Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Ukraine Says, 6 Children Among 45 Dead After Strike On Apartment Building; White House In Damage Control Mode As Documents Crisis Intensifies; Husband Of Missing Massachusetts Woman Charged With Her Murder; Watchdog: Interviews Under Way In Probe Of JFK Near Collision; Failed GOP Candidate Arrested In Shootings At Democrats' Homes. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 17, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, another child's body found in the rubble of a Ukrainian residential apartment building as the death toll from a powerful Russian missile attack rises. This hour, I'll ask key White House Official John Kirby about new U.S. and western military aid to Ukraine and whether it's enough.

Also tonight, the White House is ramping up its damage control as the crisis over classified documents intensifies. The Biden team defending its delayed and incomplete release of information while accusing Republicans of fake outrage.

And the husband of a missing Massachusetts woman is now charged with murdering his wife. We're breaking down the new evidence in this very high profile case as it takes a dramatic turn.

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

We begin with the growing carnage from Russia's attack on an apartment building in Ukraine, one of the single deadliest strikes of Vladimir Putin's war.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman is joining us live from Ukraine right now. Ben, give us the latest on what's happening on the ground in the war zone.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as far as that apartment building that was struck on Saturday more than 72 hours ago, at this point, Ukrainian rescue teams have been able to find 45 bodies. Among them six children killed in that attack. There are still 19 people still unaccounted for.

As far as the fighting on the eastern front, it continues to be intense in and around the town of Soledar. But what we've been seeing over the last two days we were in Bakhmut that the fighting is increasing there. The expectation is that as soon as the Russians gain complete control of Soledar, they will start increasing their attempts to encircle and capture the city of Bakhmut, which is just nine miles to the south. Wolf?

BLITZER: We're also following major developments, Ben, in western military aid to Ukraine. How badly does Ukraine need this?

WEDEMAN: I'll give you an idea, Wolf. Just the other day, we were at a Ukrainian anti-aircraft battery that's being used to fire Russian trenches. That artillery piece is from 1950. And what one sees is sort of when you go along the frontlines, you see tanks dating back to the '60s, to the '50s. So, they desperately need this help.

But what we're seeing is help on the way. Today, the Dutch prime minister meeting with President Biden announced it. The Netherlands following in the footsteps of the United States and Germany is going to be giving Ukraine the Patriot anti-missile system.

Now, later this week, the countries that are members of the Ukraine defense contact group, which includes most European powers, the United States and others, is going to be meeting in Germany. And it is hoped there that officials will convince the Germans to allow Poland, for instance, to provide Ukraine with Leopard II tanks. These are modern battle tanks, which are desperately needed by the Ukrainians, desperately needed because it is anticipated that as the weather improves in the spring that the Russians will launch a major offensive in this part of Ukraine.

BLITZER: Yes. That's an enormous fear right now. All right, Ben Wedeman in Ukraine for us, thank you very much. Stay safe over there.

Let's get some more on the war in Ukraine right now and the new western military aid that hopefully is on the way. We're joined by the National Security Council coordinator for Strategic Communications, retired U.S. Admiral John Kirby. John, thanks so much for joining us.

As you heard, the Netherlands, and as you know, the Netherlands says it will follow the U.S. and Germany and provide the patriot air defense missile system to Ukraine. The U.K., France and Poland are moving toward providing battle tanks. Will the U.S. step up as well with a major increase in its military support to Ukraine?


JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well, we have stepped up, Wolf. We've been the leader for security assistance to Ukraine. And as Ben noted in Germany this week, Secretary Austin will be convening another iteration of the Ukraine defense contact group. There will be dozens of nations there, and I suspect that you will continue to hear coming from the United States additional packages of security assistance, additional weapons and capabilities for Ukraine perhaps as soon as the end of this week.

BLITZER: Will those packages include battle tanks?

KIRBY: I don't want to get ahead of things we haven't announced yet. We're focused on trying to make sure that we are giving Ukraine what they need in the fight they're in. That's why air defense has been a priority for us. You've seen in just the last package we announced, the Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. We're going to continue to modulate these packages so that they're most appropriate for what Ukraine needs. And if we can't provide it, that we're working with other allies and partners to see if they can.

