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The Situation Room

Catastrophic Tornado Strikes Near Houston, Texas; Sources Say, Classified Documents Found At Mike Pence's Indiana Home; Officials Say, U.S. Finalizing Tank Delivery To Ukraine, Germany Media Reports Berlin Also Sending Tanks; Central Californians Struggle For Water As Wells Dry Up Due To Severe Drought. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 24, 2023 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It now appears the U.S. and Germany are both preparing deliver the highly sophisticated equipment to Ukraine.

Plus, California is mourning yet another mass shooting, at least seven people shot dead in the city of Half Moon Bay just days after a gunman slaughtered 11 people in Monterey Park.

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

There are a lot of new developments we're following this hour, but I want to get to the breaking news right now out of Texas. That's coming up. A very dangerous tornado outbreak unfolding right now, CNN's Rosa Flores, is in Deer Park, Texas, for us. She just filed this report.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the pictures out of Deer Park, Texas, are very dramatic. Just take a look behind me. You can see that there's an overturned car, the glass is broken, the car is mangled, you can see the trees here are also mangled.

But these are not the most dramatic pictures. I want to show you, because there is a car that is yards from where we are. I talked to the sister of the owner of that car. She tells me that that car was parked right over where I am actually standing, just near here. And you can see that some of the cleanup has already started. But that car was, according to that woman, parked in this parking lot that you see over here behind me.

This woman says that she actually works for the district and that they were inside when the tornado actually hit. She says that over the intercom, she heard that it was important for them to get to a safe location. And so she says that workers were asked to go inside a conference room where there were no windows.

Now, it appears that this tornado skirted this high school that's to my right. That is the good news because, as you might imagine, all of this was happening as school was going on and after the tornado went through. That's when parents started heading to this area to pick up their students. But as you can see, the cleanup has already started. There is another overturned car here, actually. The woman that I talked to, this is her car. She was counting her blessings because she is alive. But she was saying that this is just terrible loss of property for her.

But, again, Wolf, you can see the cleanup has already started. Officials are trying to assess the damage. And we're just going to see the extent of the damage as soon as those damage assessments are done. Wolf?

BLITZER: Rosa Flores on the scene for us outside of Houston. We're going stay in close touch with Rosa, get an update. That's coming up shortly as well.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is also standing by for us. She is over at the CNN Weather Center. This looks pretty awful what's going on in the Houston area, Jennifer.

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is. It's incredible. We've seen that tornado producing storm on the southeast side of Houston. These storms are still on the move. This is a very active situation. The storms are not winding down at all.

We still have a tornado watch across portions of Southeast Texas as well as Southwest Louisiana. The main threat now is pushing into Louisiana. You can see these hot pink boxes. These are all active tornado warnings, the possibility of a tornado in progress within the pink boxes, the one to the north, the farthest one to the north, this is an observed tornado. So, the other ones are actually tornado warnings as well. That one just dropped on the west side of Lake Charles, but this one in Cameron Parish still in progress.

So, we're going to watch these very closely, Wolf, over the coming hours. This threat is going to be pushing into Baton Rouge, New Orleans in the next few hours. So, as it's a very active situation, we'll continue to watch it. Several tornadoes, some of those strong are possible. We're going to see damaging winds as well as these storms march to the east throughout the overnight hours, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll stay on top of the tornado strikes going through the area. So, don't go too far away. Thank you very, very much, Jennifer.

Right now, I want to turn to the stunning news reported first right here on CNN, another stash of classified documents discovered, this time in the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence. Sources say an attorney for Pence actually found the records after being asked to conduct a search at that home.

CNN's Jamie Gangel helped break the story for us. Jamie, tell us what else are you learning right now.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So along with our colleague, Evan Perez, what we have learned is it appears these classified documents had been at the vice president's residence at the end of the Trump/Pence term, and they were inadvertently packed up along with personal items in those final days.

That said, they shouldn't have been. They were clearly marked as classified.


The content of the documents, the level of classification, the sensitivity, we do not know yet. They were also kept for these two years in a location that was not secure, first in a rental house in Virginia that the Pences lived in, then in their house in Indiana. However, when this lawyer for the Pences found these classified documents, he did put them in a safe until the FBI picked them up.

There is something else to remember here, Wolf, and that is this comes in the wake of Trump documents at Mar-a-Lago, Biden's documents and Pence has repeatedly, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, said he did not have any classified documents. So, let's just take a listen to what he's been saying. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: 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 residence to ensure that there were no classified materials that left the White House or remained in our possession. And I remain confident that 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.


