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Extremely Dangerous Tornado Sighted As Monster Storm Sweeps U.S. DOJ Seeks Access To GOP Rep. Scott Perry's (R-PA) Texts In 2020 Election Probe; Biden Signs Historic Same-Sex Marriage Bill Into Law; New Watches, Warnings Issued As Tornado Hits Louisiana; Pelosi's Daughter on New Film About Her Mother's Historic Career. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 13, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, a large and extremely dangerous tornado was just confirmed in Louisiana as a massive winter storm sweeps the United States. We're tracking the severe weather system that's threatening millions of Americans right now.

Also tonight, CNN has learned that the U.S. Justice Department has tried to get access to the texts of Republican Congressman Scott Perry in its investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. This as the January 6th select committee sets a date to announce criminal referrals. I'll speak live with a key panel member, Representative Zoe Lofgren.

And President Biden just signed historic same-sex marriage legislation into law. We'll break down what the new law means for the LGBTQ community and for the nation.

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

Let's get straight to the breaking news right now, the confirmed tornado near Shreveport, Louisiana, part of a massive and very dangerous system that has millions in the path of severe weather right now.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking all of this for us. So, what's the latest, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, we right now have active tornado warnings going on across portions of Louisiana, in fact, tornado watch in effect through 10:00 Central Time and will most likely be extended after that.

All of this hot pink boxes, these are tornado warnings. That means that a tornado could be in progress in these areas. Just on the south side of Shreveport, you can see one of those tornado warnings, and that's where the most populated area is right now. In fact, we got word that the National Weather Service office there was also taking shelter.

So, this is a very dangerous situation as the storms continue to march through the east through the overnight hours. We will most likely continue to see tornado warnings all across Louisiana and potentially into Arkansas. We have one right there in East Texas as well.

And so as these storms continue overnight, it's going to be incredibly dangers because it will be dark, people will not be able to see them and most likely people will be asleep, Wolf. So, we have to be extra vigilant as we go through out the out the overnight hour as well as into tomorrow morning as the severe weather will be continuing. Wolf?

BLITZER: And will, of course, continue to monitor the situation with you. Jennifer. Thank you very, very much.

Right now, let's turn to the investigation of January 6th and the efforts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray is working the story for us. It sounds, Sara, like the new special counsel, Jack Smith, he's moving quickly in his investigation.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is moving quickly and he's moving aggressively. One of the things my colleague, Katelyn Polantz, is reporting today is that the Justice Department has tried to access the text messages of Republican Congressman Scott Perry.

This is significant because, Perry, is one of these people who really bought into the notion that election security was compromised in 2020 in a number of conspiracy theories surround that. He was texting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows at the time. He was a person who put Donald Trump in touch with Jeffrey Clark, who was a DOJ official that Trump wanted to install at the head of the Justice Department to continue to push this sort of conspiracy claims.

So, what we don't know is whether the DOJ has been able to access these text messages. But it comes as the Justice Department through, again, Special Counsel Jack Smith has taken a number of other steps, including firing off subpoenas to election officials in places like Nevada, New Mexico, Georgia, Wisconsin and a number of other states trying to get to the bottom, really, of any contacts Donald Trump, his campaign, his allies had with officials in these important battleground states from the 2020 election.

BLITZER: Yes, this is a big deal, a very big deal. We're also getting some new information right now about the January 6th select committee. They're beginning now in the next few days to wrap up their investigation and issue their report. What are you hearing?

MURRAY: We are. We're learning that they're actually going to be having a public meeting on Monday, December 19th. This is earlier than we thought. We thought we were going to get the whole kit and caboodle on the 21st. It turns out, we're going to learn more about criminal referrals as well as other referrals, referrals that might go to the Ethics Committee, referrals that may go out to State Bar Associations, if there's a lawyer involved. We're going to learn all of that on the 19th, what the basis of these referrals are, what the names on that list are, and we may learn some other details in the public meeting.