BLITZER: The Joint Chiefs chairman, General Milley, had his first face-to-face meeting with the Ukrainian commander in chief. They met in Poland today. Did they discuss what more military support the U.S. might provide just ahead of a possible spring offensive by the Russians?

KIRBY: That's right. General Milley did have a chance to sit down with General Zaluzhnyi, the top Ukrainian general in charge of their defense, of their war. They had a chance to get a sense of what the battlefield looks like. It was really important for General Milley to understand directly from General Zaluzhnyi what's going on in the battlefield, particularly in the east, where the fighting is still very, very vicious, as Ben reported.

And, yes, of course, they talked about ongoing -- the need for ongoing security assistance and support for Ukraine. General Milley will no doubt take that conversation with him to Germany as he joins Secretary Austin for this latest contact group meeting at the end of the week.

BLITZER: Just look at the devastation over the past couple of days or so in Dnipro, and you can see the need for air defense that the Ukrainians need. President Zelenskyy is calling these latest Russian cruise missile strikes a war crime. Is that the U.S. stance as well?

KIRBY: We have been very, very clear and honest about the fact that the Russian Armed Forces continue to commit atrocities and war crimes. That's why we're working with international bodies to do what we can to help document them so that they can be properly analyzed going forward to hold Russia properly accountable.

It is just egregious to look at what Mr. Putin did here over the last 48 hours or so in hitting an apartment complex, no military value whatsoever. It didn't do -- it wasn't about knocking out power or water. It was about killing innocent civilians while they were at home. So, it's totally egregious and we're going to continue to make that case. We're going to continue to help the international community as they document these war crimes.

BLITZER: So, should Putin personally be charged with war crimes for what his military is doing?

KIRBY: That's going to be a decision for International Tribunals, Wolf. I won't get ahead of that. What I can tell you is we do believe that the Russian military, the armed forces of Russia on the ground in Ukraine have and continue to commit atrocities and war crimes against the Ukrainian people. And that's why again we're going to continue to support international bodies as they document this for further analysis later.

BLITZER: The Russian defense minister visited troops today and announced Putin's plans to increase the size of the Russian military. What is Russia preparing for? What could the fight look like in the coming months?

KIRBY: It is clear that Mr. Putin knows he's short on manpower in this fight. I mean, he has thrown an awful lot of resources including human bodies into this fight in Ukraine and he continues to suffer casualties at a very high rate, so, not a complete surprise that they would be looking for alternate or additional sources of manpower.

Now, what that portends in terms of actual operations, it's difficult for us to know. We don't have a crystal ball into what Russian military operation plans are. I think we can all expect, and you and I talk about this, that the fighting will continue over the winter, and that as the weather improves, we should expect and should plan for the fact that the Russians may try again to go on the offense in other places inside Ukraine.

Mr. Putin has not abandoned his larger strategic goals here. This isn't just about the Donbas or a town called Bakhmut or Kherson. Mr. Putin continues to talk about subsuming all of Ukraine into Russia.

BLITZER: I know he does.

While I have you, John, I want to switch quickly to a different issue. Some of the classified documents found at President Biden's office concerned, we're told, the U.K., Iran, and Ukraine for that matter. Does this sow distress among allies and potentially harm nationally security of these kind of highly classified documents are roaming around?

KIRBY: I think our allies and partners are much more concerned about the challenges and threats to our shared common interest and values around the world. We've been talking about Ukraine, the European continent certainly top among the list, but also Chinese aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, the constant threat of terrorism whether that's in Africa or the Sahel in the Middle East.

I mean, our allies and partners are more aligned on these issues than ever before and we expect that cooperation to go on in the future.


BLITZER: Will the Biden administration, John, cooperate fully with the U.S. Justice Department, the intelligence damage assessment and Congress for that matter, including making the president himself available?

