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International Criminal Court Issues War Crimes Arrest Warrant for Putin; Source Says, Trump Lawyer Ordered to Testify in Classified Documents Probe; House Republicans Seek Interview with Man who Wired Biden Family Members Money from China. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 17, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Vladimir Putin is formally charged with war crimes as the International Criminal Court seeks his release for an alleged scheme to deport Ukrainian children to Russia. CNN has an exclusive interview with the chief prosecutor.

Also, a monumental court ruling against former President Trump, his lawyer has been ordered to testify in the grand jury investigation of Trump's handling of classified documents. Stand by for new details on the story first reported on CNN.

And U.S. stocks slide as fears about the banking system persist despite new multibillion dollar rescues. This hour, we'll get tips on how you can protect your money during these very uncertain times.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world and I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

The Biden administration just reacted to the new arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, saying the U.S. supports accountability for perpetrators of war crimes.

CNN's Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining us live from The Hague right now, where the International Criminal Court issued the warrant for Putin's arrest. Clarissa, walk us through the significance of this warrant and what are the chances that Putin will ever see the inside of an actual court room.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is certainly a significant moment, Wolf. It comes months, not years, after Russia first launched its invasion. And according the chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, this is the first time that the head of state of a U.N. Security Council member has been issued with an arrest warrant.

Now, the thing they have gone after President Putin and also the Russian high commissioner for children, Maria Lvova-Belova, for is the deportation of thousands of Ukrainian children from inside Ukraine in Russian-held areas across the border into the Russian Federation. That under international law constitutes a war crime. It can, by the way, even constitute crimes against humanity or genocide potentially. At the moment, the scope, though, is with regard to war crimes.

We asked Mr. Khan about the significance of this moment. Take a look at what he had to say.


WARD: Do you believe it's possible that one day we will see President Vladimir Putin in the dock?

KARIM KHAN, ICC CHIEF PROSECUTOR: I think those are things are impossible, fail to understand history because the nature, Nazi war criminals, Milosevic, Karadzic, Mladic, former President Charles Taylor, Jean Kambanda from Rwanda, (INAUDIBLE), all of them were mighty powerful individuals and yet they found themselves in courtrooms whose conduct was being adjudicated over by independent judges. And that also just calls for hope that the law can -- however difficult it may be, the law can be supreme.

WARD: So is the message today that nobody is above the law?

KHAN: I think the message must be that basic principles of humanity bind everybody and nobody should feel they have a free past, nobody should feel they can act with abandon and definitely nobody should feel that they can act and commit genocide or crimes against humanity, war crimes with impunity.


WARD: President Putin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has called the arrest warrant outrageous. Maria Zakharova, who is the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, has said that it means nothing because Russia is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, the ICC, by the way, nor is the U.S. or India or China. But nonetheless, Wolf, a 123 other countries are, roughly two-thirds of the world's states. And so there is a sense still that whether or not we may see President Putin face trial any time soon, certainly his world appears to be getting smaller, Wolf.


BLITZER: I certainly does. Clarissa, stay with us. I also want our viewers to know that they can see all of your exclusive interview with the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court later tonight on A.C. 360 at 8:00 Eastern.

And right now, I want to continue our conversation, and Clarissa is still with us, I also want to bring CNN Senior International Correspondent Matthew Chance and Ivan Watson.

Ivan you're there in Ukraine right now. So, how was this news and it's very historic, very dramatic thing received where you are?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, the Ukrainian government is applauding this decision, Wolf. They've wanted these types of prosecutions to move forward. The Ukraine president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he has accused Russia of committing state evil. Take a listen to an excerpt of what he had to say about the ICC arrest warrants.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: This is a historic decision that will lead to historic responsibility. More than 16,000 cases of force deported of Ukrainian children by the occupier have already been recorded, but the real full number of deportees may be much higher. Such a criminal operation would have been impossible without the order of the highest leader of the terrorist state.


WATSON: And, Wolf, you know, other senior Ukrainian government officials have called this a first step. The top prosecutor here has said that, hopefully, this will make other world leaders think twice about shaking hands with Vladimir Putin, of sitting down at the negotiating table now that he's effectively a suspected war criminal.

