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Trump To Get Key Endorsement In Blow To Haley Ahead Of New Hampshire Primary; New Filing Shows Trump Georgia Prosecutor Paid For Trips With District Attorney; Actor Alec Baldwin Indicted In Fatal Movie Set Shooting; Biden: Still Believe Netanyahu Can Be Persuaded To Agree To Two-State Solution "Given The Right One"; Extreme Weather Conditions Kill AT Least 58 People In 10 States. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 19, 2024 - 18:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call her, call her.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The officer tied a disc and rope around Ruby's neck. The man in the water then called her over, grabbed the disc and was pulled to safety. Everyone is fine. God could not be everywhere, so he gave us dogs.

Coming up Sunday on State of the Union, Republican Presidential Candidate Governor Ron DeSantis, just two days out from the New Hampshire primary, that's Sunday morning at 9:00 Eastern, and again at noon.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. I'll see you on Monday.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the attack-filled run-up to the very high-stakes New Hampshire primary now just four days away. Donald Trump is getting ready to roll out an endorsement that could rattle Nikki Haley's campaign. I'll get reaction from a key Haley supporter, the New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu.

Also tonight, court records now show the Trump special prosecutor in Georgia paid for trips he took with the district attorney who hired him. Stand by for details on what, if anything, this could mean for the case against Trump.

And more than two years after the fatal shooting on the Rush movie set, Actor and Producer Alec Baldwin was just charged with involuntary manslaughter. We're breaking down the indictment and the timing after previous charges against Baldwin were dropped.

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

Our top story this hour, the countdown to a primary that could reshape the Republican presidential race, all three candidates on the trail in New Hampshire with Donald Trump and Nikki Haley preparing to hold rallies tonight.

Trump expected to pick up the endorsement of GOP Senator Tim Scott from Haley's home state of South Carolina.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has our report from New Hampshire.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Four days to go. We are super excited.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): All the candidates are back in New Hampshire. Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Donald Trump are making their final pitches to voters heading into the last weekend before the primary, one that Haley says carries enormous weight.

HALEY: This is a wake-up call for the Republican Party.

JIMENEZ: Haley hit a number of event Friday, trying to find every bit of support she can.

HALEY: Thank you for having me here.

JIMENEZ: Amid a mountain of a task, defeating Donald Trump, who's now expected to pick up the endorsement of South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, a source familiar with the plans to help CNN.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Oh man, I'm so excited for the announcement tonight.

JIMENEZ: Haley responded to the news in a statement saying, Trump is lining up with all the Washington insiders, as the former president is not only hoping to repeat the results in Iowa, but also beat back Haley's threat in New Hampshire.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: She's not going to make it. She has no chance. She's got no way. MAGA is not going to be with her.

JIMENEZ: He's continued to single her out, even calling her names on social media based on her birth name, Nimrada.

HALEY: The name-calling, I know President Trump well. That's what he does when he feels threatened. That's what he does when he feels insecure.

It's not going to waste any energy for me. I'm going to continue to focus on the things that people want to talk about and not get into the name-calling back with him.

JIMENEZ: Haley has pulled within single digits of the former president in the past month and has increasingly focused her attacks on him.

HALEY: The reason he's throwing these temper tantrums is because he knows I do have a chance. The reason he's doing this is because he knows he's not able to defend his record. JIMENEZ: She sees the Granite State as a two-person race, as DeSantis appears to have scaled back appearances in the state, but hasn't fully disappeared. As he stresses, the road for him doesn't end in New Hampshire.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As long as I'm in the hunt, that tells me that I'm seeing a pathway. The minute I don't, then I'm not just going to do this just for my health.


JIMENEZ (on camera): And DeSantis wouldn't speculate on what future states he believes he could win, but his campaign has stressed that they're in this for the long haul.

Meanwhile, former President Trump is expected to have a rally a little bit later tonight. That's where we expect the sources tell CNN that Tim Scott endorsement to happen, and that Tim Scott endorsement, of course, significant coming from South Carolina, Nikki Haley's home state.

And Haley has had a lot of momentum coming into this. She's getting ready to have an event just behind me in just a few minutes here at this point, where she's trying to, of course, gather as much support as she can in this final stretch before primary day where we're going to have a lot of answers for what the future of this primary contest between these three are going to look like.

