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Officials: U.S. Finalizing Tank Delivery To Ukraine; German Media Reports Berlin Also Sending Tanks; Western Allies Urge Ukraine To Shift Strategy From Brutal Eastern Battles To New Southern Offensive; Sen. Richard Blumenthal, (D-CT), Is Interviewed About Giving Tanks To Ukraine, Mike Pence, Classified Documents; Sources: Classified Documents Found At Mike Pence's Indiana Home; 18 Dead In Two Mass Shootings In Two Days In California. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, a major breakthrough in military support for Ukraine. The United States and Germany both appear poised to deliver sophisticated tanks. The decisions come as western allies urge the Ukrainians to turn their focus from the brutal battles in the east to a renewed offensive in the south.

Also tonight, former Vice President Mike Pence now facing his own classified documents controversy reported first here on CNN. Sources tell us about a dozen records were found at Pence's Indiana home by one of his attorneys.

And we're following some gut wrenching developments out of California, the scene of back to back mass shootings. Police releasing new information about the suspect in the latest massacre as the governor there mourns tragedy upon tragedy in his state.

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 our top story tonight. The log jam over delivering tanks to Ukraine finally appears to be breaking. Our Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann is joining us live right now. He's got new information.

Oren, this reversal potentially could be a truly major development in the war. Explain how the Biden administration came around on this.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Biden administration now finalizing plans to commit to sending the U.S. made M1 Abrams tank to Ukraine according to three officials, U.S. officials that is familiar with the matter. It is a major about face from essentially last week when we heard from Pentagon officials and others that the Abrams was too heavy on fuel use, too difficult to maintain and not right for the fight at the moment that Ukraine is facing. The U.S. now ready to announce that it will begin the process of sending those tanks and going through that process to send Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

Crucially, it breaks a logjam with Germany. German officials had said openly that they wouldn't send their own German made Leopard tanks or let other countries send the Leopard tanks until the U.S. committed to sending its own tanks. This breaks that deadlock, allowing not only the U.S. to commit to sending Abrams, but also Germany to send its own Leopard tanks from either Berlin or from a number of other countries that operate this. The U.S. had never quite taken Abrams off the table, but this moves much faster than the U.S. had signaled even last week it was prepared to do, Wolf.

BLITZER: A major, major change in policy. Logistically or in how will these tanks get to Ukraine? And what's the expected timeline?

LIEBERMANN: This is a process that will play out over months, perhaps even many months, that's because we're not expecting this to come from a drawdown. Meaning we're not expecting the U.S. to pull directly from its own stocks to send Abrams to Ukraine. Instead, this is much more likely to work through what's known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which is essentially just contracting for new Abrams tanks to send to Ukraine. That means this will play out over quite a bit of time.

And on top of that, you need the training, the maintenance, all of that to back this up. But perhaps that's what the U.S. looking for because Ukrainians already have to learn a number of other new systems. On top of U.K. made Challenger 2 tanks, there's also U.S. made Paladin howitzers, they're still learning the Patriot missile system, they just started combined arms training in Germany, so they still have to work their way through all of that. And then, now soon, the Abrams on top of that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. Very interesting indeed. Very important. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Let's go live right down to the war zone for more reaction. Our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is standing by for us in Kyiv.

Fred, the Ukrainians have been pleading and pleading and pleading for these tanks, the German Leopard tank, as well as the U.S. Abrams tanks. They've been pleading for quite some time. What are you hearing over there? What's the reaction?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're absolutely thrilled. There's a number of Ukrainian officials who have already come out and essentially said thank you to the United States and thank you to Germany.

You know, one of the interesting things, Wolf, that we've been seeing over the past couple of days is that Ukrainian officials were quite optimistic that a deal like this could be reached. In fact, a senior Ukrainian official said a couple of days ago that he believed it was in the final stages of at least the Leopard tanks being delivered. And now, it turns out that the Ukrainians are not only going to get these German made Leopard 2 tanks, but U.S. made tanks on top of that as well. It's a lot more than they had thought just a couple of days and even just a couple of hours ago.