And also keep in mind that there are prosecutors, investigators, police on the ground here in Ukraine that are also building their own cases for alleged war crimes against the Russian military, against the Russian leadership with every passing day of the ongoing war that's being fought here.

BLITZER: Matthew, so what does this arrest warrant do to the dynamics ahead of a very, very high-profile meeting now scheduled between president Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it's going to do much to the dynamic, because remember China isn't a signatory to the ICC either, and so both of these countries, Russia and China, reject the legal authority of this court. And so, it's going to be much easier in that context for Putin to sort of brush it aside. And that's what the Kremlin has been doing, of course, over the course of the past several hours, calling it outrageous and unacceptable.

Remember, they're casting this in a forced deportation of children, as the Ukrainian president has called it, as an act of mercy domestically. They're saying they're saving these unwanted Ukrainian orphans from the war zone and sort of embracing them into breast of Mother Russia, if you like, in these camps where they're being re- educated and then adopted out to various Russian families.

But, look, that meeting with Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, is absolutely crucial, nonetheless. This is a vital relationship for the Russian Federation. It's supposed to be a relationship without limits but there's definitely been a limit over the course of the past year. China has not given Russia the military assistance that it's looking for. Everybody is now watching to see whether that position changes, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Clarissa, big picture, Putin now faces this ICC arrest warrant, NATO is expanding, how badly has Putin miscalculated his invasion of Ukraine?

WARD: Well, I think there are many people, Wolf, on all sides of this war. He would say there's clearly been a grave miscalculation. Putin was betting that the west would splinter, that the NATO would fragment, that Ukraine would crumble, that his forces would be victorious, and said we've seen quite the reverse.

We've also seen Turkey today essentially ratifying a path forward for Finland to go ahead and join NATO. We haven't seen them do that with Sweden yet, but, nonetheless, NATO appears to be growing larger and stronger. And the International Criminal Court by the way as well, Wolf, says it's not just this one line of inquiry that they are pursuing. They are pursuing multiple allegations and investigations of war crimes inside Ukraine. This is just one step in what portends to be a long journey, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect there will be more charges down the road. Guys, thank you very, very much.

And joining us now, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us on this very important day. How powerful is it to see the International Criminal Court issue an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin himself and for another Russian official for war crimes related to forced deportations of thousands of Ukrainian children?


OKSANA MARKAROVA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: It's very powerful, Wolf. Thank you for having me. And I think we see today the international justice wheels begun to turn and begun to provide the results.

And we know that everything Putin and Russians did in Ukraine from the very start and crime of aggression to all the horrific war crimes and atrocities they committed in Ukraine, all of that should be brought to account, all of that should be investigated not only in Ukraine but in international courts.

But it's very symbolic that the first crime in which there is now the order to arrest Mr. Putin is actually for the most horrific one, for the forceful deportation, transfer of Ukrainian children. Let's call it what it is but kidnapping our children.

It's big and it shows that not only in Ukraine where we are already have more than 73,000 individual cases, of war crimes and crimes against humanity opened in Ukraine, but also outside of Ukraine, Putin and others will be held accountable.

BLITZER: So, do you believe this is just the start, what happened today, and it truly is historic, do you expect that the International Criminal Court will charge Putin with more war crimes?

MARKAROVA: Well, we absolutely hope so. We know that they've committed a number of war crimes, out of these more than 173,000 I mentioned. More than 2,000 of them are related to war crimes against children. We know that more than 16,000 registered cases of these forceful deportations, but we know the numbers are higher than that, because, unfortunately, still large areas of Ukraine remain under Russian occupation and these crimes have been committed there and we don't know the fate of so many Ukrainians and so many Ukrainian children.

So, yes, the numbers will be much bigger and yes we are positive that in the national legislation in Ukraine, and national prosecution, but also in all three major courts and also eventually at The International Tribunal, all the war crimes, crime perpetrators, all of them will be held accountable.

BLITZER: As you know, the Kremlin quickly issued a formal statement saying this arrest warrant for Putin is, quote, null and void in Russia. So, what do you hope is the practical effect? Will Putin have to think twice, for example, about where he travels?