The committee is also going to vote to adopt their report and then on the 21st that report is going to be made public. So, we're seeing a little bit of staggering, kind of trickle of the news from the committee next week.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll have a lot of news to cover. All right, thanks very much, Sara Murray reporting for us.

We're joined now by a member of the January 6th select committee, Representative Zoe Lofgren. Representative, thank you so much for joining us.

So, as you well know, you know a lot better than I do, the committee will issue -- will use Monday's hearing, we're told, to announce criminal referrals. CNN has reported in the past few days that under consideration for these criminal referrals were not only former President Trump, but some associates, including Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark and Rudy Giuliani. Does that lineup, Congresswoman, with what we can expect on Monday?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, as you know, Wolf, it's been my practice not to jump ahead of the committee and make the announcement. So, we're just going to have to wait until Monday. But I will say that we've had substantial discussions among the committee and really our practice. We've never had a vote, actually, we just reach consensus.

I suppose that could change. But I don't see it changing. We're coming to agreement on all -- we're also writing the report. I spent countless hours, along with the other committee members, going through the report and the appendixes, looking at the footnotes, editing, making sure that everything is right, including the recommendations as well as the referrals. So, this is crunch time for the committee.

BLITZER: Can you tell us, Congresswoman, whether or not a criminal referral will be issued for former President Trump?

LOFGREN: Well, I'm not going to be able to do that tonight but we have been working very hard to reach consensus. And, obviously, we know from our hearings that Mr. Trump was the center of the conspiracy to overturn the election. So, you'll just have to wait until Monday.

BLITZER: It sounds like a hint that, yes, indeed, there will be some sort of criminal referral, but we will wait until Monday.

Separately, Congresswoman, the Justice Department is investigating, as you know, Republican Congressman Scott Perry's role in the 2020 election, interference effort. I know that's separate from your committee's work, but he refused to cooperate with your subpoena. Is he among the Republican lawmakers who could face a different type of referral, potentially a referral to the House Ethics Committee?

LOFGREN: Well, we are very concerned that members of Congress that we issued subpoenas to, because they have relevant information refuse to comply, and that's a legal obligation. So, we're going to be addressing that on Monday.

As to Mr. Perry's further involvement, our focus was his failure, along with others, to respond to the subpoena that he had an obligation to respond to. Certainly, we did get text messages from the former chief of staff, some of them are to members of Congress, and the Department of Justice will have all of those. They may also have other information. They, frankly, have tools that a legislative committee does not have. So, we don't know everything that they have.

BLITZER: The select committee's final hearing will also include what's being called a presentation. What does that entail, Congresswoman, and will we learn new information, will you feature more tape witness interviews, for example?

LOFGREN: Well, there's no live interviews but there's a lot of information that we -- in evidence that we compiled that we were unable to lay out during our hearings. Some of that may be touched on, on Monday. All of it will be touched on either in the report or I think even more importantly the publication of the committee records that will follow the report.

So, we're in, and you in the news media are in for a lot of hard work to go through all of the evidence that will be coming your way in the days and weeks to come.

BLITZER: We're ready for the hard work. Representative Zoe Lofgren, thank you so much for joining us.

LOFGREN: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. let's bring in our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. She's the anchor of CNN's State Of The Union, also with us, CNN Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson and Defense Attorney Shan Wu. Guys, thanks very much for joining us.

Dana, what stands out to you from what we just heard from Congresswoman Lofgren?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a couple of things, first, the last thing you were discussing with her is how much information is going to be revealed out into the public, first of all, with the hearing that they're going to have and then obviously the report, but even beyond that, all of the transcripts and the sort of evidence that they have accumulated, kind of the footnotes that go along with everything that they are going to put in the report.


And the question -- it's all important. It's important for history. It's important for whether it is reprimanding members of Congress who didn't comply with subpoenas or maybe more importantly what's going to happen at the Department of Justice, whether it's criminal referrals or even beyond that. But it's just going to be a lot. And here we are sort of crunched at the end of the calendar year and the hope is that all of the work that they have done will be digested in a way that they intended. It might be difficult given where we are in the calendar.

