tv The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN December 13, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm PST
our coverage continues with mr. wolf blitzer right next door to us in "the situation room." see you tomorrow. happening now, breaking news, the death toll is rising from a powerful onslaught of tornadoes across the south and midwest. kentucky's governor now says at least 74 people were killed in his state alone. thousands are without power and entire towns are gone. the other major story we're following, the january 6th committee is about to take a major step and vote in holding mark meadows in contempt of congress. new details now emerging about the former trump white house chief of staff's role in the lead-up to the invectinsurrectio protect pro trump rioters. welcome to folks from around the
united states and the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we begin with a multi-state tornado disaster as the tegt toll climbs and the search for the missing intensifies. our commrrespondents are coveri all sides of the story. brian todd is in mayfield. what are you seeing on the ground tonight? >> reporter: wolf, nearly three days after the tornadoes ripped through this area, there's still a very dynamic situation of salvage, search and rescue. you have crews moving heavy debris with a heavy shovel. over here you have devastation on almost every street corner of downtown mayfield as officials are assessing the damage in kentucky and seven other states tonight. rescuers race the clock, using cranes and search dogs as they pick through the debris of friday's tornadoes. mayfield, kentucky, was hit by
the worst one. a path of destruction stretching perhaps 200 miles through kentucky and beyond. >> the worst tornado event in the history of our commonwealth. >> reporter: more than 1,000 houses have been obliterated in kentucky alone. the state's governor expecting the death toll statewide to top 80. >> of the ones that we know, the age range is 5 months to 86 years. >> multiple deaths reported in neighboring states as well. shelters and even parks housing hundreds of victims across several states. crews work to clear debris. 28,000 homes still without power in kentucky, and with an estimated 8,000 poles down, restoration is a challenge, as is digging out in places like bowling green. >> it's going to be weeks on end. it could be longer. >> reporter: towns and cities in arkansas, illinois, kentucky,
missouri, mississippi and tennessee still reeling. >> next thing i know, the house caved in on us. i did not even go get my grandson. >> reporter: at this devastated amazon warehouse, clayton cope is among those who died. >> we told him the storm was headed that way and he needed to get to shelter. >> reporter: could the company have done anything done to protect workers? >> everything we've seen, all procedures were followed correctly. >> reporter: at a candle factory in mayfield, at least eight dead and eight still missing. >> we tried to concentrate in the areas where we knew we had people. >> reporter: a search made harder due to the unstable structure and hazards of the debris. >> we're performing crane operations to remove the heavy steel structure to create additional void spaces to
search, as well as canines, so if there are any employees remaining, we'll be able to get them. >> reporter: among the victims, janine williams working overtime ahead of the holidays. her husband rushed out to work for her friday night. >> i just love her to death. we got three grandkids. i want to find my wife. i want to find her. >> at that candle factory tonight, there are complications that we're not seeing anywhere else. the smell of candles is still drifting all over that site. officials say that's complicated efforts because it's throwing the search dogs off their mark. the search dogs they're trying to send in to help find people in that rubble. also we got word tonight that president biden is going to be coming here on wednesday to survey some of the damage. >> brian, thank you very much. brian todd on the scene. let's go to illinois where an amazon warehouse was hit by a tornado, collapsing with workers trapped inside.
six people are now confirmed dead. cnn's polo sandoval is live on the scene. the warehouse took a direct hit. what are you seeing? what are you hearing? what's the latest? >> reporter: what we heard from ill know's governor is that local officials with look into this to see if anything else could have been done to see if there was anything to prevent what took place. just for background for our viewers, it was on friday evening when the tornado seemed to have zeroed in on this amazon shipping center, basically cutting right through it and causing these large concrete walls to collapse, eventually leading to the death of six employees inside friday night. speaking alongside with the governor, we heard from a couple of amazon executives who maintained they did everything that they could to ensure the safety of those employees, that they followed the protocols,
including using bull horns to urge employees, some 46 people inside to get to an interior space. it was described as a shelter in place space. it was not meant to be a storm shelter. it didn't have a basement and didn't have to because of building codes. authorities are recognizing they need to take a closer look at those building codes to see if this could be changed i don't view a federal investigation headed by osha who is also looking into this, and the familiar leaps of the six people who were killed still trying to make sense of what happened here. >> polo sandoval reporting. let's get more on what's going on as far as the tornado destruction in kentucky is concerned. we're joined by the fire chief and ems director in the town of mayfield, jeremy creasen. our heart goes out to everyone who has been so devastatingly impacted by this.