KIRBY: The president has been clear we will absolutely, fully, and we have fully cooperated with the Justice Department. Certainly, we are aware of congressional concerns, and we'll answer those concerns fully and appropriately. I won't get ahead of individual tactics or who's interviewing who. We're not at that point right now, but you can expect that the cooperation this administration has exhibited to-date will absolutely continue going forward.

BLITZER: So important. All right, John Kirby, thanks so much for joining us from the White House.

KIRBY: Yes, Sir.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll have more on the White House response to the Biden document investigation, including efforts to shift the focus to Republicans and to accuse them of political stunts. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, new signs that the White House is shifting its strategy as it scrambles to limit the fallout over classified documents found at President Biden's home and office.


CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has more on team Biden doing damage control.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Biden again ignoring questions as the investigation into his handling of classified documents intensifies.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have a couple of special guests.

MATTINGLY: As the head coach and star guard of the world champion Golden State Warriors made their appearance in the briefing room.

STEPHEN CURRY, GUARD, GOLDEN STATE WARRIOR: It's something that we don't have to take for granted.

MATTINGLY: For a White House scrambling to get its footing --

JEAN-PIERRE: You guys can ask me this a 100 times, 200 times if you wish. I'm going to keep saying the same thing.

MATTINGLY: A not so subtle effort to turn the page on a turbulent and perilous moment for Biden.

JEAN-PIERRE: The president has confidence. They reached out to the Archives. They reached out to the Department of Justice.

MATTINGLY: The sources saying Biden plans to stay focused on his schedule and agenda.

JEAN-PIERRE: The president is going to stay laser-focused on delivering for the American people.

MATTINGLY: And far away from any commentary like this and made an ongoing special counsel investigation.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: By the way, my corvette is in a locked garage, okay? So, it's not like they're sitting out on the street.

MATTINGLY: The probe now in its early stages to pin down how roughly 20 documents with classified markings from Biden time as vice president ended up in two separate locations, a Biden-affiliated think tank in Washington and Biden's family home in Wilmington, Delaware.

White House officials pledging full cooperation with the early stage special counsel investigation.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm here today to announce the appointment of Robert Hur as a special counsel.

MATTINGLY: But for a second day slamming House Republicans who have now launch two probes of their own. A White House spokesman on Monday saying lawmakers have, quote, no credibility and are playing politics in a shamelessly hypocritical attempt to attack President Biden.

IAN SAMS, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: House Republicans lose credibility when they engage in fake outrage about an issue that they're clearly pursuing only for partisan gain.

MATTINGLY: Followed by a conference call Tuesday to level more attacks, but the messaging effort doing little to address critical questions.

SAMS: But the appointment of a special counsel, we will continue to be limited in what we can share publicly.

MATTINGLY: With little detail on the more than two-month period from the initial discovery of documents on November 2nd to the December 20th discovery of additional documents, to a third and fourth discovery of additional documents just last week. But as White House officials maintain the ongoing investigation will continue to limit their public answers --

SAMS: I understand that there's a tension between protecting and safeguarding the integrity of an ongoing investigation with providing information publicly appropriate with that.

MATTINGLY: A clear public effort to draw attention elsewhere.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, while the White House has pledged full cooperation with that special counsel investigation, the two House Republicans probes that are now under way may have a little bit less so, White House officials saying that they will engage in good faith with good faith efforts.

Clearly, though, over the course of the last couple of days, the attacks on the Republican efforts up to this point pretty implicit saying that probably don't view those as in good faith, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our legal and political experts right now. Joining us, Defense Attorney Shan Wu, CNN Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt. Shan, let me start with you. The Wall Street Journal is just now reporting that the Justice Department actually considered having FBI agents monitor the search for classified documents at President Biden's home but decided against doing it. What does that say to you?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It says it me that there's a high level of cooperation between the Biden team and the Justice Department and that the department was not particularly worried that there might be something that amiss and has a certain amount of trust. And it looks like so far, the trust has worn out. I think the missteps of the more ones of messaging rather than any evidence of a potential crime.

