tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN February 17, 2023 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
one-year mark. cnn is on the ground in kyiv and moscow. the bodies said to be piling up. also tonight, five former memphis police officers plead not guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in the fatal beating of tieyre nichols. his mother at the hearing and said they could not look her in the eye. i'll speak to ben crump this hour. rick scott backing down from a controversial plan dropping social security and medicare provisions after bipartisan backlash including president biden's direct attack during the state of the union address. welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world. wolf blitzer is on assignment today. i'm pamela brown and you're "the situation room". and we begin this hour on the front lines in ukraine. a new round of russian shelling
adding to the mounting toll of death and destruction after nearly a full year of war. cnn senior national security correspondent alex march -- alex marquardt is there. >> reporter: it is a critical moment in the war and we've seen the beginning stages of a new russian offensive and that is not going well. a senior state department official on thursday said what they are seeing is very pathetic and just earlier today, pam, we got an update from the white house about one area where the russians have been trying to push forward for months where ukrainian forces have been facing off against mercenariime. the white house, the national security spokesman john kirby says they suffered tremendous loss as they had some 30,000 casualties including 9,000 deaths in this brutal grinding fight in bakhmut.
this is according to volodymyr zelenskyy the toughest fight in ukraine right now in the eastern city of bkakhmut called a meat grinder, convicts continue to be ce sent in wave after wave to their deaths. >> men he plucked out of prison and threw on the battle field with no training, no equipment, no organizational command, 98% killed were conflicts. we think they rely heavily on the convicts in the background fighting. >> reporter: the battle laying bare. the stark division on the russian side. with vagner openly blasting russia's official military leadership saying they manage soldiers from beauty salons and country clubs arguing if there were more of his private troops,
they would be half across ukraine by now. the toll is so severe on the russian side according to ukraine yian officials, regular troops are back filling with infantry and tank units supported by artillery and aircraft. if russia took bakhmut it would change little but be a symbolic victory as russia struggles to keep them at bay. urging to speed up military aid comparing the flight to goliath taking on david. >> we need to hurry up. we need the speed, speed of our agreements. speed of our delivery to strengthen our speed of decisions to limit russian pote potential. >> reporter: that russian potential is still significant with hundreds of thousands of mobilized troops believed to be in reserve and vladimir putin
able to call up more to suffoffset his enormous losses and according to the u.s. state department numbering over 200,000 russian dead and wounded. and we should note of course, ukraine suffered tremendous loses as well in bakhmut and over the world across the country. pam, the u.s. is hoping ukraine will turn the focus from bakhmut to a counter offensive with newly trained troops as well as new weaponry including armored vehicles being given to ukraine by the u.s. and other western countries. we did learn today that 635 ukrainian troops have graduated from a newly formed u.s. training program in germany that lasts five weeks. another 710 have just started the second phase and there they're learning both combined arms and maneuvers with the armored vehicles that the u.s. says will be crucial in the next offensive. pamela? >> alex marquardt, thank you. turning to russia where v
vladimir putin met with a key ally preparing for the nearly one-year mark conflict in ukraine. frederick pleitgen joins us. tell us about putin's meeting with the president of belarus. >> reporter: yeah, alexander lalexander, the most important ally and he is important because belarus has a long border with ukraine and using it to mount attacks towards ukrainian territory. the main point to get the invasion going and they're still launching missiles and drowns towards ukrainian territory, as well. he's important to ukraine and said he'll continue to allow vladimir putin to mount such attacks but not use his own forces unless he is attacked from ukraine. now, of course, we know that right now that is not in the
cards. we also have to mention, pamela, that of course, he is also very dependent on vladimir putin. he was telling vladimir putin the cooperation between the two countries was going very well and being expanded but the one thing that he thought they could make combat jets like the a-10 of the soviet block but less capable but a yet the belarusians think they can start manufacturing lukashenko said they could produce. the ukrainians having trouble with ammunition running low. the russians having problems, as well. they said they need to ramp up production of ammunition but for other war inventory, as well, like for instance jets. very important that cooperation. two leaders said and you know
right now it's pretty pivotal time here in moscow as well. we're already looking towards next week when vladimir putin is going to hold a key speech right before the one year anniversary of this war and then we'll really see whether the russians escalate further, pamela. >> thank you. joining us is wesley clark, the former nato supreme allied commander and retired lieutenant general mark hurtling, the former u.s. army commander in europe, also with us tonight, our contributor jill doherty and burro chief. great to have you. general hertling, starting with you, president zelenskyy is again urging allies to speed up weapons delivery. he's done this many times before but what makes this moment different in your view? >> i think this is a race -- >> general clark, i'll be with you in a second. go ahead general hertling.
