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The Situation Room

Two Americans Abducted In Mexico Dead, Two Alive And Back In U.S. CNN Exclusive With Ukraine Pres. Volodymyr Zelenskyy. GOP Senator Says Tucker Carlson Downplaying January 6th Is Bulls***; Feds Probing Sixth Close Call At Major U.S. Airport This Year; DeSantis Pushes Culture War, Anti-"Woke" Agenda Ahead Of 2024. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 07, 2023 - 18:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, we have new information about the armed kidnapping of four Americans in Mexico after two victims were found dead and two survived. We'll have a live report from near the border on how the four friends from South Carolina were apparently mistaken for drug smugglers.

Also tonight, a first look at Wolf's exclusive interview with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He's explaining why Ukrainian forces are refusing to retreat from Bakhmu, and warning about the consequences if Russia seizes the embattled city.

And some Republican senators are calling out Fox Host Tucker Carlson, calling his new attempt to downplay the January 6th riot B.S. we're following the heated reaction to Carlson's airing of insurrection video he was given by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

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

Tonight, Mexican officials say one person has been detained in connection with the deaths of two of four kidnapped Americans. The investigation intensifying as the two survivors are back in the U.S., trying to recover from their harrowing ordeal.

CNN's Rosa Flores is near the border and following all of the new details.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two of four missing Americans are back in the United States and receiving medical treatment in Texas after being kidnapped in Mexico, after what a U.S. official tells CNN was a case of mistaken identity. Two members of the party were found dead and one of the survivors is severely injured with a bullet wound to his leg, according to U.S. and Mexican officials.

In the party of four, Latavia Washington McGee and Eric Williams survived. Zindell brown and Shaeed Woodard were killed.

NED PRICE, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKEPERSON: We're providing all appropriate assistance to them and their families. We extend our condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased.

FLORES: They crossed the border from Brownsville, Texas, into Matamoros, Mexico on Friday for McGee to attain a medical procedure, according to a friend of McGee's. They drove a white minivan with North Carolina plates across the border and got lost while trying to locate the medical clinic where they were headed, the friend told CNN.

Before they were able to locate the clinic, disturbing video shows the aftermath of the kidnapping, as heavily armed men loaded them into a white truck and transported them to various locations to evade capture, according to Mexican officials.

The Mexican president saying today during a news conference that those responsible will be found and punished. A U.S. official familiar with the investigation told CNN they believe a Mexican cartel kidnapped the group after mistaking them for Haitian drug smugglers. Mexico's president saying the Americans were caught in a confrontation between two groups.

The State Department has issued its highest level 4 warning do not travel to Tamaulipas State, where the group was abducted, due to heavy crime and kidnapping in the region.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: There are many people who crossed over that border for these medical appointments.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION (voice over): Attacks on U.S. citizens are not unacceptable, no matter where or under what circumstances they occur.

FLORES: McGee and Williams are now under the care of the FBI and U.S. officials are making arrangements to bring home the bodies of Brown and Woodard.

PRICE: We want to see accountability for the violence that's been inflicted on these Americans.


FLORES (on camera): And the building that you see behind me, that is where we believe these Americans are receiving medical treatment. The hospital not releasing a statement at this time, but officials in Mexico releasing a timeline and even photograph of their search and saying that a 24-year-old man was arrested in relation to this kidnapping and that this individual apparently was doing some sort of surveillance on the Americans. And, Brianna, it's important to note that Mexican officials made it clear that it was Mexican law enforcement and not U.S. law enforcement who were on the ground during this search. Brianna?

KEILAR: Rosa, if you could stay with us. I do want to bring now, CNN Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst John Miller. I mean, John, give us a sense of how dangerous this region is.

MILLER: Well, it's very dangerous. It's not just dangerous for tourists, Brianna. As you know, it's a no-go zone. The State Department makes it a level 4 do not travel, yet you do have people traveling there for medical tourism, tourism, tourism to buy pharmaceuticals.

But it's an area that has long been controlled by the Gulf Cartel. The Gulf Cartel's leader, Jose Alfredo Cardenas, runs a $10 billion drug empire that works not just supplying fentanyl, heroin and other narcotics crossing the U.S. border but also vast human trafficking enterprise that makes money over moving people.


