Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

White House Releases Results Of Healthy Biden's Physical Exam; Biden Says, Nothing Suggests Last Three Objects Were Tied To China; Georgia Grand Jury Says, Some 2020 Election Witnesses May Have Lied; Biden Administration Deploying CDC Teams To Toxic Spill In Ohio; Results Of Largest Study Yet On Immunity After COVID Infection. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 16, 2023 - 18:00   ET




PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, the White House just released the results of President Biden's physical exam. His doctor declaring the president remains healthy and vigorous. Will not have any impact on voter concerns about his age?

Also tonight, a new valve by the president to shoot down anything in the sky that threatens the U.S., he is speaking out for the first time about the downing of three unidentified objects saying there is no evidence they are linked to China or its spy balloon.

And a special grand jury investigating former President Trump says some witnesses may have lied in their testimony about efforts to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results. We are breaking down the new revelations about the probe and the possibility of perjury charges.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment tonight, I'm Pamela Brown and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get right to the breaking news, the just released results of President Biden's annual medical checkup. The new information about his health taking on added significance as the 80-year-old president is expected to run for re-election.

Our Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has all the new details. So, what is the president's doctor saying about his health, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, the annual physical for any president is important, no question about that. But as you noted, the importance is certainly elevated by the fact the president is not only the oldest president in the history of the country but is also on the verge of announcing a re-election campaign that would take them to the age of 86 should he win.

However he has a clean bill of health. You see the president right there. He's at Walter Reed this morning to have his physical, his first since the end of 2021. And the Doctor Kevin O'Connor, the president's Physician, saying in the summary of the six page report, quote, the president remains a healthy vigorous 80- year-old male who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency to include those as chief executive, head of state and commander in chief.

And as Doctor O'Connor's memo goes through the various elements of what was a pretty extensive assessment by both the physician and a team of physicians across different expertise, it makes clear that there has been no significant changes from the president's last physical, beyond the fact that the president did test positive for COVID. He said there are no signs of long COVID based on this assessment and also notes that there was a lesion removed from the president's chest that is still currently under review at this moment in time.

The president has lost about six pounds. But beyond that, there are no major changes from what we saw in the last physical. Obviously, Pamela, this is likely to be the last health check we get at least in the public sphere before the president announces his decision on re- election, which at this point, which everybody hear expects will most certainly be a green light.

BROWN: Yes, that's right. And you mentioned COVID, he had it last summer, he was then re-infected but as you point out, that is here in the history from the White House doctor's report and they are very clear to note he had no aftereffects of that, no symptoms of long COVID or any other impact. That was a big question given his age and the fact that he had the rebound case.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it was. And they're very -- as you noted they gave me a very detailed assessment of where things stood when he tested positive and also the fact that there is no long COVID as well. They did say he had an extensive neurological exam that sure that there are Parkinson's disease, no signs of stroke. They did not mention anything about any cognitive tests, which are sometimes suggested for individuals at his age, nothing in the memo at all about that, but this is pretty much the most extensive health check we are likely to get until his next annual physical next year.

BROWN: All right, thanks so much. Phil, stay with us, we have more to discuss. I want to bring in CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner and CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. So, Dr. Reiner, what stands out to you from the presidents physical?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Stability. When I see a patient after a period of months, what I look for in that encounter is what has changed. Do they have new symptoms they haven't had before? Are the symptoms they have had in the past different or worsening? Is there physical capacity less? This five page report from Dr. O'Connor basically paints a picture of a patient that has been remarkably stable and that is very reassuring when you are evaluating an 80-year- old man.

BROWN: And, Jeff, you have been talking to voters across the country. Is the president's age something that concerns him as the 2024 race looms? [18:05:01]

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, Democrats really almost to the person who you speak to, they will say that it is a concern to them. We were out of the country last week in the wake of the State of the Union Address after he gave a very vigorous speech for more than an hour standing in the House of Representatives chambers. It was a high point for him.

In the wake of that, in the aftermath of that, these Democratic voters we've talk to, several of them respect him, appreciate him but wonder about his health. And, again, these are from his supporters. So, yes, it is absolutely a concern.

And one other thing that we hear again and again that just three years ago now, in March of 2020, when he was on the cusp of becoming the Democratic nominee, he cast himself as a bridge to the future. He said that he would be a bridge to the next generation of leaders.

