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Biden Returning To U.S. After Momentous Visits To Ukraine And Poland; New York Time Reports, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner Subpoenaed By Special Counsel; NTSB To Release Toxic Train Wreck Report As Buttigieg Visits Tomorrow; Powerful Storm Bringing Snow, Ice & Better Cold Across U.S.; Palestinian Officials: 11 Killed, 100+ Injured During Israeli Raid. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 22, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, President Biden is heading home after capping his momentous trip to Ukraine and Poland by meeting with allies on NATO's frontline against Russia. I'll discuss Vladimir Putin next moves with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman as the Russian leader rallies his people for a second year of this war and cozies up to China.

Also tonight, a new report that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have both been subpoenas in the special counsel investigation of January 6th. Will former President Trump try to prevent them from testifying?

And nearly three weeks after the toxic train wreck in Ohio, national safety officials are getting ready to release a preliminary report and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is heading to the area tomorrow as more residents are clearly sick, scared and frustrated.

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

President Biden is due back here on U.S. soil in just a few hours, closing one of his most significant moments on the world stage so far. CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us live from Poland right now. Phil, the president underscored his message of NATO unity against Russia's war in Ukraine once again today.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it was perhaps the most critical group of leaders related to the absolute frontline of NATO, but in all, to cap off a three-day momentous experience for a president trying to drive home a message and make very clear the road ahead.


MATTINGLY (voice over): Tonight, President Biden aboard Air Force One after a momentous and consequential 72 hours in Europe. BIDEN: Today, as we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia's further invasion, it is even more important that we continue to stand together.

MATTINGLY: Biden delivering on what advisers framed as a critical moment to drive home the stakes of Ukraine's defense of its sovereignty after a year of war.

BIDEN: You know better than anyone what is at stake in this conflict. Not just for Ukraine, but for the freedom of democracies throughout Europe and around the world.

MATTINGLY: With what Biden views as a generational struggle where unity among democracies isn't a choice, but a necessity. But as Biden huddled with leaders of NATO's eastern flank countries, an acknowledgment of the clear challenges ahead with a war at a stalemate, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaling new escalation, all as Biden's advisers seek to maintain the solid political support back home in the face of increasingly vocal opposition from some Republicans, as the GOP remains bitterly divided over Ukraine support. Biden, in an interview with ABC News, calling Putin's suspension a nuclear treaty with the U.S. a mistake, but not a threat.

BIDEN: It is a big mistake to do that, not very responsible. And -- but I do read into that, that he's thinking of using nuclear weapons or anything like that.

MATTINGLY: For Biden, a trip that began with the dramatic and deeply symbolic, delivered a rallying cry for western democracies at an inflection point.

BIDEN: The defense of freedom is not the work of a day or of a year. It is always difficult. It is always important.

MATTINGLY: And closed by reiterated the unequivocal commitment to the alliance that serves as the backbone to the region's security.

BIDEN: You're the frontlines of our collective defense.

MATTINGLY: A trip that won a few swift praise from key regional allies. At the same moment Putin rallied the Russian public behind an invasion, that despite a year of setbacks and failures, shows no sign of easing. It was a daily split screen that only served to elevate the importance of three days of behind closed doors talks designed to lay the groundwork for the complex decisions to come for Biden and the coalition he has painstakingly worked to keep remarkably unified over 12 months of war.

BIDEN: Things have changed radically. We have to make sure we change them back.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, for all of the critical symbolism and delivery of messages over the last 72 hours, there is more work being done on the substance side. We're told that the U.S. and its E.U. counterparts can have a new sanctions package targeting Russia as soon as this week, also new defense assistance packages are in the works as well.

But one critical thing to keep an eye, on what happens with future U.S. assistance.


There is no question that eventually they will have to go back to Congress for more money. And as we laid out, the dynamics there with the new House Republican majority, very much difficult to read. It is something administration officials are keenly aware of, working on behind the scenes and something they'll have to address sooner rather than later, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Phil Mattingly in Warsaw for us, thank you very much.

Let's go to Moscow right now, where Vladimir Putin is rallying Russians for a second year of the Ukraine conflict. He is also been reinforcing his relationship with China.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen has more now. He's joining us from Moscow. Fred, first of all, what could you tell us about Putin's very high-profile meeting with China's top diplomat?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, very high-profile and certainly very important also for the Russian leader as well, simply the fact that Vladimir Putin, the head of state of the Russian Federation, took time out of a very busy and important day to meet with China's top diplomat, shows you just how important China has become to the Russians.

