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New U.S. Moves Against Mercenary Group Aiding Russia's War; Anti-Abortion Activists Hold First March For Life Rally Since End Of Roe; GOP-led Committee Says, Why Is DOJ Scared To Cooperate With Probes; Source: Alec Baldwin Intends To Finish Production Of "Rust" Despite Facing Criminal Charges In Deadly Shooting; Report: Suspect In Idaho Student Killings Visited Restaurant Where Two Of The Victims Worked; Damar Hamlin Facing "Lengthy Recover" Despite Improving Condition. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 20, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, as Ukrainian forces train for the next big battle against Russia, the Biden administration is taking new action against the mercenary group aiding Vladimir Putin's war. This as the United States and Germany are in a standoff right now over sending tanks to Ukraine. We'll discuss it all with the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States.
Also tonight, the U.S. Justice Department signals it won't comply with all House Republican demands for information about investigations, and that includes the Biden documents probe that's hanging over the president as he today marks exactly two years in office.
Anti-abortion activists hold their annual march here in Washington for the first time since Roe v. Wade was overturned. They're declaring they have fresh resolve, even as some in their movement are being slammed by former President Trump supposedly being disloyal to him.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
Let's get right to all of the new moves by the United States and its allies responding to Ukraine's urgent appeals for more help against Russian aggression. CNN Alex Marquardt has the latest on what western nations are doing and still not doing at this truly pivotal moment in the war.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the U.S. is taking action against Russia's Wagner mercenary group, a private army which Vladimir Putin has become increasingly dependent on to carry on operations in Ukraine, including the eastern city of Bakhmut where the fighting has raged. The U.S. now designating Wagner a transnational criminal organization.
JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: It will open up additional avenues for us to continue to not only sanction Wagner and put more squeeze on their ability to do business around the world but will assist others in doing the same.
MARQUARDT: The White House also released new satellite imagery, showing Russian rail cars heading into North Korea and being filled up and sent back with rockets and missiles destined for use by Wagner.
Of the 50,000 Wagner mercenaries in Ukraine, the White House said, 80 percent of them are convicts recruited from Russian prisons, deepening the fight as Ukraine calls for more help.
PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Hundreds of thank you are not hundreds of tanks. I cannot put words instead of guns (ph).
MARQUARDT: Tonight, a desperate plea from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to defense officials from the U.S. and allied countries meeting in Germany to discuss further lethal aid for Ukraine.
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Based up on the progress that we've made today, I'm confident that Ukraine's partners from around the globe are determined to meet this moment.
MARQUARDT: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosting the meeting on the heels of the U.S. announcing a new massive $2.5 billion aid package but no progress in breaking a critical log jam, convincing a reluctant Germany to allow transfers of its coveted Leopard 2 tanks.
BORIS PISTORIUS, FEDERAL MINISTER OF DEFENSE, GERMANY: We are not really hesitating, we are just very careful in balance and all the pros and cons.
MARQUARDT: Germany has said it doesn't want to be alone but the United Kingdom has committed to sending their tanks. Other European countries are also eagerly awaiting German permission to send Leopards that they hold.
AUSTIN: They have not made a decision on the provision of the Leopard tanks. What we're really focused on is making sure that Ukraine has the capability that it needs to be successful right now.
MARQUARDT: Germany and the U.S. are now denying that Germany is requiring American M1 Abrams tanks be sent along side German tanks. U.S. officials have been arguing for the Leopard saying the Abrams makes little sense for Ukraine. It's a gas guzzling beast that is complex to operate and difficult to maintain.
SABRINA SINGH, PENTAGON DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This is a tank that requires jet fuel, whereas the Leopard and the Challenger, it's a different engine. They require diesel. It's a little bit easier to maintain. They can maneuver across large portions of territory before they need to refuel.
MARQUARDT: While Germany's Leopard 2 is a modern heavy tank, with a large number already in Europe, it easier to support and be trained on with an ability to accurately hit moving targets with its night vision, laser range finders.