So that was sort of a sense that he may only serve for one term. Of course, he didn't promise that, he didn't speak that directly but talking about a bridge to the future, now some Democratic voters in private conversations and in pointed conversations are wondering about that.

But one thing that is clear. Even though people are raising questions about this, there is almost no discussion, virtually no discussion inside the Democratic Party apparatus for the question of should he be serving a second term? Should he be running for re-election?

And as Phil was just saying there, he is on the verge of announcing his re-election. We expect that in March or more likely in April. And there are no active conversations about whether that is a good idea for the party or the country.

So, yes, it is a concern to voters. The White House is very well aware of that, and they say simply he will show his energy, he will show his ability to serve every day when he reports to work. He will be traveling more around the country. But it is a question whether it is asked privately or in public.

BROWN: Yes. So, Phil, how sensitive is the president's team to this issue?

MATTINGLY: I mean, they are very cognizant of its, right? They see polling. They understand. Oftentimes names aren't on attach to it. But when they see on background, unattributed officials, generally the Democratic variety, saying that they have concerns, saying maybe it is time to move on to another generation. But I think the primary sensitivity is because they believe it diminishes what he has accomplished up to this point. It diminishes what they have done in their first two years legislatively, through their agenda. It diminishes what the president has been able to do in terms of starting to move past once in a century pandemic, the rapid economic recovery, and that's we're they view. I think as they look forward, and we have had a lot of discussions with advisers about this over the course of the last several weeks, they believe the most important thing is really twofold, detailing why the president and the agenda that has been enacted is a path forward for the future. Finish the job is something the president has said a dozen times during that State of the Union Address. But they also think the contrast here is critical. And they believe whoever Republicans put up any general election against the president, whether or not you have a problem with the fact he is 80 years old, you will look at that alternative and choose the president based on what he has done up to this point.

That's the theory of the case. We'll see obviously how that plays out. But that is what White House advisers focus more on than anything else.

And, just one last point, which is that Jeff was saying. There is no threat to him from a primary perspective, from the Democratic Party, there's nobody waiting in the wings that are starting to agitate right now. I think that gives him some certainty that on the national Democratic side, he is in pretty good shape and they are not worried about.

BROWN: All right. I want to turn to this news that Senator John Fetterman has checked himself into a hospital to receive treatment for clinical depression. Dr. Reiner, Fetterman's office says he has a history of depression. We know he had a major stroke. If you were evaluating him, what would you be taking into consideration here?

REINER: Well, first, of all I wish the senator very well. He has had a very difficult year. He survived a life-threatening illness last spring. It is important to note that depression is super common in people who have had a stroke. It is estimated that about a third of stroke patients will have to deal with depression in the months following their event. And I'm glad the senator is seeking a very active care right now.

The most important point is to make sure that he is getting the right care and to make sure that he is safe. And I think being admitted to the hospital was a courageous and right thing to do.

BROWN: It absolutely was courageous. So many people in this country, millions battle depression.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he has no concerns that Fetterman might not finish his term. He has gotten really bipartisan support from lawmakers wishing him well. What do you think? Do you think this could have any impact on his ability to serve?

REINER: I mean, depression is a medical illness. And we have really excellent therapeutics. It can sometimes take a little while to find the right combination of medications and other therapies that can help a patient get past really the worst periods of this.

It sounds like the senator has had a history in the past of depression and it is not really hard to understand how a life- threatening event like the senator had last spring can exacerbate this.


So, I think it is most likely that he will recover fully from this and return to a vigorous active professional life.

BROWN: Yes. We are certainly wishing him well for speedy recovery.

Jeff, the senator clearly, though, had been eager to put discussions about his own health behind him after his Senate campaign focused largely on stroke recovery. You saw in his wife's tweet that was exactly what she was saying. I mean, this is certainly not where he wants the focus to be right now.

ZELENY: Of course not. And this is something that as Dr. Reiner was just saying there. He's been struggling with health circumstances really for the last six months or more and it was a question that was hanging over his Senate campaign when he was running against Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania for the Senate race. He won that race convincingly because he was able to put those concerns at least in the minds of voters to rest.

Under the -- there are some questions about how transparent he was about his health condition and under the sort of promise that he was on a path to recovery. So, I think the Senate's office should be commended for putting this out for being transparent and certainly many of the Senators, Democrats and a few Republicans as well are reaching out and sending out messages and signals of support tonight.

