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New 1/6 Transcripts Reveal Search For Dead Voters And Distrust; Ukraine Says, Massive Russian Missile Assault Is Senseless Barbarism; Rep.-Elect George Santos' (R-NY) Claim About His Mother And 9/11 Under Scrutiny Amid Lies; House Panel Expected To Release Trump Tax Info Tomorrow; Brazilian Soccer Legend Pele Dies At Age 82 After Cancer Battle. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 29, 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: Also tonight, CNN is live in Ukraine assessing the damage from one of Russia's biggest missile assaults since the start of the invasion. Ukraine condemning the strikes as senseless barbarism.
And Congressman-elect George Santos now faces federal and state investigation for fabrication and outright lies. Now, even a claim he made about his mother is under scrutiny after he linked her death to 9/11.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Tonight, we have a new window into the previously unseen testimony in the January 6th investigation. The House select committee going public with a significant new batch of transcripts, including the panel's interview with Donald Trump Jr.
CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. She has been going through all this new material. Sara, this round of transcripts involved some members of Trump's inner circle. What are you learning?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I mean, we've reported on how important the Mark Meadows, Trump's former White House chief of staff, texts were for this committee, and we see it again in the committee's interview with Donald Trump Jr. He is texting Mark Meadows during the riot while it's unfolding, saying we need an oval address. He has to lead now, talking about his father. It's gone too far and gotten out of hand.
So, the committee in their interview with Donald Trump Jr. follows up and says, sort of explain this, explain this text. And he said, Don Jr., I think the gravitas of the situation and Oval Office address, an address to the people of the United States, it would do a lot more than a tweet. Even if they say the exact same thing, sometimes you have to do it in person.
So, Donald Trump Jr., who is not with his father while this was happening, was trying to make it clear to Mark Meadows the urgency of the situation that his dad needed to act.
Now, we also got some interesting revelations from the Christina Bobb transcript. She was member of Trump's legal team. She is recounting a conversation she had with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who was very eager apparently to help the Trump team with their claims of election fraud. So, in her recollection of this conversation, she says, the senator said to her, just give me five dead voters. Give me, you know, an example of illegals voting. Just give me a very small snapshot that I can take and champion.
Now, obviously a small snapshot, five dead voters, that was not going swing the election into Donald Trump's favor, but that's what the senator was looking for to be able tout the publicly. After the rioters stormed the Capitol, Senator Lindsey Graham eventually voted to confirm the election results.
BLITZER: Sara, we're also learning the former first lady, Melania Trump, didn't exactly trust the then-president's inner circle. Tell us about that.
MURRAY: Yes. I mean, this is from the transcript with Stephanie Grisham, who is, of course, a close aide to Melania Trump, the former First Lady. And in this transcript, Stephanie Grisham makes clear that Melania had problems with all kinds of people around the former president that she just felt were giving Donald Trump bad advice.
And she took issue with Donald Trump Jr. She took issue with Kimberly Guilfoyle, who was Donald Trump Jr.'s fiancee. She took issue with Sidney Powell, who became a member of the legal team and was kicked off the legal team, as well as Rudy Giuliani, who was the former president's lawyer, essentially saying she didn't necessarily believe that these people were looking out for the former president's best interests, Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara, I want you to stick around. We have got more questions for you, coming up. Right now, though, I want to bring in a member of the January 6th select committee, Representative Zoe Lofgren. Representative, thank you so much for joining us.
As you know, this new transcript that reveals Senator Lindsey Graham just wanted what he suggested were five dead voters. What does that say about the lengths Trump allies were willing to go to go to perpetuate this lie?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, it looks like an excuse for promoting the lie rather than evidence that the lie was true. And, clearly, in the end, it was clear that the ex-president was pursuing, you know, a strategy even he knew was false. He knew he lost the election and he lied about it and he talked millions of people into believing it. You'd have to ask the senator whether he believed it or whether he was part of the conspiracy.
