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Soon, House To Vote Again On Impeaching DHS Chief; Powerful Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc As New York Votes; CIA Chief In Cairo For Hostage Talks, Gazans Flee Rafah; Biden Campaign Joins TikTok Despite Federal Government Ban; First "Surgical Robot" In Space Begins Operating. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 13, 2024 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Look out for a special series for me this Sunday called the United States of Scandal. We're going to take a closer look and deeper dive at some of the most outrageous and iconic political controversies in modern times, Governor Rod Blagojevich, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Valerie Plame, and much, much more. The series premieres Sunday night at 9 Eastern only here on CNN.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, X, formerly known as Twitter, and on the TikTok @jaketapper. You can follow the show at X @theleadcnn. I'm going to be back in two hours for our special live coverage of the election to replace former Congressman George Santos. The news continues now with Wolf Blitzer in The Situation Room.

I'll see you in two.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, border retribution any minute now, House Republicans try again to strip a top Biden official of his job. But does the GOP have the votes or are they headed for yet another very public failure?

Plus, special selection, New Yorkers brave snow and sleet to vote on who replaces disgrace former Congressman George Santos. How they decide they give the country a window into what could happen in November's presidential election.

And serious progress in Cairo, Americans tell CNN that the CIA director and Middle East negotiators are moving closer and closer to striking a deal that would pause Israel's war in Gaza and get Israeli hostages home.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We're standing by for a critical vote inside the United States House of Representatives, Republicans planning to try to impeach the Biden Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas.

CNN's Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill, is joining us live right now. So, Manu, what do we expect? Do we expect this vote to come up? Do we expect it to pass? MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I am hearing fresh optimism and confidence from top House Republicans who believe that now they will finally have the votes to make Alejandro Mayorkas just the second cabinet secretary in history to be impeached, charged with high crimes and misdemeanors over their contention that he has failed over the act -- over everything that's happened at the southern border with Mexico, something that Democrats say is an abuse of power by going after the Homeland Security secretary and even some Republicans' opposes. We expect three Republicans to vote against it and that is all they can lose.

But right now, I'm hearing from Republicans that they believe that they will have the votes. This is going to hinge in large part over absences because a lot of members are still traveling back to Washington. Some have been impacted by the snowstorm. But the question will be how many absences ultimately will be when the vote happens because that will affect the overall vote total. Because, remember, Wolf, it is a majority of voting members.

That's what will determine whether or not the Republicans will have the votes to move forward here. Because last week what we saw was a miscalculation by the Republican leadership who believed that they would have the votes in large part because they expected one Democratic member to not appear because they thought he was going to be absent. Ultimately, he did appear and then that led to the embarrassment over the last several days. Now they have gotten one new member added to the ranks, Steve Scalise, the House majority leader who has been recovering from cancer.

And, Wolf, there is an urgency for Republicans to do that given that this New York special election is happening tonight. If Democrats do win that seat, that is one more Democratic vote against impeaching Alejandro Mayorkas, meaning they would not have the votes to move forward here.

So, Republicans are trying to push the gas, get this done now and try to move ahead on this historic and very controversial vote. And even if it does pass, we're here tonight, Wolf. It has no chance and the Democratic-led Senate, two-thirds majority, is needed to convict in the Senate control, 51-49 by Democrats. They are expected to quickly move to dismiss this, but one that, in effort that Republicans have been pushing for some time as they try to make the border central to their campaign in 2024.

BLITZER: Yes, that's such an important point, even if he's impeached in the House, he's certainly not going to be convicted in the Senate, he will remain on as the Homeland Security secretary. Manu, thank you very much. We're going to have much more on this breaking story throughout the hour.

Right now, in New York State, voters are making a very critical choice for Congress. Today, they decide who replaces George Santos in a race with very important implications for the November 2024 presidential election.

CNN's John Berman is up in Carle Place, out on Long Island. He's been watching the turnout all day. John, we've gotten a lot of snow in the area where you are. Have you seen a lot of voters?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, some, Wolf. Right now, I'm looking at a fairly empty room here at Carle Place High School, home of the frogs.