And of course, Wolf, all this comes as the fighting on the battlefield remains really difficult. I was able to speak to a top level military defense official here in Kyiv today, and he told me some of their assessment of Russian forces, some of the issues that the Russians face, and also some of the ways that the Ukrainians hope to move forward. Here's what we learned.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Even as fighting rages in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces are making little headwinds. Vladimir Putin recently appointed his military chief, Valery Gerasimov, to lead the war in Ukraine, yet another reshuffle in the hierarchy. The deputy head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence tells me he believes Putin realizes his entire command structure is in disarray.

VADYM SKIBITSKIY, UKRAINIAN DEUTY HEAD OF DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE (through translator): He really does have problems with the command both at the top level, the generals, and at the bottom level of platoon or company commander. That issue is generally very problematic.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Another problem, those marginal gains Russia is making come mostly from mercenaries of the Wagner private military company around Bakhmut where Wagner has been gaining ground while suffering severe losses themselves. Wagner's boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been highly critical of Russia's military leadership, calling them all but incompetent. The Ukrainians say he's made plenty of enemies among the elites.

SKIBITSKIY (through translator): The leadership of the Russian armed forces are going to try to belittle Prigozhin's role and place however they can, so he cannot strengthen his positions in the Kremlin hierarchy.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): While the Ukrainians try to hold on in Bakhmut, they say they urgently need western main battle tanks to take back more territory.

ANDRIY MELNYK, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: There are about 2000 tanks available, and even if each country would send 10 percent of that amount, it would be a huge army, which would allow us to start this counter offensive in spring.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the Ukrainians say just as critical are longer range rockets from the U.S. to hit Russia's supply lines, something the U.S. is wary of giving them for fear of escalating the conflict.

SKIBITSKIY (through translator): Right now, they have moved the logistics and control, but mainly logistics systems further, away from the front line. And that's 80 to 100 to 120 kilometers away. And to strike them, you need longer range strike systems. PLEITGEN (voice-over): That would include targets on Russian territory to choke off any future offensive by Moscow's forces.

SKIBITSKIY (through translator): There are strong logistics hubs in the Rostov region. It is these very hubs and they need to be struck in order to disrupt the supply systems of all kinds.


PLEITGEN: And you know, Wolf, back to those main battle tanks, just to give you an idea how happy Ukrainian officials are, tonight, the Chief of Staff of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he came out and he categorized western main battle tanks, as he put it, as the, quote, "democracies punch against autocracy." Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll see how this unfolds. All right, thanks very much. Fred Pleitgen on the scene for us in Ukraine.

Let's bring in CNN Military Analysts, Retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, as well as CNN Contributor on Russian Affairs, Jill Dougherty.

General Clark, first on these major developments today when it comes to tanks, how big of a game changer potentially could be the German Leopard tank and eventually the U.S. Abrams tanks? How big of a change could that be on the battlefield?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it's a very significant politically, Wolf. It depends on how many tanks actually get to the battlefield and what Ukraine does with them. General Solution (ph) says he needs 300 to 500 new tanks. I'm hearing he may get 100 combination of Abrams and Leopards.

Sure, it's good in case of a breakthrough or it sets up an armored brigade to punch into the south, but Ukraine still needs the deep attack systems, it needs the long range drones or ATACMs really would help to have aircraft and they've got to hold on the eastern front.

BLITZER: Good point.

You know, Jill, what message does this send, when it comes to tanks, what message does it send to Putin? And how do you expect Russia may respond? They were issuing all sorts of warnings, if you start sending tanks to Ukraine, this could be a game changer from their perspective. They would see the U.S. or Germany being part of the Ukrainian offensive.

JILL DOUGHERTY, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: You know, Wolf, they're already saying -- they've been saying it since this issue came up, that this would be playing by fire, that the west would be risking expanding the war, risking confrontation between NATO and Russia. I mean, the Russians are throwing as many red flags up as they can, and I think because they are worried because these -- maybe they're not complete game changers, but the Russian tanks are not adequate to go up against NATO tanks. And so, they're worried. They're saying, these would be legitimate targets, and again, that it would hurt relations specifically with Germany. But I think they're worried. [17:10:23]

BLITZER: We shall see.

All right, General Clark, all this comes as the U.S. is now urging Ukraine to cut its losses around Bakhmut and focus instead on planning an offensive in the south. What do you make of that strategy?

