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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  February 18, 2022 2:00pm-3:00pm PST

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negotiating table. last night russia agreed to secretary of state blinken and foreign minister lavrov should meet february 24th. february 24th, in europe. but if russia takes military action before that date, it will be clear that they have slammed the door shut on diplomacy. they will have chosen war and they will pay a steam price for doing so. not only from the hispanics we and our allies will impose on russia but the more outraged the rest of the world will visit upon them. there are many issues that divide our nations and our world. standing up to russian aggression is not one of them. the american people are united. europe is united. the tran atlantic community is united. the entire free world is united. russia has a choice between war and all the suffering it will
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bring or diplomacy that will make a future safer for everyone. now, i'm happy to take a few questions. nancy from bloomberg. >> thank you so much, sir. do you think it is wise for president zelensky to leave ukraine if an invasion is as imminent as the u.s. says it is? >> that's a judgment for him to make and a determination as to whether or not -- i've spoken with zelensky a dozen times. maybe more. i don't know. and in the pursuit of a diplomatic solution, it may not -- it may be the wise choice. it is his decision. >> do you have any indication about whether president putin has made a decision on whether -- do you feel confident that he hasn't made that decision or not? >> as of this moment, i am convinced he's made the decision. we have reason to believe that. >> there seems to be a unanimity
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between the united states and europe to do comprehensive sanctions. is everyone on board with the exact same sanctions that you want to do? >> yes. there will be some slight differences but none -- there will be more add-ons than subtractions. >> and president putin will oversee some nuclear drills this weekend? how do you see that happening? what is your reaction to that, thank you. >> well, i don't think he is remotely contemplating using nuclear weapons. but i do think, i think he is focused on trying to convince the world that he has the ability to change the dynamics in europe in a way that he cannot. but i don't -- how much of it is
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a cover for just saying we're doing exercises and there is more than that, i just can't, it is hard to read his mind. >> to be clear, you are convinced that president putin is going to invade ukraine. is that what you just said a few minutes ago? >> yes. yes, i did. >> so is diplomacy off the table? >> no. until he does, diplomacy is always a possibility. >> what reason do you have to believe he is considering that option at all? >> we have a significant intelligence capability. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> so there you have it. very, very strong words from the president of the united states. i am wolf blitzer in "the situation room." we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. we're following this major, major breaking news. president biden, as you just saw, speaking on the
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russia-ukraine crisis right now as it is escalating big time by the hour. our correspondents are on the scene in ukraine, russia, in the united states, covering all the growing threats of a war in europe. let's begin now with our senior white house correspondent, phil mattingly. we just heard the president say that he is convinced that putin has made up his mind. that he will invade, in his words, this is from the president of the united states. he believes, we have reason to believe that an attack on ukraine by russia will happen in his words in the coming week, in the coming days. this is the first time he's said that putin has actually made up his mind to invade ukraine within the coming days. >> reporter: it's a significant statement. the officials over the course of several weeks have been unwilling to make, saying they did not believe he had made up his mind or not wanting to comment on it at all. the president now explicitly saying based on intelligence
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capabilities, the u.s. and he believes president putin has made up his mind to invade. this gives you a window into what we've seen over a dramatic last 48 hours of top u.s. officials around the globe making very clear, they believed an invasion was imminent. hague out in detail what they believe russian plans are for that invasion. trying to front run anything may happen. in large part because there's a sincere belief, as the president just alluded to, that the u.s. believes president putin has made that decision. a couple of other elements that stood out from the president's remarks right there. the point he was trying to make up top with his decision to call into the bipartisan delegation members of congress that are at the munich security conference now, as well as the conversation with the transatlantic leaders a if you hours ago, of the unity. not just on world leaders. not just with western allies but also political parties, trying to make the point that if the goal was to split nato, western alliances or even political
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parties in the united states, that effort has failed to this point. in fact, the opposite has happened. the other element is the president really echoing what we've heard from his secretary of state, from his secretary of defense over the last day or two, laying out in detail what the u.s. knows about potential efforts for pretext of invasion, false flag operations, perhaps mead reports that are false to lay the ground work for an invasion, but how would it play out. the president detailing though things once again, making it very clear the u.s. is trying to stay on its front foot. the president now saying the decision was already made. >> he was very flat on that. let me repeat what he said. he said putin has made a decision as of this moment, he's made a decision. there is reason to believe that. then when he was pressed. are you convinced he is going to invade? the president of the united states said yes. there is reason to believe an attack could come in the coming
