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The Situation Room
Video Contradicts First Police Report On Tyre Nichols' Fatal Arrest; Trump Defiant In New Video Of Deposition In New York Fraud Case; Trump's Testimony In New York Civil Probe Captured On New Video; D.A. Formally Files Charges In Deadly "Rust" Movie Set Shooting; Dangerous Ice Storm Paralyzes Southern & Central U.S. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 31, 2023 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, troubling contradictions in the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols. We're breaking down initial claims made by police officers and how they don't match up with videos of Nichols' arrest.
Also tonight, CNN's exclusive one-on-one interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He's revealing whether he would consider acting as a wartime mediator between Ukraine and Russia.
And we're getting our first look at former President Donald Trump's defiant deposition in a fraud investigation in New York, this as he is facing a new criminal probe of hush money payments over his alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
We begin this hour with the glaring discrepancies between the initial Memphis police report on Tyre Nichols' case and the videos of his arrest and beating. CNN's Nick Valencia is covering all the new developments.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A bundle of contradictions between what the world witnessed in the video showing police beating Tyre Nichols and what's reportedly found in the initial police report about the incident.
First reported by The New York Times, a photo of a police report was posted online by a Memphis talk show host. The district attorney's office tells CNN the D.A. does have a report that has that same account of events. The report suggests Nichols was pulled over after police say he veered into oncoming traffic. It says he was violent, sweating profusely and irate when he exited the vehicle and, quote, started to fight with officers, at one point, grabbing one of the detective's guns, things not seen in the body camera and sky cop street camera videos but the very things officers talked about during the encounter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hit that man in so many pieces and he coming for more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you all got him -- stopped him on a traffic stop?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He drove into oncoming traffic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's going for my gun too, so I'm like --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He grabbed one gun --
VALENCIA: The report also says Nichols was struck with a department- issued baton, while given verbal commands to stop resisting. It notes nothing about the multiple times officers kicked him while he was lying on the ground.
The Memphis Police Department still has unofficially released the report all this weeks later. The Shelby County Sheriff's Office also listed in that report image posted online releasing a statement saying, the release of reports in connection with the investigation is unauthorized and the sheriff's office cannot comment.
PROF. JUSTIN HANSFORD, HOWARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: This issue of believing police reports on their face as they are immediately release is something we also need to reconsider.
VALENCIA: Officials announced more firings and disciplinary action against public servants at the scene. In addition to the firing of the five black Memphis police officers, now facing second-degree murder charges, three Memphis Fire Department personnel had been let go, and two sheriff deputies have been put on leave, along with the two additional Memphis Police Department officers also on leave.
STEVEN MULROY, SHELBY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We are looking at everybody who had any kind of involvement in this incident.
BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR NICHOLS FAMILY: Everybody who was on that scene who contributed in any way should be held fully accountable.
VALENCIA: As Tyre Nichols family prepares to say their final goodbyes tomorrow.
JAMAL DUPREE, TYRE NICHOLS' BROTHER: My brother was innocent person. Everybody knows that my brother was filled with energy. He was like the light of the room.
VALENCIA (on camera): And tonight, we are learning that the vice president will be in attendance at Tyre Nichols funeral on Wednesday. She will be joining other senior level officials from the Biden administration. And meanwhile, the family tells us, Wolf, that the vice president called them earlier today to offer her condolences and support during this unimaginably difficult time. Wolf? BLITZER: All right. Nick, thanks very much, Nick Valencia, reporting.
Let's bring in our experts on law enforcement, legal affairs and civil rights right now. And, John Miller, I'll start with you. What do you make of the discrepancies in this police report?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, the discrepancies, Wolf, are with what was written and what actually happened. You see them being built when you see at the end of the incident when the officers are talking to each other, they're building that story. One of them says, did you see how he came out of the car and he went right for me? The tape doesn't show that. He says -- another officer says, he went for my gun, if that happened, the tape doesn't show that. So, it seems they were building that narrative before the report was written.
