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Biden, McCarthy Wrap High-Stakes Talks On Debt Limit Showdown; Demands For Justice At Funeral For Memphis Man Beaten By Police; City Of Memphis: More Videos To Be Released In Nichols Case; Memphis D.A. Considering Charges Of "False Reporting" On The Initial Police Report On Tyre Nichols' Arrest; CNN In The Trenches With Ukrainian Troops On The Eastern Front; Ukraine: Russia Gearing Up For "Maximum Escalation"; Netanyahu Says He'd Be Willing To Mediate Ukraine-Russia Talks; Fed Approves Smallest Rate Hike Since March As Inflation Eases; Ice And Freezing Rain Wreak Havoc On Southern And Central U.S.; Legendary Quarterback Tom Brady "Retiring For Good". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 01, 2023 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just wrapped up their first high state talks on raising the nation's debt limit. McCarthy telling reporters just moments ago that he thinks he and the President can find some common ground.

Also tonight, mourning in Memphis as Tyre Nichols is laid to rest three weeks after he was brutally beaten by police. We'll take you inside the emotional funeral and the urgent outcry for police reform.

And CNN is in the trenches with Ukrainian soldiers on the eastern front as officials in Kyiv warned that Russia is gearing up for maximum escalation of the war.

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

Let's get right to our top story tonight. New developments, important developments in the debt limit showdown right now. President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just wrapped up a very high stakes meeting at the White House. Their first face to face since McCarthy won the gavel. CNN's Melanie Zanona is up on Capitol Hill. She's got an update for us.

Melanie, what can you tell us about this meeting?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Well, Wolf, there were no major breakthroughs in this meeting, but it was a very important first step in what is going to be a lengthy process. Speaker Kevin McCarthy emerged from the meeting saying that it was positive and that they were able to lay out their vision and that they were able to find some areas where they think they can find a common ground. Take a listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: You know, I think our first meeting was a good meeting. I don't want to put it in any false perspectives. So we both have different perspectives on this, but I thought this was a good meeting. We promised we would continue the conversation. We'll see if we can get there.

I think at the end of the day, we can find common ground. I really do.


ZANONA: Now, we know heading into this meeting that the White House was really going to try to press Kevin McCarthy on what exactly do Republicans want to cut when it comes to spending. But the thing is, Wolf, they have not come to an agreement on that yet. They did have a conference meeting earlier today where they talked about some broad principles. Kevin McCarthy also told reporters just now that he reiterated that they do not want to cut Social Security and Medicare, but they do want to cut back spending.

There are a lot of different ways to do that. There are a lot of different debates about how to get there. So, this is going to be a process. And there is some frustration among Republicans that they don't have a clear plan yet.

I talked to one Republican, Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, he said he stood up in that conference this meeting this morning and demanded more specifics from leaders. But Kevin McCarthy, at this point, he wants to keep the conversation going. He says he doesn't want to negotiate in the press. So the plan here going forward is to try to have a communication and dialogue with the White House and try to have a back and forth.

Heading into the meeting, Kevin McCarthy said his ultimate goal was to try to get President Biden to at least acknowledge that they are going to have to work out some deal with Republicans in order to raise the debt ceiling and that they will need Republican Biden (ph). Up until this point, the White House has said they will not negotiate. They want a clean debt ceiling. They rightly point out that Republicans raise the debt ceiling multiple times under former President Donald Trump without putting any conditions on it.

But they need to get to a point where they're even agreeing to negotiate before they can actually start negotiating, Wolf. So, like I said, this is going to be a long process in a few months ahead. And the stakes really couldn't be higher.

BLITZER: Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill. Melanie, thank you very much.

