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Fed Opts For Smaller Rate Increase, Signals More Hikes In 2023; New Russian Warning Against U.S. Patriot Missiles To Ukraine; Confirmed Tornado Strikes New Orleans; Louisiana Governor Declares State Of Emergency Amid Tornado Outbreak. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 14, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Americans buying homes and seeking loans are bracing for the impact of the seventh interest rate hike this year. The Fed opting for a smaller increase this time as inflation cools while signaling there may be more economic pain in 2023.

Also tonight, as Russia launches new strikes on Ukraine including the Capitol, the Kremlin is warning it will target U.S. Patriot missiles that may soon be sent to defend Ukrainian cities.

And there's breaking news, a damaging tornado strike in New Orleans. A powerful winter storm unleashing a deadly twister outbreak as well as blizzard warnings as it barrels east.

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

But first let's go to the new rate hike by the Federal Reserve and the broader economic outlook heading into the New Year, lots at stake right now.

CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now. Phil, the White House is obviously keenly aware of the impact these rate hikes have on American consumers and on the U.S. economy. So, what's the reaction over there to this latest move by the Fed?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, there's no question about that. And on the heels of the first positive signs that inflation's grip may be finally starting to recede somewhat, Federal Reserve officials voted to slow what has been a month's long effort on a very aggressive side of things to cool the U.S. economy down. However, they made clear they believed inflation would be stubborn in its hold going forward and more rate hikes would follow.

Now, inside the White House, the Fed's willingness to slow down that campaign was positive news, positive news on the heels of that very clear signs in the data that inflation was starting to release some of its grip here. But there is a recognition that any optimism about what may be happening next is somewhat cautious knowing that, over the course of the last several years, there have been a lot of predictions about what may happen with inflation and many of those, particularly those that may have been somewhat rosy ended up being wrong.

However, when you look at the full-scale of the U.S. economy right now, White House officials I've been speaking to, while taking pains not to weigh in on the Fed's decision specifically, say they have very clear signals, that what the president and his team have wanted over the course of the last several months, very clear continued economic growth if somewhat cooler than it has been the last year-and-a-half and clear signs of deceleration on the inflation front, are starting to very clearly happen. Now, whether or not that could be maintained is an open question.

However, the reasons that's more important than anything else at this point is while they definitely want to see prices decrease, they also don't want the Fed to tip the economy into a recession if things continue on the path that they're going on right now. White House officials believe there's a pathway to that so-called soft landing, however, though they knew it is a long road ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil, you also have important new reporting that the White House is closely monitoring right now, the situation along the U.S. southern border. Give us the latest.

MATTINGLY: Yes. There is a sense of urgency and the very real recognition of the problem that may lay ahead when the so-called Title 42 authority is lifted on December 21st. Now, there are still courthouse proceedings that White House officials are following but they are very much planning on that authority, which was put in place by the Trump administration, has blocked thousands, if not more of migrants over the last several years.

When that authority is lifted, there is a sense that there will be a surge at the border and there has been a surge even leading up to this point. There have been intensive behind the scenes discussions between top White House officials, the Department of Homeland Security in preparation for that moment, the surging of personnel, of infrastructure, trying to meet entry points that they believe will involve thousands of new migrants in the days ahead.

Now, there are expected to be new announcements, Wolf, in the days ahead in preparation for that moment, but the reality when you talk to White House officials is this. They need more money. They have asked Congress for an additional $3 billion. And they also know that the only long-term fix here will come through legislative action, something that while there is a proposal on the table on Capitol Hill is a framework fray bipartisan proposal, no clear signals that's going to get over the finish line anytime soon, that means the administration is going to have to address this, and they know it's coming soon, Wolf.


BLITZER: Phil Mattingly at the White House for us, thank you very much, from the White House.

Let's head over to Capitol Hill right now, where a bipartisan framework has been reached on a massive spending bill to keep the government running. It comes as some Republicans are expressing concerns about the deal, including the Republican House leader, Kevin McCarthy.

Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean. She's watching all the drama unfold. Jessica, negotiators are trying to keep the government funded but is McCarthy more focused right now on his push to become the next speaker of the House?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is certainly very focused on that, Wolf, looking to January 3rd when that vote will take place, when he needs to get those 218 votes in the House to become speaker. And what we're really seeing is a theme that's played out over and over again here on the Hill, which is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader McCarthy really at odds with one another in terms of how they want to move forward. We heard from McConnell that he called this broadly appealing to get a year-long spending bill done, and now we're hearing from McCarthy, he says he's a hell no on any sort of massive funding bill that would fund the government for a year.

And this is happening as, of course, he's trying to get hard line Republicans, very conservative Republicans, to support him in this speaker's race. And so while he might have indicated privately that he would be open to a spending package like this, what we're seeing playing out in public is that he is certainly trying to court those votes. We know there's five House Republicans that are solidly no against him right no, that they have said they're going to move in block one way or another, he needs those votes to become House speaker.

My colleague, Manu Raju, talk to him a little bit about this earlier. Take a look.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Has it been so hard for you to get 218 votes to become speaker when you have President Trump apparently lobbying on your behalf? You've been meeting with members of the Freedom Caucus but the votes just aren't there. Why is this so hard for you?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Spending time with my conference. But, I mean, you know what's amazing to me? Here we are with the biggest things going on, on the spending, like I can always count on you for the most inappropriate question. But --


DEAN: So, again, we have that never Kevin bloc of five House Republicans who are very much against McCarthy becoming speaker.

We also noticed, Wolf, earlier today that we're starting to see some members of the House GOP wearing okay buttons, only Kevin. That is their message to their colleagues. So, again, this continues to play out, as he really tries to make this play for speaker and the day is now slipping away. Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Jessica dean, thank you very much.

There's certainly a lot to discuss. Joining us now, CNN's Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, CNN's Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt, CNN's Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny and our White House Reporter Priscilla Alvarez.

Gloria, let me get your take first of all, on this clash that emerging between Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, these two Republican leaders on Capitol Hill. What's really going on here? It's a clash over government funding, which is so critically important.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. First of all, I want to say that was not an inappropriate question, by the way, to be asked by our colleague, Manu Raju, not at all. But let's talk about this relationship between McConnell and McCarthy. I was told by an ally of McConnell's today that the two have never been close. I don't think him saying is not going to support this bill after he implied in a private meeting that he would support this bill is going to make them any closer.

And I think what's going on here is McCarthy needs to get votes to become speaker. And he's being held hostage to a fringe of the minority, as we all know, some members of the freedom caucus. McConnell wants to get the work done for the Congress and McCarthy is saying hell no because he wants to get the votes and that's what's going on.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. I mean, look, I think the reality here is that right now, under these circumstances, it's okay for McCarthy to take this stand. It accomplishes what he needs to do politically, and the reality is Democrats still control the floor of the House. So, if there's a deal to go forward to fund the government, that's all fine and good. His life is so much harder if, in fact, he actually manages to get to 218 and then we're in the New Year and he's trying to convince his conference to govern the country instead of shutting everything down, right? So, that's really the rub here.

And that's why I think when you hear Mitch McConnell making treats about, oh, we're only going to do this for a few weeks, we're going to kick this into January, we're going to let McCarthy actually have a real role in this in this instead of just a politically -- I mean, this is political theater, right, what he did with Manu today.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, the reality is, though, Mitch McConnell would be doing McCarthy a favor by passing this for a year, because then McCarthy does not inherit this, literally, his first month on the job.


HUNT: Is that right?

Of course, and we've seen this every year.

But the reality here is this is just a preview into what's going to be coming. Because Mitch McConnell -- you're right, Gloria, they aren't close at all. They come from entirely different generations of the Republican Party. They viewed Trump differently, et cetera, on and on. But Mitch McConnell is going to be the punching bag sort of for the House Republicans. This is a preview to what next year will be, regardless of who becomes speaker.

BLITZER: It's going to be lively, I think, for all of you on that.