Notably, the report is written by an officer who, in the writing of the report, puts himself on the scene, who was not one of those criminally charged, and may be that other officer who was relieved of duty because the report seems to have real gaps when it comes to fact.
BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, what do you think of these -- what strikes you about these clearly glaring discrepancies?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, they weren't being truthful. I mean, that's pretty obvious. When you look at the video and then you compare it to the report, it just doesn't match. And so whoever wrote that report, they would have signed it, they would have put their badge number on it, so that's not a secret. Certainly, the D.A. and the department knows exactly who wrote the report. And I agree with John. I mean, when you hear them describing what took place in their own words, again, it's not consistent with what we have seen in the video.
So, that's something else that certainly the D.A. is going to be considering. And from an administrative stand point, for officers, especially the one that wrote that report, if it doesn't rise to the level of any kind of criminal charge, certainly, they will face some kind of internal discipline.
BLITZER: Areva, from a legal perspective, how could these discrepancies actually factor into these cases against these fired police officers? They're facing major criminal charges.
AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY AND LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, what the issue is who gave this officer this information and did this officer intentionally lie on this police report?
One thing that's so troubling about this whole investigation at this point, Wolf, is the drip, drip, drip, drip nature of it. We have the police chief who takes this, what is being called swift action in terms of firing these officers, putting these others on administrative leave, but yet we have not seen this police chief come out and answer questions, questions about these two officers who were on administrative leave.
Has many people in the block community asking was the white officer, who were now learning about, is he being treated differently? Is he being shielded in a way that these black officers are not? And what happened with this police report? They say it's an official document that can't be released, but surely the chief can come forward, stand up before news reporters and answer questions about what was in that police report and what they know about the discrepancies in the report.
So, there are still so many unanswered questions and it causes us to believe that this department is not being as transparent as they would have had us believe in the beginning once they started revealing information about this case.
BLITZER: Derrick Johnson is with us as well. He's the president and CEO of the NAACP. I know you have joined with other prominent civil rights leaders, Derrick, to request an actual meeting with President Biden to discuss the issue of police brutality. Have you gotten any response from the White House about that request? And what would you like to convey to the president?
DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well, we expect to get a response before the end of the week. But we're going to convey what we have consistently conveyed. This is an issue that needs to be addressed through public policy. Obviously, there is a culture of this behavior, not only with the Memphis Police Department, but there's no accountability for falsifying documents. There's nothing to put any threat behind law enforcement officers for simply writing up a report. We've seen it in the George Floyd case. We've seen it in the Tamir Rice case. We see it all across the country.
But this department appears to have a pattern and practice. No one sought to assist when you are seeing the victim there suffering. The Fire Department didn't assist. Other officers who came on the scene didn't assist. They allowed this young man to languish for over 20- plus minutes before getting him to the hospital. We must have federal public policy to address this issue.
BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, so far, charges have only been brought against five fired police officers, but we are learning about others on the scene who are now being relieved of duty. Are you concerned at all about the lack of transparency here?
RAMSEY: No. Listen, I understand the process. They prioritize what they needed to do. You have five individuals that were obviously directly involved in the injuries and the subsequent death of Mr. Nichols, and they did that as quickly as they could.
I've had cases where you have had multiple police officers on the scene reviewing video. When you look at the video, you have to isolate each individual officer and follow their movements from beginning to end to know exactly what they did.
Now, I had a case that involved about a dozen officers. It took quite a while before we were able to do it, but we had to sort out those that were directly involved and then also those who just failed to take action. So, it's either the action or inaction of the officers that have to be reviewed. You've got two more that have been placed on administrative leave, and there may be more.
Now, whether or not they're charged criminally is a different matter that the D.A. would have to take part in.
But as far as, you know, the drip, drip, if you want to call it that, I really am not concerned about it. I don't think it's a drip, drip. I think it's just the process and how it plays out.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks to all of you. Thanks very, very much.