MARKAROVA: Well, first of all, remember, Wolf, from the beginning, they denied the fact that they attacked us, then denied the fact that they did the atrocities in Bucha and they kept lying and lying and lying. But this is the fact now. The order is out there and 122 countries that are party to their own statute actually can enforce that order. So, yes, if the only safe travel which remains there is the safe travel to The Hague, which we all hope Mr. Putin and all of his accomplices will take one day.

BLITZER: So, do you hold out hope, Ambassador, that one day you'll see Putin actually face a trial?

MARKAROVA: We think that all the people in Ukraine but also all people who believe in the same values of dignity and humanity deserve to see him and others who committed these crimes on trial.

BLITZER: On another very sensitive and important issue, let me get your thoughts, Ambassador, what will Ukraine be watching when the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, visits Russia next week, and does President Xi owe Ukraine's President Zelenskyy a phone call?

MARKAROVA: Well, first of all, we hear China saying how important the U.N. statute is for them and how important the sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is a clear case of violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by Russia.

So, first, we really hope that China will not become an accomplice in this horrific war. Second, it will be interesting to see because it's going to be a meeting with a person who is officially now suspected by the International Criminal Court.

So, we really hope that China and other countries who still are looking at this situation will see it for what it is and will not help Russia in any way in this unjustified, horrific, aggressive war.

BLITZER: Ambassador Oksana Markarova, thank you so much for joining us.

MARKAROVA: Thank you. BLITZER: And just ahead, we will have details on a major decision from a federal judge that could have a major impact on the Mar-a-Lago investigation.

Stay with us.


You're in The Situation Room.


BLITZER: Right now, we are following major developments in the Mar-a- Lago classified documents investigation, a federal judge ruling today that Trump Attorney Evan Corcoran must testify in the probe.

Our Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz is joining us right now. She's got details. Katelyn, you helped break this story. Walk us through this truly monumental decision and how Trump's team is responding.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, this is the type of legal decision that will be remembered in this investigation. It will be remembered by presidents in the future and by the Justice Department.

The Justice Department had been arguing that they wanted access to answers that Donald Trump's Defense Lawyer Evan Corcoran was unwilling to give them in his previous grand jury testimony. He said he couldn't talk about conversations he had directly with Donald Trump related to the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, what they were going to do, what they are going to say as this investigation was going on.

And so the Justice Department went to court. They asked Chief Judge Barrel Howell of the D.C. District Court for an order allowing them to continue to question Evan Corcoran and to force him to answer those questions, arguing that the conversations between this lawyer and Donald Trump may have been part of the commissioning of a crime, a really big accusation to make.


And the judge, we have learned, has agreed with the Justice Department at least in part she does believe that there is reason to believe there could have been a conversation about a crime or fraud that was ongoing.

The Trump team, they say now that they are looking to appeal, that they are planning on fighting this and they also say every American has the right to consult with counsel and have candid discussions. This promotes adherence to the law.

They also said, through a spokesman, that they believe that this indicates that the investigation led by Jack Smith, the special counsel, is weak at this time. But, Wolf, that does not appear to be the case today given that a judge, a federal judge has agreed with the Justice Department here.

BLITZER: Yes, very significant indeed. Katelyn, stand by. I also want to bring in some of our legal analysts for a little bit more analysis right now.

Elie Honig, walk us through why this decision from a federal judge today, that Donald Trump's attorney, Evan Corcoran, must testify in the classified documents investigation down at Mar-a-Lago is so significant?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, this is really an extraordinary ruling and a very important one. What the federal judge has done is say, I am going to allow prosecutors to break through the attorney-client privilege that ordinarily would apply. It's one of the most sacred privileges here between Donald Trump and his lawyer, Evan Corcoran, because prosecutors have convinced me, a federal judge, that it's more likely than not that those conversations related to and were in furtherance of an ongoing crime. It is very rare that prosecutors even asked to break through the attorney/client privilege that way and now we see a judge agreeing with them.

So, first of all, I think that's an important statement about the seriousness of this and, second of all, prosecutors now will get the question this attorney, Evan Corcoran, and he has to answer their questions.

BLITZER: The alleged crime being obstruction, right?

HONIG: Yes, the concern here being that Evan Corcoran was involved in representations made by Trump's legal team to DOJ that they have turned over all the classified documents, which we know was untrue because more classified documents were found later.

