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U.S. Forces Targeted Again In Syria After Deadly Drone Strike; Meadows, Other Ex-Trump Aides Ordered To Testify In January 6th Probe; Deadly New Round Of Russian Missiles Strikes In Eastern Ukraine; North Korea Claims Test Of "Radioactive Tsunami" Underwater Drone; Gwyneth Paltrow Takes The Stand In Skiing Accident Lawsuit. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 24, 2023 - 18:00   ET




ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, hours after United States retaliated for a deadly drone strike in Syria, American forces are being targeted yet again tonight. President Joe Biden vowing to forcefully protect U.S. citizens as his administration cast blame on Iran and seeks to punish its proxies.

Also tonight, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is under orders to testify along with other top ex-Trump aides, in the January 6th criminal investigation. It's another win for the special counsel after forcing Trump's lawyer to face a grand jury today.

And North Korea threatens to unleash a giant radioactive tsunami as it claims to test a nuclear capable underwater drone. Kim Jong-un ramping up his dangerous taunts as we're learning more about human rights abuses on his watch.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment. I'm Alex Marquardt, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And let's get right to that breaking news out of Syria, U.S. forces targeted with rocket fire tonight by suspected Iranian-backed fighters. Now, this comes after a deadly drone attack on Americans and retaliatory airstrikes then ordered by President Joe Biden.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann is following all of it for us. Oren, what are you learning about these latest attacks in Syria?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Alex, just moments ago, we learned of two more attacks, rocket attacks and a drone attack against facilities housing U.S. troops in Syria that played out just over the course of the last few hours.

First, a number of rockets were fired at the Conoco oil fields in Central or Eastern Syria, again, a facility that houses U.S. troops, that according to a U.S. official, in that attack, one U.S. service members was injured but is in stable condition. Just a short time after that, three one-way UAVs or suicide drones attacked another facility not too far away, known as Green Village, also housing U.S. troops. According to the official, two of those three drones were shot down. The other did not injure U.S. troops based at that facility or do damage to infrastructure.

But this all happened very quickly. Just within the course of the last 36 or 48 hours. These are now four attacks within Syria against bases and facilities housing U.S. troops. The question of course now, how does the U.S., how does the Biden administration respond to what is quickly escalating?


LIEBERMANN (voice over): A late night strike in Northeast Syria, ambulances rushing to the scene as fire burns in the distance. The U.S. striking what officials say were ammunition depots and intelligence sites used by militias linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The U.S. called the strike carried out by two F-15 fighters proportionate and deliberate action after a one-way drone attack killed an American contractor earlier Thursday near Hasakah in Syria. Five U.S. service members and another contractor were wounded in the attack.

Early Friday morning, another U.S. based in Syria coming under attack from a barrage of ten rockets, the Pentagon said. The U.S. placing the blame on Iran.

BRIG. GEN. PAT RYDER, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Iran certainly again backs these groups, and, by default, therefore has a responsibility to ensure that they are not contributing in security and stability but clearly they continue to do that.

LIEBERMANN: Syria has become a crossroads of conflict in the Middle East. Iranian proxies have carried out rocket and drone attacks against U.S. forces and Russia has begun flying armed fighters over U.S. positions in the country. For the U.S. and its footprint of about 900 troops in Syria, the focus remains ISIS.

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: We don't seek a war with Iran. We're not looking for an armed conflict with that country or another war in the region. We do seek to protect our mission in Syria, which is about defeating ISIS.

LIEBERMANN: On Thursday, the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Erik Kurilla, told the House Armed Services Committee hearing that Iran and its proxies have fired drones or rockets 78 times to U.S. forces, since the beginning of 2021, nearly one attack every ten days.

GEN. MICHAEL ERIK KURILLA, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: So, what Iran does the height its hand as they use Iranian proxies. That's either UAVs or rockets to be able to attack our forces in either Iraq or Syria.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are these considered acts of war by Iran?

KURILLA: They are being done by the Iranian proxies is what I would tell you, Congressman.

