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The Situation Room

Trump Gag Order Mostly Upheld, But Allows Slams Of Special Counsel; New Criminal Indictment Of Hunter Biden In Federal Tax Case; School Shooter Gets Life Sentence, I Am A Really Bad Person; Christie Bets Presidential Hopes On New Hampshire; CNN Analysis: Reuters Journalist In Lebanon Killed By Israeli Tank Fire, IDF Says Incident Still Under Review. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 08, 2023 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Look out for two big events in the 2024 space next week. Tuesday, I'll moderate a conversation with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Iowa voters. Then Wednesday, CNN's Abby Philip will host a town hall with Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Both will start at 9:00 P.M. Eastern Right here on CNN.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, and on the TikTok @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. If you ever miss an episode of The Lead, you can listen to the show whence you get your podcasts.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happy Hanukkah to him and to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Donald Trump's gag order is mostly upheld in the federal election subversion case, an appeals court admonishing the former president while also giving him a green light to attack the special counsel, Jack Smith.

Also tonight, the new criminal indictment of Hunter Biden and the legal and political fallout, the president's son accused of spending millions on a lavish lifestyle instead of paying his taxes.

And the Michigan gunman who killed four classmates at his school back in 2021 is now sentenced to life in prison without parole. The teenager hearing emotional statements from the victims' families and then telling the court, and I'm quoting him now, I am a really bad person.

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

Our top story tonight, Donald Trump gagged again. An appeals court agreeing the former president of the United States should be barred from public statements about witnesses and other key players in the federal election subversion case, but with some significant exceptions.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has more on the ruling. So, Jessica, what does this mean for Trump?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it means the gag order against Donald Trump, it will, in fact, be in place moving forward.

But the appeals court today saying that the original gag order from District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, it was just too broad. So, specifically, the appeals court is removing restrictions when it comes to Trump talking about Special Counsel Jack Smith.

The appeals court really explained that Jack Smith is part of the Justice Department, that Trump should be allowed to criticize public officials and he should be able to express his views that this prosecution is politically motivated.

So, the appeals court here really trying to walk this fine line of protecting Donald Trump's First Amendment free speech rights, but also limiting just how far he can go in attacking witnesses and other court staffers and personnel, as we've seen him already do.

So, this is how the gag order will play out. Trump will not be able to make public statements about potential witnesses in this case. He also can't make derogatory comments that would interfere in this case when it comes to the court staff, the special counsel staff or family members.

And, of course, we saw Donald Trump speak out against Special Counsel Jack Smith's wife recently at one of his rallies. So, Trump will now be restricted from making any comments about her or other family members, though it's important to note there will be no restrictions on his speech about Special Counsel Jack Smith or the judge in this case or really the prosecution, in general.

So, the appeals court, in making this decision, they wrote this. They said many of former President Trump's public statements attacking witnesses, trial participants and court staff pose a danger to the integrity of these criminal proceedings. That danger is magnified by the predictable torrent of threats of retribution and violence that the district court found follows when Mr. Trump speaks out forcefully.

And, Wolf, tonight, Trump is saying that his legal team will appeal. So, the next step in this case would either be to appeal to the full appeals court here in D.C. since today's decision was just from that three-judge panel or the president's legal team could take this appeal directly to the Supreme Court. So, presumably, we'll see what they do in the coming days. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you, Jessica Schneider reporting.

I want to bring in CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig and ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl. He is the author of a brand new, very important book entitled, Tired of Winning, Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party.

Elie, let me start with you. You predicted here in THE SITUATION ROOM this gag order would largely be upheld. Do you think the court today struck the right balance?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I do, Wolf. I think they struck the nail right on the head. Anytime a court is in a position of having to deal with a gag order, they have to balance two competing concerns. And I think the court does that here in a detailed way.

On the one hand, the court has to protect any defendant's very broad First Amendment rights. And under the order as it now stands, Donald Trump is free to criticize, aggressively, if necessary, the judge, Jack Smith, DOJ the charges against him. That's his right.

