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Source Says, 1/6 Committee May Recommend Multiple Criminal Charges Against Trump; Russia Fires Dozens Of Missiles In One Of Its Biggest Attacks On Ukraine; Griner Leaves Texas Medical Facility A Week After U.S. Return; CNN On Southern Border Amid Concerns About Influx Of Migrants; Elon Musk Suspends Twitter Accounts Of Prominent Journalists. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 16, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, CNN has learned that the January 6thth select committee is considering asking the U.S. Justice Department to pursue at least two criminal charges against former President Trump. We're getting new information about the panel's last-minute work ahead of its final meeting on Monday.
Also tonight, colossal damage from one of the biggest Russian attacks on Ukraine since the war began. Dozens of missiles, dozens, targeting multiple cities, as the U.S. appears to be on the brink of sending Patriot air defense missiles to Ukraine.
And CNN is now on the scene at the southern border amid growing fears that a full blown crisis is unfolding as thousands of migrants pour in the El Paso area every day.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we begin with the breaking news on the January 6thth select committee and the criminal referrals the panel is now considering against former President Donald Trump. An official announcement is expected on Monday. But CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray has new details on what is happening right now behind the scenes. Sara is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. What are you learning?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have heard from the individual lawmakers on the committee and many of them have spoken publicly saying they believe that Donald Trump was responsible for January 6th. Now, we are waiting for the committee to speak with one voice on Monday, and we are learning they are considering referring Donald Trump to Justice Department on at least two criminal charges.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn't happen. MURRAY (voice over): The January 6th committee considering asking the Justice Department to pursue at least two criminal charges against former President Donald Trump.
TRUMP: We fight. We fight like hell.
MURRAY: A source telling CNN, those charges include obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the federal government, and there could be more. Members huddling behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on the final report they plan to unveil next week.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): I've spent countless hours along with the other committee members going through the report and the appendixes, looking at the footnotes, editing.
MURRAY: Chairman Bennie Thompson saying the committee will lay out its top line findings in Monday's public meeting but plans share an executive summary of the panels growing investigation and perhaps even the bulk of the report, if it is finished in time.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): We have made decisions that criminal referrals will happen.
MURRAY: The committee also planning to reveal who they think should be held accountable with referrals for possible state bar discipline, referrals for campaign finance violation, referrals to the House Ethics Committee and referrals to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution.
THOMPSON: We have left no doubt, none, that Donald Trump led an effort to upend American democracy that directly resulted in the violence of January 6th.
MURRAY: Lawmakers especially focused in their hearings and public appearances on Trump's potential culpability.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I think he's guilty of a crime. He knew what he did. We've made that clear. He knew what was happening prior to January 6th.
MURRAY: While the referrals will lay a marker for posterity --
KINZINGER: Where I think this work is going to actually echo the loudest through is not even necessarily tomorrow, not even the if the Justice Department dies, it's going to echo through the history books.
MURRAY: Trump is already facing scrutiny from the Justice Department in its probe into the attack on the U.S. Capitol and in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Some of his top allies in the scheme, Lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and former DOJ Official Jeffrey Clark all face investigations from state bars.
Clark's home also searched, as he faces DOJ scrutiny as well. An unsealed court filing this week revealing federal investigators have accessed emails between Clark and Representative Scott Perry, who refused to talk to the January 6th committee.
MURRAY (on camera): Now, when it comes to these committee referrals, we know that Donald Trump is already at the center of this sprawling Justice Department investigation. We know the Justice Department certainly doesn't take its cues from Congress. But the committee has been clear that they feel like they found evidence of criminal wrongdoing and they feel like they need to make that available publicly and they need to send a clear signal to the Justice Department for the historical record.
BLITZER: It would be a very, very powerful signal as well. Sara Murray, thank you very, very much.
Let's get to more on all of the breaking news.
Our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is joining us, CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams is joining us, And CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, also with The New York Times, is with us. She's the Author by the way of Confidence Man, The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, a major New York Times best-seller.
Gloria, let me start with you. How meaningful is this house committee asking the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue criminal charges against the former president of the United States?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, it is incredibly meaningful. Because what you're saying is that a committee that has worked for months and months and months has done voluminous research and has concluded in the end that a former president of the United States should be criminally referred to the Department of Justice for effectively a coup, for trying to overturn a free and fair election.
