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Trump's Tax Returns Revealed, Including Zero Payment In 2020; Putin Unleashes New Drone Strikes, Courts China's President; Police Say, Suspect Arrested In Idaho College Student Murders; Moving Stories Of Buffalo Blizzard Victims And Survivors; Times Square Celebrations Returning To Full Capacity. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired December 30, 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: And CNN is on the ground in Ukraine as Russia unleashes new drone strike and Vladimir Putin looks for support from a powerful -- potentially very powerful ally, China's Xi Jinping.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This hour, a suspect is in custody more than a month after the gruesome stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students and the deaths horrified the nation, as all of us know.
Our correspondents are live in Idaho where police just held a news conference. They're also in Pennsylvania where the suspect was arrested. First, let's go to Veronica Miracle in Idaho for us. Veronica, give us the latest on the case and what happens next.
VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after nearly seven painstaking weeks of investigating and revealing very few details, the Moscow Police Department has finally named a suspect. They say they do not yet have a murder weapon and they cannot reveal a motive but there is such a sense of relief in this community now that a suspect has been arrested.
CHIEF JAMES FRY, MOSCOW POLICE: Detectives arrested a 28-year-old Bryan Christopher Kohberger in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, on a warrant for murder.
MIRACLE (voice over): It is the announcement Moscow, Idaho and much of the nation has waited to hear. 47 days after the killing of four University of Idaho students, a suspect is now in custody. 28-year-old Bryan Kohberger was arrested in Pennsylvania Friday on four counts of first-degree murder.
BILL THOMPSON, LATAH COUNTY: In addition to felony burglary, which involves entering the residence with the intent to commit the crime of murder.
MIRACLE: Any indication that the suspect knew the victims? FRY: That is part of the investigation as well. It won't be something that will come out at this point in time.
MIRACLE: Police also won't release a motive but law enforcement sources tell CNN, police were led to Kohberger after tracing the ownership of a white Hyundai Elantra seen in the area at the night of the killings. They learned Kohberger had left the Moscow area and was tracked to Monroe County, Pennsylvania, south of Scranton.
Sources say the FBI surveilled Kohberger for four days until the arrest was made at 1:30 A.M. Friday. A white Hyundai was also recovered. And sources tell CNN, Kohberger's DNA was found at the crime scene.
FRY: Providing any details in this criminal investigation might have tainted the upcoming criminal prosecution or alerted the suspect of our progress.
MIRACLE: Kohberger is currently a grad student majoring in Criminology at Washington State University in Pullman, less than ten miles west of the crime scene in Moscow, Idaho.
Police spent the day searching Kohberger's campus apartment in Washington. He graduated earlier in 2022 from DeSales University in Pennsylvania. A Reddit post Kohberger made while a student there indicates he worked on a study about how emotions and psychological traits influence decision-making when committing a crime with an emphasis on your thoughts and feelings throughout your experience.
Back in Moscow, the announcement is bringing the first signs of relief after weeks of fear.
ERIN STAHELI, MOSCOW RESIDENT: It has just been very scary not knowing who is out there.
MIRACLE: And now?
STAHELI: Oh, I feel much better. I feel relieved. And so I'm just very happy police have done their work.
MIRACLE (on camera): And, Wolf, at the crime scene this morning, there was a clean-up crew and they were supposed to start work and work all day to clean up the house and eventually turn it back to the homeowner. But within minutes of them arriving, that work stopped, and that is according to police because of a court order, for some reason it was stopped. I asked further about why. They said all they could reveal is that they were ordered to stop that clean-up. So, for now, it remains a crime scene. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Veronica, thank you very much, Veronica Miracle, reporting for us.
Let's bring in CNN's Jean Casarez. She's on the scene for us in Pennsylvania, where the suspect is being held. Also with us CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller and our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, the former Philadelphia Police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, and the former FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe.
Jean, you're there just outside the jail, where the suspect is now being held. What do we know about how the search unfolded where you are in Pennsylvania?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is very fascinating because, first of all, he was arrested early this morning in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania and I'm in northeastern Pennsylvania. I'm in a rural area of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Albrightsville is about eight miles away and that is -- according to the presser, that is where he lives. And they also said that this is his home, even though he's in Washington, going to school in Washington.
