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Suspect Arrested in Idaho Student Killings; House Committee Releases Trump's Tax Returns; Interview with Rep. Don Beyer on Trump's Tax Returns; Ukraine Decries "Air Genocide" By Russia. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 30, 2022 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Happening now, breaking news: police officially announce the arrest of a suspect in the killing of four University of Idaho students. The 28-year old is in custody in Pennsylvania right now and charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

Our correspondents are getting additional details on how the suspect was tracked down.

Also tonight, former president Trump paid zero -- zero -- in income tax during his final year in office, held foreign bank accounts and claimed huge financial losses. We're breaking down the revelations in Trump's tax returns, now that a House panel has made them public.

And as Russia launches a fresh round of drone strikes in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin vows his ties with China's president can withstand all tests.

Is there a connection, a show of strength or a sign of weakness?

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news on the arrest of a suspect in the killing of four University of Idaho students last month. Our correspondents are on the scene in Idaho and in Pennsylvania, where the suspect is now in custody. First, let's go to CNN's Veronica Miracle. She's in Moscow, Idaho, for us.

Police held a briefing just a little while ago. Tell our viewers what we learned.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this has been long anticipated, nearly seven weeks. Police announcing today the arrest of 28-year-old Bryan Kohberger, a resident of Pullman and a Washington State University graduate student in the murders of those four University of Idaho students, Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves.

A Latah County prosecutor released limited information today but here's what he had to say.


BILL THOMPSON, LATAH COUNTY PROSECUTOR: A criminal complaint was filed yesterday here in Latah County, charging the defendant, Mr. Kohberger, with four discounts of first degree murder, in addition to felony burglary, which involves entering the residence with the intent to commit the crime of murder.


MIRACLE: They still have not found a murder weapon. But beyond that, authorities here were able to release very little information due to Idaho state law. Kohberger is being held in Pennsylvania. And until he returns to Idaho, the probable cause affidavit cannot be unsealed.

Authorities are telling us a lot of information is in that probable cause affidavit. And if he is extradited and comes back to Idaho quickly, that information could be released. If he fights extradition, it could be a long time before we find out further information, including a motive.

And I also asked, is there any inclination that Mr. Kohberger knew these students or was this some kind of random attack?

And they could not answer that. They say all of that information is still part of this investigation. And even further, authorities are actually continuing to ask for tips. They say they've received about 20,000 tips. And all of that information helped them get strong leads that were able to help them pursue this suspect.

And they want more information. They're asking people in the community and around the country, if you know this person, if you've had any past dealings with this man, to give them that information and continue to reach out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's important, indeed.

What else have we learned about the suspect?

MIRACLE: Well, we know he's a graduate student at Washington State University. In fact, we were over at the campus, at an apartment complex that is just for graduate students. And there was an apartment that was taped off, being investigated by police, which we understand is connected to Kohberger.

They were going through that apartment, Washington State University police were doing that on behalf of Moscow police, because Idaho police officers don't have jurisdiction on the Washington state side. It's about 20 minutes away from here.

We also understand that he was a criminology student and he also was part of a research project, where he asked criminals to describe feelings to, quote, "understand their emotions and psychological traits, influence decision-making when committing a crime."


MIRACLE: In particular, this study that he was involved in seeks to "understand the story behind your most recent criminal offense, with an emphasis on your thoughts and feelings throughout this experience."

We have reached out to Washington State University for comment about this. They have not gotten back to us. And that study, in which he's a student investigator with DeSales University, and we have not heard back from them as well. So those disturbing details still coming out.

BLITZER: Yes, 28 years old, Bryan Christopher Kohberger, he is the suspect. Veronica Miracle, thank you very much.

Let's head to Pennsylvania right now. CNN's Jean Casarez is on the scene.

Give us more details.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It happened at 1:30 this morning. And we're at the Monroe County Correctional Facility, where he is being housed. It is the jail for the area.

Ironically he was arrested in Albrightsville, which is about eight miles from here. But this is Northeast Pennsylvania. It is a rural area. It is farmland. The biggest city is Stroudsburg.

