tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN May 17, 2022 3:00pm-4:00pm PDT
interview since returning to the united states after being held in a russian prison unfairly more than two years. i will talk to families and loved ones of other americans wrongfully detained around the world. trevor reed wants us to bring attention to their stories, too. this airs sunday, 8:00 p.m. eastern, only on cnn. i will see you back here for special election coverage in one hour. coverage continues with wolf blitzer in "the situation room." happening now. breaking news across the board. in buffalo, president biden visits a community in mourning and says the racist ideology that led to mass murder there cannot be tolerated anywhere. >> white supremacy is a poison, it is a poison. it really is. now throw in body politic, it
has been allowed to fester and grow in front of our eyes. no more. i mean, no more. >> more on the president's visit coming up, including new words the alleged gunman wasn't on a red flag list after making a prior threat. we're joined by the buffalo mayor, standing by live. he says he won't let what happened be forgotten. also tonight, key primaries in five states, including here in pennsylvania, and especially here, a key test of the former president's influence. we have the latest and close look ahead to cnn primary night coverage, just under an hour or so from now. later. even as ukrainian fighters give up the 82day defense of mariupol, a retired russian military expert on russian tv says his country is now isolated in the world and in real trouble
in ukraine. we want to welcome viewers in the united states and around the world. i am wolf blitzer in philadelphia. that's independence hall behind me. you're in "the situation room." we begin with the latest we're learning about the alleged gunman, now in custody, charged with first degree murder in the racist mass shooting at the tops supermarket saturday. he was not as you know from buffalo, from more than three hours away from buffalo. details of a very troubled past are just now coming to light. cnn's brian todd has the latest. >> reporter: in june of 2021, the gunman made a reference to a murder suicide while attending susquehanna valley high school in new york. >> online class to a teacher said he was contemplating a murder suicide. the teacher followed up on that
and the suspect indicated he was just kidding. >> reporter: in a post, he writes he was sent to the hospital for a mental evaluation, only lasted 15 minutes because i stuck with the story i was getting out of class and stupidly wrote it down. that's the reason i believe i am still able to purchase guns. it was not a joke. i wrote that down because that's what i was planning to do. despite this incident, the alleged shooter was allowed to buy firearms under federal law. the d.a. says it is hard to tell if he fell through the cracks. >> new york state police spoke with him, transported him to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation, he was cleared and released. >> reporter: the suspected gunman put out a 180 page racist statement that include details of the firearms, including an illegally modified rifle he used in saturday's attack, and a rifle he says his father bought for him. the document says he planned to use the rifle and shotgun to
continue targeting black people elsewhere in buffalo if he wasn't stopped at the supermarket. from his social media posts, cnn learned how meticulously he planned the shooting, making several visits, even drawing a map of the inside of the store. in one post he wrote about a quote, black armed security guard who questioned him. march 10th, the shooter wrote i am going to have to kill that security guard at tops. i hope he doesn't kill me or hurt me instantly. in another post, he considered attacking a church or elementary school, but decided on the grocery store because how busy a spot it was, selecting a time it would be busiest. >> for this happening and continuing to happen to our communities. >> reporter: police say the gunman shot people in the parking lot, exchanged gunfire with a security guard, shot more people in the store before surrendering. we spoke to a former classmate. >> gave me a weird feeling in my stomach for some reason. i don't know why, he was nice, he was really shy.