BLITZER: Nia, there may be some truth in the White House claiming the investigation is ongoing right now by the U.S. Justice Department, so that limits what they can say. But how do you think politically the White House is handling what's going?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the messaging has been terrible, and Democrats themselves have expressed frustration in conversations that I've had with them, in public comments they've made about this as well.

The White House hasn't been fully transparent in answering some questions about the documents. They were essentially providing half answers. And, listen, there's an ongoing investigation and they want to cooperate but they weren't fully transparent.

And, listen, this goes against Biden's brand, right, transparency, competency, cooperation. And you saw in their dealings with the press they won't quite fully open about what they knew and when they knew it.

And, listen, part of the problem, too, I think, in this White House is having is they don't know all the details either most likely. I mean, the investigation is obviously going to reveal how these documents got there, why they were there, who put them there?


But, listen, this is a span of many years that those documents were likely there, so they probably don't have all the answers either.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Sure. I mean, look, politically, I think the bottom line is a total nightmare and it continues to go on in part because of decisions that the president's team is making about how to handle this from a political perspective.

I mean, I think Shan kind of ran down the legal and the way they've actually gone about dealing with the Justice Department, et cetera. I mean, I'm sure you can already hear Republican attacks in your head about what that might mean in terms of the fact that it's a currently Biden-run Justice Department, right? There's plenty of fodder here.

And that's really the biggest part of the problem, too, is that from the very beginning, this was something where it neutralized an enormous line of attack for Democrats heading into -- I mean, I realize it's 2023, but we're heading into a presidential campaign. I hate to say it but that's we're going. We're looking at a potential Biden announcement at some point in the coming months.

And every single day that we're talking about this is a day that Democrats aren't talking about something else. I mean, to Phil's, you know, excellent point in the way he wove together that piece, I mean, they would literally rather be talking about anything else, right? They've got sports stars up on the podium so they don't have to talk about this.

And I think the question is just going to be, can they figure out a way to put it behind them? It is going to require doing absolutely dotting every I and crossing every T with Justice and with Congress. But the idea that they're going to interact with, quote/unquote, good faith investigations, I mean, that tells me that they're basically going to declare many of the investigations that are going to be on the Hill not in good faith. But that doesn't mean Republicans aren't going to be talking about this everyday for months.

BLITZER: Yes, that certainly will be.

You know, Shan, how hard from an optics standpoint would it be if the Justice Department went ahead and actually charged former President Trump with some sort of crime for holding onto these classified documents in Mar-a-Lago while the current president of the United States is not charged?

WU: I think it depends on who's holding the optical lens there. But I think they have more than enough facts just publicly known to justify that distinction. Again, to review, I mean, Trump went on for months negotiating, defying a grand jury subpoena, dissembling about the situation and finally a judge actually found probable cause of a criminal crime activity to justify the search warrant.

So, I think it's pretty easy for DOJ and the special counsel to distinguish between those situations. The only concern, of course, is that Garland has, despite his stated intentions to be nonpolitical, displayed a very high sense of anxiety about looking political, which makes him act very politically. So, that's a random fact. We don't know how that plays out.

BLITZER: We'll see how that unfolds. All right, guys, everybody, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, Congressman George Santos set to serve on two House committees despite constant controversy around his never ending list of lies.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: House Republican leaders have put controversial freshman New York Congressman George Santos on two committees despite the lies he told during his campaign.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean is on Capitol Hill for us. What are you picking up over there, Jessica?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well good evening to you, Wolf. Embattled Congressman George Santos, of course, the Republican from New York, being seated on two committees, the Small Business Committee and also the Science, Space and Technology Committee. We heard from the chairman actually of the Small Business Committee a little earlier today about having him sit on that panel. Here's what he had to say.


REP. ROGER WILLIAMS (R-TX): Well, I don't condone what he said, what he's done. I don't think anybody does, but that's not my role. He was elected. He represents a million people.


DEAN: And, ironically, of course, Wolf, he did lie about his resume when it comes to places of employment, including places in the business community.

