Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Nashville Police Release Bodycam Video Of Officers Who Killed Shooter; Biden Urges Congress To Act, Repeats Call For Assault Weapons Ban; Pence Ordered To Testify To A Federal Grand Jury About Conversations With Trump Leading Up To Jan. 6; Ukraine: Russian Strikes Hit Hospital; Kindergarten & Orphanage; Fire Kills At Least 40 Migrant Detention Center In Mexico. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 28, 2023 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, new reaction to the chilling body camera video that police just revealed involving the national school shooting as authorities reveal they're still trying to piece together a motive. Law enforcement sharing new information about the shooter's arsenal and mental help.
Also tonight, we're learning more about the New York grand jury investigation of Donald Trump. Sources say the panel won't hear the hush money case again this week amid questions about when or if the former president will be indicted. This comes as former Vice President Mike Pence has now been ordered to testify before a federal grand jury investigating Trump on January 6. We're going to tell you what Pence is expected to be asked about under oath.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Our top story tonight, a very graphic look at the police response to the school shooting in Nashville. Officials releasing video and other evidence, along with new information about the attacker. CNN's Carlos Suarez is on the scene for us in Nashville.
Carlos, walk us through what that intense body camera footage shows, shows how the police officers were actually charging toward the shooter.
CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's exactly right. We're talking about six minutes worth of video from two body cameras that were on some of the officers that went into the school. You're going to notice, pay real close attention as the officers go room by room. Now, when they notice where the gunfire is coming from, their attention quickly goes to the second floor. That's where the deadly confrontation takes place.
A warning to some viewers out there, the video that you're about to see is intense and might be difficult for some to watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need three.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more. One more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Metro Police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open door. On me. On me. We don't know where he is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Metro Police. Open the door.
Bathroom, bathroom. Small bathroom. Clear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next, let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Showing your back (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Door, door. With me, with me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next.
Open it. I got it. I got it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bathroom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's move right. Hover, hover left. Hover left.
Take this with me. Take this. No, that's locked.
Take this door. Take this door. Take it.
I think it's up stairs. It sounds like it's upstairs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go, go, go, go, go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Run, run, run.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUAREZ: Just an incredible piece of video there. You can hear the fire alarms for the entirety of that incident there.
Now, Wolf, we're also getting a better -- a clearer look at the timeline of events that happened at this school yesterday. We now know that around 9:57 in the morning, the 28-year-old shooter sent a message on Instagram to a former basketball classmate telling the classmates that she was -- rather the shooter was going to do something at this school. At around 10:10 or around 10:11 in the morning, that's when the shooter first makes entry into the school by shooting out the glass doors in front of one of the buildings here.
At around 10:13, we're told that is when the first 911 call is made about this shooting. And at around 10:27, according to law enforcement officials out here, this entire ordeal comes to an end with officers killing that attacker on the second floor. Wolf.
BLITZER: Carlos, what more are you learning from police on this investigation?
SUAREZ: Well, Wolf, we now know that the 28 year old, at least according to officials out here, was being treated for, quote, "an emotional disorder." Now, law enforcement claims to have not known about this treatment, and it was serious enough that the 28 year old's parents felt that the shooter should not have any guns. We're told that the parents felt that the shooter sold the one and only gun that the shooter had at the house.
However, we now know that the 28-year-old had purchased seven guns in all. Three of them -- all of them were purchased legally. Three of them were used at the school shooting yesterday. Two of them were removed from the house yesterday during a search warrant. One of them, police believe, was sold and that 7th gun were told, is still missing.
Here's what the Chief of police said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JOHN DRAKE, NASHVILLE POLICE: We know that they felt that she had one weapon and that she sold it. She was under care, doctor's care, for an emotional disorder. Law enforcement knew nothing about the treatment she was receiving, but her parents felt that she should not own weapons. They were under the impression that when she sold the one weapon that she did not own anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SUAREZ: All right, so, Wolf, late this afternoon, CNN was able to confirm that according to some written statements that were left behind by the shooter, a mall near the school was apparently referenced as a possible target as well as at least one other area, not including the school here behind me. Wolf.