Just ahead, CNN's exclusive interview with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, amid a flare-up of tensions in the region. How he responded when he asked if he would consider acting as a wartime mediator between Ukraine and Russia. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, a CNN exclusive with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He sat down for a lengthy one-on-one interview with my colleague, Jake Tapper, amid high tensions and a new outbreak of violence in the Middle East.
Jake is joining us now live from Jerusalem. Jake, this is truly a pivotal moment for Netanyahu, indeed for Israel and Palestinians. Give us your top takeaways from your exclusive interview.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, we talked about so much, including the spiraling violence going on right here between the Israelis and Palestinians, what he thought about a potential two-state solution, which Secretary of State Blinken was discussing earlier.
One of the things that struck me was the fact that he did seem amenable to negotiations when it comes to his controversial proposal to reform the judiciary, to the views of many critics, undermine the judiciary, so that the Israeli parliament, with a simple majority vote, could overrule the Israeli Supreme Court. He seemed open to negotiations on that.
But we really -- it was such a far-reaching interview. It's tough for me to pick out one specific item.
BLITZER: I understand you also discussed the war in Ukraine and Netanyahu's potential role as a possible mediator. Tell us what he said.
TAPPER: Yes. You know, it's been interesting, because Netanyahu has not agreed to help Ukraine militarily, at least not openly so. So, we discussed that at length, especially considering the fact that Iran is now with Russia in attacking Ukraine.
So, there has been talk about maybe Netanyahu would be somebody that could broker a peace between Zelenskyy and Putin. I asked him about it. Take a listen.
TAPPER: One thing I wanted to ask you about, about Russia and Ukraine is that an adviser to Zelenskyy floated your name as somebody who might be a decent mediator between Zelenskyy and Putin, between Ukraine and Russia. And I'm wondering if anyone in any position of power has ever floated that idea to you and what would be your willingness to take on that job?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I was asked to do that early on in the -- in the breakout of the Ukraine war. And I was opposition leader at the time, and I said, well, I have a rule, one prime minister at a time, like one president at a time.
TAPPER: Who asked you to do it?
NETANYAHU: I was asked. I didn't know if it was official, but it was unofficial so I didn't even pursue it. I said there's a prime minister. Let him decide what to do, that he tried to succeed. But if --
TAPPER: Would you do it now?
NETANYAHU: If I'm asked by both sides, and, frankly, if I'm asked by the United States. Because I think you can't have too many cooks in the kitchen, and I'm -- we have our own backyard to deal with.
NETANYAHU: It's not that I think this is of monumental importance, because I think the peace of the world is at stake, as I think the peace of the world is at stake with Iran getting nuclear weapons. It will destabilize the entire world. And so I'm really devoting my efforts to that and the other peace ideas that I have, and the economic ideas.
But if asked by all relevant parties, I will certainly consider it. But I'm not pushing myself in, which is -- I've been around long enough to know that there has to be right time and the right circumstances. If they arise, I'll certainly consider it.
TAPPER: And as you heard there, Wolf, obviously, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu certainly has Iran on top of mind as well the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We also talked a great deal about his controversial right-wing government, allies, cabinet officials who -- cabinet ministers who have said some -- and done some incredibly offensive and controversial things in the past. And then, of course, we talked about American politics as well. That's all coming up at 9:00 P.M. BLITZER: Yes. Thanks so much, Jake. Thanks for going over there. Thanks for doing the interview. Jake's full interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu airs during a special report tonight at 9:00 P.M. and I'll be back at 10:00 P.M. Eastern later tonight with analysis of that interview and the situation in the Middle East right now. It's a very tense situation.
Right now, let's get some more from the war zone in Ukraine, where officials say Russian forces are turning the key eastern city of Bakhmut into, I'm quoting now, a total ruin.