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week, in the coming days. matthew chance is in kyiv for us right now. powerful words from the president. i'm sure it will startle all the folk who are where you are. >> reporter: yeah. absolutely. i've not heard, none of us have heard the u.s. president talk about it in such stark terms as that. he was even pressed by one of the reporters. how do you know he's made that decision? he said because we have considerable intelligence capability, revealing there that they, or saying at least, that they have an insight into what vladimir putin intends to do. and look, it is such a massive departure from the situation we're in just a few minutes ago. just six months ago. just last week. we've been talking that whole period about the build-up of tens of thousands of troops by russia, near borders of ukraine. we've been talking about how russia poses a real threat or gives the impression of posing a threat. right until the 11th hour, the 59th minute of the 11th hour, as
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we keep on saying. vladimir putin could decide whether or not to pull the trigger on an invasion. what the president of the united states is now saying is that he believes that decision at the kremlin to invade ukraine has actually been taken. we've already reached out to my contacts at the kremlin. they haven't gotten back. >> the president of ukraine is going to head to the security conference, even though u.s. officials are deeply concerned the russians will take advantage of that. >> reporter: yeah. maybe after hearing those remarks by president biden, he will think again about his travel plans. i spoke to ukrainian officials a few minutes ago about those travel plans and the concerns raised by the white house, that if president zelensky leaves the country, it could be a conflict starting, flights, back again, it could be perceived as a sense
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in which the president of the country has left the country ahead of an invasion. and what the ukrainian officials i spoke to that, look, diplomacy is he moment is just as important as the front line in eastern ukraine. and it is inconceivable, i'm slightly paraphrasing here, that government representatives and the president of the country wouldn't engage in that kind of diplomacy at the highest level and that's what they see. particularly because there is a meeting scheduled with u.s. president and president zelensky. >> stand by. i want to bring jim sciutto into this. you've been reporting on this all day that there has been in recent days, a palpable change among u.s. and nato officials. we heard that directly from the president moments ago. >> reporter: the palpable change being they have a bleak assessment of russian intentions here. you heard that very directly,
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very publicly from the president. i think we need to reiterate that from the u.s. president saying a decision has been made. to this point the decision has been, they have the capabilities, they have all the forces they need to launch a comprehensive invasion of ukraine, but that putin had not made that decision. the u.s. president says, in fact, the latest assessment is that he has made that decision. the other notable comment was the president saying, attacking here in the ukrainian capital kyiv is part of the plan. i've been reporting for some time, at the higher end of russian options here, putin's options here, was a broad scale invasion from the south, the east, including down here in the capital of ukraine. but that is considered not an outlier but the most dramatic decision the russian president could make here. the u.s. president just said, he believes ukraine, sorry, kyiv, is a target of that invasion plan. that's a remarkable thing to say. that this is a capital, a free
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capital of a sovereign european state in the year 2022. and the u.s. believes russia not only has the forces to take over this capital, but now, the russian president has made the decision to do so as well. that's quite a moment in these weeks, frankly, a build-up to the threat of ukraine. >> let's not forget where you are, the city of kyiv, a city of almost 3 million people right now. and we just heard president biden say that city is about to be attacked by the russians. abby phillip, give us a sense of how critical a moment this is for president biden. indeed, for the world. >> reporter: i think president biden was basically preparing the american public as he and his administration have for several weeks now for a really significant event. a significant event for the united states and for europe. if russia were to invade ukraine in the way describe, that could mean some of the most
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significant fighting in europe since the end of world war ii. that's nothing to take lightly. you see the significance of it in the way that the president's aides have been trying to say to the american people that, while we are not going to put our soldiers on the line, this matters to us. and the corollary to that is, this could have effects on us as a country in terms of how gas prices are affected, and our broader security. the president is in a very pivotal moment. he just came off the experience. afghanistan that was embarrassing for his administration. this is a moment to show leadership on the global stage and to restore a sense of compensationy from the american public that he and his administration are capable of managing. a really thorny and tricky situation in ukraine. >> yeah. this is a very, very dangerous moment indeed. not just for europe.