BLITZER: It's so painful to see that body camera video of those police officers charging through an elementary school, an elementary school here in the United States. Carlos Suarez, thank you very much for that report.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, Joshua Skule, former FBI Executive Assistant Director for Intelligence, CNN Law Enforcement analyst and former Secret Service Agent Jonathan Wackrow and CNN Contributor Abene Clayton, who reports on gun violence for The Guardian.
Jonathan, I'll start with you. What do you make of the police response in this really dramatic video? Are there additional security measures that could have been taken?
JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, listen, you know, someone who is armed with a weapon taking the path of least resistance to get into that school, it's hard to say what more could have reasonably been applied to the security structure that, you know, could have prevented that threat from getting inbound. That is why the response of law enforcement was so critical. It was textbook, Wolf. You know, just minutes to get to that site, they started to clear the site very tactically, going to the sound of gunfire and inevitably, you know, neutralizing the threat. The speed of action by law enforcement in this case actually prevented further loss of life.
BLITZER: Josh, what does this really chilling body camera video reveal to you?
JOSHUA SKULE, FORMER FBI EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR INTELLIGENCE: So, it reveals much like what Jonathan just detailed. Law enforcement doing exactly what they were supposed to do, training, communicating, and moving to the sound of gunfire and eliminating further violence. You can see that the National Metropolitan Police Department has trained on these scenarios, unfortunately, and they executed that training flawlessly.
Abene, you just heard that the shooter actually bought seven guns legally. Nothing in Tennessee's gun laws would have prevented this, would it?
ABENE CLAYTON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: By all accounts, no. You know, Tennessee is one of about 30 other states in the U.S. that doesn't have any red flag law. There's no infrastructure for concerned people. You know, clearly, this individual's parents were concerned and by all accounts, having a system that they could use to alert, you know, local authorities or to get a petition from a judge to have guns removed.
It's certainly something that I think a lot of folks wish would have been available. But as you mentioned, there was really nothing to stop this person from procuring these guns and for -- from using them in the way they chose to.
BLITZER: Josh, how do these new details reveal today about the shooter actually fit into the investigation into a motive? SKULE: So, I think day by day, Wolf, we are learning more about the motive of the shooter. We had a manifesto that Nashville PD released. They're continuing to go through her social media. They're continuing to do interviews of family, friends, and coworkers. More details are coming out.
Very alarming that she was planning a second or potential alternate site at the mall nearby. And we still have to know what triggered her to attack this school. There is some rumor out there that it may have been from her younger life, but we don't know that right now.
BLITZER: We certainly don't, but I suspect we'll be finding out relatively soon.
Jonathan, the warning signs unfolded very quickly here. What needs to change so that law enforcement can better identify threats before they happen?
WACKROW: Well, Wolf, it's not law enforcement by themselves, right? We have a shared fate here. We need to educate the community at large on how to identify these red flags and how to raise, you know, alert their proper authorities when we do see them.
I mean, listen, I mean, you know, we have seen far too many red flags in this instance come out. Everything from targeting, looking at, you know, soft target locations, malls, houses of worship, schools. We've heard the concerning communication that is coming out, whether it's from the documents that the written documents or messages via social media.
And you know, most disturbing is the planning and preparation that went into this. The pre attack surveillance, there's probably trial runs made on trying to find that path of least resistance into the target location, which is the school. Again, we have to be able to identify these red flags early and stop them prior to, you know, these tragic events from happening.
BLITZER: Yes, we do.
Abene, what can be done about the fact that guns are taking over? It's hard to believe, but guns are actually taking over as the leading cause of death for children here in the United States.
CLAYTON: Absolutely. That statistic is always really difficult to hear, and I think we need to take into account all of the ways that children and young people are exposed to gun violence in addition to these sort of high profile mass shootings that cause parents to, you know, hug their kids tighter and to go over safety plans. We need to be looking at things that happen near and around schools after football games, robberies that happen and cause soft lockdowns in the most underserved communities. So I think that it's going to talk about kids and what we can do. There are so many levers that we can pull that don't require legislation that just aren't at the center of our public safety debate right now. BLITZER: I can only imagine how nervous and worried parents all over the country were today about sending their little kids to elementary school on a day after what happened in Nashville. Guys, thank you very much for that analysis.