Our Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley is joining us live from Kyiv right now. He's got an update. Sam, is the battle for Bakhmut reaching a critical point?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It probably is, Wolf. I have spoken to people who are fighting on the ground who think that perhaps the Ukrainians, if things don't change, can hold on for another week or two perhaps, but that things are changing rapidly on the ground.
What's been going on, Wolf, is that, for many months now, the Wagner Group especially has been sending human waves of conscripts or prisoners, alleged volunteers to the Russian mercenary company with very light arms, charging Ukrainian positions, dying in large numbers.
And then there's a follow-up from artillery. But that artillery, aircraft, multiple rocket launching systems have all been pounding the town of Bakhmut until there's almost nothing left and very, very few civilians still cowering in the underground bunkers.
Meanwhile, and, of course, there's also have been Russian attacks to the south and north over the capture of Soledar. And at some stage, it's likely perhaps that the Ukrainians may elect to withdraw in order to save their soldiers' lives, especially as they don't attach a great deal of strategic importance to the town of Bakhmut in the first place, Wolf.
BLITZER: And, Sam, as this fighting clearly intensifies in the eastern part of Ukraine, what is the latest on western weapons support for Ukraine?
KILEY: Well, if you'll recall that a few days ago, the Ukrainian ambassador to France said that he felt that there was about 350 battle tanks have been pledged by NATO and other western allies to Ukraine. We have now got a little bit more clarity on when those might arrive. The first tranche of 120 to 140 may be arriving quite soon. But the United Kingdom and the United States for now, at least, have ruled out the supply of any fighter jets and fighter bombers, which the Ukrainians have been calling for.
The French is still saying nothing is off the table. A lot of this is to do with the ability to supply, not so much from the perspective of the United States, but the United Kingdom just doesn't have any aircraft to spare. The French potentially do, because they've got some older mirage aircraft that they could possibly allow Ukraine to get their hands on. And, of course, elsewhere in Europe, there are also Soviet-era MIG fighter bombers that could be made available.
But these are strategic weapons, like the long-range rockets that they've also been repeatedly asking for. And at the moment, there is resistance to supply them with those strategic weapons for fear of escalation, particularly if they use to gain targets inside Russia. Wolf?
BLITZER: CNN's Sam Kiley on the scene for us in Ukraine, as I say to you every day, stay safe over there, Sam, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, we're getting new video of former President Trump's deposition under oath in the New York probe into his business practices. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, we're getting a rare look at former President Donald Trump testifying under oath. New video released today shows Trump repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment in the New York civil probe of his business.
CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. He's been reporting on this story. So, Brian, what else can you tell us about this deposition?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, probably on the advice of his lawyers, Donald Trump was about as careful as he could be in this proceeding, but he still took the opportunity to take a political shot at New York's attorney general.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I do.
TODD (voice over): In the video, Donald Trump is defiant from the start.
TRUMP: I don't know what I did wrong, but the answer is yes.
TODD: This newly released video is from August 10th of last year, a deposition as part of a civil investigation into the Trump Organization's business practices, conducted by New York State Attorney General Letitia James. After this video deposition was taken, James filed a lawsuit against the former president, some of his children and some executives of his business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, I understand you have a statement that you wanted to read into the record.
TODD: At the beginning of this proceeding, Trump was allowed to give a statement.
TRUMP: This is the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.
TODD: With James in the room, Trump called her investigation a disgrace to the legal system and accused her of going after him for her own political gain.
TRUMP: She developed a political platform and made a career out of maliciously attacking me and my business before she even understood or was elected.
TODD: Then Trump declared he wouldn't be answering any more questions.
TRUMP: Anyone in my position, not taking the Fifth Amendment would be a fool.
TODD: But in the past, Trump has repeatedly ridiculed people who take the Fifth.
TRUMP: The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?
TODD: One legal analyst says Trump's appearance in this video could hurt him in this lawsuit, which is ongoing.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: In the civil setting, unlike a criminal trial, they're able to take the fact of his taking the Fifth Amendment and ask the jury to hold it against him. That's big stuff.