>> this is a race. russia has to have mobilized forces and integrate western weapons into their formation. putin's army is not ready for a large scale offensive but putin is forcing them to go on this offensive because of their fear of the new weapons being delivered to the battle field. you heard fred mention right now that -- or i think alex said they just graduated close to a battalion of soldiers in germany and putin is worried about this. he's pushing the conscripts into the fight and being reported they are being mauled. it's again a race between the two armies to see who can get an advantage and i think ukraine is going to have the advantage if they can hold defenses for a few more weeks. >> general clark? >> well, i think from the ukrainian perspective, they're constantly saying they're short of ammunition and artillery troops and i think that's true.
i hear from a lot of people over there they have been restricted and gun rounds and we've known that for months but we can't supply the 125 millimeter rounds. so the assistance coming from the west is really important for them. in the meantime, putin has maybe 300,000 troops there. he doesn't care about the lives of his soldiers the way we do in the west. he's pushing them forward. he likes to inflict attrition war on ukrainians and like to have them consume their own brigades in the defense up there in bakhmut and take the mobile reserve preferring to do the counter offense and plug the gap with that. that would freeze everything up. there is real concern here that if ukraine miscalculates to go into the offensive in the south, got to hold in the north around bakhmut and it's stretching forces really thin.
they need everything they can get them sooner than we can get it there. >> i think you made an important point, as well, general clark, about he doesn't care about his soldiers and their lives like we do here in the west and jill doherty, to add to the perspective, we heard from alex marquardt there. there are more than 200,000 russian dead and wounded so far in this war but this is not going to stop vladimir putin, will it? >> at least at this point. i mean, that -- you know, that is the question because if you have that many people going back to russia in body bags, you begin to wonder if there will be some type of reaction but it appears at this point and i'm looking at the polls and questions and trying to figure out what russians actually feel about this. i think at this point they still have a very passive idea. the people at the top probably know better than we do and there
is the putin people have been definitely trying to have as much patriotism and war fever and all of that in people to support putin and his war. so whether they will be turned in the end against this war, it's very hard to say but at this point, it does not appear to be changing at least putin's mind. >> that is clear and we're almost to the near mark general hertling, really sad to think of it that way. almost a year into this and continues to drag on. how desperate will putin be for a symbolic victory ahead of next friday's anniversary of his invasion? >> he certainly wants something to claim as a victory, and he was assuming bakhmut would be that and another place where the group is active. you know, pamela, it's been fascinating. we've been talking about bakhmut for three months now and the ukrainians continue to hold.
they have been desperate in their attempts to hold that city as a counter propaganda tool against mr. putin and they don't want to give up any part of their territory in this face of the operation. so putin will no matter what happens, will declare that he's had multiple victories as jill will probably say but he hasn't. he has killed a lot of forces. he's destroyed as army and become a pariah on the world stage as an individual and culture. >> all right. thank you-all so much. general wesley clark, mark hurtling, jill doherty, appreciate it. the five former officers charged in the fatal beating of tyre nichols appear in a memphis courtroom with nichols mother looking on. a cnn exclusive, a first-hand look at a chinese facility that may be linked to beijing's spy balloon program. you're "the situation room."
