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Top US Officials Holding Crisis Talks In Mexico In Migrant Surge; Michigan Supreme Court Rejects Bid To Remove Trump From Ballot; Israel At War; Russia's War In Ukraine; Rescuing Dogs From Suspected Dog Fighting Rings. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 27, 2023 - 17:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Now, CNN live at the southern border as the US and Mexico hold crisis talks on the migrant surge into the United States. We'll get an update on the high level meeting still underway and the growing pressure on President Biden to take action.

Also this hour, the Michigan Supreme Court rejecting a bid to remove Donald Trump from the primary ballot under the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban. We'll break down the decision and how it differs from the Colorado High Court ruling that did bar Trump from that state's ballot.

Plus, CNN investigating the shadowy world of dogfighting. Our crew rode along for a federal crackdown on the blood sport that's thriving across the country.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today, I'm Kaitlan Collins, and you're in the Situation Room.

We begin tonight with those urgent border security talks underway in Mexico at this hour. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas are pressing Mexico's president to stem the migrant surge into the US. CNN's Rosa Flores is following it all. She is at a critical border crossing in Texas.

Rosa, what do we know about how these talks have been progressing, given what you're seeing the state of the migrant crisis on the ground right now?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kaitlan, no question the state of the migrant crisis here is that this is an unprecedented crisis, not just by the number of apprehensions but by the length of this crisis. It has been weeks. Now, individuals, residents here in Eagle Pass where I am, they have high hopes for the talks that are happening in Mexico City between top officials from the White House and Mexico's president. But because Texas Governor Greg Abbott has taken immigration matters into his own hands, some here also wish that Governor Abbott had a seat at the table.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) FLORES: As border authorities near a breaking point from the weeks long migrant surge, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas meet with Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City to discuss ways to drive down the unprecedented number of illegal migrant crossings. The seven day average earlier this month, 9,600.

Blinken and Mayorkas are expected to ask Mexico to move migrants south, control railways that are used by migrants to move north, and provide migrants incentives to stay in Mexico like visas. In Eagle Pass, Texas, although migrant apprehensions dropped from about 3,000 daily encounters last week to about 2,000 Monday, according to a law enforcement source, one of two international bridges are still closed to vehicle traffic to redirect personnel to process migrants. The wait time to cross by car Wednesday afternoon, an astounding 15 hours.

Many Americans who frequently drive back and forth are opting to cross on foot. She says that when she ditched her car in Mexico, she saw a group of about 100 migrants walking towards Eagle Pass some with children. One Eagle Pass business owner says the migrant surge is tearing the community apart.

JESSIE FUENTES, BUSINESS OWNER IN EAGLE PASS: I can tell that tempers are flaring everywhere you go. That's why I'm hoping that there is a peaceful resolution to this crisis.

FLORES: Would you like to see President Biden visit Eagle Pass?


FLORES: Texas State Representative Eddie Morales, a Democrat who represents residents from 11 West Texas counties along the state's border with Mexico says the federal government's ongoing closure of the bridge and the recent five day closure of the international railway cost the US economy hundreds of millions of dollars.

MORALES: Every day Texans are the ones that end up suffering.

FLORES: Morales says he's hopeful that the top level talks in Mexico City will pave the way for realistic change at the border, but says he would have liked to see Texas Governor Greg Abbott have a seat at the table.

MORALES: We're only going to get there if there's communication between these two countries and also with the state of Texas.


FLORES: Texas recently passed its own immigration bill and has come under fire for Abbott's border security tactics like busing and flying migrants to blue states, separating migrant families and deploying controversial border beliefs and concertina wire. Morales initially supported Abbott's border security push, which has cost billions of dollars, but now says those efforts have fallen short.

MORALES: We have nothing positive to show to our taxpayers for the amount of money that we've invested.