Coming up, President Biden renews his call for an assault weapons ban after the Nashville shooting. Is there any appetite in Congress for more gun reform?
Plus, a judge rules former Vice President Mike Pence must testify in the Special Counsel's January 6 investigation.
BLITZER: More now on our top story, the Nashville school shooting and new calls for gun control here in the United States, President Biden speaking out today, pleading with Congress to pass new legislation. CNN's Arlette Saenz is joining us now from the White House with an update.
Arlette, so what does the President want to see happen?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Biden says he's exhausted, all the executive actions he can take on guns. And right now, he is asking for Congress to act on this issue in the wake of that deadly shooting down in Nashville, Tennessee. Now, in President Biden's ideal world, Congress would pass another assault weapons ban, one that he argues has been successful at preventing shootings in the past. But lawmakers were unable to do that when Democrats controlled both chambers. And now, with Republicans in control of the House, the political appetite for that is much less likely in the coming months and in the next two years of this Congress.
But as the President spoke in Durham, North Carolina, today, he talked about how he wants to see a public pressure campaign on lawmakers when it comes to gun reform.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And what in God's name are we doing? These guns in a number -- this is hard to believe. I never thought when I started my public life that guns would be the number one killer of children in America. Guns, number one. It's sick.
So I again call on Congress to pass the assault weapon's (ph) ban. Pass it. This should not be a partisan issue. It's a common sense issue. They have to act now.
People say, why do I keep saying this if they're not happening? Because I want you to know who isn't doing it, who isn't helping to put pressure on them.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SAENZ: So the President reiterating there how he hopes the public will put pressure on lawmakers to act on gun reform. Now, the president said he has yet to speak with the families of the six victims who were shot at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. But he has spoken with Nashville's police chief, as well as the two police officers who rushed into that school and fatally shot the shooter just yesterday. Now, the President says that discussions are currently underway at the White House about a potential visit to Nashville, but he said that his team is trying to determine how they can be most helpful to the community at this time.
BLITZER: Arlette Saenz at the White House, thank you very much.
Let's discuss all of this with our Political Commentators, Michael Smerconish and Mondaire Jones.
Mondaire, I'll start with you. President Biden says he's exhausted his options on executive action, and it's now up to Congress to act. But the number two Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin, says he's, quote, "not very hopeful about passing gun control in the Senate." So where does this leave Democrats right now?
MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's very unfortunate that we live in America where we have a uniquely American problem of gun violence, and this is something that we have tried to solve. When I was a Democrat in Congress, I certainly tried to solve this. But because of the filibuster over in the United States Senate, we couldn't do things like pass and assault weapons ban, which is known to have been very effective at reducing mass shootings when it was in effect from the period spanning 1994 to 2004.
You know, on the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans were going to have a markup on a resolution that would nullify a regulation of ATF, but postpone that because of the shooting yesterday. So, Republicans clearly have no appetite to do anything more than what has already been done on gun violence.
BLITZER: You know, Michael, out of the gate, top Republicans are clearly rejecting calls to address gun violence right now. Listen to this. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY LEADER: I really get angry when I see people trying to politicize it for their own personal agenda.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), CHAIR, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I believe in the Second Amendment. We're sitting penalize, law abiding American citizens.
REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): Let's not get into politics. Right? Let's not get into a motion.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: So what does that say to you, Michael? Does this fall short with voters out there who are clearly reeling from yet another massacre of children in an elementary school?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, the Nashville police chief today said seven guns purchased legally at five different gun shops. So, if you agree I agree with what Mondaire said, that there's an accessibility issue. Guns are too accessible to too many Americans. But we have this witch's brew, a combination of the Second Amendment, the way in which it was interpreted in the Heller decision, and a lack of resolve, I have to say, among Republicans in the House and Senate to do anything about it.