Welcome to Carle Place High School, home of the frogs, by the way.

Right now, you know, half a dozen people in here voting. This is a little bit less than we've seen over the last few hours. There were some lines here this afternoon after the snow stopped, but you can see here all these empty booths.

Now, this voting place here in Carle Place is made up of six election districts, basically precincts. Each one of the tables that are in this room makes up an election district. You come in, you get your ballot, and then after you vote, you carry it over to one of these machines here and you put it in, seven of these machines in the room.

I can't shoot the screen, but I am allowed to read off of it. This machine, 213 people have submitted ballots so far. It was about at 40 at noon. My friends here who are running these tables tell me that each one of the election districts, the voter turnout is running at 15 to 17 percent. For frame of reference, the last election they had here was for town executive, it was 29 percent in November. So, you're running way lower than a local election right now.

And also for frame of reference, in 2022, when George Santos was elected, 192,000 people voted on Election Day, same day. Here at about 4:00 today, it was 40,000, so they have a ton of ground to make up.

We're going to walk outside here. We're not allowed to talk to voters inside, but we were hoping maybe to talk to some outside, no?

No, we had some voters lined up. They won't wait. Let me see, ma'am. I'm with CNN. Can I talk to you about your vote on the special election? Okay, what's your name?


BERMAN: Jen, it's so nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice to meet you too.

BERMAN: What was the issue that brought you out today to vote in the snow?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of things, especially being safe in this country, protecting our borders and equality and, of course, our -- what is it called -- economic situation.

BERMAN: Can I ask, on this day, where you came up, who you voted for? Who'd you cast your ballot for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to keep it anonymous.

BERMAN: Secret?


BERMAN: Okay. Well, thank you very much. We appreciate your time. Thanks for talking to us.

What is interesting and absolutely respect the right of people to keep their vote secret. We've talked to a number of voters here. Almost all say the border is one of the major issues. But what's unusual is that many of those voters tell us they voted for the Democrat, Tom Suozzi, who has very much leaned into issues surrounding the border and immigration.

So, the border and immigration not breaking necessarily purely for the Republican as you might see in some elections.

One last thing, Wolf, again, you can see the snow behind me, one of the Republican super PACs actually paid for snow plows to clear the seats around the election places, but I do have to say after the snow stopped around 1:00 or 2:00 getting around, not a problem at all. Wolf?

BLITZER: John Berman out in Nassau County of Long Island for us, thank you very much, John, for that report.

Our Chief National Correspondent John King is with me here in the situation. I'm interested, John, what are you watching for tonight?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One of the interesting things that normally would not be on my list is just what John Berman just mentioned though because of the snowstorm. We know that Democrats seem to have a pretty decent advantage in the early voting. Republicans like to vote on Election Day. That's the tradition. You come out and vote on Election Day. Does the weather impact the turnout? And does that somehow benefit the Democrats? So that's an added thing to look for.

This is a fascinating district. We should be careful. This will be studied closely and everybody will say, aha, New York 3 has taught us all these lessons about what's going to happen for the rest of the year, maybe, maybe not.

But there are some great things to look at. Number one, this is an affluent suburb. Think about the last ten years, very fertile ground for the Democrats. Joe Biden won this district by eight points, right? So, you have a population that's about one and a half percent higher education than the country. More than 55 percent of the people there have a bachelor's degree. It runs -- it's a very affluent district, more than about 1.5 percent, even higher than that, the household median income. These are the places the Democrats have won.

So, is New York going to be competitive in the presidential election in November? Most likely not. But it's a district that you find outside of Philadelphia, outside of Milwaukee, outside of Phoenix, outside of Atlanta, you know, people like that. So, that's what people will be studying there. Another thing I would watch, if we talk about the issues, immigration, the Democrats are trying to flip that. There is no doubt a month ago the immigration issue was set to punish the Democrats. But now the Democrats are trying to say, wait, we were ready to do this in the Senate. We had agreement. We would pass this and the Republicans said no. Can they flip it? It's the first test. But can the Democrats flip that issue on the Republicans?