BLITZER: Just two days after Election Day 2020, Donald Trump Jr. sent Mark Meadows, who was then Trump's White House chief of staff, a plan to keep Trump in power, a plan Trump Jr. called sophisticated and plausible, his words. How do you expect the Justice Department to make use of all of these new details in their ongoing criminal investigation of Trump?
LOFGREN: Well, they've got to piece all the evidence together, just as the committee did. And there is more to come, honestly.
We're scrubbing the transcripts for personal information, like cell phone numbers, things like that. We're about to be release all the footnotes, the exhibits and the like. So, they'll have all of that and they'll have to piece together the case.
But I think we felt it was pretty obvious that the ex-president was the center of this conspiracy, but he was certainly assisted by many others, including Republican members of Congress, his team, Giuliani, Mark Meadows, and the like.
BLITZER: One thing that has jumped out at me, Congresswoman, the committee is putting out hundreds and hundreds of pages right in the middle right now of the holidays after the haphazard rollout of your final report. Does that actually wind up doing a disservice to the results of your truly historic investigation?
LOFGREN: Well, I hope not, but we really don't have a choice. The committee ends when this Congress ends, which is just before noon on January 3rd. And so we -- if we're going release this, it has to be now. And so that's what we're doing. And it takes a little bit of time for the staff to go through and scrub, you know, personal information, like cell phones and home addresses, things like that.
So, you know, we hope that it will provide insight into our work, but even more importantly, perhaps it will prevent Republicans who might be tempted to try and distort what was said. There will be no possibility of selectively editing transcripts and spinning them to look like something that they weren't. All of the information will be out for the American public and they can reach their own conclusions about any of it.
BLITZER: As you know, Congresswoman, the committee is also withdrawing its subpoena of former President Trump now that your work is ending just two months after issuing the subpoena. Was that an entirely symbolic move in the first place?
LOFGREN: Well, we thought not. We had hoped that the ex-president would honor his obligation to come in and speak to the committee, and there was really a train of thought that it might be something that he would be interested in doing. But the committee is winding up. There's no point litigating for the next week because the committee will not be in existence in the next Congress. So, these various subpoenas that are in court, we're just withdrawing.
BLITZER: Yes, once the new Republican leadership in the house takes effect, your committee goes away.
Your committee did make very historic criminal referrals to the U.S. Justice Department for former President Trump. How will it reflect on your findings in the end if the Justice Department ultimately decides not to bring charges against Trump?
LOFGREN: Well, they have to reach their own conclusions. And I'm sure you know, the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. So, if they don't think they can prove an offense beyond a reasonable doubt, and they won't bring charges, and that's their job. But we felt that the evidence was compelling, overwhelming when we made that referral. And, of course, they've got reach their own independent judgment.
BLITZER: Representative Zoe Lofgren, thanks so much for joining us.
LOFGREN: You bet. Take care.
BLITZER: All right. I want to bring back, Sara Murray along with CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero. Guys, thanks very much for joining us. So, let's talk, Carrie. What are your thoughts on what you just heard from the congresswoman?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you described, Wolf, the committee's rollout of the report as haphazard. And I think that's a fair characterization, because part of what has happened here is they released the report then they're releasing all of these transcripts. And so what is happening is that the discussion is becoming about the transcripts and not about the report.
And there is, as we start to look through all of the content of these transcripts, for example, some of the information that's in the transcripts from the former acting secretary of defense, the former army secretary, there is a real disconnect between some of the problems that those individuals described in their depositions before and their interviews before the committee and the lack of accompanying recommendations in the actual report.
The report itself is over 800 pages. And so what I'm observing is that I think that so much of the committee's focus is on these transcripts and sort of some of the narrative that's around it or the dynamics or the politics or the atmosphere versus substance of what could have been more in the committee's report.
BLITZER: What do you think, Sara?