And what we are learning, a sources confirming with CNN that the FBI out of Philadelphia had been surveilling him right in this area for four days. And while this was going on here, in Idaho, they were actually -- the FBI, the local police, Idaho State police, they were getting together the information so that they would have the probable cause to go before a judge to get the arrest warrant.
And the source tells CNN that the arrest warrant probable cause is based on DNA, his DNA being at the scene and also that white car that we've heard so much about, that was seen through some video close to the apartment at the time this was happening, that that was his car.
Well once they got that arrest warrant, the criminal complaint was filed and we heard from the press conference it was filed yesterday, four counts of first-degree murder, also a burglary charge. And once that was filed, they went in this morning at 1:30 A.M. to a gated community and they arrested him and he is here now waiting an extradition hearing which will be on Tuesday.
BLITZER: Jean, stand by. I want to bring in John Miller right now. What more could you tell us, John, about the suspect and this dramatic arrest, what, more than a month after these murders?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this came together really in the last few days. Once they put that FBI surveillance team on him, in this rural area, that was the clear sign that we're developing this, we're moving towards that arrest but we need to know where the suspect is because we can't just keep developing evidence and then go look for him and find out that he's in the wind.
So, once they were able to what they call acquire him, which is we've got eyes on, we know where he is, we're developing his pattern of life, where he comes and goes, very hard to do in a rural area where any strange beings or cars stand out to neighbors right away, which is probably why they needed so many people.
But once they developed that surveillance team, that was, now we've got to dot Is and cross the Ts and get a judge to sign off on his arrest warrant and then get a judge here to authorize it in Pennsylvania. And then Pennsylvania State trooper Justin Leery executed that warrant this morning with the FBI and additional troopers and he's in custody. But as has been pointed out by Veronica, the DNA and the car is what got them the probable cause.
BLITZER: Yes, two major developments indeed. Andrew McCabe, the authorities at that news conference earlier today didn't give any information on any possible links the suspect may have had to these four victims. What questions do you have about any links and possible motive for that matter?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I mean that is the central question I'm sure that all of us have right now. What brought this young man to that house in the middle of the night?
We don't -- we -- of course, it is not necessary to prove motive to convict someone of murder here in this country. It is not an element of the offense. But it is very helpful when you are trying to convince a jury that an individual has, you know, as the police have said in this case, picked out or targeted these victims specifically, jurors want to know why, what is the connection between this guy and his victims. And so that is what we're really trying to understand.
It is clear that the officials in Idaho are greatly limited by their own state law and state Supreme Court rules in terms of what they could say about the investigation before he is presented before a judge in Idaho. So, hopefully, we'll learn more about that once they get him back to Idaho, but that is clearly the key question right now in all of our minds.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Chief Ramsey, police are still looking clearly for the murder weapon and they're asking for the public's help with any information on the suspect. So, what does that tell you?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I mean, it may or may not be able to find a murder weapon. You have got a 2,500 mile distance between where the murders occurred, where he was arrested, he drove, anything could happen. But they're going to continue to look. There is no question about that.
But our understanding right now is that they have DNA, they have something that shows the car in that particular area. Now, that they have the car, I'm certain they'll be looking for any kind of trace evidence to see if they got anything that again would link the victims of the crime that blood evidence, which was not easy to get rid of, and that had to be a very bloody crime scene.
So, there is still a lot of work to be done in this particular case, but the way it sounds right now, I don't think they need the murder weapon. It could be great to get it but I don't think they need it.
I think they've got enough of a case right now to be able to move forward but they'll continue to work as hard as they can. But I just want to commend the men and women that worked on this case. This was not an easy case to solve by any stretch of the imagination. And they stayed with it and they were able to find the person responsible, so my hats off to them. That is just not easy to do.
People watch television and they think everything gets solved within an hour with commercial breaks. But that is not the reality of police work. So, again, good job.
BLITZER: And you speak with a lot of experience in this area, police chief here in Washington, the police commissioner in Philadelphia as well.
John Miller, we now have the aerials over the home the suspect was living in, in Pennsylvania. Authorities, we know, are searching his apartment complex in Washington State as well. What will they be on alert for?
MILLER: Well, what they're going to be looking for primarily is the murder weapon. That is the big prize right now because you've got DNA at the scene, you've got his car at the scene, if you got the murder weapon, that completes the triangle.