BLITZER: That's going on, indeed. Omar Jimenez in Manchester, New Hampshire for us, thanks very much.

Joining us now the New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu, a high- profile supporter of Nikki Haley's presidential campaign.


Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, Tim Scott now expected to join his fellow South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Governor Henry McMaster in endorsing Trump. Why do you think Scott is not endorsing Nikki Haley at this moment when she could really use some help from him?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Well, look, let's be clear, Tim Scott only has a job off because of Nikki Haley. So, let's start there. But U.S. senators don't like to be held accountable. They know Trump will completely fall and cater to him. Nikki Haley wants to hold the U.S. Senate accountable, right? She has said they are a bunch of overpaid, overprivileged, underperforming career politicians. They don't like that. They don't like leadership out of the White House is going to demand accountability, demand results. So, that shouldn't be a surprise to anybody.

BLITZER: You've endorsed Nikki Haley and campaigned with her. So, you must think endorsements really do matter, right? SUNUNU: Well, I'm hoping -- look, my endorsement -- I don't think any endorsement really matters, right? All I'm trying to do in New Hampshire is open a few doors, allow her to be introduced the right way and she's campaigning the right way, right? She's going to town to town, person to person, location to location. This is like our tenth event today. She's just crisscrossing this state.

So, that's all I'm doing. She's the one earning the votes. She's a strong conservative, but she's so likable. She has great appeal across the spectrum of voters.

So, I mean, that's what we want. We want those young Republicans that left the party. We want them back in. We want those Republican suburban moms that left the party. We want them back into the party and she brings them back in. So, that's why there's a lot of momentum and a lot of excitement over the past few days here.

BLITZER: Nikki Haley was asked during last night's CNN town hall, as you know, whether she needs to win New Hampshire. I want to play part of her answer. Listen to this.


HALEY: What I want to do is be strong. We're not going to know what strong looks like until those numbers come in. But you guys will all say whether it's strong or not. So, I'm sure that you'll do that. But, look, I mean, we want to do better than we did in Iowa. That's my personal goal, is to make sure we do better than we did in Iowa.


BLITZER: So, governor why isn't she just outright saying she needs to win New Hampshire? Is she trying to lower expectations?

SUNUNU: No, no, she's never needed to win New Hampshire. Only Trump needs to win New Hampshire. But Trump and the media have told America he's going to win New Hampshire for two years now. And so there's no expectation. But the fact that she's now within a stone's throw, that she has all the momentum, that we're expecting record turnout, Trump is scared that actually we could shatter this perception that he's unbeatable because he is beatable. The emperor has no clothes. And so he's scared.

So, no, she just needs -- just like she said, she needs a strong showing here. She did a strong showing in South Carolina. We've proven that it's a one-on-one race. That was goal number one. We did it. We've proven that she has a shot at going after him. That's number two. She's going to get a strong second no matter what. I feel very confident about that. So, no, Trump is the only one that absolutely has to win, which is why he's so defensive.

BLITZER: But, Governor, you've predicted that Haley will win New Hampshire, your state, while also saying second place would be great. If she's going to beat Trump, doesn't she need to start winning states? SUNUNU: I think she can win. No, not yet. You really don't remember, there's 48 states to go after New Hampshire, right? At this point in 2016, as an example, you had five, six, seven candidates still in the race. A lot of folks weren't engaging in the contest. Now, it's a one- on-one race, and that gets a lot more people out.

The number one reason that Trump supporters say they'll still support the president is because, well, he's going to win anyway, right? When you shatter that perception, they go, wow, wait, we're given an alternative, we're given a glide path. We actually have an option with a great conservative candidate. We're not asked to pick amongst five or six or seven.

So, that psychology of choice is actually a real difference maker, which is why you're seeing so much energy. So, her numbers are doing this. Trump's are absolutely stagnant. And if she just has a strong showing here, continues that momentum in her own home state, I mean, the sky is the limit.

But let's remember, there's a lot of states to play. You go into Super Tuesday in a one-on-one race, a lot can happen. A lot can happen.

BLITZER: Haley has now said that being Trump's V.P. is, quote, off the table. I just want to be precise. Does that mean she will not join a potential ticket with Trump under any circumstances?

SUNUNU: Yes. Well, that's my understanding. That's how I read it. Yes.