give us a sense of what your teams on the ground are ups against right now. >> well, wolf, the candle factory scene, it's a very complex, complicated scene. we have teams from lexington and louisville that have come in. they're helping spearhead that operation. they have resources and equipment and knowledge that far exceeds what we have on the local level. we're very appreciative of what they're doing. throughout the rest of the impacted area, we are -- we're doing primary searches, secondary searches. we have those complete. we're now going door to door doing welfare checks across the city and county. we're looking for the needs of people within the community. we have utility crews working
around the clock to try to restore power to our citizens. the gas company is working again around the clock to fix gas leaks. our electric and water department, they're trying to get water restored to the city. we're clearing debris, and we have a lot going on. we're in a much better position than we were friday night and saturday morning, but we still have a lot to do. >> what's posing the most challenge for you and your teams right now? >> the biggest challenge to my depa department, we put in a lot of hours, a lot of consecutive hours for the initial response. so we've been very fortunate to have ems crews and engine
companies come in from all over the commonwealth of kentucky, really all over the nation. just a few minutes ago i was greeted by members of fdny who have come down to offer their assistance with the iff. i can't thank the people, the first responders who are coming, i can't thank them enough for coming to us in our time of need. that's given my crew some time to get a little sleep, get a little rest and rehab so we can get back to normal operations and get back to helping our community. >> good luck chief creason. as i said, our hearts go out to you. i know this is a huge, huge assignment all of you have and the community is counting on you. thanks so much for joining us. >> thank you, wolf. have a good evening.
>> thank you very much. to our viewers, if you would like to help tornado victims go to cnn.com/impact to learn ways you can impact your world. this is so, so important. there's more breaking news just ahead. we'll go back live to the tornado disaster zone in kentucky and speak to the head of the state's emergency management agency. up next, the house january 6th select committee is about to vote on holding former white house chief of staff mark meadows in criminal contempt of congress. we're live on capitol hill when we come back. which is a lot. so take care of that heart with lipton. because sippin' on unsweetened lipton can help support a healthy heart. lipton. stop chuggin'. start sippin'. tums vs. mozzarella stick when heartburn hits, fight back fast with tums chewy bites. fast heartburn relief in every bite. crunchy outside, chewy inside. ♪ tums, tums, tums, tums ♪ tums chewy bites
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right now we're standing by for a key vote from the select committee investigating the january 6th insurrection. that will move former chief of staff mark meadows closer to a contempt of congress charge. the vote comes as new details are emerging about meadows' actions before and during the insurrection as well as his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election. >> reporter: tonight a congressional committee expected to seek criminal contempt charges against former white house chief of staff mark meadows. chairman bennie thompson says they're left with no choice after the congressman turned trump adviser stopped cooperating with their investigation into january 6th. just hours ago, meadows' attorney sent a letter to the committee asking them to reconsider, writing the contemplated referral would be contrary to law because his client is a senior official who made a good faith invocation of
executive privilege and testimonial immunity. >> nothing i've done would rise to criminal contempt, but i obviously am going to have to throw my -- on the mercies and graces of the court. >> reporter: but the committee members repeatedly pointed out meadows cannot claim executive privilege over materials he already turned over. >> if he believed he had a privilege to assert, he could have shown up. he could have said with respect to this question, here is why i believe it's privileged. of course, he didn't do any of that. >> on sunday lawmakers released a 51-page report lying out the case against meadows and the questions they have about the thousands of documents he's turned over. according to the report, meadows sent an email saying the national guard would be present to protect pro-trump people on january 6th. the committee wants to know more about whether trump engaged in discussions regarding the national guard's response which was delayed for hours as violence escalated at the
capitol. meadows also exchanged text messages with and provided guidance to an organizer of the rally on the ellipse after the organizer said things have gotten crazy and i desperately need direction please. the committee also wants to ask meadows about text messages on january 6th with members of congress, one of trump's family members and others, encouraging meadows to facilitate a statement by president trump discouraging violence at the capitol on january 6th. the committee is also interested in the weeks leading up to the insurrection and meadows' involvement in efforts to undermine the election outcome. according to the report, when presented with the idea of certain states sending alternate slates of electors to congress, meadows responded, i love it and, yes, have a team on it. >> we may not know what's going through mark meadows' head unless he comes in and tells us. we'll do the best we can and i