On the other hand, the court has to balance the need for the district court, the trial court here, to protect the process, to protect the witnesses, the jury pool. And what Trump cannot do is attack witnesses about the substance of their testimony or attack staff or court members or say things that might infect the jury pool.


So, I think the Court of Appeals really did an admirable job and I think they got it just right in striking that balance here.

BLITZER: Elie, do you think it's likely the U.S. Supreme Court will review this decision?

HONIG: I do not think the Supreme Court will take this case up, Wolf. Yes, there is a constitutional element to it because we're talking about the First Amendment, but the mere presence of any constitutional issue is not enough for the Supreme Court necessarily to take it.

I think the Supreme Court is going to want to stay hands-off. I don't think they're going to want to get into micromanaging the minutiae of this trial, and I don't think there's anything about the Court of Appeals opinion that's obviously wrong or that's screaming out for the Supreme Court to step in and fix it.

So, I think they're going to pass, and if they do pass, then this will be the last word on the gag order.

BLITZER: And, Jonathan Karl, Trump slammed this decision on Truth Social. I want to get your reaction to part of his response. Let me quote from part of his response. People can speak violently and viciously against me or attack me in any form but I am not allowed to respond in kind.

But, Jonathan, as Jessica reported, the order doesn't restrict him from going after the Department of Justice or Jack Smith for that matter. What's your reaction?

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Or his political opponents or Joe Biden or -- I mean, this is a very narrowly tailored gag order. I think that this decision by this appeals panel is a really good read. It goes through a reminder of the kinds of statements that Trump was making that, in the words of this panel, had real-time, real-world consequences, statements that he was making about potential witnesses and how they received torrents of threats. We've seen this over and over again. We saw what happened in the New York civil case when Trump not only went after the judge, but went after the clerk, a court employee, said things about her that were flatly not true, and she ended up receiving several -- many dozens a day of threats on her cell phone that people somehow got a hold of, anti-Semitic threats.

So, look, I think that this is not about silencing Donald Trump. In fact, this opinion goes chapter and verse into the importance of the First Amendment, but makes it clear that you cannot hide behind the First Amendment to make statements that are clearly not protected by the law.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

Kristen Holmes, what are you hearing from your sources about the reaction from inside the Trump world?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there was some expectation that this was going to be upheld, or at least part of it was going to be upheld, but the big question now is whether or not Donald Trump can actually abide by it.

And I spoke to two senior advisers who said they think that it is possible that he has been briefed multiple times on what exactly he can and can't say and where exactly that line is. One adviser say that he's going to walk all the way up to the line but not cross it.

Again, as we've mentioned, he can go after Jack Smith. He can go after the Department of Justice. We know this is a big part of his campaign to be president that he's being politically persecuted and that he's going to continue with that messaging.

There is some concern among some allies that when it comes to the witnesses, he might have a harder time, particularly when it comes to perhaps getting some of that testimony or learning what these witnesses have said. That is going to be where it becomes more difficult for the former president.

BLITZER: And, Elie, the court also forcefully pushed back on Trump's argument that his criminal trial should be delayed until after the 2024 presidential election, saying that would, quote, create perverse incentives. What did you make of that?

HONIG: Yes, Wolf. This is the buried headline of this ruling today. I mean, that's going to become monumentally important because Donald Trump is already in the process of appealing this immunity motion. He is certainly going to try to get this trial date, which is currently set for March of 2024, push back towards after the election. He's going to try any way possible to do that.

And this is a signal and then some from the Court of Appeals that they're not going to be inclined to do that. So, if it's going to be delayed, it's probably going to have to come from the U.S. Supreme Court, which is a tough shot to make.

BLITZER: Good point.

Jonathan, what will this election year look like if the dominant Republican frontrunner is stuck in a courtroom rather than out there on the campaign trail?

KARL: Well, I think that what has happened as a result -- and we're already seeing this. I mean, he has spent more days in court in New York in that civil case, days that he did not have to be in court. There was only one day, which when he testified. He doesn't need to be there, that he has spent actually on the campaign trail. And as a result, people are seeing more of the coverage of his legal troubles than they are of Donald Trump as a candidate.

