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Zelenskyy Says, New Russian Offensive May Already Be Getting Started; Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) On Vote To Oust Her From Committee, That Was About Revenge; D.A. Pushing State To Expedite Investigation Into Others Involved In Tyre Nichols' Case; One-On-One With Maryland Governor Wes Moore. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 02, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, an intense new barrage of missile strikes in Ukraine as President Zelenskyy warns Russia's renewed military offensive may already be getting started. CNN was on the scene of attacks that sent civilians flea for cover, including a giant blast just yards away from our crew.

Also tonight, Representative Ilhan Omar is slamming the House vote to remove her from the key foreign affairs committee, the Democrat calling it an act of revenge by Republicans. But Speaker Kevin McCarthy is denying any partisan tit-for-tat.

And new questions about additional videos related to the Tyre Nichols fatal beating by police after the D.A. told me up up to 20 hours of footage has yet to be released. I'll talk live this hour with the Nichols' family attorney, Ben Crump.

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

Tonight, Ukraine's warnings about Russia's next move are growing more ominous and more urgent, as Vladimir Putin's forces unleash new attacks targeting Ukrainian civilian areas.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen and Sam Kiley are both on the ground for us in Ukraine with firsthand reporting on these new Russian strikes.

First to you, Fred. You and your crew had a very, very close call in Kramatorsk. Walk us through what happened and the current fighting unfolding there in the east.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, firstly, we certainly did have a very close call. And, essentially, what happened is that, the night before, there had been a big airstrike on a residential building in Kramatorsk, a missile hitting that building, leveling the entire structure. Several were killed. Others people were wounded in that incident.

So, we went out there today to film the scene of the rescue operation that was still going on, a very large rescue operation with a lot of police officers, first responders also on the scene as well. So, we got to the scene, which is really in downtown Kramatorsk, right in the center of town. And we just left our vehicles, gotten out of our vehicles and started making our way to the scene of the first strike when all of a sudden there was a gigantic explosion right behind us. And that was another missile that had impacted right in the building where we had parked our vehicles.

Now, we then made our way or tried to make our way to safety to another building. And as we were walking or going to that other building, I looked around and then saw that another missile struck almost in exactly the same place.

Now, the Ukrainians later say that they believe that these were S-300 missiles, Wolf. Those are missiles that are normally used to take down aircraft. And you can use them in a ground to ground configuration, but when that is done, they become extremely inaccurate. And then, obviously, if they are used in population centers, there is the recipe for disaster and a big amount of civilian casualties.

In this case, there were several people who were wounded. There's obviously also those people who were killed in the initial strike. But, essentially, what happened there, Wolf, is that there was an ongoing rescue operation going on, a lot of civilians in the area, rescuers in the area, and the Russians targeted exactly that area once again in spite of the fact that a lot of civilians were on the ground there.

And it really is a pattern that we've been seeing recently with a lot of those towns that are a little bit behind the actual frontlines that had been fairly quiet over the past couple of weeks. Those are now being struck once again as the Russians really seem to be intensifying their assault in a lot of places in the east. Wolf?

BLITZER: Fred, stand by. Really happy that you're safe and your crew's okay. This was a very, very dangerous situation.

Let's go to Sam Kiley right now. You and your crew, Sam, you also found yourselves in a very dangerous position when you were in Kherson. Tell us about that and what you are seeing right now on the ground.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Wolf, Kherson was liberated for many months of Russian occupation in the middle of November. We were going in -- we went in this morning to make a third or fourth visit that we've been into the city since then because of the reports of ongoing and escalating levels of bombardment.

A very similar picture in some ways to what was going on in Kramatorsk Fred was so dramatically reporting there, but the difference is that the enemy, that is the Russian troops, are literally at the end of the main drag. The main drag in Kherson leads down to the Dnipro River. And on the other side of the river, the Russians have got battle tanks, they have got GRAD multiple rocket launching systems, they have got mortars. And they all fly in a very short range indeed into Kherson. So, Kherson, where two people were killed overnight, was bombarded with dozens of different forms of weapon and a number of people were injured, we understand.