The fact that it wasn't found at the scene could suggest that he has an attachment to it, that he wanted to keep it. Would not be the first killer to keep something like that as a souvenir. That weapon itself could yield evidence, whether it is traces of DNA or blood and they're also going to be looking for clothing, clothing that he might have worn that night that could have other evidence.
So, you know, you want to search that apartment where he lived close to the scene in Washington State. You want to get a warrant and freeze and search this home to determine what did he bring with him that could be evidence of the crime, obviously a warrant for that car as well. So, they're going to be looking everywhere that they know he stopped, slept, stayed or has been to see what did he leave behind that could trace him back to that scene.
BLITZER: Yes. Good point. Andrew McCabe, I'm anxious to get your thoughts on this as well. What do you think?
MCCABE: Well, I think I agree with John's points there. I would add to that they're probably also going to be looking for any sort of evidence of connection between this suspect and the victims. And that could come in the form of internet search logs on his computer, it could come from connections that he might have had with the victims via the internet or telephone or text messages or those sort of things.
So, grabbing his electronics devices during the course of all these different physical search is going to be very important, exploiting the information that's on there is going to be very important. And it all also goes to building that timeline, right? You want to be able to put him down in a place at a location conducting an activity certainly every day following the homicide and but also, as much as possible, in the days leading up to the homicide. So, you could paint a picture of where this guy has been and what got him to that homicide.
BLITZER: Yes, clearly, a lot more work needs to be done. Guys, thank you very much. We're going to stay on top of this story for sure.
Also just ahead, what we're learning right now from the newest release of January 6th transcripts, including an interview conducted late in the House investigation with the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Tonight, new revelations about former President Trump's taxes and finances, as we're also poring over another batch of transcripts just released by the January 6th select committee.
Let's begin with the transcripts right now. Our Political Correspondent Sara Murray is here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Sara, among the transcripts released today is an interview with Ginni Thomas, the wife of the U.S. Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas. What did we learn?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We got two rounds of transcripts today, but Ginni Thomas is, of course, one of the marquee names because of her husband. She was interviewed late in the committee's work. And previously, we had reported on texts between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, where Ginni Thomas was essentially encouraging Mark Meadows to prop up Donald Trump, keep challenging the election, she said things like the left is attempting the greatest heist of our history.
So, when she talked to the committee, she offered something of mea culpa for these remarks. She said, I regret the tone and content of these texts, I really find my language imprudent and my choices of sending the context of these emails unfortunate. She said, I would take them all back if I could today.
Despite that she didn't back away from her claims of election fraud, she said she still believed that there was election fraud even though she hadn't seen any specific evidence of it but she still said she regretted those text messages.
BLITZER: Interesting. What else did we learn on these just released transcript?
MURRAY: Well, the other interesting one I think that came out today was Tony Ornato. We've been waiting for this interview for a long time. He was a top aide to Donald Trump. Obviously, when Cassidy Hutchinson testified, she said a lot of things that made a lot of headlines, including talking about how irritated Trump was when he couldn't go to the Capitol. We previously reported that Tony Ornato did not confirm her account, the committee did not find him to be a very credible witness. But they also asked him about what else he saw on January 6th. They asked him if he saw anyone try to convince Donald Trump to make a statement publicly, and here is what Ornato told the committee. I'll be honest with you, it was a very chaotic time in trying to get the information and it was usually late information or it wasn't accurate or it was the fog of war and it was misrepresented. And it was very -- a very chaotic day. So, I don't recall those specific details. There was a lot of him not being able to recall. And, again, the committee didn't think he was a very credible witness even though Ornato's lawyer said he testified truthfully.
We're digging through the latest rounds. I think these are probably some of the biggest names we're going to see today but our team is reading to see if there are any other big headlines tonight, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, we'll find out if there are, let our viewers know.
MURRAY: We will.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Sara, excellent reporting, as usual.
Now to the first detailed public look at Donald Trump's tax returns made public by the House Democrats earlier today after the former president kept them secret for years.
CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes takes us through these documents and what they revealed.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Little or no income tax, foreign bank accounts and eyebrow-raising details about loans to his adult children.
Just some of the findings after the Democratic led House Ways and Means Committee released six years worth of former Trump's federal tax returns. The returns spanning from the year Trump announced his first run for president, 2015, through his last year in office, 2020.
REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA): The research that was done as it relates to the mandatory audit program was nonexistent. The tax forms were really never audited.