And I think this is actually one of the challenges that we all face in covering and trying to understand this election is that people are not getting a real sense of Donald Trump, the candidate, of what he would be doing if he actually got into the White House again.


What would his program be? What does he mean by retribution and revenge? What would he be doing as president? Because so much of the coverage is in these courtrooms and that's where he's going to be spending most of his time.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a good point, an excellent point, a real expert word on Trump.

Thanks to all of you. And a special congratulations to Jonathan Karl on his new book, Tired of Winning, Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party, excellent, excellent read. Check it out for sure.

Just ahead, Israel dramatically ramps up its strikes on Gaza and suggests it's bringing Hamas to a, quote, breaking point.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Israel is making new claims about its progress against Hamas as the third month of war begins with a significant escalation of strikes on Gaza.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is joining us live from Israel right now. Alex, what's the latest?


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, some very intense fighting going on. Earlier today, the IDF said that in the previous 24 hours they had carried out some strikes on 450 different targets. That is the biggest number all across Gaza since that fragile truce fell apart a week ago, exactly a week ago on Friday. That's one of the biggest numbers that we've seen since this war started exactly two months ago. We did hear from the defense minister of Israel earlier today. He said that he's starting to see the signs of Hamas beginning to break inside Gaza. Much of the IDF's focus, Wolf, is on Khan Younis. That is the second biggest city in Gaza. That's where Israel believes that some of the most senior leaders of Hamas are. And that is where Israel is focusing a lot of its attention, the IDF saying that they are going house to house, tunnel to tunnel, carrying out raids.

Elsewhere in Gaza, in the north, Wolf, we saw Israeli troops raise the Israeli flag in Palestine Square. That is a main intersection in Gaza City, not too far, incidentally, from Al-Shifa Hospital, which I think people will remember well.

And then, Wolf, the IDF also announcing that they tried to carry out a raid to rescue a hostage. That raid did not go well. The hostage was not rescued. Two IDF soldiers were severely injured. They have tried to carry out these rescue raids in the past. In October, they were successful. They got a young female hostage out. Of course, Wolf, that comes as these hostage talks have ground to a halt.

BLITZER: And, Alex, the U.N. secretary-general made a rare move today to raise the alarm about the situation in Gaza right now. But how did that unfold?

MARQUARDT: Well, Wolf, he invoked what's known as Article 99, which is a very rare tool that the U.N. secretary-general can invoke when there are threats to the maintenance of international peace and security.

And so what happened is there was a call for a vote at the Security Council for an immediate ceasefire. The Security Council has 15 members, 13 voted in favor of an immediate ceasefire, one, the U.K., abstained. The United States was the only one to vote against. The U.S. vetoed this call for an immediate ceasefire. This resolution, they say that it was because Hamas was not mentioned in this resolution, the attacks on October 7th.

Of course, Wolf, the situation in Gaza, the humanitarian situation is just growing increasingly dire by the hour. The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health says that over 17,000 people have been killed. 85 percent of the overall population of Gaza has been displaced. Wolf?

BLITZER: Alex Marquardt reporting from Tel Aviv, thank you very much.

Coming up, the new tax evasion charges against Hunter Biden and what they could mean potentially for the president of the United States.



BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden's son, Hunter, is facing new charges, the most serious yet, after his criminal indictment in a federal tax case.

CNN's Paula Reid is covering the story for us, she's getting reaction as well. Walk us through, Paula, this indictment and some of the truly sensational details included.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Sensational, indeed. These charges, Wolf, are the result of a long-running investigation into Hunter Biden's finances. But now, his father will be seeking re-election while fighting an impeachment bid from Republicans and while his son is fighting to avoid prison in now two federal criminal cases.


REID (voice over): President Biden ignored questions Friday about the latest criminal charges filed agains his son.

REPORTER: Any comment on any charges against your son?

REID: Those new charges laid out in a 56-page indictment unsealed Thursday. Prosecutors allege Hunter Biden engaged in a four-year scheme to not pay at least $1.4 million in taxes. They allege the younger Biden had money but spent it on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes.