Priscilla, you've really been doing a lot of reporting, excellent reporting, on what's going on along the border between the U.S. and Mexico right now. What's the latest? What are you hearing? Because it seems like it's getting worse and worse and worse.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the scenes that we saw in El Paso is exactly what the administration was concerned about. And, really, what the plans boil down to is shoring up enough sources on the U.S. southern border to meet what could be unprecedented level of people coming to the border.

So, what does that look like? DHS officials tell me it's setting up temporary facilities, ramping up air and ground transportation and increasing their referral of prosecution for repeat crossers. But the big picture here is that this is an authority that was rolled over from the Trump administration. It was tied to the coronavirus pandemic. And now the Biden administration knew it was going to come to an end, a federal judge is requiring it to be so.

And what is happening now is they're going to have to go back to decades' old protocol, speaking of Congress, and having to do so at a time of mass migration in the hemisphere, and it makes it uniquely difficult for this administration. And that's why we're seeing this --

BORGER: Some people want to reinstate it, right? They just say -- or let it stay or do something to postpone. What's going to happen on December 21?

ALVAREZ: Well, it's part of the bipartisan framework.

BORGER: Exactly.

ALVAREZ: That Tillis and Sinema put together, is having for at least another year. But that's a hard pill to swallow for progressive Democrats who, for since the Trump administration, has said this should go away.

BLITZER: Yes. This is going to be a big story. We're going to stay on top of it as well.

On the economy, Jeff, you heard Phil report that the Biden administration now seems to see some sort of soft landing emerging out there. The stakes clearly are enormous right now. What are you hearing?

ZELENY: Without a doubt. I mean, the administration has been waiting for inflation to cool, and it does look like it's cooling somewhat, but still the reality is when do people feel this. That is still the challenge for this White House and this president.

Yes, gas prices were lower than they were, without a doubt. We're entering the winter heating season. That is going to be a very big deal for people. But can they avoid a recession? The White House believes that they can, they hope they can, but the interest rates have changed dramatically since he's been in office.

So, this is all going to be part and parcel of his re-election campaign, should he decide to do that. But they believe they are turning the corner sort of slightly on the economy here, but, again, most of it, virtually all of it is out of their hands.

HUNT: These things take time, too, don't forget, and we're about to hit, frankly -- I mean, yes, the calendar is going to say 2023 in a few weeks, but we're going to be in the 2024 election cycle. And if there is a recession, it's the White House and Democrats that are going to pay for it.

BORGER: And no one talks about it more than Biden. Really, every time he goes out, he says, I know you don't feel good about the way things are going right now, the old Bill Clinton, I feel your pain, but we're going to turn the corner, I'm not sure when. So, it's not something Biden shies away from talking about but he's sort of full of hope and optimism for the New Year. Let's see what happens.

BLITZER: And Biden remembers the days when James Carville used to say, it's the economy, stupid, and he still remembers that, and he knows that as well.

Guys, standby, we've got some breaking news we're following right now, a tornado hitting New Orleans just a short time ago.

Let's go to our Meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She's over at the CNN Weather Center for us. More bad news on the weather. So, what's the latest, Jennifer?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Wolf. This has been a very dangerous storm system. We actually have video of it from earlier when the storm passed just on the east side of New Orleans. You can see numerous power flashes as the storm went by.

It's hard to see on the video, but you can look on the right side, the center to right side on your screen, right there, you can see those power flashes and then you can see that cone shape that's a little bit darker, that's the tornado that was caught on camera rolling through the east side of New Orleans. This cell is still in progress.

Now, this rolled through New Orleans just a short time ago around -- between 4:30 and 5:00 Central Time. And here is it as it rolls through to the east. It's cleared out of New Orleans now, but it now has produced a tornado warning for the Gulfport Biloxi area. So, if you are in Southern Mississippi, in the line of this -- in the path of the storm, get to your safe spot immediately.

This storm has a history of damage as well as potential injuries. And so we are going to be watching this closely, Wolf, in the coming hours.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll going to be in close touch with you. Thanks so much for that report.