BLITZER: Yes, that's how I read it as well. Governor Sununu, thanks so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road.

SUNUNU: Thank you, buddy. Be great.

BLITZER: Thank you. Let's get some more on the state of the GOP race with our political experts. And, Jeff Zeleny, you're here with me right now. Let's talk a little bit about what's going on.

You heard Governor Sununu try to play down, play it all down. But how big of a blow to Nikki Haley is Tim Scott's expected endorsement of Donald Trump, given Haley originally appointed Scott to the Senate? She was governor.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: She did. It was 11 years ago this month, actually, when she named him to the Senate. And, look, since then, there's been very little love lost between the two of them.


That was clear during their campaign last fall. I'm thinking back to the debate at the Reagan Library in September. Those two went after each other in an intense personal way. There's absolutely no friendship there. There's very little professional relationship there. So, I'm not surprised of this at all. In terms of the effect, look, I think that she would have preferred that he would have held off until after New Hampshire, but I'm not sure any New Hampshire voter is going to be swayed by this. I think it might have had a bigger effect in Iowa, actually, because Tim Scott campaigned there so aggressively when he was running for president. He had strong support among evangelicals, home school families, et cetera. But in New Hampshire, he wasn't much of a factor there.

So, it's a little bit of trolling going on. We saw the Marco Rubio endorsement right before Iowa. That was kind of a thumb in the eye of Ron DeSantis. And this is kind of the same thing, a thumb in the eye of Nikki Haley. But I'm not sure it's that big of a deal in New Hampshire except the fact that we're talking about it. And it sucks a little bit of her energy away, I guess. But in terms of voters, I'd be surprised if it moves the needle at all.

BLITZER: Alice Stewart is with us as well. Alice, in October, Senator Scott said he didn't think Trump could win the key swing states, yet he's now endorsing him. What's going on here?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think a lot of people are seeing what we're seeing. The polls are certainly in Donald Trump's favor, and his overwhelming win in Iowa really goes to show that he still has a strong hold on the GOP base and Republican voters. And the question is, will his landslide victory in Iowa lead to a knockout in New Hampshire? That's the big question.

I do know that the Trump campaign is putting a lot of peer pressure on members of Congress as well as these former candidates. We've already seen the endorsement from Vivek Ramaswamy, Doug Burgum, and now this evening, Tim Scott.

I'm surprised a little bit that he's coming out because of the way Tim Scott started his campaign. He talked about in his opening speech and the way he launched his campaign about appealing to the better angels of voters in the Republican Party, saying, let's choose victory over victimhood, let's choose greatness over grievances. I saw that as a ding towards Donald Trump and his claims of victimhood and grievances.

But, clearly, he feels as though Donald Trump has the momentum. Whether or not this is potential first step for him being a V.P. pick, who knows? But Tim Scott can bring a lot to the table in terms of his appeal, not just to the African American community, but to the faith community as well.

BLITZER: Good point. Van Jones is with us as well. Are you surprised, Van, that Senator Scott is endorsing Trump amid this barrage of racist dog whistles Trump is using against Nikki Haley?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there was a moment, maybe ten years ago, you had Marco Rubio on stage at the same time as Tim Scott, at the same time as Nikki Haley. That looked like the new direction for the Republican Party. If you had said ten years later that Donald Trump would be the face of the Republican Party and people like Rubio and Tim Scott would be essentially kissing the ring, you say, well, what happened to that Republican Party and what happened to those hopeful voices? And you had a chance to stand together with a Nikki Haley, who had a real shot, and you went the other way.

Something really weird, something really unfortunate is happening to the Republican Party that those three young, hopeful faces have now come to where they've come to. I do think that Trump now looks like a runaway train. And so maybe Tim Scott doesn't want to stand in front of it, but I don't think that there's a great match between what Tim Scott stands for and what Donald Trump stands for. And I think that's the thing that seems kind of painful today.

BLITZER: Van, Nikki Haley was asked about her comment that the U.S. was never a racist country. Let me play part of her response. Listen to this.


HALEY: As we went through time, they fixed the things that were not all men are created equal. They made sure women became equal, too. All of these things happen over time. But I refuse to believe that the premise of when they formed our country was based on the fact that it was a racist country to start with. I refuse to believe that.