GANGEL: So, it's unclear why there was this search, which he said was thorough and careful. It clearly wasn't. We don't have the answer yet about why they didn't discover these before.

BLITZER: Jamie, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams and CNN Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt.

Elliot, how is the Justice Department likely to respond to this latest revelation of classified documents found at Pence's home in Indiana?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's important that you say latest, Wolf, because we keep finding these documents in senior officials' homes. Look, the Justice Department should behave exactly as they have in other cases, which is, number one, if you find intent that these documents were taken out intentionally, then, of course, you open a criminal investigation. If there are acts of obstruction trying to tamper with the Justice Department, same thing. If the documents themselves were shown to other people outside of the chain of who should have seen them, yes, you open a criminal investigation. But, look, if it's accidental, then they shouldn't proceed at all, and that should apply to former President Trump, President Biden and Mike Pence.

Now most importantly, the big question is do you have a special counsel given that we've seen two in these other recent cases, even in light of the likelihood of accidental spillage here is the term in national security, this is probably where we end up going.


WILLIAMS: Spillage. It was the term --

HUNT: I have learned something new today. Thank you for that.

I mean, look, Wolf, obviously, Elliott is the legal expert here. But from a political perspective, I mean, first of all, if you're the Biden administration, as I think our Phil Mattingly has reported, you're breathing a sigh of relief, right? This clearly a problem that is one that is definitely about classification of documents and how they're handled in a broad way in addition to obviously each individual case.

But listening to some of these lawmakers talk to our Hill team over the course of today, holy heck was what Mark Warner said. He is the head of the -- chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. You can sort of hear the undertones in their voice. They're kind of like, I don't get to treat classified information like this. Who do you think you guys are, that you get to do it? But I think it speaks to this kind of like broader problem that we're seeing here.

And I think for us, as we're looking at this, and in terms of the legalities of it, the major distinction to me still seems to remain what do these people do when they find out that they're in possession of these documents? There is the intent question. Okay, did they intend to take them or did they not? You got to answer that question first.

But then once they're discovered in their possession, what are they doing with them? And, clearly, former President Trump had a certain way of dealing with it. The Pence team obviously is going to have to start grappling with that question now. But, clearly, it's more damaging if you tell the Archives and the Justice Department like, no, you cannot have these documents back.

WILLIAMS: A lot of this flows from the fact that when people leave government, and this goes up to the vice president or president of the United States, it's an honor system to attest that you have given back all the documents that are in your possession.

Now, look, things that aren't at the really highest level, thus you've heard TS, SCI, the really sensitive stuff, it might have been things that people had at their desks or in their offices. And when they're wrapping up things to leave at the end of their time in office, they might just get taken home with them.

Now --

GANGEL: That's quite an oopsy-daisy. It is. And here is the other thing we have to point to.


What we've seen thus far with both Biden and with Pence is vastly different from Donald Trump, who, at the very least, seemed to want to take all of these things as souvenirs or for whatever, and then wouldn't give them back.

BLITZER: You know, it was just two weeks ago Pence was asked -- Mike Pence, the former vice president, was asked about the Justice Department decision to name a special counsel to investigate the way Biden handled classified documents. Let me play that clip.


PENCE: I welcome the decision by Attorney General Garland to appoint a special counsel. If we have a special counsel reviewing classified materials that were found at Mar-a-Lago, we need to have a special counsel in this case, and that's progress.


BLITZER: You think the former vice president, we're talking about Pence right now, would welcome a special counsel to investigate the way he handled classified documents?

GANGEL: How many times on this show have we said, no one wants a special counsel? That said, I mean, we're going run out of special counsels. Maybe they take the Biden case and the Pence case and give it both to Rob Hur. I also think we're going to see very shortly that the archives may reach out to all the formers, the former vice presidents, the former presidents, and I don't mean this lightly, say amnesty. Guys, please go back, take a look and see if there is one more time.

HUNT: Can I just say too, I mean, watching these clips of -- I mean, Pence is a very sort of measured politician, right, in an age of that is not terribly measured the last five years of the Trump administration, not been so measured.