HOLMES: Previous reporting from the joint committee on taxation revealed shockingly low tax amounts paid by the former president, including paying only $750 in 2017, and in 2018 and '19, paying a combined $1.1 million, and paying no income tax in 2020, his final year in office.
Trump offsetting his income by claiming millions of dollars in losses, raising questions about the former president's business failures. And while Trump paid less than $1,000 in U.S. income tax in 2017, the former president's tax bill totaled nearly a million dollars in foreign taxes the same year, indicating notable business dealings in more than a dozen countries, including Azerbaijan, Turkey, China, Israel and Brazil, shedding light on where Trump's business interests were while he was in the White House.
The returns also showed Trump maintained foreign bank accounts while serving in the White House, including in China. Some of Trump's business spending raising eyebrows among experts, including a 2017 claim that one of his businesses, DJT Aerospace, made exactly the same amount spent, zero net insuring there was nothing to tax, something one tax expert referred to as a, quote, statistical impossibility.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: My personal tax returns would show only that I've had tremendous success.
HOLMES: Trump blasting the release as an outrageous abuse of power, were calling for Republicans taking control of the House to immediately investigate Biden and his family's finances.
TRUMP: It is so sad for our country. It is nothing but another deranged political witch hunt, which has been going on from the day I came down the escalator in Trump Tower.
HOLMES (on camera): And another thing to note here is that this appears to be a major failure on the part of the IRS. Remember, there is a mandatory program that is supposed to audit presidents of the United States. And as we learned from the House Ways and Means Committee, that was not done during Trump's tenure. So, some of this could have been caught, Wolf.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much.
Let's discuss what is going on with CNN Legal Analyst Carrie Cordero. Carrie, thanks so much for joining us. You look at Trump's major business losses, potential discrepancies here for auditors, foreign bank accounts, including in China during his presidency, what stands out to you from these new details?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think one of the issues is that the IRS has had this information for a very long time. It is just becoming public now. So, I do tend to think that if there was going to be any kind of federal enforcement mechanism, that that probably would already be underway.
But it does provide a whole new level of transparency. The foreign aspect of it, I think, underscores the concerns that many in the national security community had when he was running for president and when he was president, that his foreign business dealings could potentially have impacted his decisions as president.
And so the fact that he had business interests there, that he paid taxes to foreign countries, that he had tax bills to a variety of foreign countries with intersecting national security interests with the United States certainly raises issues from a governance perspective, if not a legal investigative perspective. BLITZER: Carrie, how far do you think this will go in holding Trump, a former president of the United States and now a current presidential candidate, accountable?
CORDERO: Well, I think it's really a political question, not a legal one. Because the question is whether or not voters care that he, first of all, pays very much less taxes than many Americans, particularly 2020 paid no income tax at all despite his extensive income and business dealings.
But what it determines is whether or not people will care about this sort of issue in a way that they didn't in the prior presidential election going forward. And I think that is a matter that will just have to be determined for the political process as it plays out through the next presidential election.
BLITZER: Good point. Carrie Cordero, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, Russian President Vladimir Putin strengthens his bond with China as Moscow's unprovoked war against Ukraine rages on.
BLITZER: Russian President Vladimir Putin met virtually with China's Xi Jinping today. The two countries are growing closer as Moscow becomes increasingly isolated over its brutal invasion of Ukraine.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman is joining us live from Kyiv right now. Ben, first of all, what can you tell us about this key meeting?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a meeting that received a lot of publicity certainly in the Russian media.
What we saw was that President Putin extended an invitation to President Xi to visit Russia in the spring. That invitation was accepted.
But there were some interesting nuances in this meeting. President Putin talked about more military-to-military cooperation with Beijing. President Xi only talked about more political cooperation. And what we've seen over the last year, certainly since the beginning of the Russian invasion, is that there is -- has been a fairly dramatic increase in Russian exports of fuel, cheap fuel, to China, and also Russian imports of Chinese goods.
What we haven't seen, however, is this supply of military hardware by China to Russia. The Chinese are simply very wary about being sanctioned by the west if they go in that direction. And we heard a spokesperson from the U.S. State Department say that the United States is monitoring Beijing's activities in that regard very closely. And warned that those that side with Moscow in what they call this unjust war will find themselves, in their words, in the wrong side of history. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes. It is interesting that Russia is getting arms from North Korea and Iran, but not, at least not yet, from China.