We also learned today from sources that Santos had requested to be on the very powerful Financial Services and House Foreign Affairs Committees. Of course, that did not happen. But the fact remains he was seated on some committees, and it kind of paints the broader picture that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and GOP leadership at this point don't really seem intent on making any big moves with Santos. Instead they want to let the House Ethics Committee probe kind of go forward and see what happens with any outside investigations.

Also worth noting, Congressman Richie Torres a Democrat of New York, Wolf, asking the FEC to look into Santos' campaign finance -- potentially that he broke campaign finance laws. So, again, just another investigation that could be swirling around Santos.

BLITZER: Good point. As Republicans finalize their committee assignments, Jessica, where have other prominent members of the GOP landed as of now?

DEAN: Well, remember, Wolf, that McCarthy made big promises to Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar, two hardliners, of course, who were kicked off their committees by Democrats last session. They are back on some pretty prominent committees. In fact, oversight, the House Oversight Committee, very, very powerful, will now include Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Scott Perry and Paul Gosar. So, again, some big hardliner names that are going to be serving in a powerful position.

We also know that Marjorie Taylor Greene will be on the Homeland Security Committee and also that Gosar was also placed on natural resources.

So, again, Wolf, things are changing in the House and this is what we're seeing. A lot of it the result of the deals that Kevin McCarthy was cutting to make sure that he could become House speaker. Wolf?

BLITZER: And he is the new House speaker. Jessica Dean, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with Democratic Congressman Daniel Goldman of New York. He was lead counsel in former President Trump's first impeachment trial.


He is also a former Federal Prosecutor. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

I want you to watch what your fellow New York Congressman Ritchie Torres, another outspoken Santos critic said today, actually said today, as he called for an FEC, a Federal Election Commission investigation. Listen to this.


REP. RITCHIE TORRES (D-NY): The web of incestuous relationships surrounding the entities associated with Mr. George Santos is not only cause for suspicion but it is grounds for an investigation.

Stop perpetuating the suffering and humiliation of your constituents. Do the right thing, resign.


BLITZER: Do you agree, Congressman, that an FEC investigation is necessary and do you expect it would have -- it will yield any meaningful consequences?

REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): Look, I think every investigation from every entity that oversees campaign finances is warranted in this case. The warning signs from his financial disclosures, his own admissions, his campaign finances are beyond anything I think anyone has seen in recent times.

And, yes, of course, he should be investigated. I think my understanding is that the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of New York is also investigating these finances as part of a criminal investigation. And I'm sure they're looking at many of the things that my colleague, Congressman Torres, said.

But one thing I'll add, Wolf, this is not just narrow to George Santos and his web of lies. What we learned over the weekend is that George Santos' lies were known to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, who were helpful into his campaign. And the big question that I have is whether -- what did they know and when did they know it, as the famous saying goes. How much did they know about George Santos? And how much did they try to cover up his lies from the voters in the third district of New York?

BLITZER: The new Democratic House leader, Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman, he joined me here in THE SITUATION ROOM last night. He said Democrats will also need to look at how to tighten up their own opposition research process. Does your party share at least some of the blame for allowing George Santos to get elected?

GOLDMAN: I think all of these things are important to examine, the, you know, ability of local media to uncover this and the lack of funding for local media and opposition research. But let's not avoid the reality here. One person lied. That's George Santos. He is at fault for his web of lies that deceived the voters. We can talk about other efforts to try to fix our system but George Santos is at fault here.

BLITZER: So, you want him to resign, is that right?

GOLDMAN: I don't think there's any question he should resign. Eight of his Republican colleagues also believe he should resign. He completely defrauded his voters in order to get the seat in Congress and does not deserve to be there.

BLITZER: Congressman Daniel Goldman, thank you so much for joining us.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, a murder charge for the husband of a missing Massachusetts mother. How investigators are piecing together the evidence in this gruesome case. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Now to a very important update on a story we've been watching closely here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a murder warrant has just been issued for the husband of a missing Massachusetts woman, Anna Walshe.