From our understanding, according to a CNN source, the FBI out of Philadelphia had been surveilling him here in Pennsylvania. And officials did say today this is his home and they were surveilling him.

At the very same time, authorities in Idaho, the police department, the Idaho state police, the FBI were putting together the probable cause for that arrest warrant for a judge to sign off on it.

And our CNN reporting is that a source is telling us what they found was that his DNA was at the scene. But in addition to that, that white car that has become front and center in all of this, that it was his car.

And they did confirm today at the press conference that they do have the car. We don't know what jurisdiction, however. But once they got that arrest warrant, once the criminal complaint was filed -- and it was filed yesterday, we understand -- they moved in at 1:30 this morning and arrested him in Albrightsville.

He did have a court appearance earlier today; no bond, no bail. He's housed here until an extradition hearing next week.

But one more link to Northeast Pennsylvania here. CNN has learned that he graduated in May from DeSales University with a master's degree in criminal justice. So went on for more doctorate work in the state of Washington, it appears.

BLITZER: That's what it appears. Thank you very much.

Let's get more. Joining us now, CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst, John Miller; also CNN law enforcement analyst, former Secret Service agent, Jonathan Wackrow; CNN law enforcement contributor, retired FBI supervisory special agent Steve Moore and defense attorney Shan Wu is with us as well.

John Miller, what more can you tell us about this suspect and how the authorities actually in the end tracked him down?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Bryan Kohberger is an interesting person because it kind of takes a horrific crime and almost turns it into an episode of "Criminal Minds."

You've got a guy who is going for a master's degree or a Ph.D. in criminal justice studies, who at DeSales University was part of a project, where they sought people who had committed crime, to interview them, to determine how they made decisions while they committed their crimes, whether to commit a violent act or not, whether to escape and how.

So it's someone who has been delving into the innermost sanctums of criminal thinking, who is now accused of a particularly horrific crime. And it seems -- and we may learn more later -- to be one without motive.

The key is two things: one is the car. That is the clue that police put forward to us and said we are looking for this Elantra, the white Elantra, that was seen in the area of the house around the time of the murders.

The second piece is DNA that was recovered at the scene. Sources tell me that his DNA has been matched to DNA that was recovered at the scene.

When we get the criminal complaint that lays out how they established their probable cause in this case, we'll figure out the chicken and the egg of that, which is did they recover the DNA at the scene?

Were they able to identify it there?

Less likely.


MILLER: More likely that they were able to trace that car to people in the area that had a car like that registered to them, work on those people and then get DNA from their suspects to compare to the -- what we're assuming would be the unknown contributor at the scene.

The way you would do that, especially if you had him under surveillance, would be to get an abandonment sample -- a cup of coffee, a bottle of water, a cigarette, something that he tossed away, where DNA could be extracted and then matched. But again, that's a process piece. We don't know that yet. We'll know

that when we see that complaint, if he doesn't fight extradition and is presented to that court in Idaho.

BLITZER: We know he now has a public defender. We'll see what happens on that front.

Shan, what does it tell you that the suspect was actually studying criminology at a university?

By the way, we just got some video of when he graduated from that university with this degree in criminology. And it's just miles down the road from where these students were murdered.

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it certainly tells us that he is somebody who we would expect is smart enough to try to cover their tracks, to have other kinds of excuses for why he might have been in the area.

And that really goes back to the point John was making about what little evidence we know exists right now. It's powerful evidence. What it tells us is he was pretty much beyond a reasonable doubt there.

You've got his car registered to him and you've got genetic matching of him being there.

What it doesn't tell us is, did he do it?

Proof that he was there doesn't mean he did it and it certainly doesn't tell us how or why. And that's where they're going to be expanding their investigation now.

And that's what his lawyer ultimately and the prosecutor will be really interested in, is what are other people saying about him, his fellow students, his family, what his writings show, what kind of social media is there because establishing that motive will be so important.

And you don't always establish motive by someone writing a manifesto, laying out exactly what their beliefs are. It has to be inferred. So that's the important step now going on.

