. Now, Xavier Krauss (ph) also told me that the suspect would have occasional outbursts, that he said came from a place anger. They were sometimes directed towards the LGBTQ community. And the suspect used slurs to describe how they did not like -- they hated gay people. But Krauss (ph) told me that most of those outbursts were actually directed at other races.
Now, Krauss (ph) also told me that the suspect seemed very proud of the firearms that the suspect had. And at one point, Krauss (ph) said to the suspect, they make me a little nervous. And, apparently, the suspect told Krauss (ph), bro, it's not the guns you have got to be afraid of, it's the people. Alex?
MARQUARDT: Well, still so much to learn. Nick Watt in Colorado Springs, thank you so much for that report, I really appreciate it.
Now, let's discuss all this with our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey and former FBI Supervisory Agent Peter Licata. Thank you, gentlemen, both for joining me this evening.
Chief Ramsey, I want to go to you first. Several of the Chesapeake gunman's co-workers at that Walmart, they said that he exhibited threatening behavior, that he made disturbing comments. Do you see any red flags from what we've heard so far?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, the funny thing is that red flags are easy to find after the fact. I mean, you know, they're saying he acted odd, disturbing behavior, but did they report that to anyone? Was it sufficient to take any kind of action at all? I mean, I don't know the answer to that. It's easy to see things after the fact. And as this investigation unfolds, we'll learn more specifically about this individual.
But right now it is just a tragedy. And I don't know if there are any red flags that could have changed it other than certainly the gun laws that we currently have that just allow people to constantly get their hands on guns that really should not have them.
MARQUARDT: Yes. He was the manager you wanted to watch out for, one of the workers at that Walmart said.
Peter, in Colorado Springs, the suspect there, we just saw that video of them, they had had previous standoff with law enforcement. What in your mind needs to change at a structural level for law enforcement, as well as local officials, to really do a better job at preventing these kinds of mass shootings?
PETER LICATA, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Law enforcement sometimes, their hands are tied. As Chief Ramsey said, a lot of these times, these individuals get reported to law enforcement, whereas the FBI or local sheriff's office, state police or city municipality, the police will go ahead and knock on the door, potentially interview this person, do a basic background check to see if there is any criminality in his or her past. And, generally, that's about as star as they could take it. But, structurally, again, it's the gun laws. The recent law that was passed that both the current administration and the Congress have praised, obviously, it hasn't done enough. It focuses on some mental issues, mental health, which is a big part of it, but that is not by far the only issue here. There's a big issue how weapons are acquired and who can, in fact, acquire them.
MARQUARDT: Yes. In both these cases, Chief Ramsey, the police arrived almost immediately, and yet so much harm was inflicted, so many lives were lost. So, to Peter's point, how much more dangerous is it for police when they arrived quickly on the scene and there are all these guns present? Even in this case in Chesapeake, Virginia, it was just a pistol. How much more dangerous is that for those officers and what needs to be done?
RAMSEY: Well, the response time was excellent in both cases, and the faster you get there, the more likely are to actually encounter the individual who is the active shooter. So, it's quite dangerous but that goes part with the territory, it's part of the job, that's why you train for it, do the best you can to try to minimize any injury to yourself or others and certainly neutralize the individual that's committing the crime. So, it's dangerous, there's no question about it.
But it's even more dangerous for the people in that store but they don't have a gun. They don't have anything. And that's really the hardest part, to really deal with whenever you talk about these kinds of things. These are innocent people. You've got a 16-year-old boy that was one of the victims. I mean, come on, you know? And it's going to happen again. It is not going to stop. And we'll be talking about something else next week. We just have short memories, we don't focus and we don't take the steps we need to take as a society to stop it.
MARQUARDT: Peter, because of the -- we only have a few moments left, but because of the risk to officers' lives, what can law enforcement do in terms of pushing lawmakers?
LICATA: Well, law enforcement, it's training, training, training. And it's something that the police unions and the sheriff's associations and chief's police association to press lawmakers to help protect law enforcement and the general public.
MARQUARDT: All right. Peter Licata, Charles Ramsey, thank you both for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.
MARQUARDT: And coming up, heavy holiday travel despite inflation, which has sent gas prices and air fares soaring. We'll go live to one of the busiest airports in country. That's next.