One last thing I would note, I always look at the subgroups. About 25 percent of the voters, the residents in this district are Asian- Americans. There are a lot of places around the country. Asian- Americans have emerged, it's probably one of the most underreported political stories the last five or six years, as a giant potent swing vote in this country. This is one of the places where they could make the difference. They, like Latinos, have been trending a little bit back toward Republicans. There's a tug of war there.

BLITZER: A tug of war that's going on all over the country right now.

John, thank you very, very much, John King reporting for us.

Meanwhile, House Republicans face two major tests, another attempt to impeach the Biden Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, and the House speaker pledging not to bring a critical national security funding bill to the floor of the House.


Hours ago, President Biden also attacking Donald Trump, the Republican standard-bearer, over talk that he would let Russia attack U.S. NATO allies.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: No other president of our history has ever bowed down to a Russian dictator. It's dumb, it's shameful, it's dangerous, it's un-American.


BLITZER: Joining us now, Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez of Florida. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

First of all, on this funding for Ukraine and Israel in this bill, would you support what's called a discharge petition to bypass the House speaker, House Speaker Johnson, and bring this to a floor vote? Would you vote for this bill?

REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): I'm going to follow the speaker's lead on this. While I support funding for Ukraine and Israel and Taiwan, I don't think they should be bundled together. Let's have votes, separate votes on each and then send that over to the Senate and then see what happens.

Look, we had a separate vote on Israel aid last week and the Democrats sank that. So, I think that's what we need to do in order to get it passed.

So, if there were separate votes on each of them, would you support each one of those separate votes?

GIMENEZ: Yes, I would. I would support funding for Ukraine, as long as it's military aid, because most of that funding, all of that is going to be spent here in the United States. We're going to be sending them military equipment and munitions, and we're going to have to restock here in the United States, which means American jobs.

Aid to Israel, I've always been pro-Israel. I will always be pro- Israel. And, obviously, we need to face the growing threat of China against Taiwan. So, yes, I would support those three items if separate. And I think that that's what we need to do in order to get this done.

BLITZER: What I don't understand, Congressman, if you would support those three pieces of legislation separately, why not vote for one piece of legislation that includes all of that?

GIMENEZ: Because I think that what I believe is that you're going to get different people voting different ways in each one of those. And so I think they want to get their vote down on each particular item, each individual item.

You may have a number of Republicans not voting for aid for Ukraine, but you will have a number of Democrats that will. You'll have a number of Republicans voting yes on aid to Israel, but you'll have a number of Democrats voting no on aid to Israel and so on and so forth. And so I think that's the way to get it done. It doesn't mean that's going to happen, but I will support my speaker and how he wants to get it done.

BLITZER: A member of the House Freedom Caucus, a Republican Warren Davidson of Ohio, is warning Speaker Johnson that he would face a vote to punish and even oust him if he puts this Senate bill that passed overwhelmingly overnight on the floor of the House. What's your response? Are these threats an effective way to govern?

GIMENEZ: No, they're not, and the speaker ought to do what he thinks is right. And you can't govern with a threat over your head. You have to do what you think is right, and then let the chips fall where they may. And so that's what I would advise the speaker to do. If he thinks that that's the right move, go ahead and do it. You'll have the majority of the conference behind you that there are some that may threaten the speaker in that way.

I find that to be really despicable that a member of our own conference would threaten our own speaker in that matter.

BLITZER: I want to ask you a little bit more about some of the news of the day right now, Congressman. You heard President Biden blast former President Trump's comments as dangerous and un-American after Trump encouraged Russia to, quote, do whatever the hell they want to NATO allies who fall short of their defense spending requirements. Are those kinds of comments from Trump un-American, as President Biden suggests?

GIMENEZ: Look, I don't agree with everything that President Trump says, but I do agree with just about everything he does, unlike President Biden, who says the right things and then does the opposite. Everything he touches is a disaster.