We were in constant contact with emergency services throughout the day from the center of town and they were not actually going out into any of the areas that had been attacked because of the relentless level of bombardment that they were enduring. Indeed, the emergency services consider themselves such a target of the Russians that we weren't even allowed to meet with them or even identify their locations because they need to keep it secret from the Russians. We were simply arranging to go to rendezvous if they went out into the field, but they were unable to such was the level of bombardment. There was talk that certainly several dozen salvos, several dozen strikes against this regional capitol now in the hands, back in the hands of Ukrainians, Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by for a second, Sam. I want to go back to Fred. Fred, I want you listen, and our viewers to listen something very, very ominous that Vladimir Putin in Russia said today. Listen to this.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: We are not sending our tanks to their borders, but we have something to answer with and it will not end with the use of armored vehicles.


BLITZER: What's the message that the Russian leader, Putin, is sending here, Fred?

PLEITGEN: Well, I think it's certainly Vladimir Putin trying to strongly dissuade the U.S. and its allies from sending advanced weapons to the Ukrainians to help them obviously defend their country. It seems to be a not so veiled threat that Russia obviously does has a big stockpile of nuclear weapons and something that we've heard from Vladimir Putin throughout the time of this invasion has been going on.

You'll recall, Wolf, that right after the big invasion of Ukraine started, Vladimir Putin increased the readiness level of Russia's nuclear forces then. When you had the first mobilization in the fall of this past year, he once again said look, we have big, nuclear weapons and no one should think we're bluffing. So now, as western nation, the U.S. and its allies have talk about, or have decided to send main battle tanks to Ukraine. That is something that Vladimir Putin picked up on today.

And, of course, one of the things that we have to mention is that he said all of this at the memorial service for the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, where, of course, the Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany. And he was saying, look, once again, it's tanks from Germany that could be rolling towards Russian positions and that's when he made that threat. So, clearly, Vladimir Putin, warning western nations, but, of course, it's not something that we haven't heard from him before, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Fred Pleitgen and Sam Kiley, thanks very much, as I say to you guys every day, stay safe. And I'm glad, especially today you guys were very close to these Russians' air strikes against civilian targets in Ukraine. We'll talk again tomorrow.

Let's get more on the state of the war now. Joining us, CNN Military Analyst, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark, CNN Contributor on Russian Affairs Jill Dougherty and the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine, Evelyn Farkas, she is now executive director of the McCain Institute.

General Clark, is this the beginning of this renewed Russian military offensive in Ukraine and how much worse will it get from here?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think we haven't really started to see the real beginning of the offensive. This is more of a preparatory phase. This is to discomfort the Ukrainian people, put pressure on the government, exhaust resources, but the forces that will be involved in this offensively are apparently being moved forward. There's training that's been going on for several months. Many of the 300,000, maybe more than that that were mobilized, were sent forward but many were not.

So, I think we're looking probably two to three weeks in the future before the main offensive really kicks off. It would kick off with some effort to blow through the Ukrainian defenses.

BLITZER: Evelyn Farkas, what's your assessment? What's going on right now?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: Well, I think it is exactly as General Clark said. You know, there's a lot of posturing now. Putin is trying to intimidate the Ukrainian people. He's trying to intimidate the west out of providing ongoing and increased support to Ukraine. And it hasn't worked all along.

It looks like perhaps he's mobilizing additional troops to throw into the fight as early as perhaps now. At least that's what the Ukrainians are saying. But I'm a bit skeptical about what the outcome will be given that we don't believe that they have the equipment and training for all those people.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, how do you interpret Putin's rather thinly veiled threat of maybe using nuclear weapons that we just heard?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: As Fred mentioned, he said it before and I'm sure he's going to say it again. It's basically the one thing that he can hold out and scare the world with. So we have to be prepared that he's going to continue to say this. You can't down play it. I mean, you know, again, we don't know whether he actually in the end would.

[18:10:03] But I think what is really important is that context. The Battle of Stalingrad, 80 years today, Putin is trying to look tough. He's talking to the Russian people saying remember World War II? Well, this is the same thing. He's drawing a direct line between what happened in World War II with the Nazis and Soviet Union, although he constantly depicts it as Russia, not the Soviet Union, right? And then, you know, he's saying we can -- we have to pull together and this is very, very important.

And Wolf, today, in Volgograd, which is the name of the city of Stalingrad today, they actually unveiled a statue to Stalin. So, I think that gives you an idea of how Putin now is kind of hijacking World War II history in order to pull people together and actually scare Russians into believing that they are going to be invaded.