TODD: The legal vise around the former president tightening in another case, as well. Sources familiar with the matter tell CNN the Manhattan district attorney's office this week has begun presenting evidence to a grand jury about Trump's alleged role in paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair he had with her several years ago.
David Pecker, former head of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, was expected to meet with prosecutors in that case this week, sources tell CNN. Pecker was in the middle of what the former president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, says was a 2016 scheme to pay Daniels $130,000 to stop her from going public about that alleged affair, Cohen providing an alleged reimbursement from Trump.
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: This is the case that Donald Trump thought he had put behind him several years ago. He thought he escaped prosecution. And now investigators are looking at him anew. They are deciding whether or not to charge him with something that could upend his political journey.
TODD (on camera): Donald Trump has denied involvement in any payments made to Stormy Daniels and has, in fact, denied ever having an affair with her. A spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, declined to comment on the new acceleration of the Stormy Daniels' case and an attorney for David Pecker, also would not comment.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you very much.
Let's discuss to all of these, joining us now, CNN's Kara Scannell, our Legal Analyst Elliot Williams and Defense Attorney Shan Wu.
Kara, you've been doing a lot of reporting on the former president's legal battles, and there are so many. Tell us what you are learning now.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, so right. What we see from this video today is 38 minutes of what was more than a four-hour interview, this deposition that Trump gave to the New York Attorney's General's Office, and he repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 400 times.
And as Brian laid out nicely in his piece, he does set up the reasons why, but this could have legal ramifications for him. It could be held against him as this civil lawsuit moves forward. And as of now, the judge overseeing this lawsuit has set a trial in this case for later this year. Wolf?
BLITZER: Important. Elliot, this video of Trump's deposition, as we know, is a reminder of the many investigations, legal investigations, he's under right now. What do you see as the most serious?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they're all incredibly serious, Wolf. Look, I mean, I think we lose sight of the fact that any time someone is investigated by state or federal authorities or sued in a $250 million lawsuit as one of them, we lose fact about talking about them all together, but they're all quite serious.
Look, it appears based on reporting that had come out over the course of the last couple of weeks that the Fulton County, Georgia district attorney's investigation is probably pretty far along, and it appears that charges are coming there. But they're all incredibly serious. These are real allegations of frivolous lawsuits and misconduct on the courts should be taken very seriously.
BLITZER: I want to turn, Shan, while I have you, to the Manhattan district attorney now, who is presenting evidence to a grand jury on the hush money case, as it's called. What do you think led to this dramatic escalation? It's pretty dramatic.
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, everyone thought that case was almost dead in the water, and from the reporting, it sounds like maybe, under Trump, DOJ helped to kill that case. But Bragg is feeling kind of confident. He's just won a couple of convictions against the Trump Organization and the CFO. So, that may be why it's resurfacing right now.
I mean, Stormy Daniels may turn out to be the equivalent of taxes for Al Capone for Trump. And this forgotten case, it's relatively easy to prove. I mean, people may not even remember anymore there was a campaign finance issue with the hush money. And under New York State law, if there is a falsification of business records, that is a misdemeanor, and they need to tie it to New York State election law violations to get the felony out of it, but not a very difficult case, so it could go some place.
BLITZER: Well, let me get Elliot to weigh in on this as well. Is this potentially a bigger legal threat to Trump right now than the Fulton County, Georgia grand jury investigation?
WILLIAMS: Now, what I'll note about the Fulton County, Georgia grand jury investigations, that few other things are being investigated there are just straight campaign finance and campaign laws being violated there.
Like as Shan is noting, there is a little bit complexity here, sort of where you have to make a few steps to get there. What prosecutors often think of is, well, what are the elements of the offense and how easily can I prove each one of them?
And a few of the -- from setting aside that she was talking about RICO charges in Georgia, a few of the campaign finance -- pardon me, campaign law violations alleged in Georgia are pretty straightforward and they may be sort of -- there may be a cleaner path to convicting someone.