I want to bring in CNN Anchor and Chief Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, CNN Political Director David Chalian and CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. All right, David, what did you make of what we just heard from the House Speaker? He said it's possible there could be a deal between him and the President.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, that's certainly good news for the country to hear that there is a path forward here. What was astonishing to me for anybody that's observed Washington politics for the last many years, this was not a moment of Donald Trump baiting Nancy Pelosi into something and Nancy Pelosi standing up and storming out and holding a press conference in the driveway that would amp things up. What Kevin McCarthy did here and we just haven't seen this in recent times, the divided government was turn the temperature way down in his comments emerge from the meeting say this was a first step and that it was deemed a productive meeting in Kevin McCarthy's mind.


And the most important thing for countries around the world for the markets to hear and for the partisan players up on Capitol Hill to hear was that he's hopeful that they can even come to an agreement before the deadline, that they don't have to play all the brinksmanship and the full theater of the debt ceiling debate. That maybe they can actually work this out and come to some resolution.

BLITZER: The stakes, as all of us know, for the U.S. economy, for the American people right now in this debate over the debt ceiling, the stakes are enormous.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but what stood out to me, to David's point, is that is not what it sounded like when McCarthy was walking into this meeting. I mean, we had seen them kind of jousting from the White House and from Capitol Hill before this meeting was set up, where the White House was saying they wanted McCarthy to commit to not having the United States default on its debts. And McCarthy was saying that the White House needed to essentially grow up and stop saying that they weren't going to negotiate.

And so, seeing him come out of that meeting with a very different message there of unification, potentially, saying maybe they did have common ground, maybe they could reach an agreement. Obviously, he did not say where those spending cuts that Republicans have been demanding would come from. And that is what every Republican on Capitol Hill has been asked. And none of them have really specified that. He said he wasn't going to negotiate in public.

The other challenge, though, for him is how to get his caucus, his conference behind any agreement that even if he does reach an agreement with President Biden, are they actually going to be able to (INAUDIBLE) Republicans behind that? Because I'm not so sure.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And I think that's a central point. I'm interested in seeing Speaker McCarthy after he comes out of his next meeting with House Republicans, that might be more instructive. This is his first time to the White House as speaker of the House. And we know President Biden, he's very -- he loves the legislative process. He's talking to him for more than an hour. I'm guessing there were some niceties exchanges, but the rubber is going to meet the road here. The challenge for Speaker McCarthy is trying to get his conference to come along here. And that's what the White House sort of views their strength is because Republicans don't necessarily seem unified around what they want here.

So, I'm very skeptical. I hope I'm wrong about this for the good of the country, the markets, as David was saying, but I'm skeptical that they will get this agreement done in advance of the deadline. I can't recall really anything that happens in Washington of any significance happening in advance.

CHALIAN: Your skepticism is well placed. There's no doubt about that. Washington loves a deadline.

And to be fair, Kevin McCarthy said, none of the hard work has happened here.

ZELENY: Right.

CHALIAN: He acknowledged, like, the discussions now need to go forward to come up with some pathway to a resolution. They did none of that work today. That was pretty clear. In fact, I would guess that it was mostly nice of these, Jeff, as you're describing --

ZELENY: Right.

CHALIAN: -- of what that meeting was. But it is a different tone and tenor --


CHALIAN: -- than we have seen in divided government in recent times. And to your point about, yes, we should look to see what Kevin McCarthy says when he comes out of his next House Republican conference meeting, but the math is clear, Democrats are going to need to vote for this. He's not going to be able to raise the debt ceiling, which Kevin McCarthy does want to do eventually, with just Republican votes. So, it's going to be much like that speaker's battle was.

It's going to be this constant equation of, like, how many Republicans are going to be solidly against ever raising the debt ceiling that he knows he's going to lose? How many Democrats does he need to get on board? And how much does he have to give without losing the rest of his conference to get those Democrats on board with what he's doing?

COLLINS: And one thing I'm going to be watching is defense spending, because we've heard them talk about where they do and don't want to make cuts. And he was saying there Social Security, Medicare. And he says, Kev McCarthy, are off the table.