LIEBERMANN: The U.S. has carried out attacks against Iranian proxies in Syria before, targeting either enemy infrastructure or launch vehicles used to attack U.S. forces.



LIEBERMANN: So, just to review where the situation stands right now within the last couple of hours, we have seen, again, two more attacks on facilities in Syria housing U.S. troops, a number of rockets launched at the Conoco oilfields, where there are troops based there, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence about the attack. One service member was injured but is in stable condition.

And then there were three, one-way UAVs or suicide drones that were launched against another facility known as Green Village that also houses U.S. troops. Two of those drones were intercepted, a third damaged facility there but did no injury to U.S. troops who are stationed there.

The question now, Alex, how does the Biden administration respond to this? General Erik Kurilla, the Commander of U.S. Central Command, made it clear that if Iranian proxies continue to attack, the U.S. would very much reserve the right to respond and has options to do so.

MARQUARDT: All right. Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon. We know you'll stay on top of this series of escalating attacks. Thanks very much.

Now, we did hear President Joe Biden speak out just a short time ago about his order to strike back against those Iranian-affiliated forces.

Let's bring in CNN Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly, he is traveling with the president in Canada, also joining us CNN Military Analyst and Retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

Phil, first to you, the president did speak just before we learned this news about these latest attacks about this U.S. service member who was injured. What is President Biden saying about what does appear to be an escalating tit-for-tat?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alex, this entire trip, while it certainly has been focused on the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Canada, has faced the reality of this acceleration with Iranian proxies since the very start.

The president finding out about the initial attack that killed American contractor and wounded U.S. servicemen on his way here on Air Force One, was briefed about that, was provided options by the Pentagon, and made the decision to give the green light on the retaliatory strikes we saw last night, all while on his way to Canada during that press conference. Just a short while ago is when the reports of that second and third attack just today came out.

Now, when the president was asked about the initial attack, this was his response.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Last night, U.S. military forces carried out a series of airstrikes in Syria, targeting those responsible for attacking our personnel. My heart and deepest condolences go out family of the American we lost and we wish a speedy recovery for those who are wounded.

Make no mistake, the United States does not, I emphasize, seek conflict with Iran, but be prepared for us to strike forcefully to protect our people. That's exactly what happened last night.


MATTINGLY: And now, it's just been notable, U.S. officials throughout the course of the day making clear they do not want to escalate any type of situation or conflict with Iran directly, but they will respond if necessary.

The question is what defines if necessary. It has certainly been when U.S. troops have been attacked, injured or killed. We'll have to see whether or not that's been the case with the latest attacks and whether or not that draws or drives a response from President Biden.

MARQUARDT: Yes, they don't want to escalate. But, Colonel Leighton, as you just heard from Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, four attacks in the past 24 hours, now yet another U.S. service member who was wounded. How worried are you about this spiraling?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think, Alex, it is a real risk. You know, the Iranians have used these proxies for quite some time and the use of proxies is a way of allowing the Iranians to wash their hands of things, but it also means that they are not under direct control all the time of the Iranians. So, they could be acting in a way that could exacerbate the situation and create some real problems. And that I think is something that we have to be concerned about.

MARQUARDT: Yes, that is a very important point. We don't know about the communication between Tehran and these Iranian-backed proxies.

Phil, I want to go back to you and something you just mentioned, the administration saying clearly repeatedly that they don't want escalation with Iran, but we have seen Iran ramping up this aggression as well as its support for Russia and their war in Ukraine, providing those weapons. So, more generally, for this administration, how much of a growing threat is Iran becoming?

MATTINGLY: No, Alex. And you know this area of the world quite well, I'm not sure it ever really left the table as a very significant threat, even if it hasn't been in front of mine, certainly since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. But as you noted, the sheer number of drones and weapons capabilities that the Iranians have been providing to the Russians has been noted repeatedly by U.S. officials.

Also keep in mind, it was just over the course of the last couple of weeks that it has become clear and very public just how rapidly Iran has accelerated its ability to have that breakout period right now and how that shifts the context or how U.S. officials approached this.

