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Russia Unleashes One Of Its Biggest Aerial Assaults Of The War; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Hospitalized With A Concussion After Falling; Biden Unveils Budget Plan As Battles Wwith GOP Loom; Senators Grill Norfolk Southern CEO Over Derailments; Suspected Terrorist Wounds Three In Tel Aviv Shooting. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 09, 2023 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll have the latest on his condition.

And President Biden unveils his budget proposal laying ground work for high-stakes battles with Republicans and for his expected 2024 re- election campaign. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh joins us to discuss the president's plan as GOP attacks are already underway.

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

Let's go right to Ukraine right now and the aftermath of that deadly Russian missile bombardment across the entire country. Our Senior International Correspondent Ivan Watson is joining us live from the capital of Kyiv right now. Ivan, Kyiv is just one of the cities that was brutally targeted?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, you know, Wolf, both the Russian and Ukrainian militaries have used the same word to describe this Russian attack, they both called this massive.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he says at least six people were killed across the country by the missile strikes early Thursday morning, which left Ukrainian workers scrambling to try to keep the electricity, the heat and the hot water on in cities across the country.


WATSON (voice over): By land, sea and air, Russia launched a massive missile attack on Ukraine, hireling at least 84 missiles and killer drones against its neighbor in a single night. The deadly barrage pounding Ukraine in the north, south, east and west, decimating several houses in the western city of Lviv, killing at least two women and three men there.

In the capital, Kyiv, one missile strike temporarily knocked out some electric power while another slammed into the courtyard of a latch apartment block. Fortunately, no one was killed here this morning by this missile strike but it terrified people living next door. No one in Ukraine knows when a deadly Russian missile could explode in their neighborhood.

Ulya and Nastya Kulvanovska say the 7:00 A.M. blast broke windows in their seventh floor apartment.

NASTYA KULVANOVSKA, KYIV RESIDENT: It was very dangerous. So, we were very scared of it.

WATSON: But the close call didn't stop them from working today.

We've developed immunity after a year of war, says Ulya. We don't even run and hide in the basement anymore when there are air raid sirens.

The Ukrainian military says air defenses shutdown nearly half of Russia's missiles and drones, but can't intercept some of these deadly weapons

YURII IHNAT, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE SPOKEPERSON: There were X-22, which we can't shoot down. We can't shoot down the Kinzhal either.

Russia's Defense Ministry calls the missile barrage retaliation for what it claims was a Ukrainian terrorist attack in Russia's Bryansk Region on March 2nd, claims which CNN has not been able to independently verify, deadly Russian revenge attacks that leave ordinary Ukrainians picking up the pieces.


WATSON (on camera): Wolf, this isn't the first time that Russia fired lots of missiles at Ukrainian cities, and it has frequently, repeatedly tried to take out the electric power grid here and has largely failed throughout the campaign in past months.

Here in Kyiv, the power was knocked out for hours to about 15 percent of the city, but it has since been restored. The mayor says, the heat is still out to 30 percent of the city though, and it's March, it is cold. Meanwhile, the military has conceded that this latest tactic, firing different kind of missiles and in particular these Kinzhal hyper sonic missiles, that has proved to be somewhat successful against Ukrainian's air defenses. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Ivan Watson, thank you very much. Stay safe over there.

This new Russian air assault by the way underscores why Ukraine is seeking more firepower from the west, including fighter jets. I spoke with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about his plea for U.S. war planes in our exclusive one-on-one interview.


BLITZER: Are western fighter jets U.S. fighter jets, other western fighter jets, Mr. President, the weapon make or break a Ukrainian victory?


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: Yes, we believe so. In this war, there were several pages. There were artillery supplies, 155 millimeters, then the next page was HIMARS supplies. And the other page, we've got air defense system for Ukraine being sent in order to preserve Ukrainian infrastructure and energy supplies, and fighter jets are part of this structure. And as you know, we also had page on attacks. And we -- as soon as we started opening this page, the tanks will be supplied to Ukraine.

BLITZER: I just want to clarify, Mr. President, did President Biden tell you that fighter jets to Ukraine are still possible?