And it just reminds me of the long old phrase, there but for the grace of God go I, right? Because if you look at how all these Republican politicians handled the Biden news, how many Democrats handled the Trump news, obviously, there are differences between them. But you sort of realize that in our politics, people are so quick to judgment and so quick to condemn because of the tribe that they are a member of and not necessarily because of the conduct itself.

And this goes to show you that they -- I mean we rarely kind of say it out loud, but like they shouldn't conduct themselves that way, and this is why.

BLITZER: We will see probably see sooner rather than later whether another special counsel emerges out of this latest development. Guys, stand by, a very important discussion.

Also just ahead, a major breakthrough in military support for Ukraine. Both the United States and Germany appear poised to start delivering sophisticated tanks to Ukraine.

We're also following major tornado damage out in Texas. We'll have more on that. That's coming up next as well.



BLITZER: A major development in the war in Ukraine. After months and months of debate, Germany is set to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukrain,e according to the German news outlet, Der Spiegel. It also comes as we learn the Biden administration is now finalizing plans to start sending Abram battle tanks into the war zone.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is joining us from Ukraine right now. What can you tell us, Ben? What's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand, according to Der Spiegel, that the German parliament will be debating the question of sending these Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, which is somewhat of a dramatic turnaround from what we were hearing at the end of last week after the meeting of the Ukraine defense contact group in Ramstein where both sides, the Americans and the Germans, didn't seem all together enthusiastic about the idea, the Americans sending the M1 Abrams tank and the Germans sending the Leopard 2 tanks. So, it does appear that logjam has been broken.

However, it's important to stress that it's going to take quite a while to get the tanks here and also to train the crews.

Now, according to authorities on this matter, it could take up to six months to train Ukrainian tank crews on the Abrams. That could obviously be accelerated, as we've seen with other weapon systems. But the Leopard 2 takes about two to three months to train a crew, plus, of course, the logistics, the mechanics that are going to have to service these tanks, which take a lot of servicing, by the way.

So, it's not going to be immediate. But what we've seen after weeks of covering the fighting in Eastern Ukraine is that the Ukrainians are desperately in need of modern tanks. Most of the tanks we saw operating near the frontline date back to the '70s, if not before. Wolf?

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman on the scene for us, stay safe over in Ukraine. Ben, thank you very much.

Let's discuss these dramatic developments right now. I'm joined by retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, CNN Katie Bo Lillis, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor.

General Hertling, let me start with you. How big of a breakthrough potentially is this if both the U.S. and Germany start sending tanks to Ukraine? And how long could it actually take until the Abrams battle tanks, the U.S. tanks, are actually on the battlefield for Ukraine?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Here's what I'll say, Wolf. I think the Leopard, the Leos, will probably be there a lot faster. I'm going predict two to three months that they will be in the field in combat primarily because they're in Europe already. You have 13 countries that are part of NATO and partners of NATO that have the Leo battle tanks. There is only one right now, and that's the United States that has the Abrams. Poland is going to get the Abrams tank, but that's a little time off.

What we will see, though, is Ben's comment about the establishment and the logistics and the supply lines to these vehicles.


The Leo runs on a diesel tank. It's much easier to repair. It's much easier to maintain. The Abrams has, as you know, that multi-fuel turbine engine that has a lot of different moving parts, it could be more significant.

So, what I would predict is you'll see the Leos on the battlefield within two to three months. The Abrams are probably going to be a lot longer. I'd place those sometimes six to eight months out before they can establish not only the training capability for the crews but the unit capabilities as well as the establishment of the sustainment approach to the Abrams.

BLITZER: Ambassador Taylor, as you know, Russia has been warning for months and months, warning that the Ukrainian people will pay the price if the west starts sending these tanks to Ukraine. What message does this expected decision by both Germany and the U.S. send to Putin and how do you think he may respond?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, no one knows how he is going to respond, Wolf. And, frankly, he has said and his people have said over and over they're going to do things if we send more weapons, and they've never done that.

So, this is exactly the right decision. This is what we should be doing. This is exactly the kind of thing that we should be sending to the Ukrainians. By the way, I understand that Secretary Austin had a lot to do, did a lot of work last week in Germany at very high levels to get this deal. So, Secretary Austin gets a lot of credit for this. And I don't think he was much bothered by anything that the Russians are saying.

BLITZER: Good point.