am confident at the end of the day we'll be tell a very full story to the american people about what happened. >> reporter: today the committee met with william walker, a top commander for d.c.'s national guard on january 6th. he's previously testified on january 5th he received a memo indicating he would need to seek approval from the secretary of army and defense before responding to any protests, something he described as unusual, but something that takes on new significance with the new details we're learning about the former chief of stap and his comments about the national guard. >> paula reid on capitol hill, thank you. let's get some more on all of this. joining us cnn special excess spon dent jamie gangel and cnn analyst jeffrey toobin, the author of "true crimes and misdemeanors: the investigation of donald trump." jamie, you're getting new insight tonight.
what are you learning? >> a source tells me this won't just be a vote on contempt, that there are significant new details, that the committee is going to lay out in black and white the substance of these texts. we're going to hear members read exactly what was being said to mark meadows and what he was saying back in realtime on january 6th during the riot. let me give you an example of two that we're aware of from the 51-page document. this is a stekt from a former white house employee to mark meadows, quote, you guys have to say something even if the president is not willing to put out a statement. you should go to the cameras and say we condemn this, please stand down. if you don't, people are going to die. although the committee does not identify who that former white house employee is, reknow who it is from a "washington post"
reporters, the book "i alone can fix it." it was alyssa farrah, a former white house communications director. in realtime telling mark meadows people can die. in fact, five people died that day. one other text from a rally organizer to mark meadows. from outside right into the white house, the rally organizer says, quote, things have gotten crazy and i desperately need some direction please. i just think we need to underscore, wolf, that most of these texts are from republican members of congress, trump loyalists, even a trump family member. these are inner circle trump people pleading with the white house to do something. mark meadows is in there with donald trump watching it all on tv, and for hours nothing happens. >> it's really revealing, this
51-page document that the select committee publicly revealed. i recommend folks read it if they have a few moments to do so. it will take a few moments. stand by. even with all these documents, jeffrey, this meadows contempt case, at least according to several legal analysts isn't necessarily a slam dunk for the u.s. justice department, right? >> that's right. mark meadows was the white house chief of staff. there are certainly some communications between the president and his chief of staff that are probably covered by executive privilege. that is the heart of certain kinds of communication. however, one part of this that i don't think has gotten enough attention is that mark meadows has written a book and is publicizing a book about, among other things, what went on on january 6th. i don't know how his lawyer is going to go before a judge and say, oh, well, we're publishing a book on this subject and trying to make money off the
disclosures in the book, but we're not going to tell the united states congress what went on. it is one thing if you are completely silent and honoring all privileges and not disclosing any documents and not writing a book, but once you start disclosing documents and writing a book and then say i can't talk about it, that to me seems like a very difficult legal position to defend. >> jeffrey, how disturbing is it to see the then white house chief of staff mark meadows actually write that the national guard would, quote, and quoting him now, protect pro-trump people on january 6th? >> this is exactly the subject that congress needs to investigate. what was the role of the national guard? why weren't they at the capitol earlier? who were they supposed to be protecting once they got there? these are very important questions. that text is something that is
obviously something that needs to be explored, but you can only do that with live testimony, and that's what congress is trying to get. >> all right. we'll see what happens, guys. thank you very much. this note. a key member of the january 6th select committee is standing by live and will join me in a few moments. we've got good questions to ask. there's more breaking news on the horrifying scale of the tornado destruction in kentucky and the emergency operations under way tonight. i'll speak live with the state's emergency management directly. we'll be right back. yeah. even unlimited. that's right. while the big wireless companies spend billions on holiday ads luring you into expensive contracts, we spent $79 on this stock video so we can afford to give you stuff for free. you gotta be into that, right? yes, you can't resist savings.