They've made very clear their early stage efforts to get back into the Iran nuclear deal are no longer an option. They haven't laid out what actually comes next. But it's very clear that this is moving back to front of mind and only seems to be accelerating based on what we've seen from their proxies, at least, over the course of the last 48 hours.


MARQUARDT: All right, very worrying developments. Phil, Colonel Leighton, I want you to stay with me. I want to bring in CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the host of Fareed Zakaria GPS. Fareed, thanks so much for joining us this evening.

After this latest strike on these U.S. forces, which, again, wounded at least one U.S. service member, how concerned are you about the possibility of escalation?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Very concerned, Alex. Look, the situation is very, very dangerous largely because the United States and Iran have the worst relations they have had in decades. And, you know, that's saying something because they've never had particularly good relations.

But let me give you -- remind us all of a little bit of historical context. If you go back just six or seven years and say, you know, the last years of the Obama administration, even the first year of the Trump administration, Iran was actually helping the United States defeat ISIS in Iraq. Iran was sending its militias to do that. It was adhering to the nuclear deal. It was observing the limits and the U.S. was in dialogue with it. Then Trump pulls out of the deal.

Iran now sees itself in a box. Its economy is squeezed, it is desperate and it is searching for ways to, in a sense, show that it has some capacity, and that capacity is largely for troublemaking. It is unleashing more of these militias over which has even the U.S. government admits it doesn't have perfect control. And it's always played a nasty game with militias like Hezbollah and the ones in Syria.

So, the whole situation is one in which Iran doesn't have a lot to gain from stabilizing the situation. The United States entirely, justifiably has to respond when its forces are threatened. But you put that all together and it's a powder keg.

MARQUARDT: How much do you think that this is going to change U.S. priorities in the Middle East, Fareed, especially as China and Russia tried to expand their influence in the region?

ZAKARIA: The Middle East has this effect, you know, it's like the line out of Godfather 3, when Michael Corleone says, I keep trying to get out of the family business and you keep pulling me back. The Middle East is like that business, you know, the U.S. gets drawn back in because of things like this violence, violence against American soldiers, instability.

You can tell that the Biden administration is trying to keep this as common as in control precisely for the reason you were outlining it. The Biden administration believes it has bigger fish to fry and, strategically, that's exactly right. But there is a reality. If, tactically, things implode, if there is the optics of American soldiers under fire, the Biden people will have to do something. But, so far, I think they're trying their best to maintain that focus.

MARQUARDT: And say that this anti-ISIS campaign is still very much a priority. Fareed Zakaria, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate your perspective.

ZAKARIA: A pleasure.

MARQUARDT: Now, just ahead major developments in two federal criminal investigations into former President Donald Trump.

Plus, we have new details about an agreement between Congressman George Santos and Brazilian prosecutors in a 15-year-old fraud case. Stay with us.



MARQUARDT: More major developments we're following tonight, several of Donald Trump's legal and political confidants now facing federal grand juries in two separate criminal investigations of the former president.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is tracking all of the latest details.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Trump's closest advisers ordered to testify in two Justice Department probes, a federal judge rejecting Trump's claim of executive privilege ordering former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Senior Aide Stephen Miller and others to answer questions from a grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO MARK MEADOWS: I remember leaning against the doorway and saying he's had an interesting conversation with Rudy and Mark, it sounds like we're going to go to the Capitol.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We going to walk down to the Capitol. HUTCHINSON: He didn't look up from his phone and said something to the effect of there's a lot going on, Cass, but I don't know. Things might get real, real bad.

SCHNEIDER: Separately, Evan Corcoran, a top Trump attorney and a crucial witness in Special Counsel Jack Smith's classified documents probe, spending nearly four hours testifying behind closed doors to a federal grand jury on Friday.

Trump also fought in court to stop his testimony but several judge's ruling Corcoran must divulge information about the conversations he had with former President Trump leading up to the FBI search of Mar-a- Lago last summer and that Corcoran must turn over handwritten notes documenting their interactions.

TRUMP: They should give me immediately back everything that they've taken from because it's mine. It's mine.