President Zelenskyy, I know, gave an update on the fighting that's going on right now. Tell our viewers, Ben, what he said.
WEDEMAN: Well, he did mention the continuing drone and missile strikes on Ukraine overnight. 16 drones were launched in the direction of the Ukraine. However, all of them were shot down by air defenses. Increasingly, officials here are concerned about the situation in the Donbas, particularly around the city of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, where even officials here will concede that they are taking serious casualties as the Russian onslaught there continues.
On the bright side, a presidential adviser to Zelenskyy did note that since the beginning of the war, the Ukrainians have been able to take back, in his words, more than 1,800 settlements that had been under Russian occupation. Wolf?
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Ben Wedeman, stay safe over there, as I say to you every night. Thank you very, very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, CNN Military Analyst, retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, thanks so much for joining us.
First, China has not been providing material support for Putin's war, as you know. How much does Putin need President Xi's backing right now, even if it is only symbolic?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, as you've just said, Wolf, Putin finds himself increasingly a pariah on the world stage and he's looking for allies, for partners, North Korea, Iran and China. And although Xi and Putin are both authoritarian leaders, and we would think that they would be solid parties, Xi is certainly the top dog in this relationship. There is not a deep economic societal relationship and their partnership is transactional and opportunistic, and that is what you'll hear most China watchers say.
Russia depends far more on China than the other way around. And I don't think we'll see China giving much in terms of military arms to Russia any time soon, because China is also very concerned about their standing in Europe. They don't want to alienate any of their European partners because they're actually probably providing about ten times as much to European countries than they are to Russia. So, it is an economic transactional relationship.
BLITZER: Yes. That is why they're not going to presumably provide weapons to Russia. They're afraid of sanctions from the U.S. and from Europe for that matter.
Let's turn to the battlefield, General, while I have you. What are you watching in the east, in the eastern part of Ukraine right now?
HERTLING: Well, as we've talked before, Wolf, I'm watching Bakhmut, as Ben just said, very closely. Ukrainians are fighting in three directions, the east, the south and the north. The Russian forces, (INAUDIBLE), Wagner's group is trying to surround that city which they see as instrumental to holding on to the Donbas.
But you're also seeing some other cities playing a part. Not on the map is a smaller city called Kremmina, and that has gathered a lot of my attention because that actually is a key transportation hub. And Ukrainians are doing a very good job in terms of holding off continuous Russia human waves of attack.
And a lot of Russians are dying there, unfortunately, there is a lot of casualties taken by the Ukrainians too, but this is going to become an instrumental fight in the next few days, possibly a week or so.
But I'm also still watching Kherson fight in the southeast. That is almost critical as well in terms of regaining territory that Russia took early on in this campaign.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm watching that as well. What will be the most critical factors, General, in this war as it grinds on into the New Year?
HERTLING: Well, you know, a lot people are talking about specific pieces of equipment, Wolf, like the patriot missile. I'm convinced, though, that the training and combined arms operation, the delivery of armored vehicles to Ukraine is what is going to help them do more counterattacks and more offensive operations against Ukraine to take back -- or excuse me against Russia to take back some of those territories.
So, while some people are looking at equipment, I'm looking at how the combined armed forces, like President Zelenskyy and his General Zaluzhnyi have said, he needs tanks and armored vehicles to continue with the offensive. That is what I'm watching over the next several weeks and months.
BLITZER: Me too. General Hertling, thank you very, very much for joining us, always important to get your analyst.
Just ahead, Kevin McCarthy holds a conference call with his Republican caucus as he works to secure the house speakership. We're learning new details tonight. Stand by.
BLITZER: New information tonight about the latest efforts by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to secure the speakership when Republicans take control of the chamber next month. CNN Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona is working the story for us. Melanie, what are you learning about the conference call that McCarthy held today with his caucus? Was he able to secure the votes he needs to become the next speaker of House just days from now?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, the answer is not yet, Wolf. Sources tell me and my colleague, Lauren Fox, that the conference call ended without any major breakthroughs in McCarthy's quest for 218 votes, and that's despite the fact that McCarthy has offered a number of key concessions to his critics. That includes agreeing to an investigative panel to centralize all of the probes into the Biden administration.