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for the world. everybody stand by. i want to bring in retired u.s. general phillip reid, the former commander in europe. give us your reaction from the ominous words we just heard from the president of the united states. >> thanks, wolf. for sure we have seen for a number of days that mr. putin had a force that was ready and capable. not being exposed to everything the president that, it is clear he believes this will happen. i think this is a tough judgment to have to deal with. apparently mr. putin has looked at what he sees the west is prepared to do and he has decide that had it is worth it for him to make this adventure. >> but you heard, he and the russian people will pay a very, very steam price. not only sanctions from the
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u.s., the nato allies, the european union, so many other countries around the world. but an enormous political price. russia will be isolated, and also, in terms of casualties, if there is a full-scale war, a lot of russian troops will be killed. is putin ready for that? >> reporter: well, if he invades, then he's made the decision that he's ready for it. that's pretty straightforward. you are right though. there are things that are not in his favor. remember, it was the moms in moscow that gave him so much trouble after the last invasion of ukraine. and his own problems at home with young soldiers coming home in body bags. so he has to have this in his calculus. i think though that when it comes to sanctions, what he's seen in the past that he can weather them people have often
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asked, has it changed putin. what is clear is that it has not changed his behavior. because after '08, we sanctioned him. after sanctioned him. and now he's back. the u.s. who is the deliver so he doesn't come back in two or three years. >> nic robertson is on the scene for us. do they appreciate the enormity of what is about to happen? the president of the united states saying in the next few days, this week, russia is about to invade ukraine? and there will be enormous fallout. do folks in moscow where you are appreciate that? >> reporter: i don't think they fully appreciate what might happen. i think they think there's a resilience in russia at the moment and i think part of putin's calculation may also be, that even when he had the problem with the moscow moms and
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the body bags coming back from the invasion and the annexation of crimea, his own popularity rating went through the roof. it was in the 90s. it is in the 60s now. getting back to what was said about this more and more disinformation, the fabrication and the cause to go toer with a, that is what russian viewers have been seeing on their tvs this afternoon. as the two rebel leaders from donetsk in eastern ukraine called on the civilians to get on buss and drive to take shelter inside russia. the images being played on state television hear, and i have to tell you quite incredible. because on the main screen that was playing, it was how to -- it was redecorating your house. yet in a little box on the screen were people, young
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children, getting ready to be loaded on to buses or people packing bags to evacuate on a permanent loop. so it was really ginning up that idea that people are under threat. the vulnerable are under threat. that russia needs to help them. to get to president biden's point that he appears to have made the calculation that putin has made the decision to invade. biden was asked, is there still space for diplomacy, and he said, i'm not sure that he wants diplomacy. the underlying thing that beside the military build-up has been this potentially fabricated narrative of diplomacy. that's what biden is talking about with fabrications. >> jim sciutto -- go ahead. >> since world war ii. if these predictions bear out. it is other sobering moment to
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witness. i think we have to be cautious on all sides if this goes forward. >> you're there in kyiv in the capital. earlier, an hour before the president spoke, white house officials on the record said they have confirmed it was russia. the intelligence units in russia that launched these cyberattacks in ukraine. the banks, the defense ministry, other critically important operations in ukraine. it was unclear previously who was responsible. they now say it was russia and they're also warning the russians could launch further attacks as well as going after locations in the u.s. what is the reaction there? i'm not sure that jim sciutto heard us. we'll continue to follow this. this element of cyberwarfare is exploding right now. there is enormous fear at the
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white house, the defense department, the cia, that it is about to get. so worse. everybody stand by. we're following all the breaking news. very, very strong words from the president of the united states. also, another major story we're following, breaking news, the national archives now confirming it has found classified documents in boxes of president trump's at mar-a-lago. plus, officer kim potter indicted for killing of dante wright. ththroughout history i've observed markets shaped by thehe intentional and unforeseeable. for ininvestors who can navigae this landscape, leveraging gold, a strategic and sustainable asset... the path is gilded with the potential for rich returns. (vo) verizon is going ultra! and so is manny!