SCHNEIDER: FBI agents seized more than 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in August. And in November, the attorney general appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to investigate, among other things, whether Trump obstructed the government's attempts to get back all of the classified material still in his possession after he left office.

Evan Corcoran crafted a statement in June 2022 claiming a diligent search had been conducted at Mar-a-Lago and that all classified documents had been returned. A source tells CNN prosecutors wanted to ask Corcoran about that statement and a June phone call between him and Trump that took place the same day as subpoena was issued from Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage that showed boxes being moved out of a storage room.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You still have the surveillance tape, is that correct?


SCHNEIDER: Sources tell CNN prosecutors have made clear that they believe Trump used Corcoran to advance a crime. A Trump spokesperson has fired back, accusing the Justice Department of continuously stepping far outside the standard norms and an attempt to destroy the long accepted, long held, constitutionally based standards of attorney client-privilege and executive privilege.

Trump Attorney Tim Parlatore tells CNN, he also testified before the grand jury in December, divulging details about additional searches for classified documents he organized at several Trump properties last year.


TIM PARLATORE, TRUMP ATTORNEY: They would rather make this into an adversarial fight and try to make it into a criminal case.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER (on camera): So, Special Counsel Jack Smith will now be getting an influx of new information, both from Evan Corcoran being forced to testify in front of that grand jury today and, of course, from the array of top Trump administration officials who will now have to testify to the grand jury about what transpired on and around January 6th. But, Alex, our team is told that Trump's legal team is expected to appeal this decision that says those top officials cannot claim executive privilege. Alex?

MARQUARDT: All right. Jessica Schneider, thank you very much for that report.

Let's get analysis from our legal and political experts. Andrew McCabe, I want to start with you, and what Jessica Schneider just called that influx of new information. How much do you think testimony from these top Trump aides, how could that -- how much more could that open the door for investigators to get more critical information about these efforts to overturn the 2020 election?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Alex, let's talk about Evan Corcoran first. So, we know that he testified today because the Justice Department already presented evidence to Judge Howell that Corcoran and Trump engaged in some sort of crime or the cover up of a crime in terms of their communications. So, actually talking to Corcoran, as they did today, and understanding exactly what those conversations involved is like the icing on the cake. And I think it also makes an indictment on the activity around the documents almost guaranteed at this point.

As far as the others go, I think the Trump team has a better chance of success, appealing that the decision to force those folks to testify, not that it's guaranteed they'll succeed. But the claim of executive privilege is a little bit more nebulous, it's not quite as much settled law, so we'll have to see how that one works out. But they are really swinging for the fences here from Jack Smith's team.

MARQUARDT: And, Norm Eisen, that claim of executive privilege, that is something that we've heard time and time again from the Trump defense team and it has been rejected for now, at least. How big of a deal is that?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's very significant, Alex. I mean, these are individuals. These, eight men led by Meadows, Stephen Miller, who was with Trump on January 6th, who worked on that infamous incitement speech on The Ellipse that day, Meadows was with him for every part of the run up to the insurrection. They know where the bodies are buried in the story of the attempted coup.

Having been responsible in the White House for dealing with issues, including executive privilege, I think that more likely than not. Trump is going to meet with the same frustration that he did when he tried to use executive privilege, remember, to block the January 6th committee from getting documents. He failed. The problem is that in for Trump under U.S. v. Nixon executive privilege is not absolute. It must yield. The highest exigency comes when there's a fast-moving criminal investigation, and that's what we have here. So, I'm not very sanguine about his chances. This is really bad news for Trump. All of the walls are closing in.

MARQUARDT: In this classified documents probe, Shan Wu, Trump's attorney, Evan Corcoran, spending nearly four hours before that grand jury today, we just heard Andrew McCabe calling that the icing on the cake. What does that tell you? What do you take away from this in terms of how far along Special Counsel Jack Smith is in this investigation? And do you have any sense at all of what Corcoran might have been able to reveal about Trump's intent when it comes to these documents?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it's hard to tell how far along they are, although they are certainly quite active at this point. I wouldn't go so far as to say that they're wrapping it up. I mean, these are like really critical witnesses, as Andrew pointed out, on Corcoran.