The case was supposed to be resolved with a plea deal that fell apart over the summer.

HUNTER BIDEN, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S SON: I'm cooperating completely and I am absolutely certain, 100 percent certain that at the end of the investigation that I will be cleared.

REID: The case stems from Hunter Biden's lucrative overseas business dealings. He did eventually repay taxes he owed, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties and fees. But prosecutors say that when he did finally file his returns, he included false business deductions in order to reduce his tax liability.

His lawyers claim prosecutors have bowed to political pressure to bring charges against the president's son. In a statement, his attorney, Abbe Lowell, said, if Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware and now California would not have been brought.

In a newly released podcast recorded before the indictment, Biden said the pressure comes from Republicans' intent on undermining his father.

H. BIDEN: They are trying to -- in their most illegitimate way, but rational way, they're trying to destroy a presidency. And so it's not about me. And their most base way, what they're trying to do, is they're trying to kill me, knowing that it will be a pain greater than my father could be able to handle.


REID: The indictment does not include any evidence linking these alleged crimes to President Biden, but GOP lawmakers continue to push forward with their impeachment inquiry and pursuing an interview with the president's son.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): My concern is that Weiss may have indicted Hunter Biden to protect him from having to be deposed in the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.


REID (on camera): Yes, that doesn't really make any sense because Hunter's team didn't use the indictment he was already facing to try to avoid that appearance next week. They have said they would be more than welcome there. They would be happy to sit down and answer questions but it has to be public, something that the committee has so far rejected, insisting that a public appearance would only come after a behind closed doors interview.

So, Wolf, it's unclear if and when he'll ever appear on the Hill. It's also unclear when he's going to appear in federal court. His initial appearance has not yet been scheduled.

BLITZER: Paula Reid reporting for us, excellent report, Paula. Thank you very much.

I want to bring in our team of political experts to discuss, and, Dana Bash, I'll start with you. You just heard Hunter Biden, before these charges actually came out. Speak about the toll on him and his dad, not just politically but personally. What impact will this have on President Biden as he campaigns for re-election?

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's already having an impact because it's very, very difficult for the president's re election campaign to try to navigate what is very, very obviously, understandably personal for the president.

And it's not just about the indictment and the allegations, the criminal allegations, both the new ones in California and also in Delaware, it is about his addiction. And that was -- I mean, Wolf, listening to Hunter Biden say, they're trying to kill me, he doesn't mean that metaphorically. He means that literally because he's an addict.

And his argument has been that the reason he didn't pay his taxes, the reason he spent so much money, over a million, maybe almost a million and a half dollars, on all of these untoward things and more, is because he was addicted to very horrible drugs, to crack. And so what he is saying there is they're trying to get me to get me off the wagon, which would destroy my father.

And there, of course, are political reasons for this. And he did do things that were wrong. But from the perspective of Hunter Biden, from the perspective of his lawyers, not so much that it deserves this kind of attention. And that's why they say that if his name was anything other than Biden that he wouldn't be prosecuted to the degree that he is right now after that plea deal fell apart in July.

BLITZER: Interesting. David Axelrod, the indictment, as Dana just pointed out, really does paint a very damning indictment, charges against Hunter Biden. How does this reflect on the president of the United States?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, it does paint a damning portrait, and a lot of it was known already, Wolf, both through other legal filings and through what Hunter Biden has said himself. The story of his addiction and some of the activities that flowed from it are very well known.

But it's important to note that it is about Hunter Biden. It's not about Joe Biden. There are a lot of people in this country who have children who have fallen to addiction. And despite two years of effort, there's been no success in linking Biden to any wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.

So, I think this is as Hunter described, as Dana described, this is an emotional burden for the president and will be going forward. I think people can separate out Joe from Hunter. I don't think this issue is the political burden that perhaps some hope it would be.

BLITZER: But for the president, it's a very personal burden.

AXELROD: Absolutely, and I think that's serious.

BLITZER: I totally agree.

