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Soon: Nevada Caucus-Goers Select Choice For Democratic Nominee; Officials: Russia Trying To Help Both Trump & Sanders; Sanders' Message To Russia: Stay Out Of American Elections; Early Vote Boosts Turnout In Nevada, But Concerns Remain; Mother Facing Two Counts Of Child Desertion; Blagojevich Declares Himself A Freed Political Prisoner. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired February 22, 2020 - 12:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again. Hello again. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. All right, it is caucus day in Nevada and we are just two hours away from the next step in the race for the White House.

Candidates are hoping to make strides in the silver state. Dozens of all important delegates are up for grabs tonight and with Super Tuesday just over a week away, this is no time to fall behind.

Just hours before the votes are cast today, there are new indications that Russia is once again trying to meddle in U.S. elections. Friday, Bernie Sanders confirm that he was briefed on intelligence that Russia is actively trying to help him win the Democratic nomination in an effort to split the party.

Sources are also telling CNN that Russia is trying to meddle on behalf of President Donald Trump's re-election. The President fired his Acting director of National Intelligence, Joseph McGuire after he allowed, McGuire allowed lawmakers to be briefed last week on Russia's plans to interfere.

Both Sanders and Trump are now weighing in on Russia's efforts but with different views on the subject.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was not clear what role they're going to play. We were told Russia, maybe other countries are going to get involved in this campaign and look, here's the message to Russia, stay out of American elections.

And what they are doing by the way, the ugly thing that they are doing. And I've seen some of their tweets and stuff is they try to divide us up.

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was told a week ago, they said you know they're trying to start a rumor. It's disinformation. That's the only thing they're good at. They're not good at anything else. They get nothing done. Do nothing Democrats. They're dishing that Putin wants to make sure I get elected.

Listen to this. So doesn't he want to see who the Democrats going to be? Wouldn't he rather have let's say Bernie, wouldn't he rather have Bernie?


WHITFIELD: Now we have a team of reporters on the campaign trail and beyond, covering all the angles. We begin with CNN's Kylie Atwood who is following these new revelations of Russia election meddling. What else are we learning, Kylie?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, I think it's important to note that election security officials, national security officials have long warned that Russia was going to try and get involved again in the 2020 Presidential election.

But what we're learning now is a little bit more specificity with regard to how they're going to get involved so we've learned that President Trump is benefiting. His campaign is being helped by the Russians.

We're also told that Bernie Sanders' campaign has been briefed that the Russians are also trying to help his campaign and now what we're watching is how these campaigns, how these candidates react to this news.

So on one side we have Senator Bernie Sanders saying, this was largely expected. This is what happened in 2016, the Russians sought to seek chaos, sought to create division amongst Americans and that's what they are doing again and when a Senator Bernie Sanders spokesperson was asked by Wolf Blitzer, why the campaign didn't reveal that they knew this information when it was told to them by U.S. security officials just a month ago.

They said they didn't want to reveal this sensitive information but they are not sure why Vladimir Putin would want Bernie Sanders to be the nominee on the Democratic side.

Now on the flip side we have President Trump, publicly undermining this intelligence that was brought to House - the House Intelligence Committee, last week, saying that he was being helped by the Russians.


He said just last night that that was disinformation and essentially he here, doesn't believe that this information is it true that the Russians are trying to help him though he is supporting the intelligence that is saying that the Russians are trying to help Bernie Sanders.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kylie Atwood, thank you so much for that. We'll check back with you. So party leaders in Nevada are also working to secure today's Democratic primary election. Officials there hoping to avoid a repeat of the Iowa caucus chaos while making volunteers in Nevada sign confidentiality agreements to prevent people from discussing any potential issues that may arise.

The Chairman of the state party defended the practice to me in the last hour.


WHITFIELD: And if there were a violation of this non-disclosure agreement, what would the penalty be?

WILLIAM MCCURDY, NEVADA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: We hope that you know, the goal is knowing you know violates the non-disclosure agreement and the goal is to ensure that -

WHITFIELD: Yes, but you have an NDA. An NDA is offered because with it also comes a penalty if you defy the NDA. What would that penalty be?

MCCURDY: Well, we want to just make sure that folks who sign the document know that this is a serious process.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins me now from Las Vegas with more. Dianne, what are you learning?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes and so Fred look, the party is sort of saying that this was a voluntary option for their site leads who are the people who are in charge of the location that houses multiple precincts to sign this non-disclosure agreement.