BLITZER: What do you make of her answer, Van?

JONES: I just think she likes putting her foot in her mouth and then, you know, she can't figure out a way to pull her foot out. Look, America has always been two things at the founding. There's a founding dream that was about equality. We hold these truths to be self- evident, but the founding reality was anything but.

And don't be mad at Van Jones for saying that. Thomas Jefferson himself, go to the memorial written in marble and stone, says, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and his justice cannot sleep forever. In other words, the founder himself, the author himself was ashamed, embarrassed and pained by the birthmark of slavery, and he was a slave owner. So, why is she more supportive and defensive of Thomas Jefferson and the founders, and even the founders were? It's ridiculous.

BLITZER: Alice, is Haley doing herself any favors by these controversial answers on these questions involving race?


STEWART: No, because she's talking about controversial answers about race and not talking about Donald Trump and Joe Biden and how her policies are better for the American people. I think she overtried to explain last night her position as a daughter of an Indian parents, Indian-American parents, and her personal experience as it relates to slavery and minorities in this country, and it just didn't sit well. It didn't fit well. And all of this started when she didn't write out of the gate say that the root cause of the Civil War was slavery. And now she continues to be plagued with these questions.

BLITZER: You know, Jeff, it's interesting. Nikki Haley says she doesn't need to win New Hampshire next week, she just needs to do better, she says, than she did in Iowa. Is that realistic? ZELENY: Look, I mean, if she wants to have any future hope in the next month when New Hampshire goes to South Carolina, she needs to win. The reality is history shows that there's never been someone who's won Iowa and New Hampshire in an open primary and not won the nomination.

So, if Donald Trump wins on Tuesday, that really makes it very difficult for Nikki Haley to make the argument she can go forward. Even if she wins, it's a difficult route, no doubt about it, just in terms of delegate math, but without winning or very, very close.

Look, we will see the results on Tuesday night. I don't think it's much worth our time sort of saying exactly if she has to be 5 percent or whatnot, but we'll know when we see it. But, look, a win would be huge. It would potentially send a message that voters want something else. Following short of that is a challenge for her and a problem, she knows it.

BLITZER: She certainly does. All right, guys, thank you very, very much. Coming up, a new court filing in Georgia is adding fuel to controversy surrounding the Trump special prosecutor and the district attorney who hired him.

Plus, new reports that a special grand jury will investigate the failed response to the Uvalde School shooting massacre. We have the breaking news just ahead.



BLITZER: Tonight, new information about the top Trump prosecutor in Georgia and the district attorney who hired him to pursue criminal charges against the former president. It's heightening scrutiny of their relationship.

Let's bring in CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz and University of Baltimore Law Professor Kim Wehle. Katelyn, tell us about this new court filing.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, there is some court filings going back and forth in the divorce proceeding of the top prosecutor working for Fani Willis, the district attorney, and prosecuting Donald Trump, the man who took this through the grand jury, the indictment. And his soon to be ex-wife, Jocelyn Wade, is saying that she wants information from Fani Willis because Fani Willis is a paramour of Nathan Wade, her husband. That is her word.

Two years ago, they agreed to file for divorce, the divorce proceedings still going on. And she says whatever he's making, working for Fani Willis in the D.A.'s office is important because it will factor into their division of assets. Fani Willis doesn't want to give any information there. And on top of that, this has the ability to be at least a distraction in the ongoing case. Fani Willis, in these divorce proceedings, is also saying, I don't want to be deposed. And also, are these people working together, the election interference defendants that I've charged and Nathan Wade's soon to be ex-wife raising that?

All of that is going to play out in the divorce proceeding. We'll see where that goes with this deposition. And then in the case itself, there is a hearing on February 15th scheduled where the judge will look at possible impropriety, legal ethics, things like that.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens then. Based on the concerns here, Kim, do you think there's a case that would disqualify Fani Willis at some point and the lead prosecutor for that matter?

KIM WEHLE, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: I think it's more likely that they might feel pressure to recuse from this prosecution. Of course, we're talking about former President Donald Trump as the key defendant here. But the notion that somehow the conflict of interest would upend or disturb the indictment, very unlikely, right?

So, it would be -- listen, she would be conflicted. And if there's misconduct, would she fire him if she has a personal relationship or is there some financial incentive to keep him on? I think that that's probably less of the story than really the embarrassment and looks like potentially lack of good judgment into this.