BLITZER: Yes. And, Nia, how high are the stakes when it comes to the release of these referrals?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, listen, I think this is a committee that cleared many of the stakes that were set forward. Early on, I think there was doubt about whether or not they would be able to get information, and, Dana, talked about it and the representative talked about it too, the massive information that they did get, the cooperation from Trump's inner circle. They got something like a thousand interviews, hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents, of text messages and email messages. And this was over 16 months that they conducted this investigation.

And this committee was very smart, a bipartisan committee. They were very smart in terms of the sort of television aspect of it, dropping bombshells at each committee hearing they had. And so we'll see what happens not only with these criminal referrals on the 19th. They'll be voting on that.

And, of course, I mean, I think everybody's question is what happens to Donald Trump, right? They could make a criminal referral. What happens to him really is up to the Justice Department and up to this special prosecutor who is moving very fast to issue subpoenas and interview people. So, it's sort of to be continued still, I think.

But in terms of the work that they did, important for history, important for documenting what actually happened because there was a real attempt, I think, particularly by Republicans, to downplay it and to sort of erase it and minimize it, and here they made a very compelling argument, linking what happened on January 6th directly to the president.

BLITZER: I've always felt the most important thing the select committee should be doing is getting all of this information out there so we learn the lessons of what exactly happened on that disastrous day.

HENDERSON: So, it won't happen again.

BLITZER: So, it will never happen again in our country because that's obviously so important to share.

We're also learning that the new special counsel investigating Trump specifically, he's also investigating Republican Congressman Scott Perry for his alleged role in creating the scene to try to undermine the presidential election. What does that say to you?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It says to me that they're a long ways yet from being able to make charging decisions. They got a late start on this. A lot of the fight over Perry's phone records has been ongoing for awhile. But if they're at this stage where they're still fighting over access, if they get access, which I think they should be able to, to overcome the legal hurdles, they then have to use that access to figure out what information needs to be developed, what people they need to speak to corroborate that, and that's a very important piece of evidence. And there's more of like that out there. It's not just Scott Perry.

So, it tells me that they're alert, they're moving, they're being aggressive, but it's a long ways from being able to make a full charging decision.

BLITZER: And, Dana, clearly, the committee is also looking at making some other kinds of referrals, ethics committee referrals, for example, for Republican lawmakers who were subpoenaed but refused to cooperate with the select committee. How far does that really go now that in January the Republicans will be in charge, will be the majority in the House?

BASH: It's an important question. I actually wanted to -- made a phone call to somebody who was on the committee, a former member of Congress, to ask that very question, because the Ethics Committee is different from all the others. First of all, it's evenly split. No matter who is in charge of Congress, Republicans or Democrats, they have the same number of members.

And I think the most important thing I learned in this conversation was that even though a referral will happen in this Congress, Democrats are in charge, it is going to be a new Congress with Republicans in charge in January, the referral will carry forward into the next Congress.

So, it will be significant. The Ethics Committee, if they do, if the January 6th committee does make ethics referrals, that committee will be looking into and perhaps they will be reprimanding in some way, shape or form these Republicans for not complying with their own branch of government's requests, or not just requests, demand, because it was a subpoena.

BLITZER: You get a subpoena. That's the law. You're supposed to comply with that subpoena.

All right, guys, stand by. Everybody stand by.

Just ahead, we'll get another check of the very dangerous situation unfolding right now in Louisiana as a new tornado is unleashed by a massive, massive winter storm that's going on in huge parts of the country.


Plus, a landmark event over at the White House as President Biden signs legislation protecting same-sex marriage into law. CNN's Don Lemon was there. He's standing by live over at the White House. He'll join us next.


BLITZER: History was truly made over at the White House just a little while ago, President Biden, signing into law legislation protecting same-sex marriage as well as interracial marriage.