However, we all know that this is symbolic, that this is not anything that is immediately actionable by the Department of Justice, which is conducting its own investigation into January 6th and other issues, like Mar-a-Lago, but it does send a message to the American public that this is what our conclusions have been after all the work we have done. And Donald Trump will respond and has responded, as he will, saying it is effectively a witch hunt, but the evidence will be there for history.
BLITZER: It is important, indeed. Elliot, you're our legal analyst. What can you tell us about these two charges, obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the federal government?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thanks, Wolf. Now, look, both of them carry here a five-year maximum sentence and they're both written pretty broadly to cover basically cheating against the United States.
So, with the official proceeding, somebody acting with improper purpose, lying or using deceit, destroying documents with an attempt to impede the administration of American justice would be a conviction here. Now, you could see how, based on the publicly available facts that we've all come across here, how the Justice Department could at least get to a charge of the former president or people around him for that. And then on conspiracy to defraud the United States, also written very, very broadly, as far as statutes go, and it said corruptly defrauding the United States.
Now, the Supreme Court has put a little more meat on the bones over the years and said that using fraud and lying deceit, trickery, and my favorite word they would ever used, chicanery, to defraud or take away from the United States. Once again you could at least see a path to a criminal charge for any number of people here even if folks don't end up getting convicted.
BLITZER: Yes, good point indeed.
Maggie, we know Trump has been lawyering up. Do you think this breaking news that we're just reporting now, come as a surprise to the former president or for that matter to his legal team?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It certainly shouldn't, Wolf, although I'll tell you there are some people into Trump's circle who are concerned about this development, which is, again, surprising because the committee has made pretty clear what individual members believe now. They're likely to speak with one voice on the matter if they move ahead.
But this is a concern to some of them. I don't think Trump's lawyers are surprised. I don't know that they are more concerned about this than they were about the existing special counsel and the investigation that has been going on for much of the last two years.
I mean, I think it is important to remember that this investigation has gone on by the DOJ for a very, very long time. But any time for Donald Trump, when there is a whiff of criminality or an accusation of criminality, he tends to react more forcefully than he does about civil matters, as many people do. But it really, really, you know, concerns him and concerns some folks around him. We'll see how they react next week if the committee moves ahead.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens on Monday.
So, where does all this go from here, Elliot? What would it take, for example, for the U.S. Justice Department to actually charge the former president with these crimes?
WILLIAMS: So, you know, in order to get there, Wolf, the Justice Department, per they're guidelines, would have to prove that they found a substantial likelihood of a conviction. Not just that they thought an individual did something but that they actually thought that they could get past a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that any of these elements were met, the ones that I sort of laid out before, using fraud or deceit or trickery.
Now, look, Congress can certainly make a recommendation to the Justice Department. It looks like, based on what we're seeing, here that they're going to on Monday or Wednesday of next week. The Justice Department doesn't have to rely on then at all. What really matters is do they think they have the evidence that they can get into court. Not what people feel in their guts or how much people dislike the former president, but can they establish the intent that there was an intent to commit acts of fraud?
Now, look, as I said earlier, you can certainly get there base on what appears to be the information available, but we will just have to see what Congress puts forward in that report and what the Justice Department actually decides to move forward with.
HABERMAN: And Wolf, this is -- as you just note, this is part of why Trump's lawyers are not especially concerned about this move by Congress, or at least most of them are not. They're not happy about it. It's certainly not a label that Donald Trump ever wants to be fixed with and some of his lawyers reacted to his emotions more than others. But for most part, they recognize that this is something that is procedural and it doesn't -- it is not likely to impact what DOJ does.
BLITZER: It is a recommendation from the select committee to the U.S. Justice Department. It is not necessarily a mandate.
Gloria, the final January 6th select committee report could, of course, though include additional, additional proposed charges against Trump. Based on what we've seen from committee throughout this process, do you think that is likely?
BORGER: Well, we don't know. I think it is very likely that there are going to be criminal referrals against those in Trump's orbit. I think, for example, his attorneys could be in some deep trouble and could be criminally referred. And so as we watch this story unfold, we know the cast of characters. Jeffrey Clark, formerly of the DOJ, Mr. Eastman, formerly his attorney, et cetera, et cetera.