So, of course, everyone wishes the senator well. He has been trying to move beyond his health conditions. But the reality is, the Senate should be reflective of the country and this is one thing that millions and millions of Americans deal with and senators do as well. Pamela?

BROWN: And he is fortunate that he can seek out the care that so many can't even seek out. Jeff Zeleny, Jonathan Reiner, Phil Mattingly, thank you.

And just ahead for you tonight, the other major story out of the White House. President Biden speaking out for the first time about the unidentified object shot down by U.S. fighter jets over North America. What he said and didn't say, up next.



BROWN: Well, tonight, President Biden has broken his silence about his order to shoot down three unidentified flying objects over North America, but he offered limited information about their purpose or origins, saying an investigation by the intelligence community is still underway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We don't yet know exactly what these three objects were, but nothing right now suggests they're related to China's spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country.

But make no mistake, if any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down. I will be sharing with Congress these classified policy parameters when they are completed and they remain classified so we don't give our roadmap to our enemies to try to evade our defenses.


BROWN: The president also says he makes no apologies for his decision to should down the massive Chinese spy balloon.

So, let's talk about all of this with a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan. Thanks so much for coming on.

So, President Biden says these objects were most likely related to weather or scientific research or even recreation. Is that an admission that he overcorrected after the Chinese spy balloon criticism in your view?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): I don't think so. I mean, look, we had a Chinese surveillance balloon, a very large one traverse our country. So, we were looking harder for things. And I think you can't have it both ways. You can be upset that something flies over the country and then upset that we go after things that end up being a weather balloon. We were looking harder. We found these things. We handled it appropriately. And, I mean, I think that there was an extra sensitivity which comes when something over flies the homeland.

BROWN: It's interesting because you point out that we, as Americans, intelligence community, were looking harder. The president said this is in a sudden increase of objects. So, does the explanation that these posed a threat to civilian flight holdup? Because it makes you wonder, okay, if they are looking harder and they're saying these three objects posed a threat to civilian flight, then how often did that happened before the U.S. was looking harder if that really is the accurate explanation?

SLOTKIN: Yes. I mean, look, we know the route that it overflow. That is publicly available. You can see it. And for me, I mean you identify an object that is flying over your state, you don't know what kind of traffic is going through there. I think they just acted prudently.

And, again, I think it is easy to sort of Monday morning quarterback but given what had just happened in the weeks beforehand with the Chinese balloon, it doesn't seem to be something radical that we were looking harder for more objects that we are not used to seeing and we took action when we saw them.

BROWN: But does it pass muster that the reasoning from the president that it's because that they posed a threat to commercial air travel? Does that pass muster for you?

SLOTKIN: Yes. I mean, I wasn't familiar -- I mean, I wasn't involved in THE SITUATION ROOM, but if something is flying over the state, it is good to know so that civilian traffic doesn't get in the middle of it. But either way, I mean, to me whether it was just messing with civilian aviation or it was just an object we couldn't identify that was over flying our states. I mean, I know our citizens here in Michigan, were keenly interested in what that thing was and we're happy when it was brought down.

BROWN: Canadian officials, they just announced that they have suspended the search for the object shot down over Lake Huron off your state of Michigan due to the, quote, low probability of recovery. Have you gotten any update on the U.S. side? Is the American recovery effort still underway?

SLOTKIN: I don't know the answer to that. We usually team up with the Canadians when it comes to this part of our state, the lakes, which serve as the border. It has been some tough weather. It is February in Michigan and in our waters that makes for some tough goings. So, I have no reason to believe that we would do something differently on the American side if the Canadians have called it off. We usually partner.


BROWN: And I want to note, you are wearing a Michigan state invest right there, I want to ask you about the horrific mass shooting in your state, that Michigan State University police are now saying that the gunman, quote, did purchase the gun legally. What steps do you want to see Michigan and Congress take to address this type of gun violence?

SLOTKIN: Yes. Well, the good news is, in the Michigan legislature, they are poised to bring up a gun safety package of bills that includes some bills that came out of the last mass shooting in my area, which was the Oxford High School shooting, requiring parents of children to safely store their weapon, universal background checks, red flag laws so that if someone is mentally ill with the judge's consent, we can remove a weapon from a home.