Just ahead, a new threat by Russia as the U.S. is finalizing plans right now to send the Patriot air defense missile system to Ukraine. We're going live to Kyiv. That's next.


BLITZER: Tonight, Russia is making new threats as the U.S. is finalizing plans to send its Patriot air defense missile defense system to Ukraine. The Biden administration could make an announcement on that as soon as this week, as we report it first right here on CNN.

Let's go to CNN Senior International Correspondent Will Ripley. He's joining us live from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv right now. So, Will, tell us more about what the Kremlin is now saying.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the Kremlin is essentially saying that once Patriot missile defense systems arrive here in Ukraine, they will become a prime target for Russian airstrikes that, as of late, have been targeting these civilian power infrastructure, which is exactly why the Ukrainians have been calling for the Patriots because they want to prevent millions of people from being plunged into the dark and the cold as we get ever closer to the start of winter and temperatures are already well below winter temperatures than most of us are used to experiencing.

It is frigid here. People have been dealing with power outages for weeks, and Russia tried to do it again.


Here in Kyiv, just a short distance from our hotel early this morning when many people, including some CNN staffers woke up to the sound of explosions.


RIPLEY (voice over): A terrifying way to wake up in Kyiv, the chilling buzz of another drone attack on the Ukrainian capital caught on camera. The rumble was like from a moped, that was the sound it made, says Svetlana. It fell behind the houses and then there was a strong roar and explosion.

Some buildings left on fire, hit by remains of the destroyed Iranian- made Shaheds, as they fell. Some landed near a local soccer field. Did you hear the explosion? ANDRIY SHAKHOV, DYNAMO KYIV FOOTBALL CLUB: Yes, of course. We all wake up. It was one here, first part, and the second part near the entrance from the training base and the third one near the forest.

RIPLEY: A few hours later, the consequences could have been much worse.

And you have kids playing soccer here.

SHAKHOV: No. Its 6:00 (INAUDIBLE), but --

RIPLEY: But they would have been here if it had to happened later?

SHAKHOV: Yes. Later, yes, because we have tournament here.

RIPLEY: Authorities say Russia launched the drones towards Kyiv on Wednesday, aiming them at the already battered power grid to sow fear and chaos and potentially plunge millions into the dark and cold. This time, all the drones were shot down.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says the terrorists started this morning with 13 Shaheds. According to preliminary information, all 13 were shot down by Ukraine's air defense systems. Well done, he says, I'm proud.

Ukrainian defenses less successful in Kherson. Authorities say multiple Russian rockets hit this administrative building in the heart of the southern Ukrainian city. Authorities say nobody was hurt. Inside, the damage severe, entire sections destroyed.

Ukraine says attacks like this and the one in Kyiv aimed at wearing down the Ukrainian people, trying to break their spirits, reduce support for resistance against Russia. But here in Kyiv, people refuse to give in.

You are brave people.

SHAKHOV: Yes, children, the parents, women, old man it doesn't matter. They are so brave.

RIPLEY: Bravery on and off the battlefield.


RIPLEY (on camera): And in Southern Ukraine, in Kherson, the Russians have gone from occupiers to attackers. They have been relentlessly shelling and rocketing targets, including an administrative building, Wolf. People are dying on a regular basis. Russia also reportedly using cluster bombs against civilians in Kherson.

BLITZER: Will Ripley, reporting for us. Thank you very much, Will.

Joining us now, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor. Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us.

Russia is now warning, as you heard, that it will, quote, immediately target these Patriot air defense missile systems once the U.S. provides them to Ukraine. Give us a sense of how these Patriot air defense missiles would change the battlefield potentially in Ukraine's favor.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Wolf, these are the most sophisticated air defense that we've got, and we're finally providing them to the Ukrainians. My view, we should have done it earlier, but now that they are en route, now that they're going to be -- the Ukrainians will be trained on these systems, they'll be able to knock down and at a long distance aircraft, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles. These Patriot missiles are extremely effective against this area.