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major breaking news this
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hour, president biden saying he is convinced the russian president vladimir putin has made up his mind, has made a decision to invade ukraine, he says within this week, within coming days. let's discuss, a key member of the house intelligence committee. he's fully briefed on what's going on. thank you for joining us. how concrete does the evidence of to be for a president of the united states to make a determination, an historic, very ominous determination like that. >> i think it has to be substantial. and as you know, in the intelligence business, assessments are usually given with high confidence or low confidence or somewhere in between, and although i haven't been privy to this latest information that he has been exposed to, i would suppose that he's making this statement with a high degree of confidence. >> what do you make of the fact
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that the president also said, they're not only going to invade ukraine but they'll go into the ukrainian capital city of kyiv. a city of nearly 3 million people and attack there as well. >> well, i guess i have two reactions. the first is that he's basically telling people to prepare for an attack. kyiv is about the size of chicago. so this is a very, very large city. i think the second aspect of what he's doing in disclosing that we know that putin is intending tad this, to go after kyiv, to invade, it might also be an attempt to wrongfoot the russian leader. to get him guessing. to get him thinking, what else do the americans know? does that create a little bit of hesitation and perhaps just a little more time for diplomacy to work? >> they are still hoping for
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diplomacy. it looks like that is not necessarily happening right now. as you know, congressman, the u.s. had urged the ukrainian president zelensky not to leave kyiv this weekend, go to the munich security conference. do you think zelensky should not go? should stay put? >> i wouldn't pretend to know everything that mr. zelensky is facing. but all things being equal, right now is a very perilous moment to leave the country. and it could offer the russians just the opportunity that they need to basically decapitate the leadership, and that would be obviously very convenient for the russians to do and part of their plan anyway. >> the russians would say he's escaped. he's trying to save himself so he's left ukraine. headed off to munich and that would be an opportunity for them.
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thank you so much for joining us. >> thank you so much. up next, more breaking news. the national archives confirming it found boxes it retrieved in mar-a-lago last month. is the former president of the united states in legal jeopardy? we'll pay off your phone up to $800. you can keep your phone. and keep your number. visit your local t-mobile e ste today.
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there's more breaking news we're following. the national archives has just confirmed they have found classified materials in boxes taken from mar-a-lago after former president trump left office. and that they've discussed the findings with the u.s. justice department. let's discuss with the former
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fbi director andrew mccabe and senior legal analyst, andrew, just how serious of a violation potentially is this? >> well, wolf, i think it is important that people focus on the thing of most importance to federal investigators and folks at the justice department. that is determining whether or not this potential mishandling of classified information has created a threat to national security. so it's imperative that fbi agents and doj prosecutors get a look at this material to determine whether or not sources and methods and you know, classified information and national defense information has in fact, you know, gotten out in a way that could create a problem for our national defense, compromised sources, and exposed collection. that's the first and most important thing they need to discern. and then figure out the potential of criminal liability later. >> does this mean the former president actually may have
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committed a crime? is there a chance he could be prosecuted for it? i asked the question because a sitting president could declassify anything he wants. >> we absolutely could be in criminal territory here. it is a federal crime to intentionally remove or destroy classified information. if it was done, not by accident, but intentionally and knowingly. if these documents were marked classified and anyone who could read would know they were classified. if there was proof after an investigation that it was done intentionally, then you have a crime. yes, a sit go president can declassify documents. no, a former president cannot retroactively declassify. if donald trump did, there would be some witness or some record to reflect that. in the absence of that, we could be in criminal territory. >> a good point. the archives confirmed that the former president continued on tear up documents after being told not to do so.