BLITZER: And, Kim, what exactly do you see are the implications for the Georgia election case against Trump? Could it be delayed, potentially even dismissed entirely?

WEHLE: I don't think dismissal, I think that would be highly unlikely. Delay, sure. And just, again, creating this sense that this is politically an unfair prosecution or there are people that are somehow lacking in ethics or lacking in sort of judgment. And that would play for Donald Trump's, for his hand because his best defense in all of these criminal cases is really delay past the November election.

BLITZER: Katelyn, walk us through where you see this case moving right now. There's a lot going on in Georgia.

POLANTZ: Well, we're in this presidential election year. And, Wolf, in this case, like all of the cases against Donald Trump, trial date, trial date, trial date, when is this case going to be tried? The prosecutors in Georgia, they've asked for August 5th. The judge hasn't set a date yet. Lots of questions there.

There're also 15 defendants here. So, will there be defendants, remaining defendants who haven't pleaded guilty, deciding to take plea deals? Are they going to try all 15? We're going to see how that shakes out. And then we haven't gotten the decision in the D.C. federal case related to presidential immunity. What happens there could very well play into what the judge wants to do with the charges in Georgia as well. He has a very similar request from Trump to get rid of the case on the table before him, too.

BLITZER: So, when do you think we'll get a ruling from the judge?

POLANTZ: Well, the judge is having many, many hearings in state court, which is great, and we get to watch them on T.V. to their broadcast. The next one is coming up pretty soon. So, any day that he has a hearing, he could be setting a date. He just hasn't done it yet.


BLITZER: Katelyn Polantz, Kim Wehle, ladies, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, why a New Mexico grand jury just indicted Alec Baldwin for a second time in the fatal 2021 movie set shooting. We'll share details on the new charges against the actor. We'll do that right after a quick break.


BLITZER: A New Mexico grand jury indicts Actor Alec Baldwin for a second time in connection with the fatal onset shooting of a member of the production team for the film Rust.

Brian Todd is following the story for us. Brian, why is this happening now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in recent months, prosecutors said that additional facts had come to light that they believe showed that Baldwin has, quote, criminal culpability in the death of the cinematographer.


But the actor still maintains his innocence.


TODD (voice over): The famed 65-year-old actor charged for the second time in the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust. Alec Baldwin tonight faces two new involuntary manslaughter charges, negligent use of a firearm, and involuntary manslaughter without due caution or circumspection, which is detailed in court documents as an act committed with the total disregard or indifference to the safety of others, the new charges brought by a New Mexico grand jury.

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This case is really unique because it's been a very, very long road.

TODD: In October 2021, Hutchins was killed and Director Joel Souza was injured when a gun that Baldwin was holding fired a live round during a rehearsal.

In a previous interview with CNN, Baldwin denied pulling the trigger.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: So when the guy hands me the gun and says we have a cold gun on set, that means the gun is empty. I pulled the hammer all the way back without locking it, and the gun went off.

TODD: Last year, previous involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin were dropped. A law enforcement source told CNN at the time that decision was made after authorities learned the gun used in the shooting may have been modified. But prosecutors said the case could be re-filed at a later date.

Last October, prosecutors said additional facts had come to light that they believed showed Baldwin, quote, has criminal culpability in the death of Halyna Hutchins.

MARRIS: Now that we see these charges being resurrected, I anticipate in those documents, we will find that the evidence indicates that the gun had not been manipulated or altered, and so all of those arguments relating to negligence are ripe to go to a jury.

TODD: But other analysts say prosecutors will have definite challenges.

AREVA MARTIN, LEGAL ANALYST: The prosecutors will have to prove willful disregard, not only have the investigators or prosecutors not been able to determine how live bullets or live ammunition ended up in the gun, they don't even know how live ammunition ended up on the set.

TODD: The footage obtained by NBC shows Baldwin rehearsing on the set of Rust.

BALDWIN: Now wait a second, if I'm going to shoot right. You want to go on the other side of the camera? I don't want to shoot toward you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone needs to be right here, like in the path of the gun. Could you please move?

TODD: Baldwin has always maintained his innocence. His lawyers issuing a short statement to CNN today saying, quote, we look forward to our day in court.

