Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Biden Says, U.S Sending 31 Abrams Tanks To Ukraine; Sources Say, DOJ Was Prepared To Seek Warrant If Biden Hadn't Consented To Search Of Home; Meta Restores Trump's Facebook And Instagram Accounts; Family: Autopsy Shows Tyre Nichols Died After "Severe Beating". Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The family of Tyre Nichols says an autopsy shows he received a severe beating at the hand of police.

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

Our coverage begins this hour with a major announcement from President Biden, American Abrams battle tanks finally heading to Ukraine.

CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has our reporting.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We are fully, thoroughly, totally united.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For President Biden, a diplomatic breakthrough with dramatic battle field implications.

BIDEN: Today, I'm announcing that the United States will be sending 31 Abram tanks to Ukraine, the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion.

MATTINGLY: The U.S. tanks set to significantly expand Ukraine's battlefield capabilities.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: It makes it possible for Germany, but also for other European NATO allies to provide a Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and that will significantly strengthen their combat capabilities.

MATTINGLY: At the same moment, Europe's largest land war in 80 years sits in its most brutal and grinding phase.

BIDEN: These tanks are further evidence of our enduring and unflagging commitment to Ukraine.

MATTINGLY: And after weeks of U.S. officials dismissing the idea as untenable, the complex operating system insignificant maintenance requirements. SABRINA SINGH, PENTAGON DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The maintenance and the high cost it would take to maintain an Abrams just doesn't make sense to provide that to the Ukrainians at this moment.

MATTINGLY: But their inclusion a central demand from German officials in order to clear the way for more immediate delivery of their own tanks and to sign off on the delivery of German-made tanks by other allies. Now, the trigger for a deal to unleashed significant armor contribution from U.S. allies across Europe.

BIDEN: Germany has really stepped up. The chancellor has been a strong, strong voice for unity.

MATTINGLY: Biden's praise of German Chancellor Scholz intentional, official said, even as it served to cover intense and often frustrating negotiations over the last several weeks, but ultimately leading to U.S. commitments that it will take months if not longer to reach the battlefield.

BIDEN: Delivering these tanks to the field is going to take time, time that we'll see, we'll use to make sure the Ukrainians are fully prepared to integrate the Abram tanks into their defenses.

MATTINGLY: But those commitments unlock immediately results from allies.

BIDEN: The American contribution will be joined by an additional announcement, including that will be readily available and more easily integrated for use on the battlefield in the coming weeks and months on some other countries.

MATTINGLY: The Russian ambassador to Germany declaring the moves, quote, extremely dangerous to take the conflict to a, quote, new level of confrontation. But U.S. officials downplayed the escalatory risk, as did Biden.

BIDEN: There is no offensive threat to Russia. If Russian troops return to Russia, where they belong, this war would be over today.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, White House officials are candid. They don't see any near-term into this conflict that is now in its 11th month, but they are pointing to not just the defensive capabilities established by this moment but also the symbolism of this moment, and that was at the center of the behind-the-scenes discussions that have been ongoing for the last several weeks, intensive talks that involved the U.S. and their German counterparts. Where it landed was exactly where President Biden intended, even if sending U.S. tanks was not the initial plan. The goal has always been, throughout the course of these 11 months, to stay united on the western coalition, something they once again demonstrated today is in fact in existence, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you very much. For more on these new developments, let's bring in CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley. He's standing by for us in Ukraine. He's in Kyiv, the capital.

Sam, how are Ukrainians reacting to this dramatic news where you are?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Without a shame, delight, I think, would be the simple answer to that, Wolf. We've spoken to soldiers on the frontline in Bakhmut, who were fighting in Soledar. They say tanks are absolutely essential. They've been losing a lot of tanks. They've lost a lot of tanks fighting against the Russians. They've had to capture tanks from the Russians, and so they're very, very excited indeed on the frontlines about this development, particularly with the Leopard 2 tanks.