Katie Bo, I know you're doing a lot of reporting on this. What is your latest reporting on this message from U.S. officials to President Zelenskyy on Ukrainian tactics just ahead of an expected major Russian military offensive coming in the coming weeks?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, U.S. officials have been quietly urging the Ukrainians to take a step back from this incredibly costly artillery and infantry fight that they have been waging against the Russians in the Eastern City of Bakhmut now for months in lieu of a more mechanized counteroffensive to try to reclaim some territory in the south, which coincidentally is exactly the kind of fight that the Leopard 2s would be ideally suited for.

There's a sense within the U.S. government right now that Ukraine has a window of opportunity in the spring to try to retake some territory in the south before Russia is able to rearm, regroup, to mobilize additional forces. But there is a sense they would need to essentially cut their losses in Bakhmut in order to do that. And it's not clear that Ukraine would want to do that. Even though Bakhmut is not seen as strategically significant to the overall fight, it has become symbolically important to the Ukrainians.

And so Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is sort of caught in between of couple of competing priorities here. Politically, he may have a difficult time backing away from the fight in Bakhmut, even if it is not seen as a terribly important strategic priority for Ukraine.

BLITZER: Good point. Katie Bo Lillis, thank you very much. Special thanks also to retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and former U.S. Ambassador William Taylor, we'll stay on top of this story, very significant development.

Coming up, investigators are now searching for answers after two mass shootings rocked California in just two days.

And we're also following breaking news, catastrophic damage right now in Texas after a tornado rips through the Houston area.



BLITZER: All right. Let's get back to the breaking news right now, a very dangerous situation unfolding right now in Texas. The Houston area is cleaning up after a catastrophic tornado strike.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray has got an update for us from the CNN Weather Center. So, what's the latest, Jennifer?

GRAY: Well, the tornado threat is still very real. Not for Houston, but as we get into the overnight hours, still there for Louisiana and points to the east. So, while the rain is clearing out for Houston, people are assessing the damage there. But we still have tornado warnings active across Louisiana.

This is our tornado watch, this area shaded in red. That's where we have the potential for tornadoes during the next couple of hours. But right here in this area, this hot pink box over Lake Charles and then we have one a little farther to the north, these are active tornado warnings. A tornado could be in progress for these areas. So, if you're in the Lake Charles area, you definitely need to get to your safe place. This is pushing across I-10 in the next couple of minutes. This is the area that we're going to be watching throughout the overnight hours. These areas shaded in orange could see several tornadoes like, we already have. Some of those could be strong. We're also going to see damaging winds.

So, as these storms push across through the overnight hours, places likes Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Mobile, all could see very strong storms, or even tornadic storms. And then by tomorrow, the severe threat is across the southeast, places like Georgia, all the way up to North Carolina could even see some strong storms across the Florida panhandle. And, Wolf, we also have the snowy side of things where we're seeing heavy snowfall across portions of Texas, Oklahoma and points east.

BLITZER: Very dangerous situation indeed. Jennifer Gray, we'll stay in close touch with you. Thank you very, very much.

We're also following investigations out in California into two mass shootings in just two days that left 18 people dead.

CNN National Correspondent Natasha Chen has the latest.


SHERIFF CHRISTINA CORPUS, SAN MATEO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: All of the evidence we have points to this being the instance of workplace violence.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Another California community rocked by a mass shooting. Monday, a gunman attacked two locations in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco. Police say he first attacked a mushroom farm where the suspect was employed.


CORPUS: The only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers.

CHEN: Before then targeting workers at a second location. At least seven adults were killed and one injured.


CHEN: Two hours later, this video shows the shocking moment when the 66-year-old suspect was arrested by police in the parking lot of a substation. Inside the car, authorities found the legally owned weapon they said was used in the shooting. All of this less than 48 hours after another gunman killed at least 11 people about 400 miles to the south in a dance studio in Monterey Park, California.

BRANDON TSAY, DISARMED GUNMAN: I needed to save myself and the people inside.

CHEN: Brandon Tsay confronted that gunman about 20 minutes after the initial shooting, Saturday night, when the 72-year-old shooter entered a second dance studio in nearby Alhambra.

TSAY: Something happened. Something came over me. I just had this rush of thought and adrenaline.

CHEN: Tsay wrestled the gun away. The suspect died the next day of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as police surrounded him in Torrance, about 30 miles away.

A former friend who knew him for about 20 years tells CNN the man liked to dance but was distrustful, didn't have friends and hated, quote, to the bone those he thought wronged him, including some of the staff at the two dance studios. And an instructor at the second dance hall said the shooter was, quote, very bad tempered.