Wolf, it's gotten to the point where I've sat here on so many prior days responding as a guest to these circumstances that I could just dust off talking points from what I said the last time, because nothing ever seems to change, and my glass is half full that it won't change going forward.
BLITZER: Yes, that's what a lot of folks out there are predicting, especially. As Arlette pointed out, there's a Republican filibuster that presumably would take place, and you need 60 out of 100 members to vote to break that filibuster.
Mondaire, you served in Congress, as you just pointed out, did you hear behind the scenes a different sense from Republican colleagues than when -- what you hear from them when the cameras are rolling?
JONES: On some things we did, but not on this particular issue. That, however, does not mean that a number of Republicans don't recognize that banning assault weapons, for example, which are weapons of war that have no business being on our streets, and that enacting universal background checks, which, by the way, 90 percent of the American people support are not things that would actually make a difference. It is just really politically difficult for them in a Republican primary, for example, to support that.
And that's really sad because, you know, when you speak to the average person, they understand the direction in which we need to go. In fact, it was just a few days ago I was knocking doors for a local candidate in the district I used to represent and it was a Republican homeowner that asked us our position on guns and expressed frustration that more was -- had not been done on a national level to regulate the ease with which people are able to access these weapons of war. And so, it was just a reminder that Republicans are not even sort of in touch with the views of many of their own voters, at least.
BLITZER: Yes, that's important to note.
You know, Michael, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who, by the way, I'll be speaking with live in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM, he wants the Democratic Leader Schumer to force a vote on a semiautomatic weapons ban, putting Republicans at least on the record. Do you believe that's smart politics?
SMERCONISH: I don't know. You might be helping those Republicans in primary elections in closed primary states win nominations and it could actually play to their benefit then in getting renominated and reelected.
I think maybe something that's reasonable is that we live in an era of big tech, right? We're so often talking about big technology, the world of Google and TikTok and Meta and Facebook and so forth. Can't we do a better job of information sharing? Because, again, it seems like this is one of those cases where the left hand says to the right hand, well, wait a minute, didn't there were red flags here that should have been acted upon? The technology exists, but law enforcement and the mental health community don't all seem to be dialed in to the same place.
BLITZER: Michael Smerconish and Mondaire Jones, guys, thank you very, very much.
An important note to our viewers, tune in to CNN every Saturday morning 9:00 a.m. Eastern for Smerconish. It's really an excellent show. I watch it every Saturday morning.
Up next, new developments and two investigations of former President Trump. The New York grand jury taking a break from the Trump probe for the rest of this week. And former Vice President Mike Pence now under orders to testify under oath before a federal grand jury in the January 6 investigation.
BLITZER: Right now, we're following multiple investigations of Donald Trump as legal pressure on the former president reaches new levels. Tonight, we're learning from court sources that a New York grand jury won't hear the Trump hush money case during the rest of this week. CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is just outside the courthouse in Manhattan for us.
Paula, what does this tell us about the status of this criminal investigation?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's clear the prosecutors believe they have more work to do before they bring this case back before a grand jury and move on to a possible vote on a possible indictment. It's also unclear if they're going to call any more witnesses before the grand jury. We know the grand jury heard from David Pecker, the former head of the company that publishes the National Enquirer on Monday. That came exactly a week after defense witness attorney Robert Costello testified.
And we learned through our sources, the prosecutor's office was considering whether they had to bring an additional witness in to rebut Costello's testimony. One of the people under consideration was also Michael Cohen. So at this point, we don't know if any more witnesses will go before the grand jury or how long it might before they move us on to a possible vote. But we'll likely be back here next week. And we'll wait and we'll watch. BLITZER: We certainly will. On another investigation, Paula, the special counsel investigating the January 6 insurrection. There's now a new ruling saying the former Vice President Mike Pence must, in fact, testify under oath.
REID: That's right. This is a multipart decision, because here the vice president has ruled he must testify about conversations he had with former President Trump in the lead up to January 6. And this is significant because investigators have described this pressure campaign that Pence was facing from Trump and his allies not to certify the results of the 2020 election in Biden's favor.