That is something he agreed to for the first time today on a conference call, that's something conservatives have been pushing for, and most notably McCarthy is also agreed to a lower threshold for a vote on deposing the sitting speaker. That's known as the motion to vacate the speaker chair. It is something conservatives have really been pushing for and it is something up until this point McCarthy has been reluctant to agree to because, essentially, Wolf, he would be allowing his critics to fire him at any point during his speakership.
However, as he struggled to lock down the votes, he is now willing to come down to as low as a five-person threshold. That would be a major concession for Kevin McCarthy. But the trick here is that moderates on the call today expressed uneasiness about that threshold, and meanwhile the critics are pushing for the threshold, still wouldn't commit to voting for McCarthy.
So, they ended the conference call agreeing to continue work over the weekend. They're hoping to resolve some of the outstanding issues and finalize a rules package, put that out over the weekend and then for McCarthy he's hoping that everything sort of just fall into place. But there is no guarantee that will happen and, of course, time is running out, Wolf.
BLITZER: Not much time left. What happens if McCarthy doesn't get the votes he needs by Tuesday? How does this play out, Melanie?
ZANONA: So, the House cannot conduct any other business until they elect a speaker. So, if McCarthy can't get the votes on the first ballot, the House will just keep voting until somebody does. It is unclear what happens at that point. Other candidates could jump in. McCarthy could try to adjourn the proceedings so he can try to cut a deal to save his speakership.
But we are really in unchartered territory. The last time a speaker's vote went to multiple ballots was 1923. So, we really could be in for a wild ride on Tuesday, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's see what happens on Tuesday. Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Meanwhile, new questions and new scrutiny swirling tonight around the New York Republican congressman-elect, George Santos, based on new reporting from The New York Times. CNN Washington Correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, has the latest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stand here today watching this slow George Santos train wreck take place.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New York Congressman-elect George Santos facing continued scrutiny after he admitted to lying about key parts of his biography.
REP.-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Now, it is incumbent upon me to deliver on those results. And I look forward to serve --
TULSI GABBARD, FOX NEWS HOST: You're exactly right.
SANTOS: -- in serving my district.
SERFATY: The New York Times reporting late Thursday night details found on Santos's campaign disclosure forms. One of them is a company called Cleaner 123, which received $11,000 from his campaign and was listed as an apartment rental for staff. But the address listed is a home on Long Island, The Times reports, where neighbors say Santos and his husband were regularly seen coming and going, also reported, dozens of expenses of $199.99, one cent below the amount after which federal law requires receipts, and travel expenses exceeding more than $70,000. It is not clear if the spending was allowed under campaign finance rules.
An attorney for Santos tells The New York Times, campaign expenditures for staff members, including travel, lodging and meals are normal expenses of any competent campaign. The suggestion that Santos campaign engaged in any irresponsible spending of campaign funds is just ludicrous.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Where and how did he get this money?
SERFATY: A source tells CNN federal prosecutors are investigating the financing of the incoming Republican congressman. Santos has faced questions over his wealth and loans totaling more than $700,000 he made to his successful 2022 campaign.
In a 2022 financial disclosure, Santos listed a salary of $750,000 for the years 2022 and 2021 at the Devolder Organization, a family firm that was described as handling $80 million in assets.
The firm which is registered in Florida has no LinkedIn profile or website and was temporarily deemed inactive by state. But now records show that it was reinstated on December 20th.
REP.-ELECT GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I'm not a criminal. I committed absolutely no crimes. SERFATY: In an interview with Semafor, Santos said he made his money
through capital introduction and deal making for high net worth individuals.
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: The legal road ahead for Santos could be treacherous and there are already calls for him to resign from Congress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is going to be so much pressure on him to leave.
SERFATY (on camera): And with pressure on him clearly growing by the day, Santos has said he still intends to serve in Congress and is scheduled to be sworn in next week with other new members. Republican leadership has still not spoken out about this including Kevin McCarthy who is in his own battle to become the next speaker -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, thank you very much.
Coming up, out of the terrible storm came some truly heartwarming stories. We'll take a closer look at how the people of Buffalo persevered during last week's blizzard to protect their friends and their neighbors.
BLITZER: Truly heartwarming stories out of my hometown Buffalo, New York. One woman opening her bar and grill in the middle of the blizzard to feed her hungry neighbors.
CNN's Miguel Marquez shares her story and other acts of heroism during the deadly storm.