CNN's Brian Todd has details for us. Brian, what is the latest?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this warrant comes after a massive search lasting about two weeks, a search for any sign of Anna Walshe. Police have so far turned up circumstantial evidence but authorities clearly believe it's strong enough to charge her husband.


TODD (voice over): Brian Walshe tonight facing murder charges in the mysterious disappearance of his wife, Anna Walshe. That word coming from the district attorney of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, Michael Morrissey.

MICHAEL MORRISSEY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, NORFOLK COUNTY, MASSACHUSETTS: The continued investigation has now allowed police to obtain an arrest warrant charging Brian Walshe with the murder of his wife.

TODD: A murder charge, despite the fact that authorities have not disclosed that a body or body parts have been discovered. Experts say a body is not needed to bring charges.

MARK O'MARA, FORMER PROSECUTOR: You don't need a body anymore. It's great when you have it. It's great when you have a video of the event. But the forensic evidence has gotten so much better in the past 15 or 20 years, not only internet searches but DNA. So, even without the body, they're going to have enough evidence seemingly as they put it all together to focus on nobody else but him.

TODD: There is considerable circumstantial evidence. Law enforcement sources told CNN a hacksaw, torn up cloth and what appeared to be bloodstains were recovered from a garbage transfer station north of Boston. Earlier prosecutors said a bloodied broken knife and blood stains was found in search of the family's basement in Cohasset, Massachusetts.

LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF FORENSIC SCIENCE, JOHN JAY COLLEGE: They have the utensils or tools to dismember a body. The tools are there. If you can find the body or if you can find body parts, you can link up those items found in the trash with the skeletal remains.

TODD: CNN also learned that law enforcement collected DNA samples from the Walshe's sons presumably to compare those samples to the blood found in the trash piles and in the basement. Law enforcement sources say Brian Walshe's internet records showed searches in the days following his wife's disappearance of how to dismember a body and how to dispose of a 115 pound woman's body. Prosecutors have said he bought $450 pounds in cleaning supplies the day after her disappearance.

LYNN BELAND, ASSISTANT D.A., NORFOLK, MASSACHUSETTTS: That would include mops, bucket, tops, Tyveks, drop cloths as well as various kinds of tape.


TODD: And CNN has obtained police logs showing it was Anna Walshe's employer who first called police to report her missing, not her husband. Brian Walshe's attorney says that call was to result of him telling the employer she was missing, but that wasn't until January 4th, three days after he told police he last saw her.

MARY ELLEN O'TOOLE, FORMER SENIOR FBI PROFILER: When you delay reporting of a crime or delay reporting of what could be a crime, what that does is it gives you time and distance before the police get involved.


TODD (on camera): Brian Walshe had already been charged with misleading investigators, which he's pleaded not guilty to. CNN reached out to Walshe's lawyers for a response to the murder warrants. They had no comment. Walshe is scheduled to be arraigned tomorrow morning. Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see what happens there. All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Let's discuss with our Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller and CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson.

John, what changed today for authorities to issue this murder warrant?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think last week the investigators testified before the grand jury kind of lining up the evidence that we've seen described in the last story. And then I think the last witness to go in the grand jury was from the state police lab. And that testimony is probably what led them from where they were to a warrant to arrest him for murder.

BLITZER: You know, Joey, there's clearly as we heard in Brian's report, overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence but still no body. How does this hold up legally?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it holds up very well as we look at the key circumstantial evidence. When I say, very well, with respect to moving forward with the prosecution as you look at the blood, the bloody knife in the basement, the hacksaw and apparent blood stains at the trash collection, the husband's internet searches, the husband's purchase of the cleaning supplies.

What everyone has to remember, Wolf, is that circumstantial evidence is evidence. The reality is that criminals generally don't or murderers commit crimes in the light of day where everyone can see. And when ultimately we look at this, I think you're going to see when you examine the warrant when it's released a healthy dose of forensic evidence and what that evidence may be in terms of blood and where it was collected.