BLITZER: And, Norm, you just heard Katelyn report that a Trump spokesperson says the fact that prosecutors are targeting an attorney is an indication that their case is, quote, very weak. What do you say to that?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, as so often when it comes to Donald Trump and his counsels' professions that spin, in fact, it's quite the opposite. As Katelyn noted, you have a federal judge here who has said that Mr. Corcoran's communications with Donald Trump may have been in furtherance of a crime or a fraud.

That is unusual. It's not the first time it's happened. Something similar happened with his lawyer, John Eastman, when the issue was litigated in a California federal court. So, it's a sign of Trump's deepening peril and frankly saying that up is down and black is white only signals the amount of trouble that Mr. Trump and his lawyers may be in.

BLITZER: Interesting. Katelyn, CNN has also learned that this judge narrowed the scope of what federal prosecutors could actually ask Corcoran. Do you have any sense what might be off limits?

POLANTZ: Well, Wolf, this was one of those issues where we can't see what was argued in court or what the judge has ruled. It was all under seal at that time. So, we're learning through our sources what has happened here. But we understand that Judge Howell would have narrowed what they may be able to ask.

So, they may not have free rein to ask Evan Corcoran about everything if he does and when he does comeback into the grand jury but perhaps you can ask about specific conversations that the Justice Departments may know about at this time. That's still is a big gap for Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigators and this grand jury.

We also did learn that the Trump team at this time doesn't have access to the full opinion. It's under seal and it is for the public as well.

BLITZER: Interesting. Elie, while I have you, I want to turn to the hush money probe before the Manhattan district attorney. Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, appeared before the grand jury this week while Stormy Daniels met with prosecutors. How strong is this case and do you think an indictment of the former president of the United States is now looming?

HONIG: I do think such an indictment is imminent, is looming, Wolf. I think we will see it quite soon. That will be a monumental moment if it happens. But it's important to recognize in my view this is not an you're iron class case. This is not a slam dunk. We are talking about conduct that is quite old, that goes back six and a half years. That is either going to be a misdemeanor or the lowest level felony.


There is uneasy fit here between state law and the potential crime, which is really better put as a federal law, and the star witness, by all appearance, is Michael Cohen, who has all sort of credibility problems. So, this could be a very big moment, Wolf, but nothing is a foregone conclusion.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, the safest place for your money as fears about the banking system here in United States weigh on the markets and the nation. Financial expert Suze Orman joins us. That's next.


BLITZER: Wall Street is taking a hit tonight as fears about the banking industry persist despite new rescue efforts.


The Dow Jones Industrial closing down nearly 400 points.

Let's get more on all of these latest developments. CNN Business Correspondent Rahel Solomon is joining us right now.

Rahel, this is a week that has seen extreme volatility in the banking sector. So, where do things tonight stand as we head into the weekend? RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you're absolutely right. It has been a week of extreme volatility but also a week of really extraordinary measures in terms of some of these interventions that we've seen. And yet there's still feeling in the markets that it may not be enough, that we may see more damage to some of these banks. Take a look at some of the regional and some of the smaller mid-sized banks, so you can see just still continuing to get pummeled, First Republic, for its part, almost off 33 percent today as concerns grow that the damage may not be done.

Now, the Biden administration, for its part, has tried to get this message across this week that the American banking system is resilient, that Americans should feel safe with their money in the bank, but the Biden administration and President Biden today also urging Congress to try to expand the FDIC's authorities to really hit some of these senior bank executives where it really hurts, their pockets, right, urging Congress to expand their authority to target compensation, in terms of stock sales, but also levy fines and also prevent some of these senior banking executives from working at another bank if their bank has failed.

So, looking ahead, Wolf, we're likely in for more volatility as, of course, we hear from Jay Powell on Wednesday.

BLITZER: So, Rahel, what does all this mean for people at home who are watching right now?

SOLOMON: Well, it's interesting because we've talked a lot about the smaller and medium-sized banks for context. Those are the banks that are $250 billion in assets and less. But these are major sources of lending. Goldman Sachs pointing out in a note that these banks are responsible for 45 percent of consumer lending, 60 percent of residential real estate lending.