I think the big picture here really is that Donald Trump, who will yet again claim to be a victim, of course, there are so many legal cases against him right now that the Justice Department is investigating. They don't need a push from Congress to do their work. We've seen that they've done their work with people who stormed the Capitol, for example, and it put many of those people in jail, including the head of the Oath Keepers who was convicted on seditious conspiracy.
I think the question is how will the public regard this, because there are so many legal problems for Donald Trump right now, who is running for the president of the United States. And what more can he say and what more can he do other than claim that he is a victim? It is up to the Justice Department right now.
Congress will be done with its investigation. At least the Democratic Congress in this January 6th committee will be done and the American public and the Justice Department have to make their own judgments right now. But the evidence has been put out there for them to see.
BLITZER: Maggie -- let me get Maggie to weigh in on how this has all impacted on the Trump's 2024 presidential campaign announcement. It seems to have gotten off to a rather lackluster start.
HABERMAN: I think it has gotten off to a lackluster start for a number of reasons, Wolf, and I think the main one, frankly, is the relatively poor performance of Republicans in the midterms. Compared to the red wave that Republicans and some non-Republicans have been predicting was coming. But it is absolutely true that Trump seems focused on anything but his presidential campaign.
I have been told my multiple people close to him that he sees a campaign as a shield against potential DOJ action or action in Georgia in the form of an indictment against him. I don't think that has changed. And I think that you will see him continue for his candidacy over the next couple of week, as Gloria predicted, as events unfold.
BLITZER: Good point. Guys, stand by, we're going to have more on all of the breaking news including the impact of a potential criminal referral against Trump, a key member of Congress, Representative Pramila Jayapal, is standing by. We'll discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, a source telling CNN that the house January 6th select committee is considering asking the U.S. Justice Department to pursue at least two criminal, criminal charges against former President Trump.
Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
Do you believe these charges that we're learning the January 6th select committee is considering asking the Justice Department to pursue, do you believe they go far enough in your view and do you think that the Justice Department will actually move forward with these charges and eventually be able to prove them?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Wolf, it is good to see you. I think that the January 6th committee has done a very thorough job and the charges that they will ultimately refer in the report will be charges that they feel they really have the evidence to back up.
I think that what they're looking at, you know, and there are a couple of different options here, obviously, obstruction, conspiracy to defraud the government, these are things that are critically important. And I think what the committee has been focused on is really targeting the ringleaders and major actors who have so far escaped prosecution and need to be held accountable if we are going to address what happened on January 6th and make sure that it never happens again.
BLITZER: I asked the question, Congresswoman, because after two impeachments and a different special counsel, who failed to hold Trump accountable in any really tangible way, do you think it is a mistake to expect to see any real accountability this time? JAYAPAL: I don't think that we have any other choice, Wolf. You know, these things that we're talking about are such -- of such gravity, such immense offenses against the Constitution and the country and our democracy that for Congress to not speak out on them would be extremely strange and irresponsible.
And we can't know what the Justice Department is going to do. Obviously, they're going to look at what they have in order to be able to go to a trial and if they have enough, and I have faith in Merrick Garland and the Justice Department to look at that.
But we have to do our jobs. We have to do everything we can to hold people accountable and we can't be worried about whether or not it is going to result ultimately in the conviction. We have to actually look at what is before us.
And the gravity -- and I was there, Wolf, as you well know, on January 6th when these insurrectionists came in.
I thought I was going to die. I thought the proceedings were not going to be able to go forward. And that is a terrible, terrible crime against the Constitution and the country.
BLITZER: And you believed your life was actually in danger, as you were sitting in the gallery there in the House?
JAYAPAL: I did. And you may know that I have also a lawsuit. I'm one of a number of members of Congress that have filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump, against the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers because we believe that the accountability is so necessary. And we -- there is no way we can say this isn't going to happen again if we don't actually follow it all the way to the end.
BLITZER: As we await Monday's final meeting of the select committee, this is a sort of a victory lap of sorts for the January 6th committee, but in just a few short weeks, Republicans will be taking control of the House of Representatives. So, how far is this going to go, do you believe?