CNN This Morning Co-Anchor Don Lemon was over at the signing ceremony at the White House. He's joining us from the north lawn of the White House right now. So, what was the mood at this historic signing, Don, and what did it mean for you to be there?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The mood was all smiles and everyone was happy. There was very little -- maybe no politics today and people were just happy to be there. It was a -- thousands of people crowded onto the south lawn, Wolf, I'm sure you saw the pictures and people around the world watched on CNN, watching the president of the United States, the vice president, the speaker of the House, the House -- the Senate majority leader all come out and speak about the rights for everyone to be able to get married in this country.


It's just about basic civil rights that people should have that should all be granted to us under the constitution.

BLITZER: Absolutely.

LEMON: I wasn't supposed to report, Wolf, today. I was supposed to sort of go to the ceremony because I was invited and I tried to take it all in. It was a really weird experience, quite honestly, to stand there and watch this all happening. It was kind of an out-of-body experience. So, I was happy and everybody was happy.

BLITZER: Why was that? Why was it weird?

LEMON: Because, look, growing up I never thought that I would, you know -- once I realized that I was gay, I never thought that I would have the opportunity or really the privilege or the honor to be married. I thought it was something that I would have to keep a secret. And then, obviously, in 2015, that all changed. And then I met someone a year later and decided that I wanted to spend my life with him.

And as we were planning our wedding, as you know, Wolf, you came to, you and lovely wife, Lynn, came to our engagement party and bought us a beautiful gift, and then COVID happened. And so we -- it got stalled. And then after COVID was -- some of the restrictions were lifted, we went to the courthouse finally to get our marriage license and a couple months ago, it expires on December 18th. If we don't do it by then, we'll have to go back and go through that process.

Obviously we could have done it online. But we want it to be -- it's so important, especially for members of the LGBTQ community who want to get married, it's really important for us to go through the process. It is a legal process as well as a process of love. And so we wanted to take all of those steps and feel all of those steps.

And when I got the invitation from the White House to come this week, I didn't want -- when I got to the gates, they said, oh, Mr. Lemon, someone will come get you. I said, no, I want to get in this line and I want to experience it like everybody else. So, we waited an hour in line, we talked to people, we took pictures, we stood there and someone called me over and said, hey, come go on CNN, and I did it. So, this is very important for members of the LGBTQ community. It's not just ceremony. It's a legal right that all Americans are entitled to under the Constitution.

BLITZER: You are absolutely, absolutely right, and congratulations. I'm so happy and excited that you're going to be getting married very, very soon. Don Lemon, thanks for all of your terrific work.

And an important note to our viewers, be sure to join Don along with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins for CNN This Morning. That's every weekday from 6:00 to 9:00 A.M. Eastern. I watch it every weekday and you should as well.

Also on President Biden's radar tonight, a better than expected inflation report, a key measure of consumer prices eased considerably last month to the lowest level in nearly a year. The president says he's optimistic now that this trend will continue.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Inflation is coming down in America. In fact, this new report is the fifth month in a row where annual inflation has fallen in the United States. I want to be clear, it's going to take time to get inflation back to normal levels as we make the transition to a more stable and steady growth. But we can see setbacks along the way as well.

REPORTER: Can you say when you expect prices to get back to normal, Mr. President?

BIDEN: I hope by the end of next year or much closer, but I can't make that prediction. I just -- I'm convinced they're not going to go up.


BLITZER: All right. Joining us now from the White House, the Labor secretary, Marty Walsh. Secretary Walsh, thanks so much for joining us. Today's report is certainly a good sign, inflation is cooling, but President Biden says it could take until the end of next year for prices to get back to normal. So, what can you do now, Mr. Secretary, to help millions of Americans who are struggling with the high cost, struggling, for example, to pay for groceries?

MARTY WALSH, LABOR SECRETARY: Yes. I think one of the biggest things we can do is continue to add jobs to the economy and continue to add wage increases to people. We're seeing wage increases go up half a percent, half a percent this month as well as year over year. I think we're at 4.5, 4.6 percent wage increases. That's starting to level off now with inflation. We need to continue to do that.

We need to continue the policies President Biden laid out a year ago, not just to get Americans back to work, but also to combat inflation. And we're doing that here. We're seeing manufacturing has come back and we have actually gone beyond the pre-pandemic levels around manufacturing. We're seeing most of these industries that were wiped out during the pandemic, as far as employment. People back to work, was adding jobs.