Now Putin, when he was speaking to Wang Yi, he was talking about how important the relations are with China, how they become more and more important and are moving forward, he said, to new benchmarks. He also talked about how close he is with Xi Jinping, the president of China. Obviously, those two have had a long relationship and really regard each other as friends. He also said that he would welcome Xi Jinping here in the Moscow in the not too distant future.

Now, the other thing, of course, that has been happening sort of in the run-up to this is some tension between the United States and China with the U.S. voicing concern that they believe that China might be contemplating sending military aid, lethal aid to Russia to use in the Ukraine war.

It seemed as though the Chinese top diplomat was talking about that. He said that relations between China and Russia were in a good place and would not be subject to interference from outside parties, he said, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, it is interesting, Fred, that despite the reality on the battlefield in Ukraine, is Putin trying to present a victorious image? PLEITGEN: He's trying to present one of perseverance and one of victory in the end. I think what he's trying to do -- what he certainly try to do today show that Russia is not going to back down and he's really trying to rally the nation. That was a gigantic event that happened today at Luzhniki Stadium, the main sort of sport stadium here in Moscow, where Vladimir Putin, once again, tried to rally nation. Let's listen into some of what he had to say.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: I have just been meeting the top military leadership. And I heard from them that right now there is a battle going on, on our historical frontiers for our people. And this battle is waged by the same courageous soldiers who are standing by us here. They are fighting heroically, courageously, bravely. We are proud of them.


PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, tonight, Vladimir Putin promising that troops fighting in Ukraine, the Russian troops, additional weapons, certainly not sounding like someone who is anywhere near backing down, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us, thank you, Fred.

In the war zone tonight, the fighting clearly grinds on as Ukrainians head into a second year of Russia's aggression.

Our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us live from Kyiv right now. Clarissa, you actually traveled with a group of Ukraine volunteers helping return fallen soldiers to their families. Tell us about that.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is a job that not everybody has the psyche to do. It is very hard work, long hours on the road. It is very somber and sad work but it means a lot to the families who are able to be reunited with the remains of their loved ones to give them a proper burial.

And what we learned from spending time with all Oleg Repnoy (ph) and the bulldozer group, is that the number of casualties that they are seeing and transporting has been rising consistently. In fact, yesterday they said was the highest number that they had had in some time. And that is because there has been a really high rate of attrition in the fighting that has been going on, particularly in the eastern part of the country in the city of Bakhmut.

We knew already that so many Russian soldiers have been killed. They've been just sort of pushed out in waves to try and push that frontline. But Ukrainian soldiers as well are dying at very, very high rates at the moment, so really underscoring, despite the excitement of this week's visit from President Biden, just how somber and challenging a time this is in this war, Wolf.

BLITZER: Clarissa, how is Ukraine taking precautions just ahead of Friday, that's the anniversary of Putin's invasion? WARD: Well, the authorities have basically said they don't know exactly what to expect, but they are preparing themselves for some kind of provocation, more missile attacks, rockets, drones, things of this nature that Ukrainians have become all too used to. They have said all schools should basically be in remote teaching mode for the next couple of days.


And in certain places like the city of Kherson in the south that was liberated back at the end of October, which is now getting hit, pummeled pretty much on a daily basis by Russian artillery, they've essentially advised that people, you know, don't go to work in public spaces, try to stay at home for the next few days and just generally stay close to cover in anticipation of a possible uptick in attacks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward on the scene for us, Clarissa, thank you very much. Stay safe.

Coming up, more on the war in Ukraine and President Biden's historic trip. I'll speak with the deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman.

Also ahead, major new subpoenas in the Trump special counsel investigation, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both reportedly called to testify before a federal grand jury.


BLITZER: New tonight, the special counsel overseeing the Trump investigations has subpoenaed two of the former president's closest confidants, his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.


That report coming from the New York Times.

Let's get some more now from our Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, what else could you tell us?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, if it was not clear before, it should be now that the grand jury investigation around Donald, around January 6th wants to go the heart of the White House and ask questions about the president himself at that time.