ZELENSKYY: We spoke about fighter jets. And you make your own assumptions. President Biden has his position from his advises, aides and military direction that what Ukraine doesn't need at the moment, and jets, according to that, were not needed. And I said, no, we need those jets, and this is a clear sign of a part of our air defense, to defend our infrastructure and population, because we can't receive 20- 30 air defense systems for Ukraine because it's a long process to receive those systems in Ukraine. We don't have that and we won't get it in one or two years because this manufacturing is a long process. But what fighter jets could do, they could help us to defend ourselves. That's why we need it urgently.


BLITZER: And joining me now, Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado. He's a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee as well as the Intelligence Committee. He's also a U.S. military veteran. Congressman, thank you for joining us. So you just heard the Ukrainian president tell me how badly Ukraine needs the U.S. fighter jets like these F-16s for example. Does last night massive missile attack by Russia across almost all of Ukraine help President Zelenskyy make that case?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well Vladimir Putin is losing this war. He cannot win on the battlefield he knows that, so he is doing what brutal dictators do who are losing wars and he's mounting a terror campaign against the Ukrainian people. He's raping women and children. He is trying to starve them. He's trying to freeze them. He's trying to break their back and their will, which clearly shows that he actually doesn't know the Ukrainian people. He doesn't know they will never be broken, that he will never take Ukrainian.

So the question becomes how do we help Ukrainians win this and how do what was alleviate the suffering of the Ukrainian people? We need to help them fight and win now, but we also have to embark on a military modernization of the Ukrainian air force and their air defenses as well as their ground forces and actually equip them with the weapons and equip them necessary to actually fight the type of battle that we're training them to fight on the training grounds Europe, and that is fire maneuver warfare, which we are training them to do in Germany and other places right now. They just need the equipment to do it and that includes fourth generation fighters.

BLITZER: So do you support the providing the Ukrainians with these F- 16 fighter jets?

CROW: I support providing them with fourth generation fighters. Now, there are different ways of accomplishing that, there are F-16s, there are F-15, there are MIG-29s. There are different systems that are in our inventory and inventory of our allies that could actually accomplish this. But you know, one, not one single system will get this done. This has to be a comprehensive moderation campaign has to include air defense systems, has to include long range fires, that's long range artillery, long range rockets has to include robust training, has to include intelligence services and has include the ability to create an air cap to achieve air superiority over Ukraine to support those ground forces in the counter offensive this coming spring.

BLITZER: I know Congressman you participated in the House Intelligence Committees' hearing on worldwide threat where the CIA director said no one is watching the Ukraine war more intently than China, how concerned are you about China's potential influence in this conflict?

CROW: I'm very concerned, and we know that China is considering providing lethal military aid to Russia, they've been providing nonmilitary aid to Russia for quite some time, but President Xi Jinping of China, actually views this as a proxy to what he wants to achieve.

He is also a brutal dictator and autocrat. He wants to take by force the Democratic island of Taiwan. He wants to expand his influence throughout all of Asia and he believes this war is weakening the west, weakening NATO, weakening the United States.


And if Russia's able to accomplish a brutal by force takeover of a friendly country, then that's a template for him to do the same. So that's why it's so important to win. It is so important to win because we need a peaceful and prosperous Europe because our economic interest as Americans are aligned with the Ukrainians but also because we can't allow a world where brutal dictators can just decide what they want to do and take by force weaker smaller nations and that certainly what China would like to do.

BLITZER: Let me follow up, on China's calculations in terms of Taiwan, for example, the CIA director seemed to think President Xi's ambitions may have been sobered as a result of Vladimir Putin experience in Ukraine do you agree with that

CROW: Yes. That is true, I think he's certainly paying attention, he's sobered by a couple of things, number one the poor performance of the Russian military, who everybody over estimated including our own services, a poor performance of those weapon systems, the grit and tenacity and determination of a free Democratic people fighting for their freedom and survival, which of course would be the situation in Taiwan as well.

But also the strength of NATO in the western alliance, which has been strong, which has been cohesive, and has been vigorous in the last year. So certainly, as given him pause but he's playing a long game, they're watching, they're learning, and we have to make sure of the lesson that he learns over the next couple of years is that this will not pay off.

BLITZER: Congressman Jason Crow thank you so much for joining us.

CROW: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, new information about potential criminal charges against former President Trump. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: This just in, prosecutors in Manhattan have just said no to attorneys for Donald Trump that the former president is likely to face criminal charges for his role in the Stormy Daniels hush money payments according to a new report from the New York Times. Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is on the story for us. So, Paula, give us the latest?