We're seeing the infrastructure jobs now, the infrastructure investment law laying down what's going to start to see projects come out of that, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act. So, we're starting to see a lot of good momentum and a lot of a good movement here on a lot of the policies the president and the administration has laid down.


BLITZER: As you know, the Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates again this time by a half a point tomorrow. How concerned are you about a recession, Mr. Secretary, and potentially more major job losses if the Fed doesn't start to dial down these hikes in the New Year?

WALSH: Well, certainly, at the beginning of all the talk around our session, I was never one of the people in the cabinet that felt we were headed that way. I think that -- I keep an eye on what the construction stats are. I keep an eye on what the development in the country is, I keep an eye on when I travel around the country what's happening in cities and towns in America. And most cities and towns in America are doing well as far as economic development moving forward.

That doesn't mean that the pressure at the kitchen table for too many Americans, we have to continue to bring the prices down. Until the average American feels that pressure is relieved, they're always going to have that concern.

So, I'm not necessarily concern about a recession. What I want to make sure is we continue job growth within 2023. One of my main focuses as secretary of labor, we will be making sure that we have job training, workforce development and apprenticeship opportunities for new jobs they're creating, but for some of these other jobs that are happening in the United States right now that are having a hard time finding people.

BLITZER: The treasury secretary, your colleague, Janet Yellen, has said there's still a risk of recession in the months ahead. So, what, Mr. Secretary, are you doing to prepare for that possibility? And if there is a recession, do you expect it would be mild or more painful?

WALSH: Well, I should have started by saying I'm not an economist, number one. So, I want to be very clear. I don't want to be battling economists here. But, really, what my focus is, has been since in the last year, is continuing making sure that employers in America have the employees they need to move forward, and that's not the case every day.

And I just -- I'm going to continue that path. I think it's very hard to talk about a recession when Americans are working, when their salaries are stronger, as we continue about workforce -- training people, getting people into better paying jobs.

Again, that combats what recessions are all about. And we're going -- I'm going to do everything I can to continue to promote getting Americans back to work and in better-paying jobs. And some of the folks that are not in the job market right now, folks that haven't come back into the job market, how do we get those folks back into the job market, back into our economy, because employers are still looking for people every single day.

BLITZER: Good point. Labor Secretary, Marty Walsh, thanks so much for joining us.

WALSH: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: We have two exclusive reports coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, CNN has learned that the United States is now finalizing plans to send sophisticated air defense systems to Ukraine.

Plus, a Russian deserter tells his story to CNN about what he calls, and I'm quoting now, a direct command to murder Ukrainians.



BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, new tornado watches and warnings as severe weather sweeps across the United States. At least one tornado has touched down in Louisiana and residents there as well as in Arkansas and East Texas are under alert. The dangerous conditions are forecast to continue throughout the night. Weather officials say multiple tornados are now likely, some of them intense as a line of severe thunderstorms now head east. We'll continue to monitor this story this hour. Stay with us for that.

Now to a CNN exclusive, sources are telling us that the Biden administration is now finalizing plans to send the Patriot air defense missile system to Ukraine with an announcement possible later this week.

Our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann is joining us with the latest. Oren, so what impact could this have? This is potentially a very, very significant development.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's certainly one of the most significant systems the U.S. has sent since the beginning of the war, perhaps only behind the HIMARS system that Ukrainians have used so effectively.

The Patriot aerial defense missile is one of the U.S.'s most effective long-range aerial defense systems and it would essentially fit over and on top of what the U.S. has already provided.

At the beginning, the U.S. gave those short-range Stinger missiles, then more recently NASAMS medium range air defense system. And now, as we've learned from U.S. officials, the U.S. is preparing to send over patriot missiles, longer range, can cover a greater area and will be even more effective at helping Ukraine fight off these barrages of missiles, rockets and cruise missiles that we're seeing fired now on Ukrainian civil infrastructure and energy infrastructure. And that, it seems, is part of what tipped the administration over from not sending Patriots to sending Patriots, this constant barrage of Russian missiles attacking the civilian infrastructure, cutting off water and electricity to large parts of Ukraine. That seems to have tipped the scales in favor of sending the Patriots. The harder question, Wolf, is how long they will take to train on this complex system.