That's at the center of this. There's a crossover between some Haitian criminal organizations that are moving Haitian migrants that the cartel has just decided they're not going to deal with competition. That is the glitch that caused this confrontation and the kidnapping of these people, who were there literally lost, trying to find the doctor's office for this prescheduled medical procedure.

KEILAR: And, Rosa, you reported that two surviving Americans are now in the care of the FBI. They're hospitalized in Texas. What more can you tell us about their condition but also the FBI's role here?

FLORES: Yes. So, about the two individuals, one we believe was unharmed, and that's Latavia Washington McGee, and her friend, Eric Williams, according to Mexican officials, he was shot in the leg, and that that is a pretty serious injury.

As for the role of the FBI, Brianna, the FBI actually has many hats. We, of course, know it as the Federal Investigative Agency that investigates crimes here in the United States, and the FBI actually just release an updated statement on this case saying that this is an ongoing criminal investigation and that the FBI is working with the DEA, HSI and also the Department of State to get to the bottom of this, to figure out who is responsible for the series of crimes, the kidnapping and assault on these Americans.

Now, the FBI also has a victim's service personnel. According to the statement, they have personnel from various field offices here, working with the victims and their families as they recover, and then finally, Brianna, the FBI is also helping with the recovery of the deceased to make sure that they reunite them with their family.

KEILAR: Yes, incredibly important. And, John, take us through this, the investigation. What does this look like from here?

MILLER: Well, what you see here is, you have these people in this confrontation. Then the cartel people take them up and realize okay, these are not the criminal group we thought we were running into, what do we do with them now? Once they see the news reports that the FBI is offering a $50,000 reward, they know that, you know, these people are not involved in any criminal activity. So they are moving them, literally, from safe house to safe house over a period of days, understanding that they're going to be tracked by FBI, FBI intelligence sources, FBI informants on the ground, DEA. There're vast network of sources and informants in Mexico. So, every day, they're taking them to another location. One was described by the Mexican authorities as a wooden house until they determined it's time to transfer this international hot potato that's bringing heat on the cartel to some other location.

So, they dropped them off at the health clinic. That's when the call went out to the Mexicans that they were there, the Mexicans to the FBI that we now have them and the sad news that two are dead, as Rosa reported. Mr. Williams was shot in one leg. We're told he broke both legs, and he requires serious medical attention right now.

KEILAR: Yes, certainly does. And these families, obviously, in mourning and in the early stages of that as they found out this news.

John Miller, Rosa Flores, thank you so much to both of you.

Joining us now, we have Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, who is a Democrat of Texas there, along the border of this area that we're talking about. Sir, thank you so much for being with us. These two surviving Americans are now hospitalized in Texas. Can you tell us, are they in your district and do you have any information about how they're doing?

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): Yes, they're getting treatment at one of the hospitals in my district. And my condolences go out to the two that we lost in Matamoros to their families.

This is an unfortunate situation, but it's not isolated situation. This has happened across this region and across other regions in Mexico now for the better part of two decades. And I'm glad that this one it seems to be the straw that broke the camel's back. It's gotten national attention, people's attention across the country. But this is nothing new to what we have been experiencing by a cartel activity in Mexico for now 15 to 20 years.

And I think there is a real concern that they are the second largest trading partner. I think we're at a point where at a point where it's a national security concern that we need to start having conversations on Capitol Hill and with our friends and neighbors in Mexico about having critical ideas to dismantle and ultimately stop cartels across the border.

KEILAR: You have said that cartels need to be targeted like terrorists. What does that look like?

GONZALEZ: Well, I think we need to work with law enforcement and military and covertly in Mexico through intelligence and people on the ground, and make surgical operations to take them out, take them out financially and physically, bring them to justice when we can.

[18:10:11] But a clear message needs to be sent that the violence that we have tolerated for the last 20 years in Mexico cannot continue. It's now impacted American society. We lost 70,000 people to fentanyl alone this year. Mexico has lost more lives in the last 20 years to cartel violence than we have lost in every war from Korea, Vietnam to our wars in the Middle East, just to give you a perspective of what's happening across our border.

Now, trade is great and we love it, and I think that's what's prevented us from having a very serious conversation on cartel activity in Mexico. But at the end of the day, if we don't make real measures that will stop this violence across our border, it is going to have an economic impact in our country.

KEILAR: One person is in custody at this point. Are you confident that the Mexican government has the ability and will to bring those who are responsible here to justice?