We had the Republican Whip, Tom Emmer, on the show this morning, and he has said previously that they were not going touch defense spending. And when I asked him to reconfirm that this morning, he said that everything was on the table, everything was going to be scrutinized. He added a caveat about taking care of women and men in uniform. But that is going to be a big question because there are some Republicans who were saying, no, we cannot touch that. The idea that they're even talking about that is something that would be kind of unthinkable for the Republican Party just even a few years ago.

But if they don't touch Medicare, if they don't touch Social Security, if they don't touch defense, what else are they going touch? It have to be 85 percent of the rest of the budget. And so, it would just be these massive cuts in spending. So, still big questions, despite the optimism we just heard from Kevin McCarthy.

BLITZER: Yes, it was very encouraging to hear what he had to say. Let's see if he can deliver. He seemed to be relatively optimistic about bringing his party along with him if there's -- if they're close to a deal, but we shall see.

Guys, thank you very much. Good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COLLINS: Be back.

BLITZER: As I often mentioned, I watch your show every morning and enjoy it.

COLLINS: You're our most loyal viewer.

BLITZER: Oh, yes?

COLLINS: So very grateful.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you very much.

Just ahead, we'll go inside the emotional funeral of Tyre Nichols in Memphis three weeks after his brutal beating by police. Much more news coming up. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: More news we're following tonight, the funeral of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. We heard poignant tributes and calls to action as family and friends remembered his life. CNN's Nick Valencia is on the story for us. He's joining us right now.

Nick, this was an extremely emotional funeral today. Update our viewers.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf this was as much a celebration of Tyre Nichols life as it was a call to action. Vice President Kamala Harris, among the notable names in attendance, along with other senior level officials from the Biden administration and Reverend Al Sharpton reprising a painfully familiar role giving the eulogy for Nichols. And there were others whose black family members had been killed at the hands of police. Those who did speak took their time to emphasize the importance of the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and also emphasize that Tyre Nichols' legacy would be used as a symbol for justice in America.


ROWVAUGHN WELLS, TYRE NICHOLS' MOTHER: Tyre was a beautiful person. If it is to happen to him, it's just unimaginable. I promise you, the only thing that's keeping me going is the fact that I really, truly believe my son was sitting in the side from God.

KEYANA DIXON, TYRE NICHOLS' SISTER: When those monsters murder my baby brother it left me completely heartbroken.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And as Vice President of the United States, we demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Joe Biden will sign it.

REV. AL SHARPTON: Why do we want to see the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act pass? Because then you have to think twice for you beat Tyre Nichols. You think twice before you shoot at someone unarmed. You think twice before you chokehold Eric Garner. You think twice before you put your Eric Garner's -- on George Floyd's neck.

BEN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TYRE NICHOL'S FAMILY: And every time you kill one on video, we're going to say the legacy of Tyre Nichols is that we have equal justice swiftly, swiftly, swiftly.


VALENCIA: At a press conference after the funeral was over, Reverend Sharpton echoed those calls for police reform legislation, saying that this was not the end of a funeral, but the beginning of a movement of that legislation. Wolf.

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

Let's discuss what's going on. I want to bring in the Executive Director of the Memphis NAACP, Vickie Terry, CNS Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey, and Civil Rights Attorney Areva Martin.

Vickie, you attended the funeral today. Can you take us inside the service? What did you make of both the remembrances and the demands for justice?

VICKIE TERRY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MEMPHIS NAACP: Oh, my goodness. And you know, as you said, it was so emotional just hearing, you know, his family do reflections of him when he was a child. And then, when we're talking about the reform that we want to happen, I mean, his mom said that he was sitting here on an assignment. And I totally agree.

I'm sitting here now and my emotions are still high, you know. But it was a celebration of life. It was a celebration of his life. And I am here today, and I would like to just reach out across the country to all mothers, all women that have a young man, a nephew or sons in their life to make sure that we push forward with them to pass this act. Because I just got to talking to George Floyd's brother, he was here, him and his wife, and we had so many others that have had their families destroyed by police brutality.