BLITZER: Yes. It could take weeks and weeks and weeks. But the Ukrainians have been pleading for this system for months.

LIEBERMANN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: They really need it and now it's going to happen.

Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Also tonight, a former Russian soldier who says he witnessed some of the carnage and the brutally Moscow's forces have unleashed on Ukrainian civilians is now speaking out. After deserting Vladimir Putin's army, he's now telling his story exclusively to CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen. His report contains some disturbing images.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After the Russian army was forced to retreat around Kyiv, the carnage came to light. Bucha, Borodyanka and many other Kyiv suburbs littered with bodies. Ukraine especially blames one Russian unit for alleged crimes here, the 64th separate guards motor rifle brigade from Eastern Siberia. Now, a deserter from that unit, is speaking to CNN.

NIKITA CHIBRIN, RUSSIAN DESERTER: It's actually a big lie for me, like 24 of February, come in.


Okay you go -- everyone goes to war.

PLEITGEN: Nikita Chibrin, defected from the Russian military and fled to Europe, where we met him in a secret location. He shows me his military booklet with a stamp signed by the commander of the 64th motor rifle brigade, Colonel Azatbek Omurbekov, known in Ukraine as the Butcher of Bucha.

Chibrin says he and his comrades were given shoot to kill orders even though Russia has denied any wrongdoing by its forces around Kyiv.

CHIBRIN: We had a direct command to murder those who divulged our positions. If someone had a phone, we were allowed to shoot him.

PLEITGEN: Chibrin says the unit was deployed to Belarus shortly before the invasion allegedly for training. The soldiers had no idea they would soon advance into Ukraine and he says they weren't prepared for war. CHIBRIN: Everyone thought they could be like Rambo. Those who said, I would be shooting Ukrainians easily, piece of cake. When they went to the front line and came back, they were like, we don't want a war.

PLEITGEN: Chibrin says, he too came under Ukrainian artillery shelling and showed us this video from near the town, Lutivka (ph), west of Kyiv. He tells me he refused to fight because he was opposed to the war and that his commanders called him a coward and reassigned him to linear (ph) labor tasks in the rear echelon.

He says he didn't witness the mass killings the unit is accused of but did witness plenty of crimes against Ukrainian civilians, including looting.

They weren't trying to hide it. They did this very openly.

CHIBRIN: Yes. They like a -- no need to hide this all. Everything want that they see. Whoa, I want this thing. I want this. That everything they look and cars too made for looting.

PLEITGEN: And even rape.

CHIBRIN: I saw rapist running around being chased because they have committed rape. They guys who did rape, I saw them run. Then I learned they were rapist. They raped a mother and a daughter.

They were never jailed, just fired, just like that, go.

PLEITGEN: CNN has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry from comment but we haven't received a reply. Russia has consistently denied its forces were responsible for crimes against Ukrainian civilians and President Vladimir Putin issued a decree praising the 64th separate guards motor rifle brigade for, quote, heroism and bold actions.

Nikita Chibrin, fled Russia while on leave. He gets emotional when talking about his four-year-old daughter he left behind.

He says he wants to testify against his commanders before an international court to shed light on what happened in the war he never wanted to be a part of.


PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, the soldier said that discipline was a huge issue in that unit. He felt that the officers who were his commanders in many cases were indifferent to the mission, indifferent to their own soldiers and also, of course, indifferent to the lives of the Ukrainians, the civilians that were on the ground there as well.

He also says he doesn't believe that Russia is going to be able to win the war, he says also because the U.S. and its allies are providing that support to the Ukrainians and, of course, will continue to provide that support as well.

BLITZER: Yes. He's obviously one very courageous young man. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much for that report.