PAULA REID, CNN LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this new reporting from the New York Times is the strongest indication yet that former President Trump could potentially face indictment in New York.

Now, this investigation stems from a nearly five-year long investigation into $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels in the final days of 2016 campaign. She was paid by former President Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, who was eventually reimbursed by former President Trump while he was in the White House.

Now, at this point, the investigation is still ongoing. It's always possible that the district attorney could decide not to pursue charges, one of the interesting nuggets in the New York Times report is the fact that the former president has been given the opportunity to testify before grand jury where in recent weeks we've seen a parade of high profile Trump associates going to testify in this case.

But, Wolf, if they do decide to move forward with an indictment here, a conviction could be challenging, this case is based on a novel legal theory ear talking about conduct that occurred about seven years ago and at the center of case is Michael Cohen who is, of course, admitted and convicted liar.

BLITZER: Paula, I want you to standby, stay with us, I also want to bring in our Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. Elie, just how likely is it that the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, will face criminal charges for his role in this hush money scandal.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, what this tells me for sure is that the Manhattan D.A. is in the end game phase of their investigation. New York State has a fairly unusual law that says a potential defendant like in this case, potentially Donald Trump, has a right to testify in front of the grand jury.

Now a lot of states don't have that law, that is also not the law federally. Now, it's likely Donald Trump, if given this invitation, would decline to take it up. You would not ask a potential defendant as a prosecutor to come in and testify until you are in the final stages, because if you are going to get a chance to question someone like this you want to make sure that you have all your facts lined up, Wolf. So it will be up to the D.A. whether he seeks an indictment, but this tells me that he's getting close to a decision.

BLITZER: Elie, as you heard Paula just said that they offered Trump a chance to testify next week before the grand jury. Specifically does that also, and I want to press you on this, does that suggest to you that a criminal charges are likely very soon

HONIG: Well, typically you would not make that offer, Wolf, to somebody who you had no intention on charging, it is a move that you would want to make to be safe in an abundance of caution you and want to cover yourself, but yes, it does tell me that charges are more likely than not, for sure.

BLITZER: And do you expect Trump will take them up on the offer to actually testify.

HONIG: I'm quite sure he will not, Wolf, of course because if he does testify in front of the grand jury anything he says, can and will be used against him in an eventually prosecution. So the smart move, and I'm sure what Donald Trump has done in the past that will do here is to decline the offer.

BLITZER: Paula, what could this mean for the 2024 presidential campaign?

REID: Wolf, for former president has said even if he's indicted he would continue to campaign, that wouldn't stop him from pursuing the White House once again, but this isn't the only legal jeopardy that he's facing. There are of course, two special counseling investigations, one into his possible mishandling of classified records down in Florida and then also his involvement in January 6th, he's facing a criminal probe down in Georgia where it is expected even if you talk to his own lawyers they say it's very possible that he could be indicted down there for his alleged efforts to interfere in the results of the 2020 election in that state.

So he is facing investigations on multiple fronts, with the federal and state level but he said, if he indicted, that would not prevent him from running. Now, the question is whether he can be convicted whether he would be convicted on any of these charges and how that could potentially impact his run.

BLITZER: And what about that notion you know, Paula, that so much of the testimony would rely on Michael Cohen, was a convicted liar went to jail, so much would rely on what he has to say. [18:20:09]

Yes, that's a problem for prosecutors. That's a big problem for prosecutors and any former President Trump defense attorneys would likely seize on Michael Cohen's previous legal issues the fact that he is a convicted and admitted liar, and the fact that he has been arguably quite fixated on the former president, his given countless interviews saying that he believes that Trump is guilty, that he wants to see him brought to justice. I think any defense attorney would consider Michael Cohen a dream witness in case like this.

BLITZER: Elie, what's the normal result of cases like this one, in terms of punishments and consequences?

HONIG: Well, Wolf, this would be a first of its kind prosecution under New York State Law. Again, it's important to understand we're talking about New York State Law here, this is not a federal case, we're not looking at federal law.

Now, the New York State Law at issue is called falsification of business records, ordinarily, on its owns that just a misdemeanor, meaning it's punishable by less than one year in prison, usually those are petty offenses. However if prosecutors can show that they falsified business records in connection with some other crime, and here we're talking about a potential campaign finance crime then it rises up to the level of really the lowest level felony.