He potentially could have provided a gold mine of information about the intent of Trump. I mean, it's completely expected that when something like that's going on the subpoena that Corcoran's talking to him, that's real-time contemporaneous understanding what Trump's concerns are. Corcoran would have been asking him questions. I mean, that is a treasure trove of evidence about exactly what Trump's intent and thinking was.

And I can't really convey what a difficult situation that is for Corcoran to be in. I mean, to him, he would have been doing exactly what you're supposed to do in terms of talking to the client, figuring out what to do, and for that privileged conversation, he would not have been having a conversation like that, being careful and circumspect. I mean, he's just trying to get all the facts.


For that privilege to be pierced by the crime fraud exception is just an enormously difficult situation for attorney to be. And if he's testifying under oath, he's going to have to give it all up.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And can I just add about how important this Mark Meadows testifying is? Mark Meadows is the enabler here. Mark meadows was the chief of staff. Mark Meadows defied a subpoena, did not testify before the January 6th committee. But he's the gatekeeper. He's the one Cassidy Hutchinson worked for.

And we all remember her stunning testimony regarding January 6th. And Mark Meadows is Trump's alter ego. And we know that he knows so much about what occurred. So, I think it's remarkable that they are going to actually question him about the president and what occurred in his conversations with the president of the United States.

And a lot of people say, oh, you know, this is great for Donald Trump, maybe in the short-term. But once these things come out, and once Jack Smith moves in whichever way he's going to move, we're going to learn that in the long-term, people are going to start -- Republicans are going to start thinking about electability and that Donald Trump is somebody who insists on going after the voters who already love him and not the voters he needs affection, who he needs to gain?

So, when you put Mark Meadows out there and you talk about the political situation, I think it's a cauldron here, and it's not great for Donald Trump.

MARQUARDT: All right. Well, a lot going on in these two parallel federal cases. Thank you all very much for your time and expertise this evening. I really appreciate it.

Now, coming up, are Ukrainian forces closer to launching a new offensive in Bakhmut after a deadly new round of Russian airstrikes in the region? That's coming up.



MARQUARDT: On the frontlines in Ukraine, a deadly new round of Russian missile strikes at a potentially pivotal moment in a key battle.

CNN Senior International Correspondent David McKenzie joins us live now from Ukraine. David, Russia launching more attacks in the east as Ukraine has indicated that the tables may be turning in the battle for Bakhmut?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT. Well, that's right, Alex. And in the last few days, we've heard a similar refrain and this time from the top commander of the Ukrainian forces, Zaluzhny. He was speaking to his counterpart in Britain, saying that the situation in Bakhmut, in the east, is very difficult, but they seem to have, quote, stabilized the situation, according to him.

Now, if this was just one commander, I think we could just say maybe its wishful thinking, but day after day over the last week or so, the Ukrainians are sounding more positive on that front where they have been fighting for many, many months.

And as you say, there were strikes in the east and particularly in the northern part of the country, in Sumi, where fighter jets from Russia, according to Ukrainian, striking several targets, causing extensive damage. That area isn't that frequently hit. So, it shows an escalation, at least in that part of this front. Alex?

MARQUARDT: And, David, you also got an inside look at the effort to stop this really horrific abduction of Ukrainian children, systemic abduction by Russia. What did you see? What can you tell us?

MCKENZIE: If you look at this video, this shows Russians taking children from an orphanage in Kherson, at the front lines relatively close to where I'm standing right now. This was back in October. Now, they took more than 40 children from the orphanage. This is part of a pattern that the ICC constitutes as a potential war crime, that's International Criminal Court.

Now, the extraordinary story we covered is that at a hospital nearby, some doctors managed to save the kids. Take a listen.


MCKENZIE (voice over): Twice a day, they demanded. We show them lists of the kids to take to Russia. So, Olha and her team came up with an extraordinary deception. The head orphans in the ICU and they forged medical assessments, saying healthy children were severely sick.

We understood that the Russians and collaborators would not forgive us, she says. We knew there would be serious retribution.