GONZALEZ. That's right. I'm glad you said the will because that's what we need on both side is the political will to do what's right. And today, I heard the Mexican president talking about that he's going to handle it the way he handled the Mormons who were massacred in Chihuahua a couple of years ago.

But it's not just these situation, it's -- our neighbor's home is on fire, and they need help put it out and he needs to make profound changes in his criminal justice system to dismantle cartels and stop this from being a norm.

We thank him for investigating and doing all his doing to try to stop what occurred and investigate who's responsible, but we can't forget about this in two weeks. It continues every day and it's a national security concern for people of the United States of America.

KEILAR: Congressman Gonzalez, thank you for being with us, and, of course, we do wish the best in the recovery specifically for that one victim who's fighting there in your district to recovery at the hospital. Thank you.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

KEILAR: Just ahead, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reacting to the apparent execution of a Ukrainian POW in his exclusive interview with our Wolf Blitzer.



KEILAR: In Ukraine tonight, officials say, Russian forces are suffering heavy losses as they launched dozens of attacks around the embattled city of Bakhmut. During an exclusive interview with our Wolf Blitzer, President Zelenskyy explained why Bakhmut's defenders are refusing to retreat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to start with the battle for Bakhmut. The Ukraine has put up a tremendous fight and inflicted massive losses on the Russian side. But in recent days, Russian forces have made some critical gains there. Why have you decided not to withdraw from Bakhmut?

PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: We understand what Russia wants to achieve there. Russia needs at least some victory, a small victory, even by ruining everything in Bakhmut, just killing every civilian there. They need to put that little flag on top of that to show that society.

It's not a victory for them. It's more like to support -- to mobilize their society in order to create this idea of they're such a powerful army. For us is so different, this is tactical for us. We understand that after Bakhmut, they could go further. They could go to Kramatorsk, to Slovyansk. It would be an open road for the Russian after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine in the Donetsk direction, in the east of Ukraine. That's why our guys are standing there.


KEILAR: Wolf also had a chance to get President Zelenskyy's reaction to that incredibly disturbing video that appears to show Russian troops executing a Ukrainian prisoner of war.


BLITZER: As you know, Mr. President, a very disturbing video has emerged in recent days, appearing to show the execution of a Ukrainian prisoner of war by the Russians. This soldier has now been identified. He was fighting, as you know, near Bakhmut. And I want to warn our viewers right now, we'll play a little clip. This is graphic. Watch this.

His last words were slava Ukraini, glory to Ukraine. What goes through your mind, Mr. President, watching that truly horrific execution of your soldier?

ZELENSKYY: This is the show of the Russian attitude towards POWs. They don't have any laws of war or international law or any conventions. It's a question that these people, they don't respect anything. They don't fight like soldiers. It's -- for us, it's war for our freedom, for democracy, for our values. For them, it's terrorism. That's the attitude, and they post these videos. They just killed a guy who refused to surrender, and he said glory to Ukraine, that's what you got. This is the face of this war. This is the face of the Russian federation.


KEILAR: Let's get an update now from the war zone where CNN Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is standing by for us. Alex, you heard President Zelenskyy warn that capturing Bakhmut would give Russia an open road through Eastern Ukraine. Tell us what the latest is there on the ground. ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, what's interesting is that echoes exactly what we have been hearing on the ground.


When you go close to Bakhmut and you speak with Ukrainian forces there, they say exactly the same thing, that we're defend thing city, we have spent months defend thing city, because if they take it, it could provide a launching off point for Russia to push deeper into Ukraine.

Now, what is interesting is that we have already started hearing Ukrainian and some U.S. officials actually say that if Bakhmut were to fall to the Russians, that it would not be that strategic a victory, that it would actually be symbolic. But here, we have President Zelenskyy saying this would be a strategic victory for Russia were they to take it.

Now, I think some people would push back against President Zelenskyy about that notion of an open road, because we do expect Ukraine to dig in to the west of Bakhmut. We have seen trenches being dug. If Bakhmut were to fall to the Russians, we know that there would be fierce resistance. We know that Russia -- Ukraine has done a very good job at degrading those Russian forces. NATO estimated that for every five Russian soldiers who was killed or died, just one was -- it was a 5-1 ratio.

So, it is unlikely that Russia would be able to press forward too aggressively, were they to take Bakhmut, at least in the near future.