BLITZER: And, General Clark, just very quickly. These Russian attacks targeting civilian targets, residential apartment buildings, for example, killing a whole bunch of Ukrainian civilians, are these war crimes that are going on right now?

CLARK: Yes, they're war crimes but there are so many war crimes. The whole ethnic cleansing, the attack itself is a massive war crime and the United States should take the lead in indicting Mr. Putin and calling for international law against Russia.

BLITZER: We'll see if that happens. General Clark, thank you very much. Jill Dougherty, Evelyn Farkas, thanks to you as well. Awful situation in Ukraine.

Just ahead, House Republicans make good on their threat to kick Democrat Ilhan Omar off the foreign affairs committee. We're going to tell you how the vote went down and we'll get new reaction from Congresswoman Omar herself. That's next.



BLITZER: The Biden White House is weighing in tonight on the House vote to oust Representative Ilhan Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee, calling it a political stunt by Republicans.

Our Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean is joining us from Capitol Hill right now. Jessica, walk us through how all this vote unfolded.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was something that, of course, House Democrats really had their eye on as well as the House GOP. This was a pledge that Kevin McCarthy had made and he made good on it today when they did successfully vote to remove her from that committee. But McCarthy said this was not tit-for-tat for the Democrats removing Republicans from some committees when they were in power. I'll let you listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We're not removing her from other committees. We just do not believe when it comes to foreign affairs, especially the responsibility of that position around the world with the comments that you make. She shouldn't serve there.

So, if there is a concern, it's not tit-for-tat, but I think in moving forward, every single member of Congress has a responsibility to how they carry themselves.


DEAN: And all of this was done, the House GOP said, in light of Omar's comments around Israel that were the past comments that had been condemned by members of both party. But it's worth noting, Wolf, that just today, she signed on to a resolution that affirms Israel and supports Israel as an ally and condemns anti-Semitism.

I also caught up with her after that vote. She said that this was really about revenge more than anything else, that she was disappointed in it. That it felt like a witch hunt, but is that this was about revenge in her eyes. And she was surrounded by other House Democrats that were really trying to show how much they supported her, cheering out that they were all fighting to have her on their committees. And then we later found out that Hakeem Jeffries will move to place her now on the House Budget Committee. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Jessica Dean up on Capitol Hill.

I want to bring in our Chief Political Correspondent and State of the Union Anchor Dana Bash, along with CNN Senior Political Analyst Nia- Malika Henderson.

So, Dana, you had an excellent interview with Congresswoman Omar on Sunday on State of the Union. Talk about what your sense is what's going on right now. She says this is revenge that's going on. What do you think?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Of course, some of it is revenge not just with her but with the two other Democrats who were just taken off of the Intelligence Committee because the -- on that committee, Republicans were able to do that without a full vote. There's no question that this is politics.

One of the things that Jessica just talked about, which I don't think has gotten as much attention as it could, is the fact that there has been, for the past several year, bipartisan concern in some areas, discussed with some of the things that Congressman Omar has said, a pattern of things that she has said, a lot of which she has apologized for. Again, she did that on State of the Union on Sunday. And some of the discord has been within her own Democratic Party.

And what Jessica talked about is that she signed on today to a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, supporting Israel, which some of her progressive friends have said to me that they were surprised she did. She did that in part so there would be a unified Democratic vote against this because there are some Democrats, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey worked on this, and other -- maybe a lot of them I think believe are Jewish Democrats who wanted her to affirm those sentiments before saying, yes, we will support you to stay on foreign affairs. Even though she was pulled off, it was a partisan vote.

BLITZER: Nia, how do you see this?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. No, I mean, I think you have Democrats saying it was a tit-for-tat and this, of course, goes back to what happened in 2021 with members of the Republican Party, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar in some of the social media posts involving violence that they posted and some conspiracy theories around 9/11.

Temperatures are high on Congress. It's a very polarized Congress. If you think about McCarthy, his own caucus is itself polarized.


So, he has to kind of balance the needs and desires of kind of a far right caucus and then a more moderate part of his caucus as well.

What was interesting today was he did come out and say maybe there needs to be some sort of committee to figure out what a code of conduct should be among folks on the Hill rather than this kind of revenge and tit-for-tat that we've seen that seems to have sort of enflamed some of the division, a lot of speeches on the Hill today from Democrats, very fired up about this. So maybe going forward this committee can kind of calm things down a bit.