But the site leads that I've spoken with have said that it was never presented as an option or as voluntary and most of them who spoke to me, those of course who could not really do it on record because they've signed an NDA, it said that, it's - just they didn't get the impression this was an option for them.

One sight lead we did speak to said he refused to sign it and was told he could accept a lower level position that didn't require an NDA and instead he quit and so this is what Seth Morrison had to say about the process and what he went through.


SETH MORRISON, FORMER NEVADA CAUCUS VOLUNTEER: The agreement they asked me to sign said I could not disparage the party in anyway and if I did, in their opinion disparage them, they could sue me for everything I own. The agreement is so broad that nobody in their right mind would sign it.

And I said I will be happy to sign an amended agreement that refers to this election and to truly confidential information that doesn't say I can't disagree with my own party.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GALLAGHER: And so again Seth Morrison, that site lead not going to be

participating in caucus day today which Fred, people in about actually start getting down to caucusing in just three hours, here in Nevada.

WHITFIELD: All right three hours to go, tensions high, anxiety high as well. People are very excited about the process to get going. All right, Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. All right, joining me right now, Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with me. So where are you or how do you feel about this whole non-disclosure agreement, the volunteers are being asked to sign?

REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV): Well, it's tempest in a teapot. This is not unusual when you have volunteers handling sensitive information. They used the exact same thing in 2016 and I don't remember hearing about it then.

I think this is just an over-reaction to what happened in Iowa.

WHITFIELD: And do you feel fairly confident that there will not be a repeat of Iowa in your state of Nevada?

TITUS: Well, we know all eyes are on us. We're doing the best we can. We aren't using the app that - the app that Iowa used. We've had meetings with the different campaigns. It's all about transparency. We had early voting for the first time this year and we had a number of people vote, about 75000.

So we want to count those and if it takes a little bit longer, I think it's worth it because it brought more people into the process.

WHITFIELD: Yes, so earlier when I was speaking to the State Party Chair, there is some iPad used but then it's not the same app that was used in Iowa so that is a change. All right, well, let's shift gears a little bit.

You know you sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee so what has been - what was your reaction when you learned on that - the latest Intel information is that Russia is again trying to interfere in U.S. elections and targeting Trump's re-election and Bernie Sanders nomination.

TITUS: Well, two things one, it's not surprising because we saw them doing in the past and we've heard from all the security experts that they were going to do it again. When they did it in the past, that's when the Democrats passed legislation out of the House called the Shield Act to get more resources to our intelligent forces to go after the people who were involved in this to try to shut it down and try to prevent the Russians from doing it.


TITUS: So we could protect our elections so that they just be for our own citizens. WHITFIELD: Sure, but do you - are you concerned that there will be that protection because yes, for a very long time it's been said that Russia would do it again, meaning try to interfere in the 2020 elections but are you concerned that they may succeed, Russia may succeed in interfering in the variation of ways that it's pursuing because again intelligence hasn't even revealed publicly, the methods this go round but are you concerned that enough is being done or can be done to prevent Russia from being effective?

TITUS: I'm very concerned about it because that bill I just mentioned is still sitting on McConnell's desk and with Trump's support they are not moving that. He wants to call it fake news even though it comes from the very experts who look at national security.

What it tells me is that they want to keep Trump in there so they're interfering in his election but they're going a step further this time and trying to shape who is the nominee on our side and they think that Bernie Sanders would be easier to beat.

So apparently, they're going to try to help his campaign too so we need to pass that legislation to protect our elections.

WHITFIELD: So Senator Sanders was briefed a month ago, you know that Russia is trying to interfere in and wants to poise Sanders so that he were to win the nomination. Do you believe he had any kind of obligation to publicize that, to share it, if not even with his supporters or campaign than the general public?

TITUS: Oh, I think he should. That's one of the provisions of the Shield Act that you have an obligation to come forward and I think he should have and we've been known this a month ago but it just over and over again, they want to shape what the outcome is to their own benefit and that outcome they think is Trump winning and Trump being able to beat Sanders.

That just puts Biden in the position he's been in all along as the most feared opponents.

WHITFIELD: And you have endorsed Joe Biden. You know he's coming off two rather tough outcomes of the last two you know, races. How confident are you that Nevada will change things or turn things around for your candidate?

TITUS: Well, we've been working very hard in Nevada and I'm confident. This is the first date with a diverse population that looks like the rest of the country. First time, you've had a number of Asian-Pacific islanders, Hispanics, African-Americans vote across the country and they are a strong coalition for Joe Biden.