MARQUARDT (on camera): Impatience is growing with Germany over their foot dragging with these tanks, the NATO alliance now being tested. Wolf, today there was a meeting on the sidelines of that Ramstein meeting of the European countries that have these German Leopard tanks but can't send them to Ukraine because they need that German permission. This is because of export laws.
Now, Poland, in particular is getting very frustrated.
They says they've got 14 of these Leopard tanks that are ready to go to Ukraine and they say they will either get that German permission or they will, in their words, do the right thing. The Polish foreign minister said that the price of hesitation over these tanks is Ukrainian bloodshed.
BLITZER: Yes. President Zelenskyy says they desperately need these battle tanks in order to deal with the Russian aggression.
All right, thank you very, very much, Alex Marquardt, reporting for us.
And now let's go to Ukraine where a top commander is speaking exclusively to CNN about what his troops need to do battle against Russia now and in the months ahead. He spoke with CNN's Fred Pleitgen who is on the ground in Ukraine.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Preparing to defend against a second gigantic attack, even as they're already under assault by Russia. Ukrainian units held large- scale drills to prepare for bigger battles to come.
The head of Ukrainian joint forces command tells me, we need to know what exactly to prepare the forces for and how they should be prepared, he says. That's why this is so important.
We're in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, site of the worst nuclear disaster in history. Ukraine's Special Forces also practicing urban combat in the abandoned buildings.
The U.S. and allies believe the Russians could mount a massive offensive once the spring comes. That's why the Ukrainians are getting their forces ready even as they're already fighting the Russians on several fronts in this country.
The Ukrainians say that to win, they need more modern western weapons, especially main battle tanks. In terms of quality, of course, there's a big difference, the general says, because the fire control systems of western equipment are far superior to Russian weapons.
At the battles in places like Bakhmut in Eastern Ukraine remain brutal and casualties mount, Ukraine's leadership says it's grateful for the massive military aid announced Ramstein meeting. But Kyiv is disappointed Germany still hasn't signed off on sending Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which would be key to help and turn the tide, a top presidential adviser tells me.
Our guys won't leave the battlefield even if they aren't provided with new equipment, he says, but more and more will die. This must stop. We want our people to have a better chance of saving their own lives.
The Ukrainian says the new aid announce Friday will go a long way to help them beat Russia back, and Mykhailo Podolyak says he hopes the U.S. and its allies will keep weapons flowing in the long run.
I think our allies have the perfect understanding of the price we are paying, he says, that it's very important for Russia to lose. They understand the nature of this war, the nature of Russia, and why it is impossible to negotiate with them.
The Ukrainians say they need to grasp the initiative before the Russians can recover from their losses and they're gearing up for what could be a brutal spring.
PLEITGEN (on camera): But, Wolf, the Ukrainians also say there's a whole another facet to this as well. They say they are having a lot of trouble sourcing spare parts for the Soviet-era tanks and also ammunition as well. So, on the one hand, those western main battle tanks, it's about improving their capabilities but it's also about staying in the fight in the long run, and especially with that possible spring offensive by the Russians looming as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. That's what everybody is bracing for, this Russian spring offensive. Fred Pleitgen in Kyiv for us, stay safe over there, thank you very much.
Let's get more on all of this. Joining us now, the former ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, also with us CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson and CNN White House Reporter Natasha Bertrand, she's doing a lot of reporting on this.
Natasha, I know you've been reporting specifically on if decision to designate the so-called Wagner Group a transnational criminal organization. The U.S. also declassified various images of Russian trains traveling from North Korea with weapons for Wagner fighters. What did the U.S. see that convince them to take this important step?
NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. Well, the U.S. are seeing a number of concerning signs coming out of Russia with regard to the kind of competing power centers that are emerging between this mercenary organization, Wagner Group, and, of course, the Russian defense ministry and the regular Russian army.
But most concerning, of course, is the idea that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, appears to be leading more on this Russian mercenary group, which is 80 percent made up of convicts in Ukraine right now than the regular Russian army, and the Wagner Group appears to be getting help and equipment from the North Koreans now.