So we've got to do something. We've got to act now. That's what I'm asking. We need to act now.

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey is with us as well. He's the former D.C. Police Chief, also the commissioner -- the Police Commissioner in Philadelphia.

Chief Ramsey, this funeral comes as the city of Memphis, as you well know, now says more videos will be released. Do you expect additional video evidence will also lead to additional firings and possibly more criminal charges?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it could lead to more discipline of some kind. These are people who apparently were not as directly involved as the five that were fired and charged, but they did play some role. Either they failed to take action or they engaged in some other behavior that was outside policy and outside of their training. That's what I expect it'll be.

There may be some video surface from an officer that responded to the scene that shows a different angle of, you know, the beating and things of that nature. But for the most part, I think it's going to deal with the administrative aspect of this, more officers that will receive some internal discipline. Of course, the D.A. will review all this and decide whether or not any of it leads to additional criminal charges or any criminal charges at all.

BLITZER: Yes. Areva, what do you think?

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY & LEGAL AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes. We're hearing from the District Attorney, Wolf, that possible indictments are coming down. So I'm not so certain that this video, as well as other investigation materials that have been revealed as a result of the investigation that's all ongoing won't result in additional charges.

One person that I'm keeping my eye on is that individual that filed that police report. We're hearing that the information in that police report was inaccurate, perhaps falsified that the police officer who filled it out, in fact, just lied. So I think we should keep our eye on that individual, and perhaps there are multiple individuals involved in the filing of that police report. But if there was a false police report filed, if lies were told on that police report, I would not be at all surprised if we don't see additional charges with respect to that individual or individuals.


BLITZER: Vickie, during her remarks at the funeral, the Vice President Kamala Harris demanded that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Are you optimistic lawmakers will meet this moment?

TERRY: Yes, I am 100 percent sure that this act is going to be passed. I just believe it. I mean, this has happened too many times, and I just -- I do believe. I believe that Tyre Nichols will be the blueprint for us passing this act.

BLITZER: Areva, we're learning that the district attorney there in Memphis, who will be my guest, by the way, in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM, is continuing to investigate potential charges of false reporting on the initial police report. How serious would those charges be?

MARTIN: Very serious charges, Wolf. We know as a civilian, if you go into a police department and file a false police report, you can be prosecuted for it. And police officers are held even to a higher standard as it relates to completing police reports.

And we know all too often without body cam, without the pole cam, without cameras, police have some have a history of filing police reports that are inaccurate, that place the blame on the victim. And it is because we have this technology, because we have video camera that so many cases, like the unfortunate case of Mr. Nichols, is brought to the light. So, I do hope that the investigation continues, not just with the district attorney, Wolf, but with the Department of Justice, because I'm also concerned about a pattern and practice inside that police department that needs to be revealed. And as I've said on this show before, I think the police chief herself, perhaps is accountable or needs to be held accountable and may face some liability herself because of the lack of supervision of those individuals involved in the murder of Tyre Nichols.

BLITZER: I'm anxious to get Chief Ramsey, your thoughts, but I want to point out that records now show several of the police officers actually charged in the Nichols killing had a history of violating police department policies. Are there red flags here that leadership should have seen?

RAMSEY: Well, there's one with, I believe it was Haley, where he was a rookie. He was only hired, I believe, in 2020, and there was an allegation of excessive force, a woman whose shoulder was dislocated. His partner was charged, it was sustained, and he eventually resigned. Haley was not charged with excessive force.

But for the most part, it shows that many of these officers are pretty young, which really, you know, would make you wonder why they're in such a specialized unit with that little experience on the street. But there was not any one thing that jumped out at me that would have been what I would call a red flag. Again, certainly there needs to be tight supervision in units like this, and you need to really carefully screen the individuals who are coming into the unit to make sure you aren't bringing problems into a unit like that. So, I'm not surprised there was some disciplinary history, but there was not like a long, long history that I saw in the summary.

BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, Vickie Terry, Areva Martin, guys, thank you very, very much. Once again, coming up in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM, I'll speak with the district attorney down there in Memphis, Steve Mulroy. He's involved directly in this case.

Also ahead, CNN goes inside the trenches on the front lines of the war in Ukraine. Stand by, we have new information. We're taking you live to the war zone right after a quick break.



BLITZER: Right now, we're following some new developments in the Biden classified documents investigation, the FBI searching another one of the President's private homes earlier this morning. Our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is joining us right now.

Evan, update our viewers on this latest search.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This is the third visit by the FBI to one of the properties associated with President Biden, today was at his beach home in Rehoboth. It was about three and a half hours that the FBI was there. According to the White House and to the President's legal team, no additional classified documents were found. Of course, you know, a couple of Fridays ago, they did another search of his home in Wilmington.

And then, we also learned yesterday that the FBI had visited the Penn Biden Center where the first documents were found. The White House counsel's spokesman had a gaggle with reporters today, answer some questions. What is still not clear is there additional searches to be done, Wolf. Listen to him answering that question today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just to be very clear, has the FBI conducted any searches of any other locations associated with President that you or the White House is aware of?

IAN SAMS, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL'S OFFICE: Look, I think we're providing information as this goes on and answering questions about the search activities as they've been happening. I don't want to speak too much to the DOJ's practices in an ongoing investigation.


PEREZ: And, Wolf, you heard him there trying to emphasize how cooperative they're being with the Justice Department's investigation.

BLITZER: Yes. You know, today was also day number one on the job for the new special counsel, Robert Hurt whose job it is to investigate all of this. Does that indicate to you that this story isn't going away anytime soon?

PEREZ: Yes, Wolf, that's the bad news for the President, obviously. The good news is, though, no more documents were found. No more classified documents were found during the FBI search today.


The bad news is that Rob Hur and his team are now on the job, and this is only the beginning. We don't know how much longer this investigation is going to go on. And as you can hear from the tone of the White House and the President's legal team, they are trying to stress cooperation because they want this to wrap up as soon as possible. The fact that the special counsel is only now today beginning his work really does emphasize how much more longer we have to go with this.

BLITZER: Yes, it's going to go on and on. Evan Perez, thank you very, very much.

There's some major international news we're also tracking right now here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Ukrainian officials are warning Russia is gearing up for what they're describing as maximum escalation, just ahead of a possible spring military offensive against Ukraine. CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen has our report from the front lines.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): All out winter warfare on the Eastern front, we're in a trench with Ukrainian paratroopers. They fire on Russian positions using AKs and a U.S. supplied Browning heavy machine gun. They're searching for weak spots in our positions as the commander call sign Ghost. They want to see if we fight back, if we show strong resistance, though, they don't advance.

And this is what strong resistance looks like. The Russians are only about 400 yards away, hidden in the snow and fog, but constantly firing at the entrenched Ukrainians. The enemy uses all kinds of weapons, Bogdan (ph) says, small arms, heavy machine guns, artillery, mortars, rocket launchers and aviation as well.

But so far, the Ukrainians say they haven't lost an inch of territory here.

(on-camera): The Ukrainians say the situation here is reminiscent of some of the worst times in World War II, where they're not only fighting a strong adversary, but the elements as well.

(voice-over): The snow, the mud and the cold make fighting here even tougher. Ukraine's leadership believes the Russians will soon escalate even more after mobilizing hundreds of thousands of men for a likely spring offensive.

But this gunner, who goes by the name Deputy, says the paratroopers are ready. It will be hard, he says. It will be tough, but we will hold because we stand here for our land. If we don't do it, nobody will.

There's a visceral hatred towards Moscow's leaders among these men. In Russia, they have a terrorist dictatorial regime, Bogdan (ph) says. So now the civilized world is fighting against this wild, medieval dictatorship.