JAYAPAL: Well, look, I think that the January 6th committee has done a phenomenal service to the country. And all those who came forward and testified, you know, from junior aides to senior officials, in the Trump cabinet about what was happening made it clear to the country that this is somebody -- Donald Trump is somebody who incited an insurrection. We have the evidence before us. He did not try to stop the insurrection once it started. And I think that their work speaks for itself.
What Republicans do with it, unfortunately, they are continuing --- the leader Kevin McCarthy, is one of the people who defied a subpoena. And I think we might see ethics referrals as well for -- well I'm interested to see whether the committee does ethics referrals for those members who refused subpoenas. I don't think that this Republican Party under Kevin McCarthy is going to suddenly change colors and become concerned about an insurrection, as they should be, because they're promoting people like January -- like Marjorie Taylor Greene who said that if she had been in charge of January 6th, that it would have been successful and they would have been armed. That is a terrifying thought or, you know, set of words coming from a sitting member of Congress.
So, again, I don't hold out great hope that the Republican Party of today is going to reject this but I do think we have to do our jobs.
BLITZER: We'll see when we will learn a lot more on Monday, obviously. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, Russia launched a massive and deadly new assault on Ukraine as the U.S. prepares to send Patriot air defense missiles to help Ukraine. We'll be right b back.
BLITZER: We're following a brazen and totally brutal new escalation of Russia's war against Ukraine, a barrage of Russian missiles unleashed on seven cities across the country targeting power and water supplies as the cold of winter sets in. The Ukraine officials are describing it as a massive assault, one of the biggest since Russia's invasion. And all of this comes as the U.S. is now finalizing plans to send its Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine.
Our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us with the latest on that. Barbara, how close is Ukraine to getting this long awaiting Patriot air missile defense system.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, all indications, Wolf, are that President Biden is going to sign the paperwork that will get this thing moving, Patriot will be shipped, we are told, to Ukraine, but not so fast on getting it a completely and ready to go. They're going to have to ship it in. They're going to have to train Ukraine soldiers. They will most likely bring them out to Germany and train them there, dozens, if not hundreds, it is a complex system. They will also have to learn how to maintain it, repair, spare parts, maintenance, all of that. It will not be easy.
But right now, with the Russians continuing this daily missile assault, the patriot really is considered crucial to being able to shoot down incoming Russian ballistic missiles at higher altitudes and longer distances to keep them away from those population centers, Wolf.
BLITZER: And you broke the story that these Patriots would be on the way very, very soon. Barbara, stand by. We're going to get back to you in just a moment. I want to get some more on the deadly Russian missile assault on multiple cities in Ukraine today. Here is CNN International Security Editor Nick Paton Walsh.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice over): Add to the frost the rumble that makes it yet colder and deadlier still. The persistence in the gloom on Friday, the sound of electricity, water and life being a ground away, Russia's brutality is routine but life above ground has adjusted even police patrols ordering people underground, and life there finding its own rhythm too. This couple knew what they had to take with them as they walked to acting rehearsal as.
LADA KOROVAI, ACTRESS IN KYIV, UKRAINE: In the morning I woke up and I saw a rocket in the sky and I wasn't surprised. I just saw and I understood that I have to go to the tube.
WALSH: Morale, Ukraine always likes to say, is unbroken, unbreakable.
But when your sky's weekly look like this and the water went out in Kyiv, Friday's news that 60 out of 76 Russian missiles fired were intercepted can only lift spirits so far. Particularly in the bitter cold of the second biggest city Kharkiv his especially hard, Friday, that power did go off for a while leaving locals gathers around where the source of food or heat the state could provide. This called an invincibility point and aspiration, not a promise.
In Kryvyi Rih, three died, a 64-year-old woman and a young couple whose infant son remained under the frozen rubble, said the governor. Here, the woman's father having just learned she was pulled from the rubble.
But in all of this, the threat or fear worse could come from this direction, Belarus to Ukraine's north, where Russian troops trained feverishly. Ukraine's top brass loudly warning of a possible move on Kyiv from this direction in the weeks ahead. They have aimed and missed before, but still the Kremlin does not stop.
WALSH (on camera): Now one potential difference today, Wolf, suggestions by Ukraine officials and, in fact, some of the Russian aircraft involved in the strikes, the onslaught today were, in fact, seen over the skies of Belarus. A suggestion possibly that a lot of the overtures, frankly, pressure from Moscow towards their western neighbor, Belarus, this to the north of Ukraine, may be slowly paying off in terms of allowing Russia to use their runways.
Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, and Putin, they meet on Monday, that will add to fears that potentially something could be coming from Belarus across the border to Ukraine. But we've been here before, it hasn't happened, yet still tensions very high in the weeks ahead. Wolf?
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Nick Paton Walsh reporting for us, thank you very, very much.
Let's bring back Barbara Starr over at the Pentagon, along where CNN Military Analyst, Retired Colonel Cedric Leighton and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor is joining us, as well as CNN Contributor on Russian Affairs Jill Dougherty.
Colonel Leighton, Ukraine says today's barrage was one of the biggest missile attacks during the entire war going back to February. How much of a difference could the Patriot air defense missile system actually make on the battlefield.
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, in new air missile defense system, like the Patriot system new to the Ukrainian theater, Wolf, would be a very big addition to the battle space for the Ukrainians. It could potentially have knocked out the remaining missiles that the Ukrainians were not able to do, the remaining 16 missiles that they were not able to take out of the sky. And that is really what this is all about, to get the right altitude, to get the right speed and to make sure that you can actually take those missiles out when they come for those infrastructure targets.
BLITZER: Ambassador Taylor, if the U.S. agrees to provide the Patriot system to Ukraine, as we do anticipate it will happen in the coming days, that sends clearly a very powerful message of solidarity with Ukraine but does it also signal that the U.S. expects this war to grind on for a long time to come?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, VICE PRESIDENT FOR RUSSIA AND EUROPE, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Wolf, we've said, and the government has said they will be there to support them as long as it takes. And this provision, as the colonel just said, of a very sophisticated weapon system indicates that we're now going even higher than we did before in terms of the lethality, the range, the weight of the weapons that we're providing them. So, we are increasing our commitment in terms of what we're there to do for the Ukrainians.
BLITZER: Good point. You know, Barbara, the commander of Ukraine's armed forces now says Russia is preparing for a major new attack in the New Year. Does that line up with what you are hearing from Pentagon officials?
STARR: Well, I think Pentagon officials are being very cautions, they're watching it carefully along, of course, with the U.S. intelligence community any indications. The thing that are watching the most closely and they continue to watch is Russian capabilities. Does Russia have the troops trained, equipped, do they have the weapons, can they move? Can they move long distances and sustain themselves with food, fuel, water and weapons? That has been the challenge for Russian forces through much of this. And when the winter weather sets in, it may be even more difficult for them to move around.
So, top of the list to watch, not clear yet whether and when the Russians will make that move.
BLITZER: Good point. You know, Jill, February will, of course, mark one year since Russia's brutal invasion. What's the mood inside Russia towards Putin's war?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: You know, Wolf, it is always very hard because you can't -- polling is very difficult in circumstances like this during a war and with the control by the Kremlin.
But there have been some interesting indications recently. A couple of polls, one from a reliable, as much as you can be, service and then another interesting reporter report from of the Moscow Times citing an internal Kremlin poll. They do Kremlin polling all the time. And what they show is growing sentiment that the war that Putin keeps saying is going according to plan is not going according to plan.
You also have a drop in the number of people who think that Putin did the right thing and there is by starting the war. There is a big difference between young people and older people. Almost double the numbers of young people don't think that he did the right thing.
And then, finally, I think the most important thing is everybody in these polls seems to agree that they ought to keep going. And you say why would that be? There is a feeling that we're in this, if we lose it, it is going to be a disaster, so we might as well slog forward. So, this is not, I think, a good indication of having this war end quickly at all.
BLITZER: Ambassador Taylor, what is your analysis?
TAYLOR: My sense is that Putin realized he's in trouble. The Ukrainians, as Nick has described, they're not giving up. They are not succumbing to this bombardment. Even though they're cold and it is dark, they are more committed than ever. They are angrier than ever and so they will continue to fight.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a very, very worrisome development. Guys, thank you very, very much. To all of you thank you.
But I want to give a special thanks right now to my friend, Barbara Starr, who is actually preparing to leave CNN after more than two decades at the network. Barbara has covered so many consequential stories during her truly remarkable career here at CNN, reporting from war zones including in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as working her sources, and she's got many terrific sources over at the Pentagon.