Indeed, Wolf, there's been a kind meme that have been spreading across social media here with Ukrainians posting pictures of leopards, the creature, as well as the tank. People are putting their leopard skin outfits on and taking selfies and posting on social media, just a signal, a sign on the ground, the effect on morale that it has on this country, not even yet mentioning the military implications. This is how also how the president of Ukraine, Zelenskyy, reacted.



PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Today, is a day of extremely good news for Ukraine. There is a tank coalition. The key thing now is speed and volume, the speed of training our military, the speed of supplying tanks to Ukraine, the volume of tank support. We must form a tank fist, a fist of freedom who sets will not tyranny stand up.


KILEY: Now, that tank fist was a phrase that Reznikov, the defense minister, also used in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour earlier on today, Wolf, when she aid the tanks will be used as an iron fist to punch a hole in the Russian defenses.

They're beginning to solidify along this very large frontline. And that is deeply concerning for the Ukrainians. If this goes into stalemate, if the Russians can freeze those frontlines from the Russian perspective, that ultimately will be victory. Victory from the Ukrainian perspective, of course, is the complete destruction or evacuation from their territory of every single Russian soldier.

They are still very short of the pledges of tanks they say that they need, 300 to 400 they say. We calculate pledges so far at about 100. But the interesting thing though, as a result of this diplomatic breakthrough, Wolf, the seal has been broken on the idea that these big, big weapons shouldn't be sent here. And that I think is a great advantage for Ukraine. Wolf?

BLITZER: But it is going to take months for these tanks to arrive in Ukraine. Sam Kiley in Kyiv for us, be safe over there, thank you very, very much.

Let's continue the discussion with CNN's National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, and retired Coronel Cedric Leighton, a CNN Military Analyst.

Colonel Leighton, first to you, is it fair to say the Leopard tanks coming in from Germany, are for this upcoming phase of the war, and the Abrams tanks are part of a much longer strategy?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It seems to be the case, Wolf, because the Leopard tanks, not only are they in Europe, but they can be more easily employed by the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians have some idea of how to operate them. They have also worked already with, of course, the combined training center at Grafenwoehr in Germany, where they've learned combined armed tactics. And the Leopard tanks can be integrated very easily into those kinds of tactics.

When the Abrams tanks come in, they are then going to be used as kind of a back-filler for everything that has happened, any gaps that occurred as a result of defensive or offensive operations, and that's the kind of thing that we can expect to happen. But it seems like it is going to be a phased approach and that's a pretty wise decision, in my opinion.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what a lot of people think. Ambassador Taylor, how big of a breakthrough is this for the allies that they actually managed to get on the same page on tanks despite Russia's many public and private threats?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. ABMASSADOR TO UKRAINE: So, Wolf, it's clear the allies are not coward by these threats. They don't take these threats. So, we've heard these threats over and over and over and the allies have moved on anyway. The allies have pulled together.

I understand, by the way, that Secretary Austin was really instrumental in this discussion with the Germans at the very highest level. And that kind of diplomacy has been the success of this allies effort.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what I'm hearing. He was very, very forceful when all the allies, the military leaders met in Ramstein in Germany and they came up with this unanimous decision, at least for now.

Does the U.S. decision, Kylie, to send these Abrams tanks show that they're ready for the long haul?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. I think the reason for that boils down to the fact that this isn't going to happen overnight. As you guys were talking about, these Abram tanks from the United States won't get to Ukraine for a matter of months.

Now, while U.S. officials said today that they're going to start training the Ukrainians to use these systems over the course of the next few weeks, it is going to take a long time for them to get there. And that demonstrates that the United States is committed to this battle not just now but over the course of the next few months and the long-term here.

I spoke with a State Department spokesperson today, who said the United States has given short-term support for Ukraine. They've also given long-term support for Ukraine and these tanks should be considered in that long-term support -- set of support.

BLITZER: Ye, good point. Colonel Leighton, Russia is attempting to regroup just ahead of what's expected to be a major Russian military spring offensive against Ukraine. So, how does Ukraine use all of these new military support to prepare for that?

LEIGHTON: So, it's going to be hard for them to integrate all of the new equipment into their existing forces. So, they won't have everything. The Abrams tanks, for example, as Kylie and the ambassador mentioned, they're not quite going to be there at that point when the Russians start moving.