So he's going to come out of here looking good and ready to go to South Carolina.

WHITFIELD: All right Congresswoman Dina Titus, good to see you. Thank you so much for being with us today.

TITUS: Thank you. WHITFIELD: Talk to you along the way.

TITUS: All right.

WHITFIELD: All right, so could the first votes in the west shake up this race overall? CNN will take you inside the Nevada caucuses like no one else can. That special live coverage begins today 2:00.

Still ahead misinformation rumors and a hoax, just some of the words President Trump is using to describe these new reports from Russia election meddling. Plus Anderson Cooper challenges Rod Blagojevich just days after the disgraced governor's sentence was commuted by President Trump.


ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I am a political prisoner. I was put in prison for practicing politics.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wait a minute, you're a political prisoner? Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner. Political prisoners have no due process and are unjustly jailed. You had a jury convict you.




WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump dismissing reports from U. S. intelligence that Russia plans to interfere in the upcoming election and help him get re-elected. Instead of being outraged at the Russians, the President is lashing out at his own Intel experts. Trump claiming the discovery by U.S. intelligence sources that Russia wants to prop up his campaign are just rumors and I'm quoting now, "disinformation" being spread by Democrats.

For more on this, let's bring in CNN's Sarah Westwood at the White House so Sarah, you know what more are you learning about the President's reaction to these Intel reports on Russia and how he's conveyed that?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Fred, President Trump essentially rejecting this conclusion from the Intelligence community that Russia would prefer to see him re-elected in 2020. Now sources tell CNN that President Trump was angry when he learned, not from his own aides but from a Republican ally that a top Intel official had briefed lawmakers on this conclusion last week.

The classified briefing on Capitol Hill, the President learned that from Republican congressman Devin Nunes. The President believes that Democrats weaponized intelligence related to Russia after the 2016 election so clearly that perception driving fears that that could happen again. On Twitter on Friday, the President characterized the intelligence

assessment as a misinformation hoax and he continued to go after those conclusions at his rally in Las Vegas yesterday. Take a listen.


TRUMP: I was told a week ago, they said you know they're trying to start a rumor. It's disinformation. That's the only thing they're good at. They're not good at anything else. They get nothing done. Do nothing Democrats. They're dishing that Putin wants to make sure I get elected.

Listen to this. So doesn't he want to see who the Democrats going to be? Wouldn't he rather have let's say Bernie, wouldn't he rather have Bernie who honeymooned in Moscow? Wouldn't that be? These people are crazy.


WESTWOOD: Now in the fall out from that briefing, the President replaces Acting Intel chief Joseph McGuire with at staunch loyalist, ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell who is already making aggressive moves in his new role as the top Intel official.

Democrats have criticized that appointment because they believe Grenell was under qualified. Fred.


WHITFIELD: And then Sarah, we also know the President has been fuming mad about those that he considers disloyal and he's actually asking of leaders of his personnel department to seek them out, find them.

WESTWOOD: That's right. This week the President personnel chief, according to sources who spoke with CNN, informed agency officials that they should expect staffing changes and movements across the bureaucracy in the coming days, that that personnel chief Johnny McEntee is a loyalist that was fired by John Kelly, the former Chief of Staff, brought back as the President is surrounding himself with people he considers loyal.

McEntee told those agency officials to provide names of staffers believed to be insufficiently loyal to the President as he seeks to continue to fill his administration with people that he perceived as loyalists in the wake of his acquittal in the Senate, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood, thank you so much. Appreciate that. With me now, Michael Zeldin, he is a former federal prosecutor and a CNN legal analyst. Michael, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right, so your reaction after the President's dismissal of these Intel reports that Russia is meddling in the 2020 elections calling it disinformation. ZELDIN: Well, he does not want to hear that what he doesn't want to

hear. The problem with this is of course, it creates a national security vulnerability to the United States. If you are not listening to intelligence that indicates the possibility of foreign interference in our election and if you are dismissing people who may present a dissenting voice to you, then it creates a national security risk to the United States.

And that's the biggest problem that Trump is creating for us.

WHITFIELD: And this comes you know, as a President has caused a lot of concern you know over his tweets comments on and on meddling with criminal cases such as the Roger Stone you know case.

The Department of Justice you know just handled. Attorney General William Barr said the President tweets make it impossible to do his job. We talked about that last week but you know, overall, what is the impact that this is having - the President is having on the whole idea of judicial independence?