ILIE BARDAHAN. LAI LAI BALLROOM: Overall the guy had just a very bad temperament, little sparks of craziness and then back to normal, I guess.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These victims who have suffered such terrible loss.

CHEN: The community is grieving and baffled. May Hua Wong (ph) used to dance at Star Ballroom and told me she couldn't believe such violence broke up a Lunar New Year parties.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shocked. I looked at the news media right away, and suddenly I felt like my heart was so tight. How could something like this happen? So horrifying.

JAN ALEJANDRO, LOCAL RESIDENT: I hate to say this, but I'm really happy that it wasn't a racial Asian hate. That is for me a relief.

CHEN: Yet he and others tell me how can there be any relief when so many are dead? They say something must change, the same thing many communities in America say each time tragedy strikes.


CHEN (on camera): And tragedy is striking again overnight we learned in Yakima, Washington. A 21-year-old gunman went into a gas station convenience store and police say he shot and killed three people. The chief in Yakima says there were no words exchanged, no robbery, that he, quote, executed the victims.

And just in the last few minutes, we learned that police have taken that suspect into custody after family called police about where he was hiding. Wolf?

BLITZER: Natasha Chen on the scene for us, stay with us. I want to also bring in CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey, CNN Contributor Abene Clayton, and former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu.

Chief Ramsey, what stands out to you from this shooting, first of all, in Half Moon Bay? Does this fit the bill of a workplace violence incident? CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, it does fit the bill for workplace violence. In fact, the suspect in this case was actually apprehended at a police substation, which tells me that he was going turn himself in. And if that's the case, then obviously he would cooperate and talk. And my understanding is he is doing that now, giving a motive as to why he did it.

So, that is different from some of the other mass shootings that we have had. If you remember years ago when mass shootings were somewhat rare when they did occur, it wasn't unusual for it to be the result of workplace violence. So, this kind of resembles that.

BLITZER: Shan, there are clear differences between these two California shootings, but do you see parallels as well?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there are parallels, Wolf. They're both involving immigrant communities. The Asian community in particular, of course, has been so traumatize with this increase of violence directed against them. And I think the investigation in Monterey Park, because there won't be a prosecution, the shooter is dead, there are important things revealed. There are legal issues, such as how did he get the gun if he had a prior charge of unlawful possession, and there are community and resource issues too. Was there good response time? And long-term, what kind of mental health resources are being directed to these sorts of immigrant communities? Elderly people are obviously the primary victims there. And that's a big underserved population that we need to make sure we begin to turn our attention towards.

BLITZER: Good point. Abene, we're only a few weeks into the New Year, and there have already been nearly 40, 40 mass shootings across the United States. Look at all these places where there have been mass shootings here in the U.S. What sort of impact does this pervasive gun violence have on communities across the country?


ABENE CLAYTON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think that the impact is huge and it is traumatic. A lot of these incidents happen in places where people can imagine themselves or a loved one being, at a dance studio, going to work. There was another shooting in Oakland just last night where people were at a gas station.

So, I think it invokes a kind of constant state of fear, which can lead to vigilance and trauma, that, you know, a lot of people don't exactly know how to deal with. And in the worse cases, that trauma can then spark more violence, especially if we're talking about communities that have been dealing with gun violence for decades and it's gone unaddressed.

So, now that we see all of these high profile mass shootings happening regularly, happening in California, a place that is known for strict gun laws, it's really difficult to understate how traumatic and collectively traumatic it has been on people who are affected directly, indirectly and across the nation.

BLITZER: Yes, very important indeed.

Natasha, I know you're actually from San Mateo County where one of these deadly shootings unfolded. How is California's Asian-American community grappling right now with these two horrific attacks?

CHEN: Yes, Wolf. The San Mateo County, where I'm from, where Half Moon Bay is, as well as here in Monterey Park in this region of L.A. County, both have very large, very strong Asian-American communities. And I think one of the first reactions when this Monterey Park shooting initially occurred Saturday night was this shockwave of the juxtaposition of the biggest holiday of the year for the AAPI community, Lunar New Year, and such a tragic shooting.

This is a time when all families were getting together. My own family, in fact, my parents came down here to celebrate with me and everything was cut short for so many people to turn their attentions to this. And I think a lot of these victims' families culturally have a sort of a habit of maintaining more privacy when it comes to talking about their loved ones who were lost.