However, what we're going to see is the Ukrainians are going to have to actually have a very smart strategy where they give up some ground in some cases but then gain territory in other cases.


They're going to have to fight their way through some significant Russian defensive positions, tank traps that have been set up, things like that, and that's the kind of thing that we're going to have to watch for. But the Ukrainians can do this once they have all the combined arms tactics and strategies that they need in order to prosecute that kind of operation.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

Ambassador Taylor, the Ukrainian defense minister is now saying his wish list includes fighter jets, like the F-16, from the United States. Just how far has the conversation come on western military support for Ukraine since Putin actually invaded Ukraine 11 months ago?

TAYLOR: It's the right question, Wolf. Think about it. For a while there, we didn't provide any armor and now we're providing M1A1 tanks. We provided Stingers to go after the low flying aircraft. Now, we're providing patriots. We provided -- first, we didn't provide any lethal weapons but then Javelins and now we're up to HIMARS and long distance HIMARS.

So, your point is a good one, Wolf, that is we've gradually increased -- we should have done it faster, but we're increasing the level and the range and the capabilities of these weapons. So, I would think that fighter jets are next.

BLITZER: We shall see. That would be indeed so, so dramatic. Colonel Cedric Leighton, Kylie Atwood, William Taylor, the ambassador, thanks to all of you. I appreciate it very much. Later this hour, by the way, key White House Official John Kirby will join me live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll discuss this major new commitment of tanks to Ukraine.

Also ahead, new insight into the Biden documents investigation, what the U.S. Justice Department was prepared to do if, if the president hadn't cooperated with a search of his home.



BLITZER: Tonight, sources are telling CNN that the FBI's unprecedented search of President Biden's Delaware home followed very high-stakes talks between the Justice Department and Biden's attorney and the department was prepared to seek a search warrant.

CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is on the story for us right now. Paula, first of all, what are you learning about the high-stakes discussions between the U.S. Justice Department and Biden's attorneys?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you noted, this was unprecedented, the FBI searching the home of a sitting president. The Biden's team has stressed that they're cooperating, they wanted this search to happen, but we've learned the federal investigators also were prepared to seek a warrant if they did not get consent to search the Wilmington property.

Now, the Justice Department never had to raise that possibility in these discussions because they came to an agreement about how the FBI would be allowed to search the house. They were given access and allowed to search the entire premises.

But, look, the Justice Department is aware, they need to treat this case the same way they treated the Trump probe. The facts of these cases at this point, they are very different, but as we heard the attorney general say on Monday, they will treat everyone equally.

BLITZER: Paula, I know you've learned there were some who were frustrated inside the Department of Justice with how the Biden team actually handled some things, right?

REID: That's right, Wolf. Some justice officials have been frustrated at time by certain decisions the Biden team made. For example, weeks after the Justice Department told the Biden team that they would be reviewing this case, the president's team searched the Wilmington home and didn't tell the Justice Department until after they found classified material. A notification wasn't required but the lack of advance notice irritated some justice officials.

Now, we've also heard concerns about how the White House was not fully forthcoming with the public when the story first broke. They confirmed the discovery of documents at the Penn Biden Center but they failed to mention classified documents had also been found in Wilmington. And, look, all of this, Wolf, help informed the decision ultimately appoint a special counsel.

BLITZER: There's more that you've been reporting as well. What else are you learning, Paula?

REID: Well, we've also learned that, going forward, Special Counsel Robert Hur is expected to start soon. He's not on the job quite yet. But once he is, this will become a full-blown criminal investigation and we do expect that there could potentially be more searches.

BLITZER: We shall see. Paula Reid doing excellent reporting for us, thank you very, very much.

Let's get some analysis right now from CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel. She's been breaking news on this for days and days. Conservative Attorney George Conway is with us. And CNN Political Commentator Mondaire Jones, he's a former Democratic congressman, first time here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Mondaire, thank you very much.