BLITZER: Yes, it's interesting, Dana, Kevin McCarthy, the speaker, was saying that he wanted her off this committee because of what she had said, but he decided to have Marjorie Taylor Greene on a committee even though she was accusing the American Jewish community of engaging in, you know, laser -- space laser to do all sorts of bad things to the American people.

BASH: Yes. And she has -- she was since taken on tour of the Holocaust museum and she was trying to -- people around her and Kevin McCarthy were trying to educate her on how hurtful and harmful the anti-Semitic comments that she was making were, and yet then she appeared over the summer, I believe, with Nick Fuentes, who is an avowed white supremacist. So, you're absolutely right. There is not consistency here. There is hypocrisy across the board on this and it's important to point out.

What is also interesting, Nia, I think what you just said about McCarthy trying to be more statesman-like going forward, that Marjorie Taylor Greene example notwithstanding, that's because of pressure from moderate flank of his own conference who say, we've got to be less extreme.

HENDERSON: Yes, that's right. And some of them didn't want this to happen and he essentially had to go to them and say maybe there should be this committee. We need to find a way forward that's not as divisive. And they also don't want the party to be defined by things like this, going after someone like Ilhan Omar, who is an immigrant, who is from Somalia, I believe, and is Muslim. So, it's not the greatest look, I think, if you're a Republican, particularly a moderate.

BLITZER: Yes. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaking about Jewish space lasers, that's pretty anti-Semitic itself.

All right, coming up, we'll have the latest out of Memphis on the fatal police beating of Tyre Nichols. An attorney for the Nichols' family, Ben Crump, is standing by live, he'll join me right after the break.



BLITZER: There are new questions tonight about other individuals involved in the Tyre Nichols police beating and whether anyone else could actually face criminal charges.

CNN's Nick Valencia is joining us now. He's got an update. So, could more charges actually still be filed, Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are an anticipating them. We verified with the district attorney's office in Shelby County that they are now looking into the potential of filing charges over a false police report.

We verified with the district attorney's office that the initial police report was riddled with contradictions or a bundle of contradictions when compared to what we saw happened in the video and notably makes no mention of officers kicking and punching Nichols while he is lying on the ground.

Meanwhile, we are also standing by for additional video and audio to be released. One of the big questions we have is why did officers pull Nichols over to begin with. Initially, we were told I was because reckless driving, the police chief later clarifying saying there's no evidence of that. Will the new video and audio provide clarity into that question? Listen to what the district attorney had to say.


STEVEN MULROY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE: There's a lot of footage, maybe as much as 20 hours, and some of it I think may be more relevant because of the audio and a lot of it depicts things that take place after the beating has already occurred. And people are sort of talking afterwards, even after the ambulance takes Mr. Nichols away.


VALENCIA: That was the district attorney speaking to Wolf Blitzer last night.

Meanwhile, we know that the police department in the city is going to be the ones who release the video. We reached out to the police department earlier today, Wolf. They tell us that they are building a strategy and plan on how and when to release that. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, lots going on, Nick Valencia, thank you very, very much.

Let's discuss all of this and more with the civil rights attorney, Ben Crump. He's also the lawyer for the Nichols' family. Ben, thank you so much for joining us.

You offered some very powerful remarks during the funeral service for Tyre Nichols yesterday. First, how is the family doing now?

BEN CRUMP, TYRE NICHOLS' FAMILY ATTORNEY: You know, Wolf, under the circumstances, I think RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells the family are being incredibly graceful. Please keep them in prayer.

BLITZER: We certainly are. You just heard the Shelby County district attorney there in Memphis, who joined me here in THE SITUATION ROOM last night, tell me that the audio captured on additional footage of Nichols' beating is likely to be very relevant to the investigation. Have you already heard these additional tapes?

CRUMP: We have not, but we were told by the city attorney that they're prepared to let us have them, as well as the public. And, obviously, transparency is the key. We were under the impression that we got everything, but I pray with this next release that will be everything so we can connect all the dots.


BLITZER: What else do we know about these 20 hours of additional videos, as the district attorney told me yesterday? Do you know when they might be made public and what else we might hear in those videos?