FLORES: Now, as these top level talks in Mexico wrap up later tonight, one of the things that I'm going to be looking for, Kaitlan, is Mexico, what is happening in Mexico. You can see it over my shoulder. Will Mexican military start showing up on the border? Will that law enforcement posture change? Those will be some of the first signs that we will see here on the ground that those talks are working, Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, those are all good things -- good questions. I think we'll be watching closely. Rosa Flores standby because we'll get back to you in just a moment, but also on these talks that are underway between the United States and Mexico. I wanted more on that, in the crisis that is playing out at the border. CNN's senior White House reporter Kevin Liptak is traveling with President Biden spending the holidays in the US Virgin Islands.

Kevin, I think a big question is what is the White House hoping to get out of this meeting that's underway?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. And I think the fact that President Biden dispatched this high level delegation, and these are cabinet level officials, does show you that the White House is very urgently looking for solutions to this crisis. And the sense among administration officials is that more can and needs to be done on the diplomatic front to curb these flows of migrants. Ultimately, this is an issue that has dogged President Biden for almost his entire presidency and his aides do realize that this will be a potent issue at the center of next year 2024 presidential election.

But at the end of the day, President Biden is in something of a bind here. On one side, he's under intense pressure from Republicans, but also some Democrats, mayors, governors to do more to stem the flow of migrants that are coming across the border and ending up in some blue cities like Chicago and New York. But on the other side, you have progressives immigration advocates who worry about some of the changes that are being discussed immigration law, things like toughening up asylum rules, making it easier to enact deportations, could amount to some of the most restrictive policies that were in place under former President Trump.

What Biden's campaign thinks is that once this election gets underway, once voters begin tuning in, distinguish -- the voters will be able to distinguish between those two candidates. And what they say is a dehumanizing policy under President Trump. And you saw them sees so quickly on his remark that immigrants are poisoning the blood of the country saying that it likened to Nazi era Germany.

At the end of the day, this is an issue that both sides seem to agree can only be resolved through Congress. It is a broken system. And if the scenes of the border are to be resolved in any way, they will have to change the rules up on Capitol Hill, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Kevin Liptak traveling with President Biden, thank you for that report. I want to bring back in Rosa Flores, who is at the border like I said, along with CNN political commentator Kate Bedingfield and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. Kate, obviously you used to work for President Biden very closely. He's dispatching these top officials to Mexico as he's been taking that heat that Kevin noted there from progressives who are worried that he may be prepared to make the big concessions, significant ones to Republicans who want these strict changes, immigration changes in this stalled a bill that's on Capitol Hill right now. I mean, given how closely you worked with him, how do you think that he should be handling the situation at the border right now?

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's certainly true that sending cabinet level officials to these talks is an indicator of how seriously he takes this. And I can tell you, you know, I spent the first two years the Biden administration in the White House as communications director, I can tell you, an enormous amount of time was spent on these issues. That's obviously complex.

And, you know, President Biden put in place changes that did have an impact on the flow of migrants. We made changes, some changes to the asylum process and some changes that force people to make it harder to come in illegally and directed people toward more legal pathways.

Now, obviously, that's not enough. And I think President Biden would say that's not enough. I think the way that he and the White House needs to be handling this is to really shine a spotlight on Republicans in Congress. I mean, the President put forward billions of proposed additional spending to curb the flow of migration in the October supplemental, and you now have a House Republicans standing on HR-2, which is a bill that would essentially reinstitute family separation and some of the most egregious pieces of the Trump regime in dealing with immigration. What President Biden has done is put forward meaningful changes that will have an impact on the flow of migrants.


But, you know, it's House Republicans in many ways who are you know unwilling, I would imagine, we'll see, but are unwilling to give President Biden a win on this coming into an election year. So I have a hard time believing that these negotiations that are happening on the Hill right now are happening in good faith because, again, I just don't think Republicans are going to view it as in their interest to give Biden a win. But the President needs to keep showing that he's pushing, that he's trying to get this done, and really call out Republicans for standing in the way on making some of these changes.

COLLINS: Well, Charlie, former congressman, former House Republican, what do you make of that? Because given what we've heard from some Republicans on the Hill is they've said, if President Biden did make a deal with them on immigration, which they're demanding in exchange to pass any more funding for Ukraine, that actually would benefit him in the end. Because when you look at the poll numbers, I mean, even before this latest surge of migrants, his approval rating is at its lowest on immigration. So they kind of make the argument that even if he did agree with this, and did go along with them on this, that would actually be helping him in the end, but by going after one of his key weaknesses with voters.