As we prepare to leave, incoming grenades explode above.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): And this, the men say, is a relatively quiet day. They expect much worse in the months to come, but their motto is, if not us, who else?


PLEITGEN: And Wolf, when the Ukrainians talk about that, they also say that they believe that especially the months of February and March are going to be extremely tough for them. And, you know, some of those things we are already seeing as we travel along the eastern front line here in Ukraine, there are several places that we've been to where the Ukrainians are saying they're already seeing the Russians beef up their forces there, especially with those people that they mobilized towards the end of last year.

So they do expect that there is going to be a large scale offensive coming from the Russians. But as you heard there from those paratroopers that were with today, they believe they can stand their ground. However, they also say that they are going to need Western weapons from the U.S. and its allies to make that happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Fred, thank you very much. Fred Pleitgen in the war zone for us. Stay safe over there, Fred. Thank you. We appreciate it very, very much.

I want to dig deeper right now. Joining us, Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton. He's a CNN Military Analyst. And we're also joined by Evelyn Farkas, the former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. Colonel Leighton, Ukraine warns that Russia is now gearing up for what they're calling maximum escalation. What are you watching for as Russia clearly wraps up its military offensive?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, the main things that I'm watching for are how the Russians are disposing of their forces, where they're putting them, how they're moving them. Are there new troop concentrations in specific areas?

So for the most part, what we're seeing and what the Ukrainians are seeing is that they're moving into the eastern areas, the areas where Fred was just at. These are really indications that the Russians are moving their forces forward, mainly the conscripts, but they're also moving some of their more experienced units, like the airborne units, into Bakhmut. And that indicates that they really believe that that particular city, that particular town, is one that they need to capture at this point.

BLITZER: You know, Evelyn, what board does Ukraine need right now to prepare for this major Russian escalation that's coming as it waits? It's clearly waiting still for these Western battle tanks to be deployed.


EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, you heard -- Wolf, if you heard Fred talk about the fact that the Russians have air power or they have air, you know, essentially power that they can employ through the air. And I think this is what's missing for the Ukrainians.

You know, going back several months, the Ukrainians were trying to get the MiG, the Soviet era fighter aircraft from the Poles and other NATO allies, and that didn't work. I am hopeful that now, given this new offensive, that we will turn around and, you know, the U.S. can say we'll provide F16s if that's the green light that's required, the cover that's required.

But I think we need to provide the Ukrainians with aircraft so that they can provide cover for their troops on the ground.

BLITZER: Well, let me follow up with Colonel Leighton, you clearly served in the U.S. Air Force. Why is Ukraine publicly lobbying now? They're pleading for these F16 fighter jets from the U.S. and from other NATO allies, despite U.S. opposition that the jets -- the U.S. arguing the jets would be, quote, impractical.

LEIGHTON: Yes. So the Ukrainians believe that they can use these jets with a minimum amount of training, Wolf. I think the fact of the matter is that when you look at how pilots are trained, it can take up to a year to train pilots in certain airframes. Now, in the case of the Ukrainians, I think we're looking at somewhere between three to eight months of training.

So that, you know, requires something. There's also a logistical tale that has to be considered. Plus, the right tactics have to be developed and used by the newly minted F16 pilots if the Ukrainians get that far. So the U.S. is reluctant to do this because of a lot of these considerations, but if the Ukrainians can prove to the U.S. that they can use these aircraft and use them effectively, then perhaps the green light will happen, in spite of objections that we hear right now.

BLITZER: Evelyn, I just want to get your reaction. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN exclusively last night in an interview with our Jake Tapper that he would be willing to mediate between Russia and Ukraine. Listen to this. Listen to this exchange.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: If I'm asked by both sides, and frankly, if I'm asked by the United States, because I think, you know, you can't have too many cooks in the kitchen, if asked by all relevant parties, I'll certainly consider it. But I'm not pushing myself in. I think this is of monumental importance because I think the peace of the world is at stake.


BLITZER: So what's your reaction, Evelyn? How realistic is that possibility?