The maximum punishment here would be four years, but it does carry mandatory prison time if there's a conviction but keep in mind, Wolf, as Paula has said, if there is an indictment here, this is a seriously difficult case to make because of Michael Cohen's difficulties as a witness, because of the age of the conduct, and because of the political factors that go with asking a jury to convict a political figure who's in the midst of a run for the next presidency.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a huge, huge, moment, I want to bring in former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger and get his reaction. So, Adam, what's your reaction to this latest development?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean it's -- I guess, it's a big story to an extent, it's not the enchilada, I think everybody is thinking, obviously, the biggest thing I'm interested in is what happened on the January 6th situation and stuff like that.

But this obviously, there's a lot of details I still don't necessarily know about this case. But as all your guests have been saying, it's going to be difficult to prove, difficult to prosecute. So I think people need to look at this kind of in that spectrum and realize we're still waiting to hear from Georgia and some other stuff federally as well.

BLITZER: But what do you think, Adam, if in fact, he is charged with a crime, do you think he can still run for president?

KINZINGER: I think he absolutely will still run because -- actually it will probably make him more popular within the GOP. I think this is a reality whether it's this crime, maybe potentially even the January 6th, look at what happened when he defeated impeachment the first time, look what happened, you know, frankly when he wasn't even removed the second time which he should have been.

He actually gains popularity, he's able -- he's so good at being a victim. It's amazing in this kind of culture that they have where it's supposed to be about strength and manhood, he's actually like the biggest victim ever. But I think he will play the victim card in this, probably will help him in the primary and short of being convicted of a felony it's not going to stop it. It's not going to stop him from running.

BLITZER: All right, Adam Kinzinger, Elie Honig, Paula Reid, guys thank you guys very, very much, we'll clearly stay on top of the development.

Coming up, President Biden just laid out his new budget blueprint and the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is already signaling it's dead on arrival in the House. The politic surrounding the plans and more when we come back.



BLITZER: President Biden went to the key battle ground state of Pennsylvania once again today to tout his newly unveiled budget plan, his battles with Congressional Republicans and the 2024 election very much clearly on his mind. CNN Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is joining us right now. So, Phil, what kind of marker did the president lay down today?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's no question this is a sweeping and detailed proposal that lays out the president's priorities and pretty much every element of the federal government in terms of involvements, in terms of what he wants to do in tax policy but more than anything else, this document is a direct challenge to Republicans, challenges related to the near term fiscal battles at the new House Republican majority has already started to engage in and also challenges before a likely 2024 campaign, where Philadelphia and Pennsylvania certainly will be critical components of any electoral map.

When you talk to White House advisors going into this moment, while all of elements of the president's budget are certainly the values that he's proposed often over the course of the last three years, laying the grounds work for the battle ahead particularly on the debt ceiling which needs to be raised by the summer, which Republicans have made clear they will not raise without concessions from the White House. The president making clear that was on his mind as well. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Instead of making threats about default, which would be catastrophic, let's take that off the table. I want to make it clear I'm ready to meet with speaker any time tomorrow if he has his budget, lay it down tell me what you want to do I'll show you what I want to do, see if we can agree and don't agree, let's see what we vote on.


MATTINGLY: Wolf, there's a key element of what the president was saying there that gets at one of the political aspects of this budget documents, saying he's willing to meet with Speaker McCarthy as long as Republicans put their budget out. This budget from the White House, required by law and no question definitely a detailed proposal, but also to some degree, White House officials wants House Republicans to lay out their budget proposals.


They know that the deep spending cuts the Republicans have pledged will serve as one adviser told me a several weeks ago a political gold mine in terms of attacks that the White House can deploy over the coming months. One thing is clear though, White House officials maintains, there will be no negotiations when it comes to the debt ceiling, that means that there's really no end game in mind right now, with Republicans who say there have to be concessions. So how this plays out? Certainly in the next couple of months will be instrumental on that, but the political pressure that this budget document that will help the White House ramp up in the months ahead and also there's the key elements of this, deficit -- cutting the deficit with $3 trillion dollars over a decade, not touching entitle programs investments, the president is putting on the table, all are elements they want to put up as a contrast against Republicans but help them politically in the year term with the White House advisors say but also it's a pretty good campaign document when you talk to White House officials and Democrats as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Clearly the stakes right now are enormous. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you very, very much.