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news on the escalating loss of life and property after at least 50 tornadoes pummeled parts of the south and midwest. the kentucky governor announcing that the state's death toll is now up to 74 with 109 people still unaccounted for. let's go to cnn's ed lavandera from dawson springs, kentucky, one of the devastated areas that president biden plans to tour on wednesday. the mayor estimates, what, 75% of the town is now gone. what more are you seeing on the ground? >> reporter: think about that statistic here, as this city begins the process of figuring out what the future is going to look like. we're told that the death toll in hopkins county, which is where dawson springs is, and we're in the neighborhood hardest hit in this county, is 13. the last victim that we know about that was pulled from the rubble was in this apartment complex you see behind us. many this neighborhood, a number
of people who passed away and perished in this storm, but city and county officials here beginning the grim task of trying to clean up the debris and the destruction that was caused by this tornado. it is going to take some time. county officials say it will take several weeks to get the powerfully restored, as you mentioned, wolf. 75% of this down destroyed by this tornado. the mayor said about a third of the people here live below the poverty line. so rebuilding for a lot of these people will be very difficult. that's why there are so many questions tonight about what exactly this neighborhood in dawson springs will look like a year from now. that is the question so many people here are facing, do they rebuild or move on and try to figure out something else. there's a great deal of concern as residents are still grappling with the cleanup process. the mayor here in dawson springs says one of the biggest
challenges they have is managing the outpouring of support they're getting from so many corners of the country. in fact, the mayor told me today, wolf, that it would be best if people could hold back and call back next week. >> ed lavandera, thank you very much. let's get an update from the director of the kentucky emergency management agency, michael dossett who is joining us now. thank you so much for joining us. first of all, what's the latest you can tell us, sir, about the situation on the ground in kentucky? >> sure, good evening. thanks for featuring us tonight. our hearts go out to the families of those lost and those missing. we still have power outages as you can imagine. this event happened during the evening hours and early morning, that certainly didn't work in our favor. we still have about 26,500 out
of power. however, that's down from about 100,000. our power sector and our contractors have done just a remarkable job in getting who they can back on. we also lost some large transmission towers. so they'll be out for weeks to months in replacing those. we've had a lot of help on the ground. initially the governor asked for and received declaration only hours after the event. that was an emergency declaration for eight counties. shortly thereafter we asked for an expedited major declaration, and we received that within only a six-hour period. the department of homeland security has been remarkable. yesterday secretary may or cass toured the area along with fema administrator chris well and our
administrator scheck. they saw the devastation and the heartbreak and pushed our request through -- they expedited the request and it was approved in record time. so we're recovering. it's still a dire situation. we're still doing search and rescue. >> last we heard from your governor, at least 74 kentuckians dead. is there an update? >> we held a press conference, and those numbers are current as of 4:00 p.m. >> still more than 100 people missing. >> that's true, across the county. we have probably eight of the hardest-hit counties and we move out another 20 counties. we have arguably the longest tornado tracks on the ground in recorded history. at this point it's scripted at 227 miles long. so there's extreme cleanup and
rescue to do as we speak now hours afterwards. but kentuckians are resilient in so many ways, and on the ground yesterday with them, it's just a pleasure to speak with these folks. remarkable sceneses of neighbors helping neighbors. >> kentucky emergency management director michael dossett, thanks so much. our hearts go out to everyone and the other states that are suffering right now. appreciate it very much. good luck. >> thank you, and if we could feature a website for donations it's called team w wkyrelieffund.com. >> our viewers can go to cnn.com/impact to find a way to help tornado victims. i recommend they do it. thanks again for joining us. just ahead, we'll speak live
to a key member of the house january 6th select committee as they plan to vote to hold mark meadows in criminal contempt of congress. details emerge of a huge settlement in the u.s. women's gymnastics case against larry nassar. slash classroom. and this is the basement slash panic room. maybe what your family needs is a vacation home slash vacation home. find yours on the vrbo app. ♪
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right now you're looking at live pictures at the room on capitol hill where the house select committee investigating the january 6th commission is about to vote on holding the former white house chief of staff mark meadows in criminal contempt of congress for refusing to cooperate. let's discuss with democratic congressman pete aguilar of california. as you know, meadows' lawyer is asking your committee to reconsider these contempt charges, arguing this referral would be, in the lawyer's words,