FARKAS: Wolf, I think everyone wants to be a mediator, but the situation isn't ripe for mediation. I mean, Vladimir Putin is hardly ready to back down, as you hear the Ukrainians saying, and in fact, the Russians themselves. They're ready to launch another assault. They are not giving up.

And obviously, same for the Ukrainians, they're not giving up any square footage, any square meterage of their land. So, that's not a situation that's right for negotiation. One side needs to be winning or both sides need to feel like they're losing.

And so, I think what Prime Minister Netanyahu is offering is fine, but frankly, what I think Israel needs to offer right now is weaponry to the Ukrainians so that they can defeat the Russians and defeat this violent, aggressive, you know, international rights violating foreign policy of the Russian government.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Evelyn Farkas, thank you very, very much. Colonel Leighton, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead, the federal reserve raises interest rates here in the United States once again, yet another attempt to try to keep inflation in check. Why there could be even more rate hikes to come?



Stocks close higher today after the Federal Reserve here in the United States moved to raise interest rates yet again, this time by a quarter point, making it the smallest rate hike since March of 2022.

Let's get right to CNN's Matt Egan is outside the Federal Reserve here in Washington, D.C. Matt, help us break down what the smaller rate hike means for the U.S. economy.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Wolf, it means the Fed believes it's starting to win this war on inflation. They're not ready to declare victory yet, but they are seeing real progress. This is the smallest rate hike since they began this process early last year. And so the Fed is still delivering this tough medicine designed to get inflation back to healthy levels.

It's just lowering the dosage a bit, which is good news because it lowers the risk that they end up overdoing it, that they over medicate the economy and they cause a recession. And during today's press conference, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, he said that he thinks that the disinflationary process has begun.

But he stressed that the Fed is not done raising interest rates just yet. They need to see more proof to believe that inflation really is getting back to healthy levels. So what does all of this mean for everyday Americans? Well, benchmark interest rates are now at the highest level since the fall of 2007, right before the Great Recession. So that means borrowing costs are going to stay high. Car loans have gotten a lot more expensive. Mortgage rates, they're still near 20- year highs, and it's never been more expensive to have credit card debt.

Now, looking forward, we have to remember that the jobs market remains very strong. New numbers out today show that the number of job openings unexpectedly jumped in December to 11 million. There are now two available jobs for every one person looking. And numbers expected out on Friday should show that the unemployment rate remains near historically low levels.


Now remember, the Fed is trying to engineer a soft landing. Get inflation under control without causing a recession. And increasingly there are some reasons to be optimistic. Inflation is cooling off, fed rate hikes may be ending soon, and the jobs market remains surprisingly strong. Wolf, it does look like this soft landing that once looked improbable, it could just happen.

BLITZER: Let's hope it does. Matt Egan outside the Federal Reserve here in Washington. Thank you very much.

Another major story we're following, the bitter cold weather that has been wreaking havoc in the south and central parts of the United States. Our Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is joining us right now from the CNN Weather Center. Jennifer, just how severe is this winter storm?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is a big deal, Wolf. We have seen almost an inch of ice across portions of Texas. We're talking about the hill country of Texas. We've had about half an inch of ice reported in Dallas and it's still coming down. So basically, travel is nearly impossible across the Lone Star State. And this is also spreading into portions of Arkansas, Tennessee, northern Mississippi.

Temperatures are cold, we have a lot of people without power, and temperatures are not going to get above freezing until we get until later tomorrow or even Thursday for some folks, or Thursday afternoon for some folks. 350,000 people without power across Texas alone. And you can see these ice accumulations three quarters of an inch, a lot of areas receiving half an inch. We have fleet and ice reports all across the south, the mid-South, and we still have ice storm warnings in place, winter storm warnings there.

Your winter weather alerts all across Texas in the Deep South. So as this continues for tonight, we'll start to finally see it taper off by tomorrow morning, Wolf. But like I said, temperatures might not get above freezing until late tomorrow or even Friday for some folks.