BLITZER: Those of us who cover the Middle East know when the U.S. started to provide these Patriot air defense missiles to Israel, it saved a lot of Israeli lives because rockets and missiles were coming in from Southern Lebanon or from Gaza and the Patriots air defense missile system really prevented a lot of those from making any impact.

TAYLOR: Absolutely. And I've got to believe that's been the impetus for making this decision. This is a big change.

BLITZER: The Ukrainians have been asking for it for a long time. Why has it taken so long?

TAYLOR: It's the right question. I remember just as I left in 2020, I had a final meeting with President Zelenskyy, he asked me specifically for Patriots at that time. So, that was two years ago. Yes, they've been asking for it for a long time. There have been questions about how long it's going to take the train, how long that this -- one big question, Wolf, is there are not that many batteries, there are not that many Patriot batteries that are available. So, they've got the question.

But, now that this horrible attack -- these horrible attacks on infrastructure, on energy, on electricity, that means that the Ukrainians, just as your reporters said, the Russians are trying to break the Ukrainians and they're not. They're failing.

BLITZER: Yes. These missiles will save a lot of Ukrainian lives in the process. Ambassador Taylor, thank you very much for that analysis.

There's more breaking news just ahead, a confirmed tornado striking New Orleans, part of a series of deadly and truly devastating storms hammering parts of the south right now. We're about to go live to Louisiana. That's next.



BLITZER: More now on the breaking news we're following, the tornado that just hit New Orleans a short time ago, part of a severe, very severe weather system, impacting millions of Americans.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking all these storm developments for us. Jennifer, Louisiana's governor, I understand, has just declared a state of emergency.

GRAY: I'm not surprised. We have seen tornados all across the state, from the north end to the south end, and these storms are still producing tornados. Here's video of that storm rolling through the east side of New Orleans. As I continue to talk about these storms, you'll see the power flashes and even that cone that's a little darker, that's the tornado.


These storms are still in progress, that same cell that went through New Orleans now producing a tornado warning for the Gulfport Biloxi area in Mississippi, so these storms are still just as powerful as they move to the east.

These storms will continue during the overnight hours and into tomorrow morning. Here's all the tornado reports we've already seen, and that number will continue to grow, Wolf. These are very dangerous storms and they aren't letting up even into the overnight hours.

BLITZER: We will stay in very close touch with you, Jennifer. Thank you very much.

This is the second night in a row of extremely dangerous weather here in the United States in the south, specifically. CNN Meteorologist Derek Van Dam is on the scene for us right now in Louisiana.


DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice over): A tornado over New Iberia, Louisiana, caught on camera.

We're going to confirm at least two tornados have touched down in New Iberia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, dude.

VAN DAM: The city's police captain recording significant damage to Iberia Medical Center, just one of string of over a dozen tornados in the past 24 hours, wreaking havoc across the Deep South.

SHERIFF DUSTY GATES, UNION PARISH SHERIFF'S OFFICE: We had quite a few homes damage and destroyed. We had approximately 20 to 25 known injuries from minor to -- we had a couple of people in critical condition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at the top of my house, you all, house just gone.

VAN DAM: Overnight in Farmerville, not far from the Arkansas state line --

CADE NOLAN, PIO, FARMERVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: We had found several mobile homes that had been thrown out into the nearby woods, multiple apartments damaged, multiple vehicles and a whole trailer park has been pretty much demolished. VAN DAM: Beth Tabor survived sheltering in a bathtub covering her roommate and her roommate and her roommate's baby with her own body.

BETH TABOR, LIVES IN FARMERVILLE, LOUISIANA: It sounds, just like they say, like a freight train. It was pretty bad just hearing all the -- everything flying around and you can't do anything about it.

VAN DAM: To the southwest, families in Keithville scrambling for safety.

TAMMY SEPULVADO, LIVES IN CADDO PARISH, LOUISIANA: We got in the shower, like I said, and then all of a sudden at that time, we got to hunker down here, it was gone, the roof was gone.