BLITZER: There are a lot of steps I'm sure going on right now.

Steve Moore, this suspect's DNA, as we now know, matched with DNA recovered at the scene. But police say they're still searching for the murder weapon.

How critical is that type of forensic evidence?

STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: You would really like to have it, obviously. But I don't think it's critical at all to convict on this one.

And from the beginning, we all knew that this was going to be solved not by people necessarily saying, well, this person saw this person in a video. This was going to be solved by crime scene forensic evidence.

And the DNA, I think, is, if true, is just the tip of the iceberg. I think what you're going to find here is that, if somebody resisted, if they came in physical contact, there's going to be transfer.

There could be his skin cells underneath the fingernails of the victims. That is more than presence in the room. And so I think we've got pretty much -- or I suspect they've got enough to take him down on this.

The big issue right now is always going to be the motive. And when the police ask the public for something, it's because they're still searching. They don't have the motive nailed down here.

And that's not surprising to me because what we're looking for in a motive, usually, is, oh, he knew that person or he was angry with that person or he was a stalker or whatever.

No, I think you're going to find something deeper and darker about this than any kind of logical motive. And it kind of squeaked out a little bit in the press conference, when -- I believe it was Chief Fry, who has done an excellent job, by the way.

Chief Fry said, we're going to get more information on his personality, on his habits and give it to professionals. Well, all the law enforcement people in that room and on this case are professionals. He had to mean somebody more like a profiler.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

Jonathan, give me your thoughts.

What do you think?

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Listen, there's a lot we don't know. I think John Miller laid out the two key elements that investigators keyed in on.

But there were over 19,000 tips provided to law enforcement and over 300 interviews conducted. There's a lot more that we don't know about this investigation. And really what I'm focused on is, he was charged with first-degree murder. That's premeditated. That's a premeditated act.

So what I want to look for is, from these charging documents, was there some sort of precipitating event?

Was there some sort of engagement between the suspect and these individuals that caused him to take this -- to engage in this violent act?


WACKROW: So right now we have some information. But that key element of motive, answering that question why for the victims' families, still remains unanswered. BLITZER: Let's get John Miller back into this conversation.

How will law enforcement, in the end, try to determine any links to these four victims and a possible motive?

I know they're going through his social media and all of his texting and tweeting and all of that.

MILLER: Well, I mean, the first one is -- and as Shan will tell you -- is the interview. We don't know yet when they sat him down to interview him whether he agreed to talk and what he revealed, if anything.

The second thing is that DNA, because it's either the most important clue in the world or it's a very important clue in the world. And the difference is, if he had a reason to have been in that house, his DNA could have been there.

He visited somebody, he knew somebody; we don't know that yet. If he had no reason to be in that house, then it becomes extraordinarily important.

And as one of our other panelists pointed out, if that DNA is skin cells under someone's fingernails from the struggle that occurred, that resulted in defensive wounds during the murder, that is very suggestive of how it got there.

So we have a lot to learn. The police are also very candid that they have a lot to learn. The idea, that they put it out there today, which is anybody who knows anything about this guy or his travels here or his friends here or his habits here, we want to hear from them.

It shows, as was stated here today, they are really trying to build around the picture, beyond just that they've linked him scientifically to being at the scene and to the car that was there.

BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this story and wait for more information.

Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, the decision to release former president Trump's tax returns: a Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee joins us to push back in criticism by Trump and House Republicans. Stand by for that.

Plus, we'll have a report from Ukraine on new Russian attacks and a potentially ominous meeting between Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping.





BLITZER: Tonight, a trove of new information in two separate investigations of former president Donald Trump. Six years of his tax returns released by the House Ways and Means Committee and more witness transcripts were also made public by the January 6th select committee.

CNN legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's been poring over all of those transcripts, including an interview with Ginni Thomas, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

What stood out to you from that interview transcript with Ginni Thomas?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the transcripts we have really been waiting to see because we were curious to see if we would get any additional information about those controversial text messages she exchanged with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the days and weeks after the election.