The actor previously telling CNN he often replayed those moments in his head.

BALDWIN: That hurts me every day. You know, every day of my life, I think about that. It's horrible.


TODD (on camera): If convicted, Alec Baldwin could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The armorer on the set of Rust, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, also faces involuntary manslaughter charges in the case. She is slated for trial next month and she has pleaded not guilty. Wolf?

BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Let's discuss this case with CNN Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson. Joey, what's your reaction to these new charges against Alec Baldwin?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it's surprising, Wolf, it is. Good evening to you. In light of the fact that there were charges that were dismissed that were predicated upon similar statements of facts with respect to the negligent use of the weapon, I had thought that it would have been concluded. But then, again, when prosecutors discover new evidence that they believe establishes that he would be guilty of a crime, here we are. And so now we move to the process and move through to see what the evidence shows as to whether or not Mr. Baldwin would engage in any negligent activity, which was criminal in nature, which did, in fact, cause a death here. That will be for a jury to determine.

BLITZER: Baldwin faces, as you know, two charges of involuntary manslaughter. He can only be convicted of one, we're told. What will prosecutors need to prove?

JACKSON: Well, prosecutors are going to really focus on the weapon itself. And I think there's a lot of questions to be answered as to that. They're going to have to establish that Mr. Baldwin, as we look there, involuntary manslaughter, negligent use of the firearm, was the firearm used in such a careless way as to rise to the level of criminality.

As to the second count in voluntary manslaughter without due caution or circumspection, did he act reasonably and appropriately in its use? But in answering those questions you have to establish what we call as lawyers a chain of custody. How did the firearm get into the set? Who examined the firearm? At what point did they do their specific jobs before it got to him? Was it analyzed properly? Was he told it was a cold gun, meaning and thinking it was a prop, such that he would not believe even if he pulled a trigger, which he denies doing, that it would go off?

And so they'll have to prove beyond the reasonable doubt that the standard of care that he employed really deserves to be criminalized, and that's why he'd be prosecuted if a jury would conclude that that were the case.

BLITZER: Last year the original case against Baldwin was dismissed, as you well know. So, what's changed?

JACKSON: I think there's going to be a lot of dispute as to the weapon. You might recall that Mr. Baldwin, in giving interviews, has said that he never pushed that trigger. He never pulled the trigger.


There was some dispute as to whether the weapon was modified such that it would go off without having him pull the trigger. And I think based upon that, prosecutors previously felt last April that if we can't establish he pulled the trigger, we have no case.

I think now, based upon further laboratory analysis, there are reports that indicate that there would be no other way for the weapon to be discharged. And I think that's what prosecutors are relying upon. But even that, Wolf, might be a significant hurdle for them because they don't have to show that an actor now should be held to the standard of knowing that a firearm that he reasonably relies upon is not working or operable. In fact, he could be deemed to be careless and criminally responsible, and that's going to be a burden the prosecutors will have to meet.

BLITZER: So, Joey, what do you expect will end up happening in this new criminal case?

JACKSON: I think what will happen is I think Mr. Baldwin has dug in while he seems to indicate and appears feeling very badly about this. I believe he believes there's no criminality here and that it was a mistake that was not of his doing, that he did not press the trigger, that the gun was modified such that it went off on its own, and I think that will be hotly contested.

Look for expert witnesses in the event the case goes forward, Wolf, to trial and there is no plea resolution, and look for those experts to differ wildly as to that weapon, as to how it was used, as to how it can go off. And then also look for a tax on the chain of custody. How did it get there? Why would it get there? Who else was responsible? And, in fact, should he be held? Mr. Ball went to the standard as an actor of knowing that he had a weapon that could be discharged and that could result in the death of someone else.

BLITZER: We will be watching. Joey Jackson, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, we're following breaking news out of Texas right now, a grand jury reportedly now chosen to investigate the police response to the deadly mass shooting in Uvalde.



BLITZER: Breaking news. We now expect a special grand jury to investigate the disastrous law enforcement response to the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and 2 teachers dead. That's according to multiple local reports.

I want to bring in CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell. Josh, what do we know about this grand jury and why it is so significant?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, a significant development indeed. This would be the first publicly known development within the criminal justice system following that botched police activity in 2022 at Robb Elementary School, that massacre, obviously, that took the lives of multiple children as well as teachers.