I think you'll see internet activity, more of that. I think you'll see cell phone pinging and not pinging with respect to her phone being active and inactive. I think his timeline and his whereabouts and whether he was justified in being there. So, I think it's shaping up to be a very compelling case, Wolf, even in the absence of a body.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point.

John, you just heard our reporting that Anna Walshe was first reported missing by her employer, not by her husband. What does that tell you?

MILLER: That tells me that one of the people that the employer reached out to, to say, where's Anna, was the husband. And I think at the point that the conversation turned to, well, we're worried, we're going to call the police. Once he learned they called the police, he called the police behind them.

BLITZER: You know, Joey, what can we expect from tomorrow's arraignment?

JACKSON: Yes. I think when a person gets before the court, the most important thing is that a defendant is informed of his constitutional rights, constitutional right to a lawyer, constitutional right to remain silent, et cetera. You have an opportunity doing the first appearance to establish your bail conditions. We know he's already in on bail with the other case. I would expect that to increase as a result of that. He'll ultimately have an opportunity to plead not guilty.

The charges may not be formally read with respect to all the details, but I think we'll see some unveiling of what specific evidence police do have and prosecutors have to bring him to justice.

This is the beginning of a long process but it's a very significant step in the search for finding out what specifically happened and when and why, quite frankly.

BLITZER: Those are important points. And, John, do you think we'll actually hear from the prosecutors a motive in this particular case?

MILLER: I'm not sure they're going to get into motive at this stage of the game. And as Joey will tell you, it's not something they have to prove. It's something they like to prove. But I do agree that we're going to see if this prosecutor follows the pattern that he has so far in this case. We're going to see a charging document rich with details, some of which we've talked about, but I'm told there are things in there that we haven't reported yet.

BLITZER: And, Joey, you think we'll hear of a motive?

JACKSON: You know, inquiring minds always want to know, Wolf. And so when you're actually proving a case as a prosecutor, you don't have to establish motive but you certainly want as a jury to understand why someone would do this. So, I think in the natural cause of events, as it unfolds, we will learn what his mindset was, we will learn how he was driven to this and we'll learn the details, quite frankly, of how it actually happened. So, I do believe, ultimately, Wolf, we'll get to the issue of motive.


BLITZER: All right. Joey Jackson, John Miller, guys, thank you very, very much. We'll stay on top of the story, for sure.

Coming up, investigators are trying to get to the bottom of how two planes nearly collided at New York's JFK airport. We'll dig into the urgent new questions that are now being raised. That's next.


BLITZER: We're learning new information tonight about a terrifying close call between two commercial airliners at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The investigation uncovering confusion and apparent mistakes that could have ended in catastrophe.

CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, there are urgent new questions from investigators and experts following the near-disaster on the runway at JFK. The National Transportation Safety Board tells CNN interviews are ongoing after a Delta Airline 737 and an American Airlines 777 were on a collision course Friday night.


JFK TOWER: American 106, heavy, American 106 heavy, hold position.

MUNTEAN: Air traffic control recordings detail how the American flight was told to go to the end of JFK's runway 4 left, but instead crossed that runway, in the path of the Delta flight that was taking off. A mistake caught by air traffic controllers with just seconds to spare.

JFK TOWER: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Delta 1943, cancel takeoff plans. Delta 1943, cancel takeoff plan.

DL1943: Rejecting.

MUNTEAN: The Delta pilot slammed on the brakes, stopping approximately 1,000 feet before where the American Airlines flight had just crossed the runway.

PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: It would have been catastrophic had a collision taken place.

MUNTEAN: Former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz thinks investigators will now dig into whether the fault lies with the pilots of the American flight, apparently confused over directions from air traffic control.

AA106: The last clearance we were given, we were cleared to cross, is that correct?

JFK TOWER: American 106 heavy, departing runway 4 left, we'll listen to the tapes, but you were supposed to depart 4 left, you're currently holding short of 3-1 left.

MUNTEAN: After the incident, the American Airlines flight continued onto its destination of London Heathrow. The airline did not say why it did not go back to the gate.