Marc Short, you know, it's interesting because, as we're watching all this, Trump keeps accusing the U.S. Justice Department, the federal government, of political bias. But don't today's charges against President Biden's son fly in the face of that?

MARC SHORT, ADVISER TO MIKE PENCE: They might. I think it's probably too early to tell, Wolf, to see where that investigation continues to go. But I think that a lot of this generates from, I think, the initial part of Donald Trump's presidency when there were bad actors in the Department of Justice. And I think that it's become a useful political weapon for the former president to be able to say there's a two-tiered system of justice, and they're coming after me. And so I think you're going to continue to see that argument put out there on the campaign.

BLITZER: You know, David, I'm if you read this 56-page indictment, it's got all sorts of incredibly horrible charges against the son of the president of the United States.


If you were advising President Biden, what would you tell him to do now?

AXELROD: Look, I think it's more important that he be a good father now than a clever candidate. And I think he should respond as a father would and just say, I'm going to be supportive of my son. He's lost two children in his life already, Wolf, and I don't think he wants to lose a third. And I think this must be a source of concern.

But to Marc's point, I thought it was interesting that Chairman Comer was quick to say, well, I think they're doing him a favor by indicting him because they want to make the case that somehow there's this two- tier system injustice. And very clearly, there's not.

BLITZER: Certainly not doing him a favor, releasing all this evidence in this document if you read it. It's really horrible.

How would you advise the president? I mean, you're not an adviser to the president. How would you advice the presidential candidates, the Republican presidential candidates, to react to all of this?

SHORT: Well, I don't know how much it really benefits to attack the president's son, to be candid, Wolf. I do think that it has been effective in rallying Republican voters to talk about a two-tiered system of justice.

And I respect David's analysis on this, but I do think for many Republicans, there was a gross sense that the Department of Justice was very politicized in the beginning of the Trump administration, and they felt like a lot of those attacks were very political, and they were based on facts about the Russia investigation. And so that continues to appeal to Republican voters.

BLITZER: This criminal indictment of Hunter Biden is really powerful. And the U.S. Justice Department released it.

Dana, before we let you go, I know you have a very special airing this Sunday night with the tennis legend, Billie Jean King, where she actually talked about her own presidential ambitions, didn't she?

BASH: She did, Wolf. You know, this year is special for her because it's 50 years, a milestone on a number of things, including that famous Battle of the Sexes tennis match when she beat tennis legend Bobby Riggs.

And she talked about the fact that at that time, everybody knew her name. And maybe it was a time because people were urging her to run for office, she could have done it. Listen to what she said.


BASH: I heard you say that maybe you should have run for office. BILLIE JEAN KING, TENNIS LEGENND: After the King-Riggs match, I think

everybody in the country probably would have known my name. You know, for a lot of politicians, they can't get through the clutter of people even knowing who they are.

BASH: Because it's something that you wanted to do.

KING: I think if I did not have sports, would have gone to law school and definitely tried to be president of the United States, why not?

BASH: 88 is apparently not something that is disqualifying to be president. So, that's possible.

KING: I have experienced ageism now too.

BASH: Really?

KING: Yes, and it's not fun.

BASH: How so?

KING: It's just people have kind of given up on you. They don't think you're any good.


BLITZER: And, Dana Basha. Marc Short, David Axelrod, guys, thank you very much.

An important note to our viewers, be sure to watch Dana's special program, Being Billie Jean King, at airs Sunday at 10:00 P.M. Eastern and Pacific only here on CNN. We'll be watching.

Just ahead, there's breaking news. The Texas attorney general is taking new steps to stop a woman's abortion after a judge ruled she could legally terminate her pregnancy.



BLITZER: There's breaking news out of Texas right now. The state attorney general just took new action to try to stop the court ordered emergency abortion of a woman with a nonviable, potentially very dangerous pregnancy.

Let's got to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's joining us from Dallas. So, what's the latest, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this legal fight continues. Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is now asking the state's Supreme Court to intervene and essentially overturn that legal ruling that 31-year-old Kate Cox won yesterday, where she was granted legal permission to get an abortion. This after she says that doctors have told her that she is 20 weeks pregnant and that her baby suffers from a fatal genetic disorder and that for her future fertility and potential life-saving measures that she would be eligible under the medical exception in Texas to get an abortion.