Jamie, I want to start with you. What does this new reporting reveal to you?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think it's obvious that team Biden feels that they have been doing everything they can to cooperate. The searches did not go well. They had to do it over and over again. So, there has been this drip, drip of bad publicity because more documents kept coming out.

And the Justice Department, this is Merrick Garland's Justice Department, they want to appear evenhanded as if they're treating all of these cases the same. So, I think this frustration is, in some ways, was bound to happen.

But at the end of the day, Wolf, I think it is important to remember the Donald Trump case and the Joe Biden case and the Mike Pence case are very, very different. Trump had hundreds of documents. The intent, the obstruction, not, you know, holding on to these documents is vastly different from how the Biden team reacted and cooperated.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. George, does this tell you anything about how just how cooperative the Biden team has been with the U.S. Justice Department?

GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Well, it seems that they have been cooperating and trying to cooperate. They just have been doing it a bit more clumsily than probably they should have been. And the fact -- what -- again, there's a huge difference, as Jamie pointed out, between this case and the Pence case on one hand the Trump case on the other.


I mean, we wouldn't be talking about any of these cases probably if Donald Trump had not obstructed justice and basically jerked around the national archives and record administration and the Department of Justice for a year-and-a-half. This just wouldn't have really significant on people's radar screen. Although it is significant that people shouldn't have these classified documents at home.

But the fact is because Trump pushed it so far by stonewalling NARA and stonewalling Justice and refusing to produce all the documents when requested and then lying about it through his lawyers, we now have a situation where everybody who touches -- who has classified documents and shouldn't have is going to get a lot more scrutiny than they would otherwise have if they just turned them right over. It's like the shoe bomber. Remember the shoe bomber, where there was one guy who tried to light his shoe as an explosive and then now all of us have to take our shoes off at the airport.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. All of us, of course, remember that as well.

Mondaire, once again, good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. As you know, the Senate Intelligence Committee chair, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, says, and I'm quoting him now, all things will be on the table to get access to classified documents found in both the Biden and Trump possession. What exactly does that mean to you? How much pressure should we expect the committee to apply?

MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it means that Congress is growing restless but it is in the first instance I think the appropriate thing to do to let the Justice Department decide what to do with these documents pursuant to the law.

You know, I'll just say that when I hear reporting on what the Justice Department was prepared to do had the Biden administration not cooperated fully, I think to myself, this is the challenge of information sort of being disclosed on a rolling basis that takes longer than what people in the public typically want, especially folks in the media.

But the fact is this is a very fundamentally different case from what is happening with Donald Trump's investigation. That is a former president who knew he had documents and refused to produce those unlawfully possess documents whereas the Biden administration has been cooperative every step of the way. I would also put him in the same category as Mike Pence who voluntarily disclosed that he too was in position of classified documents that should have remained in a classified setting.

BLITZER: Good point. Mondaire Jone, thank you very much. George Conway, Jamie Gangel, guys thanks to you as well.

Coming up, I'll discuss President Biden's dramatic plans to sent battle tanks to Ukraine with a key White House National Security official, John Kirby. He's standing by live.



BLITZER: More now on our top story, a major new commitment to the Ukrainian war effort, the United States pledging 31 Abrams battle tanks to Ukraine as Kyiv plans a spring military offensive to try to retake territory from Russian.

Joining us now to discuss this and more, a key White House National Security official, John Kirby. John, thanks so much for joining us.

U.S. officials, including yourself, have spent a long time listening to various reasons why the Abrams tanks would be incredibly complicated to send to Ukraine. So, what has now changed?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well, nothing has changed on that regard. I mean, they are still very sophisticated tanks, Wolf, and getting them ready to be used by Ukrainian forces is going to take some time. There's a supply chain that you have to factor into it. They are more difficult to operate than other tanks.

And so that's why, while we work to procure them tanks, we're going to waste no time to get them trained up, get that supply chain in place, make sure that they have the parts and supplies. But all that is still the truth.