So, I just -- I think we're going to see some action on the state level, which will help say to our young people that you didn't have your friends die in vain, which I think is really important. At the national level, it's much more political.

To be honest, I feel like the ground is really shifting on this issue. I have gotten more calls from my friends who are hunters and sportsmen who feel very passionately about the Second Amendment, who said, look, I want to keep doing what I do as a hobby in my spare time but we have got to be able to protect our children in their schools. So, I think the sands are shifting and the elected officials may be the last ones to get the memo.

BROWN: Yes. It is not much to ask for to protect our children in schools. The more this happens, the more this county is saying a signal that it is simply tolerating that, and that seems to be unacceptable. Representative Slotkin, thank you very much.

Coming up tonight, the newly revealed findings of a Georgia grand jury investigating former President Trump and the 2020 election, the panel says at least one witness may have lied.



BROWN: Tonight, new revelations about a grand jury's investigation of former President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, panel members concluding that some witnesses they interviewed may have committed perjury.

CNN Political Correspondent Sara Murray has more on parts of the grand jury's report that are now public.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Some witnesses may have lied to a special grand jury in Georgia, the panel says, recommending the district attorney consider indictments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is basically the grand jury saying, go get them, Madam District Attorney.

MURRAY: The special grand jury which spent months digging into efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election in the Peach State concluding perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it. The grand jury recommends that the district attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where the evidence is compelling.

This after the special grand jury heard from 75 witnesses, including high-profile names like Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, former Trump Attorney Rudy Giuliani.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: They asked the questions and we will see.

MURRAY: And South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is standing by his testimony.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you confident in your testimony?


MURRAY: The grand jury also heard from technical experts, poll workers and investigators, concluding we find by unanimous vote but no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election, adding that they heard from witnesses still claiming that such fraud took place.

Because Georgia's special grand juries don't issue indictments, their final report is a vehicle to recommend whether anyone should face criminal charges. The judge overseeing the grand jury ordered sections of the report released Thursday but held back the panel's conclusions on criminal charges after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis argued against the report's release.

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA DISTRIC ATTORNEY: We think for future defendants to be treated fairly, it's not appropriate at this time to have this report released.

MURRAY: Saying last month, she would soon make decisions on whether to seek indictments from a regular grand jury.

WILLIS: Decisions are imminent.

MURRAY: The Georgia probe got underway soon after Trump phone Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffenperger in January 2021 pressing him to find the votes for Trump to win Georgia.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.

MURRAY: Since the call of the investigation expanded to include the fake elector scheme, false election fraud claims before state lawmakers and efforts by unauthorized individuals to access voting machines in one Georgia County.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, Trump's team is arguing today, that because he wasn't named in this selection of the report release today, obviously, he did nothing wrong, he was totally exonerated. Obviously we don't actually know that. The judge made it clear he was not going to allow names to be named in this early release out of fairness and out of protecting the rights of potential defendants. It's going to be up to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to decide if she is going to bring indictments against the former president or any of his allies, Pam.

BROWN: Yes, we shall see. Sara Murray, thank you so much.

And right now, we are getting some breaking news into THE SITUATION ROOM on the special counsel's January 6th investigation. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is working the story. What are you learning Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Pamela, we just saw an order from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. And what this appeals court in Washington is going to be doing is they're going to be looking into how much the special counsel investigation being led by Jack Smith around January 6th can get into and dig into the records of members of Congress.

So, it is a really big and important legal issue. A lot of implications for the law, for the federal government and also specifically for this criminal investigation that is ongoing. Right now, this is coming here, Pam, because there has been a case under seal where the special counsel's office is fighting for access to records on Representative Scott Perry's phone. [18:30:06]

He is that representative from Pennsylvania, a Republican who wanted to replace the attorney general with an election fraud sympathizer, was in touch with the White House.

And they're going to want to be -- they have been trying to look at and the appeals court is going to look at the possibility of whether investigators can get access to records of informal legislative work of a member of Congress like Perry and also whether they can get records of contact he may have had with private parties and members of the executive branch, people like Donald Trump.

So, implications for the investigation into Perry and for other members of Congress, Pam, this is going to be argued very quickly, February 23rd, so in just about a week, and it is going to be heard by three judges in D.C. all Republican appointees two of whom were appointed to the court by Donald Trump himself. Pam?