and charged in the beating of tyre nichols. the defendants pleaded not guilty as tie renickel's mother was there. nick, tell us more about what happened in the courtroom and the latest in the investigation. >> today was a big day for the family and community. it's the first time we see the officers publicly since the video, the brutal beating was released and the first time the parents were in the same room as the men accused of murdering their son. wee seen the nichols family navigate this unimaginable situation with courage and grace leaning into faith with the mother believing her son was here for a higher her post and mission. she was on a mission today and listen to what she told reporters after this arraignment was done why it was so important for her to be there today. >> i want each and every one of those police officers to be able to look me in the face. they haven't done that yet. they couldn't even do that today. they didn't even have the courage to look at me in my face
after what they did to my son. so they're going to see me at every court date. >> exactly. >> everyone, until we get justice for my son. >> after the arraignment, we got a glimpse into what the potential defense would be for some of these officers with the attorney for bean saying his client was never seen at any point in the video we've seen publicly released. that he was not seen at any point beating nichols and he was offering help and the attorney for another officer seemed to allege the race of his client may play a role in his due process. the investigation is on going. we know 13 officers have been disciplined or will face discipline for their role and involvement in nichols death and we're learning the district attorney's office is looking into the cases both pending and past cases of these officers that have been dismissed from the police department so about 100 cases so far and meanwhile,
we're awaiting video 20 hours of video and audio from the scene expected to be released in the coming weeks. pamela. >> thank you. we're joined by the attorney for tie re tyre nichols' family ben crump. his family was in court as the five officers pleaded not guilty. first off, how is the nichols family doing? >> as ms. wells entered court she feels numb knowing she's going to be in the same room with the people who murdered her son and she was like in a nightmare but she was doing her best because she wanted them to look at her in her eyes. that's what she wanted because she said without yelling or screaming at them, looking in her eyes, she was going to be
asking them how could you do this to my son? >> it took a tremendous amount of courage for her to go there and be there in the same room with those officers. let's turn to the decision by all five of these former officers to plead not guilty to these serious charges. what do you make of that? >> pamela brown, we expect that that, you know, is the process. as we are champions for civil rights of everybody, you're innocent until proven guilty in the court of law so we want those officers to be able to have their day in court but we also want tyre nichols' family, his mother and father and their family to be able to have their day in court so we are continuing to push as chief davis said that this matter moves swiftly towards justice.
>> i'm curious, you know, you talk about due process and what an important part of our criminal justice that is. a lawyer for one of the fires officers suggested his client's race is relevant to his due process saying let's not forget my client is a black man in a courtroom in amany erica which country black people are incarcerated at five times the rate of white people. what is your response to that? >> well, it rings hollow when you look at that video, pamela brown, because that video is so revealing to the lack of humanity that they offered to tyre nichols as they brutalized him. they literally beat him to death and there is no way to justify that. he can -- and all of them can make whatever defenses they
want. you cannot unsee that video once you see the video of tyre nichols being brutally killed by police officers. it's a watershed moment for america like the rodney king video was that nobody will forget once they see it. >> you heard nick havevalencia about another attorney said his client was trying to help tie renickels and wasn't seen in the video that was released. what do you say to that? >> that is going to be the defense they offer that well, my client only punched him, he didn't kick him. my client never hit him with a police baton and so they are going to come up with all kind of defenses. we pray that the judges have the trials jointly, everybody at once so we won't have any jury verdicts that contradict one another, pamela brown, and that they are all tried by one jury in one trial and the jury can determine if all of them are
guilty of every charge or some of them are going to be guilty of second-degree murder, which is the highest charge and some of them be convicted of official oppression or obstruction of justice of those things. so we fully expect they all going to point the fingers at each other but based on what we see in that video, all of them are guilty of inhumanity. >> all right. ben crump, thank you. now to another faltal encounter with police in sheave p -- shreveport, louisiana. a body camera captured the shooting of an unarmed african american man. more on this case and we want to warn you some viewers may find this video difficult to watch. [ gunshots ]. >> two officers arrive at the home of alonzo baggily responding to a 911 call regarding a domestic disturbance. >> what's your name?