The U.S. released that imagery earlier today showing Russian rail cars traveling to and from North Korea to, according to the U.S., pick up missiles and other military equipment for used in the war in Ukraine.
So the U.S. now is watching very closely to see what Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner Group, does moving forward, because he, of course, is competing for influence with the Russian defense minister.
And who is going to come out on top here? That is really the question that the U.S. is watching, because while the Russian army has committed a number of war crimes, according to the U.S., a number of atrocities, the Wagner Group is also committing a number of major human rights violations inside Ukraine and they're known to be especially brutal.
So, as they continue their fight across Ukraine, taking cities perhaps, including Soledar and Bakhmut, the U.S. is saying we need to try to stop them from basically being able to maintain that initiative, which they're getting really from criminal organizations around the world. Remember that they are not only limited to the operations that they are conducting inside Ukraine. They're also operating in Africa, in Syria and elsewhere, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. The U.S. estimates right now that there are about 50,000 Wagner Group fighters in Ukraine right now, about 10,000 contractors and 40,000 convicts deployed to fight with the Russian military.
Nic, what more can you tell us about these very brutal Wagner mercenaries?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. Earlier this week, Wolf, one of the unit commanders, who was fighting for Wagner, escaped because of the atrocities he saw happening around and he escape to Norway. He said part of what Wagner is doing with prisoners, if they refuse to fight, if they try to leave the line, if they try to go over to the Ukrainian side, they're quite simply killing them off. Prigozhin is racking up huge casualties among these convicts, using them essentially as cannon fodder. Some do end up going back to their families but many of them apparently, according to this unit commander, are quite simply buried in the woods in Ukraine, in that way, Prigozhin, Wagner don't have to pay out to the insurance to the relatives of those fallen fighters, former convicts. So, there's that side of it.
What Wagner has been doing is really raising its profile recently over the past few months, appearing more and more at the frontline, appearing recruitment videos, recruiting those prisoners back last year here. It has been, until now, a covert essential extension of the Kremlin, doing the things around the world the Kremlin doesn't want to acknowledge. BLITZER: Ambassador Taylor, let me get your thoughts. Can Putin really sustain this war as he sends more and more troops to the so- called meat grinder in the east?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: He can't, Wolf. As you are reporting, as both reports show, Wagner is picking up the slack that the Russian military is leaving. The Wagner Group, mercenaries with fighting largely with these prisoners, is not able to continue to push this. They're having the only success in the group.
But what that shows, Wolf, is that there is a real problem within the armed forces and the military forces of Russia. The Wagner folks are competing with the Russian military. So, that's a real problem. They're going to have a problem going forward.
BLITZER: They certainly are. Ambassador William Taylor, thank you all very much. Nic Robertson, Natasha Bertrand, thanks to you guys as well.
Just ahead, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States will join us live. We'll discuss the standoff over sending western tanks to that country and much more. There you see her. We're about to discuss major issues. That's coming up next right here in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says there is no alternative to getting western tanks to help fight the Russians after a discussion among key allies ended today in another stalemate.
Joining us now, the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.
As you know, despite the extraordinary support pledged from the allies, are you disappointed today's meeting at Ramstein, in Germany, didn't include a decision on western tanks, either the German-made Leopards or the U.S.-made Abrams?
OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, let me first say, Wolf, what we are very grateful for, for the amazing package from the U.S., with Strykers for the first time and all as a good capabilities, for the unity that once again was shown by more than 50 countries that has provided us with so many needed items and the range of the countries, from U.K. to Finland, to Denmark, to Estonia, to Poland, to Germany, I don't even want to miss someone, but also the leadership that U.S. continues to show, and as President Zelenskyy says, yes, unfortunately, the decision on tanks was not taken today, but we will continue working on it as we need those tanks now.
BLITZER: So, Ambassador, what is your message, first of all, to Germany right now?