CHARLIE DENT CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, of course. I mean, Joe Biden desperately needs a deal on the border. I just want to say something about this, let's set aside the House of Representatives for a second. Much of the negotiations on the border are occurring in the Senate. Mitt Romney is helping lead those discussions with some others and they need to get to a deal. Biden needs it because this fiasco is happening on his watch, with nearly 10,000 migrants per day coming into the country.

Most of these folks are economic migrants. They're not -- most of them are not legitimate asylum cases. They need to fix the asylum system. And so, you know, you can put all this on Republicans, but Biden needs to really get in the game. He's starting to now, I think that's an important thing.

But remember too, Republicans also need to deal because 70% of Republicans, according to one Republican senator with whom I spoke a couple of weeks ago said 70% of Republican voters don't want to do additional Ukrainian aid. And so to the extent that there is a border agreement, that helps Republicans support the broader foreign assistance package for Israel, Ukraine and the Indo Pacific. So both sides need a deal.

And I think it's attainable. I get -- I understand there are some hard edges of HR-2 but there are components of HR-2, I suspect, that could be negotiated into a broader border view. So it's incumbent upon everybody right now to get to that agreement and they have to do it fast.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, they're nowhere close to right now, we'll see if that changes when Congress is back on Capitol Hill. But, Rosa, you just -- that report that we just saw, they're talking about what it looks like on the ground. I mean, you're in Eagle Pass, Texas. The mayor there was pretty blunt about his stance on this last night. Listen to what he said.


ROLANDO SALINAS, EAGLE PASS MAYOR: Our city here in Eagle Pass, we've been getting slammed with 2,000 to 3,000 people a day. And it's just an unfair, unethical situation what's going on here in Eagle Pass. We feel ignored by the federal government.


COLLINS: I mean, he was critical of President Biden there. What do officials on the ground, Rosa, want to see done?

FLORES: You know, some common themes that I've heard all along the border is that, first of all, they would like President Joe Biden to visit the border more. People on the border really feel that if the President of the United States could get his eyes on the situation, could actually see that local law enforcement, sheriff's deputies are helping with this immigration crisis, and therefore they can't keep their community safe because of that, that the President would be paying more attention.

Now, people on the border also are very smart. They know that President Biden can't do it alone. They would also like to see comprehensive immigration reform for Congress to actually do something about this. And then lastly, Kaitlan, because I'm in Texas, the other thing that I hear a lot is that people here would like to see more communication between the Biden administration and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. They don't talk, and people would like for them to talk because Texas Governor Greg Abbott has taken the immigration issue into his own hands in Texas, just passing an immigration bill, that controversial border buoys are just south of the river here to my right, so is the concertina wire. And all of those legal issues that are caught up in court between the administration in Texas.

People here will just really wish that they would sit down, talk, hash it out, and figure it out so that people on the border could see a solution to this critical crisis that keeps on going.

COLLINS: Rosa Flores, Charlie Dent, Kate Bedingfield, thank you all for that. Coming up here on the Situation Room, Michigan has just weighed in on whether or not Donald Trump should be disqualified from running for president under the 14th amendment's insurrectionist ban. Why that state Supreme Court is saying no just days after Colorado's said yes.

Also tonight, Special Counsel Jack Smith's new attempt to prevent Trump from spreading false information in court. That's right after a quick break.



COLLINS: Tonight, there's a new legal victory for Donald Trump in Michigan. The State Supreme Court there rejecting a bid to remove him from the primary ballot under the 14th amendment's insurrectionist ban. CNN's chief legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid joins me now.

Paula, obviously the question here is the difference in between what is happening here in Michigan today, what happened in Colorado last week. Break down the decision that the Supreme Court in Michigan made here tonight.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So the big question here is whether former President Trump can be removed from the ballot in Michigan because the 14th amendment of the US Constitution bars any officials who engage in an insurrection from holding office in the future. This is a question we have seen litigated across several different states with differing outcomes.