VAN DAM: The storm being blamed in at least two deaths, according to the sheriff in Caddo Parish, a mother and child were killed.

In Four Forks mobile homes destroyed, belongings strewn throughout the neighborhood, trees uprooted and first responders helping guide residents out to safety from their crumbled homes.

Just hours earlier, parts of Texas taking a beating, and in Oklahoma, too, where residents survey the damage left in the storm's path.

With the storm system on the move, severe weather warnings have been issued across the Deep South. Government offices and schools closed in Mississippi with over 14 million people under a tornado or a severe weather threat.

Meanwhile, out across the plain, it's a deluge of snow and ice. In Wyoming, a whiteout, in South Dakota, most state offices are closed, and in parts of Minnesota, blizzard warnings are in effect as this massive front pushes eastward.


VAN DAM: Yes. And, Wolf, you know, the tornado that went through the greater New Orleans area earlier today actually crossed paths with an earlier tornado earlier this year in March of 2022. My team and I were on the site for the destruction and the aftermath there. And to see another tornado impact the same area is truly, truly heart breaking, not to mention the injuries and the fatality that has been reported there.

Now, as we start to see darkness descend on Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, the threat does not diminish. It only increases because now the tornados will be shrouded in darkness. You can just see the pure power of these thunderstorms, as they have rolled through the area, completely flipping over vehicles, tearing homes off of their foundation.

We have seen this time and time again across the Deep South. There's not that easy connection between climate change and tornados but we do know that the Gulf of Mexico is warming, that's extending the tornado season across the south and it's also pushing what we consider tornado alley, the area where we see some of the highest occurrences of tornados in the plains closer and closer to the south and to the east. Wolf?

BLITZER: Stay safe over there, Derek Van Dam, on the scene for us. I appreciate it very much.

Coming up, a significant move by the House January 6th select committee as it wraps up its investigation into the U.S. Capitol insurrection.



BLITZER: New developments tonight in the investigation into the Capitol insurrection as the house select committee now moves to wrap up its work while the U.S. Justice Department probe is actually heating up right now.

CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray has the latest.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The House committee investigating January 6th dropping its pursuit of phone records for several Donald Trump allies as the committee winds down its work.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): This is crunch time for the committee.

MURRAY: The lawmakers are abandoning subpoena related to phone records for Trump allies who contested then in court, including adviser Sebastian Gorka, Roger Stone and White House Aide Stephen Miller, among others, according to court records.

SEBASTIAN GORKA, TRUMP ALLY: Anything to do with my phone and all phones associated with it on the account, that includes my wife, my children, must be data dumped to the January 6th witch hunt committee.

MURRAY: Leaving the committee to wrap up its work without some of the information it had been fighting for in court. After more than a year of investigating, roughly a 1,000 witness interviews and a fruitless subpoena to the former president --


REP. LIZ CNENEY (R-WY): We are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion.

MURRAY: -- the January 6th panel is set to hold its final public meeting December 19th and release its final report two days later.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The report will be for both the present and for the future, so people understood and understand exactly what we learned, the role people played, a lot of the granular detail and evidence that we uncovered.

MURRAY: At the meeting, lawmakers are expected to unveil five or six buckets of referrals, including referrals to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution, referrals for possible state bar discipline, referrals for potential campaign finance violations and referrals for the House Ethics Committee.

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

MURRAY: While the committee winds down, the special counsel's probe into January 6th and efforts to overturn the 2020 election is expanding. After previously seeking information from fake electors across several battleground states Trump contested --

REPORTER: That was 16 electors that have been advice by the governor's staff and we are going to be here to (INAUDIBLE) Electoral College, you've been checking (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the GOP electorates.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But these are the rest of the electorates.


MURRAY: Prosecutors are now seeking information from local officials in those same swing states, Nevada, New Mexico, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Pennsylvania.


MURRAY (on camera): And, Wolf, we've heard a lot at this point about the federal investigation into the whole fake elector scheme, but the fact that the special counsel is now issuing this new round of subpoenas to state and local officials in these battleground states tells you prosecutors want to dig beyond that. They want to know more about any contacts Donald Trump, his campaign, his allies may have had with other officials in these states trying to overturn the 2020 election.