CRUMP: Well, I think like Rodney Wells, Tyre's father said, and Rowvaughn, they believe there was always a conspiracy to cover up the truth, Wolf Blitzer. They said, when the police came and banged on their door and said that their son was driving erratic and is he on drugs or anything, and then they said they only pepper sprayed him and tased him. And they said, well, where's he at? They say he's nearby but you all can't come to see him. And they said why not. They said, because he's under arrest.

And it wasn't until 4:00 that morning that the doctor from the emergency room called them to say, you know, your son is having a cardiac failure and his lungs are collapsing and you all need to get here immediately. And she said, but they told us we couldn't come, and that's when the doctor told her about his medical condition.

And so they believed that was part of a conspiracy. So, nothing, nothing surprises them about what the police say about what happened to Tyre now.

BLITZER: As you know, there are so many questions about that initial police report of this incident. Ben, I'm curious, have you actually seen that report yourself?

CRUMP: I have, and it reminds you so much, Wolf Blitzer, of the first police report that was released regarding George Floyd, and then we saw the George Floyd video. Just imagine for a second, Wolf Blitzer, without these body camera videos and these surveillance videos, how many black people would have been killed unjustifiably and swept under the rug based on the police report?

BLITZER: Is there anything in that initial police report, Ben, that the family takes issue with?

CRUMP: Well, certainly. The fact that they left out almost everything we saw that happened on the video. They never talked about Tyre being compliant. They never talked about how they hit him and kicked him and hit him with a police stick, and how they failed to render aid. They said none of that in that police report. And so the family takes exception with almost every part of that police report.

BLITZER: You've said, Ben, that the Nichols family plans to file a civil wrongful death lawsuit. When will you take that step?

CRUMP: Attorney Romanucci and Attorney (INAUDIBLE) and I, we are trying to get as much of the information that we can. We think we have a lot of it but we want to try to dot every I and cross every T before we file that lawsuit.

We still want to get a complete autopsy in our hands before we file that lawsuit. But as soon as we get all that information, you can best believe that we will bring every legal action possible to make whole the family of Tyre Nichols as much as we can for this police lynching of their son.

BLITZER: Ben Crump, thank you so much for joining us. We will stay in very close touch with you. I always appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

CRUMP: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, a balloon in the sky potentially spying on the United States right now. What the Pentagon is saying about the suspected Chinese operation, that's next.



BLITZER: Tonight, U.S. officials just disclosed apparent evidence of China's spying on the United States. The Pentagon has been tracking a very high altitude surveillance balloon flying over the continental United States for days now.

CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is working the story for us. What more can you tell us, Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Pentagon is saying that they are confident that this is a Chinese government spy balloon that has been floating across the continental United States for the past several days now.

They say that they have been tracking it the entire time. They took immediate steps to stop it from carrying out that surveillance. And what's notable, they say, is not just the altitude at which it's flying, and that well above where commercial aviation and planes fly, but it is the amount of time that it has spent been loitering or hanging out, in the words of a senior defense official. It is loitering longer than past instances like this. And there have been several past examples over the past few years, the Pentagon says. They wouldn't put an exact number on that.

Now, why it is loitering for longer? That is not clear, but it is clear that its mission is to gather intelligence. And it has been flying over several sensitive sites, including military sites. One of the most sensitive military sites is in the state of Montana where this balloon was spotted. And there is where the U.S. houses, one of its three areas of siloed nuclear missiles. So, it has been tracked this entire time.

The Pentagon has noted that this balloon, in terms of intelligence gathering, does not add more value than say a Chinese satellite in the sky. So, Wolf, that does raise questions about why the Chinese chose this method, why they chose to send a balloon across the continental United States.


BLITZER: And which raises the immediate question to me, as a former Pentagon correspondent, why hasn't the United States shot down on this balloon already?

MARQUARDT: Well, simply, Wolf, because it's too dangerous. There was that option. The president asked for military options and was told, it was advised not to do this. It was something that they considered doing yesterday but decided that it would be simply potentially too damaging to both property and people on the ground. Wolf?

BLITZER: Alex Marquardt reporting, a very serious situation indeed. Thank you very much.

Coming up, I'll speak to the new governor of Maryland, Wes Moore, and get his reaction to the brutal death of Tyre Nichols.