But people in the community have been coming out and talking to us about this shockwave. As Shan mentioned and as one of the people mentioned in my piece earlier, there is a bit of a relief that it wasn't a race-based incident because that's initially where people's minds went before they knew the identity of the shooter given all of the trauma of the last few years. But just knowing that these two suspects in these cases attacked members of their own community, and I don't just mean ethnic and cultural community, but their own community as far as coworkers, as fellow dancers, there is a lot that people here really want to understand, why did this happen.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Natasha, thank you very much. Chief Ramsey, thanks to you. Abene, and Shan, guys, we appreciate you joining us. We'll stay on top of the story.

Just ahead, the Fulton County D.A. says her decision is now imminent on whether she'll charge former President Trump for his attempt to upend the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.



BLITZER: New tonight, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes much of Atlanta, says her decision on charges in the probe of former President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election is imminent. CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray is in Atlanta for us tonight. So what's the latest, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we still don't know what was in this special grand jury report, but District Attorney Fani Willis, did drop some pretty big hints in court today, signaling that the grand jury recommended multiple indictments.

She talked repeatedly about the need to preserve the rights of future defendants, as she suggested that her decision on whether she was going to bring charges on anyone was likely imminent.

She also said this grand jury has heard from 75 witnesses. You know, they've been going for seven months. So we expect when that final report does come out, it's going to include some summary of their investigative activity as well as their recommendations about who could potentially face criminal charges.

Now, Willis, was very concerned about this report potentially becoming public. She and her office argued against its public release today. Take a listen against what she had to say in court.


FANI WILLIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: At this time in the interests of justice and the rights of not the state but others, we are asking that the report not be released because you haven't seen that report. Decisions are imminent.


MURRAY: So they're basically saying look, sit on this report until we make decisions about who we're going to charge. There is also a media coalition that included CNN in court today arguing for the full public release of the report.

The judge who is overseeing this hearing and oversaw the grand jury said he's not going to make any rash decisions about whether to release this publicly.

So it is unclear when the public will see it. But none of that weighs on Fani Willis. She can bring indictments whenever she use, Wolf.

BLITZER: So when the district attorney, Sara, says her decision on charges is in her word imminent, do you have any sense what that time frame potentially could be?

MURRAY: That's the million dollar question, right, Wolf? I mean if we are talking about a complicated case, a potential racketeering case, which is something she has suggested she could bring in this case, that is the kind of thing that you're talking about multiple defendants.

You really want to have your case camera ready before you get an indictment from a grand jury. So it's probably not going to happen overnight.

BLITZER: All right, Sara Murray in Atlanta for us, thank you very much.

Coming up, the crisis unfolding in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's district as a drought leaves thousands struggling to access clean water.


[18:49:08] BLITZER: In two California counties represented by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the water crisis is escalating. Several cities have seen their wells dry up due to the ongoing drought, leaving many without water for drinking, bathing, or even to do their laundry.

CNN's Rene Marsh has the story from California, where one resident is pleading to McCarthy for help.


RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In California's drought ravaged Central Valley, wells have gone dry.

Gloria Mendoza relies on five jugs of water delivered to her home in Tulare County every 15 days for drinking and cooking. But it's not always enough.

Two hours southeast, in Kern County, Randy Kyt's community well is also dry.

RANDY KYT, DROUGHT VICTIM: You can't flush toilets. You can't keep your house clean. You can't, you know, have drinking water.


MARSH: Despite of recent parade of intense rainstorms, both Tulare and Kern Counties have experienced the most weeks of severe drought in the past decade compared to any other part of the country. Both counties have long been represented by Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): In our district, the community of Toledo, has run out of water.

MARSH: When asked how the newly-elected House speaker will wield his power to help fix his home state's water crisis, his office says McCarthy has been a staunch advocate on water issues, introducing broad legislative solutions like grants for enlarging reservoirs and dams and increasing infrastructure to store rainwater during wet seasons.

PETER GLEICK, PACIFIC INSTITUTE: Those old solutions aren't the answer to California's water problems. There are no more places to build dams. There is no new water to fill dams today, given climate change, given over demand.

MARSH: McCarthy voted against bills addressing climate change and drought and since becoming speaker has dissolved the congressional Democrats' select committee on the climate crisis. His office didn't respond when asked whether addressing climate change is part of a solution.

GLEICK: Anyone frankly, who talks about trying to solve our water problems without talking about the reality of human-caused climate change doesn't understand the scope of the problem.