As for what's happening right now, Brianna, those Russian forces led by the Wagner Mercenary Group, they are still trying to encircle Bakhmut. They have made some gains to north of the city. They've pressed into the city from the east. They have had some successes.

But we did hear the head of Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, complaining that his forces are not getting enough ammunition from the Russian military. We are seeing much more of a gap between the Russian military and Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin also saying that they are seeing more Ukrainian forces come in to reinforce and try to push them back.

We have heard from President Zelenskyy saying that, that is going to be their punch if they are going to continue to defend, and on the recommendation of his top generals, they are going to reinforce those defenses that they have no intention of withdrawing at this point, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Alex Marquardt, in Eastern Ukraine, thank you for that report.

And a note to the viewers, that you can watch Wolf's full conversation with the Ukrainian president tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN. This is all part of a CNN primetime exclusive event, the Zelenskyy Interview, hosted by Wolf Blitzer. And coming up, new court documents just filed in the $1.6 billion lawsuit against Fox News. We'll share what we're learning right after the break.



KEILAR: All right. We do have some breaking news right now. New court documents were just filed in the Dominion Voting Systems' defamation case against Fox News. We have CNN Senior Media Reporter Oliver Darcy here with us along with our legal analysts. Oliver, you have been going through these filings just in. What can you tell us?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes, Brianna, there's a lot of filings. And it is the raw text messages, emails, deposition transcripts that were used in the previous filings we saw from Dominion and Fox News. So, it's a hundreds of pages worth of material and we've been going through it and still going through it.

But there are a couple of top notes I think off the bat. One is that Rupert Murdoch in his deposition, he repeatedly rejected Dominion conspiracy theories. He was asked a number of different times about conspiracy theories, he says, the Dominion lawyer asked, do you believe that Dominion was engaged in an a massive and coordinated effort to steal the 2020 presidential election? Murdoch says, no. Have you seen any credible evidence that suggest that Dominion was engaged in a massive and coordinated effort to steal the election? Murdoch says no. He says -- the say, you've never believed that Dominion was involved in any effort to delegitimized and destroy votes for Donald Trump, correct? Murdoch says he's open to persuasion, but, no, I have not seen it.

And then there's another email that we have in which Murdoch emails Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, and he talks about -- he says he had a big morning with McConnell meeting with Lindsey Graham and other anti- impeachers and he talks about how they're, quote, still getting mud thrown at us, and asks her if it's unarguable that high-profile Fox News voices fed the story that the election was stolen in the January 6th, it was an important chance to have that result overturned. Then Murdoch I think importantly here, he says maybe Sean Hannity and Laura Ingaham went too far. These are, again, part of hundreds of pages of documents that we're just getting and poring over, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, Norm, how significant is this?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Brianna, I think it's significant. There is a staggering trove of information here, and it still has a considerable number of redactions. But even the unredacted parts, the admission by Rupert Murdoch that the election was not stolen, coming in proximity to Fox continuing to broadcast unfounded allegations about this election by Tucker Carlson. Who knows what is under those redactions. There are probably even more damaging information. So, I think this is very important, and we have yet to get to trial, which will come in April. Who knows what lies ahead there.

KEILAR: Carrie, what do you think about the redactions and what do you think just how lengthy this filing is?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so these documents, these are the exhibits that support Dominion's motion for summary judgment. So, they just want a decision made on the law.


And what these particular emails, as we're going through them, and the text messages, as our reporter are looking through this new filing, what they do is they really adds color to information that was are in more detail to information that was already in Dominion's pretrial findings.

But this is -- as Norm says, this is just the beginning, this is the preliminary information that Dominion is able to make public. I would presume that there is more information that they have available that would come out in the potential trial. So, it's really just a preview of what is to come.

KEILAR: And, Oliver, Fox is denying wrongdoing. They say the judge should resolve the case in their favor before it goes to trial. Any chance of that happening?

DARCY: I don't think so. And I would say, too, beyond the legal case, this just really shows how the sausage is made over at Fox and adds color. It is a really -- these documents have given us a never before seen look behind the curtain at Fox. And the way the sausage has made is not too pretty.

KEILAR: Yes. Norm, what do you think about where this heads?