CNN and our viewers have benefited greatly from her truly extraordinary reporting skills and her deep knowledge of the U.S. military that I truly appreciate, of course, as a former Pentagon Correspondent myself. Barbara, on behalf of all of us, we love you and we appreciate you and we will miss you.
STARR: Wolf, let me just leave you with this, as you and I both know, nobody does it better than CNN.
BLITZER: And that I agree with you. And we will certainly miss you over at the Pentagon. But we wish you, of course, only the very, very best. Barbara thanks for all of your terrific work. We are so grateful to you.
STARR: Thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, Brittney Griner back at her own home in Arizona, speaking out about her future in the WNBA. We'll have that and more right after this.
BLITZER: Basketball star and Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is back in her home in Arizona tonight after spending a week at a Texas medical facility following her release from ten months in detention in Russia.
CNN Senior Political Correspondent, the anchor of Inside Politics Sunday, Abby Phillip, is here with the latest. Abby, so, first of all, what are you hearing from Griner herself?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, this is the first time we are hearing directly from her since this whole ordeal started frankly. And in the statement, she really wanted to express gratitude to all the people who were involved in this process of freeing her from Russian detention, including President Biden.
But she also had a message to President Biden about another American, Paul Whelan, who is still in Russia and has been for some four years now. She said to Biden, President Biden, you brought me home and I know you are committed to bringing Paul Whelan and all Americans home, too. I will use my platform to do whatever I can to help you and also encourage everyone to play that played a part in bringing me home to continue their efforts to bring all Americans home. Every family deserves to be whole.
I think this was really important for her to say, based on talking to people around her, there is a great feeling that her fate was very much tied to Paul Whelan's. She was heartbroken when he wasn't brought home. But there's also been an effort among some people to criticize her for the president not bringing Paul Whelan home too.
I think the statement today was very pointed in saying that if they were rooting to her to come home, they should be rooting for Paul to come home as well, and also making it clear that this is going to be part of her future too as a public figure.
BLITZER: Well said indeed. Should we expect to see the WNBA star out there on the basketball court in the near future?
PHILLIP: Well, this was a huge question, right? After ten months in detection, she did not pick up a basketball in that time, I'm told. She said today she will be returning to play for the Phoenix Mercury. Her teammates have been some of the most vocal people pushing for her release. One of them, Diana Taurasi, was actually on the plane today, when she got on the plane to go home. It was a huge surprise for her as well, as the general manager and the president of the Phoenix Mercury. That team is basically family to her. And she wanted to make a decision to say that publicly.
I was actually surprised that that decision came so soon. She has some months to decide that. But this weekend she picked up a basketball for the first time, did a little bit of pickup, dunked on the court. And to people around here that was a key sign that she was feeling good emotionally, physically she was healthy and she's ready to play again.
BLITZER: We're getting new images and some new pictures of her right now. How is she doing based on -- I know you're well plugged in.
PHILLIP: Yeah, these pictures are the first images of her coming off that plane from Abu Dhabi when she was released and greeting her wife Cherelle.
Look, everything that I have heard. She's feeling really good. She's very happy to be home but in good spirits. She's been going around talking to people, staff at the -- at the military facility that she's been at. She's been wanting to take selfies with people, eating her favorite snacks.
You know, they set up an environment for her with a Christmas tree so she could feel at home and these feeling good and there have no signs of any physical issues with her.
BLITZER: We wish her only, only the very best. Abby, thank you very much. And please be sure to join Abby Sunday morning -- every Sunday morning for "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY". That's at 8:00 a.m. Eastern, only on here on CNN. It's an excellent show.
Coming up, growing fears of a full blown border crisis amid a new migrant surge. Stay with us.
BLITZER: A cold night is setting in on the sunny U.S. border where there's growing fear of a full-blown crisis amid a surge of new migrants as the Trump era rule aimed at keeping them in Mexico is set to expire.
CNN's senior national correspondent Ed Lavandera is on the scene for us tonight.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's 39 degrees and getting colder. This is Roberto Cordoba's first night sleeping on the streets. He says he's never experienced anything close to homelessness. He left Cuba last month and is hoping to get to Miami soon.
He says this is the first time in his life he's ever had to spend the night on the street and he feels completely lost.
A thin pair of New York giants socks and unlaced shoes won't be enough to get through the frigid night.