CLARK: I think it would be helpful if it's possible to do that. But on the other hand, you got to be a little careful giving up ground in the east. That's really tactical decisions. It's creek line or river line by river line, it's village, it's looking at lines of communication and road networks.

Yes, we need an offensive in the south. There's no doubt about it. Critical terrain is cutting off the land bridge into Crimea. And that would be the intent.

And the idea would be that if we could get into maneuver warfare, we wouldn't have to match the Russians artillery tube or artillery shelf or artillery shell. But to do that, you cannot give up the eastern area. You've got to find a way to hold it.

Can you get more advantageous positions? Could shorten the lines a little bit? Maybe. But this is a tough call with the Ukrainians. They don't want to give up their territory, it's their country.

So, what they want is to hold that and punch south. To do that, they need more tanks, they need long range fires, and they need the logistics to keep it all on the battlefield.

BLITZER: It looks like they're about to start getting all that.

All right, Retired General Wesley Clark, Jill Dougherty, guys, thank you very, very much.

Let's continue the discussion right now with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. He's a key member of the Armed Services Committee.

I know you're just back, Senator, from this bipartisan delegation you were on. You went to Kyiv, you bet there with President Zelenskyy. How significant is this apparent breakthrough right now for the U.S. and the allies to start providing Abrams and Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: It is profoundly significant, Wolf. We heard again and again, not only from President Zelenskyy, but from his top military leaders, that these tanks, remember the firepower, the armor they have, the mobility are essential to defending against the onslaught, the Russian offensive that is anticipated not months from now, but literally weeks away.

And one of the key military leaders said to me, why don't you trust us? In effect, saying, we have used what you've given us to such great effect. They've pushed them away from Kyiv, the Russians, they have made major progress in the east now that conflict is deadlocked and the Ukrainians want to mount their own counter offensive and the tanks are essential.

But here's the key point, Wolf, time. Time is of the essence. Time is not on their side. So they need these tanks literally tomorrow, not months from now. Training transport need to be compressed.

BLITZER: Because you keep pointing out, Senator, this is, in your words, a critical turning point in the war that we're seeing right now. What will it take in the upcoming spring fighting to convince Putin he simply can't win in Ukraine?

BLUMENTHAL: What it will take is success on the ground and an offensive that puts in play Crimea and points close to the border with Russia so that Putin feels the heat of their military prowess. The tanks are important as a message to Putin that he's not going to fracture or divide the allies, as has been part of his goal all along.

And you're absolutely right, the war is at a critical turning point, a time of maximum danger, but also major opportunity. And I can't emphasize strongly enough how important time is.

And there's a larger lesson here, Wolf, that I would say we all ought to take from this experience. We have provided what is needed when the Ukrainians have requested, but often only after delay. The HIMAR artillery, the Patriot missile defense, some of the other arms, we need to take the lesson to say yes, that ought to be the default. Yes, until we find a persuasive reason to say no, because the delay often takes a toll in blood and lives on the battlefield.

BLITZER: Yes, very important point. While I have you, Senator, on a very different issue, I want to get your thoughts. CNN has learned about a dozen classified documents were found in former Vice President Mike Pence's home in Indiana. What is the appropriate next step? Is a special counsel warranted considering Pence's role as a possible 2024 presidential contender?


BLUMENTHAL: Special counsel may be warranted. Merrick Garland is going to have to make that judgment based on exactly what the documents are, what the circumstances were of their removal, what the level of cooperation is from former Vice President Pence, what purpose may have been. There's an obvious contrast between Biden and Pence on the one hand and Trump on the other. Biden and Pence are cooperating. They are forthcoming with volunteering these documents, whereas Trump has been resisting, even obstructing.

The important point is that there be a full, fair, aggressive investigation because there are very serious concerns when classified documents are in the wrong place, because they put in danger the sources and methods, the people who provide the secrets, the classified information that could put them at risk as well.

BLITZER: Yes, we're going to have a lot more coming up on this late breaking development coming up right after a quick break. Senator Blumenthal, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: I appreciate it very much. And welcome back from a safe trip to Ukraine.

Much more of our special coverage right after this.