MCKENZIE (on camera): Well, still they did it. They even managed to put one baby in a ventilator machine. They didn't hook it up, obviously, but they managed to fake those illnesses, those conditions and save a couple of children from being taken to Crimea or Russia. Where the other kids are, it's unclear, but certainly there's no indication when and if they'll ever come back. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Genocidal kidnapping in broad daylight, just horrible. David McKenzie in Ukraine, thank you very much for that report tonight.

Now to Israel and a new fallout from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's moves to overhaul Israel's judicial system. The Israeli attorney general accusing the prime minister, Netanyahu, of acting illegally.

CNN's Hadas Gold has details.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alex, just hours after Benjamin Netanyahu landed in London for an official visit, the Israeli attorney general issued a scathing letter telling him that a speech he made on Thursday evening, saying he was going to get personally involved in the judicial overhaul is illegal because of a conflicts of interest declaration Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to as part of his ongoing corruption trial.

But earlier on Thursday, the Israeli parliament passed a new law making it more difficult to declare a sitting prime minister as unfit for office.


Many people believe that is why Benjamin Netanyahu then was able to give his speech saying that he was going to get personally involved.

So, now the question will be -- this issue will likely end up in front of the Supreme Court. So, whose word will win out? Will it be the politicians and Benjamin Netanyahu's? Will he actually listened to the Supreme Court with they make a ruling against him or is Israel entering a constitutional crisis? Alex?

MARQUARDT: All right. Thanks to Hadas Gold for that important report. Now, coming up, after months under fire for telling lies, Congressman George Santos reaches a deal which requires him to confess to fraud. We have the details ahead.


MARQUARDT: Republican Congressman George Santos and Brazilian prosecutors have just reached an agreement in a fraud case dating back to 2008. Let's get more from CNN's Melanie Zanona. She's up on Capitol Hill. Melanie, how did this deal come together?


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, this was all part of an effort to avoid a trial. This fraud case, of course, is just one of many legal issued facing Congressman Santos, but he did agree to a plea deal. And as part of this agreement, he has agreed to confess in Brazil and to also pay damages to a clerk after he spent $1,300 using a checkbook that did not belong to him to buy clothes and shoes. This was in 2008.

A few years later, he did admit to local police or to authorities that he used this checkbook from an elderly man that his mother had cared for. But they were unable to find Santos, find an address for him after he left Brazil in order to serve him with papers, in order to ask him to appear in court. So, this case was archived and it was not reopened until January of this year when all these other legal issues were coming to light for Congressman Santos.

But before agreeing to this plea deal, the prosecutors asked the defense for assurances that they would actually be able to contact the victim in order to make sure that they could actually pay those damages. And attorneys for George Santos also asked that the Congressman be able to appear via video conference for any proceedings.

Now my colleague, Manu Raju, caught up with Santos early today in the Capitol to ask him about this plea deal. He did not respond. CNN has also reached out to attorneys for Santos both in Brazil and the United States, but we have yet to hear back. Alex?

MARQUARDT: Yes, Congressman Santos, continuing to be evasive in the halls of Congress. Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

ZANONA: Thanks.

MARQUARDT: Now, be sure to stay with CNN after THE SITUATION ROOM for Erin Burnett Outfront. Tonight on Outfront, Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania has been in the hospital for more than a month. So, how do his constituents feel about that? Erin we'll have a special report. That starts at 7:00 P.M. Eastern Time right here on CNN.

Now, this hour, millions of Americans are under the threat of strong tornadoes and flash flooding. Meteorologist Chad Myers is in the CNN Severe Weather Center. Chad, parts of the south under tornado watch. What are you seeing? CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Seeing an awful lot of Gulf of Mexico moisture interact with cold air with the same storm that actually brought severe weather, rain, snow and even the tornado in Los Angeles County a couple of days ago, all getting together here across the deep south.

Look at all of this lightning. Every one of those is a stroke of lightning hitting the ground. It's the Gulf of Mexico. It's humid. It's muggy. It's warming up. It's giving that humidity to the air. That air is moving to the north. And the red zone here, tornado watches until midnight.