We have seen multiple subpoenas to top people, the vice president, Rudy Giuliani, the White House chief of staff and others, now the president's daughter and his son-in-law are also being subpoenaed, according to The New York Times.

Now, The New York Times did not lay out the timeline for this subpoena and there are things that could happen here. There is a possibility Donald Trump would want to step in and try to block some of their testimony, maybe doesn't want them to answer some questions. However, they both spoke to the House select committee pretty extensively, and at one point, Ivanka Trump in her deposition with the House select committee said that she disagreed with her father and agreed with the statement by Attorney General Bill Barr that there was no widespread election fraud in 2020. Here is this clip from her House deposition.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did that affect your perspective about the election when Attorney General Barr made that statement?

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: It affected my perspective. I respect Attorney General Barr. So, I accepted what he was saying.


POLANTZ: Now, with that, though, even though she was forthcoming at least to that question, the House later on said that they had concerns she wasn't entirely frank with them or forthcoming. They asked her some specific questions about conversations between Donald Trump and Mike Pence, the vice president, on January 6th, including one where he insulted Pence as he was trying to put pressure on him. And she responded to the House that, no, she didn't have an answer, she didn't recall what was said there. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much for that report.

Let's get some analysis right now from Defense Attorney Shan Wu, CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers and our Senior Political Correspondent Abby Phillip.

Abby, what sort of information to Ivanka and Jared have that the special counsel, Jack Smith, would actually be interested in?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are not two people closer to former President Trump than his daughter and his son-in-law. They were both family members and also senior advisers inside the White House.

And the key thing about Jared and Ivanka is that, at junctures where Trump would be unreachable to a lot of other senior aides and unreachable to a lot of other even family members who weren't in official positions, Ivanka and Jared often had access to him.

And I think the special counsel is particularly interested in what they have to say for that reason. They were in those rooms. They were present for those phone calls. The one call in particular between former President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, in which Trump is putting the pressure on him.

So, they want to know what they know and they want to know what Trump was thinking and what he was doing in particular on January 6th, where there are is still a lot of unknowns about what happened on that day and they were present for a lot of the events of that day. So, I think that there is a lot to be learned from these two individuals.

BLITZER: Shan, what does this reveal about the special counsel's willingness to pursue high level witnesses?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think it reveals that he is willing to do that. I mean, I can't help but question why DOJ couldn't have done this a long time ago, but I also view this as not only, as Abby was saying very good what this is, right in the room, but it's also a defensive move. Partially you put in people to the grand jury to lock in their testimony, so there are no surprises later.

So, even if they don't give anything that is incriminating, it is very useful to lock them in so that later on they don't come back and say something that is really helpful to Trump or exculpatory that nobody knew they were going to say.

BLITZER: Jennifer, have Ivanka and Jared demonstrated in the past an actual willingness to cooperate with probes into Donald Trump's role on January 6th?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, they were willing to testify to the January 6th committee, which many of the other people in his inner circle were not. So, that is notable. It is also notable because unlike some of those other people, Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pence, who refused to testify to the committee, that is why Jack Smith had to issue subpoenas to them, it is questionable why he had to issue these subpoenas except it is pretty clear that they want more information from Ivanka and Jared.

So, if they minimized anything, if there are things that Jack Smith and his team have learned in the interim, getting to see more witnesses and more information than the January 6th committee managed to get, they've learned a lot and they now want to use that information to get more than the January 6th committee got from Ivanka and Jared.


So, I think it is an interesting move and they can expect to learn more information, maybe even hopefully including more specific information about those calls between the former president and Mike Pence.

BLITZER: Abby, based on your reporting, do you expect Donald Trump will actually try to block Ivanka and Jared from testifying, citing executive privilege?

PHILLIP: I think that former President Trump has demonstrated a desire to block at least partial testimony, I mean, the information that would be potentially subject to some kind of privilege, which is conversations that involve Trump himself.

But I do think that if you look at Ivanka and Jared's January 6th depositions and their testimony there, you can see where there are other areas where there is a lot of questioning that could happen that doesn't necessarily bear on Trump's conversations with them that could be helpful to investigators, asking questions about whether or not they believed, as Katelyn was saying, that there was election fraud in the 2020 election. Those things don't have anything to do necessarily with anything Trump has said or done but they were willing to answer those questions. And it seems to me that those are not things that Trump is going to be able to just blanket say they can't answer inquiries about.