BLITZER: Lots going on. Sara Murray reporting for us from Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honing and CNN's Legal Analyst Elliot Williams.

Elie, will the January 6th select committee be able to put together a really comprehensive and impactful report even without the phone records that they're seeking from so many of these individuals?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think they will, for sure, Wolf. So, first of all, let's keep in mind big picture here just how much information the January 6th committee already has obtained. We know they've spoken with over a thousand witnesses. We know they've obtained emails, texts, we've seen a lot of that evidence at the public hearing. This is an area that will be missing. However, the January 6th committee is not helpless here. I think what they can do, what I would do if I was in their position, is flag this for prosecutors say, hey, we tried to get these phone records through normal subpoenas. We lost just because the recipients managed to delay this out in court, but you prosecutors have every ability and every right to go get those phone records. And, Wolf, I suspect prosecutors either already have gotten those records or will soon.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right. Elliot, but how should the committee address any gaps in their final report that could result from its inability, at least so far, to get those records?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And, Wolf, picking up on Elie's point, what's important to note here is what the goal of the committee is. And they're not building a criminal case, what they're building a public document. That can go to prosecutors or the general public for viewing it.

So, even if there are gaps, they can just say, and you saw this frankly in the 9/11 commission report some 20 or so years ago, when they said, this is the information that we had available to us, this is what we don't have and wink, wink, prosecutors, if you are able to get further information, then, by all means, go ahead.

The Justice Department -- it's not just a question of time, they generally have more, I guess, heft or reach when it comes to getting the subpoena records. And so I would be stunned if the Justice Department isn't able to get phone records that they wish to get down the road.

Now, I don't see this particularly big stumbling block for the committee given what their goal is.

BLITZER: Elie, wrap this up for us. Where do you see this going right now?

HONIG: Well, Wolf, I think on Monday, we're looking for a closing argument from the committee. I think they're making a closing argument to the American people, to the history books, for sure. This report will live in history. And, finally, I do think -- as Elliot said, I think they're appealing to prosecutors here. They're going to try to put the case together in a way that assists prosecutors however possible.

BLITZER: Elie Honig and Elliot Williams, excellent analysis, thank you very, very much.

There's more breaking news next, the state of emergency just declared in Louisiana amid a deadly tornado outbreak including one that made a direct hit -- a direct hit on New Orleans. We're going back live to Louisiana. That's next.


[18:49:00] BLITZER: More now on the breaking news we're following. The deadly tornado outbreak in Louisiana that's prompted a state of emergency just declared.

Our meteorologist Derek Van Dam is on the scene for us in Louisiana tonight.

Derek, New Orleans I understand is among the cities that have really been hit hard.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, indeed. And I was sitting inside of our van with my producer watching our affiliate WDSU show this chilling video of the tornado that moved through the Lower Ninth Ward, the same areas that were hit so hard by the March tornado earlier this year that my team and I were also on the ground for during that.

And it just brought back a lot of memories because as I watched that video, you see the lightening flashes as that funnel cloud connected with the ground and started to take out electrical poles, blowing up transformers, obviously taking out electricity and causing damage in its path.


But this is the exact same sight that I saw not eight months ago in nearly an identical area. In fact their tornado paths crossed in almost the same exact locations, so kind of chilling and haunting to see that happen. Very, very difficult next few days ahead of them and a difficult year that they have certainly had.

Just across the state of Louisiana, they're reeling with this increasing number of tornados, it appears, and hurricanes as well. The damage that's being left behind. I mean, I've covered a lot of natural disasters in my career at CNN, and it never ceases to amaze me the sheer power of what Mother Nature and what wind can do.

I mean, it completely flipped this vehicle on its side. We have homes that have been completely taken off of their foundation. The mobile home park behind me, we were reporting on it all day long. Much of it decimated to the ground to rubble quite literally, talking to survivors who had to do triage on their neighbors during this event.