ZELDIN: Well, it has a chilling effect, both on the judiciary which seems to be ignoring him as we saw from Amy Berman Jackson yesterday in the sentencing of Roger Stone but most importantly, on DOJ line prosecutors, those who have to prosecute public corruption cases or those who may be looking at people within Trumps orbit or which implicate him personally.

What Barr said was very disturbing. He said it makes it difficult for me to do my job. If he were standing up the Department of Justice, he would have said it makes it impossible for the DOJ to do its job. So he seems more concerned about his wellbeing and the President's wellbeing than the - so the esprit de corps within the Department of Justice which has to be at rock bottom at the moment.

WHITFIELD: Interesting and then you know, this week you know, the President pardoning, commuted the sentences of several very well connected you know, will become rather infamous you know people who were you know criminals who were convicted of crimes.

Rod Blagojevich, Bernie Kerik, Michael Milken. So what message you know would the President be sending you know if he were to pardon say, Roger Stone who was sentenced this week.

The President had already weighed in, thinking that the recommended sentence was too high and Roger Stone got to walk away. You know he's not put in jail right away but what would the message be if the President were to you know undermine that judge's decision?

ZELDIN: Well, it proves that the President has learned no lessons from the impeachment that the rule of law and its sanctity means nothing to him and of course, that the people that he is pardoned or people who are convicted of public corruption.

He is being investigated for public corruption. His administration is being investigated for public corruption. He doesn't seem to care one whit about public corruption and it undermines everything that the rule of law stands for, which is blind justice being equally applied without regard to your position or access to power.

So it's a terrible message I think Fred, all across the board for DOJ, for the rule of law, for the national security of the United States. There's nothing good that can be you know said about all of this.

He would - he's doing Joe McCarthy like behavior and that's really unacceptable.

WHITFIELD: All right, Michael Zeldin, we'll leave it there for now. Thanks so much. Always great to see you.

ZELDIN: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right, up next, we're less than three hours away now from the Nevada caucuses getting under way and the stakes couldn't be higher for Joe Biden in particular. How he expects to perform in that state, straight ahead.



WHITFIELD: All right, with the Nevada caucuses just hours away now, a former Vice President and 2020 Democrat, Joe Biden says his campaign is just getting started. After a disappointing showing in both Iowa and New Hampshire, today, the Biden campaign is seeking redemption in the silver state as the race continues to move on to more diverse electorates.

Our Arlette Saenz is in Las Vegas following the Biden campaign. So Arlette, how important is this for Biden to do well?


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, it's very important for Biden to do well here as he's hoping to that, I will offer a bit of a turnaround in this campaign for me.

He told me that he's hoping for a top two finish here to propel him into other diverse states like South Carolina in those Super Tuesday contests. And Biden has spent a lot of time this week courting minority voters. His campaign believes that he will perform better here because it is a more diverse electorate.

He just picked up the endorsement from the Latino Victory Fund. And he's also spent a lot of time meeting with African-American voters hoping that they will come to his corner. He's also been courting union support, making back of house visits at casinos as he's been here. And he is hoping that this Nevada caucus will start a bit of a turnaround for him.

WHITFIELD: And so Arlette, you know, you also spoke with, you know, Biden yesterday about his relationship with President Obama following report that Senator Sanders was planning to run a primary challenge to the former president back in 2012. And what do you have to say about that? SAENZ: Yes. Joe Biden has been quite critical of Bernie Sanders on a number of issues, including gun control. But yesterday, he voiced some frustration about Bernie Sanders past -- potential -- there was a report that he had considered potentially primary in President Obama back in 2012. Take a listen to what he had to say.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The idea that some -- and the idea that Bernie is a big supporter of Barack, as you saw today or yesterday, the Atlantic article pointed out that Bernie planned on primary Barack in 2012, his good friend in a primary. And presidents in years where they have a primary their incumbents, they don't win. And it took Harry Reid, I guess, according to the article that took him out in the primary.

And so, you know, I noticed that everybody is Barack's best friend now. And they're putting him in his ads. I mean, the only guy that was had his back the whole time was me if he had mine. So I just think it's just a little been the truth have landed here. And I think that's what's beginning to happen.


SAENZ: We've had a little bit of a downpour here. So forgive my umbrella. But you heard Joe Biden there, be quite critical of Bernie Sanders, as Bernie Sanders has really picked up quite a bit of momentum out of those first two contests. And Joe Biden is hoping to potentially save him off a little bit going forward. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Yes. Arlette, I'd be sad for you if you didn't have an umbrella. I can hear the rain more than I can even see it. OK, so --


WHITFIELD: -- will that rain in any way impact, you know, caucusgoers, you know, the excitement about being part of the process today?