There is one particular call that multiple witnesses have testified about on the day of the Capitol attack, where the former president launched a pretty vicious attack against his vice president. Now, he will have to testify about those conversations. But the same judge has ruled that he will not have to answer questions about his official role as President of the Senate on January 6.
Pence raised this protection under the Constitution, the speech or debate clause, saying that he should not have to testify about anything he did in his official capacity. This judge agreed. This is another win for Special Counsel Jack Smith. He's had over a dozen wins, as he is really pressed to get answers from witnesses in this investigation.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a major win indeed. Paula, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Norm Eisen is it into this conversation. Norm, let's begin with the news from the grand jury in New York. What do you think is the cause of this delay this week?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, when you're going to put the president in the criminal doc, which there is every indication the district attorney is considering, you want to make sure you have it right. We know that the President chose a witness to put in the grand jury, Bob Costello.
Then we know that the prosecutors brought a rebuttal witness, David Pecker. So now they're deciding what to do. Wolf, having litigated a case against the President, then President Donald Trump, people would often say, why wasn't that impeachment and trial going faster? You wanted to make sure you dotted every I and crossed every T. That's what the prosecutors seem to be doing here.
BLITZER: Let me go back to Paula. Paula, so is this a sign that prosecutors in New York still don't feel their case is actually buttoned up, even after they heard from an additional witness just yesterday, David Pecker?
REID: Well, what we know is, after they heard from attorney Robert Costello, they did believe they needed to bring in at least one additional witness to button up their case, to rebut his testimony. That was a bit of a surprise for prosecutors because the grand jury is usually it's a prosecutor's show, they call the shots.
It was unexpected that the Trump legal team asked for this witness to go before the grand jury. Then they brought one witness. It's unclear if they will bring another one. But we absolutely know from our reporting that they did have concerns following Costello's appearance about how they would button this up.
And right now, it's unclear if Pecker is the only witness that they'll bring to rebut that testimony. Watch wait and see.
BLITZER: You shall see. And Norm, I want to turn to the federal judge's decision that Mike Pence, the former vice president, must in fact testify about conversations he had with Trump leading up to January 6. You predicted Pence would have to testify. How much of a difference could his testimony actually wind up making?
EISEN: Wolf, I think it's very significant on several of the charges that Jack Smith is very likely looking at. You know, starting on December 5, Donald Trump raised the issue with Pence of changing the outcome in the Electoral College. And that pressure continued like a vice squeezing Pence, culminating in the conversation that Paula referenced on January 6 itself.
So that is very important proof of the toughest issue in any criminal case, Wolf. President Trump's intent at the time to overturn the election, I think it's very important. Another big win for Jack Smith.
BLITZER: It certainly seems like that. But Paula, Pence can still decline to answer various questions related to his actions on January 6, when he was presiding over the Senate.
The Vice President of the United States, according to the Constitution, is also the president of the U.S. Senate. So tell us why this is significant.
REID: Yes, this has been a really interesting question for legal scholars is, would Pence be protected under the speech or debate clause? Could he argue that as President of the Senate, he should be protected just like a legislator would be for anything related to their job?
It appears that the federal courts are open to this. It's a pretty exciting legal issue that could potentially make its way all the way to the Supreme Court.
BLITZER: What do you think, Norm?
EISEN: Well, I think it's a very good decision by Judge Jeb Boasberg. As far as we can tell, Wolf, it remains under seal. We just have the reporting on it because the core of Pence's activity, speech and debate on the floor of Congress, that is protected. That's what the Constitution says, but that wouldn't relate to conversations he had with Donald Trump weeks before he showed up in the chair to preside on January 6.
I think it's a Solomonic decision, Wolf, and I think it's one that will hold up on appeal if it is as we think, since the actual details remain under seal.
BLITZER: We shall see. Norm Eisen and Paula Reid, guys, thank you very much.
An important note to our viewers, I'll be interviewing the former Vice President Mike Pence later this week, one on one. We'll cover a wide range of topics, including the 2024 presidential elections that are coming up and the Trump investigations. You can see the interview Thursday night right here on CNN primetime, 09:00 p.m. Eastern this Thursday.