MARQUARDT: On this Thanksgiving eve, holiday travel is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, that's according to AAA. And that means crowded airports and clogged highways in many parts of the United States. CNN's Omar Jimenez is at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the U.S. Omar, what are you seeing there?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alex. Yes, here at Chicago O'Hare International, one of the busiest, not super busy right now, but it was when the day started, as that first wave of flights went out. It was absolutely packed, shoulder to shoulder. And local officials here have told me they expect across the Chicago airports an increased level of travelers over this Thanksgiving period. But that's in line with what we're seeing nationwide.
Over the past two days, we've seen around 4.5 million people screened through TSA, which is up through the same days in 2021 but slightly down at the very least comparable to the same days in 2019. That said, the vast majority of people are going to be driving. We are talking around close to 49 million people hitting the roads over this. That's slightly up from last year, slightly down from 2019. But bottom line, people are going to be hitting the roads. So, it's not just congestion in these lines, it's going to be congestion in traffic lanes depending on when you're going, of course.
Now, the air travel, AAA estimates we're going to see that up 8 percent this year compared to the last one. And one of the passengers who we spoke to a little bit earlier found herself caught in some of that dynamic. Take a listen to what she told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were totally thinking about getting here early, which is I'm so glad we did, because it's even a little more crowded than we expected. So, just hoping we make our flight. We gave ourselves two hours, so I hope that's enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: I'm also a two hours person. I feel like that just gives you enough time to do what you need to do. But over the course of this Thanksgiving period, AAA is estimating that this is going to be the third busiest Thanksgiving travel period they have seen since they started measuring this data back in 2000. Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, is cautiously optimistic this week, so far, so good on that front.
MARQUARDT: All right. CNN's Omar Jimenez at O'Hare, hopefully, it stays calm out there. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
Retailers are hoping for a happier holiday season, as shoppers return to stores after the COVID pandemic drove many to buy online.
CNN Business and Politics Correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich has this story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On this year's holiday shopping menu, more sales but with a healthy side of inflation.
You're cutting off your circulation.
DENISE SALLETTE, HOLIDAY SHOPPER: I'm just going crazy.
YURKEVICH: Denise Sallette is in the middle of her holiday shopping at Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey.
SALLETTE: So, this is for my mom and then I got stuff for my kids and my niece. And, oh my God --
YURKEVICH: But this year, the wish list is looking a little different. Last month, inflation cooled but was still running hot at 7.7 percent year-over-year.
SALLETTE: So, I've had to cut back on shopping because things are too expensive. I mean, I do have three girls. They do understand that, you know, times are hard right now and it's just me being a single mom.
YURKEVICH: Despite high inflation, the National Retail Federation estimates that nearly 8 million more people will shop between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and spend up to 8 percent more this year than they did last year.
MATTHEW SHAY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: We're looking at records in all categories. It is remarkable in the face of the cost and the price pressures that consumers are still finding a way to increase their spending, power the economy, drive economic activity.
YURKEVICH: Last month, retail sales beat expectations, up 1.3 percent in October. But this month, consumer sentiment fell. Still, higher prices haven't stopped some people from shopping.
Has that impacted the way you're going to spend this holiday season?
CYNTHIA PENDELTON, HOLIDAY SHOPPER: For me, not really, because I try not to overspend anyways. So, even before this is going on, I try not to exceed what I can do.
YURKEVICH: And according to the National Retail Federation, while online sales are expected to increase this year, a return to in-store shopping will make up a larger portion of all holiday sales.
PENDELTON: I kind of like in-person more.
YURKEVICH: You do? Why is that?
PENDELTON: I don't know. It's just more of the feel of being able to touch, being able to see it, being able to try it on for the stores that you're allowed to, and then being amongst everybody else.
YURKEVICH: It's that holiday nostalgia that Willowbrook Mall says will help this year's season return to pre-pandemic expectations. Do you anticipate inflation will play a role in how people shop, people coming to the mall?
RYAN HIDALGO, SENIOR GENERAL MANAGER, WILLOWBROOK MALL: I think people are planning better in terms of what their expense is going to be. I think they have budgeted.
PATRICIA RANDO, HOLIDAY SHOPPER: I don't cut back at Christmas.
YURKEVICH: How many more stores are going to ?
RANDO: Maybe five more.
YURKEVICH: Five more?
RANDO: We'll see. I don't know.
YURKEVICH (on camera): And shoppers looking for deals this holiday season will find them. There will be steeper discounts and they'll go on for a lot longer because retailers are trying to off-load excess inventory they may have this season. That's a difference from last year when retailers had a tough time getting inventory because of the snarled supply chains.