EISEN: When you see these admissions involving Rupert Murdoch, his son, Lachlan, the top executives at Fox, in their own words, we read about it, Brianna, in the motions, but now you see the actual texts and emails, the deposition pages. It makes a powerful case for liability. It is mysterious to me why Fox would continue to want this case to go to trial, but you can only conclude that that is where (INAUDIBLE). They are going to very likely fail on summary judgment. Maybe the case will resolve then. So much damage already done, and presumably some of the worst material lies ahead under these redactions and at trial in April.

KEILAR: Carrie, what do you think?

CORDERO: Well, there is also -- Brianna, there is a -- much more information that is going to come out, and there is a very high standard for defamation. So, Dominion, in this case, does have to have to reach a very high legal standard. They have to show clear and convincing evidence that there was malice, that there was a reckless disregard on the part of Fox executives and Fox as an institution to continually, time after time after time, broadcast this false information.

KEILAR: Yes. It's a pretty interesting filing, as they all are, to be honest, when you looked at them. Oliver, Norm, Carrie, thank you to all of you for the discussion. And just ahead, the Republican backlash against Fox Host Tucker Carlson. Key GOP senators calling Carlson's attempts -- new attempt at sanitizing January 6th a mistake and, quote, B.S.



KEILAR: Tonight, it's not only Democrats who are slamming Fox Host Tucker Carlson for using newly attained January 6th video to try to down play what happened that day.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean has more on that. Jessica, how are Republicans reacting Carlson's portrayal of the riot?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we heard a lot of pushback, particularly from Senate Republicans today, as they kind of absorbed what Tucker Carlson played on his show last evening.

Again, just to bring everybody up to speed, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, granting Carlson access to some 40,000 hours of video, which Carlson has now used to really try to downplay what happened here on January 6th, to downplay the violent insurrection that took place right here on Capitol Hill on January 6th. I'll let you listen to some of the Senate Republicans, starting first with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that's completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here at the Capitol thinks.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): I was there on January 6th. I saw what happened. I saw the aftermath. Look, there was violence on January 6th. I think the footage that's available should be made available to all networks and everybody should be able to see for themselves just what kind of chaos we had on that day.

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I think it's bullshit. I was here. I was down there. And I saw maybe a few tourists, a few people who got caught up in things. But when you see police barricades breached, when you see police officers assaulted, I just don't think it's helpful.


DEAN: And if you watched the video that Carlson had at cherry-pick essentially to kind to prove his points, you see video like showing the shaman, the infamous shaman walking through the Capitol at a peaceful moment, and, in fact, the Capitol police chief really pushing back so strongly against this, and really, in his words, cherry- picking this video.

I'll read you what he said in a statement last night in an opinion program aired commentary that was filled with offensive and misleading conclusions about the January 6th attack. The program conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video. The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during those less tense moments. And, again, that was from the U.S. Capitol police chief, Brianna.

KEILAR: Very interesting to hear what Republican senators were saying up there today. Jessica, thank you for the report.

I want to get more now on this with Congressman Jim Himes. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Sir, thank you for being with us.

And when you see what Tucker Carlson did using this January 6th footage, I want to talk to you about that here in a moment.


First, I want to get your perspective on this lengthy new filing in Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox. How are you reacting to this?

REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Well, those two things are very closely connected, Brianna, because we know from the Dominion lawsuit, and we will know as it comes to trial, that Fox News is not, in fact, news. It is a money-making entity that is happy to peddle falsehoods, even if those falsehoods damage the very foundation of our democracy and our market economy in the service of making money. And that's not a Democratic member of Congress saying that, this is something that Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition. Tucker Carlson, of course, trying to get a journalist fired because that journalist told the truth.

And so this Dominion lawsuit is going to continue to expose the very severe danger that comes from deciding that it's more important to profit and make a lot of money than it is to do the basic, civic obligations that we all have as citizens to preserve our democracy.

KEILAR: What is your reaction to how Carlson used the January 6th footage to try to downplay what happened that day? You were there.

HIMES: I was there. And so let me answer your question as a person who just 40 feet from where I'm standing on that day worried that he might not live to see the end of that day, not as a member of Congress. I will tell you that I'm beyond appalled. I'm not surprised. We know who Tucker Carlson is. Tucker Carlson is a parasite on the body politic who, by his own admission and by the words that we're getting from the Dominion lawsuit, is willing to enrich himself and his business to peddle the most insane conspiracy theories to a very small number of people who eat that up.