In addition to being the wife of a Supreme Court justice, Ms. Thomas is also a conservative activist. As we've previously reported, she was texting Meadows, urging him to try to overturn the results of the election.

She was texting things like, "The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest heist of our history."

Now what's interesting is, in this transcript, which he's pressed about these text messages by investigators, she displayed something we haven't seen a lot of in this investigation, which is remorse.

She says, quote, "I regret the tone and content of these texts. I really find my language imprudent and my choices of sending context of these emails unfortunate."

Now while she says she regrets the content of her text messages, she doubles down on claims of election fraud. The committee vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney, she really pressed Thomas, saying the Trump legal team lost nearly every legal challenge they filed.

She said the president's top advisers were telling him there was no election fraud.

Does that change your opinion?

Thomas doubled down, she said, quote, "I just think there are a lot of things that are still being uncovered, so I believe there was fraud and irregularity, contrary to what you, the committee, believe."

She also admitted before the committee that she has no specific evidence of election fraud, even when this interview was conducted a few months ago.

BLITZER: Significant transcript, indeed.

Did she reveal whether she was actually discussing all of this with her husband, the U.S. Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas?

REID: Another key question, Wolf, because the question from all these text messages was about whether it was appropriate for the wife of a Supreme Court justice to be discussing trying to overturn the election with a top White House official.

Now as a spouse, she has certain confidentiality protections. So she didn't get a lot of questions about her husband. But she did confirm, when she was texting with Meadows and referenced talking to her best friend, she was indeed talking to the justice about these matters.

Generally, she says, the justice was not aware she was texting with Meadows until it was reported in the press.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens in this front. Thank you very much. New transcripts just released today.

Let's get to the release of tax information that former president Trump has been trying to keep secret for so many years. CNN national correspondent Kristen Holmes has been going through these documents also made public by the House Ways and Means Committee.

So what are the main takeaways from Trump's tax returns?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So just to keep in mind, these are the tax returns from 2015 to 2020, six years here. And it was hundreds and hundreds of pages. And there was quite a bit in there.

Let's start with the headline, which is how much income tax that Trump paid while he was in office. You take a look here, we know that in 2017 he paid only $750.

Now in 2018 and 2019, he paid a combined $1.1 million. And in 2020 he paid $0. I'm going to come back to that figure. You see the income loss. That is because Trump was claiming these large losses in order to offset his income.


HOLMES: The reason why this zero number is so interesting -- and I've talked to a lot of tax experts about it -- is that they believe that this signifies real business failure and real losses.

Some of this is moving money around. It is strategic accounting. But when you see the zero number in 2020, they say this requires more looking into and that it actually signifies that there could have been serious failures, serious losses at that time.

Now the other big takeaway here was his relationships with foreign countries. The first thing that we saw was that he held bank accounts in foreign countries, the entirety of his presidency.

As you see here, in 2016 it was the U.K., Ireland, China and St. Martin; 2017, U.K., Ireland and China. In 2018 to 2020, only the U.K.

Now of those places, clearly there is one that is the most interesting, which is the fact that he held a bank account in China. I talked to a lot of financial experts, who say they need more information on this. They want to know when this was opened, what Trump's business interests were in China.

And is there any potential that that actually influenced Trump's policy or politics toward China because of the fact that he had a business interest there?

Now when we talk about that, it also is interesting to see how much he paid in foreign taxes, particularly in 2017. Remember, I just said that he paid only $750 in U.S. income tax that year.

He paid nearly $1 million in foreign taxes. And it is not surprising that a businessman with global interests would pay this kind of money. But what it does do is sheds light on where his interests were at a time where he was serving the United States, at a time he was in the White House.

And some of the countries that he had these notable business dealings in include India, China, Turkiye. So he had these notable business interests in these countries while he was in the White House.

And then the last thing that I do want to note here is that there were some claims that were raising a lot of questions about Trump's businesses, in which he essentially said that they made the same amount of money that they lost, meaning he didn't pay taxes on them. People were raising a lot of flags about that.

BLITZER: Very important, indeed.

What's the immediate reaction we're getting from Trump and other Republicans?