MARKAROVA: Well, the message to all our friends and allies, to be frank, that in order -- this capability, the tanks, as well as long- range and everything else we are discussing, is very much needed now so that our brave defenders can be protected, also we can maneuver, we can fire, and actually we can go back on the counteroffensive and we can preempt this future attacks that Russian is actually planning to expand during the spring.
BLITZER: Yes. The U.S. believes the Russians are preparing a major spring offensive against Ukraine. That could happen in the next couple of months or so.
As you know, the U.S. is arguing, we're talking about the Biden administration, arguing that the Abrams tanks are more difficult to maintain. What are you hearing from your American partners, Ambassador? Do you believe the U.S. eventually will provide those tanks to Ukraine?
MARKAROVA: We are looking for all the capabilities. As we discussed from the beginning, we need all of them, and the faster we get this capability, the better. Now, among the capabilities, of course, we are consulting with our partners what would be the most effective one, what can we get in large numbers, maintain on the battlefield, repair if necessary, and also have it in large numbers.
Whether it's Leopards, Abrams or any other capability, you know, we are ready to discuss, and we are discussing it with our partners and allies. It looks like the Leopard is something that a number of allies are ready to discuss with us, have in quantity and would be a little bit easier to maintain and repair. But again, as we discussed, and as Pentagon said publicly, no -- there is no discussion that is not being held at the moment.
So, again, the time is of the essence here. And we heard this from President Zelenskyy, we heard it from Secretary Austin, we heard this from General Milley because this is true, we have to be very quick with these decisions and we have to get these capabilities as soon as possible to save lives but also faster just to get to peace, which is very important for all of us in Europe but also globally.
BLITZER: Yes, you clearly need those battle tanks to preempt what is expected to be a major Russian military offensive against Ukraine coming in the spring, when the weather gets a little bit better.
As you know the United States is formally designating the so-called Wagner Group, that infamous Russian mercenary group, as a transnational criminal organization. How far will that go, Ambassador? What kind of impact will that have on the battlefield in Ukraine?
MARKAROVA: Well, first of all, those thugs are criminals and they have already been already designated by U.S. during the previous year and sanctioned by the U.S. whatever designation we can add to that, and clearly isolate them. But not only them, isolate Russia and designate Russia as a terrorist and aggressor, I think it's very needed to do so. And as you know, Ukraine also formally initiated the suspension of Russia's seat at the Security Council in the U.N. I think this is time and this is the year, if Russia does not stop their aggressive actions and their war crimes, we have to be more decisive, too.
BLITZER: Ambassador Oksana Markarova, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you and good luck to all the people of Ukraine. We appreciate you joining us very much.
MARKAROVA: Thank you to the American people.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Coming up, the White House, the U.S. Justice Department and House Republicans all weighing right now on the Biden documents probe. We're going to bring you new reaction to the growing investigation. That's next.
BLITZER: New developments tonight in the Biden classified document saga, the Justice Department signaling it won't comply with all Republican demands for information, and that includes the investigation into President Joe Biden's handling of government records.
Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. He's got an update for us. Phil, first of all, what are you hearing over there at the White House?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the House Judiciary Committee Republicans immediately responded on Twitter, the Justice Department saying why is the Justice Department, quote, so scared to comply with their investigation? It was a very political response to what to some degree from the Justice Department's perspective is tied to precedent in terms of how they're operating. But you can expect political responses from the White House too when it comes to the two House Republican investigations that are currently underway right now, as it relates to the classified documents.
Now, up to this point, despite several request from the House Oversight Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, the White House has not responded. But I am being told right now that the expectation is the response is going to much track with what we have seen from House Republicans in terms of their attacks and their approach.
One White House official telling me that based on some of the new exceedingly pro-Trump members that were added to the committees, it shows that those committees will likely be more of a sideshow than anything else. To some degree, it will be driven entirely by pursuing, according to this official, a political agenda, not any type of legislative or oversight work. And that should give you a read, Wolf, in the week ahead when responses have deadlines of where is the White House is going to land on this. Officials have made clear, they will comply with as they called them good faith efforts for oversight, but everything we've heard over the course of the last several days is implying that they don't believe anything that they have heard from House Republicans is in good faith.