In a new statement, American Airlines says it is conducting a full internal review and cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board in their investigation.

GOELZ: There were plenty of visual cues for this flight crew to know that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

MUNTEAN: Meanwhile, the FAA has not said how it will fix its computer system that failed last week, causing a nationwide ground stop and thousands of delays and cancellations.

Sources tell CNN that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is pushing for upgrades faster than planned. Even still, the FAA has no Senate confirmed administrator leading the agency.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We're going to clear the runway. So there will be an administrator and that administrator can do his job.


MUNTEAN (on camera): There is one issue with the American airlines flight continuing onto its destination of London Heathrow. Experts are worried that that means audio from the cockpit's voice recorder might be lost. Wolf, that could typically record for about two hours. The NTSB wants that up to 25 hours. But it's something the FAA has not yet acted on.

BLITZER: That sounds important.

MUNTEAN: They've been recommended to do it after 2018. The NTSB has wanted this. Still hasn't acted on this just yet. We're waiting on the statement from the FAA.

BLITZER: Hope they do.

Our Pete Muntean, you know your staff. Thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, a failed Republican candidate in New Mexico arrested, arrested for allegedly orchestrating shootings at the homes of Democratic officials.



BLITZER: A Republican who lost his race for New Mexico's legislature and then claimed election fraud has been arrested in connection with the recent shootings targeting the homes of Democratic elected leaders in the state.

CNN's senior national correspondent Kyung Lah has the details.


DEBBIE O'MALLEY, BERNALILLO COUNTY COMMISSION CHAIRWOMAN: One came right through here and then we got the rest over here.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): About a dozen bullets embedded in the outside of Debbie O'Malley's home.

O'MALLEY: I was very angry, and just disgusted about the whole thing.

LAH: These are significantly sized holes.

O'MALLEY: They are. It was so loud, this happened when my husband and I were asleep.

LAH: O'Malley immediately suspected who the gunman might be. This man.

SOLOMON PENA, EX-GOP CANDIDATE: Hi, my name is Solomon Pena. Can I speak with Debbie O'Malley?

LAH: Solomon Pena had been looking for O'Malley, went to her daughter's address and then to her home a month before the shooting. This is him on the other side of the fence.

O'MALLEY: He seemed agitated. He seemed a little aggressive to me. I didn't consider him a threat then. But he was upset that he had lost the election.

LAH: Police arrested him Monday in connection with a string of what they call politically motivated shootings of homes of four Democratic leaders in New Mexico. No one was injured.

CHIEF HAROLD MEDINA, ALBUQUERQUE POLICE: It is believed he is the mastermind that was behind this.

LAH: Police say he is suspected of hiring a contractor for cash to commit at least two of the four shootings, from December 4th to January 3rd.

Pena was a Republican candidate for state house seat in New Mexico. And he spent years in prison for burglary and larceny. But a judge allowed the convicted felon to be on the ballot in 2022, calling it unconstitutional for Pena to be denied the ability to serve.

PENA: I had nothing more than a desire to improve my lot in life.

LAH: He lost in November, by a landslide. Then accused his opponent of rigging the election, one week later, tweeting he never conceded the race.

Photographs in the arrest warrant show pea, pictured with this man. The warrant alleges he is one of the suspected shooters who was arrested with a gun used in one of the shootings.

Police say Pena texted the home addresses of four Democratic targets to four suspects who carry out the shootings. In an exchange, texted, they just certified it, they sold us out to the highest bidder. They were literally laughing at us while they were doing it.

ADRIANN BARBOA, BERNALILLO COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Everybody's going to have to be more worried now.

PENA: Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa was also targeted. Four bullets ripped through her home into the room where she had just been playing with her granddaughter.

BARBOA: It makes me angry that one person, makes me angry that we have a former president and current elected officials in the highest level of government that think it's okay to, you know, invoke violence.


LAH (on camera): Despite how emotionally draining and scary this has all been, Wolf, we are not hearing any of these legislators and local representatives backing down. Pena has his first court appearance tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah on the scene for us, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.