Just ahead, what prosecutors are now calling one of the biggest financial frauds in American history, the founder of a crypto exchange is charged with duping customers out of billions of dollars.



BLITZER: All right. Just in to CNN right now, you're looking at new video of the former CEO of cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, just leaving court in the Bahamas. Sam Bankman-Fried is charged with stealing billions of dollars from customers and lying about it from the very start.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has details.


DAMIAN WILLIAMS, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: This is one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: FTX Founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, once head of a cryptocurrency giant, now alleged federal criminal.

WILLIAMS: Bankman-Fried and his co-conspirators stole billions of dollars from FTX customers.

GINGRAS: Authorities arrested him last night after U.S. prosecutors filed eight criminal charges, including wire fraud and multiple conspiracy counts. The 30-year-old appearing in court in the Bahamas now awaiting extradition to the U.S.

MICHAEL DRISCOLL, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN-CHARGE, FBI NEW YORK: Fraud is fraud. It does not matter the complexity of the investment scheme. It does not matter the amount of money involved.

JOHN RAY III, FTX CEO: We know that the size of the harm was significant.

GINGRAS: The arrest comes on the eve of when Bankman-Fried was scheduled to appear before U.S. lawmakers and explained what led to the swift collapse of his company.

REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R-NC): The rest of Sam Bankman-Fried is welcome news. But it still does not get to the bottom of what happened at FTX.

GINGRAS: The company's new CEO, John Ray III, testified as he leads FTX through bankruptcy, exposing how the company made risky bets, binge spent customers' funds and made questionable business decisions.

RAY: This is old-fashioned embezzlement. This is just taking money from customers and using it for your own purpose. Not sophisticated at all.

GINGRAS: He had this advice for lawmakers as they consider making rules for the unregulated crypto industry.

RAY: We're dealing with people's money and their assets. And, you know, my basic observation is you need records, you need controls and you need to segregate people's money.


RAY: That simple.

GINGRAS: Earlier this year, Forbes Magazine valued FTX at $32 billion. Bankman-Fried was seen as a superstar in the industry and earned the backing of major celebrities, like Steph Curry.


STEPH CURRY, NBA PLAYER: With FTX, I have everything I need to buy, sell, and trade crypto safely.

GINGRAS: Tom Brady and his supermodel ex-wife Gisele Bundchen.

You know what?


GINGRAS: But the company's value imploded last month after an industry publication questioned its inner workings, and scrutiny by the federal government snowballed. Several of the celebrities, now facing a civil lawsuit for their endorsements.

Bankman-Fried saying this in an interview prior to his arrest.

SAM BANKMAN-FRIED, FORMER FTX CEO: Look, I should've been on top of this and I feel really, really bad and regretful that it wasn't and a lot of people got hurt. And that -- that's on me.

GINGRAS: The Securities Exchange Commission also filing charges Tuesday, alleging Bankman-Fried donated millions of investors money to political campaigns, in violation of federal election laws. Adding in a statement, he built a house of cards on a foundation of deception.


GINGRAS (on camera): Now, Bankman-Fried remains behind bars in the Bahamas. The judge essentially saying, because he has so much access to money, he is a flight risk. A big question here, Wolf, is will these FTX investors see any of this money?

Well, John Ray III, who, by the way, helped Enron through its liquidation, says that he's been able to recoup $1 billion, but he told Congress, he wasn't clear with Congress exactly where that money is going. Of course, it's all tied up in bankruptcy proceedings. But it's very unlikely, Wolf, that any of these investors will ever see that money again, with?

BLITZER: That's too bad. That makes me sad to hear that. Brynn Gingras, thank you very, very much. There's more breaking news next. The latest on the severe weather

threatening millions and millions of Americans right now. We are following reports of tornadoes as officials warn of a dangerous night ahead.



BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: new tornado watches and warnings issued as a dangerous, a very dangerous storm is sweeping across large areas of the United States right now.

CNN meteorologist, Jennifer Gray, is tracking the system for us.