BROWN: All right. And we will be watching that closely.

Joining us now -- thanks, Katelyn. Joining us now, the former Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, he is now a CNN Political Commentator. Also with us, the former FBI deputy director and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andy McCabe, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates and CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel.

Laura, first to you, your reaction to this news that this appeals court will hear this key dispute.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is pretty significant given the fact that, remember, Perry is one of, what, five members of Congress who was asking for a pardon, revealed that, of course, during the January 6th hearings on this very issue, and they're going to have an insight essentially into the discussion about whether the executive branch, which is under the umbrella, of course, of where DOJ is going to be, whether the executive branch is going to have the ability to do this to a member of the legislative branch.

So, expect to have separation of powers and checks and balances arguments that are raised, but it does not, in any way, alleviate the concern for trying to find the answer to the question of just how significant was the input and the impact of someone like Congressman Perry on trying, as Katelyn spoke about, trying to ensure that maybe Jeffrey Clark could have been installed as the attorney general to support the election denialism and what evidence may or may not be on his phone or any correspondence in this issue.

It is very telling that the appeals court did not simply say, forget it and wash their hands and dismiss this action, but instead want to hear and will likely have the oral arguments to pepper these very questions to answer why him, why now and what did he know and what did he do.

BROWN: Right. And, look, he could have a lot of really important information, Andy, in terms of the January 6th investigation. And Laura mentioned the pardon, Meadows' aide had told the committee that he asked for a pardon. I believe, if I recall correctly, he has denied that. But talk to us a little bit more about the major implications of this.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Pam, it is a really fascinating development. And I should say that this issue of access to Scott Perry's phone by the special counsel team has been one of the most hotly fought battles in the overall war that the special counsel team seems to be waging here.

Representative Perry has been pushing back for months and months. There have been many hearings and a lot of court action and hearings that have not been open to the public. So, it is fascinating to see this come forward.

Essentially, what Laura said is absolutely correct. Most of the representative's arguments will rely on basically an interpretation of the speech and debate clause which protects Congress and members' communications from being exposed if they were legislative in nature. But you have a very compelling and important criminal investigation happening here.

So, the fact that the district court didn't just dismiss this out of hand tells you that they are acknowledging the importance of this investigation, the fact that it is criminal in nature, it's a very different from a -- and so we are going to see how the -- between the speech and debate clause and the imperative nature of conducting a criminal inquiry.

BROWN: Jamie Gangel, what do you think?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, I'm just thinking about this from the political context. It is not just Scott Perry who was involved. There were five members -- five Republicans, including the present speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, who refused to testify to the January 6th committee, the now chairman of I believe the judiciary committee, Jim Jordan, was one of those.

So, this starts with Scott Perry and his phone but it is going to be fascinating to see, not to get ahead of ourselves, because we have to go through the judicial process, but this could have an impact politically on potentially the speaker of the House and these other members.


BROWN: Yes. I think that important context for understanding the implications here.

I want to turn back to Fulton County, Geoff. You're the former lieutenant governor of Georgia. What is your reaction to the Fulton County grand jury's report? Again, we've only seen a portion of it release but what stands out to you from these sections released today?

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, two newsworthy items, in my opinion. One is that 23 jurors got together and unanimously decided that there was no fraud. And so, for me, to get 23 people to agree on something you couldn't get them to agree on what color the sky is. So, that was the first one.


DUNCAN: But the second is perjury, right? It really feels like a step one in this process. You had 75 individuals that were interviewed. I was one of them. And it is a very intimidating scene. You walk in a room, with no attorney next to you and 23 jurors and a few district attorney officials and you just go at it until they are done asking questions.

And so I can only imagine if one person said something that wasn't true and then to watch it then be turned around a couple different ways throughout a nine-month trial, there was certainly going to be some folks sweating after getting that news about the perjury.

BROWN: And yet, Jamie, a Trump spokesperson reacted, essentially gloating that the excerpts from the report do not even mention President Trump's name. What do you make of that spin?

GANGEL: So, I would say that is spin for an audience of one and that person is Donald Trump. That is what he once said and to hear, but we are a long ways off. Look, there is a lot we don't know from what was released today, but it is likely we are going to find out much more, and nice try, but there is more to come.