BLITZER: All these legal battles for Trump are very, very serious. Kara, I know you also have some new reporting about a request the New York attorney general is now making. What can you tell us about that?
SCANNELL: Yes, Wolf, that's right. The New York attorney general's office has asked a judge overseeing thing $250 million fraud lawsuit, asking them to hold the former president, his three eldest children and their attorneys to charge them with sanctions.
And the reason is that the New York Attorney General's Office is saying that they have not responded truthfully to this lawsuit. They're required on a legal document to respond. They're saying that Trump -- some of the statements are demonstrably false, that they contradict previous sworn testimony and that they're using legal arguments that this judge has already ruled against.
Now, this judge, Judge Arthur Engoron, he's a New York State judge, he has previously considered on his own sanctioning the Trump attorneys for repeating some legal arguments he's ruled on. Now, the New York Attorney General's Office is asking him to take a second look at this and to hold a hearing in the near future. Wolf?
BLITZER: Well, let me get, Shan. What do you think the likely outcome of this one is going to be?
WU: They may get sanctioned. It's worth noting, it's so unusual in Trump world, there are so many sanctions against attorneys, issues about frivolous lawsuits. In a simple discovery manner like this, it's rare to have a motion for sanctions just for people admitting something denying others, it's got to be pretty blatant for the New York State A.G. to bringing this and for the court to consider it. And that just seems to be par for course in the world of Trump lawyering.
BLITZER: Yes. This legal battle is not going away by any means. Guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, a newly revealed FBI search at the first site where classified documents related to President Biden were found and why it's just coming to light now.
Plus, George Santos now stepping away from some congressional responsibilities as he faces an investigation into his many lies.
BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning more about the federal investigation of President Biden's handling of classified documents, sources now revealing an FBI search that had not been disclosed by the White House or the president's legal team.
CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is working the story for us. Phil, tell us about this search and why we're just learning about it now when it actually happened back in November.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. The timeline of the acknowledgement of this search certainly raises more questions in what has been a kind of persistent drip, drip of information over the course of the last several weeks.
But to some degree, the explanation, according to justice officials and in past White House statements, is that this was part of the FBI assessment that transpired after the initial classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center, the Biden-affiliated think tank, in early November. Now, that assessment was cited by the Attorney General Merrick Garland when he announced the full timeline that included the appointment of the special counsel in January.
Now, part of this search was essentially to get a sense of the actual location itself. In fact, Wolf, the documents had already been transferred over to the National Archives when the FBI searched the Penn Biden Center. And that search was conducted in coordination and cooperation with Biden attorneys. And what this was all part of was basically the process in the months that led up to the appointment of the special counsel, that review that was put underway once it became clear the classified documents had been discovered.
Now, White House officials in their public statements related to this process throughout said that their lawyers had been cooperating throughout the process, made clear that when the president's home in Wilmington was searched and classified documents were found, that the process of setting up that search by FBI agents was very similar to what they had conducted with the Penn Biden Center as well.
But they never explicitly said there had been an FBI search of the Penn Biden Center. That is now clear that that happened. It happened in mid-November as part of that assessment process. What this all leads to right now, Wolf, is the process that we didn't get any window into throughout several months is becoming more clear by the day.
What isn't becoming more clear at this point in time is where the special counsel investigation is going to lead. We do know that the special counsel, Robert Hur, is slated to start his process this week, taking over this portfolio. But how long that investigation will go and where it will lead, still an open question. White House officials, though, contend they don't believe they didn't anything wrong. And they say when this investigation is complete, it will show that their lawyers did the right things in the right timeline, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Phil, thank you very much, Phil Mattingly over at the White House.
Tonight, President Biden is preparing for his very high-stakes meeting with the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy. Their showdown over the debt limit getting testy just hours before their talks tomorrow.