HOLMES: Well, from Trump himself, he issued a video last week, slamming the decision and then he put out a statement saying, "Democrats have weaponized everything but remember that this is a dangerous two-way street."

He references in the video he is already calling on House Republicans to start looking into Biden and Biden's family's finances. Of course we're hearing a lot of Republican talking points. But we are hearing that they are concerned, Democrats as well, that this is a dangerous precedent that was set.

Particularly, again, you're already hearing Trump saying this is an opportunity to open the door into Biden's finances as well as his family's.

BLITZER: Excellent reporting from Kristen Holmes. Thank you very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with a member of the House Ways and Means Committee that released Trump's tax returns, Democratic congressman Don Beyer of Virginia.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. As you know better than I do, your committee fought for years to get these taxes.

What do you believe Americans should take away from these new details all of us are learning right now?

REP. DONALD BEYER (D-VA), MEMBER, HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: The first part, I guess, Wolf, is that our 3.5-year battle through the courts to see the returns, it was based on the legal argument that we needed to find out whether the IRS was conducting its mandatory audits.

It turns out they weren't. They didn't audit the first two. (INAUDIBLE) the third, (INAUDIBLE) this letter. But it also is what's happened today is an incredible vindication (INAUDIBLE) as we released the tax returns because every hour or so we're learning many new things about the returns that the committee didn't discover or didn't include (INAUDIBLE).

One of the real issues was would people trust the committee's report?

(INAUDIBLE) we've seen the source documentation. Well, now we've seen the source documentation and, boy, does raise a lot of questions.

BLITZER: The top Republican on your committee, Kevin Brady, he's warning you've now released what he calls a dangerous new political weapon.

Are Democrats prepared, Congressman, for the precedent this sets with the GOP about to take control of the House of Representatives?

BEYER: Wolf, yes, I think we are, because I don't think we believe that this is a dangerous weapon. For someone who has nothing to hide, it's not dangerous at all. Remember, Barack Obama, Joe Biden -- in fact, every president back to Richard Nixon released all of his tax returns. And Biden had done this already.

There's not much more to discover that won't be voluntarily coming forward. We're not going to use this weapon of the tax returns against you or me or any other just normal American citizen.

The only reason we had this need to look into it was because it's the most powerful person in the world, presiding over the largest military in the world, who was completely unforthcoming about his many investments and sources of income.


And it's got to be discouraging for the average American taxpayer to discover that. A multi, multi billionaire paid less than a thousand dollars for the last six years.

BLITZER: Congressman Don Beyer, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it very much.

Up next, Ukraine decries what it calls air genocide by Russia amid a massive round of new attacks.



BLITZER: Ukraine is now calling Russia's airstrikes, and I'm quoting now, "Air Genocide," and the country is working to restore power outages after Moscow's latest massive assault.

CNN senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman, is in Kyiv for us tonight.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Kremlin launched a fresh round of drone attacks Friday. Ukraine said it knocked out 16 of the Iranian-made Shahed kamikaze drones intended for infrastructure targets.

Seven fell in the capital Kyiv where air raid sirens rang out shortly after 2:00 a.m.

Child's corner says Maksym, our child used to read here. He and his partner carried their daughter to safety shortly before a drone was shot down nearby hurling debris into their home.

We're lucky our child wasn't here, says Maksym, windows were blown out. Here, you can see a penetrating hole, shrapnel holes all over. Everything is damaged and a child would have been sleeping here.

Meanwhile, fighting in the East grinds on. Overnight, Russian forces shelled along the Donetsk front line. Field doctors here see the developments firsthand.

Significantly less artillery damage than we were used to, says Dr. Vasyl Sazanskiy. The fighting distance goes from 15 meters to one kilometer. The distance between armies is very small.

On Friday, President Putin held a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, inviting him for a state visit in the spring. Xi accepted the invitation.

Putin claimed relations between Russia and China were the best in history, despite what he called unprecedented pressure and provocation from the West. The propaganda war just as important as the war raging on a gridlocked battlefield.