Now here in Michigan, the High Court rejected this issue. They didn't get into the larger constitutional questions. They declined to remove him from the primary ballot, joining other states including Minnesota, Arizona and New Hampshire in rejecting these attempts to remove Trump. But this is a contrast to what we saw last week in Colorado, where that State Supreme Court did opt to remove Trump from the ballot. And that was a big surprise because lower courts in that state had concluded that while he engaged in an insurrection that this section of the 14th amendment does not specifically say that it applies to presidents, and therefore they were not going to remove him.


Now, Trump is expected to appeal that Colorado Supreme Court decision to the United States Supreme Court. And, Kaitlan, if they opt to weigh in, they could offer really the final word on exactly how far the 14th amendment goes here.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, all eyes are turning to the Supreme Court to decide what all of these states could have to do. And, Paula, you know, as you've been monitoring the Trump legal beach here, also today, we got this filing from the Special Counsel Jack Smith. This is when it comes to that election subversion case that is happening in Washington, expected to happen in March but to be determined at this moment.

He seems to be laying out some pretty crucial parameters for what they want to see in this 2020 election trial. In this case, what this is going to look like, what exactly is Jack Smith asking for in here?

REID: What's remarkable here is this case is on pause, it is on hold. But here the special counsel still sending in filings, requests to the court so that if they prevail in those appeals, that they can still hopefully get to trial sometime this spring. And here they are asking the court to limit the defenses that former President Trump can use, especially his argument that he is the "victim of political persecution."

Here, the special counsel asked the court to not allow him to turn the courtroom into a forum in which he propagates irrelevant disinformation, and that the court should reject his attempt to inject politics into this proceeding. So in reading this filing, they're arguing that they don't want the former president to be able to distract the jury with political arguments. They don't want them to be distracted from the facts of this case.

COLLINS: Yes. It's a miracle that they're still making those filings even as everything is on hold. Paula, stay with us because I have more questions for you. But I also want to bring our other legal experts into the conversation. Norm Eisen, let me start with you on what happened here in Michigan today. This ruling that we saw because, obviously, there's a key difference between what happened in Michigan and the Colorado Supreme Court's decision is -- in Colorado, we saw an actual trial happen. We saw the facts put on display, Trump attorneys arguing in court pushing back on it in Trump's role in 2020.

In Michigan, they tried to have a trial as well, but they were turned down by the courts. What do you make of this decision by the High Court in Michigan today?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Kaitlan, part of the unique characteristic of governance in America is that every state has slightly different laws on how they handle ballot qualification both in the primary election and in the general. Colorado allows a determination under its state law of whether an individual is eligible or not. Michigan decided for the primary that it did not have the leeway to block Trump whether or not he's constitutionally disqualified under the 14th amendment, prohibiting insurrectionists from serving on the ballot.

The question is still open in Michigan as to the general election, and with Trump having been barred in Colorado, I think, as you noted, we're going to see the Supreme Court weigh in and give everybody some likely a Trump appeal in Colorado was almost certainly coming. And that will guide us all.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, they basically said it's coming. But, Shan Wu, does this Michigan decision, if the Supreme Court does take this up, if they do -- if the Trump team does appeal what happened in Colorado, how does what happened in Michigan today factor into the Supreme Court and the way that they look at this?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think Trump's team will need to broaden what the Michigan issue is because on its face, it's not really in, in contrast to Colorado, because Colorado reached the merits of it. Supreme Court will look at these merits, these constitutional questions. Whether the president can be disqualified with this kind of process, was as insurrectionist, is an officer of the United States.

Michigan is taking this very narrow view, I think kind of silly that says, you know, we can't decide this because it's only a party primary. I mean, if you put up a 12-year-old kid for the primary, well they say, no, hands off. We have to wait until the general election.