BLITZER: Tonight, the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is declining to answer questions about classified documents found at the Indiana home of the former Vice President Mike Pence. This follows Garland's appointing special counsels to investigate classified documents found at the private homes of both President Biden and former President Trump. Let's go to our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. He's working this story for us. He's with me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So, what are you learning about this latest discovery of classified documents?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this discovery happened just last week. Aides to vice -- former Vice President Mike Pence did a search and they came across a number of documents, about a dozen documents that were classified, that were marked as classified, as well as other documents that were not classified, but were believed to be government records. And so, what they did is they immediately alerted the National Archives. The National Archives told the Justice Department, and it appears that immediately after that the Justice Department sent the FBI to go retrieve those documents. That happened on Thursday.

And just in the last 24 hours, we know that the Vice President Pence's team managed to send over four boxes of documents to the National Archives here in Washington. Now, this search happened again just in the last few days, they say out of an abundance of caution after what they saw what was happening with President Biden and his discovery of classified documents at his home.

Listen to Vice President Pence address the recent disclosures both on the side of Biden and former President Trump and see how this contrasts.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me ask you, as we sit here in your home office in Indiana, did you take any classified documents with you from the White House?


Our staff reviewed all of the materials in our office and in our residents to ensure that there were no classified materials that left the White House or remained in our possession. And I remain confident that was done in a thorough and careful way. Clearly in the waning days of the Trump Pence administration, that process was not properly executed by staff around the president of the United States.


PEREZ: And Wolf, obviously those comments are going to be something that the Justice Department is going to be weighing. We know they're doing a review of how these documents -- of what these documents are and how they managed to end up at the former vice president's home in Carmel, Indiana.

And of course, the issue for the Justice Department here is, you know, they need to make sure that there are no other documents out there. And the question for the vice president's team is going to be, you know, how did you miss this before if there had been a review that was done some time ago as the vice president just described.

BLITZER: Evan, stay with us. I want to continue this analysis of what's going on. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen and CNN Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson.

Norm, so about a dozen classified documents found in Pence's Indiana home. What do you make of this?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, we were talking before, you know, I'm feeling left out that when I departed from government I didn't bring any classified documents with me. It is just a constant flow of these stories.

I think you have to make the distinction between the Pence and the Biden situations where there's been full cooperation, there's an effort to do the right thing, there are going to be hard questions. And the Trump situation where he refused to return the documents, and the Department of justice had to execute a search warrant and remove them from him.

If you look at the law, the penalties are for willful retention or removal of government documents, not for accidental. And based on what we now know now, Pence Biden, it appears inadvertent.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Nia, because Pence asked his attorney to go do this search to see if there were any classified documents in his home up Indiana. It seems to me, and I'm anxious to get your thoughts, he learned the lesson from -- the previous lessons of the blunders, for example, that Trump made.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that's right. That Trump made as well as Biden made. Listen, if you're Vice President Mike Pence, you were probably watching CNN too, and all of the coverage that we've been giving, what happened with Biden over these last few days, and you wanted to search, and so he had his attorneys do that. The question is, are there other documents out there? We saw with Biden, he sort of thought that he had gotten all the documents and then the FBI later went in at the request of Biden's attorneys and they found some additional documents. [17:25:04]

If you were any officials who left the White House recently, people like Mike Pompeo, people like Nikki Haley even, who might want to run for president, you might want to start checking your things or getting a lawyer in to go through their documents. I mean, the fact is that these folks see a lot of classified documents, they leave these offices, they're not often packed hacking up these files and folders, and this could happen, and it could be inadvertent, and they could not know about it, which I think happened with Biden.

BLITZER: Yes, it's interesting. You know, it's interesting.

I want to talk about what's going on in Fulton County, Georgia, right now. The district attorney there says her decision is, quote, "imminent on possible charges against Donald Trump and his allies for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election." Katelyn Collins (ph) is working the story for us. What are you hearing, Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Wolf, the decision is imminent, those were the words of the Fulton County District Attorney's office today in court. The other thing that District Attorney Fani Willis had told the judge is that she mentioned that there could be possible multiple people charged with crimes here, that she used the word individuals plural, saying individuals plural could go to trial.

We know up to this point that this special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, has been working for seven months. Brought in many witnesses, 75 witnesses, I believe. And they have talked to many witnesses, but we have not seen what their ultimate recommendations are in their report whether they have recommended any indictments, as they have looked into the phone call that Donald Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Georgia after the election and many other things that were happening to challenge the 2020 vote after the election.