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do you see this as further evidence that he didn't think the rules actually applied to him? >> well, i think it is undeniable evidence. we know this president had all kinds of problems handling sensitive and classified information. he took a highly classified imagery and put on it his twitter feed. he exposed highly sensitive information we had from a foreign government to a different foreign government. this is not the first time we've seen the former president play fast and loose with the rules around national security. and in my opinion, it indicates a persistent disregard for national security. these rules are in place for a reason. it is to protect all of us and it is incumbent upon a president to do that. >> a federal judge just ruled that civil lawsuits, seeking to hold trump accountable for january 6th consideration in fact move forward. how significant is it to see a judge rule that a president can be sued? the former president, for something that happened while he was actually in office on
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january 6th. >> well, that's significant as a legal doctrine. the notion a former president can be sued for something and it arguably touched on the office. i would say it went well beyond his duties. it is also an important statement by former president trump. for the january 6th attack and more importantly, it keeps donald trump in this case, meaning the next phase here is discovery where you gather documents, where he could be subject to depositions and other testimony under oath. so we'll see what comes out of that. >> thank you very much. just ahead, a very emotional day in court for the sentencing of kim potter, the former minneapolis police officer who killed daunte wright. the wright family said they feel cheated and hurt by the judge's sentence. the downloads are flying fast! verizon is going ultra, so your business can too.. i'm mark and i live in vero beach, florida.
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wright after drawing her gun continue ever instead of a taser has been sentenced to two years after talking about her remorse with a sentence that could see her serve as little as 16 months in prison. cnn security correspondent josh campbell is joining us right now. what is the wright family saying about the sentence? >> reporter: they are furious. they're calling this a miscarriage of justice. this sentence, two years, was much less than what we were expecting. that's because you understand minnesota guidelines for someone in a situation like kim potter would call for the range of six to eight and a half years. someone who was convicted but had no prior criminal history. the judge saying that a lesser sentence was warrant in the her view for two reasons. she said this scene was chaotic. officers in her words are required to make split second decisions. but also, she said this officer didn't intend to draw her service weapon when she fired
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that fatal shot. nevertheless, we are hearing the family outraged in response to this verdict. take a listen to what we saw today in the aftermath of the sentence. >> a police officer who is supposed to serve and protect, took so much away from us. she took our baby boy away from w a single gunshot through his heart. she shattered mine myself life and my world will never, ever be the same. i am so sorry that i hurt you so badly. my heart is broken, devastated for all of you. >> i feel cheated, hurt. i'm very upset. >> this is the problem with our justice system today. white women's tears trump justice. >> reporter: now, the judge in this case called this the perhaps most difficult case she's had to assumsupervise in
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time on the bench. the wright family grieving the loss of their loved one. she talked about how this has disrupted kim potter's life. a very difficult case. we are learning now from the statement from the attorney general there in minnesota that keith ellisson, he said he accepts the sentence. he urges other people to semiit. however, it is important to knowering says i don't ask to you agree with the judge's decision which takes nothing away from the truth of the jury's verdict. >> thank you very much. let's discuss with cnn political commentator van jones. thank you for joining us. potter's two-year sentence significantly less than the six, eight and a half years recommended in state sentencing guidelines. what do you make of that? >> well, it's an abuse of discretion from my point of view. it is really the jury's job to figure out what happened out there. it's not the judge to come back and say, well, the jury thought
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that it was very severe and inexcusable and need as long prison sentence but i feel bad about it but i'll do what i want. lawlessness from the bench, lawlessness in the police department, in the streets is the problem. a judge needs to take seriously these guidelines. take seriously the jury's hard work. take seriously the pain of the family. i've never seen a judge crying for a killer. i mean, the stuff going on now in some of these cases is really, really shocking. and i think some people expected at least the judge would fall, the judge was obviously pro, with the police the whole time. i think people would expect the judge today would at least follow basic law. the basic guidelines. that she departed so radically. shed almost tears for a convicted killer. it is an insult to the families, to the process, an insult to the
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entire thing we're going through as a country. >> listen to the entire statement from daunte wright's mother about the emotion the judge actually showed today. listen to this. >> to sit there and watch, park my heart out in my statement that took so long to write and i read it over and over again, to not get a response out of the judge. but when it came down to sentencing kim potter, she broke down in tears. >> so what do you make of that? a pretty stunning distinction. >> look. you had two women who were shedding tears. one, a convicted killer. the other, the mother of a child she'll never see again. and the judge was only moved by one person. the judge was only moved by one side. so much so that the judge,
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radically departed. eight years versus two years. that's a radical departure from the guidelines. and it's not warranted by anything that came out in trial. certainly not by what the jury had done. i think a lot of people lack at this. why do people say black lives matter, black lives matter. there are cases like this, black lives don't seem to matter as much in cases like this. >> van jones, thank you as usual. thank you very much. coming up, china accused of genocide against more than 1 million of its minority muslim citizensful are the winter olympics an effort to cover it up? ♪ your dell technologies advisor can help you find the right tech solutions. so you can stop at nothihing for your customers.