And it's important to note how different that posture is from their posture with the special counsel throughout this process, including a very unsettled week last week as new developments seem to appear day after day. White House officials have made clear repeatedly, they will comply, they will cooperate in every way with the special counsel investigation that is still in the early stages. That is very much not the message you're getting when it comes to House Republican investigations, they comply in good faith. But they don't think that's the case. I think it's pretty clear they are going to be combative, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly is. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you very much.
Let's continue the discussion right now with our Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig.
Andrew, how do you interpret this signal from the U.S. Justice Department to the House Judiciary Committee?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think it was absolutely predictable, Wolf. So, if you read the letter, the five- page letter that the department sent over to -- in response to Chairman Jordan's requests, it's really interesting. It spans about three pages going through the basics of how the committee is expected to interact with the department, which is really interesting, because Jordan certainly knows these details.
But they're kind of covering all the background data first and then, of course, they get to the last part of the letter where they make it clear that they are going to stand on long-established DOJ precedent and not share material and reports and information from ongoing criminal investigations with Congress.
They cite precedent going back as early as 1941, several quotes, the decisions from the Reagan administration and other precedents in the 80's. So, this is not a new position from the DOJ and it's vitally important for them to maintain it.
BLITZER: From your perspective, Elie, I'm wondering why you believe the attorney general is drawing this line in the sand right now.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, this goes to the heart of everything that the Justice Department is about. It goes to its core principles, to its most fundamental aspect. And here is why. If DOJ were to crossed this line, if DOJ were to testify, if Merrick Garland were to go in front of Capitol Hill and start testifying about pending ongoing investigations, it would be disastrous. It would compromise those investigations, potentially fatally. It would expose cooperators, informants, it could give people who are being investigated a chance to tamper with evidence or witnesses or to flee. It would be a complete disaster, and DOJ has an obligation to protect the rights of people under investigation.
So, I don't care, and I don't think DOJ cares if we're talking about the investigation into Joe Biden or Donald Trump or Hunter Biden or Rudy Giuliani or anybody else. That is a bright line in the sand. Merrick Garland is absolutely right to protect DOJ's independence and say, I'll testify but not about specific ongoing cases.
BLITZER: On that point, Andrew, the Department of Justice is pledging to accommodate lawmakers' requests, where possible. So, what exactly does that mean?
MCCABE: Well, it means that the department is reserving for itself the opportunity to make those sorts of decisions that Elie has just talk about, right? They're going -- it's very clear from the letter they are going to try to identify appropriate witnesses when they have a request for information. They want adequate time to prepare those witnesses two weeks before anybody would prepare. They'll send the right folks. They'll negotiate in good faith in terms of who goes and says what and what sort of questions they respond to.
But at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the attorney general to determine what's appropriate for the department to share, and they are reserving that discretion for themselves appropriately so.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Andrew McCabe, Elie Honig, guys, thank you very, very much.
I want to right now bring in our CNN Political Commentator Van Jones, CNN Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson as well.
Nia, this move will undoubtedly frustrate House Republicans, and they are the majority in the House of Representatives right now, who are eager to use their new oversight power. Should we expect a major, major battle, a major fight?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's right. And you can hear from the House Judiciary Committee already saying, what is the DOJ hiding, right? And I think it's mainly going to be a rhetorical fight. You saw that the DOJ is saying this is within a longstanding precedent that they shouldn't be sharing information about ongoing investigations. And so now I think you'll going to hear from this House committee, which is eager I think to probe the Biden administration, certainly in a way that Republicans weren't interested in probing the Trump administration.