And joining me the Labor Secretary Marty Walsh in his final days in President Biden's cabinet. He's leaving the Biden administration on Saturday. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

As you obviously well know, the president unveiled his budget proposal today which the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy already says, and I'm quoting completely unserious. What's your response to that?

MARTY WALSH, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, when the president puts a budget together, he talks to his cabinet, we make recommendations and I can guarantee you that everything that we're put in that budget is a very serious proposal for the American people.

The president doesn't joke when it comes to the economy, doesn't joke when it comes to the spending American tax dollars to run our country, so I hope that the leader and the members of Congress will take a serious look at the budget as they move forward, and certainly look forward to a very interesting and hopefully very successful conversation about the budget.

BLITZER: The immediate issue though right now is the summer debt ceiling deadline is clearly looming. Is the Biden administration going to actually negotiate with Republicans? How do you see this fight over the debt ceiling playing out?

WALSH: Well, it's my understanding the last three increase in the debt ceiling happened in the last administration, and both sides came together, there was no wheeling and dealing they understood the importance of raising the debt ceiling to what it would do to our economy, and I hope people take that seriously understanding the impacts of the economy, this is not an issue you would wheel and deal on this you deal collectively together, there's some issues that Congress should look at not as Democratic versus Republican or the other way around, we should be looking at the American people and our economy first.

BLITZER: The new budget proposal that the president unveiled today is largely viewed as a road map for the president's 2024 priorities. And his remarks today actually and I listened to the entire speech, sounded a lot like a campaign speech. How is the president going to rally his party around him when some Democrats have said they don't actually want him to run again?

WALSH: Well I think the president, when he makes a decision if he makes a decision to run for president and run for election, he'll let that known, right now he has a job in front of him. We all have a job in front of us, and the importance is how do we take advantage of what the president was able to work with Congress, passing historic legislation over the last two years and making sure that the every person-to-person feels the impact of that legislation whether a new road, whether it's working on the road, whether it's microchip in their car or their cell phone, or they're working in those factories. You know, the president's focused on doing the job of president and that's quite honest what he'll be doing the next two years as well.

Now, whether or not he decides and makes announcement he'll run for president, even when that day comes, the president will still continue to be our president.

BLITZER: I mentioned that tomorrow will be your last day as Labor Secretary, you're leaving in a clearly critical time for U.S. economy right now, as you well know the number of job openings in the U.S. fell slightly in January, but concerns about inflation continue to linger. Can the U.S. economy remain resilient despite the ongoing recession fears?

WALSH: I certainly can. I mean you think about what this administration has done over the last two years, with getting people back to work, with creating more opportunities, getting people into better positions with higher wages, I mean the president has been very clear, the economy is moving in a very positive direction, but he's also very clear that he want to do everything he can to ease the inflation pressure that is every American is facing right now and that's something as an administration we continue to do, to try to bring those down, whether it's supply chain, whether it's bringing more manufacturing back to America, all these different challenges that are in front of us, he'd going to do everything he can to bring those pressures down. You can't rush on your laurels here, we've had -- this will be my 24th job day if you will as Secretary of Labor and we've had incredible numbers all across the board averaging I think over the last two years, if you take the average it about 300,000 jobs per month.


Many of those folks are in better paying jobs than they were, but we still have work to do and I think that, that's really important.

BLITZER: I know you're moving on to become the Executive Director of the National Hockey League Players Association, Mr. Secretary good luck with that new challenge in your life. We'll continue to watch the NHL as well. Thank you so much for joining us.

WALSH: Thank you my friend, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll get an update how Senator Mitch McConnell is doing right now after being hospitalized with a concussion.


BLITZER: Tonight one of the most powerful Republicans here in Washington, the Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, he's in a hospital with a concussion.


Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean. Jessica, the 81-year-old McConnell tripped fell at an event at a hotel here in Washington. What's the latest on his condition?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tonight we know that the Senate minority leader remains in the hospital here in Washington, D.C. where he's going to be treated and monitored for the concussion that he suffered last night at a dinner event we're told he tripped and fell that's when he got the concussion.

I spoke to a source who had seen him just before he tripped and fell and got the concussion at an event for Senate leadership fund that is super packed that's aligned with Mitch McConnell. The source said they talked to him several minutes. He seemed very on point given what they described as a very good speech at the event, which they described to me as kind of a thank you for supporters. That's what we know that was going on before this happened.