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the beijing winter olympic games are drawing increased attention to china's treatment of its muslim minority population of ethnic uyghurs which some are calling genocide. cnn's brian todd is joining us right now. brian, some human rights groups are accusing china of trying to entirely wipeout the uyghur population. >> reporter: and we spoke to one human rights monitor who said that flat out. tonight we have new information on the plight of the uyghurs and china's attempts to whitewash it. the head of the international olympic committee attempting to keep politics out of the winter olympics in beijing. thomas buck saying he delivered that message after a remark thursday by a spokesperson for the committee who answered a cnn
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question about accusations the muslim uyghur community is being subjected to forced labor. >> translator: i think the so-called forced labor is lies made up by groups, and the relevant organizations have provided a large amount of facts to dispute that. >> reporter: but human rights groups say the chinese government have forced hundreds of thousands of uyghurs to pick cotton, make computer parts. >> genocide has taken place. >> reporter: human rights groups believe the chinese have detained up to 2 million uyghurs in what they call re-education camps and have documented the treatment they say they've received for years. >> that includes torture, sexual violence, detention, persecution. >> reporter: naomi tracks nents of genocide interest for the u.s. holocaust memorial museum
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in washington. >> we have seen an intentional effort to reduce their ability to have children through forcibly sterilizing women, placing iuds forcibly in women, transferring children away from their families, separating men and women so they cannot have children. >> reporter: do you think they are intentionally trying to eradicate this group of people? >> from what we have seen there are very strong indications that that is the case. >> reporter: the chinese not only deny it but at the opening ceremonies of the winter games they had a cross country skier who's a uyghur take part in the lighting of the olimic cauldron. >> this is an effort by the chinese to distract us from the real issue here at hand, that uyghurs are being tortured, and uyghurs are the victims of human rights violations by the chinese. >> reporter: for noomiy, the image of the uyghur torchlighter was a jarring reminder of another disturbing effort at olympic propaganda, berlin 1936.
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>> it really brings me back to thinking about how jews might have felt in 1936. 1936 the persecution of the jews was under way. >> reporter: chine has has consistently denied committing any human rights abuses. the chinese said the so-called re-education camps are there to combat separatism in the region. coming up, breaking news. an ominous warning from president biden just a little while ago saying he's convinced russian president vladimir putin has made a decision to invade ukraine in the coming days. we're live in kyiv. we're live in moskow and more with our correspondents and our analysts. that's next.
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lbj said i wish they knew i want peace as much as they do. >> it's important to look back because there's no better way to judge the future but the past. >> lbj, triumph and tragedy premieres sunday night a at 9:0 on cnn.
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[ sigh ] not gonna happen.
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happening now, breaking news. president biden now says he's convinced vladimir putin has decided to invade ukraine in the coming days. the u.s. revealing about half of russian forces massed on the border are now in an attack position. also breaking, the national archives confirms it found classified documents ipboxes of records former president trump took with him to mar-a-lago. the justice department has been alerted. might trump be prosecuted? and kim potter, the former police officer who said she confused her gun for a taser, gets a two-year sentence in the death of daunte wright. wright's relatives are speaking out about the sentence calling it disappointing and hurtful. we want to welcome our viewers here in the united states and around the world.
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i'm wolf blitzer. you're in the situation room. >> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. we begin this hour with president biden's very grim new assessment that vladimir putin has already made up his mind to go to war in ukraine. we have correspondents in ukraine, russia, here in the united states covering this breaking story from every angle. let's go right to our senior white house correspondent phil mattingly. phil, the president says all signs now point to a russian invasion of ukraine in the coming days. >> reporter: wolf, over the last 24 hours top u.s. officials have given increasingly dire and detailed statements making clear they had significant concerns about where things may be headed, none, however was more dramatic than the statement from the president tonight. >> you are convinced that president putin is going to invade ukraine? is that what you just said a few moment


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