Now, for Memphis, the weather is going to get to you by 8:00 tonight. So, I know it's saying to go to midnight, but it'll be over well before then. But it will be a strong line of whether when it gets there.

Here's the weather right now. Little Rock, Arkansas, just to your south, about ten minutes ago, there was a tornado warning. It didn't see anything on the ground but there was a warning with rotation that has now slid to the east. But there is a lot of weather here still to go, bumps up and down along this same line of weather.

Farther down to the south, closer to that Gulf of Mexico moisture, I'm now beginning to see the evidence of some rotation. There's Shreveport over there. And some of these other storms, they're called super cells. They're all by themselves. They can rotate. When you're in a squall line like over here, they just bump into each other and just make wind, but when you have one cell just all by itself, that's the one that's going to start to rotate.

Here's the area where most concerned with and then the hatched area within this area. This is the area that the tornadoes would be most likely. It's going to continue until after dark.

Make sure you have a way to get warnings tonight. Radio, phone, whatever it might be, you need to know that this area is under the gun. There's Memphis. There's Shreveport. There's Jackson, Mississippi, and it continues here.

That's 8:00 all of a sudden to 11:00 tonight, and then by morning, it's gone across parts of Georgia and not severe any longer. But there will be some times tonight where there will be tornadoes on the ground. And if you're in the deep south, you need to know where they are and need to know where their near your area or not, Alex.

MARQUARDT: As you say, a lot of weather still to go. We know you'll keep us updated, Chad Myers, thanks very much for that report.

Now coming up, Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress, taking the stand in a trial stemming from a skiing accident in Utah. Stand by for the latest on her testimony.

And North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un makes a wild new threat, a radioactive tsunami. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



MARQUARDT: Tonight, North Korea's Kim Jong-un is taking his nuclear threats to a new level. He's claiming to have tested an underwater drone capable of creating a giant radioactive tsunami.

Brian Todd is taking a closer look.

Brian, we've seen a lot of muscle flexing by Kim in the last few days, and now this.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Alex. Kim Jong-un again is getting creative with these weapons. But more ominously, analysts say, he's showing the U.S. and its allies that his regime's capability to deliver nuclear weapons in different ways is growing.


TODD (voice-over): New information tonight on the North Korean strongman's brutality and his unrelenting ambition to threaten his enemies. With these photos showing tracks just under the surface, Kim Jong-un's regime claims to have tested an underwater drone capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Kim himself was photographed beaming next to a drone.

North Korean state media says the mission of this weapon is to, quote, make a super scale radioactive tsunami to destroy enemy warships and ports. It claims this drone traveled underwater for nearly 60 hours, then detonated warhead and blew up a mock enemy ports. Some analysts are skeptical of the real capability of this weapon.

ANKIT PANDA, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: There's a lot we don't understand about how they're controlling this weapon, whether it's pre-programmed or whether they're actively maneuvering this thing underwater.


TODD: And Ankit Panda says this drone would likely be vulnerable to being destroyed by the U.S. and South Korean navies before it flushes out to sea. But he says it could still be a threat.

PANDA: There is nothing preventing North Korea from in principle, putting a nuclear device on an underwater vehicle like this and detonating it. They could use it against massed formations of surface warships.

TODD: In testing an underwater drone, Kim takes a page from Vladimir Putin's playbook. Russia claims to have developed a submarine launched nuclear power underwater vehicle designed to strike enemy cities with nuclear weapons. But the Kremlin's offered no real proof of it.

In recent days, Kim has apparently have been successful in testing another menacing weapon. From mobile launchers, North Korea fired off long range nuclear capable cruise missiles. Eye catching video shows the missiles hugging coastlines and mountains.

PANDA: Aircraft fly fairly low, and if they will be nuclear-armed, that's going to present, I think, a substantial challenge for missile defense in the warning in Northeast Asia.

TODD: This comes as a new report from human rights watchdog group Korea Future details barbarous conditions inside Kim's network of prisons. What it says was a pattern of summary executions, torture, rape and starvation.