BLITZER: Shan, you're a former federal prosecutor. Would an attempt from the former president to block their testimony, would it actually be successful?

WU: At the end of the day, not fully. I mean, there might be some pieces that a court might agree with. One of the issues here, of course, is timing. And one smart move on Jack Smith's part here is, I don't know the signals that they are going to imminently going to indict, but there is sort of towards the end reaching these highly placed people, and they have to anticipate there's going to litigation over this. So, if you're anticipating that, better to start early now and get that going in the pipeline rather than waiting.

BLITZER: Yes. This is a real criminal investigation that's ongoing and seems to be intensifying right now. Shan Wu, Jennifer Rodgers, Abby Phillip, guys thank you very, very much.

Coming up, the deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, joins me live in THE SITUATION ROOM. We have a lot to discuss including a new image of the Chinese spy balloon. It is a new image that we've never seen before.

Plus, her thoughts on President Biden's truly historic trip to Ukraine and what comes next as the war enters a second year.



BLITZER: Right now, we're getting a new look at the Chinese spy balloon, as we've never seen it before, from the air. The Pentagon releasing this image of the object taken by the pilot of U-2 spy plane this month.

Joining us now for more on that as well as all of the latest developments out of Ukraine, the deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman. Wendy, thanks so much for joining us.

This new image just revealed, released about the Pentagon, shows incredible detail. There appear to be solar panels and a radar or communication dish on this balloon. What more has the U.S. learned about this balloon? I ask the question because the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Mike McCaul, says this balloon had a lot of American parts on board?

WENDY SHERMAN, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think we'll all know a lot more now that our terrific crew has brought up a great deal of this balloon from the waters off of the Carolinas. And we should all know more as this is unpacked and we learn what all of these elements are. But I think you see from this picture what we have been saying, there is no question that this was a surveillance balloon sent to us by the People's Republic of China.

BLITZER: And looking back, was it wise to wait as it crossed over the entire United States before getting to the coast off of the Carolinas before shooting it down?

SHERMAN: Well, I think it was the right decision. The president had made a decision as soon as it was safe to shoot it down, that, in fact, our military should do so, and they did that brilliantly. We know how to close down all of our secure -- all of our facilities so they are secure. That was done.

We wanted to make sure no American citizen was hurt. No business was put out of business. So, I think it was a very prudent decision to secure all our facilities, make sure that the Chinese couldn't learn things from those facilities but bring it down when it was safe for everybody.

BLITZER: China's top diplomat was in Russia today, as you well know, meeting with Vladimir Putin. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, is also expected to make a visit there very soon. Is this a step toward China potentially providing Russia with lethal weapons?

SHERMAN: Well, Secretary Blinken said the other day in his meeting with Wang Yi, who has currently been in Moscow, if China does, in fact, help to provide lethal material to Russia, they will face consequences.

This is a great risk for them. They have said they have a no limits partnership with Russia. The best thing they could do about that no limits partnership is to tell the Russians to leave Ukraine and let Ukraine live in peace as a sovereign nation with all of its territory to make its own independent decisions about its future.


Ukraine belongs to the Ukrainian people, not to Vladimir Putin.

BLITZER: On the night before Putin's invasion last year, as you well know, you and I talked and you offered this warning in a conversation that we had in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let me play this clip.


BLITZER: And you think this could happen in the next few hours?

SHERMAN: I think this is going to happen whenever President Putin gives the order to move forward but Russia is poised to do so.

He could have a massive invasion of Ukraine. I want to say that and hope that President Putin understands that Ukraine is not just going to sit there and take it, that body bags will return to Moscow, that Ukrainians will fight back.


BLITZER: As all of us know Putin invaded just a few hours after that conversation we had and proved your warning to be absolutely true. What is Putin capable of doing in year two of this war?

SHERMAN: Well, I think it is quite unfortunate that we are about to mark the one year of this unprovoked, premeditated invasion of a sovereign country, one that has been truly horrifying. I think every mother and father out there understands that Putin has abducted children and separated them from their families to ostensibly reeducate them as Russian children.

This is abhorrent. There have been all kinds of violence in this war, personal violence, atrocities that have been committed here by Russian troops, by Vladimir Putin, by officers. And so this will be held to account over time.