Ken Paxton is saying that that is not the case, that Cox has not shown that her life is in danger, and also goes on to say that anyone involved in helping Ms. Cox have an abortion would still be susceptible to the criminal and civil penalties that would go along with that.

Cox's attorneys are saying that the attorney general is showing stunning disregard for Ms. Cox's future -- health and future fertility. Wolf?

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera with the latest on that, thank you very much.

In Michigan, tonight the teenage gunman who killed four students at a high school in 2021 has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Survivors of the shooting and the families of his victims confronted him during an emotional hearing today.


KYLIE OSSEGE, OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: I was just shot and I thought I was going to die.

RILEY FRANZ, OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING SURVIVOR: A piece of me shattered that day. And two years later, I am still struggling to put them back into place.

BUCK MYRE, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: Our family has a permanent hole in it. It can never be fixed, ever.

STEVE ST. JULIANA, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: He purposely murdered my daughter, Hannah, and three other children in order to make himself feel better.


BLITZER: CNN's Jean Casarez was inside the courtroom. Jean, so what factored into this sentencing?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, the judge had to look at the aggravating factors and the mitigating factors, the aggravating factors being the crimes themselves, the fact that the defendant kept a personal journal that no one saw, but he plotted out ahead of time, well ahead of time, that he needed a gun.


He was going to give his father money so his father would go buy him a gun, that he wanted to shoot the prettiest girl in school first and the girl with the future, and he had so many details that he planned out.

And then you have the mitigating factors, which was his age. He was 15 years old, and science shows that the brain of a 15-year-old is not developed into an adult yet, the fact that he begged his parents for mental health treatment ahead of time, saying that he had issues, he had delusions.

Now, late in the day today, the defendant himself, he stood up and he voluntarily did this, and he begged for mercy from the judge.


ETHAN CRUMBLEY, KILLED FOUR SCHOOLMATES IN MICHIGAN SCHOOL SHOOTING: I am a really bad person. I have done terrible things that no one should ever do. I have lied, been not trustworthy, I've hurt many people, and that's what I've done. And I'm not denying it but that's not who I plan on to be.


CASAREZ: And a short time later, the judge issued the sentence.

JUDGE KWAME ROWE, OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN CIRCUIT COURT: -- told not to conduct the school shooting. When his parents were called to the school on that morning for his drawings, he could have said something then.

He could have stopped then and simply accepted the help that was going to be offered for him.

He could have changed his mind at that point, but he didn't. He continued to walk through the school, picking and choosing who was going to die. As the defendant said in his own words, this is nobody fought but his own.


CASAREZ: And in a precedent-setting case for this next year, the parents of this defendant have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, saying they also caused this mass school shooting because of purchasing that gun because they had knowledge of what their son, mental issues that he had, and they did nothing about it. That we'll see if they will be convicted also. Wolf?

BLITZER: We will find out. Jean Casarez, thank you very much.

Also tonight, growing calls for the ouster of the president of the University of Pennsylvania after her widely criticized testimony about anti-Semitism on college campuses.

CNN's Athena Jones has the story.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That question had no ambiguity.

JONES: -- under increasing pressure to resign after what are critics called a disastrous testimony on Capitol Hill this week, featuring this tense exchange.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): I am asking specifically calling for the genocide of Jews. Does that constitute bullying or harassment?

LIZ MAGILL, PRESIDENT, UPENN: If it is directed and severe or pervasive, it is harassment.

STEFANIK: So, the answer is yes?

MAGILL: It is a context-dependent decision.

JAMES KENKELEN, UPENN ALUM: The fellow is in an alternative universe that you can have to have these conversations and to hear those weak answers --

JONES: And seemingly not changing minds despite efforts to clean up the matter through a taped statement. MAGILL: I want to be clear, a call for genocide of Jewish people is threatening.