BROWN: Right, and let's not forget the purpose initially, Laure, is for the grand jury is to look into whether Trump illegally tried to intervene in the administration of the election and the results, the grand jury focuses on this from what has been released. The perjury part, right, recommending the district attorney seek appropriate indictments for possible perjury, talk a little bit about the legal weight that that could carry.

COATES: Well, remember, this is a special grand jury unlike our normal notion of having a criminal grand jury whose sole purpose is to find probable cause to allow a prosecutor to then issue an indictment for a felony charge. This result was a report that would talk about the idea of being able to investigate and go forward with the perjury charge.

And, frankly, as a prosecutor, you would more likely want to have a charge of an actual crime as opposed to lying about the statements surrounding the crime. Perjury is a very serious charge, don't get me wrong, but you want to have the meat on the bone.

And so this actually is giving some greater credence and gravitas to what Fani Willis will be looking at, confirming that these 23 or so people were in agreement that somebody, based on the failure of consistency or that somebody was known to be lying based on the breadth of evidence that they actually heard, that is very telling of how she might go forward but it is not the end of the inquiry. But it certainly would give greater credence to her pursuit going forward. And I will just say this. One of the things she said in open court was the idea of wanting to provide for fairness. Tarring and feathering in the public square and providing all the names of potential defendants or anyone else is problematic. So, his name not being there, no one's name was there, Pam.

BROWN: Right, exactly. I mean, including that the witnesses or at least one witness that the grand jury believes committed perjury.

Thank you all very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

And just ahead for you, we are going to go live to earthquake disaster zone in Southern Turkey where survivors are still being pulled out of the rubble but hope is slowly fading.



BROWN: Tonight, the death toll has risen to more than 43,000 people in Turkey and Syria following last week's catastrophic earthquake. Rescue efforts are relentless in Turkey, where survivors are still being pulled out of the rubble, though hope is starting to wear thin.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh is on the ground of the disaster zone with this report.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Antakya no more, they say, this once bustling historic city now in ruins. It is here where hope meets despair, and every corner, a scene so painful of loss so hard to comprehend. She has waited days of news for her husband but the wait never prepares her for this. Nothing could have prepared the people Antakya for these grimmest of days, misery so palpable in the air.

AYLIN AKYURT, SEARCHING FOR FAMILY MEMBER: You lose track of time. So, I don't know which day it is. But at this point, I don't think there is anybody left alive.

KARADSHEH: Aylin and her family have been searching for her aunt. Other bodies have come out of the building were hers (ph).

AKYURT: You go through all stages of grief. You are angry, you are desperate, you are sad, you accept and then you get mad again. At this point, we have come to accept that she has passed away but we just want to put her at her final resting place, because with how it has been going, leaving her here is unimaginable.

KARADSHEH: Around the corner the rare good news these days, after more than 220 hours under the rubble, a woman and two children were rescued alive.

Several bodies have also been recovered from the building. There are others are still trapped inside. They don't know if they are alive or dead.

They pray they find them alive. Mohammed Bayrem just buried his daughter and her husband, his 12 and 14-year-old grandchildren are still inside.

I beg you he says, just like they got that woman and two children out alive, we are hoping for the same.

It's been the most agonizing of waits for his and other families here. May the Lord not put anyone through this, this woman says.


Mohamed hasn't eaten in 11 days. He says all he can do is pray and wait.

We weren't able to get these big machines for a few days, he says. They had to go through other buildings here first. Maybe if they had, they would have come out alive.

Another call for quiet during our interview. One of many in the past few days. Rescuers hear something, cheers break out. They believe they've located two people alive.

A tense wait now into the evening, the crushing sound of silence. It's hardest for those who wonder if they mourn or wait. It is here where hope fades as fast as it grows.


KARADSHEH (on camera): And, Pam, today, there were several rescues, people who were pulled out alive including a 14 and 17- year-old and it is what people describe as miracles that are giving so many families hope that they might get their loved ones alive.

But in reality, those are very rare. We saw a lot of bodies being pulled out of the rubble in different locations today, Pam.

BROWN: Yes. As you say in your piece, hope is fading. Jomana, thank you.

Well, coming up, urgent calls for help after the toxic train derailment in Ohio that has left residents questioning the safety of water and air in their own homes.