And some retailers this holiday season are doing away with free returns. That's because they too are experiencing inflation, they're trying to cut their bottom line. So, just if you're shopping online this holiday season, read the fine print, make sure you don't get hit with any additional holiday fees. Alex?
MARQUARDT: And, of course, for those small businesses that survived the pandemic, there's small business Saturday this weekend.
CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you so much for that report.
Now, just ahead, a major ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court on abortion, what that will mean going forward and the possible implications it could have on the Senate runoff.
MARQUARDT: With just a few weeks until the critical Senate runoff in Georgia, today, the state Supreme Court announced two major decisions that could affect the race, Georgia's high court rejecting a request from Republicans to block counties from offering early votes on Saturday, and it reinstituted a six-week ban on abortion with Georgia, with some exceptions.
Let's discuss all this CNN's Eva McKend, former Obama Administration Official Van Jones and The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein. Thank you all for joining me this evening. Eva, I want to start with you. Those two significance rulings from the Georgia Supreme Court today, we know that abortion, of course, has been hugely motivating for voters in these midterm elections. How do you expect these developments by the court to influence this Senate runoff?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Alex, you are correct. The threat over abortion access has been a highly motivating issue for Democratic voters, Democratic women. It is arguably why Democrats had a better than expected performance in the midterms. And we know in Georgia, most Georgians believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
So, this Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court upholding the six-week ban, it puts the issue back front and center in this competitive Senate contest. But of equal importance is the decision of the state Supreme Court not to interfere with this Saturday voting. This runoff is about turnoff -- turnout, rather. It is a turnout game. And we know that Democrats advocated for this Saturday voting, but Republicans vote on Saturdays too, Alex.
MARQUARDT: And, Ron, to that point, in theory, this should be a victory for voters of both parties, but Republicans tried to block this. Clearly, they think voting on Saturday would give Democrats an edge.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Historically, I mean, early voting, you know, in the Trump era, at least, Democrats have availed themselves of it more, and Republicans have generally tried to restrict it. I think the bigger problems Republicans face than the days of voting is the fact that this is no longer the 50th vote in the Senate. And given the person doubts that even many Republicans expressed about Herschel Walker, the question of whether they can motivate their base to turn out in the numbers they need when control of the Senate is not at issue anymore, I think that is going to be the biggest challenge.
MARQUARDT: There's another change, Van, for Republican Candidate Herschel Walker. There's a new report by CNN's KFile that revealed he's getting a tax break for a primary residence, but the residence isn't in Georgia, but it's in Texas. So, to what extent do you think that that turns off Georgia voters, or do you think his supporter, his potential supporters are just used to all of his controversies?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, if you're a Herschel Walker voter at this point, nothing he does is going to scare you off. I agree, it's going to be about turnout. And both sides have a reason to worry. Because Herschel Walker is a little bit behind in the polls, some Democrats might let up off the gas. So, you have got support groups, like the Movement Voter Project, Unite Here, Black Votes Matter, Cause and Action, those would need support to get the ground game going.
But on the Republican side, they are doing everything that they can. They're bringing in the big guns. But if the big guns couldn't get it done for him, Herschel Walker, the first time, I don't know if they're going to get it done this time.
MARQUARDT: And Herschel Walker is now getting a boost from Governor Brian Kemp, who just won reelection. And, Eva, this is after Kemp kept his distance from Herschel Walker during the general election. Let's look at a bit of that ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Herschel Walker will vote for Georgia, not be another rubber stamp for Joe Biden. That's why I'm backing Herschel. And I hope you'll join me in voting for him too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUARDT: But, Eva, in the general election, Walker seriously underperformed Kemp. So, how much do you think that this is going to sway voters?
MCKEND: So, the ad could be helpful, but, you know, I think Georgia voters, especially the voters that the Walker campaign are trying to capture are sophisticated. The general election was only a few weeks ago, and they didn't campaign together.
They weren't buddy-buddy. So, what changed so quickly?
But, perhaps, Alex, what might be more consequential is the Senate Leadership Fund, this key fund-raising operation for Senate Republicans, injecting $2 million into Governor Kemp's get out the vote operation, to help Walker. That is really, I think, very, very important because that is money for organizing, for people on the doors.
And, again, if we are looking at turnout, that might be more consequential than Governor Kemp giving Herschel Walker a hug on the campaign trail or appearing in an ad.
MARQUARDT: Ron, what do you think? This last-minute embrace by Kemp of Walker is going to make a difference?