ABRAHAM FRANCHETTI, UPENN STUDENT: I think that Liz Magill obviously needs to step down. Whether she meant what she said from an anti- Semitic perspective or not, she has failed the Jewish students of Penn.

JONES: The presidents of Harvard and MIT also facing calls to step down after similar remarks during their testimonies. Now the Board of Advisers of the University's Business School, Wharton, is calling for a change in Penn's leadership. And Ross Stevens, a Penn alum and CEO of Stone Ridge Holdings, has threatened to rescind $100 million worth of his company's shares, now held by the university, if Magill doesn't resign.

This as GOP Congresswoman Elise Stefanik announced a House committee will investigate Penn, Harvard and MIT for what she called the president's pathetic and morally bankrupt testimony.

Some students want Magill to stay put, like Heela Cohen, who says her great grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz. She wants a ceasefire in Gaza now.

HILAH KOHEN, GRADUATE STUDENT, UPENN: Liz Magill shouldn't resign, she should talk with us. An Israeli-American Jewish scholar of Jewish studies, why hasn't that conversation happened? That is the next step.

LILY BRENNER, UPENN STUDENT: We represent a coalition of Jewish students, of Palestinian students, of allies, of a lot of diverse backgrounds. And it's important to note that this is an issue of lives lost. And that is the position that we are taking right now.

JONES: Kohen has this message for fellow Jewish students who feel threatened by pro-Palestinian groups.

KOHEN: There is an emotional structure that serves the genocide of Palestinians, wherein Jewish students see a Palestinian flag and feel afraid for their own safety, wherein Jewish students may hear a call for freedom. And people have told us to feel afraid.

It is our job to say we stand for safety and liberation of all people. Jewish safety and Palestinian safety are intertwined.



JONES (on camera): Meanwhile, Harvard president Claudine Gay apologized for her comments on Capitol Hill, telling "The Harvard Crimson" student newspaper, words matter and saying she should have the presence of mind to convey what is her, what she called her guiding truth, that threats to our Jewish students had no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Athena, thank you. Athena Jones reporting. Coming up, Chris Christie is betting heavily on New Hampshire, just

ahead of that states crucial presidential primary. We'll have a report when we come back.


BLITZER: Chris Christie is hitting the campaign trail in New Hampshire, a state considered critical for him as he fights to gain momentum in the 2024 presidential race.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has the story.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I haven't had one donor, not one of my significant donors, or any donor at all, call me and say that we should get out of this race. I haven't had one supporter call me and tell me to get out of this race.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, at this point, there are no plans for you to go anywhere?

CHRISTIE: Omar, you come on January 23rd. You're going to see me here, shaking hands until the polls close. And we're going to do very well in New Hampshire. I'm not going anywhere.

JIMENEZ (voice-over): The motto in New Hampshire is "live free or die". But at this stage, for Chris Christie, it may be do or die.

CHRISTIE: It's game time now.

JIMENEZ: For the past two days, Christie has been touring college campuses in New Hampshire, hoping to drive enthusiasm among some younger voters.

CHRISTIE: Your vote means more here than any other state in the country this year. So that's why I'm here.

Our party has neglected college campuses and college voters over the course of the cycles, both in statewide races, and in national races.

JIMENEZ: With a campaign in full swing, a CNN university of New Hampshire poll last month showed Christie in third place in the Granite Stage GOP's primary, at 14 percent, behind Donald Trump at 42 percent, and Nikki Haley at 20 percent.

In the battle to emerge as a leading Trump alternative, a strong finish here could send critical message.

And the picture now may not exactly match the picture in a month.

ANDREW SMITH, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE SURVEY CENTER: What we've seen historically in the New Hampshire primary is that upwards of 25 percent to a third say they make up their mind on election day, and upwards of 50 percent are still undecided over the last weekend of the election. So a lot can happen. JIMENEZ: The former New Jersey governor is waving off suggestions he

and his bid, and throw his support behind Haley, even as he publicly defends her from attacks from rivals.

CHRISTIE: This is a smart accomplished woman. You should stop insulting her.