So, in an environment like we are in now, you might start to see banks become a bit more risk averse, they might raise their lending standards, which essentially means it's harder to get a loan, it's harder to get a car loan. Goldman Sachs pointed out for some small banks, this could equal 15 to 40 percent drop in new lending. So, this will certainly have an impact really on many people watching.

BLITZER: Very worrisome indeed. Rahel Solomon, thank you very, very much.

Joining us now, one of the nation's best known personal financial experts, there you see her, Suze Orman. Suze, thanks so much for joining us. What do you want people who are concerned about the turmoil that unfolded in our banking system over the past week or so, what do you hope that they need to understand right now?

SUZE ORMAN, FINANCIAL EXPERT: I hope they need to understand the fact that if they have money in, whether it's a credit union, a bank, I actually don't care what bank, as long as they are within the FDIC for bank or the NCUA insurance limits, which is for credit unions, they have nothing to worry about. There has never been a time when anybody has ever lost money within those limits in a bank or a credit union in the history of it. So, your job, everybody watching right now, is you have to know do you have insurance on your money, meaning are you within the limit? Have you checked it? It's a very easy thing to do.

BLITZER: Limited banks is, what, $250,000. Is that right?

ORMAN: Well, it's $250,000 but you could very easily get that up to $1.2 million per account. You have to remember, Wolf, that the insurance is you have one account and you're the insured on it. All right, now you have one beneficiary, you have two beneficiaries, you can have up to five beneficiaries of that account in case you die. You have five beneficiaries, that's $1.25 million of FDIC insurance. It could be on a single account. It could be on a joint account. It can be on an IRA account. It can be on a trust account. And you can have all of those accounts at one bank. So, there are ways for you to have a lot of insurance. You just have to understand how it works.

BLITZER: Yes, that's really good advice.

A week after the Silicon Valley Bank suddenly collapsed, we are still seeing a lot of volatility out there in the stock market. So, what should we take away from that?

ORMAN: You should take away from that that nobody really knows what's happening. Nobody, the regulators, anybody, they're trying now to uncover what do these banks hold. Are they extended? Are they not? Therefore, we should take away that remembering that in 2008, about 400 banks failed and we are still here to this day, we are still okay.

We have three things right now. Maybe we will have four. Maybe we will have five but we are not going to have anywhere near what we saw in 2008.


So, we got through it in 2008, we are going to get through this in 2023.

BLITZER: Next week, the Federal Reserve will announce whether it will raise interest rates once again and by how much. What do you think the Fed should do and what will be able to learn from its actions?

ORMAN: And I think that the Fed has to be very careful here because now everybody is blaming them for what happened in the banking system, and maybe yes, maybe no. If they raise another quarter of a point, okay. If they don't, okay, truthfully. Because, really, I think the bigger problem right now is what is happening one the banking system. Because when people keep hearing that banks are failing or that we are going to do this, we are going to do that, that gets them nervous, they start selling, maybe it's a run on the bank, people just need to calm down and let the Feds do what the Feds think they need to do, Wall Street needs to do, what Wall Street needs to do, the regulators need to do, what they need to do. But every single one of you watching me right now, you need to do what I'm telling you to do, which is for those of you with safe money, just make sure you're in the insurance limits and you will be fine no matter anybody else does.

BLITZER: Always good advice from Suze Orman, thank you. Thank you so much, Suze, for joining us.

ORMAN: Any time Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on the arrest warrant just issued for Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. We will be right back.



BLITZER: Let's back to our top story tonight, Vladimir Putin facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

For more on that, I want to bring in a key Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Ro Khanna of California. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

The International Criminal Court is sending a very powerful and historic message with this arrest warrant but will this have any practical impact in curbing Putin's power?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, it should send a message to any other country that you don't want to deal with someone who is committing human rights atrocities. That is why Xi Jinping's announcement that he is going to meet with Putin is shocking coming the same day as the ICJ is saying there are human rights crimes. And we really need other countries to be paying attention to this.

BLITZER: As you note, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, is set to make his first visit to Russia since Putin's invasion next week. How concerned should the U.S. be about President Xi trying to cast himself as a mediator when China hasn't ruled out sending lethal weapons to Russia?