And then of course today, you can imagine the concern among so many people up here on Capitol Hill, there was an outpouring of support from both sides of the aisle, especially in the Senate. Senate Republicans gathering today for their lunch, they got updated on his condition essentially being told what that statement was that we got from his office telling this he did have that concussion, that he is going to remain in the hospital. We also heard from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who was wishing him well as well as just host of other people who certainly want him to recover but at this point, Wolf, we don't know when he will be back here on the Hill. They will going to monitor all of this and of course release him whenever is appropriate and then he'll come back here when he's feeling better.

And it's worth noting, just to give everybody a little context, he's actually the third senator that's out right now in that very tight Democratic majority, we also have Senator John Fetterman, a Democrat of Pennsylvania who is out being treated for clinical depression and we have Senator Dianne Feinstein of course a Democrat from California, who's also been out with an illness.

But, again, we will continue to monitor Senator McConnell's condition and expect to see him back up here. The question is when, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think -- I speak for all of us we wish him a speedy, speedy recovery. Jessica Dean, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on all of this, Dr. Megan Ranney is joining us, she's an Emergency Physician and Deputy Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Doctor Ranney, thank you so much for joining us. What does it reveal to you that Leader McConnell's office says he will remain in the hospital for a few days for observation and treatment? Is that length of time cause for concern, from your perspective?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: It's quite unusual to hospitalize someone for a concussion at all much less keep them in the hospital for multiple day, concussions are tremendously common across the United States, any of us that are parents and have kids in sports or watch the NFL know how common concussions are in sports when you fall, et cetera. But almost always they can be cared for at home. It only reason that I admit someone for a concussion is if they can't walk straight if they're so unsteady that it's not safe to send them home or if they have persistent nausea and vomiting. This is certainly unusual, of course, he is the Senate minority leader probably getting a different level of care than the rest of us, but being in the hospital for multiple days suggests that there may be something else going on.

BLITZER: How does McConnell's age, he's 81 years old, and the fact that he had previous fall back in 2019 factor into his doctor's decisions about treatment?

RANNEY: So, as you get older, your brain takes up less space within your skull. It is easier for your brain to get shaken around and to have traumatic brain injuries including concussion, that's certainly may be part of the decision to admit him, he may be a little less stable on his feet.

For all we know maybe he suffered a concussion with his prior fall and we know that one concussion makes the next one more serious. But again, for most older Americans, most would not be admitted to the hospital after a fall and a concussion unless there was something else more serious going on.

BLITZER: Are there any lingering health concerns someone recovers from a concussion Doctor Ranney, will hired McConnell for example need to take new precautions once he returns to work

RANNEY: It's difficult to know. The course of recovery from a concussion differs tremendously from person to person depending on the severity of the concussion, their age, prior injuries and a lot more stuff that we don't fully understand. It might be a couple of days until he's back to normal. It might-weeks. It might even be months.

We find that some people with concussions have memory loss, insomnia, depressive symptoms, unsteadiness, and what we tell people with a concussion go back to work, go back to play slowly. If doing things is causing those symptoms to come back, lay off of what you're doing, so I hope for Minority Leader McConnell's sake that he is one of those who recovers quickly and his able to be back to work within days to weeks, but there's no way to know.


BLITZER: Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you very, very much.

And once again, we wish Leader McConnell a speedy, speedy recovery.

Coming up, the CEO of Norfolk Southern faces very tough questions from Congress over the toxic train wreck in Ohio and other derailments.


BLITZER: On Capitol Hill here in Washington today, the CEO of Norfolk Southern took heated questions from senators over the rail company's string of derailments, including the toxic train wreck in Eastern Ohio.

Our Brian Todd has details for us.

Brian, what were the takeaways from this important hearing today?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one, that the Norfolk CEO Alan Shaw was apologetic, saying that his company is determined to make things right, and two, that senators and residents of East Palestine, Ohio, are still skeptical.



ALAN SHAW, NORFOLK SOUTHERN CEO: I want to begin today by expressing how deeply sorry I am.

TODD (voice-over): The CEO for Norfolk southern in the hot seat on Capitol Hill today following a toxic train derailment in February in East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania state line.

SHAW: The events of the last month are not who we are as a company. TODD: A bipartisan group of senators grilling Norfolk Southern,

calling for the company to support new safety measures outlined in the proposed Railway Safety Act of 2023.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): The company followed the Wall Street business model, boost profits by cutting costs at all costs.