While he doesn't said those words, look, he invited the invasion of Russia into Ukraine. He invited what happened October 7th by giving Iran billions of dollars in additional funding that they then, in turn, gave to Hamas and Hezbollah.

So, again, it's not -- to me, it's more important what you do, and President Biden, what he has done, has been a complete disaster.

BLITZER: So, let me just follow up on that, Congressman. Would you tell Russia to, quote, do whatever the hell you want to NATO allies, to NATO countries that don't meet their financial obligations?


GIMENEZ: No, I wouldn't. I would say -- I would use it as a negotiation ploy to make them pay. But, again, at the end, it's not what you say. It's what you do. That's really what's most important. A lot of people are all hung up about what, you know, so and so said and so and so, you know, says. But, for me, it's what you do.

And like I've said, you know, President Biden may say the right things, but he certainly doesn't do the right thing. And that's what's important for me and I think for America.

BLITZER: Congressman Carlos Gimenez of Florida, thank you so much for joining us.

And just ahead, critical talks underway right now in Cairo as the CIA director pushes for a hostage deal and a pause in the fight in Gaza and Palestinian civilians flee Rafah in the southern part of Gaza just ahead of an impending Israeli assault.

And we're only moments away from another historic vote to impeach a Biden cabinet official.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.


BLITZER: New tonight, the CIA director, Bill Burns, And the head of the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, met with Qatari and Egyptian officials in Cairo today to discuss a possible weeks long pause in the fighting that would free hostages held captive in Gaza.


For more on the discussions, I want to bring in CNN's Nada Bashir. She's joining us from Cairo right now. What are you learning about these important talks, Nada? NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER: Look, we are hearing now from an Israeli source that that Israeli delegation is now on its way back from Cairo. Those talks, according to a U.S. official speaking to CNN, are said to have been serious and productive, but no breakthroughs that would result in an agreement have been reached just yet. Those negotiations are said to be ongoing.

And, of course, the focus would be on establishing a prolonged truce. We're talking about at least six weeks under which we would see a gradual release of hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

The major sticking point at this stage, according to another U.S. official, is the ratio of hostages to be released against Palestinian prisoners. No firm agreement just yet. Those talks are ongoing, but, of course, mounting pressure from the international community for a deal to be struck.

We have heard from Hamas. They have said that they are prepared to send a delegation back to Cairo if these talks move in a positive direction. They said that the next 24 hours will be critical. But at this stage, according to two Hamas officials speaking to CNN, no current plans to send a delegation back this week.

Now, of course, there is a huge amount of pressure building, particularly as we continue to see what is unfolding in the Rafah. Hamas has said that they will not move forward on any talks on negotiations if we do see that looming grand operation carried out by the Israeli military in Rafah.

Important to remind our viewers, of course, more than a million people are now concentrated in this Southern Gaza City, many of them displaced time and time again. There are real fears that this could lead to a mass rise in the number of civilians killed. We've heard just in the last few hours from the U.N. Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths describing this as a potential slaughter in the cards (ph) for Rafah.

BLITZER: Yes, lots at stake right now. Nada Bashir and Cairo, thank you very much for that report.

Tonight, two former hostages rescued from Gaza are thanking Israeli security forces. 60-year-old Fernando Marman and 70-year-old Louis Har spent more than four months in captivity.


LOUIS HAR, FORMER HOSTAGE: I want everyone who was kidnapped and is still being held in Gaza to be returned to us in peace. We will do everything so it can come true and so they can be as happy as we are today.


BLITZER: Louis Har's son in law, Edan Begerano, is joining us now from Israel. And all five of his relatives were taken hostage back on October 7. Three were released in November. Edan, thank you so much for joining us. I'm happy some members of your family are back with you.

What has it been like for your family to experience this reunion?

EDAN BEGERANO, SON-IN-LAW OF JUST-RELEASED HOSTAGE: This reunion came to us on a very unpredictable moment. It caught us, really, at 3:00 A.M., 3:15 in the morning when we got a call. And since then, the whole family became turbulent and tried to react as fast as they can, and some are put in on automatic in order to come to the hospital and to meet our beloved that they came back from Gaza. So, really, we were shocked by the message we got and we haven't expected it.