BLITZER: In Maryland, the state's new Democratic governor is laying out a very ambitious agenda after eight years of Republican leadership.


Governor Wes Moore, the first African American elected to Maryland's top job, delivered his first State of the State Address yesterday.

Governor Moore is joining us right now from Annapolis.

Governor, congratulations once again. Thanks very much for joining us.

I want to start with the killing of Tyre Nichols, which you have called an unneeded reminder of the reforms that that are necessary. I know addressing violent crime and police reform are critical parts of your agenda.

What can governors do at the state level to make sure this sort of senseless killing never happens again?

GOV. WES MOORE (D), MARYLAND: Well, I think we have to remember that we have to address both. We're not going to separate these two items because the safety for our community members is real and we know that that means feeling safe from people, from their communities who might do them harm or feeling safe from the people whose job it is to protect them.

You know, what we saw with Tyre Nichols was unforgivable, no matter who was doing it. But what truly made it so unbelievable heartbreaking for each and every one of us was the fact that the individuals who were guilty of this, their job was to protect them. And so, we have to make sure that we're putting together real reforms, true reforms, around making sure there's accountability for the way that policing is taking place within neighborhoods and also insuring all people in communities have a right to feel safe from threats, no matter where those threats happen to be coming from.

But those two things must happen simultaneously, and that's exactly how we're leading on it here in Maryland.

BLITZER: You said, Governor, that you fought back tears while watching the video of Tyre Nichols' killing. Can you talk about what it was like to see and hear that video?

MOORE: That level of barbarism was unforgettable and unforgiveable, because, you know, what we saw, and, you know, I tell you, Wolf, you know -- I'm a -- I've been a governor for now only a few weeks. But I know when I looked at that video, I didn't just look at that video as Maryland's governor. And I didn't just look at that video as the only African-American governor in this country.

I looked at that video as a human being. And the inhumanity that was shown towards Mr. Nichols that day was something that I and none of us should ever forget. And so, I know that in this time -- and when we think about the policies that we have to push together, when we think about the urgency that we have to push these policies forward in, it needs to be done in a context of remembering what it is that we saw.

And we saw a brutality and a barbarism that should never, ever be forgotten when we're talking about how quick we need to move with the reforms that are going to be necessary.

BLITZER: As you probably know, members of the Congressional Black Caucus met today with President Biden over at the White House. Their issue was to discuss police reform.

Has the Biden administration, Governor, and Democrats overall for that matter, failed to put a sufficient priority on police reform?

MOORE: Well, I look at what's happened here in the state of Maryland where, you know, a few years ago, the Maryland legislature actually with the leadership also of our speaker of the house who also happens to be the first African-American -- first African-American and first woman to ever hold that role, really led on a police reform package that I think was a smart package and a good package. That identified the need for things like police cameras and body cameras, identified the need for the transfer of records when an officer gets moved from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction.

But the thing we continue to see is more still continues to -- there's a need that we still have to address. And that includes things like how are we thinking about guidance for measurements of police stops? How are we thinking about guidance when it comes to both the recruiting of officers, where we're recruiting our ourselves from, and at the same time, making sure there's core measurements of accountability.

And so, there's a lot that's been done. And we've seen that work here in the state of Maryland, but I think what we continue to see within our neighborhoods is that more needs to be done in conjunction and coordination with our police force and with police officers. But more still needs to be done to make sure there's real measurements of accountability enough for people in our communities that they do feel safe.

BLITZER: As you know, President Biden has called himself a bridge to the next generation of leaders. Do you think he should run for re- election?

MOORE: I think he should run for re-election. And I look forward to supporting him.

You know, I think about just this past week. We welcomed the president here to Baltimore where we announced a partnership that's going to be a near $6 billion partnership to do construction on the Frederick Douglass Tunnel, which is going to not just increase -- increase measurements of high-speed rail within, that we're going to have within the Baltimore region and across the state of Maryland.


It's going to be environmentally friendly rail, and environmentally friendly travel. And also, it's going to create 30,000 jobs, 20,000 construction jobs alone, and we're talking about good, strong, union jobs.

And so, I'm excited about the partnership that we've -- that we've developed and continue to develop with the Biden administration. I'm looking forward to the fact that in Maryland, they know they have a very real partner. This is going to be Maryland's decade.