Just ahead, our live report from the war zone in Ukraine, where a hospital, a school and an orphanage were just targeted by Russian forces. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: In Ukraine, a hospital, a kindergarten, and an orphanage are among the latest targets of deadly Russian attacks. This as heavy fighting continues in the key eastern city of Bakhmut. Let's get an update from CNN's Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman, and he's joining us live from the war zone. So Ben, how brutal are these latest Russian assaults in the east?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does appear they're picking up their tempo at the moment. Now keep in mind that for instance, beginning last September, Wolf, the Russians changed their tactics and were really focusing on Ukraine's ability to generate power, power that provides electricity and warmth to the population during the harsh Ukrainian winters.
But the Ukrainians for one thing, their ability, their air defense capabilities have drastically improved and they have also proven very adept at sort of solutions to the situations created when that infrastructure was hit. So now the Russians seem to be changing their focus, focusing on military targets but in the process we're seeing civilians, more civilians are being killed.
Now yesterday in Sloviansk, two civilians were killed, more than 30 people injured when there was a strike on that town. Now, it just so happens that the strike also hit a military recruiting center. So they are focusing more on supply lines, military infrastructure, but in the process, many people are being killed.
Now, as far as the battle in Bakhmut, the commander of Ukrainian land forces says that their focus at the moment is try to, in his words, destroy as many of the enemy as possible and prepare for a counter, or rather, create the conditions for a counter offensive. Fighting continues to be intense also in the town of Avdiivka, which is south of Bakhmut. There the Ukrainians say that the Russians are trying to wipe that town off the face of the earth.
BLITZER: It looks exactly like what they're doing these images of what we're showing our viewers now are horrendous indeed, civilian targets that the Russians have unloaded on. As, you know, the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy made another stop in his unannounced visits across Ukraine that's been going on these past few days. Is this an attempt by him to boost morale?
WEDEMAN: Well, today he was, in Sumi, in northern Ukraine. And over the last seven days, he's also paid visits to the regions of Kherson and Kharkiv. Those are regions that until quite recently, were under Russian control. Now, keep in mind, these visits, high profile, unannounced visits, come at a time when more armor is new. Armor tanks and other heavy weaponry is arriving in Ukraine.
And certainly, anticipation is mounting about this possible Ukrainian spring counter offensive. And I think this is his way of showing that he has confidence in the future and what the coming weeks and perhaps months will bring. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Ben Wedeman, stay safe over there. Thank you very much.
Let's discuss these latest developments with CNN Military Analyst, Retired U. S. Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton, and CNN Contributor on Russian Affairs, Jill Dougherty. Colonel Leighton, 24 Russian attacks over the last day or so, according to a Ukrainian report, the heaviest combat concentrated along the Eastern Front. What is Russia's strategy at this point in the fight, specifically targeting these civilian areas, these residential apartment complexes, schools, kindergartens, for example?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, Wolf. So the basic idea behind the Russian strategy is to soften things up were a continuation of their offensive. Now it looks like their offensive has basically been stalled around Bakhmut.
But what the Russians seem to be telling us is that they're using towns like Avdiivka and Vuhledar to actually move their forces forward. Now, they're not successful at the present time, but as they're softening things up in the civilian sector, like with the orphanages, the hospitals, the kindergartens, they're looking at trying to create conditions where they can potentially bring their forces into territory that's currently held by the Ukrainians. I don't think they'll be successful, but that's what they're trying to do.
BLITZER: And, Jill, as we noted, these latest Russian strikes hit a kindergarten, a school, and a hospital. We've seen this brutality before from the Russian military. This cruelty seems to be deliberate. But what's your analysis?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, RUSSIAN AFFAIRS: Well, I think obviously some of it is deliberate, and then some of it is simply their inadequate fighting techniques and weapons that, you know, are not precise.
You know, I saw this, Wolf, in Chechnya where they essentially flattened, you know, the capital of Rosney (ph), and this is the technique that they use. They're using it in Syria as well, so it's not surprising. But I think some of the interesting stuff is their projection of power in the Far East, which is, you know, a very far from Ukraine, but I think very connected to that fight.