MURRAY: Yes. I mean, this has been one of the sort of key criticisms of the committee, is they feel like there was a lot to be done on the security side of this and on how threats were acted on or ignored as intelligence agencies and security agencies learned about them ahead of the attack on the Capitol.
I think that what the committee really put a lot of their time and energy into, where these public hearings, which obviously made a big splash with the public in their final meeting, where they did these criminal referrals. And then, frankly, they really ran out of time.
I mean, so what we're seeing is sort of a rushed rollout when it comes to the report and when it comes to these transcripts, all condensed over the holiday season where it's not the best time to be able to get Americans' attention and really have a substantive conversation about what sort of changes need to be made in order to prevent this from ever happening again.
BLITZER: Carrie, as you go through all these details, and enormous amount of details, hundreds and hundreds of pages, do you think the committee's recommendations that have been released so far go far enough?
CORDERO: No, I think they're insufficient. The report is over 800 pages long. The recommendation section of the report is 3.5 pages. It is a small paragraph per a whole wide variety of topics.
Now, the Congress has done some work on Electoral Reform Act, which is an important milestone, an important piece of legislation that I think has come out of the committee's work. But the recommendations as a national security lawyer, particularly with respect to the security situation in Washington, the lack of security on January 6th, 2021, and the potential opportunity that the committee had to make recommendations to make sure there was never such a security situation again, I think the committee falls flat in terms of its recommendation.
BLITZER: That's a good point. What do you think? How is this going to impact the Justice Department's criminal investigation of Trump?
MURRAY: Well, look, I think that the reality is when we hear these members of Congress saying the Justice Department is going to have to pour over this, they probably have a lot of this already. And in some cases, even the committee acknowledges that DOJ and also investigators in Georgia have already been able to get more information than they have been able to.
When you get a subpoena to a phone company instead from the Justice Department, you don't have the ability to litigate it the same way a subpoena to the phone company from a congressional committee, it gives you an opportunity to challenge that.
But I do think for the Justice Department, it is important to have the full body of evidence. We've seen that with folks already gone to trial. They want to know what did you tell other investigators. Did you say something that we need to hand over, because maybe it's exculpatory, or did you say something where you tied yourself into a knot? Are you saying one thing to federal investigators and a different thing to congressional investigators, because, again, it is a lie -- or it is a crime to lie to Congress.
BLITZER: Good point, Sara, Carrie, guys. Thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, we'll go live to Ukraine to witness some of the destruction from Russia's deadly new missile barrage and hear from residents who escaped with their lives.
[18:15:00] BLITZER: Tonight, parts of Ukraine are reeling from a deadly missile bombardment, one of the biggest air assaults by Russia since the war began.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman is on the scene for us in Kyiv.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Dawn breaks and the strikes begin. Phone video captures a Russian cruise missile heading toward Kyiv. Russia fired nearly 70 missiles, plus drones at targets across Ukraine. Air defenses managed to take down most of them. But this Kyiv suburb did not escape unharmed.
The mayor of Kyiv says that all 16 missiles fired in the direction of the capital were successfully intercepted, but as a result of those interceptions, debris fell to the ground in this location, massive destruction. A 14-year-old girl was injured as well as her mother and a man nearby.
Tetyana was at work. That girl, her granddaughter, and Halena (ph), called her desperate for help. She was really scared and in hysterics, Tetyana says. She cried, grandma, the house was hit, it's on fire. She told me, my mother is unconscious under the rubble.
Not for the first time the crews worked to clear the rubble of homes and lives shattered by war. Serhii lives just down the street.
How is it possible that we do this to each other, he asks. I understand that this rocket didn't target this place, but how is it possible to shell peaceful people?
In another part of Kyiv, 79-year-old Leonid is still in his bathrobe. He was jarred awake when missile debris smashed into the ground next to his house, setting his son, Alexander's (ph) car on fire, shattering windows and walls, ripping trees out by the roots. Yet he remains stoic.
I was born in World War II, so I'm very calm about explosions, Leonid says. Today, I was only worried about my son. His son is fine.