Now, again, the news, this is coming out of the Uvalde Leader News newspaper there. They are reporting that a special grand jury has now been assembled in that city to look into the aftermath.

Now, we've reached out to the district attorney's office for information. It's unclear right now who the potential targets of a grand jury investigation would be. Obviously, the suspect in this case is deceased. And so that presumably means the officers themselves would be investigated to determine whether there is any criminality there involved in the response there on that day.

Now, again, as I mentioned, we've been reaching out to the D.A. trying to get information. She has been essentially radio silence since that incident, despite multiple attempts by members of the media to seek information. We've also been hearing from numerous family members as well who have been highly critical of her office. Listen.


BRETT CROSS, SON KILLED IN UVALDE SHOOTING: I mean, it all boils down to, one, she doesn't care. I mean, she kicked me out of our autopsy meeting. She has kicked me out of meetings that her team has set up, and she just doesn't care. And she hates it when people speak out. Well, my son is murdered. I'm not going to be quiet. And I feel like she also is under the thumb of Governor Abbott.

BERLINDA IRENE ARREOLA, STEP-GRANDDAUGHTER KILLED IN UVALDE SHOOTING: No. I feel like everyone's just been pointing fingers at each other. No one wants to take responsibility. Nobody wants to take accountability.


CAMPBELL: So, Wolf, again, a lot of information we're still waiting to hear as far as what the goal, the purpose is. But, you know, looking at the developments, this could be the path towards accountability for officers who were there on the scene, Wolf.

BLITZER: Josh, how does a special grand jury work?

CAMPBELL: So, Wolf, grand juries are empanelled across the country all the time, but this is what is called a special grand jury, which prosecutors will bring in order to look at a specific incident or determine whether specific crimes were committed here. This would involve crimes in the state of Texas.

Now, the newspaper there in Uvalde is reporting that the grand jurors will be taking six months to investigate evidence. And it's important to note that grand jury proceedings are secret. So, I doubt we will get much, if any information from authorities there as this proceeds. Witnesses who are brought before special grand juries are allowed to discuss what they talked about. So, we could get some potential indication.

But, again, we're waiting to see whether this grand jury actually uncovers any instances of criminality on the part of those officers and whether the district attorney determines in the long run, Wolf, to actually file charges.

BLITZER: We will see. Josh Campbell reporting for us, thank you very much.

Just ahead, new details of what President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, just after a very public split between the leaders on the future of Palestinians.



BLITZER: All right. This is just coming in to CNN right now. President Biden says he still believes he can persuade the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, Israel alongside a new state of Palestine. That despite Netanyahu flatly rejecting that idea earlier this week. The two leaders spoke by phone today for the first time in nearly a month.

Joining us now, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. I know you know this subject well.

After such as sharp rebuke from Netanyahu rejecting a Palestinian state, is President Biden wrong to think he can change Netanyahu's mind?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): No, I think President Biden is the right man at the right time. He's a shrewd negotiator. He knows how to get things done. He has the respect of world leaders. And I think that he understand and articulate very clearly that the only route forward is a two-state solution.

And I think the Israeli people understand that also. You hear their voices. They just want to live in peace. And if we're going to have a true peace in the Middle East, the Palestinians have to have a state of their own.

And what is unique about this opportunity and who the president has also been talking with, he's been talking to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Turkey, Jordan as I have. I've had meetings with all of those foreign ministers and they, for the first time, are invested in a revitalized Gaza, and a Palestinian state.


And so you bring those elements together, they have never happened before. Now, you have an opportunity to have real peace in the Middle East has to be negotiated. A lot of hard works not going to happen tomorrow. But if anyone knows how to negotiate to try to get it done, it's Joe Biden.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers by the way, Congressman, some photos, the White House just released of President Biden during his phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. As you know, Israeli strikes are killing Palestinians around the largest hospital in southern Gaza as the death toll of this war surges above 24,000 dead according to Palestinian sources.

Should Congress -- do you believe to Congress put conditions on its military aid bill to Israel to protect civilians? MEEKS: Now, it's not that simple, Wolf, and I will say that you can't put conditions. You got -- Israel has enemies all around it and it's hard because also when you have a Hamas group that is embedded with the civilian population. So it becomes a very difficult.