That is the very definition of being an anti-patriot because it erodes our democracy. It is contrary to the facts that you can see if you watch anything about that. So, it's not at all surprising that he cherry-picked out of thousands of hours of video something that supports a completely propagandastic narrative. And I'll just tell you this, it's enraging. It makes me want to jump through the screen as strangle the guy, it's enraging as somebody who's life is put at risk on January the 6th to see a parasitic guy like Tucker Carlson trying to retell history in some perverted way at a place to -- I don't know, some tiny, fringe element of our body politic.

KEILAR: What do you think when you here from your Republican colleagues on the Senate side, including leader McConnell, pushing back, some of them very forcefully on Carlson?

HIMES: Well, it gives me hope, because there clearly is a line, and Tucker Carlson, who crosses that line every single day, crossed that line. So to hear leader McConnell, in his way, condemn it, to hear Senator Tillis use a barnyard epitaph as they say to describe it shows that this institution has the bipartisan capability to reject the dangerous propaganda that Tucker Carlson is implying.

And, by the way, Tucker Carlson's advertisers should reflect on the bipartisan condemnation of that very, very dangerous tact that he is taking.

KEILAR: It's been incredibly hurtful as you know to Officer Brian Sicknick's family, and they are slamming Carlson's portrayal of his death, saying that Fox is ripping their wounds wide open again. Are you surprised by Tucker Carlson decisions to focus on Officer Sicknick's death?

HIMES: Not at all surprised. Again, I'll say it again, he is a parasite. He is amoral parasite on our body politic. As I stand here right now, I can see four, five Capitol police officers whose job it is to protect me. They did it on January 6th at great risk to their own lives. We have now had well in excess of 1,000 prosecutions of the criminals who broke windows here, who broke into this institution on January 6th.

So, look, I'm in the business of taking shots in politics but I'm looking at a bunch of Capitol police officers who shouldn't have to imagine that one of the biggest challenges to their day tomorrow, or the next day is going to be Tucker Carlson's B.S., as Thom Tillis so memorably put it.

KEILAR: Congressman Himes, thank you so much for your time this evening. We appreciate it.

HIMES: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, more chaos in the skies. What we are learning about a passenger who allegedly tried to open the emergency exit and also stab a flight attendant, also another close call at a major U.S. airport making it the sixth incident this year.



KEILAR: It's been a chaotic year so far for commercial aviation in the United States. And tonight, we're learning new information about two more extremely disturbing events involving passenger airliners. CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean has our report.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are among the latest incidents concerning your safety in the sky. From unruly passengers --

FRANCISCO TORRES, UNRULY PASSENGER: I'm taking over this plane.

PASSENGER: Oh, my God!

MUNTEAN: To another near collision on the runway.

PILOT: American 2172, going around.

CONTROL: American 2172, roger.

MUNTEAN: The FAA and NTSB just announced they are investigating a February 16th incident in Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport in Florida. It is the sixth close call involving commercial airliners at major U.S. airports this year. Investigators say an American Airlines flight was cleared to land on the same runway where an Air Canada route flight was taking off.

DENNIS TRAJER, ALLIED PILOTS ASSOCIATION: This system is as stressed as I've ever seen it in my 30-plus years working in the airlines.

MUNTEAN: Dennis Trajer represents American Airlines Pilot Union.

TRAJER: These incidents, things that we've been talking about well over a year ago are starting to show up on the flight deck and in operations.

MUNTEAN: Problems extend to passenger cabins, where there's been a second high profile, unruly flyer in as many weeks.

TORRES: There's going to be a bloodbath everywhere.

MUNTEAN: The Justice Department says 33-year-old Francisco Torres was wrestled to the ground Sunday onboard a United Airlines flight.


LISA OLSEN, UNITED AIRLINES PASSENGER: A couple of passengers tried to talk to him, to calm him down. It was only making him more agitated.

MUNTEAN: Lisa Olsen recorded the flight from Los Angeles to Boston. Court documents say Torres attempted to open the emergency exit and stab a flight attendant with a metal spoon.

OLSEN: The United crew, plus all the passengers being able to act so quickly, just was very comforting. I had confidence, complete confidence that they had everything under control.