BLITZER: How are Louis and Fernando doing right now? What is the latest on their conditions?

BEGERANO: So, when we saw them, we were very surprised about how thin they are. They lost a lot of weight. When we heard from the hospital, they estimate more than 25 percent of the weight were lost. They're very pale, feint, like white faces, seems like they haven't seen sunlight in those days. And from what we heard as well, they have all kind of symptoms of being in other captivity, starvation, and others that really a lot of them, a lot of small issues that can become big. And we hope that with the medical treatment, now that they are on, it will help them to recover. They are now exposed to food, and they are told, please eat slowly.

BLITZER: Have Louis and Fernando shared anything about their dramatic rescue?

BEGERANO: For them, they tend to start to talk a little bit, almost about when they were already in the hands of the IDF people, not about really the first minute, the first two or three minutes when actually they were sleeping, and from what we know from the media, they were sleeping, and there was that action inside the building where they were kept and then they were covered and they hugged and protected by the IDF soldiers.


So, we don't know what happened in those exactly what happened in those three minutes, but we know more about what happened when they were in touch talking to the IDF people when they were already in the safe area.

BLITZER: Edan, what is your family's message to Prime Minister Netanyahu and indeed to the world as talks continue right now in Cairo for a deal to try to release the remaining hostages?

BEGERANO: You know, it all started on the 7th of October massacre when a lot of families, a lot of areas in Israel were attacked. And it started with 240 hostages. Some of them were released in the first action, but now there's 134 hostages still in Gaza.

And I think that still our government, our people, our -- the guys are going for discussions in Cairo or in Paris with mediators, sometimes with direct talks, maybe with Hamas, they must go in order to strike a deal for release of the hostages.

I don't think that we know -- we should expect that all of them will come back by the IDF actions or rescue activities. We must go in order to strike a deal and really to bring more happiness to the other families in Israel.

We are on the happy side today, but we are still part of the big, big, big war. And we are all big family that all of us waiting for the hostages to come back.

BLITZER: And let's hope those hostages come back soon.

Edan Begerano, thank you so much for joining us. We're so happy your family is back together.

BEGERANO: Thank you very much. And we hope that they will recover because really there were a lack of in lack of medication, lack of food and really starvation and not in a fun area where they were kept. And, really, we hope that they will recover as soon as possible and try to get into a normal life. And, really, we're wishing for them and for all the others and good health.

BLITZER: We're wishing for that as well. Thank you so much.

BEGERANO: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And coming up, another important story we're following right now, the CDC will soon make a very important change about how the United States deals with COVID. What you need to know in just minutes right here in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: The CDC is expected to update its isolation guidance around COVID-19, that according to a new report from The Washington Post. Under the new guidance, people will no longer need to isolate once they've been fever-free for 24 hours and their symptoms are mild and improving.

I want to bring in CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He's a professor of surgery and medicine at the George Washington University here in Washington, D.C. He's also a cardiologist.

Dr. Reiner, what do you think about this new guidance coming out from the CDC?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think it's a bit unwise. We've moved on in this country in terms of our experience with COVID but COVID hasn't left this country. And, in fact, COVID is really everywhere. There were hundreds of thousands of cases last week, 20,000 people hospitalized, 2,500 deaths.

So, COVID still impacts this country in a very meaningful and sometimes tragic way. But the country has tired of it. And we've become bored with it. And maybe politically, it's now sort of unwise to keep focusing on COVID. But the intent of these new proposed guidelines are basically to say, once you're feeling a little better, you can go back to work.

Now, the problem with that is that when you go back to work, you may be exposing colleagues and other people whose risk might be different than yours to an unwanted virus. And with these new proposed guidelines, you just need to be afebrile, so your temperature has to go away, and you need to be feeling a little better. But that doesn't mean you won't be coughing and this virus remains transmissible for several days.