What is critical, and you said it in your intro, is we have got to make sure that we're helping the Ukrainians plan and prepare for the fighting that we think that they're going to be facing in the spring and summer months as the weather gets better. And that will rely a lot on what we call combined arms maneuver, being able to field forces effectively in open terrain and move them quickly. That's why these Bradley vehicles and these tanks will be quite effective.

BLITZER: Yes, they're so, so significant. Can you say definitively, John, whether the Abrams tanks will be on the battlefield this year? We're talking about 2023.

KIRBY: The Pentagon is still working out the timeline, Wolf. And, again, these tanks will have to be procured. They'll have to go through that process with the manufacturer. So, what we're saying right now is it will take many months. It's difficult for us to put a date certain on that right now.

BLITZER: Why not just move some of these tanks that are already in stockpiles in Europe, in the NATO allies -- among the NATO allies and just move them to Ukraine? That would be a lot more speedy.

KIRBY: The Pentagon has looked at that and they found that they didn't have any excess tanks in stock, in inventory to be able to provide. And they found that in order to -- even if that was possible, to do that would take almost as long as it would to procure these new tanks for Ukraine, to kick them out specifically for the Ukrainian military.

BLITZER: The German Leopard tanks will be in action in Ukraine much more quickly. Are these tanks key to Ukraine's potentially liberating a substantial amount of territory from the Russians?

KIRBY: These Leopard tanks are very sophisticated too. They're very good tanks and there's a lot of them among the European continent. We're grateful that the Germans are going to contribute immediately 14 of them but that they're going to work with allies and partners to flesh out a full two-tank battalion, so that's about 60 tanks, Wolf.


And they're very, very good tanks.

And you're right, they will be able to get on the ground in Ukraine, faster than the Abrams and we do believe that they can have a significant impact as the fighting begins to get more violent coming in the spring and the summer months.

BLITZER: So, what are the possible scenarios, John, about how Putin may actually respond to today's major announcement on tanks?

KIRBY: Well, as the president said, there's no reason for an overreaction by Moscow here. These tanks pose no offensive threat to Russian homeland. They do, however, pose a significant threat, not just the Abrams but the Leopard to Russian forces that are inside Ukraine illegally and committing atrocities. So, if Mr. Putin was worried about tanks, the best thing that he could do would be to take his troops and move them out of Ukraine and stop this war. We're going to continue to make sure that we're helping Ukraine succeed on the battlefield so that if and when it comes to the negotiating table, they can succeed at that as well.

BLITZER: Ukraine's defense minister told our Christiane Amanpour today that western fighter jets are on Ukraine's wish list right now. It seemed unthinkable at the start of the war that the U.S. would provide Patriot air defense missile systems, Abrams battle tanks. Could fighter jets, like the F-16, for example, be next?

KIRBY: I don't want to get ahead of where we are right now, Wolf. I mean, the fact that the Ukrainian have been asking for fighter jets is not new. It is something that they have repeatedly said. We are working closely with them really in lockstep almost every day about the capabilities that they need now and new future. Those conversations will continue.

BLITZER: John Kirby, thanks so much for joining us.

KIRBY: You bet.

BLITZER: Coming up, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, just announced a major decision about Donald Trump's social media account. We'll share those details with you right after a quick break.



BLITZER: There's breaking news we're following. Former President Trump's social media footprint is about to significantly expand. The parent company of both Facebook and Instagram has decided to reinstate his accounts just over two years after suspending him in the wake of the January 6th insurrection over at the U.S. Capitol. CNN Donie O'Sullivan and Kristen Holmes are working on this story for us. So, let's start with Donie. Tell us why, Meta, the Facebook parent company, decided to take this step?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Well, viewers might remember that in the days after the Capitol attack more than two years ago now, Meta, then-Facebook, made the decision to take Trump off its platforms because it believed by having him there, he could incite further violence and they believed there was a real risk of direct harm.

What Facebook and Meta is saying in a statement tonight, their blog post explaining their justification for putting Trump back on their platform, they're saying that there's no longer that clear risk of real world harm of him being put back on the platform. He has tens of millions of followers on, of course, Facebook, but Meta also owns Instagram as well. So, he will be returning to both platforms.