>> did you sense he might have been racist or just maybe odd, strange, creepy. >> odd, mostly weird sometimes. i mean, i don't like to judge people, that's the impression i got of him. >> was it a manner of speaking or things he said? >> he didn't make eye contact when i talked. he like looked around. >> brian todd joins us live. brian, investigators i understand are piecing together more of his actions in the months and days leading up to the brutal attack. what more are you learning? >> reporter: right, wolf. the operations manager of the tops supermarket told abc news she saw the suspect at the supermarket on friday, the day before the attack, and that she asked him to leave, saying he appeared to be bothering customers. the manager's brother backed up her account saying the suspect was there posing as a beggar.
they also said he was there on a reconnaissance mission. new york state police did not seek a red flag protection order against the suspect after picked up by state police following the threat he made at the school. law enforcement officials have told us that the suspect's threat was general in nature, wasn't targeted to anyone in particular, didn't mention firearms. but we have to reiterate, in the threat, he threatened to commit a murder suicide, wolf. >> cnn's brian todd from binghamton, thank you. many are in mourning and on edge in wake of the revelation of the buffalo mayor who is joining us shortly. first, shimon prokupecz has more. what more can you tell us? what are you learning? >> reporter: wolf, certainly people are taking advantage
sadly of what happened here in that they are calling in threats, trying to keep the fear alive in buffalo. a pizzeria, one man called in a threat to a pizzeria, a local brewery. that man was arrested. police yesterday saying they arrested that man and he was charged with making a terroristic threat. there was also a walmart that was facing some threats. as a result, they were forced to close. of course, police are saying these are copy cat style things people are doing to try and instill fear. wolf, you know this area well. people here are not going to live in fear. over my left there are hundreds of people gathered outside here for a prayer vigil, diverse group, kids, people from all over the area are now gathering here, despite the continued threats that people are trying to make and trying to keep the
fear in the community alive. people here say they're not going to go for it. they're going to stick together and keep fighting and keep trying to move past this and mourn together, wolf. >> yeah, the threat of copy cats is a serious problem. thank you very much. to our viewers, if you are a long time viewer of cnn, you probably know buffalo is my hometown. growing up there taught me a lot about the toughness and tenderness and simple strength of people i grew up with and am in touch with to this very day. people like the mayor. mayor, thanks for joining us. you have a lot going on. you heard reporting about the arrests. have there been additional copy cat threats in recent hours? we spoke about this yesterday. i know the community is worried about that. what can you share with us? >> there have been two arrests.
the one shimon mentioned and another over the internet where someone was making threats over social media. that individual was arrested as well. police here on high alert at every level, federal, state. buffalo police, any kind of threat, any kind of prank, any kind of copy cat activity will be taken extremely seriously. persons doing that will be found, they will be arrested, and they will be prosecuted. >> what's your reaction, mayor, to the fact that new york state police did not put the shooter on a red flag alert? >> i don't know enough about that. i would defer that to state police for their comment. there's just not enough
information that i have to comment on that at this point. i think the state police would be the appropriate agency to talk to about the red flag law in this particular case. >> good point. i know you had a chance to meet with the president of the united states and the first lady today during the important visit to buffalo. i want to ask you about that. first, i want to play some of the president's remarks earlier today. listen to this. >> what happened here is simple, straightforward, terrorism. terrorism. domestic terrorism. violence inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other
group. >> what did it do to hear the president of the united states call this domestic terrorism? >> the president came to buffalo, new york out of deep concern for this event and the pain and anguish of people in this community. the pain that the families of the victims of this brutal attack are feeling. and the president did not mince words. he called this out as domestic terrorism motivated by hate. he also spoke very powerfully and condemned white supremacy as evil. talksed about white replacement theory as a fallacy, as false information being spread by pundits over air waves and in social media and he said that
type of hate needed to stop. it needed to be denounced. i am suspecting very strongly that the president intends to take action to prevent hate speech over social media. >> what did you tell the president, mayor, about the needs of the city of buffalo going forward and what was the president's message to you? i know you met privately with him for awhile. >> i talked to the president about the need for additional resources in urban areas in the city of buffalo. certainly we are very thankful for the american rescue plan act and tens of millions of dollars that will be coming to this city through that. the bipartisan infrastructure bill which will have significant money for infrastructure.