So, I think in some ways we saw this coming but it also speaks to what Republicans on that very committee did, too, right? I mean, when it came to January 6th, they stonewalled that committee, right? Jim Jordan is on that committee. He is the head of that committee, and Andy Biggs is also on that committee. They were subpoenaed and they refused to comply, essentially saying that this was a committee, the January 6th committee, that was too partisan. And so in some ways, turnabout is fair play in this instance.
BLITZER: Is the stance from the Department of Justice, Van, likely welcome news for the Biden administration?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it may be and it may not be, but I will say this. The Republicans are playing on people's lack of understanding of how our government works, and, by the way, showing zero respect for U.S. law enforcement.
The Department of Justice, those are the top cops. It's perfectly fine for Congress to send information to the top cops. But for the top cops to be asked to give information away in the middle of the investigation on national television, that is not right that. That is not how we do things. It's a perversion of the Constitution that they claim to uphold.
And so I think that one of the things we have to do a good job, this is -- it's completely normal for DOJ to say we're not going to do this. It's abnormal for Republicans in Congress to insist they do it. The only thing that is weird here is that we're not allowing the Department of Justice to do its job the way it's done for 100 years.
BLITZER: At the same time, Van, as you know, the White House is certainly trying to keep the focus, especially on the second anniversary of Biden's inauguration, to keep the focus on its accomplishments, as far as its agenda is concerned.
But this debacle over the documents is not going away any time soon. Is the administration, do you believe, handling all of this correctly from a messaging standpoint?
JONES: Well, it's hard to message a mess. The reality is they should have done a better job with these documents in the first place. When the first one showed up, they should have looked everywhere and turned it all over at once. So, they've got a mess to try to message on top of that. But that is not the same as saying there is a criminal conspiracy here to do something negative.
Don't forget, the reason people were so freaked out about what Donald Trump was doing was he had a big old pile of stuff. He wouldn't give it over, and some people were scared, is somebody going to sell this overseas? Is there something happening here that's nefarious? That's not what we have. With Biden, you've got some incompetence in his team that they need to get straightened out, but there is no threat to the country here. What needs to happen is they need to get the mess straightened out and they get the message on track.
BLITZER: Nia, what do you think?
HENDERSON: Listen, I think they clearly stumbled out of the gate with this. They have the special counsel now. They sort to fear that. But, listen, it kind of means that it's off their plate, they don't have to worry about the messaging. They can just turn everything over to the special counsel. They can cooperate, as they have been doing so far. At some point, he's going to announce that he's going to run for re- election, I think, after the state of the union. That has been derailed. There are lots of frustrations I think initially with the way that the White House handled this. But it seems like they've gotten back on track in terms of messaging around all of this.
BLITZER: Nia-Malika Henderson and Van Jones, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, the lead investigator into the U.S. Supreme Court leak of its landmark Roe versus Wade ruling is speaking out now for the first time. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: New information tonight about the investigation into the shocking leak of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe versus Wade.
CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic is here in The Situation Room for the latest. Joan, Supreme Court marshal investigated this leak, and I understand she's providing all sorts of detailed information.
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes. And there was a new development this afternoon about the justices themselves. Yesterday, Wolf, the report said that she had interviewed several people. She had investigated in many ways. They had not found the culprit but they revealed all sort of shortcomings in their security.
There was a lingering question, though. Had the justices themselves been interviewed as the law clerks had and other employees? Today, she put out a statement just about an hour or two ago saying, during the course of the investigation, I spoke with each of the justices, several on multiple occasions, and the justices had actively cooperated. She said there was no reason to suspect that they were implicated or that their spouses were implicated. But she did say that they did not sign any sworn affidavits.
BLITZER: But the court employees, 97 of them, did sign sworn affidavits.
BISKUPIC: They did, and they swore them under penalty of perjury for any kind of lie.
And there was an interesting note in the report yesterday where she said that some of the law clerks had admitted that they had spoken to spouses about the draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade, and the vote count, and that those employees had to do back and annotate, that was the verb she used, their affidavit so that they could be truthful. But there was that kind of scrutiny for employees but not that kind of scrutiny for the justices.