>> alonzo? >> can you step out for me? >> no. what you need? >> step out. >> come on, sir, you disturbing the peace. >> sit down. >> let me put my dog out. >> he's complicated. that's right. >> let her -- hey, come here. >> put the dog up. >> put my dog up. >> she can put the dog up. >> first officer follows baggily down the hallway as his wife continues to yell in the background. >> hey, hey! >> the officer realizes baggily is heading out the door of a balcony and sees him jump from the second floor to the ground below. he turns back to run through and out of the apartment down stairs to chase after baggily. once outside, you hear one officer yell to the other. >> he went that way. >> about five seconds later, you hear a single gunshot. [ gunshots ]. >> it's been 1 minute and 25 seconds since officers first knocked on the door. >> send ems. shots fired. shots fired. >> reporter: for the next two
minutes you hear the officers distraught and administering cpr. >> hey, you're good. keep breathing. keep breathing. keep breathing. >> stay with me, man? stay with me. [ bleep ]. [ bleep ]. >> keep breathing. keep breathing, dude. keep breathing. keep breathing. keep breathing. >> [ bleep ]. >> hey, go to the front of the building. go to the front of the building. wave them down with your flashlight. run, run, run. >> hey, dude, you're going to be all right. you're going to be all right. look at me. look at me. look at me! look at me! look at me! hey! wake up! wake up! look at me! look at me! hey! respond! come on! come on! come on! wake up! respond! >> reporter: baggily was unarmed during the encounter according to louisiana state police.
the officer who fired the shot alexander tyler is charged with negligent homicide. in court thursday, a louisiana state police investigator told the judge in the split second after the shot is fired, you can see in the body camera footage baggily's hands are up. on cross-examination, the investigator acknowledged the view from the body camera is obstructed by the way the officer turned in the moment the shot is fired. >> officers are always faced on a day to day basis with dangerous situations like that and at times where they have to make split-second decisions where they're in a potential life threatening situation. the mere fact that an argument is being made by the investigator in court that he was unarmed does not necessarily mean he's not a threat to the officer. >> reporter: a very rough video to watch and i tell you, community members are asking for the police to make whole sale changes when it comes to policy and how officers chase suspects.
you won't see the officer's orange jump chusuit doing the ft court appearance because in this date you can't film first court appearances and his mug shot will not be released. the family is joining the community asking the police department and moving forward with a lawsuit. reporting in shreveport, louisiana, ryan young, cnn. >> thank you. coming up tonight, a major reversal from republican senator rick scott in the face of wide spread criticism over a plan that crew an attack from president biden during his state of the union address. that's next. you're "the situation room." we'll be right back. 2a's monitoring his money with a simple text. like what you see abe? yes! 2b's covered with zero overdraft fees when hehe overdraws his account by fifty bucks or less. and 2c, well, she's not going to let a lost card get her stressed. am i right? that's right. that's because these neighbors all have chase. alerts that help check.
rick scott is backing up on the plan president biden hammered during last week's state of the union address. this after this double downed in an interview last week. >> i'm not politely naming them. the idea is we won't be -- we're not going to be moved into being threatened if we don't respond. so folks, as we all apparently agree, social security and medicare is off the books now. ri right? >> nobody believes you would cut medicare or social security. nobody said it. we need to balance our budget and preserve medicare and social security. i've been clear on the law. >> cnn manu raju is live with more on this. so first off in his original
plan it did talk about sun setting for social security and medicare, just to add to context of what we heard from rick scott a week ago. now there is about face from rick scott, right, manu? >> because of unrelenting criticism he was getting from democrats and republicans alike. this plan was one senator's plan, rick scott released this last year in defiance of republican leadership in the senate. mitch mcconnell didn't want anything to do with this plan because he knew democrats would seize on it and they have done just that and it's gotten more intense over the last several weeks as the debate in the capital has raged over exactly how to raise the national debt limit to avoid a debt default. republicans say they want spending cuts. they're saying they should not come from social security and medicare. that is a post ture of the republican leadership. rick scott's plan because of the highlighting of every five years federal program according to
rick scott said he never intended to include medicare and social security. he didn't need to specify. he's defended that all along. today a change. he included that language in his plan saying all federal legislation sunsets in five years with specific exceptions of social security, medicare, national security, veteran's benefits and other essential services. he went on to say in that plan note to president biden, senator schumer and mcconnell as you know, this was never intended to apply to social security, medicare or the u.s. navy. so a move by rick scott to try to deflect criticism and scott himself facing reelection next year undoubtedly will be an issue in his race but trying to make clear, pamela, he never meant to touch entitlement programs as republicans are calling for spending cuts and rick scott saying that's not what he's talking about and