And I'm looking directly into the camera because I want the people ahead of these storms to be aware that they are very dangerous, and they are marching eastward. So, just because now it's nighttime, the danger hasn't been minimized. It actually increases because tornados now are going to be shrouded in darkness.

You know, Wolf, this area, the gulf coast in particular, is so vulnerable to tornados. It all has to do with population densities. It's a lot more populated with trees. It is an area that is vulnerable to these types of storms.

BLITZER: Certainly is. All right. Derek, stay safe over there. Coming up, the U.S. marks ten years now since the massacre at Sandy

Hook Elementary School. But dozens of children have died in school shootings in the decades since.

An in-depth look at America's struggle with gun violence, that's next.



BLITZER: It's been ten years since the massacre at the sandy hook elementary school left the country reeling. But school shootings have continued at an alarming rate in the decades since as the U.S. struggles with gun violence.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with more on what's going on.

Brian, the horror of that day in Connecticut, is it possible -- is it possible to forget?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many of us remember where we were, what we were doing that day, Wolf. And now a decade later for so many people, the grief has not subsided, and the frustration has only run.


TODD (voice-over): Barack Obama today called it a, quote, visceral blow, the darkest day of his presidency. The former president in a statement relaying what he calls the sorrow and anger he felt ten years ago today when 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7, and six adults, were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On that day, Mr. Obama couldn't contain his anguish.

BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They had their entire live as head of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.

TODD: Obama now says the closest he came to being cynical about America.

OBAMA: Was the utter failure of Congress to respond in the immediate aftermath of the sandy hook shootings.

TODD: In the days immediately following the shooting, many believed sandy hook would surely be the catalyst for tighter gun laws. But Congress failed to pass a proposed assault weapons ban or a bipartisan measure for expanded background checks. A decade later, the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, this past spring, 19 students and two teachers killed in their classrooms. A survivor of Sandy Hook, who's now only 17, and has been fighting for gun control in recent years, tells CNN Uvalde felt personal.

CYRENA AROKIUM, SURVIVOR OF SANDY HOOK SHOOTING: It really affected me because I felt like I failed, and just to know that, like, something so similar happened again is very tiring.

TODD: Uvalde, another instance when a shaken president pleaded for an end to inaction.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When in God's name we do what we all know in our gut do what we know needs to be done.

TODD: In the wake of Uvalde, Congress did pass some of the most significant gun control legislation in decades, proving incentives for states to enact red flag laws, which is allow for guns to be denied to people perceived to be threats to themselves or others, imposing enhanced background checks for gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21, barring people convicted of domestic violence against partners from buying guns, and providing new mental health resources. But many, including President Biden, see that as just a tiny step.

Why has so little been done in the decades since Sandy Hook?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: You have Republicans and Democrats very divided over what kind of gun restrictions are acceptable. For a broad swath of Republicans, no restrictions are acceptable. They see it as an infringement on their Second Amendment rights.

TODD: For the parent of one Sandy Hook victim, a decade of frustration on top of oppressive grief.

NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOTHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM DYLAN HOCKLEY: I don't know how much more our country can take, and why we keep going through that same cycle over and over again of thoughts and prayers and lack of action.


TODD: What does the future of gun control look like in the United States? Analysts say, with control of the House about to switch hands from Democrat to Republican, any significant legislation on the national level very unlikely -- Wolf.

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

And important note to our viewers, stay with CNN later tonight for a special report "Sandy Hook: Forever Remembered" with our own Alisyn Camerota. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Finally tonight, the popular former deejay for the Ellen DeGeneres show Stephen Boss, also know as Twitch, has died. A dancer and choreographer, Boss rose to fame on the show "So You Think You Can Dance." That's where he met his wife of nine years, fellow dancer, Allison Holker Boss, who is remembering him tonight as the best husband and father to their three children.

The L.A. County medical examiner says boss died by suicide. He was 40 years old.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, we urge you to call 988 to reach the suicide and crisis life line.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.