Ukrainian officials insist Russia's target yet again was the country's energy infrastructure. Kyiv Mayor Vitalii Klitschko is blunt.
MAYOR VITALII KLITSCHKO, KYIV: The Russians want to bring depression, especially right now, Christmas time, New Year. The Russians want to bring us to black time, without lighting, without heating.
WEDEMAN: For now, Ukrainians just clear away the wreckage and carrying on.
WEDEMAN (on camera): And in his nightly address, President Zelenskyy pointed out that as a result of these strikes, the authorities are having difficulty providing electricity to the regions of Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa and Kherson, but he did point out that that was nothing compared to what could have happened if it weren't for the interception of all those missiles. Wolf?
BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Ben Wedeman on the scene for us, stay safe over there.
Joining us to discuss, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, and CNN Military Analyst, retired Colonel Cedric Leighton.
Ambassador Taylor, what goes through your mind seeing the incredible amount of destruction and suffering from this massive barrage of Russian missiles?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, VICE PRESIDENT FOR RUSSIA AND EUROPE, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE: Wolf, it's what your reporter quoted those Ukrainians. It's senseless barbarism. How it is possible that people can do this to each other, for no reason? I mean, it's just incredible that we think about why, what possible reason could it be for Putin to do this to Ukrainians. There is no reason. We can't come up with -- he can't come up with a story to tell his soldiers, to tell his people, to tell the international community, to tell his allies. It's senseless, Wolf, and it's enraging.
BLITZER: A lot of people think these are war crimes as well.
Colonel Leighton, Ukraine did intercept many of these missiles, and the U.S. Patriot air defense system is also on the way to Ukraine. How big of a difference do you think that could make?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think it could make a pretty big difference. Basically, the patriot is a gap-filler at the upper altitudes and the medium altitudes. And a lot of the missiles, the cruise missiles that Russians sent over into Ukraine are ones that could be targeted by the Patriot, and it could be helpful in that sense.
BLITZER: And, Ambassador Taylor, Russia is slamming President Zelenskyy's conditions for ending this war as an illusion. As we look ahead to the New Year and the one-year mark of this war in February, do you see anything shifting at all on the diplomatic front?
TAYLOR: Not immediately on the diplomatic front, Wolf. We always have to look for options. However, on the diplomatic front, what the Russians are asking for is just a total non-starter. The Russians are asking the Ukrainians to give up part of their country. The Russians want to claim part of Ukraine as theirs, and the Ukraine's will never do that. By the same token, the Ukrainians want the Russians out of their country. They want the Russian military out of their land. And there is no indication that Putin is ready to do that.
So, I don't think it's going to be on the diplomatic table. I think it's going to be on the battlefield. The battlefield will determine. And there I think the Ukrainians have the advantage. BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Colonel Leighton, Ukraine's intelligence chief now says Russian troops are at a dead-end but that neither side has the resources right now to make significant progress. What will it take to break this stalemate?
LEIGHTON: Well, I think, Wolf, either a break for the Ukrainians, kind of like they had back in the summer when it came to the area around Kharkiv and to some extent also around Kherson in the fall. Those areas were basically taken by surprise in some tactical incidents. And that kind of a surprise is the lucky break that the Ukrainians need.
I also think that the introduction of something like the Patriot can be helpful, and perhaps other weapon systems as well, some that we have not necessarily talked about that much, like the JDAM, the direct attack munitions that use GPS-guided systems to make the so-called dumb bombs smart that will increase their ability to use as guidance systems and make their targeting much more accurate. When that happens, that's going to be a really big deal and that can really help the Ukrainians.
I would also say, Wolf, look at the battle around Kreminna. That is going to perhaps portend something in the next few weeks.
BLITZER: We shall see. Colonel Cedric Leighton, Ambassador William Taylor, guys, thanks very, very much.