SEN. JD VANCE (R-OH): This is an industry that just three months ago had the federal government come in and save them from a labor dispute. It was effectively a bailout. You cannot claim special government privileges. You cannot ask the government to bail you out and then resist basic public safety.

TODD: The Senate bill includes new safety requirements for trains carrying hazardous materials, also a requirement for a two-person crew on every locomotive.

CEO Alan Shaw would not endorse all the provisions on the safety bill, defending Norfolk Southern's safety record.

SHAW: We are committed to the legislative intent to make rails safer. Norfolk Southern runs a safe railroad.

TODD: Shaw repeating that the area around the crash site is safe.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Would you live there given what you've seen?

SHAW: Yes, sir. I believe the air is safe, I believe the water is safe.

TODD: And that the company has pledged $21 million in help for East Palestine, and 75 million for communities in Pennsylvania.

SHAW: All of this is just a down payment. We will be in the community for as long as it takes.

TODD: Residents in East Palestine have reported headaches, coughing, and other ailments after the crash involving vinyl chloride. However, Shaw would not directly answer questions about paying for residents' medical bills.

SHAW: Senator, we're going to do what's right for the citizens of --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): What's right is to cover their health care needs. Will you do that?

SHAW: Everything is on the table, sir.

TODD: One environmental health advocate told CNN it could take decades to find out the final cost of being exposed to vinyl chloride.

WENONAH HAUTER, FOOD & WATER WATCH: Vinyl chloride causes cancer. If the soil is used in gardens, children play in it, it could be very dangerous, and the chemical will leech into ground water.


TODD (on camera): And Norfolk Southern has been ordered by the EPA to clean up the remaining contaminated soil and water in the area. That's according to a top EPA official who also testified at that hearing today. And she also said that if Norfolk Southern does not complete that work, the EPA will and will charge Norfolk Southern triple the cost -- Wolf.

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

Just ahead, a suspected terrorist attack rattles Israel. At least three people are wounded after a gunman opened fire in Tel Aviv. We have details right after a quick break.



BLITZER: Israel is on edge tonight after a suspected terrorist shooting in Tel Aviv. It comes amid violence in the West Bank and nationwide protests against the prime minister.

CNN's Hadas Gold reports.


HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Protestors in Israel taking their days of disruption to the main airport Wednesday, for ten weeks now. Tens of thousands have been coming out to the street against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to weaken the judiciary and give Israeli politicians unprecedented power to overturn Supreme Court decisions.

Passengers forced to drag their suitcases so as not to miss their flights. This man from France walking more than half a mile to the terminal, saying he understood the protesters' point of view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's when you are fighting for what is right, you need to fight, not violence.

GOLD: Among the demonstrators, former fighter pilots who said they wouldn't heed the call to serve a government they believe is hurting democracy.

EYAL CARMON, FORMER FIGHTER PILOT: It's more important to have a free country than to catch a plane.

GOLD: The protestors here at the airport slowing down traffic to the entrance, trying to disrupt not only Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned trip to Italy, but also affecting U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's arrival. The Pentagon saying Israeli officials asked the defense secretary's team to push back and alter his schedule instead of him meeting with officials in Tel Aviv.

Instead, he's arriving here to this airport, and immediately going to a complex right next to the airport, meeting with officials, and then flying out.

In an unusual move, Austin wading into the judicial reforms debate while standing alongside the Israeli defense minister.

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy is that they are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, and on an independent judiciary. And the president also noted that building consensus for fundamental changes is really important to ensure that the people buy into them so they can be sustained.

GOLD: Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, protestors blocking traffic along the main highway, chanting shame and democracy, before dozens of police, including mounted officers, push them off.

Organizers vowing they'll continue taking to the streets until the planned judicial changes are stopped, just like the traffic on this highway.


GOLD (on camera): And, Wolf, just as the protests were wrapping up for the day, and just blocks away, a terror attack taking place on one of the main night life streets in central Tel Aviv. Police say a man walking up to a group of three guys, shooting them from behind, all three of them were wounded, one of them critically, before passers-by, amongst them off-duty police officers shot and killed the attacker.

Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip, has claimed the attackers as one of its fighters, identifying him as a man in his 20s from the West Bank.

This is just a reminder of the ongoing, deadly wave of violence that's been gripping both Israelis and Palestinians, especially in recent months -- Wolf.

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

And thanks to our viewers for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.