And you've got -- because we're also trying to stop any escalation. For, if you say that it's conditions on the weapons to Israel, then that's, you know, who that helps? That helps Hezbollah, or it helps the Houthis who had loved to come in. It help us Iran and attack because they do not believe that Israel has the right to exist.

So, we've got to continue with the hard work and the negotiations. Israel as the president has been talking about and doing it starting to deescalate what they're doing. There had been removing troops from Gaza. I think they're down to a certain number now. And as more accountability on urban warfare where you can go right after and try to identify those that are members of Hamas as opposed to the huge bombs that were dropped previously from the sky, and you'd get collateral damage.

BLITZER: Congressman, as you know, the U.S. struck Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen now, for the sixth time, even as President Biden is admitting these attacks so far, haven't worked, at least not yet. Why is the Biden administration failing to deter Houthi aggression in the Red Sea?

MEEKS: Well, I think that, you know, what he is doing is he is successfully making it difficult for them to continue to strike because he's finding out where they are keeping their drones and their weapons depots, et cetera. And he's destroying them. So that is less ammunition that they would have to figure out or to shoot at our commercial vessels and our military personnel.

So there is a still a purpose -- a specific purpose that the Biden administration with our ships in the area are accomplishing and they were accomplishing looking at where those weapons depots are and destroying them. And if you destroy those areas where they have the weapon, then that's less than they have to shoot at our folks. And I think that -- he would the president was clear also, even though it seems as though they have not stopped yet our fighting and making sure that we continue to shoot at them and destroy their depots and other areas of military concerns will not stop on our part.

BLITZER: Congressman Gregory Meeks, thanks so much for joining us. And once again, we'll continue this conversation down the road.

Coming up, tens of millions of people across the United States are under winter weather alerts right down as they're going through the latest barrage of cold temperatures, snow and ice, which has already claimed dozens of lives.



BLITZER: Tonight, the governor of Kentucky announcing the deaths of five people there in the past week because of freezing temperatures. That raises the nationwide death toll to at least 63 people in 12 states.

More now from CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.


CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Another blast of potentially deadly arctic air hitting the U.S., with more than 65 million Americans under winter weather alerts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a large truck under there.

MYERS: The latest weather startling traffic, making travel treacherous. Dashcam video shows a driver, thankfully, uninjured, smashing into a snowplow while trying to pass a semi-truck in Upstate New York.

Another dramatic moment Thursday in Rochester, New York, when an American airlines jet slid off the runway.

Passenger scared but unharmed.

Across the country, airport seeing more than one cancellations on Friday and three-hour average delays out of New York's LaGuardia.

Philadelphia is marking its first significant snowfall in two years.

MAYOR CHERELLE PARKER (D), PHILADELPHIA: The winter storm is here and the roads that we see that drivable now are going to become undrivable. Things that are bad now may get worse.

MYERS: Temperatures nationwide are also dangerously low, even for January. Southern cities like Atlanta will wake up to lows in the teens. The Midwest will see wind chills 20 to 30 degrees below zero, making clean up in states with snow extra difficult.

SCOTT TOURVILLE, COLUMBUS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE: It's continuing to snow. So despite the fact that we may have been on a street two, three, four times, it's not -- it's still not completely done.

MYERS: The snowfall in Buffalo is massive, more than two feet in the past 48 hours, on top of the 18 inches last weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I look out the window and I'm looking at a cheese grater. It's just nonstop.

MYERS: So much snow, the Buffalo Bills are again offering to pay fans $20 an hour to shovel snow off their stadium in Orchard Park for Sunday's playoff game.

On the West Coast, a state of emergency declared in Oregon due to severe ice. In Portland, the storm down power lines, one live wire tragically killing three people who stepped out of their car. A nine- month old baby was saved by a bystander. MAJIAH WASHINGTON, SAVED BABY IN ICE STORM: Now, wasn't thinking like, oh, like I could be electrocuted. It was more so thinking like I have to grab this baby.


MYERS (on camera): Wolf, still a little bit of snow left on the map right now. Also, still some snow developing here in parts of Kentucky. It's the cold -- the cold will affect us tonight. Frigid weather, wind chill factors again, 30 to 40 degrees below zero tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chad Myers, thank you very, very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.