KHANNA: It's very concerning. Look, one of the concerning things, Wolf, is that Xi Jinping and Putin have met 40. Putin has only met once with the American president at the same time and the Xi Jinping hasn't met with the American president that many times. So, there's an emerging alliance. It's why the United States' relationship with India is critical. And we can't allow China to play an intermediary role here given that China has such an alliance with Russia on this issue.

BLITZER: And now a second country, Slovakia, Congressman, is following Poland's move in supplying MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Could American F-16s be coming to Ukraine down the road?

KHANNA: I think the president has to keep all options on the table and we need to support Ukraine. Just this morning, I read that Ukraine is running out of artillery, they need more weapons. We have to stick with them to make sure that Russia does not advance and take over territory.

BLITZER: And so do you think the U.S. should be providing F-16's to Ukraine?

KHANNA: I think it has to be on the table. I will defer to President Biden's judgment on that.

BLITZER: On a different subject, while I have you, Congressman, I know you represent Silicon Valley out in California, which has been roiled by the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. You blame the Trump-era rollback of regulations, but did California officials and federal regulators drop the ball as well?

KHANNA: They did. Look, the first person I blame is the management of the bank. I mean, they should have their executive compensation taken and stock sales taken. They totally miscalculated risk. The San Francisco Fed, you have to ask where were they, you have to ask where were the California regulators. I mean, they had long-term bonds and short-term deposits. This was accounting 101. And we need to also strengthen the regulations.

BLITZER: So, what needs to happen now to prevent this from happening again?

KHANNA: First, banks, large banks that have over $200 billion when their regional banks need to face liquidity tests, need to face stress tests, and those tests need to account for a spike in interest rates. Second, we need to have accountability of these bank executives that if a bank goes under, there needs to be clear claw back of their compensation. Finally, we need to increase insurance. There is about $8 trillion uninsured and raise bank premiums to be able to cover that risk.

BLITZER: Politically speaking, do you see Congress has an appetite right now to start taking some of those steps?

KHANNA: Well, one thing I do think we have an appetite for is helping provide insurance for 8 trillion that is uninsured. There is 10 trillion that is insured. Those larger accounts, we don't want taxpayers stuck with the bills. So, we should increase the premiums on banks to pay for it and tax the large wealthy deposits.

I have been in talks with some of my Republican offices, and I think there actually could be bipartisan agreement on raising the FDIC insurance limits by having a tax on the banks and large account holders to cover it.

BLITZER: That would be significant, indeed. Congressman Ro Khanna, thanks so much joining us.

KHANNA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, House Oversight Republicans are now ramping up their probe to President Biden and his family, now focusing in on payments to Hunter Biden linked to a Chinese company.


We'll have more on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: House Republicans are seeking to interview a Biden family associate who wired Hunter Biden and other family members money from a Chinese company.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is joining us from Capitol Hill right now.

Melanie, Republicans are diving into Hunter Biden's business dealings right now, but there's no evidence President Biden has any involvement here.

So, what more are you learning about all of this probe?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, Wolf. That's right, House Republicans are really ramping up the investigation into the Biden family's business dealings. The House Oversight Committee issued a new memo this week outlining some of their findings based on subpoenaing financial records.

And they are also requesting a transcribed interview with a Hunter Biden business associate.


His name is John Robinson Walker. He received $3 million from a Chinese-based energy company, and then he transferred about over $1 million to multiple members of the family in the year 2017.

Now, the existence of these wire transfers is not new. Senate Republicans investigated this a few years ago, but House Republicans are now offering new information about the payments, including that one of the recipients was Hallie Biden. She is the widow of Beau Biden, and she was also romantically involved with Hunter Biden after Beau's death. She received about $35,000 in the form of two payments from that business associate.

Now, we don't know the nature of these payments, that is something Republicans are digging into. And also it's really important to point out that this memo does not link the payments to President Joe Biden, nor does it offer up any evidence that Joe Biden directed these payments, or took action during his time in office to enrich his family members, which Republicans have said is the purpose of their investigation.

So, just to underscore, this memo does not move Republicans any closer to their central thesis, but it does raise legitimate and serious questions about whether the family was profiting off of his political position, Wolf.

BLITZER: Melanie, how was Hunter Biden responding to all of this?