And our ability to focus on work and wages and wealth, our ability to continue what we're doing around education and transportation, that's all being done in partnership with the Biden administration. And I look forward for that partnership to continue.

BLITZER: In your inaugural address, Governor, you said Maryland does not have to choose between a competitive economy and an equitable one. How will you put that into practice with your Democratic majorities in the general assembly?

MOORE: Yeah. I'm proud of the fact when we talk about governing. We address the fact that we've been offered false choices. That people say you have to choose between a competitive economy or an equitable one. You do not.

And if you look at our budget, the way we presented it, our budget, we actually put more towards public education funding, public school funding than any governor in the history of the state of Maryland. And we still maintain a 10 percent in the rainy day fund for balancing about how we can prepare for any type of economic downturn that could happen within -- happen within the future.

That we say we make historic investments in transportation assets that we're going to need, and at the same time, we offer tax cuts because we offer tax cuts for children in poverty and also for veterans, and making sure that Maryland is the best place in this country for our military veterans to be able to retire. And so, we're not making a choice here.

And Maryland is not going to be a farm system for other states. We are going to be bold. We are going to be ambitious. But we know that being ambitious does not mean being reckless. And Maryland is going to lead the way in order for us to show what exactly that looks like in practice.

BLITZER: Maryland Governor Wes Moore, thank you very much for joining us. And good luck to you.

MOORE: Thank you so much for having me.

BLITZER: And we'll have more news just ahead, including the former principal at that Virginia school where a 6-year-old shot his teacher. That principal now speaking out for the first time.



BLITZER: We're following more unrest the Middle East. Israeli war planes bombing Gaza after reportedly receiving Palestinian rocket fire. The renewed fighting comes just 24 hours after the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken left the region on a trip where he had urged calm on all sides.

Israel says the U.S. air strikes targeted a chemical production plant and a weapons manufacturing facility owned by Hamas.

Other news we're following right now, nearly a month after a young child shot his teacher inside their Virginia classroom, we're finally hearing directly from the school's former principal. CNN's Brian Todd has been covering this story for us.

Brian, give us the latest.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this former principal's lawyer says she's been getting threatening voice mails since the shooting as school administrators were roundly blamed for not acting on warnings that the child had a gun that day, but the ex-principal now says if any warnings were issued, she didn't get them.


TODD (voice-over): For the first time, the woman who was in charge at the elementary school where teacher Abby Zwerner was shot by her six- year-old student has given her side of the story.

Briana Foster-Newton, former principal at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, through her lawyer, today responded to claims from Zwerner's attorney that school administrators were notified multiple times in the hours before the January 6th shooting that the 6-year-old had a gun on campus and was threatening people.


TODD: Foster-Newton's attorney saying the ex-principal was not one of those informed of the threat.

BRANCH: The fact of the matter is that those who were aware that the student may have had a gun on the premises that day did not report this to Ms. Newton at all. I repeat, Ms. Newton was unfortunately not one of the administrators who was informed by those in the school that day who had this critical information.

TODD: When pressed on exactly which school administrators were told of the threat --

BRANCH: I cannot answer any other questions. What I can confirm is what I said in my statement in the fact of the matter she was not informed.

TODD: The assistant principal of Richneck resigned last week, but it's not clear if she was one of the administrators who were informed that the boy had the gun. The former principal is going to be reassigned to another position but remains employed in the school district, her lawyer says.


TODD: Last week, Ms. Zwerner's attorney announced she intends to file a lawsuit against the school district, claiming administrators at the school dropped the ball when they were warned that day.

TOSCANO: Three different times, three times school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school, and was threatening people. But the administration could not be bothered.

TODD: Could the former principal still be in legal jeopardy? Even if she knew nothing of the threat?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: If she was on campus, if she was available for people to come to her with threats and they were supposed to do so, she had established that chain of command, done everything that she could have done to make sure that these sorts of threats got to her and yet they didn't, then she might not be liable.


TODD (on camera): A spokeswoman for the Newport News school district told CNN she could not comment on whether the former principal was made aware of a gun on campus that day and could not discuss who might have been informed citing the ongoing investigation. Attorneys for the teacher Abby Zwerner and the 6-year-old's shooter's family told CNN they had no comment on the former principal's claims -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks for that report. Brian Todd reporting for us.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.