contrary to law since meadows invoked executive privilege in good faith. will meadows have one final opportunity to comply, or is this already a done deal? >> we're going to move forward with the meeting this evening. by virtue of not showing up to the committee discussion and deposition last week, mr. meadows can be held in contempt. so we know his lawyer has continued to send some letters. chairman thompson has sent letters back each and every time. we're always willing to have conversations, but we're going to proceed today. what we have heard so far is not enough. mr. meadows has submitted documents and materials but will not answer any questions related to the documents and materials he sent us. by virtue of not showing up, he can be held in contempt. >> this is not according to legal analysts as clear-cut as the criminal contempt case against steve bannon who wasn't
serving in the government at the time. is the committee prepared if the u.s. justice department decides not to prosecute meadows? >> we're prepared to do our job today at the committee level that we hold him in criminal contempt just by virtue of not showing up to our hearing. there are ways for mr. meadows, and he has been trying to hide behind broad privilege claims. he could come before the committee and specify to each question what privilege he feels exists. he has not done that. he's provided documents but won't answer any questions related to those. we're going to move forward with the next steps this evening. >> cnn has learned that tonight your committee will lay out yet more of the substance of the meadows communications outlined in this 51-page report that i've gone through, very, very detailed report.
how much context, congressman, will you provide to the american public about these communications? >> we'll provide more details. we continue to lay out the case, talk about the text messages, talk about mr. meadows' use of his private device in order to carry out government work. we aren't certain whether he turns those over to the national archives. so we continue to ask those questions. they're important to our legislative work that we're undertaking today. it's important to tell the full and complete truth about what happened on january 5th and 6th. it's unfair that mr. meadows continues to sherk any responsibility while writing a book about this material himself. >> it included a disturbing email on january 5th saying that the national guard would be at the capitol to, quote, protect pro-trump people. what did he mean by that?
>> that's a good question, and wu of the many questions we have for m. meadows if they came before us. clearly we also detailed extensively he had text messages with members of congress, planners for the event on january 5th and january 6th as well as discussion about the law enforcement activity in and around those events. there's plenty of questions that we have, and the material that you cite, are things that he turned over himself. we would love the opportunity to ask him questions about the material he provided over to the committee. >> we'll watch and see what happens. congressman pete aguilar, thank you very much for joining us. >> thanks, wolf. the u.s. supreme court declines to block new york's health care worker vaccine mandate as hospitalizations and deaths are climbing across the united states. because everyone deserves better.
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to the breaking news tonight, at least 74 people are snou confirmed dead and 109 missing in kentucky's tornado disaster. president biden has spoken with the governor of kentucky multiple times and plans to visit the state on wednesday. the president is also working the phones seeking key support for a sweeping social and climate spending bill right now. let's go to senior white house correspondent phil mattingly. i understand president biden just spoke again with senator joe manchin. >> reporter: it's a critical vote, a conversation that underscores just how important the west virginia senator is to this entire dynamic. there's still a significant amount of legislative work for
democrats to do to meet. joe manchin spoke with president biden for more than an hour today. president biden says it was productive, senator manchin's team said it was productive. both say the conversations will continue. whether it will meet the deadline, this is what the senator said. >> anything is possible. >> you're still engaged, still willing to continue to talk. you're not going to stop these negot negotiations. >> reporter: the senator saying anything is possible, but more importantly saying they're still engaged. the reason that's important, the president and the senator continuing their conversations is the series of issues that the senator says he has with the cornerstone of president biden's domestic legislative jend saying