VIVIAN ROBINSON, CO-PASTORS, SPIRIT OF TRUTH URBAN MINISTRY: We had people on the couch.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The worst of the storm bringing out the best of Buffalo.
ROBINSON: We are looking at all these stories that was happening on Facebook. I looked at my husband. I said, honey, we're going to have to open the doors to our church.
MARQUEZ: Buffalo's Lovejoy neighborhood had lost power.
AL ROBINSON, PASTOR, SPIRIT OF TRUTH URBAN MINISTRY: Our church didn't lose electricity. We believe there was define intervention there. We do.
VIVIAN ROBINSON: We're not even on a generator.
MARQUEZ: One a.m. last Friday morning, the worst of the storm, the middle of the night.
You open the doors and you are thinking --
VIVIAN ROBINSON: We're going to have one family, you know.
AL ROBINSON: A couple families stranded. We will help them out.
MARQUEZ: What did you end up with?
AL ROBINSON: We ended up with -- I last counted 128. Someone counted 154 people.
MARQUEZ: They offered a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, sanctuary.
Along with a team of volunteers on snowmobiles, they rescued people throughout the neighborhood, even strangers stuck on the nearby freeway.
VIVIAN ROBINSON: We were able to experience this on a different level. To see lives. Because if we didn't open up our doors, it would have kept them closed and went on with life, we would have had all these bodies.
AL ROBINSON: Dead bodies, in our neighborhood. I'm thankful that God gave us the strength to do this.
MARQUEZ: From the pulpit to the pub.
GABRIELLE MATTINA, OWNER, THE GYPSY PARLOR: No one is tougher than the people from buffalo. That's the truth.
MARQUEZ: Gabrielle Mattina opened up her west Buffalo bar and grill Gypsy Parlor when she realized her patrons and neighbors were hungry.
MATTINA: I'm realizing, nobody has access to food here. Whether you are prepared or not, whether you have money or not, no one had an opportunity to get food. But the restaurant had food.
MARQUEZ: Over several days, she served up meals and drinks to neighbors, friends, employees, emergency workers, anyone in need.
MATTINA: It was insane in here. We had all hands on deck. Mostly expecting people to come in for complimentary meals, but people wanted to see other people because they had been trapped in the house. It has been busy since Monday.
MARQUEZ: If they could pay, great. If not, it was on the house.
MATTINA: Some people were walking from blocks and blocks with their own bags. I need to feed my family. We had ziti with sausage.
MARQUEZ: All these stories happening over Christmas.
AL ROBINSON: We had the best Christmas we have ever celebrated.
VIVIAN ROBINSON: That's how we felt. That was the best Christmas. It was like home. The people were our family.
MARQUEZ: A storm and a holiday no one here will ever forget.
Miguel Marquez, CNN, Buffalo, New York.
BLITZER: I love my fellow Buffalonians. Miguel Marquez, thank you very, very much.
Up next, the crowds are already gathering for tomorrow's big night. Take a look at this live pictures coming in from Times Square in New York right now. We will go there when we come back.
BLITZER: There are fewer than 30 hours left in 2022. For the first time since 2019, celebrations in Times Square are finally able to return to full capacity.
Let's go live to CNN's Gloria Pazmino. She's standing by in Times Square for us.
Gloria, a very, very exciting milestone for New York City. Tell our viewers what we can expect on New Year's Eve.
GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
You know, it's been so much the last two years. The city has been through so much. Finally, once again, we can all gather without any restrictions here in times square to ring in the new year. We are expecting thousands of people to show up right here where I'm standing by this time tomorrow. We expect it to be fully, fully packed.
Now, the star of the show behind me, the big crystal ball, just had its own rehearsal. It came right down as it's supposed to do tomorrow. It's giant, 11,000 pounds of crystal. When the clock strikes midnight, they will drop a ton of confetti on top of the revelers who will gather here throughout the day tomorrow. A really exciting day.
Of course, public safety is a key part of all of this. A massive operation by the NYPD who will be watching. They will be out here in force. People will be scanned. There will be tight security as you get in and are screened to get into the fence. So, a big operation here. Hopefully, it will all go exactly as planned -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Gloria Pazmino at Times Square for us, thank you. CNN will be live from Times Square tomorrow night with Anderson Cooper
and Andy Cohen. You can watch our special New Year's Eve coverage starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I want to wish all of you a very happy and healthy new year.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.