So, if you go back to work on day two or day three, and your coworker in the next cubicle is getting treated with chemotherapy and is immunosuppressed, and you're there coughing because the guidance says, well, I feel a little better, my fever is away, so I went back to work, that seems unwise to me.

BLITZER: Because the previous guidance was, what, stay home for at least five days?

REINER: And even that was a big change because they didn't mandate that you needed to be COVID-negative. But this virus is transmissible probably for five to seven days. And if you're home, and the longer you stay home, the less transmissible it is.

And sort of the bigger problem is that once you put these things into so-called guidelines, then businesses expect their workers to be back very quickly and people will no longer understand the importance of isolating.

My recommendation to the public, and not just for COVID, for influenza, for RSV, for a G.I. virus, is if you feel sick, if you are sick, stay home.


We don't need guidance to tell us that. And until you're better, substantially better, all better, no longer coughing, stay home.

BLITZER: And as you say, this new COVID variant that's spreading right now is all over the place. The best recommendation I've been told is to make sure you get vaccinated and get those COVID booster shots.

REINER: Right. Only about 15 percent of the country has gotten the new booster shot and its efficacy is pretty good in terms of both preventing severe illness and hospitalization, as well as contracting the virus. But the country has not adopted this last booster.

The other thing I'll say about common sense, we need more common sense in this country when it comes to protecting each other. If you have COVID and you want to go back to work and you're feeling better, put a mask on for a few days. Protect the people you work with, protect your neighbors. Let's take care of each other.

BLITZER: Very good advice, as usual, from Dr. Jonathan Reiner. Thanks very much for coming in.

REINER: Thank you.

BLITZER: I appreciate it.

Just ahead. Republicans will soon hold a very dramatic impeachment vote targeting the Biden Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas. More on the breaking news coming up right here in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Happening now, the House voting for a second time on whether to impeach the Homeland Security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas. Only moments ago, CNN's Melanie Zanona sat down exclusively with the number two Republican in the House, Steve Scalise, who's attending the vote while battling blood cancer. Here's what he said.


MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Are you confident that the votes will be there tonight?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Yes, look, in a tight majority, every vote is counted. You're not just counting now my vote, but if somebody has a plane delay that could affect the vote. And so with a day like today where there's bad weather, you're tracking whose flights are late, all of those things factor in now.

ZANONA: Is everyone here? Do we know?

SCALISE: The whip keeps track of all that, and he does a great job of knowing who's out sick, who's got a flight delay, and what time they're going to get in, what time if somebody has something where they have to leave. You know, those are things that he tracks on a weekly basis, especially with a tight majority this whole Congress.

ZANONA: Was it a mistake to not wait for your return to have this important vote last week when it failed?

SCALISE: Well, you know, they felt it was important to -- there were some members that, you know, might have been going back and forth and to lock them in because, you know, I've seen over weekends where somebody that was maybe a lean yes, you go over the weekend and then they come back and then all of a sudden they're a lean no.

So, you know, I know these are all tough judgment calls, but to make sure that you lock everybody in who's a yes and now we know we're one vote short, let's go get that done.


BLITZER: I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams, former senior adviser to the Biden 2020 campaign, Alencia Johnson, and CNN Political Commentator Alice Stewart.

Alice, talk to a little bit about what you anticipate is about to happen on the House floor.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's just hope their math is a little bit better this week than it was last week. They just didn't whip the votes properly last week. And I've been speaking with a lot of Republicans in the House, and they say this is all about attendance tonight, making sure they have the right number and enough Republicans to get this across the finish line.

And I just texted someone just a short time ago. They've started the vote. And I said, do you have the numbers? He says, we have absolutely no idea. So, it will still be, you know, remains to be seen how this plays out.

And here's the problem with this is it's -- they really want this to happen. They really see there's a crisis at the border. Many realize the problem is not Mayorkas. He's a pawn in this. The problem is Joe Biden and his policies that have led to the crisis at the border.