but for decades and decades and decades urban areas of this country have been left out, they've been left behind, they have been forgotten and more resources are needed to invest in economic development, business investment, business growth, job creation, employment training so that the inner-city, the urban community in buffalo and across the country has the hope and opportunity for people to lift themselves out of poverty and be full participants in the american dream. i did share that with the president. the president talked about his strong conviction to do something about the availability of guns in this country. i saw a president with a strong resolve to get something done on
these issues that plague our nation, guns, hate over social media, and it was very comforting to the families to have the president here and for him to spend such quality time with them expressing his deep concern for their well-being. >> my heart goes out to the grieving families. it was so important for the president of the united states to visit buffalo and meet with these families today. thank you very much, mayor brown, buffalo, a city i clearly love. we're going to have much more news coming up, including our election primary coverage that's coming up just ahead, including some more breaking news coming into "the situation room" now on the january 6 investigation. a potentially major sign of growing interest at the u.s. justice department. and why the war's momentum
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justice has requested that the committee turn over some of the witness depositions as part of the department of justice's growing investigation into events that took place on capitol hill. what's interesting is that the january 6 select committee turned down the request, chairman thompson saying this information is property of the committee, it is their decision how to handle the material. he said that there may be an opportunity for the justice department to review the information in-house, but they're not going to hand over the hundreds and hundreds of witness testimony that they've compiled to this point. that being said, wolf, there are two important aspects of this development that have a lot to do with two biggest investigate tree bodies as relates to january 6. it shows that department of justice is widening investigation into what happened january 6th but shows perhaps a degree of tension between the doj and house select committee,
both with similar goals but have gone in different directions. that could be a problem as both investigations move forward, wolf? >> is there any sense, ryan, whether department of justice is following, actually following the select committee's lead to a certain extent? is it known if there's any level of coordination between the select committee and justice department? >> exactly the opposite, wolf. the committee went out of the way to say their investigation is walled off from the investigation that the department of justice is conducting and that their work is separate from any work that department of justice is conducting. in part, there's a reason. the doj needs a level of neutrality. as you know, the select committee handed over a number of contempt of congress referrals to department of justice asking them to indict mark meadows, former chief of staff, to indict steve bannon
which they've done, they have not moved on mark meadows. they've gone to great pains to not just share information back and forth without any cooperation or coordination or without a specific request. and the fact they made a specific request and the committee turned them down, shows they're not coordinated in any way, shape or form. >> yeah, this is potentially a significant development we are watching. ryan nobles on capitol hill. thank you very, very much. up next, john king is getting ready to preview a very busy an important night of primary races here in the united states. stay with us. we'll update you when we come back. good thing adding lysol laundry sanitizer kills 99.9% of bacteria that d detergents can't. clean is g good, sanitized is better. ♪
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polls closed in portions of kentucky. part of a primary night almost certain to make headlines especially here in pennsylvania where the democratic senate primary is dominated by a last minute health crisis, and the republican senate primary is at the center of a political free for all, and that's not all. cnn's john king joins us with a closer look at what's in store tonight. lots at stake, john. update viewers what you're looking at. >> wolf, start by setting the table. you're in pennsylvania. look at the map of the senate races. blue states held by democratic incumbents, red with incumbents. control of the senate is a prize in midterm year. when democrats look at the map, that republican held seat where you are in pennsylvania is one possible target. now democrats say we'll compete