MARSH: In McCarthy's district, trucked in water fills emergency community tanks that connect to household plumbing for sanitary needs like washing dishes but it's not safe for drinking.

Mendoza shows us what she believes the water that reeks of chlorine has done to her laundry. The non-profit self help enterprises uses state funding to deliver 7 million gallons of trucked water and 30,000 gallons of bottled drinking water per month to some 9,000 people in the Central Valley.

TAMI MCVAY, SELF-HELP ENTERPRISES: We've seen kids taking baths at local gas stations, being bullied at school because they don't have access or because they don't have clean clothes.

MARSH: Mendoza whose story represents many of the poorest communities has this message for McCarthy.

GLORIA MENDOZA, DROUGHT VICTIM (through translator): I want to live like you. I want to be able to have water running through my house.


MARSH (on camera): And, Wolf, you know, besides omitting climate change as a part of the solution, McCarthy is actually also championed a lot of policies that would increase greenhouse gas emissions and asks for that nonprofit that you saw in the piece there, they're concerned just how long will the state be able to afford this water problem. It costs them $20 million.

BLITZER: Really glad did you this report, Rene. Thank you very much. Rene Marsh reporting.

We'll have more news just ahead.



BLITZER: We're now learning the stories of the 11 lives lost after a gunman opened fire on a dance hall in Monterey Park, California, Saturday night.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now.

Brian, how are their loved ones remembering them tonight?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, almost to a person these victims are remembered as incredibly friendly people who like to dance and socialize. And who absolutely love being at the place where they spent their final moments.


TODD (voice-over): In happier times, Mymy Nhan gets a dance lesson from instructor Maksym Kapitanchuk who shared this video with CNN. Nhan, 65 years old, identified as one of the 11 victims in the Monterey Park shooting. Her family said in a tweet, going to that dance studio was what she loved to do. Nhan is remembered by her family for her contagious smile, her warmth. Kapitanchuk remembers her for that as well.

MAKSYM KAPITANCHUK, MONTEREY PARK SHOOTING VICTIM'S DANCE TEACHER: The first thing that comes to mind is smile. She would always smile. I don't even know -- I don't think I ever seen her without a smile. You know, through the mask, I can see her eyes smiling. She'd been a delight of the class, any party, any class.

TODD: Tonight, the coroner's office confirmed the names of all 11 victims. The U.S. congresswoman had been to this dance hall in the past and describes its patrons.

REP. JUDY CHU (D-CA): If you went in there, you would see usually older Americans, Asian American dancing. Really enjoying themselves. And, you know, some are such excellent dancers. They're really into it and love to go every day.

TODD: One victim, Ming Wei Ma, 72 years old, is described as a dance instructor at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio who also may have helped manage the facility.

CNN affiliate KCLA interviewed Eric Chen, a friend of Ma's, who said witnesses described Ming Wei Ma confronting the shooter.

ERIC CHEN, FRIEND OF MONTEREY PARK SHOOTING VICTIM: He was the first to rush to try to stop the shooter. He was just caring and others first kind of person.

TODD: Another friend of Ma's, Peter Phung, told CNN Ma invited him to sing at the club and said Ma was always giving others confidence.

PETER PHUNG, FRIEND OF MONTEREY PARK SHOOTING VICTIM: He is always happy. Hey, good to see you. He make you feel good. For example, he always say, hey, you're a good singer. Come and sing.

People want to dance. You're a good dancer. You can come to my club. You know? We'll teach you.

TODD: Valentino Alvero, known as Val, a 68-year-old hospitality worker, had according to his son planned to retire soon and return to his native Philippines. His son Anthony said his dad would spend his free time at the dance studio. That he remembers his father's singing and dancing around the house and being a great moan mentor.

ANTHONY ALVERO, FATHER KILLED IN MONTEREY PARK SHOOTING: He taught me things, when he wanted to teach me with the stock market and things like that. Just when he was teaching me. Those moments come -- all those kinds of, again, just teaching. And then the times he cared about people during family gatherings.


TODD (on camera): Just some of what we're learning about these 11 lives lost. Now Anthony Alvero hopes others will take the idea that you should cherish the people close you to because you never know whether that time with them could be cut short. Wolf, he said that repeatedly in CNN's interview. BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, Brian, thank you very, very much.

And we want to extend our deepest, deepest condolences to the families of these 11 victims. May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.