Up next, new scrutiny tonight on a New York congressman-elect amid about accusations that George Santos lied about his resume and his biography. Now, there are questions about what he is saying about his mother's death and 9/11.
BLITZER: New York Representative-elect George Santos is facing new scrutiny tonight amid a claim about the mother -- the death of his mother.
CNN Washington Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is here with the latest. Sunlen, tell our viewers what you're finding out.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is certainly is new and increasing scrutiny on his record and new questions tonight about the role that 9/11 had in statements that he's made about his mother's death., when his mother died 15 years after the terror attack of 2001. Now, Santos has not yet clarified the details, just one of many questions that is piling on, on the embattled congressman-elect.
SERFATY (voice over): Scrutiny is intensifying around Congressman- elect George Santos.
CHUCK LAVINE (D) NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY: Watching this slow George Santos train wreck take place.
SERFATY: Federal prosecutors in New York opening an investigation into Santos' finances with big questions over how the Republican made his money and the $700,000 he loaned to his 2022 campaign. Locally, Santos is facing another probe from the Nassau County district attorney's office, calling the numerous fabrications and inconsistencies nothing short of stunning.
REP.-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Did I embellish my resume? Yes, I did, and I'm sorry. And it shouldn't be done.
SERFATY: All this as a whole slew of new fabrications previously unreported are emerging from CNN's KFile, Santos once claiming to have attended an elite private school in New York.
SANTOS: They sent me to a good prep school, which was Horace Mann Prep in the Bronx. And on my senior year of prep school, unfortunately, my parents fell on hard times.
SERFATY: But that claim is false, according to the school, who has no evidence that he ever attended. Santos also saying that he represented Goldman Sachs at a financial conference claiming he spoke out against the company for investing in renewables. But there is no record of Santos appearing on the panel or even attending the conference. And Goldman Sachs had previously said he never worked there.
CNN also have found additional false claims about his family's background. Santos claiming his mother's Jewish name was Sabrovski, and even appearing to use the name for a charity posting.
SANTOS: We don't carry the Ukrainian last name for a lot of people who are descendants of the World War II refugees or survivors of the Holocaust. So, a lot of the names and paperwork were changed in name of survival.
SERFATY: But according to a professional genealogist who helped research Santos' background for CNN, there is no evidence of that name nor Jewish or Ukrainian heritage in his family tree.
SANTOS: My father fled socialism in Brazil. My mother fled socialism in Europe. And they came here and built a family.
SERFATY: CNN's review found Santos' mother was actually born in Brazil.
SANTOS: Now, it's going to be incumbent upon me to deliver on those results and I look forward to servicing --
TULSI GABBARD, FOX NEWS HOST: You're exactly right.
SANTOS: -- and serving my district.
SERFATY: As Santos' attempts to move forward to Capitol Hill --
SANTOS: I'm not a criminal. I committed absolutely no crimes.
SERFATY: -- the legal road ahead for him could be treacherous.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Where and how did he get this money?
SERFATY: As the federal probe zeros in on his finances.
HONIG: If you intentionally make a false statement about your assets or anything else that matters, that too could be a federal false statements crime.
SERFATY (on camera): And Santos is not yet responded to CNN's repeated requests for comment on these new fabrications. A third incoming House Republican from New York, they have condemned him for lying about his background but notably stopped short of calling for him to resign. And Santos has said he still intends to serve in the new Congress. And very notably here, Wolf, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, they are still very silent on this. They have not said anything, and that is, of course, one week before he is to be sworn in.
BLITZER: Interesting indeed. All right, thanks very much for that, Sunlen Serfaty reporting.
Let's get some more on all of these developments. CNN Senior Political Commentator, the former Ohio Republican governor, John Kasich, is joining us. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Clearly, the concerns just keep mounting and mounting. And now there are these questions about whether Santos' mother's death was linked to the 9/11 attack, as he has claimed. Have you ever seen anything like this?
JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Wolf, we all are aware of members of the House, members of the Senate who embellished, nothing rose to this level.