So at this time, this hearing is coming up now as a media coalition, including CNN, is trying to get access to this special grand jury report before any indictment decisions are made by the District Attorney's Office. The prosecutors, the Fulton County District Attorney does not want this out there at this time. And so the judge says he's not making a rash decision and this is an extraordinary circumstance. We don't know what he's going to decide yet. Wolf.

BLITZER: Very sensitive moment indeed. Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much for that report.

Up next, we'll go live to the scene of back to back mass shootings out in California. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: California is reeling tonight from two mass shootings in just two days. The latest in Northern California where seven people were killed in two separate attacks in an agricultural area just south of San Francisco. That follows a mass shooting in Southern California that left eleven people dead. CNN is on the scene at both locations with our own Veronica Miracle and Nick Watt.

Let's begin with Veronica. What's the latest where you are over there at Half Moon Bay?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, within the hour we are expecting the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office to give another update, another press conference. Meanwhile, the governor is here and he is touring this community, the second community that has had a mass shooting in just days.


KATE SHEA, HALF MOON BAY RESIDENT: The farm workers on the coast have a rough life as it is, and this is just -- it's terrible.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Seven dead, one critically injured after a mass shooting Monday at two separate locations that investigators are now calling workplace violence targeting some agricultural workers at a farm near the San Francisco Bay area.

SHERIFF CHRISTINA CORPUS, SAN MATEO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Investigators say the adult victims, five men and two women, were of Hispanic or Asian descent.

CORPUS: As some of these victims were members of our migrant community, this represents a unique challenge when it comes to notifications and identifications of next of kin.

MIRACLE (voice-over): San Mateo County sheriff's deputies arrived at a mushroom farm to find four victims shot dead and the gunmen nowhere to be found. A fifth victim, an adult man, had life threatening injuries and was taken to the hospital.

CORPUS: The victim at the hospital is out of surgery and stable.

MIRACLE (voice-over): A short time later, three other people were found dead at a trucking facility about 2 miles from the farm. Again, the gunman was gone. As police investigated both incidents, they identified the suspect as Chunli Zhao, a 66 year old who lives in Half Moon Bay. At 4:40 p.m., the suspect was located in his car in the parking lot of the sheriff's office, Half Moon Bay substation by a deputy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come here. Put your hands up.

MIRACLE (voice-over): The tense situation caught on camera as deputies took him into custody. They quickly grabbed him by the arm and got him on the ground handcuffing him. The sheriff says the semiautomatic handgun that was used in the shootings was legally registered to the suspect.

CORPUS: He wasn't a red flag for us. Nothing to put him on our radar.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Officials say children were present at the site of the shooting.

LIZETTE DIAZ, HALF MOON BAY RESIDENT: I have four boys, and I cannot imagine what those kids witnessed today.

MIRACLE (voice-over): As authorities work to identify the victims, this man says he still doesn't know if his ex-wife is among them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know she is OK. I want to know she is OK. My kids, they must be really worried about it.

MIRACLE (voice-over): Investigators say they still don't know the motive for the shootings, but believe the suspect worked at one of the shooting locations and acted alone.

CORPUS: This is, I think, one of these issues where someone snapped, unfortunately, and people -- innocent people were killed. It's a tragedy.



MIRACLE: Wolf, we have also learned that the suspect lived here at this first shooting location. And we have spoken to an employee who worked here who says he's known the suspect for about six years, that he was a nice guy, that this comes as a complete shock. That surviving witness saying he watched the carnage unfold. He watched the suspect drive away in a forklift as the surviving witnesses, he tried to help others who were injured. Wolf.

BLITZER: Heartbreaking indeed. Veronica Miracle on the scene for us, thank you very much from Northern California.

Let's go over to Southern California right now and get the latest on the mass shooting just outside Los Angeles at Monterey Park that left 11 people dead. CNN National Correspondent Nick Watt is on the scene for us. What more are you learning, Nick?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, authorities here, of course, are still trying to discover a motive. There can be no rational explanation, but the community and officials want to know why this happened.

Meantime, a fuller picture is emerging of this suspect. CNN spoke this morning to Adam Hood, who was a good friend of the suspect, they fell out a few years ago, but they knew each other for a long time. Now, Hood says that there are two words that sum up the character of this suspect, hatred and distrust. He said he hated people to the bone, this man did.