So in that way, it's quite distinct. Like Norm was saying, all the states have different laws. And these are very subject to the individual state laws. It's an interesting challenge for the Supreme Court, do they want to try and unify on these sorts of very specific state questions or not? And they shouldn't. I mean, the states have control over election laws and, you know, let 100 flowers bloom.

COLLINS: Paula, what do you make of that?

REID: I think it's a great point. I mean, look, as a constitutional nerd, I would love to see the Supreme Court take up this particular issue. And I think a lot of people would say, yes, the Supreme Court should take up this larger question of exactly how far does the 14th amendment go.


Because we, right now, we have challenges pending in Oregon and Maine, and to get clarity, to get that final word on exactly what the 14th amendment means. That would be enormously helpful going forward for all the parties involved. And, today, former President Trump actually moved to try to get the Secretary of State in Maine recused from the main challenge.

Now, one of the things that is so interesting about Maine and the way they do this particular kind of a ballot challenge is that the Secretary of State is actually the first stop for questions on ballot eligibility, which is why Trump is pushing to get her recused in this process. Now, once a decision is made by the Secretary of State that can then be appealed into the court process. But I think that's part of why we're seeing sort of this last minute effort to get her recused, sort of trying to make this argument in the court of public opinion that maybe there's some political influence here, because they're specifically citing prior comments she had made about January 6.

But tonight, Kaitlan, she is not responding. And it's unlikely she's going to recuse.

COLLINS: Yes. And Norm, we're obviously waiting to see what that decision in Maine is. But on the special counsel's election subversion case, it is basically on hold, as Paula noted, until the federal appeals court does weigh in on whether or not Trump has presidential immunity from any prosecution. But Jack Smith's team here is clearly trying to keep things on track for that March potential trial.

I mean, what's the likelihood of that based on we're waiting for this decision to come out?

EISEN: Well, I don't think we're going to see the case go on. It's March 5th schedule, Kaitlan. But the appeal is moving fast. And if you had to guess we're only guessing at this point probably a 60 to 90 day delay. The Jack Smith move, he said he was going to do it when he agreed to this day, he's continuing to file his briefs and his motions like this motion to limit prejudicial evidence to the aid because he wants everything to be cued back up.

Donald Trump has a very tough argument on presidential immunity. No president has ever been held to be absolutely immune. When that argument is likely tossed out, Jack Smith wants to go back to the races. So we're looking at probably a late spring, early summer start for this trial.

COLLINS: Shan, do you agree with that?

WU: I do. I think it's a tough one. It's a very small window but I think it's still theoretically possible for the trial to go. And Smith's team is very wise to be pushing forward with these types of motions so that when the decision comes down, they will be ready to roll. There's not more delay and having to file these kinds of motions.

And this type of limiting motion is really important in the Trump case because he wants to bring in all these irrelevant, non-evidence-based arguments about political persecution. And the judge should rule he can't do that. You can't just make up things an argument like, you know, aliens actually did the murder when you haven't even presented a scintilla of evidence for that. So that's a smart move to try and control the trial.

COLLINS: We'll see if it works out in the end. Thanks to you all, Shan Wu, Norm Eisen and Paula Reid. Up next, we'll go to the Middle East where we are getting new images that appear to show Palestinian men and young boys in Gaza Strip to their underwear while being detained by the IDF. More on those images in a moment.



COLLINS: We're getting new video from Gaza which appears to show Palestinian men, at least two young boys, detained by the IDF who've been stripped down to their underwear. I want to warn our viewers, they may find these images that you're about to see disturbing. For more on this and what we are seeing here, CNN senior international correspondent Will Ripley joins us live from Tel Aviv.

Will, what is the story? What have we heard? What does the IDF saying is behind these new pictures that we're seeing?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So this video was posted by an Israeli journalist on Christmas Eve, although we have no way to independently verify exactly when the video was taken. We did geo located to a stadium in northern Gaza. And as you can see, in these here, we blurred their faces, but these are a scores, dozens it looks like of men of various ages, including two children, at least two children.