making it clear there in the change today. >> manu, stay with us. i'll bring in cnn political director david alcchalian. what does it say senator scott is changing course now? >> that he realizes it was a political loser of a position to be in and he needed to reverse course here. remember, rick scott when manu said he introduced this plan last year to the chagrin of republican leadership, he was part of republican leadership last year as the head of the campaign arm last year for republicans and yet, mitch mcconnell the party leader in the senate still was stiff arming hip and totally distancing from this plan this last week this is the plan of one senator and not the republican plan and rick scott does this complete caving to the political pressure from the president and from those in his own party in clear recognition this was not going well for him. >> and yet, and you're seeing now senator scott take a shot
across the ballot to mcccecconn right? you pointed out saying hey senator mcconnell and schumer, this is never about medicare and social security. what do we make of that? >> a really sharp divide between mcconnell and scott since the release of this plan last year. as david noted, scott was in charge of the senate gop campaign arm and mitch mcconnell had a vested interest in making sure, trying to get back into the senate majority. they had a disagreement about the issue. mcconnell didn't want an agenda to attack. he wanted to focus squarely on joe biden. when scott put out this plan it gave democrats something to seize on. it was about certain tactical disagreements the two men had. mcconnell wanted to get involved in senate primaries and scott's decision to stay out of the senate primaries didn't go over well with some of mcconnell's allies that wanted them to take a more asserted posture and senate republicans fell short, did not take back the senate majority and it's been a blame game all along and things have
only intensified including after the elections when rick scott decided to mount a challenge and tried to knock off mcconnell, blame mcconnell for not embracing this plan is one reason why the party took a drubbing and the senate races mcconnell defeated rick scott but that was the first challenge to his leadership he's faced as he became the longest serving party leader in senate history but real tension between these two men as their disagreement still is pretty intense heading into the next election cycle. >> the saga continues with that david. no surprise the white house is chiming in saying scott's updated plan acknowledges quote they have been attempting to put medicare and social security on the chopping block. so did scott just hand biden a victory? >> well, biden clearly scored a victory with this talking point. look at what scott did. he had to cut and run on this particular issue but now, what
you see is scott is trying to sort of take away that victory in the white house is saying we don't care that he now no longer says or has this exception for medicare and social security. we're still going to proceed with hammering on this because he did at one time propose this and he's owning up to the fact that he did not have this exception. so just the fact that scott is now reversing course, pamela, does not mean we're going to stop hearing democrats from trying to paint republicans with a broad brush on this issue. >> right. imajority leader chuck schumer is posting a link saying when people show you who they are, believe them the first time. i mean, like we just heard from david, manu, it's safe to say we haven't heard the end of democrats' criticism to the plan. >> it's how the parties dealt with the issue of entitlement over the last several election cycles. republicans recognizing it's not a political win tore deal with
the programs even though they're facing changes that need to be made cutting benefits or raising taxes to ensure going forward. republicans do. w-- don't want to deal with this. the house budget chairman proposed changes to medicare and democrats hammered them on the issue. remember george w. bush proposed changes to social security privatizing elements of social security. that failed and also democrats used that as the next election cycle. now republicans don't want to talk about this at all but still big questions, pamela, because there is going to be a major debate here in the capital about how do they cut spending with more than $30 trillion in the national debt as they try to get an agreement to raise the national debt limit and if they keep entitlements off the table, what other programs could be on the chopping block? that's a big debate that will play out here over the next several months. >> as manu notes, the sole van
s -- solvent still exists. >> thank you both. just ahead tonight, fox' top stars repeatedly broadcast and hyped trump's election lies but off the air, they blasted the former president's baseless claims. the revealing look behind the scenes from fox news in a new court filing. that's next. but with upwork, there's highly skilled t talent from all over the globe right at youour fingertips. it's where businesesses meet great remote talent and remote talent meets great opportunity. ♪ ♪ this is how we work now ♪ ♪ma ma ma ma♪ [clears throut] for fast sore throat relief, try vicks vapocool drops with two times more menthol per drop*, and the powerful rush of vicks pors for fast-acting relief you can feel. vicks vapocool drops. fast relief you can feel.
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a damming new court filing reveals how top executives and some of the biggest names at fox really felt about donald trump's lies around the 2020 election even as they hyped his bogus claims on air. a cnn report shows it coming to light as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by dominion voting systems. >> is the fix already in? >> reporter: it is damming indictment of fox news.