The fact when Biden came into office, he stopped construction of the border wall. He ended the remain in Mexico policy of the Trump administration, which was successful and also implemented the catch and release policy. Those are the problems. It's not Mayorkas. And if they get rid of Mayorkas, we still have the problem with the crisis at the border.

BLITZER: If the Republicans are again not successful and are embarrassed once again, what do you think the message that will be sent about the Republican leadership in Congress?

STEWART: Well, there's no mistaking the fact they can't do the job they were sent there to do. And I certainly hope this doesn't mean that the far right flank of the Republican Party is going to oust the speaker, because that's not the right answer here. The real solution here is to make sure that Republicans get together on these important issues, make sure they are attacking the right policies. And I think we shouldn't be wasting time on impeachment or certainly getting rid of someone because that's not how you handle policy disputes. You handle them by talking about policies and finding bipartisanship solutions to them.

BLITZER: As we've been saying, even if he's impeached in the House, he's not going to be convicted in the Senate. There's no way they can get a two-thirds vote on that. He'll remain as the secretary of Homeland Security.

Alencia, if Mayorkas is impeached in the House, what does that mean for the Biden administration?

ALENCIA JOHNSON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR, BIDEN 2020 CAMPAIGN: I actually think politically all of this helps Democrats because again with this failed vote on the bipartisan bill last week when Republicans said, absolutely not, we're not going to work with Democrats, in addition to being focused on impeaching Mayorkas, when we can agree on this part that the way to solve immigration and the problem at the border is for both parties to come together and present policy solutions.

The Biden administration, Democrats have wanted to do that. Again, immigration is an issue that didn't just come about with President Biden. It started with well before Donald Trump, before his predecessor. And so Republicans have to get serious about this issue. And this impeachment vote is showing the American people that they're not. And that helps Democrats, I believe, in an election year.

BLITZER: Let me get quickly, Elliot, your thoughts from a legal perspective.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There is literally no chance that Alejandor Mayorkas is removed from his job.


It's -- he -- the House can vote to impeach him. It gets sent over to the Senate. The Senate is not taking this up. He's going to remain secretary of homeland security.

BLITZER: There's no chance there will be a trial.

WILLIAMS: There will not see a trial to remove him. It's not going to happen. It's a political will.

BLITZER: While I have you, Elliot, very different issue. The Chief Justice John Roberts asked the special counsel, Jack Smith, to respond to former President Trump's request that the court block an appeals court ruling that says Trump does not have immunity in the January 6 case.

So what do you think we'll see in Smith's response?

WILLIAMS: Here's the thing, Wolf, is that we've already seen it. In December, the parties brief this issue up and asked the Supreme Court to take it on Jack Smith, asked to have an expedited. What we're going to see as an argument that the foreign president is simply not immune from trial. We know what the arguments are.

At some point, the courts are going to rule on it and it looks like they're going to move quickly, but we shall see you.

BLITZER: We shall see.

Elliot, Alencia, Alice, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up, President Biden takes his campaign to social media and catches the eye of 7 million viewers. But it's also catching the ire of Republicans. Why they say it's a national security risk. That's coming up next.


[18:50:06] BLITZER: The Biden campaign's decision to join TikTok is raising a lot of eyebrows.

CNN's Brian Todd has details for us.

What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've learned that a Super Bowl video that the president's campaign posted on TikTok has been very popular, generating several million views, but it's also drawn scorn for alleged hypocrisy and concerns about the messaging on national security.


TODD (voice-over): National security hawks ramping up their criticism of President Biden's reelection campaign for launching a TikTok account and posting its first video on Sunday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jason Kelce, or Travis Kelce.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mama Kelce. She makes great chocolate chip cookies.

TODD: In the lighthearted Super Bowl theme video, the president dodges some questions about the game and jokingly evades one on whether he had rigged the NFL season.

BIDEN: I'd get in trouble if I told you.

TODD: It finished with an inside joke, a dark Brandon meme.

The video quick to rack up more than 7 million views and the ire of critics.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley posting on X: Biden campaign bragging about using a Chinese spy app, even though Biden signed a law banning it on all federal devices.