At least one prisoner, it said, was forced to eat cockroaches and rodents to survive. A woman jailed for crossing the border into China, the report says, was forced to have an abortion when she was seven or eight months pregnant.

GREG SCARLATOIU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: Any drop of foreign blood dropped into North Korea is an offense to the Kim regime. And thus these poor ladies had relationships with Chinese men and will forcibly. He returned are subjected to this criminal treatment.


TODD (on camera): North Korea's mission to the U.N. has not responded to CNN's request for comment on the new report. But Kim's regime often denies allegations of human rights abuses, claiming they're part of a smear campaign organized, of course by the U.S. -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: Very well-documented abuses. Brian Todd, thank you for that fascinating report.

Now, just ahead, Gwyneth Paltrow taking the stand in a lawsuit over a skiing accident that one man claims left him with serious injuries.

But, first, actress and activist Eva Longoria is proud of her Mexican roots and now, in the new CNN original series "SEARCHING FOR MEXICO", Eva Longoria is taking us to the country that she calls her second home. Here's a quick look.


EVA LONGORIA, CNN HOST: I don't know the secret to happiness. All I know is every time I eat Mexican food, I'm happy.

I'm Eva Longoria, born and bred in Texas, with Mexican American roots.

I'm going to get a t shirt that says more, falta.

I'm exploring Mexico to see how the people their lands, and their past have shaped a culinary tradition as diverse as its 32 states.


Today, we are going to be making our food pilgrimage.

Look at that. I don't know if I've ever been this excited to eat anything.

(translated): How do I do this? Cut it like.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): Like this.

LONGORIA: I was going to do this. That's why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): You can also do that.

LONGORIA: The people here are so secure in who they are and where they come from.

(translated): You are an artist.

But you guys are amazing storytellers.


LONGORIA: Mexico is going through a major makeover to emerge as one of the world's greatest food destinations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what brings people to Mexico? The food culture. I fell in love with it.






MARQUARDT: Right now, actress Gwyneth Paltrow is taking the stand in a lawsuit stemming from a 2016 skiing accident that was in Park City, Utah.

CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas has been following this case for us.

Chloe, what is Paltrow side of the story?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Look, I mean, I'm watching her right now on the stand in Utah. She's been up there for a little over two hours, and she's finally telling the world what she says happened seven years ago on the ski slopes.

Take a listen.


GWYNETH PALTROW, DEFENDANT: He struck me in the back. Yes, that's exactly what happened. I was skiing and two skis came between my skis, forcing my legs apart.

And then there was a body pressing against me. And there was a very strange grunting noise. So my brain was trying to make sense of what was happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You came crashing down together.

PALTROW: That's right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay. You said this man was behind me on the mountain. My knee and our skis were still sort of tangled up.

PALTROW: Uh-huh.



PALTROW: Yes, sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our bodies were almost spooning and I moved away quickly.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I need and my knee splayed open and I was completely in shock.




MELAS: So, Terry Sanderson says that it was actually Gwyneth Paltrow, who was skiing recklessly and barreled into him, causing him to suffer four broken ribs and brain injuries.

His two daughters have testified, saying that he had cognitive issues after and experts. But Gwyneth Paltrow's saying that that is not the case.

MARQUARDT: And, Chloe, what was the tone of the questioning?

MELAS: Social media has erupted and, you know, there's a lot of viral moments happening right now, some calling it cringey. Some pointing out that Gwyneth appears to have a bit of a smirk on her face, and others sort of like laughing at the absurdity of what they think are some of Terry Sanderson's attorneys questions at one moment, fawning over her celebrity status, and then the next, Alex, calling her a liar and saying that, you know, this is not the case.

So people are really invested in this on social media and TikTok, and it's sort of like the case that everybody's been talking about this week. So it looks like things will probably wrap up the next hour or so, and we expect to have a verdict sometime mid next week. MARQUARDT: Yeah, it is something everyone is talking about. Those are

live pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow on the stand.

Chloe Melas, thanks very much for that report.

MELAS: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching tonight.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.