Let's bring in our Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona and CNN Senior Political Analyst Nia-Malika Henderson.
Melanie, first to you, Biden and McCarthy have been trading barbs just ahead of these critically important talks. What is the latest you are learning?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. There has been so much political posturing ahead of this meeting tomorrow. Earlier today, Speaker McCarthy said that President Biden was irresponsible for refusing to negotiate, whatsoever, on the debt ceiling. Then a little bit later, Biden responded by criticizing McCarthy at a private fundraiser, saying that McCarthy had to make all these off the wall deals to become speaker. And then moments ago, McCarthy responded to that to one of our colleague saying that President Biden just doesn't get it.
So, that back and forth is a pretty strong indication that tomorrow's meeting is not going to be very productive or fruitful but it is an important first step in what is going to be a very lengthy process. And both men are walking into the meeting tomorrow with very different goals in mind. For Biden, he wants to show that Republicans aren't unified just yet over a single plan to cut spending, and for McCarthy, he wants Biden to at least acknowledge that they are going to have to find some common ground with Republicans to resolve this issue. So, still a long road ahead and still very, very far apart between the two sides, Wolf.
BLITZER: That stakes -- the economic stakes are clearly enormous. Melanie, you're there up on Capitol Hill. Let me follow up. This comes as New York Republican Congressman George Santos says he is stepping down from his House committee at least for now. What prompted this move?
ZANONA: Well, there had been growing pressure on George Santos to resign. He is refusing to do that. But I suspect him deciding to remove himself from some of these committee assignments is a way to take some the heat off of him. And Santos also told reporters earlier today that he made this decision on his own accord. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Did McCarthy tell you to step away from the committees or did you make this decision on your own?
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I'm sorry, nobody tells me to do anything. I've made a decision on my own that I thought that's representative of the interests of the voters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: Now, Santos did say that he intends to serve on committees once he is able to clear his name but it remains to be seen whether that is ever going to happen. He is under federal investigation for finances. He is also likely to face a House ethics probe. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, he's got a lot going on.
Nia, you just heard Santos say he made the decision that he thought best represented the voters, the voters in his district. But according to a new Newsday/Siena College poll, 78 percent of the voters in his district say he should resign. How can he square that?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, 71 percent of Republican voters want him to resign. These are people who voted for him and now have no faith in him at this point. He clearly wanted to step down to take some of the heat off of himself and take some heat off of his party. Democrats I think have been pretty expert in some ways, making him the face of the party. And as there are these discussions about who should be on committees, it's really inconvenient, I think, for McCarthy to have him on this committee.
But he's certainly not following the will of the voters, at this point, because the vast majority of voters who voted to put him in Congress are -- want him to step down. And it remains to be seen whether or not this is sort of an interim step, what else is going to happen. Obviously, these investigators are going on, as well.
BLITZER: And, Nia, as you know, Congressman Santos, he actually gave an interview today to the right-wing One America News Network and insists things will be different going forward. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I learned my lesson and I guarantee you that from now on, anything and everything is always going to be above board. It's largely been above board, I'm just going to go the extra step now to double-check and cross reference everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What's your reaction to that, Nia?
HENDERSON: Well, you know, he's lying in that instance, right? I mean, things haven't largely been above board. He created the whole entire resume that was not true.
He made up a Jewish identity. He said his mother died of 9/11 related causes. That was a lie. He lied about his education. He lied about playing volleyball in college. All sorts of random lies he's been telling about himself over these last years.
We'll see if anything else comes out. In that interview, he was kind of defiant. He talked about Biden. He said that Biden was a pathological liar, trying to defend himself there. So it was a bizarre interview, somewhat sympathetic the interview was to him, but he pushed back and said, you know, he won't do it again and he's sorry about what happened before.
We'll see what the voters decide. Listen, Congress could expel him. They would have to go through an ethics committee and they would need 2/3 of voters, folks in Congress, actually someone in the House. That probably won't happen, because McCarthy needs that vote.