BLITZER: Yes, pretty important and historic. Thank you very much, Joan Biskupic, helping us, I appreciate, what's going on. Meanwhile, emboldened anti-abortion activists held their annual March for Life here in Washington today, the first since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade.
CNN's Brian Todd is working this story for us. He's out there on the streets of Washington. You talked to a lot of the people taking part, Brian. What did they tell you?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they told us as much of a celebration as this was today of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it is now time to change tactics and get creative.
TODD (voice over): Tonight, anti-abortion activists marking the first Right to Life march since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade.
MELANIE SOBERON, MARCHER FROM NEW YORK: The right to life is the most fundamental right.
TODD: But since that legal victory, the anti-abortion movement now at a crossroads regarding strategy. The battle now being waged in states around the country deciding whether to restrict abortion.
CHRISTINE DOWELL, MARCHER FROM FLORIDA: The fact that it goes back to the states is -- the battle is just beginning.
TODD: And new tensions between the anti-abortion movement and Donald Trump. In 2020, Donald Trump became the first sitting president to appear at this march. Trump also appointing three Supreme Court justices who ruled that there is not a constitutional right to an abortion, a win for evangelicals. But there are some sign the relationship has since soured. Some evangelical leaders now warning Trump not to take them for granted in his third presidential bid, others even saying it's time to support someone else. This week, Trump bitterly lashing out at those who haven't fallen in line.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: That's a sign of disloyalty. There's great disloyalty in the world o politics, and that's a sign of disloyalty because nobody has ever done more for right to life than Donald Trump.
DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW REPUBLIC: It's a tell about how Trump is surveying the landscape and realizing that this is not the same arena that he was in, in 2016. And this time around, it's pretty clear that that same community is not so transfixed on the former president.
TODD: Evangelicals are likely to have other options besides Trump.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS: I think you can potentially see candidates like Kristi Noem, governor of North Dakota, as well as Ron DeSantis try to run to the right of Trump on an issue like abortion. TODD: But Trump has warned evangelicals that hard-line, no exemption stances on abortion, hurts some candidates in the midterms and complained that pro-life activists didn't help Republicans enough in last Novembers vote after their success against Roe.
TRUMP: I was a little disappointed because I thought they could have fought much harder during the election, during the '22 election.
TODD: Abortion rights supporters won ballot initiatives last year in Michigan, Kentucky, and Kansas, and claimed the abortion rights fight helped them in the midterms, a potential warning to Republican presidential hopefuls.
STRAUSS: Any candidate likely to win over hand and fist a large amount of evangelical voters or anti-abortion voters may have trouble in the general election.
TODD (on camera): As for Trump and the evangelicals, some Trump advisers say they're not worried about the repercussions of Trump's criticism of evangelicals, they say that he remains in contact with some top evangelical leaders and that the result that Trump delivered for them on abortion and other issues, they are confident that will help him with that group in the Republican primaries -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting.
Coming up, new information about actor Alec Baldwin and his ill-fated movie following a deadly on set shooting that resulted now in criminal charges.
BLITZER: Just in, a source is now telling CNN that actor Alec Baldwin intends to finish production of the movie "Rust," which was halted after a deadly on-set shooting in which the actor is now charged.
CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas has the latest, getting new information.
Chloe, Baldwin is one of two people, of course, charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of the movie's cinematographer.
What's the latest? What are you hearing?
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: So we know that Alec Baldwin and certain members of production of the film plan to go back, Wolf, and finish the film this spring. The intention was that this was part of a civil settlement in order to avoid going to court and hashing this out and that the profits would go to Halyna Hutchins widow, to her son, and now, everything has sort of been up in the air ever since these charges yesterday.
But a source close to Baldwin telling me that he has every intention of going back to finish this film. Obviously, there are a lot of questions left unanswered and this potential trial looming over them, Wolf.
I also want to point out that Halyna Hutchins' husband, Matthew, he put out a statement when this civil settlement was reached, saying that he did not feel like anybody should be blamed, but yesterday a new statement from him and the family stating that they support these criminal charges. So you can imagine that things are rather acrimonious going into filming the rest of "Rust".