A couple of things. I'm amazed that the opposition research on him didn't reveal any of this. Normally in a campaign, you want to know a little bit about who you're running against. And the second thing I wonder about is where was the press? Did the press ever ask any questions?
But the other emotion that I've just had in listening to all of these things come tumbling out, I mean, is this man have a sickness, you know, Wolf. Is he going to feel that the walls are closing in on him? I'm a little concerned about that, to be honest with you.
I hadn't thought of that because I've been so amazed and angered by what I've seen. But, you know, I hope that he's going to be okay, you know, psychologically, because this is just crazy. All of it is nuts.
BLITZER: It totally is. What sort of precedent, Governor, would it set if the GOP leadership in the House specifically turns a blind eye to all these lies?
KASICH: Wolf, they can't do that. I mean, frankly, what McCarthy ought to do is to -- I mean, the guy is going to be seeded. But McCarthy ought to come out and he ought to condemn this sort of outrageous behavior and indicate that it's going to be sent immediately to the ethics committee. The ethics committee could also, I understand, have the power to expel him if they wanted to. And people would say, well, McCarthy, he is trying to be speaker. He can't jeopardize that. Well, that's baloney.
One of the biggest problems we have in our country is a lack of leadership. And if McCarthy would come out and say, look, I'd like to have the guys vote if he is seated, but, frankly, what he has done is inappropriate. It's going to go immediately to the ethics committee. I think people would look at McCarthy in a much different way.
I don't expect that will happen. You never know, Wolf. Things are so unbelievably unexpected today. You never know what would happen. But he ought to be condemning this. The Republican Party ought to be condemning this. This is just not acceptable. And it brings -- it really damages the integrity or whatever is left of the United States House of Representatives, a place I served for 18 years.
And I'm saddened by the damage it could cause, further damage it could cause to that House.
BLITZER: Yes, good point, Governor Kasich. Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it very much.
And this is just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM right now. President Biden says he has signed the massive $1.7 trillion government spending bill approved by Congress. It includes funding for critical government operations and emergency assistance to Ukraine, among many, many other things. In a tweet, the president is touting the bipartisan legislation as a crowning moment to what he is calling a historic year of progress.
All right, just ahead, Southwest Airlines now says the end of its travel nightmare is in sight. But tonight thousands of passengers are still stranded.
And we'll also go live to Buffalo, New York, digging out from a deadly and historic blizzard. Dozens of people have died, and tonight, officials are warning the number is expected to climb.
BLITZER: Thousands more would-be passengers are in limbo tonight as Southwest Airlines' massive meltdown stretches into an eighth night.
CNN's Lucy Kafanov has our report from Denver International Airport.
LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Eight days in, and finally Southwest is planning to return to normal operations Friday, issuing a statement saying with another holiday weekend full of important connections for our valued customers and employees, we are eager to return to a state of normalcy. But today it's still chaos for Southwest passengers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The anxiety level is -- has become crazy.
KAFANOV: One of the country's biggest carriers canceling nearly 2,400 flights Thursday, capping a week of travel misery that stranded thousands more.
KATIE DEMKO, STRANDED SOUTHWEST CUSTOMER: That is very devastating. Southwest actually booked me on a flight for January 2nd. My wedding is tomorrow, December 30th.
KAFANOV: Soon to be married, Katie Demko was scheduled to fly out of St. Louis with family for her own wedding. But Southwest's cancellations meant she had to miss meeting her fiance at the altar in Belize. And when Southwest told her she may be able to rebook --
DEMKO: They did tell us that once it would go into the system, that it would not actually come to me, we wouldn't be able to book those, because they had overbooked.
KAFANOV: But for some customers the most emotional reunions scene at airports have been between people and their bags.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've just haven't had this bag in a week, I been wearing other people's clothes.
KAFANOV: Southwest first placed all the blames for stranded flyers, their lost bags and its inability to get people new flights on bad weather. But airlines CEO, Bob Jordan, admitted the company's systems were too outdated to deal with any big disruption.