SAENZ: Yes. You know, it's unclear if this will have any impact. I think that -- I'm not a weather reporter, but the bands may just be here for a short while.

WHITFIELD: Today you are.

SAENZ: So I think, yes, today, I have. But I think these caucusgoers will be heading shortly to those locations to try to support their candidates.

WHITFIELD: Good. All right, hopefully that's not wash away the enthusiasm. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much. Take cover.

SAENZ: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk, talk it over now with Rebecca Katz, who is a progressive strategist. She also previously served as the communications director for former Senator Majority Leader, Harry Reid. All right, Rebecca, good to see you. Let's talk Nevada, the state's Democratic, you know, Party is assuring voters that what happened in Iowa won't happen at today's caucuses. How confident are you about this?

REBECCA KATZ, FMR. COMMUNICATIONS DIR. FOR SEN. MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID: Well, listen, the most important thing here is accuracy. And Nevada Democrats know that we need to get it right. So we're going to have in just 30 minutes, the caucus doors will open. And we'll get started. Two hours after that.

And we think we're going to spend the day really listening to caucus goers make their choices heard. This process will take a little bit longer than it's done in the past. We have new DNC requirements, in terms of getting our numbers right. And we also want to make sure that we have -- we take into account early votes here in Nevada.

We've had four full days of early vote, which is never happened in a caucus state. So we're going to move those voters into the caucus process. And that should take a little bit longer. So we might have a long day ahead of us. But the most important thing here is to get it right.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Mr. Rickard (ph), he told me earlier, you know, the early voters to the tune of like, 70,000 voters. So, how people --

KATZ: Yes, huge number. It was very --

WHITFIELD: It's a huge number. Yes.

KATZ: Yes.

WHITFIELD: And that's actually really great isn't it? You know, you want people to get out and be part of the process. But then I wonder, you know, it almost sounds like this has become very, very complicated for Nevada, particularly because of what happened in Iowa. So help us understand this process because, you know, their iPads involved, you know, there is picture taking of tallying. Help us understand how it will work today.

KATZ: Right. So it's, it's very -- it's low tech. Basically, you have what's called a caucus calculator. And when the people come in and they raise their hand and they say, I'm for this person, you know, we put them into the calculator and then we put in the early vote voter. So they go with their first choice.

Now, if that first choice candidate does not have 15 percent of the vote in that precinct, then there's some realignment. So then you do it again and you -- and that's why the rank, you have rank voting within the early vote.


So these voters will get mixed in with the new voters there today. And it's not that complicated. But we knew it would be a little harder. But we did it because we're in franchising more voters. You know, the whole process is to get more people. The whole purpose is to get more people involved. And that's what we wanted to do today.

WHITFIELD: OK. Well, let's talk to you about your former boss, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. We just heard, you know, Biden reacting to report that, you know, Reid had to step in to stop Sanders from running a primary challenge against Obama in 2012. What do you know about that? How is that relevant to today's race?

KATZ: Right. Well, let's be real for a second. So this is a lot about very little. In 2012, Bernie Sanders was running for reelection and so as Barack Obama. Barack Obama never had a primary challenge. Harry Reid is a big, big fan of Barack Obama's and what he wanted to do more than anything was just to make sure that every one of his senators was 100 percent behind the president, and the president was overwhelmingly reelected.

So I think this is a lot about a little. And we are all Democrats here and trying to right now, elect the best Democrat to beat Donald Trump.

WHITFIELD: And I remember seeing, you know, Senator Reid, last weekend, he was out and about, you know, interacting with people. And, you know, recently, you know, he said that Sanders, you know, he weighed in on it, you know, saying that Sanders needs more than a plurality to win the nomination. What is your thinking on this?

KATZ: I mean, I think the Democratic Party has to have a reckoning here. You know, there's some voters who believe that the candidate who has the most amount of voters, even if the plurality should be the nominee. There's other folks who believe that the nominee should be someone who has 50 percent of the convention plus one.

I think this is this is a really serious issue for the Democratic Party. And it's one we're going to have to deal with. But, you know, maybe this will be a lot clearer after Super Tuesday.

WHITFIELD: And then Senator Reid also said, you know, that a brokered convention wouldn't be the end of the world, you know, but isn't this, you know, the same mistake that GOP made in 2016 when they, you know, were pinning their hopes on a brokered convention to stop Trump.

KATZ: Right.

WHITFIELD: Do you see any similarities or differences?