So, sadly, we will see more of this. Putin has said, as he did in his comments the other day, that he is not going to stop. He believes for some unknown reason that Ukraine belongs to him, Ukraine as I said belongs to the Ukrainian people and I think there are none of your viewers who aren't inspired and in awe of the resilience and bravery of the Ukrainian people.

And I think that will be on evidence as minister after minister, permanent representative after permanent representative speaks at United Nations over the next couple of days. Those conversations and speeches began today. There is tremendous solidarity in the world and in the United States, as we heard from President Biden, to support the Ukrainian people.

BLITZER: Wendy Sherman, a top U.S. diplomat. Thank you very, very much for joining us.

Just ahead, we're awaiting a report from the National Transportation Safety Board on the toxic train wreck in Ohio. Former President Trump paying a visit to the disaster zone today and slamming the Biden administration's response.



BLITZER: We're following new developments in the train derailment and toxic chemical spill in Ohio. The National Transportation Safety Board confirms it will release the preliminary report tomorrow, nearly three weeks after the wreck. That will coincide with a visit by the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, to the area.

CNN's Miguel Marquez has more on this unfolding disaster and the urgent health concerns.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A massive effort underway to clean up creeks and water flowing in and around East Palestine, Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is decimating our business. MARQUEZ: It is dirty, difficult and slow-going work. For those living here, building trust that the water and air is safe as slow-going as the clean-up itself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took, I think, Norfolk Southern, three or four days for us to get a partial list, vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate and benzene residue and combustible liquids. What the hell are combustible liquids? It could be anything.

MARQUEZ: The making of this disaster appears to have started somewhere between Alliance, Ohio, and the derailment in East Palestine. Surveillance video of the train in Alliance shows no signs of sparks coming from its wheels. There is a detector in Sebring, Ohio, that would indicate overheat, a so called hot box detector. It is unclear if it detected any overheat. But in Salem, Ohio, just 13 miles further along, surveillance video clearly shows sparks and bright lights coming from under a rail car at about a half pay point of the train. There was another hot box detector just down the track from where surveillance video was taken, but it is not clear if it detected an overheat either.

If it did, both the conductor and dispatcher would have been alerted to a heating issue. The NTSB said shortly before the derailment, a wayside defect detector alerted the crew to a mechanical issue.

CNN estimates, based on the time stamps of the surveillance videos and distances between towns, the train would have been traveling an average of 49 miles per hour between Alliance and Salem, Ohio, then slowed to an average of 29 miles per hour between Salem and East Palestine. Still not clear why it slowed.

The derailment occurred around 8:55 P.M., shortly after the train passed Market Street in downtown East Palestine.

The EPA now ordering Norfolk Southern to pay for and clean up the entire disaster zone.

MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: They have to put together a work plan that is going to be very prescriptive in terms of all of the clean-up, how they will do it and the radius of that clean-up. They also have to explain to us how they'll pay for it.

MARQUEZ: All of this as former President Trump visits East Palestine, an area of Ohio where he still enjoys enormous support.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The community has shown the tough and resilient heart of America and it is what it is. This is really America right here.


MARQUEZ (on camera): Now, I want to show you how difficult it is to clean up this mess. This is just one location where they are treating water that is contaminated. They aerated those white buoys you see there. Those are filters that pick up that toxic sludge that comes through. They are doing this throughout the area and all organizations now saying that they will be here not for months but for years. Wolf?

BLITZER: Miguel Marquez on the scene for us, thank you very much.

And this note, stay with CNN later tonight for a town hall on the Toxic Train Disaster hosted by our own Jake Tapper. Ohio residents will speak out and try to get answers from top officials. It all begins tonight at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.

Let's bring in CNN Political Director David Chalian and CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes.

Kristen, you've been following Trump's visit to Ohio today, where he was very critical of President Biden. I want to listen -- I want you and all of our viewers to listen to something else he said. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I sincerely hope that when your representatives and all of the politicians get here, including Biden, to get back from touring Ukraine, that he's got some money left over.


BLITZER: So, Kristen, is that message playing well, I assume it is, with his base out there?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it absolutely is. I mean, we already heard from the mayor, that man that was standing right behind Trump in that clip you just played, who spoke on Fox News, he's a Trump supporter and he basically lashed out at Biden for going to Ukraine, for spending money in Ukraine when he said, this again is the mayor of East Palestine, said that they still needed help on the ground there, that Biden hadn't been on the ground there.