LYN MONTGOMERY, SOUTHWEST FLIGHT ATTENDENATS UNION: Executive should have committed to ensuring that our I.T. infrastructure would be able (INAUDIBLE) to growth and change in our -- the way we operate our flights.
KAFANOV: Southwest has promised to reimburse customers, but good luck reaching an agent on the phone, let alone in person.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we're still in line, and nobody's giving us any direction.
KAFANOV: Southwest is busing some passengers from airport to airport in order to bring some relief amidst a total meltdown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm still stranded. I need to drive nine more hours. My feet are swollen, I'm upset. I'm stressed, I'm tired. And I hate them.
KAFANOV (on camera): The Transportation Department has formally warned Southwest Airlines, saying it will take action if the airline doesn't make good on its promises to reimburse passengers for hotels, transportation, not to mention reunification with its luggage
And you can see this mountain of suitcases behind me, Wolf. I mean, I have friends who are in town who have yet to be reunited with their luggage. Denver Airport has hired extra people, extra hands to help sort through this -- these hundreds of bags that are still here. But of course it is going to take quite a few days to get everyone back in touch with their suitcases, even though the airline is promising a return to normal in terms of flight schedules by tomorrow. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Lucy, thank you very much, Lucy Kafanov in Denver for us.
Meanwhile, western New York right now is digging out from a historic blizzard that's left dozens of people dead, many in my hometown of Buffalo. CNN's Senior National Correspondent Miguel Marquez is on the scene tonight and reports there are officials who are warning they expect the death toll to climb.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The death toll rising as Buffalo continues digging out. The scope of this disaster still coming into focus.
MARK POLONCARZ, ERIE COUNTRY EXECUTIVE: Unfortunately, there are families in this community who still have not been able to identify where a loved one is. They're missing, and we do have still John Does. And eventually those family members are going to find out the worst news possible.
MARQUEZ: Enock Rushikana lost his nephew, Abdul Sharifu.
So, it's a big Congolese family here. What have you lost?
ENOCK RUSHIKANA, ABDUL SHARIFU'S UNCLE: An angel. We lost an angel in our community. We lost an angel.
MARQUEZ: Sharifu was married last year. His wife due to give birth to their first child next week, a son. He was working two jobs saving up to buy a house. His uncle overcome with grief.
RUSHIKANA: I'm sorry.
MARQUEZ: He says, Sharifu went out in the storm to help another family. His car got stuck. His body found over a mile from it. It appears he was trying to walk home and got disoriented.
RUSHIKANA: Abdul was known as helper in our community.
MARQUEZ: Violeta Quinones' husband died after shoveling snow.
VIOLETA QUINONES, HUSBAND DIED AFTER BLIZZARD: He walked to the bathroom, and at that point he collapsed.
MARQUEZ: But emergency crews were not able to immediately help, says CNN affiliate WKBW.
QUINONES: I call the police. I call National Guard. I call everybody to try me. Nobody show up.
MARQUEZ: In Buffalo neighborhoods where stores were looted --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another two brush. Thank you.
MARQUEZ: The community handing out food, making due until grocery stores can reopen.
PASTOR JAMES GILES, BACK TO BASICS OUTREACH MINISTRY: They cripple the community in doing that. Now the people that could walk around the corner or walk across the street to a store to get services much needed food items and those kind of things, they don't have that anymore. That is the fallout from all of that. Trauma on top of trauma that's taken place in our community.
MARQUEZ (on camera): Now, Buffalo is starting to return to normal there, Wolf. Those welfare checks are just about done, and they're not sure if they will find anybody else who is deceased, but they are trying to identify the individuals that are in the county morgue here. The ban on travel has been lifted for the city. The concerns on flooding, each though the temperature has risen quite a bit, the concerns on flooding has gone down because they don't think it's going to be quite as bad. This is a storm that is going to haunt this city for years to come -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Miguel Marquez in Buffalo for us, thank you very much for your terrific reporting.