BROWN: Tonight, the Biden administration is stepping up its support for residents of East Palestine, Ohio, nearly two weeks after a train derailment brought toxic and deadly materials to their doorstep.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

And, Brian, understandably residents are terrified for their health and safety.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Pamela, almost two weeks after the accident, today, say it and federal officials promised that teams in the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services are being deployed to East Palestine to evaluate the health of residents. It's that kind of pacing of response that infuriated local residents.


TODD (on camera): Anxiety and frustration can't to mount tonight in East Palestine, Ohio.

KRISTINA FERGUSON, LIVES ALONG CREEK IN EAST PALESTINE: People are getting sick. We should not be back in the town until all was done.

TODD: Officials are pumping oxygen into local water ways hoping it will break down chemicals, they've removed contaminated soil from the area near a train derailment that unleashed a torrent of toxic chemicals. But about two weeks since that accident and despite an assurance from the governor that the town's water is now safe to drink --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel in that?

FERGUSON: I'm honestly, no, I don't.

TODD: Some residents report symptoms like dizziness, headaches, rashes. They're also complaining about a lack of transparency. Resident Jamie tells CNN the only reason she knows her house isn't safe to live in is because she demanded that the soil and water be tested and Norfolk Southern Railroad sent a toxicologist.

JAMI COZZA, LIVES ALONG CREEK IN EAST PALESTINE: And it's only because I run my mouth I got this testing done.

TODD: Today, EPA administrator Michael Regan was on the ground there, assuring residents they will get all the resources they need for the clean-up. And --

MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We are absolutely going to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and I can promise you that.

TODD: But the railroad is being accused by some resident of ducking accountability after railroad officials bailed on attending a town hall meeting last night, citing, quote, the growing physical threat to our employees, a meeting where residents and the mayor vented their anger.

MAYOR TRENT CONAWAY, EAST PALESTINE, OHIO: They screwed up our town, they're going to fix it. If they don't, I'll be the first one calling all of you back to do this again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are people getting sick if there's nothing in the air or the water?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody that came here expects a hell of a lot more than what we are getting right now.

TODD: Investigators say they haven't found significant traces of the dangerous chemical that escaped from the train. Vinyl chloride in the local water ways but health monitors warn.

WENONAH HAUTER, FOOD AND WATER WATCH: Vinyl chloride causes cancer. If the soil is used in gardening, children play in it, it can be very dangerous. And the chemical will leach into ground water.


TODD: Compounding all the anxiety and uncertainty the community is dealing with are worries about practical living arrangements.

East Palestine resident Jami Cozza told CNN some residents feel they're forced to go back to town they simply don't have the money to move elsewhere -- Pamela.

BROWN: Yeah, that's where the company should come and make sure every single person is taken care of.

Brian Todd, thank you.

Just ahead, the most extensive assessment yet -- assessment rather about the level of natural immunity after being infected with COVID- 19. Stay with us for details on the study that was just released.



BROWN: A significant new study was released just minutes ago, the largest review yet about natural immunity after infected with COVID 19.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has details.

So, what does the study reveal, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, this study is so interesting. So researchers at the University of Washington were wondering when you get COVID, how long does it give you immunity and how strong is that immune?

So they looked at 65 different studies in 19 countries, and here's what they found. Previous infection protected against hospitalizations and deaths by 88 percent for ten months, so that is really strong protection for quite a long time.

Interestingly. Folks who got COVID before omicron, so in other words, before last year, basically they didn't have much to more recent strains. So, more recent infection led to better immunity, but this is really important to remember, vaccination is the safety way to get immunity, because if you get COVID, you could get very sick and die, it's a bit of a gamble to give you immunity, but it could also get you very sick. Vaccination gives you immunity without getting you very sick -- Pamela.

BROWN: That's an important point. So, what does the COVID vaccination program look like going forward?

COHEN: So, the FDA has put out the plan that says, look, we're going to encourage vaccination once a year and the shot is going to change each year, depending upon the strains out there, kind of like what we do with the flu. But they haven't really set this in stone.

So CDC advisors are meeting later this month to talk about this plan, will this happen once a year? And will everyone be encouraged to get a shot, or will they really be focusing on older people or people who are immune compromised? Pamela?

BROWN: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. Good to see you.

I'm Pamela Brown in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back tomorrow night.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.