Everything that he's wearing now, the jackets and the heavy clothing was donated, people who have dropped it off here.
Roberto hopes there's something else to keep him warm in the back of Sandra Grace Martinez's car.
SANDRAGRACE MARTINEZ, VOLUNTEER: They're on survival mode. It's fight or flight for them.
LAVANDERA: The long lines of migrants waiting to get escorted into the U.S. by border patrol agents has significantly dwindled on the Mexican side of the border, a sign that perhaps this latest migration surge has slowed down, for now.
With the Title 42 public health roles set to expire next week, officials in El Paso plan to bring in more buses to move migrants out of the city faster.
The order allows for the swift expulsion of migrants at the border.
MARIO D'AGOSTINO, DEPUTY CITY MANAGER, EL PASO,TX: Whether it's Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, whatever that next large airport or bus is, it's to move them on to those locations.
LAVANDERA: El Paso emergency management outreach teams are helping migrants find shelter space at night but Albert Robles and his wife have been sleeping on the street buried under blankets since Monday night. Their bus ticket to Connecticut isn't good until this weekend.
He said the first night he was sleeping on the street, it was drizzly and cold. It was almost like a fatal feeling. He's been dreaming of this moment for so long there was no way he was going to turn back.
LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Wolf, city and county officials here in El Paso say the biggest challenge in the weeks ahead will be moving people out of El Paso as quickly as possible. The people around you see me here have legal status as they remain in the U.S. but they want to move them to their final destination as quickly as possible -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They certainly do.
Ed Lavandera on the scene for us, thank you very much.
Just ahead, Elon Musk sparking outrage for suspending high profile journalists from Twitter.
BLITZER: Elon Musk is suspending the Twitter accounts of several prominent journalists.
CNN's Brian Todd is following the story for us.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rein over Twitter by one of the world's richest men takes yet another controversial turn. Elon Musk has suspended Twitter accounts of several high profile journalists. Musk claimed he did it because the journalists the shared his live location on Twitter, what he called, quote, assassination coordinates.
But they hadn't done that. What the journalists had done was report that Musk has suspended the Twitter account of @elonjet, an account that gives the publicly available location of Musk's private jet.
Some of the journalists reported that @elonjet was still available on other platforms.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a few minutes leading to my suspension, I've been tweeting reporting about him kicking these accounts off and various other things he was doing around this jet issue. So I assume that is his false justification for throwing me off the platform.
TODD: CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is one of the journalists who had their accounts permanently suspended by Twitter, along with reporters from "The New York Times", "Washington Post" and other outlets.
Musk defended himself popping into on online chat by journalists including one whose account he suspended, Drew Harwell of "The Washington Post".
ELON MUSK, TWITTER CEO: You're about to get suspended, end of story.
DREW HARWELL, THE WASHINGTON POST: I never posted your a address.
MUSK: You posted a link to the address.
TODD: But, again, there's no indication that any of the journalist had done that. As quickly as Musk popped into that chat, he popped out.
NOTOPOULOS: I think -- I think Elon has left.
TODD: Quite a turn from when musk promised he wouldn't block @elonjet and what he said when he purchased Twitter. Quote, free speech is a bedrock of a functioning democracy and Twitter is a digital town square. Musk has since allowed back onto the platform users who had been suspended for violating previous Twitter policies on hate speech, incitement or vaccine misinformation.
IMRAN AHMED, CENTER FOR COUNTERING DIGITAL HATE: The truth is he's expelling journalists who at least have journalistic ethics and standards and try to convey truth, while at the same time putting up the bat signal to racists, to homophobes, to bigots, to climate deniers, and vaccine -- anti-vaxxers.
So, we have a real problem here. He's letting exactly wrong people in and pushing out people that might provide objective analysis and truth.
TODD: And analysts have other concerns following the suspension of those journalist accounts.
SARA FISCHER, MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: It might become a place where users don't trust the news there anymore and that's actually a critical thing for our democracy, because when big things happen, Twitter has long served as a place where people can get information.
TODD (on camera): Imran Ahmed from the Center for Countering Digital Hate says that Elon Musk now has to worry not only about the criticism that he's getting in the public space, but also now, Wolf, about his advertisers. We'll see how they react.
BLITZER: We will watch. Brian Todd, 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.