President Biden did sign that law in December of 2022.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: I do think they're going to face some cries of hypocrisy.

TODD: The campaign video was not created or posted using government devices.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton still called it shameful.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company that analysts say could be beholden to the communist government in Beijing.

LINDSAY GORMAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER FOR TECHNOLOGY AND NATIONAL SECURITY: I think it's a very concerning national security move. We are normalizing a platform that is essentially accountable, ultimately to the Chinese communist party. TODD: A federal security review of TikTok's foreign ownership is

underway. And U.S. government employees are barred from having the app on their work devices for fear of malware spying, or --

JAMES LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: They can collect your personal data. They can put it into their huge databases and they can figure out what they want to do with it later.

TODD: TikTok rejects those concerns.

SHOU CHEW, CEO, TIKTOK: We will protect the U.S. user data and firewall it all from all unwanted foreign access.

TODD: TikTok says more than half of Americans use the popular app for sharing short videos, of everything from goofy stunts, to food recipes and dance challenges. But could the Chinese communist government secretly use it to try to influence elections in the U.S.

GORMAN: A foreign actor could place its thumb on the scale and maybe promote certain content that's favorable to a candidate that it wants to see in the White House and demote content that's favorable to a candidate it doesn't want to see.

TODD: But many TikTok users are young millennials who an 81-year-old candidate might need to reach.

TALEV: If you're trying to turn out young voters and you're trying to message around issues that they are not getting from other news sources, and you're not on it, it's a lost opportunity. And so that's what Biden and his team are balancing.


TODD (on camera): White House officials would -- White House officials would not address criticism of the president doing the TikTok video, referring all questions on that to the Biden campaign. The Biden campaign said using TikTok is proof of the campaign's commitment to finding new, innovative ways to reach voters. It did add that it is taking extra security pretty precautions, but so far, the campaign has not addressed the criticism of hypocrisy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us -- Brian, thanks for that report.

Coming up, CNN's Kristin Fisher with an exclusive out of this world story. That's coming up next.



BLITZER: Now to a CNN exclusive. CNN's Kristin Fisher with a story on a tiny but mighty discovery in outer space.


KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE & DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sitting on top of this SpaceX rocket when it launched in January, was the first surgical robot bound for outer space.


FISHER: MIRA, made by a company called Virtual Incision, arrived at the International Space Station in February. And on Saturday, it did something that's never been done before.

FARRITOR: Saturday was the first time that surgical robot in space was controlled by surgeons on Earth to perform simulated surgical activities.

FISHER: Virtual Incision provided CNN with exclusive video, has six surgeons at the company's headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska, took turns parading the robot after it was powered up by NASA astronauts, roughly 250 miles above.

DR. MICHAEL JOBST, SURGEON: The adrenaline was pumping and I could feel my heart pounding. It was -- it was really exhilarating, but at the same time, once I saw that robotic device doing the things that I'm used to it doing settled down.

FISHER: Dr. Michael Jobst says he's already performed 15 surgeries with MIRA during clinical trials on human patients here on earth. But he's never had to contend with zero gravity or a time delay of about half a second.

JOBST: Split second or half a second is gong to be significant. So this was a big the challenge.

FARRITOR: You can see a left-hand with a grasper and a right hand with a pair of scissors. And we use rubber bands here to simulate surgical tissue.

JOBST: So you could think of those rubber bands is perhaps, you know, blood vessels are tendons, are other connective tissue that has elasticity. So were able to grab hold of the rubber bands and then take the scissors and just basically to cut them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I'm going for it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was one small rubber band, but a great leap for surgery.


FISHER (voice-over): Now, in addition to someday performing remote surgeries on people in space, they also want to use this type of technology here on earth in places where it might not be too easy to find a surgeon.

Wolf, think places like really remote rural areas, or maybe even war zones.

BLITZER: Really significant development. Thanks for that exclusive report.

Kristin Fisher reporting for us, appreciate it very, very much.

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

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.