He will also -- he was an occasional dance teacher here and other studios. And apparently he thought that the other instructors were speaking evil of him and he hated them for it. Adam Hood also says of the suspect that all of this, he says, all of this was just in his mind.

Now, we know that he lived alone, he was long divorced. We know he left behind in his trailer home ammunition and equipment to make suppressors silencers for weapons. And of course, remember, after here he went to another club, armed, and he was confronted. We've seen this incredible surveillance video of him being confronted by the grandson of the owners who managed to disarm him.

Now that man, Brandon Tsay, his brother-in-law, knows the suspect, knew the suspect, and he had this to say.


ILIE BARDAHAN, DANCE INSTRUCTOR, LAI LAI BALLROOM: Very bad temperament. I mean, I don't know, people say he was psycho in a sense. Very sharp movement, pushing a little bit, like you know, not being satisfied with certain, I don't know, improvements of whatever students he had.


WATT: Now, of course, he killed 11 people here. We are learning more about them as well. Six women, five men, age range 57 to 76. Among the dead, Ming Wei Ma, who was 72, who was a longtime employee here, very well known. One friend described him as a cultural force in this community. Also, Val Alvero, 68, keen dancer, was planning to retire and move back to his native Philippines, never got the chance. Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Watt reporting for us. Nick, thank you very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with the mayor of Monterey Park. Henry Lo is joining us right now.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. I know how painful this is for you and everyone in your community. How hard is it to see yet another mass shooting in your state of California, another Asian American community directly impacted, as your city is still reeling from Saturday's deadly attack?

MAYOR HENRY LO, MONTEREY PARK, CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Wolf. Let me just say that my sympathies go to the community of Half Moon Bay City because what they're going through we experienced a day earlier on Sunday. And it is -- we know the road ahead for them. I know in my community in Monterey Park, people are still devastated in disbelief and shock about why and how such an incident would happen in our community.

BLITZER: I know there are still major questions out there about these two shootings, Mayor, and key differences as well. But what goes through your mind seeing some parallels?

LO: Well, questions I have is, you know, how are these weapons obtained? If they were illegal, what again is a motivation to acting out in such violent ways? And in the case of the shooter in Monterey Park, were there mental health issues? Which also speaks to the lack of equitable access for community of color, immigrant community for in language, and culturally competent mental health services.

BLITZER: All eleven victims in your community in Monterey Park in the shooting there have now been identified, Mayor, how are they being remembered?

LO: So, tonight in our city, we are holding a vigil in front of City Hall at 5:30 p.m. The community also has been holding its own vigils, some in front of Monterey Park City Hall. I understand there will be a vigil tomorrow night in front of the dance hall where the unfortunate crime had occurred.


And I think right now, as a community, we are trying to come together and just make sense of this awful, tragic event and the unnecessary loss of life.

BLITZER: Mayor, what needs to happen now for your community to feel safe?

LO: You know, in the coming weeks, months, probably years, will be the long process of recovery. I mean, first and foremost, we want to make sure that the families of the victims, that their needs are taken care of. There is a GoFundMe site created to help the victims.

In our community, I mean, we will be assessing how best to make sure that collectively our trauma is addressed and that we are given the counseling, the support needed to move forward to the community. Our local businesses are impacted by this, the ones that are close by the dance hall and the dance hall itself.

Ballroom dance is very popular in a certain generation of the Asian American community, and that's why this dance hall was so popular and well attended. And we want people to feel safe and be able to attend and socialize in these ballrooms. You know, during the pandemic, many seniors, because they are forced to isolate, were unable to go to, for example, ballroom where they normally was socialized. And so, there's lots that need to be done. But as a community, we've been so heartened by the outpouring of support from neighboring communities, from federal, state, county, government, and just individuals and organizations and businesses that want to support us and support our community in this time of need.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to you. And good luck to everyone in your community, Mayor. Thank you so much for joining us, the Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo. Appreciate it very, very much.

LO: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead, what the discovery of classified documents and former Vice President Pence's home means for President Biden and who's facing a probe into -- who's facing a probe, we should say, into his own handling of government material.