Now, we've reached out to the IDF to ask for an explanation about -- particularly about the children, and they have not given us one as of yet. But in the past, they've said that they strip people down because they need to check them for explosives. And actually, Kaitlan, just within the last week or so, the IDF released information. They said when they were going house to house in Gaza, they actually found an explosive vest in along with a lot of other weapons and one of the civilian houses that they raided. And that explosive vest had apparently been modified for a child to wear.

COLLINS: I mean, a disturbing development obviously still a lot of questions about that. And, Will, as we talked about what is happening in Gaza and what the IDF is doing, I've heard from one source saying that the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Mexico right now having meetings on immigration, is expected to travel to Israel next week. That would be his fifth trip to the Middle East, I believe, since October 7th.

I mean, this is the US has been attempting to kind of walk what is kind of the understatement of the year, a diplomatic tightrope. It's been a very difficult issue for the White House to navigate what are officials there on the ground saying about what is expected to happen next?


RIPLEY: Some could make the case that Israel and the US are kind of walking farther and farther out on the ledge together because the rest of the world is kind of looking at what's happening in Gaza, and wondering why the US publicly at least has been so supportive and steadfast behind its ally, its most important ally in this region, Israel. Although Israel does make the argument that despite the rapidly rising civilian death toll of more than 21,000, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry, they say that they are acting in accordance with international law. That the targets they're striking are based on intelligence. Intelligence that they're getting from suspected Hamas militants like some of the people that you probably saw in that shirtless video.

They're interrogating everybody that they capture, and they say that that's what's causing them to strike these particular areas, where Hamas is deliberately planning itself with civilians, within the civilian population, hoping that the death toll will rise, so that it will just continue to humiliate and make Israel just kind of the pariah, instead of Hamas, the terrorist organization that actually started this war back on October 7th when they slaughtered 1,200 people.

But since then, of course, scores have died. The injuries are, you know, 55,000 plus, and the United States is going to pressure Israel to find a way to go after the Hamas leadership and attain those objectives without killing so many innocent civilians.

COLLINS: Yes, amid growing international pressure. Will Ripley in Tel Aviv, thank you.

Meanwhile, to the other war that we've been following in Ukraine, the White House has announced a $250 million military aid package for Kyiv, as the US has been exhausting available funding. On the battlefield, Russia claims to be making progress as the Ukrainians are waiting, hoping that Congress in the US will pass more assistance. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen has the story.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Russia's most recent claimed battlefield victory driving Ukrainian forces to the outskirts of Mar'inka on the eastern front. The prize, though, dust and rubble as the vicious fighting has turned the town into a wasteland.

Still, Russia's defense minister claiming this is significant progress for Moscow. The Russian army is constantly taking more favorable positions and expanding controlled territories in all directions, he said. We aren't consistently moving forward to achieving the stated goals of a special operation.

Russia says its forces are now pressing in the entire east looking to encircle the Ukrainians in Avdiivka, increasingly laying waste to that city as well Ukrainian authorities still operating their show.

We've been bringing humanitarian aid and food here for a long time, he says. People have already left. I hope there were no casualties. This is what Avdiivka looks like, there's nothing here.

Kyiv says the Russian army is suffering catastrophic losses during their assaults, but Ukraine's military also acknowledges their own large scale counter-offensive started this summer has essentially stalled. A situation compounded by severe ammo shortages. Ukraine desperately hoping Congress will end its impasse and green light further US military aid after months of delays.

Ukraine's top general in a rare press conference says he's confident the assistance will come and that on the whole foreign military help for Ukraine has made a huge difference. We have rather ambitious goals in 2023, he says. I was not disappointed by the level of assistance in 2023. Of course, it was not everything but allowed us to conduct confident military operations.

While gains on the ground remain incremental for both sides, the air war continues. Russian missiles and drones striking in Kherson and in Odessa killing two people. And Moscow now admits Kyiv's Air Force managed to strike a large Russian landing ship but only vaguely says the vessel suffered damage. Ukraine, though, claims the ship and its cargo were completely destroyed.