he's concerned about the overall cost, how it relates to inflation, currently at a 39-year high based on the latest cpi report. white house officials have been working with the senator for the better part of the last several months. it's always been clear that the relationship, the president and senator manchin have worked on would be key to whether or not he's going to support this plan in the end. he's obviously not there yet. as he as the president's team said, conversations are still on going. >> phil mattingly at the white house, thanks so much. for a third time, the u.s. supreme court has now declined to block a state's vaccine mandate. the justices turning away two emergency requests from health care workers, doctors and nurses in new york state. the court previously declined to block mandates in both indiana and maine. let's discuss what's going on with cnn medical analyst dr. leana wen, the author of
"lifelines, a doctor's journey in the fight for public health." dr. wen, thanks for joining us. new york also with a mask mandate today. california also announced it will put a temporary mask mandate in place. should other states, do you believe, follow suit? >> yes, and other local jurisdictions, even if the state is not doing that, local jurisdictions, counties, cities should be doing this as well especially in places where their hospital systems are already stretched. what i'm so worried about, wolf, if we face a twindemic we're seeing a surge of cases related to the delta variant. now we have the threat of omicron as well. even if omicron doesn't cause more severe disease, if it's a lot more contagious and we have hospital systems already on the brink, we could really see overwhelmed health care systems once again. this is the reason why mask
mandates could be helpful, with one caveat, i do think we could say if the institution, for example, workplace requires everybody is vaccinated, then i don't think they have to have indoor mask mandates. if vaccination status is not verified, then indoor mask mandates can really be of help. >> that's really important. i want you to look at the trends in our viewers as well. covid cases in the united states are up 45%, 45% since just a month ago. hospitalizations and deaths are also rising. how worried are you, dr. wen, that americans are letting down their guard as this pad drags on, and these are mostly delta cases. >> that's exactly right. we're still seeing a reflection of the delta variant. we haven't seen the potential impact of omicron in this country yet. i'm worried about this twindemic vephenomenon in large parts because we're finding out from
south africa that people previously infected with delta may be susceptible to omicron if they don't get vaccinated. we know there are people remain unvaccinated. this should be a call for everyone to ge t vaccinated and get boosted people, more than a thousand, 1200 americans are still. >> it's horrific that one in 100 seniors, people over the age of 65 in the u.s. have now died
because of covid. covid is the third leading cause among older individuals and we cannot accept this as our new reality. >> i totally agree. dr. leana wen, thank you for joining us. a lawyer for victims of former u.s. women's gymnastics team doctor larry nassar says a settlement has been reached. they have agreed to pay $380 million to the victims. nassar pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting these women, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison. mr.'s more news just ahead. an historic trip by the israeli prime minister and what it says about relations in the middle east right now.
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. >> tonight, truly historic first for the nation of israel and the relations in the middle east. the prime minister met today with the crown of the united arab emirates and senior international correspondent is in the ua capital. walk us through what happened on this truly ground breaking visit. >> reporter: ground breaking indeed, wolf. bennett israeli prime minister trumping his predecessors hoping the honors would go to him as one of the officers but it was benit that got the honor
guard met by the crown prince and then spent a very intense four hours plus with the crown prince and this included lunch went a couple hours at least over the scheduled time as the two leaders got to know each other but the crown prince being the main power in the land. but also, very important figure right across the hall of the united arab emirates. now they emerged from the meeting with a joint statement saying that they wanted to continue to deepen the relationship. it was only 15 months old in terms of a normalization with israel and the emirates. and in terms of food security, possibly even discussing a free trade agreement and at the end of the day, the israelis offered an invitation to visit. and it has been accepted. what was interesting is what was not mentioned.
there was no mention in the wrapups of either palestinian question or more pressing issue of iran, wolf. >> i suspect they talked about it privately. didn't make mention of it in the public statement. thank you very much. and to the viewers, thanks very much for watching. i am wolf blitzer in the situation room. and our out front starts right now. good evening, out front tonight we are standing by for a viewing vote. any minute members of the january 6th select committee are spec to recommend that the full house find donald trump's former chief of staff mark meadows, in contempt of congress for defying a subpoena. we will bring you that vote live. it is expected to start as i said, any minute from now. we are learning that we could hear from other members of the select committee. the other contempt votes you may have seen watching the show you didn't see that, it was the chairman and vice chair