BLITZER: New tonight, the White House is hoping to take advantage of the discovery of classified documents at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence in Indiana. One source telling CNN the Biden administration wants to use it to draw a contrast between how Biden and Trump handled classified documents. Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly.

Phil, how is the White House reacting behind the scenes to the discovery of these classified documents at Mike Pence's home?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, White House officials were closely watching the developments throughout the course of the day, even as they chose not to weigh in on them publicly, making very clear they didn't want to talk about something that remains an ongoing matter is still under review by federal authorities. But behind the scenes, there is certainly a sense of an advantage in the clear parallels they saw between what the President is facing right now, a former vice president who had documents that were unknowingly taken during the transition out office that ended up being classified. Sounds a lot like what the current president is facing at this moment.

The fact that former vice president happened to be a Republican certainly helpful given the political lens that things have been viewed through. But I think your point, Wolf, about the idea of a contrast between former President Donald Trump and President Biden, White House officials have not been very subtle about trying to draw that very clear contrast between two very different cases over the course of the last several weeks. And this helps underscore that point, the cooperation that former Vice President Pence showed throughout the early stages of this process, they see clear parallels too. And it's something that undercuts what had been a Biden only, a President Biden only story for several weeks and kind of makes the point that this is something that isn't just exclusive to President Biden. This is something several officials have dealt with in Washington now somebody who held the same position as him.

Now, again, White House officials not weighing in publicly, not trying to hammer home the fact that they see parallels or clear contrasts for the former president. But for a White House that has grappled with disclosure after disclosure over the course of the last couple of weeks related to the President, having somebody else have one of those disclosures of a different party from the same position, certainly a helpful development after weeks where there were very few of them, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you very much.

Coming up, a destructive tornado raising alarm right now across the Houston area. We'll get the latest of the severe storm brewing in the southeast.

Plus, new support for Ukraine, why the U.S. and Germany are not preparing to send battle tanks to the front lines for the first time.



BLITZER: New video we're just getting in showing destruction in Baytown, Texas, near Houston after a major tornado tore through the city. To the western Pasadena, one police chief describing the damage as, quote, "catastrophic." And this comes as another severe storm threatens millions with snow and strong winds in the north. CNN's Jennifer Gray is joining us from the CNN Weather Center right now.

What do we know, Jennifer, about this tornado, first of all, moving through Texas?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. Well, that tornado struck just on the southeast side of Houston. And these storms that produce that tornado still producing tornadoes as they cross over into Louisiana. A lot of components to this, we have a severe side, and as you mentioned, we have a snowy side just on the north end.

So we'll zoom in first on the tornado threat in that bright red box, that's the tornado watch that we have for portions of Texas on into Louisiana. These hot pink boxes, these are the active tornado warnings. This means that a potential tornado could be in progress. So folks across southwest Louisiana need to be in their safe spot. This one in particular is right across I-10 just to the west of Lake Charles. So that's one we're going to be watching very closely over the next several minutes.

So, this is where the main threat is going to be throughout the rest of the evening and the overnight hours. Those areas shaded in orange that are hugging right along the Gulf Coast, this is where we have the biggest potential to see several tornadoes. Some of those could be strong, as we have already seen outside of Houston, and damaging winds, of course. So, the forecast radar pulling this rain out of the deep south by the time we get into tomorrow midmorning, pushing into the southeast tomorrow afternoon and then off the eastern seaboard. So your main threat tomorrow is going to be damaging winds, a few tornadoes across the southeast stretching up into portions of North Carolina.


And then you have the snowy component to this. So we have very heavy snow across portions of North Texas as well as Oklahoma, that snow. And the winter weather alerts actually stretch all the way up into northern sections of New England, so stretching across almost the entire country, Wolf, as we have the snowy component to it. It will continue to snow through Ohio Valley and New England tomorrow as well.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you. Jennifer Gray, thank you very, very much. An we'll have more -- much more on all the breaking news right after this.


BLITZER: Happening now, former Vice President Mike Pence now embroiled in his own controversy over classified documents. Sources say about a dozen records were discovered at Pence's Indiana home after he asked an attorney to conduct a search. That news reported first, by the way, right here on CNN.

We're also following a stunning turnaround in the western disagreement that's been going on over sending tanks to Ukraine.