What's the latest, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, this is still a very dangerous situation, especially across the south, especially Louisiana, portions of east Texas. We have a tornado watch in effect until 10:00 Eastern Time. This does include sections in Arkansas as well, as this very potent line of showers and storms continues to the east.

We've seen numerous tornado warnings in effect across this area. Right now, we are not seeing any, but do expect more to pop up throughout the overnight hours. These storms have left a trail of destruction across portions of East Texas on into Louisiana. We have reports of a couple of injuries as well.

So, these are very dangerous storms that will continue, will, throughout the overnight hours. We are going to continue to see them to the east through Shreveport, Waskom, down through Carthage. That's East Texas, and then as it heads into Mississippi, by the wee hours of tomorrow morning, we could see the potential for tornadoes, very large hail, damaging winds and that severe threat will still be there tomorrow as well.

So, here's your forecast radar, the showers and storms throughout the night and into tomorrow morning. We also have this wintry side, where we've had ongoing blizzard conditions across portions of South Dakota as well as Nebraska. Eastern sections of Colorado as well, we've had visibility down to zero with 40, 50, 60 mile per hour wind gusts, Wolf.

And so, it's been incredibly dangerous across the wintry side, as well as the severe side with this system.

BLITZER: Very dangerous, indeed. Jennifer Gray, thank you very much.

Coming up, an intimate and very revealing documentary about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The filmmaker is her daughter and she's talking to CNN.



BLITZER: The outgoing house speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is the subject of an intimate and revealing documentary by her daughter, the filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, who spoke to CNN about the attack on her father and the role it played in her mother's decision to step down from House leadership.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with the story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Alexandra Pelosi actually made some news when she discussed the attack on her father and her mother's decision to step down. Her documentary chronicles of family that has been put through some incredibly tough challenges in recent years.


ALEXANDRA PELOSI, DAUGHTER OF SPEAKER PELOSI: You are tough not to crack, you know that? There is no cracking, you?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): But that's what you want to do, crack your mom.

TODD (voice-over): An exchange between anti-Pelosi and her daughter, Alexandra, after the House speaker told her she can smell political success and failure. Speaking to CNN about her new documentary on her mother premiering tonight on HBO Max, Alexandra Pelosi said the violent attack on her father, Paul Pelosi, in October drove Nancy Pelosi's decision to step down from her Democratic leadership position.

ALEXANDRA PELOSI: After my father I was attacked, that was it. We are still in the ICU and we are saying, "We're done".

TODD: The documentary titled "Pelosi in the House" gives viewers a behind the scenes personal take on how Nancy Pelosi operates, including those moments when her toughness was tested like few other political leaders have ever been.

REP. PELOSI: Look at the protesters outside the capital.


TODD: Alexandra Pelosi's footage from January 6th shows her mother, a target of rioters who wanted to harm her, being rushed from the Capitol. Then, at a secure location at a nearby Fort McNair, working the phones, biting up in a packet of what looks like a Slim Jim, and expressing concern for the safety of then Vice President Mike Pence.

REP. PELOSI: OK, I worry about you being at the Capitol, though. Don't let anybody know where you are.

TODD: At certain points, documentary almost looks like a Pelosi family home movie.

TIA MITCHELL, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: The film includes a lot of unguarded moments, a lot of personal moments that even a regular documentary film crew might not have had access to because it is the kind of moments that only family is usually privy to.

TODD: Alexandra Pelosi told CNN when her mother first ran for Congress, he told Alexandra, then a teenager, for her permission. Alexandra says she granted it. Now she says if she had known her mother or father would be attacked the way they have been, she would have never given her permission.

ALEXANDRA PELOSI: For my family, what we went through was it worth it? Now. My prayers would say yes. My father, after all he's been through, he would say yes. My mother, of course, she would say, I'm proud of my wounds, because she's proud of the life that she's lived. But for -- the family, the families are the ones who pay the highest price for this kind of life.


TODD: Among them, many intensely personal, painful episodes Alexandra Pelosi has talked about are the responses of prominent Republicans to the attack on her father. Wolf, they made some horrible jokes.

BLITZER: Yeah. All right. Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you very, very much.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.