And this is really part of what Trump's advisers were hoping to accomplish with this trip, to contrast former President Trump and President Biden and really highlight Trump's America First agenda that he has routinely pushed.

The other thing to point out here is that we know from conservative -- from advisers that conservative commentators and conservative influencers have been calling on Trump for weeks to make this trip to Ohio. They believe that this was an area that was full of Trump supporters, that he could actually make it there, he could make an impact by visiting. And it was clear today that that is accurate, that that was one of the things they tried to prove.

The other thing I want to just point out here that advisers had tried to accomplish and hope to accomplish was to make Trump look presidential in this moment. And this trip really did mimic a White House disaster trip. He visited a site, he was flanked by local officials. So those were the two political things that they were trying to achieve with this trip. BLITZER: And, David, I'm curious what do you think, politically speaking, should President Biden go to East Palestine now?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, listen, I'm not in the business of advising President Biden, but I'll say I'll be shocked if he doesn't show up there at some point. There is a long tradition of presidents going to high-profile disaster sites. This president is well-known for his empathy and trying to give voice to those that are afflicted by something like this tragedy in Ohio and the comfort of a nation. That goes sort of across parties here.

Listen, Joe Biden may do that and it would be irrespective of the politics. I don't know if Donald Trump would have made the trip if it weren't in as friendly Trump territory. I mean, this was the way Trump likes it, right, a resounding welcome for him. He's extraordinarily popular there.

Kristen noted that his advisers are eager to make him look presidential. It just reminds you of the unprecedented nature of the Trump candidacy. He was president so he actually has been presidential, if you will, with the trappings of the office and all of it before for the country to see.

The fact that his advisers think they need to recreate that image for Republican primary voters is interesting insight into where they think things stand.

BLITZER: And, David, CNN has some new reporting about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis securing seven-figure checks, campaign checks, from some top Republican donors. This appears to be a clear indication that he intends to run for the Republican presidential nomination but he doesn't seem to be in a rush to make any sort of formal announcement. Is that is right?

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, I think that any Republican I talk to would be shocked if Ron DeSantis does not pulling the trigger and actually seeking the presidency here.

He has stated and his team around him has stated that he's going to wait for this Florida legislative session to wrap up and it buys him some time where he can focus on his day job, get a lot of messaging done with that as well by signing bills from his Republican legislature that might work really well politically with the Republican primary base, Wolf, and not actually have to be in the throes of a battle in a campaign until May or June when he may get into this.


But those -- you noted the three 7-figure checks and he's got a book coming out next week. Everything Ron DeSantis is doing, he toured out of state this week on law enforcement matters. He seems to be building a campaign waiting for launch.

BLITZER: David Chalian, thank you very much. Kristen Holmes, thanks to you as well. Coming up, a dangerous winter storm is pummeling the country from

coast to coast right now, with millions on high alert for blizzards, ice storms and extreme cold.


BLITZER: We're following the massive winter storm pummeling the United States from coast to coast with heavy snow, ice, and extreme cold.


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

Brian, this severe weather is wreaking havoc across the West and the Midwest specifically. And it's now moving east, right?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Moving east and seemingly sparing no one, Wolf.

Today alone, there have been more than a hundred vehicle crashes in the state of Minnesota because of the weather, according to the state patrol. Throughout the Rockies and Plains States, it's hazardous for anyone including law enforcement to be out on the roads.


TODD (voice-over): In Wyoming, a state trooper has to scramble out of the way as a runaway truck almost hits him. Dangerous conditions on a snowy road in Truckee, California, caused this car to flip.

In Flagstaff, Arizona, the snow was so violent that this man told CNN it literally knocked him backward as he and his dog struggled to see and keep their footing. A sweeping massive storm system is pummeling much of the country from California to Maine. More than 65 million people under winter weather alerts across the West, Midwest, and Northeast.

The Minneapolis/St. Paul area could get around 20 inches by the time it's over. It could be the most snow that area has seen in three decades. Minnesota's governor discussed the dangers they prepared for.