in ohio, north carolina, but deep down think that's the best target. the way to get the nominees tonight, you mention the free for all on the republican side. donald trump endorsed mehmet oz. mccormick, more a typical republican, lot of trump aides work for him. kathy barnette, the surprise surging candidate. the question is can she win. when polls close, we look down here. philadelphia and the counties. montgomery chester, bucks county. 30% of the state population here. there are a lot of republicans that live in the suburbs. how do they vote. do they break for one candidate. and here in the t, this is conservative country. all gray now because we have no votes yet. go back in time, wolf. this is where donald trump runs it up, in pennsylvania in the rural counties. does that endorsement for dr. oz make a difference, do trump voters support dr. oz or does kathy barnette who campaigns
saying she's the true trumpy. when you count votes, watch philadelphia and the suburbs and watch this swathe of rural counties, see if one candidate can break out. >> and we, of course, will be checking in with you throughout the night. very important night. there's also attention on other states, john, including north carolina where the fate of the embattled congressman cawthorn hangs in the balance. what can you tell us? >> pull up north carolina. madison cawthorn involved in scandal after scandal, controversy after controversy since taking office. twice stopped carrying a gun to an airport, angered republican leadership as you recall by saying he had been invited by members of leadership to orgies where cocaine was used. he since backed away. this is his district, 11th congressional district in southwestern corridor. a republican district. if madison cawthorn wins the
primary, he is likely to go on and win re-election. this is a battle where trump came in, said give cawthorn another chance. the house republican leader says republicans, nominate somebody else, count the votes here, asheville and areas to the bwes later tonight. >> john king, we'll be in touch obviously through the night. thank you very, very much. more now on key races. jeff zeleny is in pennsylvania not too far from where i am. jeff, as we heard from john, very tight three person gop senate race in pennsylvania. what more can you tell us on energy in the oz, mccormick, barnett campaigns. >> reporter: it is uncomfortably tight for mehmet oz and mccormick because of energy from kathy barnette, developed the
last several days while both campaigns were attacking one another, she came up through the middle through her hard arguments, complaints, charges that the election in 2020 was stolen from president donald trump. of course that's not true but those claims propelled her candidates. if you talk to the oz and mccormick campaign, they overlooked and underestimated her. they say she would be a risk should she be the nominee. she pushes back and says look, she is an authentic republican, never run for public office except in 2020 when defeated by 20 percentage points in the philadelphia suburbs. wolf, she also pushed back on that saying donald trump lost the district by 26 points. she outperformed him. we will see how it works this evening. in the final 90 minutes of voting, it is undecide voters the end of the race that make the difference. did barnette convince enough to
come to her or were negative onslaught of ads against her by oz and mccore mick campaigns enough to raise doubt. we head into the final hour, hour and a half of voting, wolf. >> so much at stake. on the democratic side of the senate race here in pennsylvania what more are you learning, jeff, about the condition of lieutenant governor john fetterman. as you know, most viewers i'm sure know he was hospitalized earlier this week after suffering what he called to be a minor stroke. >> reporter: wolf, he has been in the hospital since friday, will not be at his campaign rally because he spent much of the afternoon in surgery getting a device inserted in him, defibrillator. the stroke more serious than it initially seemed. his doctors in his campaign said he will eventually recover but will not be on hand for the
race. doesn't necessarily change the race. democrats believe he is likely to become the nominee this evening, but he is running in a race with two other people. let those votes be counted. a very unusual circumstance for a leading candidate to be hospitalized and not at election headquarters, wolf. >> we'll see what happens tonight. thanks very much, jeff zeleny on the scene as he always is. coming up, focus on north carolina republican senate primary especially after former president trump spoke out about candidates he is backing. i talk it over with our political experts next. cal: our confident forever plan is possible with a cfp® professional. a cfp® professional can help you build a complete financial plan. visit letsmakeaplan.org to find your cfp® professional.
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senior political commentator, former senior adviser to proem, david axelrod. the effects of today's primaries could be far reaching indeed. what are you watching? >> pennsylvania, pennsylvania, pennsylvania. i think it is usually important when you consider control of the senate when you take a look at the republican party and see the way it is going to behave post donald trump and also when you look at that race for governor. if you have this conservative moss tree and oh running and winning, gets to the point the secretary of state in pennsylvania, he has been an ardent election denier, and that will be a hugely important role in 2024. so in every way it is pennsylvania.