BLITZER: You're right. Nia-Malika Henderson, Melania Zanona, ladies, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, official charges just filed against Alec Baldwin for the fatal "Rust" movie set shooting. We'll have details on where the case against him and the film's armorer goes from here.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: In New Mexico, prosecutors have just formally filed charges in the deadly 2021 shooting on the set of the movie "Rust". Alec Baldwin, as well as the film's armorer both facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
CNN's Chloe Melas is joining us with more.
Chloe, so what are the prosecutors alleging.
CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: So the official charges were filed this afternoon, Wolf. And in these charging documents, we get a sense of what led to the district attorney's decision to give, you know, Alec Baldwin these two counts, charges of manslaughter, same with Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who was the armorer on the set of "Rust" in 2021. We have not heard from Alec Baldwin's team and Hannah Gutierrez Reed denying that she did anything wrong. I just want to read to you some of the allegations against Alec
Baldwin in these charging documents. So the district attorney said that Alec Baldwin did not take part in the necessary firearms training, that he only did about 30 minutes of a 90 minute session and on the phone with his family and not paying attention and safety protocols and checks were skipped and that Hannah Gutierrez Reed failed to inspect the gun.
She maintains that she should have been called back into the church for this rehearsal filming and she would have prevented this death of Halyna Hutchins, had she been called back in. And then they also claim that there was no gun malfunction.
Now, Alec Baldwin has claimed that he did not pull the trigger and that the gun went off. He said that to me over the summer when I sat down with him, Wolf. But the district attorney is saying, no. We don't believe that. We believe that he pulled the trigger. We've seen videos and photos from behind the scenes that clearly show his finger on the trigger at different points and that the FBI never found that the gun malfunctioned. They also claim that they found five more live rounds on the set.
And remember, there were never supposed to be live ammunition on the set, Wolf. How did the live rounds get to set? We may never know. It's not explained here and the district attorney said to our CNN Josh Campbell the other week that we may never know and that many safety complaints were not addressed.
They say in the charging documents that if Baldwin had not pointed the gun at Hutchins, that this tragedy would not have occurred and that he should always assume that the gun is a loaded gun and that Alec had worked on over 40 movies with guns. But again, we've reached out to Baldwin and haven't heard anything back.
But as of now, he is still expected this spring to go back and film, finish the movie and that is still to be seen. But a lot is at play here. This could go to trial.
BLITZER: We shall see. Chloe Melas, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, a very dangerous and deadly ice storm in Texas is causing cars to slide out of control and crash on major highways, the triple threat of ice and sleet and snow hitting millions in the South. That's next.
BLITZER: We're following a dangerous winter storm pummeling the central and southern United States.
Our senior national correspondent Ed Lavandera is joining us right now from hard hit Dallas.
How bad is it there now, Ed? ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the
roadways all across north Texas and in central Texas as well, this is a complete mess. This is central express that cuts through the heart of the Dallas area and you would see how light the traffic has been and it's been like this throughout the day -- millions of people staying home from work and from school today because of this winter warning and this winter storm which brought in a heavy amount of sleet and freezing rain earlier today, and more is expected tomorrow.
And it has really blanketed the roadways and made moving around and in the area very treacherous. You could see that is the highway, intersections like this are really kind of hardened up with this sleet that is fallen here. And that in the overnight hours is expected to continue to harden up which will make driving even more treacherous tomorrow.
All of that coming as forecasters are predicting more freezing rain and sleet to continue falling on the area. So, it is something that this -- that the people who live here in North Texas and in Oklahoma and Arkansas will have to brace for more of this winter weather in the day ahead. In fact, forecasters, Wolf, are saying that the worst of this might not be over until Thursday morning before we get a clearing from the intense cold temperatures that is freezing everything here on the ground and making moving around and driving around so treacherous -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Treacherous indeed.
Ed Lavandera, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you later again later tonight, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.