MUNTEAN (on camera): Passengers say at one point, Torres was able to escape the zip ties that were being used to restrain him. Right now, he's being detained pending a court hearing. All these issues likely to come up on Capitol Hill tomorrow. The FAA's acting administrator is facing lawmakers ahead of a safety summit next week -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Pete Muntean, thank you.

And just ahead, former First Lady Michelle Obama opening up about her uncontrollable sobbing after Trump was sworn in as president.



KEILAR: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is giving voters another preview of his potential 2024 presidential bid and primary showdown with Donald Trump. The Republican delivered his state of the state address today.

And our Brian Todd is looking at DeSantis' potential run.

Brian, DeSantis is focusing on quite a few culture war hot button issues.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Brianna. Ron DeSantis has staked much of his governorship on cultural issues like abortion and guns. And tonight, he seems ready to make them a centerpiece of his likely presidential bid.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: I can promise you this: you ain't seen nothing yet.

TODD (voice-over): Florida's popular and powerful Republican Governor Ron DeSantis laying the foundation for a run for president.

DESANTIS: We did it our way, the Florida way.

MARC CAPUTO, FLORIDA POLITICAL REPORTER: Opposing Ron DeSantis has made quite clear is a pathway to irrelevancy at least in the Florida Republican Party.

DESANTIS: DeSantis today gave his state of the state address ahead of a book promotion tour and a highly anticipated launch of a presidential bid, possible in May or June. Much of his agenda focused on the culture wars in America, where analyst say DeSantis has shown he wants to push Florida further to the right, like on the issue of abortion.

The Florida legislature has introduced a ban on abortion at six weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for cases of rape and incest, which DeSantis has signaled he'd support. Another priority for DeSantis, making it easier to carry a gun in Florida. STEVE CONTORNO, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: He has promised to

remove restrictions on carrying a weapon in public, specifically requirements that you have to get training and a permit for a concealed carry.

TODD: DeSantis has championed legislation that prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools until after third grade. And now, Florida lawmakers are trying to push that until after eighth grade. He also wants Florida to be a leader in fighting against medical treatment for transgender children.

DESANTIS: It's sad that we have to say this, but our children are not guinea pigs for science experimentation and we cannot allow people to make money off mutilating them.

TODD: DeSantis has shown an extraordinary ability to make those issues the law of the land in Florida, partially analysts say by at least projecting he can pressure Republican lawmakers to support his agenda.

CAPUTO: Lawmakers explicitly admit, look, this is a session to further Ron DeSantis's ambitions and they're there to make it happen. Anything he wants, he's probably going to get.

TODD: Analysts say that while DeSantis would face a tough fight against Donald Trump, he might have an advantage over the former president because he's been so committed to cultural issues.

SCOTT JENNINGS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Trump doesn't come by these values as honestly perhaps. They're more transactional for him. So, therefore, he doesn't feel as compelled to finish the fights. Ron DeSantis I think comes by these values honestly and therefore feels compelled to finish.


TODD: Analysts say a big reason Ron DeSantis has been so aggressive in pushing Florida lawmakers to support him on these culture war issues is because he was emboldened by his landslide reelection in November, winning by almost 20 percentage points.


KEILAR: All right. Brian Todd, thank you for that report.

Other news that we're following, former First Lady Michelle Obama opening up about her final moments in the White House. In a clip from her new podcast, Obama revealed the intense emotions that she felt as she and her husband handed over the keys to the Trumps.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: After the inauguration and we know whose inauguration we were at, that day was so emotional on so many different reasons. We were leaving the home we had been in for eight years, the only home

our kids really knew. They remembered Chicago, but they had spent more time in the White House than anywhere. So we were saying good-bye to the staff and all the people who helped raise them. There were tears. There was that emotion.

But then to sit on that stage and watch the opposite of what we represented on display, there was no diversity, there was no color on that stage, there was no reflection of the broader sense of America.

Many people took pictures of me, like you weren't in a good mood. No, I was not. But you had to hold it together like you do for eight years.

And then you walk through the Capitol, you wave good-bye, you get on Marine One and you take your last flight flying over the Capitol where there weren't that many people there. We saw it, by the way.

And then we went to Andrews Air Force Base, said good-bye to the military, got on Air Force One. When those doors shut, I cried for 30 minutes straight, uncontrollable sobbing, because that's how much we were holding it together for eight years.


KEILAR: Some very candid words there.

I'm Brianna Keilar in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you so much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.