>> you're absolutely right. among republicans, david, is this a race to out trump trump? >> interesting, wolf, what you have in the senate race, in the view of maga voters, the two counter fit magas spent $40 million beating the hell out of each other, trying to certify their own acceptance to trump and trumpism. and the maga voters, far right of maga says we don't believe you, she's the real deal. she twinned up with the governor candidate, and the two of them are threatening to take pennsylvania pretty far to the right to the delight of some democrats. we'll see if they say that in november. one point on this, wolf, the democratic candidate for
governor spent over $2 million on advertising attacking mastriano on the republican side for being too trump. and the objective was to make him a stronger candidate in the republican primary. he wants to run against him, he may get his wish tonight. >> let's see if he does. casey, you're here with me in philadelphia, here throughout the important night. you know the state well. you're from here, from this area. you know pence well. you know the stakes. i know you had a chance to profile the democratic senate candidate john fetterman. he is doing well right now. what can you tell us? >> he had a health scare, in the hospital having a pace maker and defibrillator in. a lot of democrats in washington thought voters would get behind con or lamb, marine corps vet.
but he didn't catch on. many democratic voters seems to be looking for candidates that aren't necessarily part of the traditional mold, people who seem like they're coming across the word i heard over and over was real. john fetterman is a big guy, can't escape his physical presence. he wears cargo shorts, gym shorts and hoodies when he campaigns and he really made a concerted effort to win over blue collar voters that were traditionally union democrats and won by donald trump in the western part of the state. he hasn't shied away trying to att attract those voters back. i think that's interesting approaching the fall. one challenge he has is energizing particularly black voters in pittsburgh and philadelphia, he will have work to do there. seems like at least tonight unless there's a major surprise,
he is on track to be democratic nominee. >> wish him a speedy recovery from the stroke. hope for the best for that. don't go too far. gloria, how much does former president trump have at stake tonight, especially here in pennsylvania? >> well, he has a lot because he has been talking about it nonstop and what he wants to do is just put check marks next to victories to show that that is his strength and that he is still all powerful king maker, pupper master, whatever you want to call it within the republican party. he is nervous tonight because his chosen candidate, dr. oz, whom he often describes as a tv star who was on tv 13 seasons and therefore must have a lot of appeal to voters, particularly women, is suffering, even after millions and millions of dollars have been poured into his campaign. i think it would be a major embarrassment for donald trump
if oz lost, particularly if he lost to kathy barnette who is more trump than trump and who has come out and said we were here first. donald trump, you were the one that climbed onto our movement, not the other way around, so this movement is about us and she's clearly making the case that yeah, we'd like to have you, but you're not the boss of me any more as my kids would say. we don't need you. we are moving on. >> very interesting. david, as you know well, democrats are going into midterm elections are against strong head winds. jpmorgan today indicating that the average price of a gallon of gas could hit $6 by august, not just in california but across the country. how would that play going into november? >> i assume that's a rhetorical
question, wolf, obviously it wouldn't play well, and there are strong winds facing democrats. that's why the elections are going to be watched so closely because republicans think they could have a chance to hang onto the senate seat in pennsylvania, but fear that if they nominate the wrong candidate they won't be able to hold onto that seat, so yes, i think that if you were a doctor and looked at the checklist of vital signs, they're all rather negative for democrats right now. what they're hoping for is that republicans will save democrats by nominating candidates who are more beatable in november and that they can withstand the head winds they're sure to be facing. >> gloria, is it clear to you how much impact the draft u.s. supreme court opinion overturning roe v. wade could have on races tonight, and in other states in the weeks and months ahead. >> look, i think it is way too
early to tell about the impact on the election. i believe it is going to have a large impact if the ruling is as we think in the 2024 election, people will be having to deal with consequences of overturning roe v. wade, who do you arrest, the doctor, the woman? tonight, i think kathy barnette is pro-life, so are republican candidates. i don't think on that side it will have that huge an impact but i think in the future this is something the democrats will be talking about an awful lot. >> gloria borger, david axelrod, casey hunt, thank you. john fetterman, his wife tweeted he is out of surgery and the procedure to implement a pace maker, to implant that i should say, was in her words perfect. just ahead, the latest on the war in ukraine and the battle