BLITZER: Let's hope it warms up and warms up soon. Jennifer Gray, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, is Tom Brady finally ready for retirement? What the legendary quarterback is now saying after he has temporarily stepped away away from the game last year.



BLITZER: The legendary quarterback Tom Brady says he's retiring for good this time, after briefly stepping away from football early last year. The announcement today comes after 23 incredible seasons in the NFL.

Let's discuss with CNN Sports Analyst Christine Brennan and former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth. Donte, I know you actually played with Tom Brady during your NFL career, what's your reaction to this news that he says he's retiring, quote, for good?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: Yes, I think it's for real this time. I think that he is, from what I heard reports earlier, say that he is exhausted. He's played 23 seasons. He's pretty much broken or holds every record that you could have as a quarterback, as a player in the NFL. He played in 10 Super Bowls and won seven of them, more than any other franchise in the NFL.

So he's see minute in football lore. But I think when you talk about Tom Brady's legacy, we have to mention him up there with the Mount Rushmore greats, with the Michael Jordan, the Serena Williams, the Tiger Woods. He's that type of player and he's that type of generational player that, you know, I don't know if we'll ever see someone like Tom Brady again in the NFL.

BLITZER: Yes, he's an amazing guy. Christine, do you see Brady's back and forth into retirement as an example of just how difficult, how hard it can be for an athlete of his caliber to leave behind a sport that has become such a large, large part of their identity?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: I do, Wolf, and Donte knows this well. You know, the thrill of playing football or playing any sport, once you leave it, there actually can be mental health issues. I put some of the players I covered with the Washington team would talk about the depression with just not having that anymore.

And so Brady, the rush of this, the high wire act of his life, Wolf, and the success of it, it is intoxicating. If you just want more and more and more, we saw it was exactly a year ago he retired. Then, of course, he unretired about six weeks later. There was also the issue, and I think it's a very important cultural conversation, the issue was of now ex-wife, Gisele Bunchen talking about how he had concussions a few years ago.

She was concerned. She wanted him to retire. He did not want to retire. And then, of course, their marriage ended up dissolving. Whether that was the entire reason, we'll never know and we shouldn't know, that's their business. But in terms of the picture of Brady, this is, I think, in many ways, a personification of the very issues we've been discussing in sports and our culture in terms of the importance of sports, concussions, family and the allure, and then, of course, the mental health issues when it's all over. BLITZER: Yes, important. Donte, Brady is regarded by so many as the greatest quarterback to have ever played the game. The NFL tweeted this truly impressive list of his accomplishments. Is he the goat, the greatest of all times, as they say, in your view?

STALLWORTH: Yes, I think he is. I grew up with 49ers fans. I'm a big Joe Montana, Steve Young guy. So did Tom Brady. We both grew up in Northern California. Fans of the San Francisco 49ers. But, you know, I had a chance to play with Brady, had a chance to watch Montana growing up as a kid, and Brady just won more Super Bowls.

Obviously, I'm much closer to Brady than I am Montana, but I think Brady is. And like I said before, you have to put him up there on the Mount Rushmore when you're talking about some of the greatest. He transcended the sport of football. He's up there with Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, those type of competitors.


BLITZER: Yes, I think you make a good point, Donte. Thank you very much. Christine, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, Tyre Nichols remembered by family and friends at a very emotional funeral earlier today. The Memphis district attorney is standing by to discuss all the latest developments in the case. We'll do that when we come back.


BLITZER: Happening now, demands for justice at the funeral for Tyre Nichols, the Memphis man fatally beaten by police. The district attorney on the case joins us live this hour. We'll also have an update on the investigation and whether more criminal charges potentially are in the works.

Also tonight, we're learning that the FBI is now investigating Republican Congress Member George Santos. A veteran telling CNN that federal agents interviewed him about his claim that Santos took money from a fund for a dying dog.

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