Coming up, Donald Trump's tax information is finally about to go public after his years' long fight to keep it all secret. We'll take a closer look at what's going on when we come back.
BLITZER: Tomorrow morning, Americans will finally lay their eyes on former President Trump's tax information. The House committee is expected to release the documents in the morning.
CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes is here with me with a preview.
Kristen, Trump has fought for a very, very long time to try to keep his tax information secret, but now it's about to be made public. KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. What we
know so far is after a years' long legal battle, the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee will be releasing Trump's taxes tomorrow morning. What we're expecting to see is six years of returns. This is from 2012 to 2020. It will include his personal tax returns, the federal, as well as some of his business tax returns.
It would also include IRS audit materials. Now this is a huge deal, because as you said, Trump has spent decades shielding the public from his financial information. In fact, when he was president, he became one of the first presidents in modern history not to release his tax returns. And in part, this is because he was protecting his image. He built an entire brand on the idea that he was a wealthy and therefore successful businessman.
If you remember, when he was running for president, he ran in part on that idea. That if he could successfully run a business, then he could successfully run the nation. And now the question is what is actually going to be seen when this committee kind of pulls the curtain back on all of this.
Now, we do have some information. We have the Joint Committee on Taxation which has done an analysis of all of this. One thing they've looked into is his income tax. We have the numbers. 2017, he only paid $750 in income tax. 2018 and' 19, he paid $1.1 million. And in 2020, he paid zero dollars in income tax.
The other interesting thing, the committee raises questions about his charitable donations and if they were really looked into enough because so many of them were paid for in cash. But again, Wolf, this is a big deal. This is something he has protected for years. And we'll see what they yield.
BLITZER: I'm looking forward to seeing those tax returns tomorrow morning.
Thank you so much for that. Kristen Holmes reporting for us.
We'll have more news just ahead, including the loss of a global sports icon, the Brazilian soccer star Pele has died at the age of 82. We'll discuss his life and legacy. That's next.
BLITZER: The sports world is mourning the death of one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Brazilian soccer legend Pele died today of multiple organ failure brought on by colon cancer. He was 82 years old.
Let's bring in CNN sports analyst, sports columnist for "USA Today", Christine Brennan.
Christine, President Joe Biden says Pele's life is a story of what is possible. What does this loss mean for Brazil, and indeed for soccer fans around the world?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Wolf, certainly, for Brazil a national hero, international icon. He took them to three men's World Cup titles. He was soccer, and, of course, Brazil being one of the great powers in men's soccer.
So, there is no doubt how big a deal Pele was, and his death is in his native Brazil. But even in the United States, certainly around the world, also huge. But in the United States, there are several generations of people, including me and maybe you as well who really had never heard of soccer until they heard of Pele. That is when he signed with the New York Cosmos in 1975 and at the age of 35 came to play in the United States.
And at that time, American kids, boys and girls were not playing soccer the way that they are now at age 4 and 5. There weren't the organized leagues. If anything, boys were playing baseball. Girls were playing tennis.
So, all of the sudden we were introduced to this incredible magical player Pele. And we got a chance to see what soccer was. In many ways, Pele was Johnny Appleseed. He brought soccer to the United States. We talked about the men's World Cup recently, the U.S. men's national team, of course, the incredible successfully U.S. women's national team, Wolf, none of that happens, or at least it happens in a very different way, certainly not accelerated by, of course, Pele. It would have been a very different story.
But, Pele brought his love of soccer to the United States for those three magical years in the mid- to late 1970s. That introduced, generations of Americans to the game that at that point we didn't know much about.
So, an incredible historical figure in sports and throughout culture, and, of course, a great loss to the sports world and to everyone in general.
BLITZER: A great loss, indeed.
Christine Brennan, thank you very, very much.
And to our viewer, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" right now.