BLITZER: I know, Kristen, you're doing a lot of reporting on this as well. Did the Trump team have a heads-up?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Wolf, they didn't. Actually, just a few hours ago, I checked it on this and I had heard from one source briefed on all of this that they heard crickets from Meta. Remember last week, we reported that Trump's lawyers has sent a letter to Meta asking for a meeting to talk about Trump being reinstated for Facebook.

Now, what we have learned happened tonight from the same source who has briefed on the meeting is that Meta reached out last minute to Trump's lawyers asking for a meeting and they were actually still in that meeting when Meta released this news publicly that they have decided to reinstate Trump.

Now, there are still some questions, because I've got to tell you, there was a number of aides and advisers who actually didn't know about this until they saw the media reports or heard from us, reporters, asking them for comment. And they're still aren't really quite sure about all of the restrictions and all of the timeline of when this is going to happen because they feel like they're just getting all of this information. They have to discuss it with the lawyers, figure out what exactly this looks like.

And one other thing to note here is remember that Trump is still on Truth Social, and he does have a contract with them. So, that's something else that the lawyers are working through right now.

BLITZER: Yes. Speaking of his own platform, Truth Social, as it's called, he's recently been on a tear, as you know. Will he have different guard rails right now that other users, when it comes to Facebook, for example, and we know recently Twitter decided to reinstated him as well?

O'SULLIVAN: That's right, Wolf. Facebook is saying it's going to put new guard rails in place. It's kind of saying that they won't allow Trump do what he did last time they had him on the platform. And, look, we have just seen from Trump on his own social media platform recently continuing to spread lies about the 2020 election and even recently calling for the jailing of journalists.

But, look, obviously, many Republicans are going to be celebrating Trump coming back, at least MAGA Republicans and Trump's supporters. We've heard from Democrats, like Congressman Adam Schiff, criticizing this move.

But I do think it's important to point out the ACLU have weighed in on this in just the past few minutes, and they said that this is the right call. Like it or not, President Trump is one of the country's leading political figures and the public has a strong interest in hearing his speech. They go on to point out that they have many issues with Trump but they believe that Meta has made the right decision here because voters and Americans should be able to hear from Trump, the good, the bad and the ugly.

BLITZER: So, Kristen, how is the Trump team -- Trump and his team, for that matter, reacting to this increased social media footprint that's out there especially as he campaigns for president once again?

HOLMES: Well, Wolf, they're very pleased. This is something that they wanted. Again, they had just sent this letter and trying to expedite this process.


We've heard from Trump already on Truth Social saying that this should never happen again to a sitting president.

But as you mentioned, this is coming at a critical time for Trump's team as he's gearing up in his 2024 campaign. He starting his out of state travel this weekend. And they need financing. And a lot of financing comes, in their minds, from Facebook and what they're able to get from Facebook in fund-raising and advertising in Trump's voice.

And we know that behind the scenes, many of them have been complaining that it was very hard to get new donors without having a presence on Facebook and also that there's a very specific voting bloc of Trump's that is accessing Facebook on a regular basis and there was no way for him to communicate with them.

So, the other thing I want to point out here is that, as we see him likely to -- as soon as they allow him back on Facebook, he's also talking to his campaign about how to enter back into Twitter in terms of what he would tweet, what that would look like. So, something to keep an eye on. Again, lot of this relating to fundraising and that 2024 presidential bid.

BLITZER: Kristen Holmes and Donie O'Sullivan, excellent reporting, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we'll go live to Memphis, Tennessee where police video of that confrontation that led to the death of an African-American man is expected soon. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Memphis is bracing for the release of police video showing the arrest of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old African American man who died days after what's described as a violent encounter with local police.

CNN senior crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz is in Memphis for us tonight.

Shimon, how much concern is there about a potential backlash from the release of this video?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's one of the biggest concerns here right now, Wolf, in Memphis as authorities are bracing for reaction from the community once this video is released. That's why right now, we're not really getting any strong indication of when this video is going to be released because it really is something that officials are worried about. They know it needs to come out, but they're worried about how the community is going to react to seeing this violent video.