BLITZER: Clearly a lot going on. Chloe Melas, thank you very much for that new information.
We're also following new information about the man charged in the brutal slayings of four University of Idaho students.
CNN's Veronica Miracle has been working the story for us.
Veronica, so what can you tell us?
VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we understand that Bryan Kohberger visited the restaurant where two of those victims worked before the murders took place. That's according to "People" magazine. The magazine apparently spoke with a former employee, who said that he visited twice there and also noted that while there was nothing suspicious about those particular visits, he ordered vegan pizza and wanted to make sure that his food did not touch any animal products.
We have previously reported that Xana Kernodle and Madison Mogen both worked at the Mad Greek restaurant in Moscow, Idaho. I spoke with an employee back in November who said that both of the girls were very just positive and so wonderful to be around at that workplace. It's really unclear, though, if either of those victims were at the restaurant when Kohberger visited or if he ever interacted with those victims at the restaurant.
Law enforcement apparently aware of those visits and has interviewed employees and owners of the restaurant. That's also according to "People" magazine. Kohberger is scheduled to appear in June before a judge where that judge will decide if there is enough evidence to go forward with a trial -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Veronica. Thank you very much. Veronica Miracle reporting.
Just ahead, we're learning new information right now about Damar Hamlin's recovery and whether he'll attend Sunday's playoff showdown between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:57:42]
BLITZER: As my hometown Buffalo Bills prepare for a major playoff matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday, we're getting new information about Damar Hamlin's condition.
CNN sports anchor Coy Wire is joining us. He's outside the Bills Stadium in Orchard Park outside of Buffalo. He's got details.
Coy, it's what -- it's been nearly three weeks since Damar Hamlin's on-field collapse during that earlier game against the Bengals. What are you learning about his recovery as the Bills get ready for this big game on Sunday?
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Wolf, I got an update that reminds of just how scary and nearly fatal Damar Hamlin's injury was. His business rep Jordan Rooney told me earlier today that Damar still requires oxygen. He gets winded easily. His heart is monitored regularly, and he has a lengthy recovery ahead of him.
He also says that Damar is staying positive. He's ready to overcome. His teammates, Wolf, are feeling not only uplifted but they also feel more settled now that Damar has been back around the team, in the building behind me. Here's what some of his other teammates have had to say this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH ALLEN, BUFFALO BILLS QUARTERBACK: It's been good to see him, you know, with a smile on his face and, you know, guys love having him back in the building.
DION DAWKINS, BUFFALO BILLS OFFENSIVE TACKLE: To see 3 just smile and just wave and put his hearts up and keep pushing, you know, it's I guess a positive energy bubble that's just floating around the facility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WIRE: Energy bubble. Like, Wolf, that was you in this stadium last weekend when you were here.
Damar Hamlin continues to unite this team and countless others. Check these out, Wolf. The entire team will be freed up as star offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said. All posting these Damar Hamlin number 3 pendants that the team will be wearing.
There's a Hamlin quote on the back, Wolf. It says: If you get a chance to show some love today, do it. It won't cost you anything.
Huge wave of support, Wolf, for Damar, of course, and also these Buffalo Bills, who have become a bit of America's team, if you will, here over these past several weeks.
BLITZER: It's just a coincidence, I'm sure, but it's interesting, coy. Give me your thoughts. That the game starts at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. WIRE: You know, it really is incredible. That number has been popping
up so many times over and over again, and it's really taken over. I talked to two fans yesterday, Wolf, Emily and Erin, repping the Bengals and the Bills, and they started a joint fan base Facebook page, hearts for Hamlin and Higgins.
They're rallying together to raise heart health awareness and encouraging folks to get CPR lessons and, of course, raising money to help those who need it.
BLITZER: And we, of course, wish Damar Hamlin only, only the very best. Coy, thank you very much. We'll stay in very close touch.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.