>> the outcome of the presidential election was seized from the hands of voters. >> reporter: as a network repeatedly promoted former president trump's 2020 election fraud claims to millions of viewers. >> every american should be angry. you should be outraged. you should be worried. you should be concerned at what has happened in the election, in the leadup to the election. >> reporter: privately top anchors and executives mocked trump's lies calling them ludicrous, really crazy stuff and totally off the rails. the revelations coming from hundreds of pages of newly released evidence in the legal filing as part of the dominion voting system lawsuit against fox news. in these texts, tucker charleston texting other fox news hosts. sydney powell is lying by the way. i caught her. it's insane. he says about trump's lawyer sydney powell and rudy giuliani's unfounded claims. sydney is a complete nut. no one will work with her.
ditto with rudy. it's unbelievable offensive to me. our viewers are good people and they believe it. as those same hosts went on the air arguing completely otherwise. >> all right. these election challenges are still going on and disturbing irregularities have been found and must be investigated to the fullest. >> reporter: on election night, the network first to call arizona for biden. >> the fox news decision desk is calling arizona for joe biden. that is a big get for the biden campaign. >> reporter: as trump's baseless conspiracy theories started to take hold. >> this is a fraud on the american public. so we'll be going to the u.s. supreme court. >> reporter: carlson wrote his producer warning that trump could easily destroy us if we play it wrong. the court documents showing a scramble behind the scenes as viewers repelled against fox for calling the contest in biden's favor in a course correction internally to priortize
profitability over the truth. after fox news reporter jackie henrik fact checked a tweet tucker carlson texting colleagues please get her fired seriously, what the f. it's measurably hurting the company. the stock price is down. fox news in a statement argues the court filing contains cherry picked quotes lacking context. as fox news hosts continue this week to sew doubt. >> was the 2020 election a miracle? we don't know to get an answer to it tonight. >> the documents revealing on january 6th trump tried to call in fox business to get on the air and the network refused saying it would be irresponsible and could impact a lot of people in a enegative way. coming up, a cnn exclusive, our team tracked to a shadow chinese facility with possible ties to beijing spy balloons.
tonight, a cnn exclusive. our team got a firsthand look at a chinese facility that may be involved with developing beijing's spy balloons. this is a facility that china does not want anyone to see. what did the cnn cameras capture? >> reporter: the reason why it was important for us to go there and cnn was the first international news organization in the world to go there and actually capture these images that would need to know more about where the balloon was made so that to decide if there was any credence at all to this chinese argument that this plan was only a weather balloon. when you apply to this facility, one of chinese entities that have been sanctioned by the biden administration, you see
very clearly military activity. they have attack helicopters under stealth hangers, a giant dome where they test high- altitude balloons similar to the belief that flew over the u.s. for seven days and corporate records which suggest this company actually had permits to develop and manufacture products for the chinese military. >> so let's talk a little bit more about that. any more proof that this facility is in fact tied to the chinese military? >> oh, absolutely. even when you fly in, when our team flew in, they had to close the airplane window shades as they were flying over this facility and it also sets a short distance from a large military base. while we cannot definitively prove that these bible and was made at this particular factory even though state media reports talk about the fact that it can
carry communications equipment for surveillance and reconnaissance, because china is so obscure and secret about these things, we don't know for sure but what we do know is that balloons that are manufactured there are very similar to the chinese spy balloon sitting very close to a military base in this facility is permitted to manufacture for the military. coming up, we are going live to memphis where the five police officers charged in tyre nichols death pleaded not guilty. maybe try switching your car insurance to progressivev. you could d save hundreds. [ audience laughter ] thananks, tv dad. we'll think about it, okay? look what i found. -a puppy! -a puppy! oh, no, no. i wish tv dad was always in charge. [ dog barks, audience laughter ] listen to your tv dad.
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nichols mother has been speaking out after she says the defendants refused to look her in the eye. new court evidence that fox news anchors and privately trashed trumps claims of fraud. we will go to eastern ukraine where a critical battle is unfolding after russia's invasion and we will hear from a key ally who was warning the world to prepare for the war to drag on a lot longer. i am pamela brown and you are in the situation room. tonight, five fired police officers charged in the death of tyre nichols have entered not guilty pleas. cnn's senior justice correspondent has our report from memphis. >> they did not even have