And so, there's a lot of planning that's ongoing right now, not just here in the city of Memphis, but across the country, for reaction. All of this is happening as we wait for word from the district attorney here on whether or not these officers are going to face any charges in the coming days. The community members here certainly want transparency and they want to see that video and they want more information.

Take a listen to some of them reacting last night at a city council meeting, Wolf.


PAMELA MOSES, MEMPHIS BLM FOUNDER: If it would have been son or your son -- don't gavel me. I'm here to let you know I can speak. We want the tape. We want it now!


PROKUPECZ: Wolf, the other thing that's been happening is we haven't heard from officials in any case in terms of what exactly happened here. We've not received any kind of timeline, the events that unfolded. Of course, the police department moved quickly in firing these officers. We're now still waiting on word for this video and obviously whether or not these officers will face charges.

And, Wolf, I should also note that next week, it's going to be some tough moments here as the funeral gets under way for Tyre Nichols, which is expected next week, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much. Shimon Prokupecz, reporting for us.

Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson right now, and senior law enforcement analyst, Chief Charles Ramsey.

Chief Ramsey, an autopsy showed that Nichols suffered extensive bleeding caused what was described as a severe beating. What questions do the police need to answer about this arrest?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, what they have to do is get that video, either the sooner the better. I understand the concern. And it is going to be bad if it is bad as anywhere near people are saying, it's going to get a reaction, not only in Memphis, but perhaps in other cities, much like what happened with the George Floyd video as well.

So, they are right to try to get prepared. But they need to get it out there. Bad news does not improve with age. So, the quicker you get it out, deal with the consequences, the better.

BLITZER: And you speak with authority on this, former police chief here in Washington D.C. as well as police commissioner of Philadelphia.

Joey, the police officers involved in this arrest have already been fired. We are now learning one of them was a defendant in a lawsuit over alleged inmate beatings. What impact might that have on this investigation?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think will be significant. There's two different ways to look at it, from an investigatory perspective, it may give you some inside window into the who the officer was -- does it represent who -- how he comports him self and how he goes about his business? With regard to the trial itself, certainly, if there is one, as it relates to any prosecution, defense lawyers will move to preclude that.

I think these officers certainly have a lot of explaining to do from a state perspective. I do and I would expect that there would be charges, just predicated upon what we are learning about this case. That is not to profess their guilt. That is what a trial would be for. But I think the district attorney will be looking at a panoply of charges that relate to whether it was a reckless killing, whether it was unintentional killing. And the confinement of him and whether that was appropriate -- and then, Wolf, I think you go to the federal level and I think to -- the extent that the U.S. attorney is investigating, they will be looking at deprivation of civil rights and liberties.

But certainly -- anyone's background and to the extent that they have done this before, that will be examined very closely to figure into why they would do what --


BLITZER: Chief Charles Ramsey, I'm curious. What do you make of how quickly these five police officers were actually fired?

RAMSEY: Well, I know Chief Davis. She's a very, very good police chief. She definitely saw the video. And what she saw must have disturbed her to the point where she knew she needed to take immediate action. And she did take immediate action.

Fortunately there in Memphis, apparently, they are able to do so. The collective bargaining agreement does not stand in the way of that. In some cities, achieve would not have been able to fire them on the spot like that. But she was.

So, at least she took the action that she needed to take. But that's just the beginning. And again, it's not going to satisfy a lot of people. You will have a lot of protests. What I am always fearful of our just a small group of people who hijack a peaceful protest and turn it into something violent. Hopefully, that does not happen. But that is why you have to really be on your toes when it comes to these protests.

BLITZER: Let me follow up with that with you, Chief Ramsey. We are expecting to see the video of this arrest any day now. What will you be looking for as questions about whether the police officers will be charged -- charged -- what will you be looking for?

RAMSEY: I will be looking at the us of force itself. It's never pretty to see force being applied. The question is always, how much is too much? And that is what I will be looking for. At what point in time did it become excessive?