WEDEMAN: And President Putin said he wants to intensify military to military cooperation with the Chinese, this after his invasion if Ukraine has careened from one setback to another.

Now, the Chinese have rhetorically backed Moscow in this conflict, but have yet to provide it with any military hardware, wary of Western sanctions. Wolf. BLITZER: Good point. Ben Wedeman, stay safe over there. Thank you very, very much.

Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Army General, Wesley Clark. The former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

General Clark, thank you so much for joining us. So what do you make of this attempt by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to actually try to project strength?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, that's what they've been wanting to do all along. Remember, they signed a strategic alliance before the war actually began in 2022, but China hasn't been very forthcoming. They understand the power of the sanctions. They also look at Russia as a losing, losing ally, and they're not so anxious to get into that.

And, finally, Wolf, think of it from China's perspective, they like Russian technology, they certainly want hydrocarbons, but the last thing Xi Jinping really wants is a super empowered rebuilt Soviet Union on China's border. And so a weak Russia that is coming to him for help. That's pretty satisfying for President Xi.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Walk us through what's happening right now on the battlefield, General, with this brutal trench warfare in the East, for example.

CLARK: You know, it's some -- we're in a strategic stalemate, essentially. And the reason for that is Russia has lost its offensive capacity, but the Ukrainians have not been -- they don't have enough artillery, they don't have enough artillery ammunition, they don't have the loitering drones, they don't have fighter aircraft. They don't have new tanks. So they really don't have the offensive firepower to finish this thing off.

And in my view, though, the right way to do it is to give them that capability, get Russia out of Ukraine, and then there's a reasonable possibility that we could have these talks. But instead, it's grinding stalemate, waiting, I guess for Russia to either bleed Ukraine out or for the West to finally put effective war crimes actions against President Putin that would bring him to heal and cut off any international support.


BLITZER: Yes. We'll see if that happens.

Ukraine now says that since Putin invaded Ukraine last February, General, Ukraine has liberated about 1,800 Ukrainian settlements from Russian occupation. Does that bolster the Ukrainians as this awful war drags on?

CLARK: Absolutely. I mean, this is a big -- the fact that Ukraine could fight back, hold its own and then recapture territory, it says to the world that Russia is capable of being defeated. Russia is capable of being pushed completely out of Ukraine.

But, Wolf, the battlefield is changing, because what the Russians have done is really entrenched themselves in Donbas. And so it's not going to be like the easy takeover of the Kharkiv and northeast that occurred in September, the fighting that Ukraine is going to have to go through is they're going to have to mass artillery, they're going to have to have overwhelming combat power at a decisive point and do a breakthrough of the Russian lines.

And they're not equipped to do that yet. They're asking the United States for that kind of support. Really, only the United States, and to some extent Germany can provide that. And I think that's a policy issue that Washington has to look at and resolve.

BLITZER: Yes. You make a good point. Retired General Wesley Clark, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

CLARK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the chief of Southwest Airlines now says, and I'm quoting now, there's just no way to apologize enough for the travel nightmare its passengers have endured over Christmas.



BLITZER: Tonight, Southwest Airlines now says, it's back on its full schedule after a holiday meltdown that canceled thousands of flights. CNN's Nadia Romero is at the Atlanta airport for us tonight.


NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Southwest Airlines appears to be back on track.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's just no way almost to apologize it off because we love our customers, we love our people, and we really impacted their plans.

ROMERO: Fewer than 50 flights canceled, out of around 3,900, according to FlightAware, a huge improvement after a week that saw more than 15,000 flight cancellations.

But there are still stranded passengers around the country.

And you have been stuck in Atlanta for how many days now?



ROMERO: And mountains of lost luggage, waiting to be reunited with their owners, dashing this passenger's confidence.

VELVET CALHOUN, TRAVELING FROM CHICAGO TO MEMPHIS: And also thousands of bags I've been watching loot. Now, they want us to steal, give them our bags. Is that crazy or what?

ROMERO: While other airlines recovered from last week's winter storm, Southwest's point to point schedule collapsed.