BROWNSTEIN: Yeah, it can't hurt, but I think the core problems with the Republicans, given their doubts about Walker, will feel sufficiently motivated to turn out, given that he's no longer has the potential to recreate a Republican Senate.
Can I just go back real quick to the abortion issue? Because Georgia is indicative of one of the most striking patterns we saw in this election, which is that in the states that actually have banned abortion, there was very little sign of a backlash. The resistance was really overwhelming, though, in the blue and purple states where it's still legal. That was the sharp fault line in the --
MARQUARDT: Van, we only have a couple of moments left. Do you think that President Joe Biden should go down there and campaign for Warnock? VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think every Democrat should
go and help.
MARQUARDT: And we understand that President Obama, former President Obama is going to be doing that.
Eva, Ron, Van, thank you so much. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
All right. Just ahead, Russia launching a new barrage of missiles all across Ukraine, killing multiple people, as Moscow tries to take out Ukraine's infrastructure.
MARQUARDT: We are following deadly new Russian strikes on Ukraine, apparently designed to inflict maximum pain on Ukrainian civilians.
CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is on the scene in Ukraine for us tonight.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest target in Russia's ruthless missile barrage. A Ukrainian maternity ward pounded from the skies. Emergency workers pulling a doctor and a young mother from the rubble. But a newborn baby just two days old couldn't be saved.
Tatiana (ph) is the grandmother, now an unbearable pain. Her daughter's face and legs were wounded by shrapnel, she says, but it's the loss of the child that's left her daughter emotionally shattered. Another life, another family now in ruins.
Across Ukraine, the roar of Russian missiles is tearing up the skies.
Near the capital, Kyiv, a residential building was hit. The yard outside, turned into a smoldering disaster zone. Officials say casualties are high, with dozens injured or killed, as Russia tries to target energy and water infrastructure across Ukraine, on apparently deliberate attempt to make the people here suffer.
And, another obstacle the Ukrainian leadership is vowing to overcome.
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The task has been set. We will restore all of this. And we will get through all of this because we are an unbreakable people.
CHANCE: But with power outages nationwide, these are fragile times. Shops operating by flashlight, public transport at a virtual standstill. And even hospitals, far away from the war zone, on emergency supplies. Russia's barrage may not have broken Ukrainians, but it is making them suffer.
(END VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (on camera): Well, Alex, tonight the Ukrainian authorities say they're opening more than 4,000 what they call invincibility points across the country where people can go and get some hot food, they can charge their phones, go on the Internet, or just keep warm amid these freezing temperatures plunging below freezing point now as winter really sets in. But no matter what the government does, if Russia persists with its constant missile strikes against energy infrastructure targets, millions of Ukrainians are set to face a very long, a very cold, and very dark winter.
Alex, back to you.
MARQUARDT: Tough times ahead. CNN's Matthew Chance in Odesa, thank you very much. You and your team stay safe.
Now, coming up, police unveil new details into the killings of four Idaho college students. We'll be right back.
MARQUARDT: Police in Moscow, Idaho, held a news conference just a short time ago in the case of the four college students who were stabbed to death in their own home.
CNN national correspondent Natasha Chen has been following this story and is on scene tonight.
Natasha, what did the police say?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alex, a lot of the information they said today was a repeat of information we already knew, which is frustrating for a lot of the community and the victims' families.
One interesting thing they said was that the man who was called multiple times from the phone of one of the victims in those early morning hours, he has been added to the list of people cleared as possible suspects. Now, one of the questions posed today was the public safety of the students in this college town, in this small college town of about 25,000, 26,000 people.
Here is what Captain Roger Lanier said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPT. ROGER LANIER, MOSCOW, IDAHO POLICE: In some ways, this took our innocence. I would tell students that you need to stay with a friend. I know that the university staff is looking at different options to increase some of the safety on campus and providing certain options to students. So, yeah, going forward, there is a lot of things that maybe we wish we would have done before, but we need to start doing now.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CHEN: Between now and the end of the semester, they said that there is going to be some heavy police presence around the university of Idaho campus area. The university president was also at this press conference. And he had sent a message last night to students saying that they could finish out the semester either in person or remotely because so many students had given feedback about how they wanted to finish out this year, Alex.
MARQUARDT: All right. CNN's Natasha Chen, thank you so much for that report. And our thoughts of course are with those families.
I'm Alex Marquardt in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you so much for joining us.
And to all of our viewers here in the United States, have a happy Thanksgiving.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.