Did officers attempt to intervene? My understanding is that at least one of them -- at least, is being charged with failing to intervene, if other officers were involved. So, I will be looking at the force itself, what was done to the individual.

And the bottom line is, people should not die in police custody. They just should not. And if it does happen, then there has to be a very thorough, in-depth investigation to find out why.

And if it happened during -- arrest like this one did, then, obviously, there is a lot of explaining that has to take place in part of the officers.

BLITZER: Joey, button this up. How do you see it?

JACKSON: I see it with -- the prosecution will look at it very closely, we'll look at why the force was used, were any of the officers in immediate fear of death or bodily injury? Was there a response proportionate to any threat that was posed? And if those questions are answered in the negative and the police are found not to have acted accordingly, then I think we'll see a prosecution.

I also think we will see a federal look at this closely, and potentially, a prosecution on the federal level as well.

BLITZER: All right. Good work, guys. Thank you very, very much.

Just ahead -- the Virginia teacher who was allegedly shot by her six- year-old student is now suing her school district for missing several warning signs.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: Just into CNN, a key new development in the classroom shooting of a Virginia teacher, allegedly by a six year old student.

Let's get right to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us from Newport News in Virginia.

What are you picking up over there, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've just from the Newport News public school system that the assistant principal here at Richneck Elementary School, Ebony Parker, has resigned. This comes as we received new allegations from the attorney for the teacher we shot.


DIANE TOSCANO, ATTORNEY: They should have never happened. It was preventable. And thank God Abby is alive.

TODD (voice-over): The attorney for Abby Zwerner, the teacher was shot and wounded by a six-year-old student in her first grade class, says she will file a lawsuit against the Newport News school district.

TOSCANO: Had the school administrators acted in the interest of their teachers and their students, Abby would not have sustained a gunshot wound to the chest, a bullet that remains dangerously inside her body.

TODD: Attorney Diane Toscano alleging a dramatic timeline of warnings on the day of the shooting. The first coming around 11:15 a.m., when Zwerner warned an administrator the six-year-old threatened to beat up another student.

TOSCANO: They didn't call security. They didn't remove the student from the classroom.

TODD: Later, at 12:30, another teacher searched the boy's backpacks, suspecting he had brought the gun to school and put it in his pocket before recess.

TOSCANO: The administrator downplayed the report from the teacher, and the possibility of a gun, saying, and I quote, well he has little pockets. This is outrageous.

TODD: Around 1:00 p.m., a third teacher told administrators a distressed student confessed to seeing the gun at recess.

TOSCANO: Did administrators call the police? No. Did administrators lockdown the school? No.

TODD: Diane Toscano says another teacher was then denied permission to search the child.

CNN reached out to the school district which declined to comment. On the agenda at a special school board meeting tonight, a vote to

approve a separation agreement with superintendent George Parker III, and name a potential interim superintendent, a move parents like Mark Garcia Sr. are calling for.

MARK GARCIA, SR., FATHER OF STUDENT IN SHOOTER'S CLASS: Different principal, different administration.

TODD: Thomas Britton's son is in the same class as the alleged shooter but was not in school that day. His response to the allegations?

THOMAS BRITTON, FATHER OF STUDENT IN SHOOTER'S CLASS: I told my wife -- I will leave the expletives out -- but I can't believe someone could be so blase or callous with the safety. Like, what is their job?

TODD: Today's allegations are likely little comfort for the students and parents getting their first chance since the shooting to return to the school this afternoon. Not for classes but for a short reorientation. An effort to give students and staff what may feel like a far off sense of normalcy.

GARCIA: My son is still scared. He was crying about three nights ago about this. And he wants to go back to school but he just wants to know that he is going to be safe. Nts to go back to school he just


TODD: James Allenton, the attorney for the family of the alleged shooter, responded today's allegations, and the news of the planned lawsuit, with an email to CNN, saying that the family of the boy continues to pray for Abby Zwerner. That attorney had earlier told me that the gun had been secured at home with a trigger lock and had been kept on a top shelf of the mother's bedroom closet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting for us. Brian, thank you very much. What a heartbreaking story that is indeed.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.