GOV. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: The goal is to not to have to pull somebody off the interstate, but we're prepared to do so if that happens. The goal is to make sure that we're ready if there's power losses, being able to keep the highways and move emergency vehicles as quickly as we can.

TODD: Conditions so severe in Minnesota that ambulances have to be specially equipped.

RYAN MAYFIELD, HENNEPIN HEALTHCARE EMS ASSISTANT CHIEF: We have shovels in our ambulances. We have salt and sand mixtures as well to help us out. We have a few sleds if we need to use them.

TODD: California getting hit with snow in places that don't often experience it.

DANIEL SWAIN, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, UCLA: We are going to see low snow all the way from the Oregon border to the Mexican border.

TODD: North of Los Angeles, a long stretch of vehicles is stopped on state route 58 as the highway patrol warns motorists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are asking everybody to avoid the area, make alternate plans, drive a different day.

TODD: But in different areas, different impacts. Near San Jose, high winds snap trees, brought down power lines, and caused widespread power outages.

DIANE CHERMAK, SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, RESIDENT: These old Victorians, the wood is so old, if there's a spark that that's what really worries me.

TODD: High winds caused so-called brownout conditions and several vehicle accidents in the Texas panhandle.


TODD: And, of course, with this massive system, more than 1,500 flights have been canceled. That's according to the flight tracking site Flight Aware. It says the airports in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Detroit, and Denver are getting hit hardest -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you very much for that report. Brian Todd reporting.

Let's get the latest forecast right now. CNN's Jennifer Gray is joining us from our CNN weather center.

Jennifer, so which areas will be hit hardest?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The hardest, Wolf, is going to be those areas in the Midwest as well as South Dakota and North Dakota where we have these blizzard warnings in effect. You can see one in Wyoming as well.

But the impacts to these areas where the bigger cities are where you're going to have blinding conditions, roadways will definitely be impossible to travel on. And also the icing conditions across portions of these areas as well. You can see these areas shaded in pink and purple. That's the ongoing ice threat right now, the snow in white, of course.

And Minneapolis is in this big time. This could be one of the snowiest storms on record for them as that snow continues to come down all throughout the overnight hours through tomorrow morning.

So, for the northern tier of the country, it is going to be all snow, ice, and freezing rain. We'll put this into motion, and you can see really clearing out by the time we get into tomorrow morning. We should be in much better shape. But this is to stretch all the way to New England.

BLITZER: Jennifer Gray, thank you very much.

Just ahead, Israeli forces carrying out a deadly raid in the West Bank that killed several Palestinians and injured more than 100.



BLITZER: At least 11 Palestinians are dead and more than a hundred injured after Israeli forces carried out a raid in the West Bank.

CNN's Hadas Gold is in Jerusalem with the latest.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this was an unusual midday Israeli military raid into Nablus. Typically they carry out these types of raids overnight or in the dawn hours. But the military is saying that the timing was because of intelligence they received saying that these militants were planning an immediate attack. The Israeli military saying that when they reached the House where the militants were located, a large fire fight broke out as well as ensuing clashes with Palestinians in the area, as we can see from footage from the scene.

Now we know of several Palestinians that were killed, six of them have been claimed by militant groups including Hamas and Islamic jihad saying two commanders of theirs were killed. But it's likely based of the ages of at least of the three victims, as well as eyewitnesses, but some bystanders were killed as well.

Some videos we're seeing, which I should warn are graphic, show what appears to be men running away down a street before at least one of them is shot and falls down. CNN does not know the condition of the man. The Israeli military says they're looking into the incident to see what happened before the clip begins. Then there is the sheer number of injuries.

More than 100 injured, most from live ammunition, according to Palestinian authorities, one of the most violent days in the west bank in years. And that's also likely the result of the timing of this raid, the day, the old city of Nablus was busy. We can see from the videos of the ensuing street clashes of young Palestinians throwing things at the Israeli military vehicles how many people were out on the street.

Now, the Red Cross director said, quote, bullets were everywhere, and an Israeli military spokesperson painting a picture of a large chaotic event which he acknowledged got very messy.

Now, the Israeli authorities are preparing for some sort of reaction. Israeli police beefing up their security preparations while all eyes are south towards Gaza, in case the militant factions based there, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, may respond with rocket fire towards Israel -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Hadas Gold reporting for us, Hadas, thank you very much.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.