CLAIRE TAITTE, FORMER SOUTHWEST AIRLINES MANAGER: Crew scheduling is a really complex job.

ROMERO: The airlines' antiquated technology couldn't even figure out where crews and planes were.

TAITTE: If a crew is scheduled to go from Oakland to Boise to Denver to Albuquerque on day one and then fly to other cities on days two and three, that makes it really hard when flight two cancels and then you have all these leftover pieces.

ROMERO: Leaving some Southwest passengers stuck among 4,000 went in the Denver International Airport, according to its CEO.

PHILLIP WASHINGTON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT: We've handed out thousands of blankets, we've handed out thousands of diapers and bottles and water and trying to make people comfortable.

ROMERO: While Southwest promises to make amends --

AMANDA BROOKS, BROOKLYN RESIDENT: Apologies are not sufficient. We learned as children. You can apologize, but we would raise on atonement. Apologies mean nothing.

ROMERO: -- with vows of reimbursements for canceled flights, hotels, food, and rebooking flights or rental cars.

Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, warned of the consequences if the airline does not follow through.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, UNITED STATES TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: We will penalize Southwest, as we would any airline to the tune potentially of tens of thousands of dollars per violation if they fail to meet what is required of them to take care of passengers.


ROMERO: Now travelers today, who I spoke with, tell me they are fed up with Southwest Airlines and they do not accept the apology by its CEO. One woman told me she waited on hold for three hours on the phone this morning, just trying to speak to a customer service representative.

Now, the CEO says they created a web page on their website. You can go to it, fill out the form, and that's how you can get reimbursed. But, Wolf, travelers tell me they don't know if they'll ever really see that money again. Wolf.

BLITZER: Nadia Romero at the Atlanta Airport for us. Thank you very much.

Coming up, a major development in the investigation into the killings of four college students in Idaho. We'll break down what we know about the suspect's arrest.

Plus, Kevin McCarthy is making a final pitch to Republicans just ahead of the speaker vote next week. What he told his fellow lawmakers today.



BLITZER: After snowstorms and bitter cold struck parts of the United States over the Christmas holiday, many are hoping for better weather for New Year's Eve.

Let's bring in CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar. So, Allison, what can we expect, for example, across the country tomorrow?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Let's start with the good news. And that's that the temperatures are much warmer than they were in so many of these same places just a week ago. In fact, a lot of these areas, 15 to 20 degrees above normal.

The concern here is this system right here, that's currently over the Midwest of the Gulf Coast, that's going to be sliding into the eastern portion of the country, bringing rain showers to places like D.C., New York, and Boston.

We also have a secondary system just now starting to enter into the West Coast that's also going to bring some rain and snow. Right now, the heaviest rain is pushing in across portions of the southeast. So areas of the Panhandle of Florida. You've also got areas of Alabama and just kind of winding down across portions of Louisiana.

Out to the West, also some pretty heavy rain showers sliding in across northern California. This system is going to shift South. So other areas from San Francisco all the way down to L.A. can anticipate some rain showers tomorrow, unfortunately, for New Year's Eve.

But the ones that most people just really want to know about is New York itself. Now, one thing to notice, there's a lot of heavy rain in the hours leading up to the ball dropping, but the good news is it should be relatively light at the time the ball drops.

Focus on the fact that it's not going to be freezing. Temperatures will actually be in the low 50s at the time the ball drops. But, yes, you may have to have that puncher with you or risk getting some wet confetti stuck to you.

Elsewhere, we're also looking at some rain showers in the Midwest, as well as definitely out across the western portion of the U.S. including Los Angeles.

BLITZER: Allison Chinchar, thank you very much for that report.


There's breaking news coming up next, a suspect arrested in the killings of four University of Idaho students. We heard from the police just a little while ago. We'll have details when we come back.


BLITZER: Happening now, first degree murder charges are filed against the suspect who's now in custody in the killings of four University of Idaho students this hour. What police are saying and not saying about the case and a possible motive.

Also tonight, we're taking you inside Donald Trump's tax returns. Newly released documents revealing the former president paid next to nothing to the IRS during both his first and last years in office.