BLITZER: Yes, going after the civilian targets in Ukraine, clearly war crimes that are under investigation right now. Colonel Leighton, a Ukrainian commander, says Ukraine is trying to wear down the Russian army in Bakhmut. That's a key city on the front lines, of course. Is that strategy working?
LEIGHTON: Well, it seems to be at least partially working, Wolf, because a lot of Russians and Wagner group mercenaries are actually falling victim to this. They are losing -- the Russians are losing quite a few men in this fight. In fact, there are huge cemeteries that are being built up in the south of Russia because of this.
So it does seem as if this is a part of the Ukrainian strategy that is at least potentially working. I'm not sure it is the most cost- effective strategy, but it is certainly something that they're using right now.
BLITZER: And I noticed, Jill, that just a few hours ago, a Russian fleet fired missiles at a mock target off the coast of Japan. So what message is Putin sending?
DOUGHERTY: I think there are a couple, number one, force projection. We can go anywhere. That's part of it. But I also think, you know, look at what happened just about a week ago, the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Kishida, went to Kyiv on a surprise visit. Very strong show of support for Ukraine.
The Russians, obviously are quite angry about this. And there you're getting, you know, action in the Far East with last week there were strategic bombers. They used cruise missiles coming from a submarine. And I noted that the secretary of the Russian Security Council, Mr. Patrushev, said the U.S. is pushing Japan to militarize just like World War II.
He says, and turn Japanese citizens into kamikazes. So this is, you know, more of the same, that it's all the United States behind everything, just as they say that the United States is, you know, trying to militarize Ukraine and use it to attack Russia. It's really, I think, again, it's a signal that they are worried, angry, and the battle is not going well.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. Jill Dougherty, Colonel Cedric Leighton, guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, a deadly blaze tears through a migrant detention facility in Mexico, killing at least 40 detainees. Officials releasing new video moments ago showing how this fire started. And later, we'll have new details on the national school shooting. We'll be right back.
[17:53:10] BLITZER: Just in to CNN, disturbing new video showing detainees locked behind gates at a migrant center in Mexico as a deadly fire broke out. A blaze killed at least 40 people and was apparently started by migrants during a protest. CNN's Rafael Romo has our report.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One by one, Mexican soldiers pull people out of the building. It quickly becomes tragically clear there's nothing they can do for some of them anymore. Mexican officials say more than three dozen migrants, mainly from Central and South America, died at this detention center after a fire swept through the building late Monday.
Surveillance video from inside the detention center, obtained by CNN, shows how quickly the flames spread throughout the holding area after inmates set mattresses on fire. It also appears to show that those detained were behind bars with the gate locked.
Calling the fire regrettable and sad, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the fire started Monday at 9:30 in the evening, hours before officials say 71 migrants living on the streets of Ciudad Juarez had been taken to the shelter.
The President added that the fire started after the migrants found out they were going to be deported. As a protest, the President said, the migrants put mattresses from the shelter against its door and set them on fire. They never imagined this was going to cause this terrible accident, he said.
As first responders tried to save victims at the shelter, family members desperately tried to get any news from their loved ones outside the building.
They're not telling us anything, this woman said. A relative of yours may die and they don't tell you anything at all.
We've seen they've been pulling people out and we have no idea if they're alive or not, this man said. Ambulances have left one after the other, and we know nothing, and they give us no information.
Located across the border from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez is a transit point where many immigrants from different parts of the world arrive daily, hoping to cross the Rio Grande to seek asylum in the United States.
(on-camera): As it has been the case with other border towns in Mexico, there have been multiple riots and tense situations in the last few years due to the fact that there aren't enough shelters that can accommodate all of these migrants and many end up living on the streets.
(voice-over): Through a statement, the Guatemalan government says 28 of its citizens were among the dead. Irregular migration, the statement said, carries with it a number of risks that have once again become evident.
Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.
BLITZER: Rafael, thank you very much.
Coming up, our top story tonight, officials released chilling body camera and surveillance footage from the National School shooting. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.