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ukraine's battle for mariupol has come to an end. the bloody defense of the besieged city and asovstal steel plant lasted weeks. according to the kremlin, both ukrainian civilians and troops were allowed to leave the plant after the troops surrendered and laid down their weapons. ukraine's deputy defense minister says 211 troops
evacuated through a humanitarian corridor and 350 seriously injured troops evacuated from the plant to a medical facility in russian-controlled territory. ukraine's deputy prime minister says they expect to carry out exchange of russian prisoners for the injured ukrainian troops, also comes as kremlin guaranteed the troops will be treated in occurrence with international law. joining us now to discuss what's going on, cnn military analyst, retired lieutenant mark hertling, thank you so much for joining us, how significant is this? how worried are you for the surviving ukrainian fighters in russian control? >> well we can't believe anything russia has said in terms of treatments of prisoners thus far because they have not done so. they have shown us what they are. but secondly, what i would say in terms of the fighters of mariupol, they have done a masterful job in terms of delaying and distracting russian forces. estimates are that somewhere
between 12 and 14,000 russian troops were involved in that action, trying to maintain the logistics supply from rostov in russia all the way to odesa and it took them almost two months out of their norm that they could not allow the russian troops to move further north into the donbas area to fight. so this action by the ukrainian forces in the asovstal plant, even though it was very troublesome and very worrying, a lot of casualties and a horrible condition, it really saved a lot of ukrainians lives that they pinned down those forces in that plant. >> i also want to get your reaction, general hertling, to part of what was said by a former russian colonel on russian state television on monday. listen to this. >> translator: let's not wave about rockets in finland's direction, it just looks ridiculous. the biggest flaw in our mill fare and political situation is
that we are in total geopolitical solitude and the whole world is against us, even if we don't want to admit it and we need a way out of this situation. >> what do you think of that, let's get a little reality check breaking through the putin propaganda right now. what did you think of that statement from this former russian colonel on russian state tv? >> well in listening to the entire clip, wolf, that was just a small segment of it, where he was dashing putin's desires to vie nato, it was a strategic implication but i happened to listen to the entire speech and what he basically did was a damning combination of every aspect of the russian attack from the attack the can tell competencies of the soldiers and the generals to the operational design of the fight to the strategic requirements that putin put on his forces. they were not capable of
achieving those kinds of strategic goals across the front. and many have saw that from the very beginning, when you're talking about only allocating 190,000 soldiers which seems a lot but when you're talking about allocating them along seven different axes to advance along a frontage of almost 1,400 miles with different military objectives to seize and secure cities of over a million, in one case, three million ukrainian population, it's just not capable of coming true. and i think colonel actually nailed it from the standpoint of addressing each one of putin's strategic and operational tactical implications on this. >> general hertling, thank you so much for your analysis, we're always appreciative. coming up, an 8-year-old girl's bravery when shots rang out at the buffalo super market. stay with us, we'll be right back. five professssional benefits. one simple step.
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we started this hour in "the situation room" on the buffalo shooting and that's where we end it with a brave eight-year-old little girl named london thomas, on saturday, went to the top super market to get a birthday cake for her mom, when the shots rang out, london and her dad ran out with her mom, decided to hide in a cooler. >> we went to the back of the store where the milk is and like, we, the door was locked and could not get out.
until, like, the manager opened the door. then we had to go out the back door and then like, the cops lead us out. i was scared for my bhmom. i didn't know what happened to her because she was at the front and i was at the back. i did not know where she was, i thought she was gone. >> thankfully, her mom wasn't hurt and neither was london or her dad and london says she was never scared because her dad was with her the whole time. so brave. thanks very much for watching, i'm wolf blitzer, in philadelphia reporting in "the situation room" tonight, reporting from here throughout the night along with colleagues, erin burnett, jake tapper, anderson cooper and around the country for election night in america, the midterm election primaries