JIMENEZ: On the campaign trail, he stood by that strategy.

CHRISTIE: I'm going to try and beat her, but I respect her.

JIMENEZ: But he maintains it's respect, not retreat.

CHRISTIE: We're both trying to beat the other one.

JIMENEZ: Are you and Nikki Haley able to coexist in this race without benefiting Trump?

CHRISTIE: Of course. If Nikki were to get out of this race tomorrow, I tell all of her voters to endorse me, do you think that they would actually all come and vote for me? Of course not.

JIMENEZ: And while the polls to this point haven't exactly favored the former New Jersey governor, there is only one poll he cares about.

CHRISTIE: Should we all just give up because you guys took a poll? Elections aren't determined by you. Elections are determined by voters. And not one person has voted yet.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And that last point, he really emphasized, saying the only poll he cares about is the one that comes from people who are actually voting. Now, he is focused a lot of his campaign on New Hampshire, so I asked him, what's next? And he specifically said Michigan. Why? Because in that state, you don't have to register as Republican or Democrat to vote in the primaries. Meaning anyone who doesn't want Trump has the chance to vote for Christie -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Omar Jimenez, thank you very much for that report.

And we'll be right back.



BLITZER: The war between Israel and Hamas has been the deadliest conflict for journalists in decades, amid allegations that Israel has deliberately targeted journalists.

Brian Todd is following the story for us.

Brian, what can you tell us?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, we have new information on the casualties among journalists, , and one horrific incident that's currently under investigation.


TODD (voice-over): A jarring concussive blast.


TODD: Then the Agence France-Presse camera shot goes dark. Moments later, chaos and a vehicle on fire. This double strike in southern Lebanon on October 13th killed "Reuters" videographer Issam Abdallah and wounded six other journalists.

DYLAN COLLINS, VIDEO COORDINATOR, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE: And then, boom, we were hit. It came out of nowhere.

TODD: Tonight, a forensic analysis by CNN suggests it was Israeli tank fire which killed Abdallah and injured the others in two strikes, 37 seconds apart. CNN's findings confirm reports by two news organizations, "Reuters" and Agence France-Presse and two human rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

AYA MAJZOUB, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (through translator): The Israeli army knew, or should have known, that there are civilians. However, it attacked them twice, 37 seconds apart.

TODD: Hours after that attack, CNN reported that those journalists were wearing clearly labeled media flack jackets. CNN also cited a Lebanese security source reporting that an Israeli Apache helicopters was seen over the site of the attack, around the time of the attack, suggesting Israeli forces had visibility of the journalists.

CHRISTINA ASSI, AFP PHOTOGRAPHER, WOUNDED IN OCTOBER 13 ATTACK: We were in and exposed area, all of us wearing our helmets, all of us just during our job, covering the clashes. We were maintaining safe distance from the front line.

TODD: AFP and Human Rights Watch claim the October 13th strikes were deliberate on the part of the Israeli military. Human Rights Watch calling it an apparent war crime.

In a statement to "Reuters", Israel defense force spokesperson Richard Hecht said, quote: We don't target journalists.

A separate statement from the IDF says Israeli forces more respondent to the launch of an anti-tank missiles at the time, were concerned about the possible infiltration of terrorists into Israel as that moment, and the statement said, quote, being in this area is dangerous, the incident is currently under review.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 63 journalists have been killed in Israel and Gaza since October 7th.

SHERIF MANSOUR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS: The majority, absolute majority, 90 percent, are local Palestinian journalists.

TODD: The committee says, this particular war, so far covering only about two months, has been the deadliest period for journalists since the committee began gathering data 31 years ago. What makes this conflict uniquely dangerous for journalists?

MANSOUR: The exponential risks that's primary faced by local Palestinian journalists who live in Gaza, who have no safe haven and no exit.


TODD: Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists says top U.S. officials should exert more pressure on the Israelis regarding the casualties among journalists. And Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said it's important the October 13th incident be currently investigated -- Wolf.

TODD: Brian Todd reporting, Brian, thanks very much.

And to your viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.