Footage on air now is impressive indeed, the Air Force spokesman says. A warship was destroyed, most likely a warship with a set of ammunition powerful ammo. A key strike for Ukraine but on the frontlines, the war grinds on and the harsh Eastern European winter, little territory changing hands but many soldiers on both sides killed and wounded. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


COLLINS: And thanks to CNN's Fred Pleitgen for that report. Ahead here on the Situation Room, what is being hailed as a miracle survival in Indiana. A man who was trapped in his crashed pickup truck survived off of rain water for nearly a week before his unlikely rescue. We'll share his story next.



COLLINS: An Indiana man who was trapped in his pickup truck for nearly a week has now been rescued. He was discovered by a creek near a major highway after a crash. He was pinned in his car and unable to reach his phone. CNN's Athena Jones has more on his incredible story of how he survived.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite frankly, it's a miracle that he's alive.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Matt Reum found alive in his mangled truck six days after a crash that left him trapped in the wreckage under a bridge of Interstate 94, a mile east of the town of Portage was not visible from the road. Fortunately for Reum, Mario Garcia and his son-in-law, Nivardo Delatorre, were out scouting locations for fishing near a creek Tuesday when they spotted something shiny.

MARIO GARCIA, FOUND MAN WHO WAS STUCK IN HIS CAR FOR 6 DAYS: It caught our curiosity. I looked inside and move the white airbag, and he -- there was a body in there. And I went to touch it and he turned around, and that just -- it almost killed me there because it was kind of shocking. But he was alive and he was very happy to see us. [17:45:08]

JONES: The badly injured man later telling authorities he had not been able to reach his cell phone to call for help.

GARCIA: He mentioned that he had been there for -- since last Wednesday, so he's been there for a while. And he says he tried yelling and screaming but nobody would hear him. It was just quiet, just the sound of the water.

JONES: Authorities closed the westbound lanes of I-94 near the site Tuesday afternoon, while crews work to free Reum. He was transported to the hospital by helicopter. It is not clear what caused the crash but police say it appears Reum was driving westbound and ran off the road, traveling along the grass shoulder before going airborne down to the creek where authorities believe his car rolled over several times and landed under the bridge where it was partially submerged.

GARCIA: I don't see any way somebody could have seen him. It was just a very fortunate that we've seen through the cracks of the woods,, the shiny of the wreck, and curiosity that took us over there.

GLEN FIFIELD, INDIANA STATE POLICE: This is a miracle that this gentleman is alive today, and that these two gentlemen just happened to be on that creek today.

JONES: Another lucky break relatively mild weather. Temperatures in Porter County since December 21st ran from a high of 59 degrees to a low of 29.

FIFIELD: We've been lucky enough here this Christmas season that our temperatures have been, as y'all know, above normal. So that was working in this individual's favor. It's cold tonight, and I don't believe that he would have made it through the night tonight.

JONES: Reum has several broken bones and injuries to his legs that could require surgery, according to his labor union and a GoFundMe page set up to help with the cost of his recovery.

NIVARDO DELATORRE, FOUND MAN WHO WAS STUCK IN HIS CAR FOR 6 DAYS: We're glad we got him the help he needed.

JONES: A happy ending made possible by two men who were in the right place at the right time.

DELATORRE: For me it was the first time going there, so like it was just -- we were put there for a reason.


JONES: Reum is listed in critical condition at a hospital in South Bend. Police say it took officials from two fire departments quite a bit of time to extricate him from the vehicle. And Mario Garcia, one of the fishermen, said he was pinned in very, very tightly, and that he told Garcia that he had almost lost all hope. Fortunately, he was found and saved. Kaitlan? COLLINS: Just amazing how they were able to just randomly see him. Athena Jones, thank you for that great story and sharing that with us.

Coming up here on Situation Room, a CNN investigation. Federal officials rescuing more than 100 dogs, all part of this major crackdown on dog fighting rings.



COLLINS: Tonight, a CNN investigation goes inside the shadowy world of dog fighting. Federal agents in South Carolina recently seized 120 fighting dogs in just a single day, saving their lives as part of a crackdown on these dog fighting rings that are happening inside the United States. CNN's Isabel Rosales rode along with officials as they raided the homes of those suspects. I do want to give you a warning before you see her report, this does include images of injured fighting dogs, some viewers may find it disturbing.