ZANONA: So, Hunter Biden's team legal is pushing back. They said he obtained all of the money legitimately through business deals.

I want to read you part of the statement his legal team gave us. They said, Hunter Biden, a private citizen with every right to pursue his own business endeavors joint and several business partners in seeking a joint venture with a privately owned, legitimate energy company in China. As part of the joint venture, Hunter received his portion of good-faith seed funds, which he shared with his uncle James Biden and Hallie Biden, with whom he was involved with at the time and sharing expenses.

Now, Wolf, it is also worth noting that this energy company does have ties to the Chinese state, as most companies do in China. And Hunter Biden, yes, he's a private citizen but he's not your average citizen. His father, of course, was the former vice president and is now president.

But Hunter Biden is pushing back nonetheless. He's stepping up his efforts to push back on these allegations. And, in fact, earlier today he sued the owner of a Delaware computer store who worked on his laptop, they said he wrongfully shared information and tried to invade his prophecy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Melanie Zanona up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much for that report.

Just ahead, Virginia prosecutors revealing new details to CNN about the death of a man in custody at a mental hospital.



BLITZER: In France right now, demonstrators are flooding the street as violent protest against a new move to raise the retirement age reach a boiling point.

French President Emmanuel Macron setting off a wave of anger in the country when he invoked special constitutional powers to move the age for collecting a pension from 62 to 64 years old, effective 2030.

Also tonight, a Virginia prosecutor is not rebuilding disturbing new details to CNN about how a man died in custody at a mental hospital in Virginia, leading to murder charges for seven sheriff's deputies, and three staffers at the facility.

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

Brian, so what are you learning about the grim picture being painted?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest information we are getting from prosecutors describes a very disturbing scene where allegedly these officers applied a staggering amount of force to Irvo Otieno and no one tried to stop them.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, new details on what the video shows of the final moments of 28 years old man who died in custody on March 6 when he was brought to a mental health facility in Virginia.

The video, not yet published, but the county prosecutor input Virginia telling CNN why she has charged seven deputies with second-degree murder, as well as three security guards at the Central State Hospital.

ANN CABELL BASKERVILL, DINDWIDDIE COUNTY COMMONWEALTH'S ATTORNEY: He goes to the ground, while one by one there are 10 people on top of him all of whom are applying pressure, visibly, they're putting their back into it, leaning down.

TODD: Is he resisting? Is he combative at all in those moments?

BASKERVILL: No, not at all. He's not moving. He's frankly lifeless.

TODD: Another disturbing detail .

BASKERVILL: There are hospital staff that come in and out of the room as if there is nothing taking place. Nothing. No one tries to help .

TODD: It began with a burglary call. On March 3rd, police showed up at Otieno's house with what a neighbor says was a disproportionate amount of officers.

BRADLEY MCNAMARA, NEIGHBOR OF IRVO OTIENO: He was very agitated, confused, heightened state of, you know, mental sensibility and everything.

TODD: But his mother called him down, this paper tells CNN, he never posed a threat to the officers.

MCNAMARA: Irvo wasn't treated like somebody was going through a mental health crisis. He was treated like a criminal from the beginning.

TODD: But at the hospital, police say he became, quote, physically assaulted, and he was arrested and jailed.

In jail, the prosecutor says video shows he was pepper sprayed while handcuffed and naked, alone in his cell.

BASKERVILL: Five or six deputies at the jail tackle him, so he is than on the ground, he is on the ground underneath him for several minutes there. And blows are sustained at the Henrico County jail.

TODD: He was then taken to the mental health facility where authorities say he became combative, and where he died. A defense attorney for one of the charged deputies has not seen the video tells CNN --

CALEB KERSHNER, ATTORNEY FOR DEPUTY RANDY BOYER: My client would describe him as violently noncompliant, constant -- being constant -- regularly violent. He had no idea or had reason to believe, in any way, based upon his vantage and what he was doing, that this man was any danger of his life.


TODD: Another attorney representing Deputy Bradley Disse tells CNN there has been a rush to judgment in this case. We have reached out to the Henrico County sheriff's department, the Henrico police and the Central State Hospital for responses to these latest allegations. We have not heard back from any of them -- Wolf.

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

And to our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the situation room.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.