ISABEL ROSALES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's pitch black outside of South Carolina church, (inaudible) ready are dozens of foreign law enforcement officers. Today, they're seizing fighting dogs. Behind them --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm definitely anxious. I'm always anxious to see the dogs.

ROSALES: We ride along with the federal prosecutor overseeing the criminal case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's heartbreaking. I get very emotional.

ROSALES: Emotional because of how vicious dog fighting is, made all the more clear in court documents. Dogs who have been fought may have scars, puncture wounds, swollen faces or mangled ears. In one case, prosecutor say an owner killed his dog by hanging it. And authorities found this contraption made from jumper cables, allegedly used to electrocute dogs inside the home of a pentagon employee.

This CNN exclusive video evidence from a close case shows two dogs getting ready to fight. The illegal sport has spiked federal interest. Last year, official sees roughly 400 dogs from suspected fighting rings, more than in any other year since at least 2007 according to a CNN review of civil forfeitures. Jane Taylor tells me she was a lifelong narcotics prosecutor until she first saw the injuries on fighting dogs.

JANE TAYLOR, CHIEF, CRIMINAL DIVISION, US ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: I had a case where we had a wiretap and we were listening to the calls of the individuals involved in drugs. And we started hearing a lot of conversations about dogs and dog fighting.

ROSALES: We arrived at the first of five homes. What sort of things are you on the lookout for when you enter a property?

TAYLOR: I'm looking at the conditions of the dogs themselves. I'm looking for any sort of scarring, any fresh wounds. Then I'm also looking for what I'll call dog fighting paraphernalia.

ROSALES: Like these treadmills to make the dog stronger and faster, and --

TAYLOR: Something called spring poles where the dogs are used to jump up and they latch on it so strengthen their jaws.

ROSALES: Experts say dogs are often tied down with heavy chains and weighted collars to increase their strength. Some dog fighters inject their animals with drugs or vitamins to increase aggression. And before a big fight, some fighting dogs are starved to keep them in their weight class like a boxer.

Tucked away in this wooded area, federal agents find the first of roughly 120 pit bulls that would be seized. And what will turn out to be South Carolina's second largest single day seizure of fighting dogs ever say investigators. They're photographed and loaded into trailers to get medical care and shelter.

FRANK O'NEAL, SOUTH CAROLINA LAW ENFORCEMENT DIVISION: When we go onto a property, they'll wag their tail because they haven't had any interaction. I mean, friendly interaction.

ROSALES: Major Frank O'Neal with the South Carolina State law enforcement Division.

O'NEAL: They've been abused by the owner and a fighting dog just breaks your heart.


ELLE KLEIN, ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA: People are making a lot of money off of this. My opinion, even $1 is too much to be making money off of this.

ROSALES: And there are plenty of ways to get paid. According to court documents, in South Carolina participants paid $200,000 to have their animals fight against a top dog. Another fighting dog won over $50,000. The owner of a champion dog can make even more money on semen, stud fees and puppies.

O'NEAL: Many of them are drug travelers, because they have to fund gambling of these dogs and these dogs are very expensive. They're going to have weapons. And if we haven't already arrested them, the chances are we will arrest them in another arena.

ROSALES: Inside this home, officers find several guns. The homeowner declined to speak with CNN. Federal agents pack up and head to the next house.

KLEIN: We're about 20 minutes out. They say there's about 12 dogs. ROSALES: Dog fighting became a felony at the federal level back in 2007. The maximum sentence a suspect can face is five years in federal prison. Meanwhile, for the animals experts say that some dogs are too aggressive to rehabilitate but others can be adopted and get a second chance at life. Isabel Rosales, CNN, Atlanta.

COLLINS: A disturbing but important report, Isabel Rosales. Thank you for that.

Coming up here on the Situation Room, Michigan's Supreme Court has just handed former President Donald Trump a win. We'll break down the new ruling on his ballot eligibility and what it means for what the Supreme Court could do next.