KATZ: Well, here's the thing. It's only February, you know, today we're seeing the third state vote, this is the first state that is diverse. You know, we've had two overwhelmingly white states vote. Now we get Nevada gets our shot. This would be the biggest indication for Super Tuesday. Nevada is the state that looks the most like the big states coming up like Texas, like California.

So I think we're having a lot of, you know, worries about what might happen in July. But for right now, let's see, we might have a clear winner.

WHITFIELD: All right, Rebecca Katz, thank you so much in Las Vegas.

KATZ: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Good luck today.

KATZ: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, the mother of two missing children arrested. But where are her son and daughter? The charges she is facing and the lie she allegedly told investigators.

But first, the race for the White House returns tomorrow night with a look at the 1980 campaign between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Take a look at what happened at the Democratic National Convention.


JIMMY CARTER, 39TH UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I thank you for the nomination you've offered me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jimmy Carter is not on his game somehow, and goes to give praise to Hubert Horatio Humphrey, the former Vice President of the United States who had passed of cancer fairly recently.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guaranteed applause line, you know, this is a guaranteed emotional tug at this crowd.

CARTER: We're the party of a great man who would have been one of the greatest presidents in history, Hubert Horatio Hornblower.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he say, Hornblower?

CARTER: Humphrey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think every one of us on the podium sort of gasped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's as if that every step Carter's attempts to not only be the victor but appear the victor, are going horribly wrong.



WHITFIELD: And you can watch the race for the White House tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.


WHITFIELD: The mother of two children who haven't been seen since September is now charged with two felony counts of desertion of her kids. Lori Vallow appeared in a Hawaii court yesterday. She is being held on a $5 million bond through prosecutors -- though prosecutors rather, asked her to not be released at all.

In January, Vallow missed a deadline to prove that her children, 17- year-old Tylee Ryan and seven-year-old J.J. Vallow were alive. Natasha Chen joining me now with more on these developments. So this is a really confusing and complicated case, missing children. Now she is charged but that's really just the beginning.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And there's no telling exactly where these kids are. No one has seen them for about five months. J.J. and Tylee recently moved with their mom from Arizona to Idaho.

And when J.J.'s grandmother hadn't heard from him in a long time, she asked police for help. So they did a welfare check at the Idaho home in late November. That's when Lori Vallow told them, J.J. was staying with a family friend in Arizona. It turned out not to be true. And police say they found out Vallow had asked that friend to lie on her behalf.

During the investigation, police also learned that Tylee hadn't been seen since September. When police returned the next day with search warrants, they found Vallow and her new husband Chad Daybell had fled the home. Vallow and Daybell went to Kauai where police did surveillance and do not believe the children are in the State of Hawaii.

Now, Vallow was arrested Thursday after missing a court order deadline to prove her kids were alive. That video you're seeing right there, that man walking out was her new husband, Chad. We've reached out to a lawyer representing Vallow and Daybell and haven't heard back.


And what makes this situation more complicated is that both Vallow's and Daybell's most recent spouses died last year. No one has been charged in either of those deaths. Now, Vallow and her last husband were going through a divorce when he was shot and killed by Vallow's brother according to police. Now, Vallow's brother then also died several months later.

Vallow married her new husband Chad Daybell just a couple of weeks after his former wife died. At first, her death was determined to be from natural causes. But investigators later found the death suspicious exhumed her body in December for further autopsy.

And Fred, we checked yesterday with the authorities on all these cases, no new information on the status of those investigations.

WHITFIELD: And nor the status of these children.

CHEN: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: OK. All right, thank you so much --

CHEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: -- Natasha Chen, appreciate it.

All right, up next, Rod Blagojevich calls himself a political prisoner like Nelson Mandela, but not without challenge. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The idea that you are comparing yourself to somebody who has actually been railroaded by an apartheid system is just nuts.




WHITFIELD: All right, former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich declares himself a freed political prisoner after becoming a free man. Anderson Cooper calling out Blagojevich in a heated interview just days after President Trump commuted his 14-year prison sentence for a series of public corruption offenses. Blagojevich convicted in 2011.


ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER DEMOCRATIC GOV. OF ILLINOIS: We have a racist and corrupt criminal justice system in many areas.

COOPER: Right.

BLAGOJEVICH: And this is why I hope one day, maybe you'll join me in the fight to reform our criminal justice system and actually do something about your problem --

COOPER: Well, let me ask you about that.

BLAGOJEVICH: -- of over sentencing Blacks and Latinos.

COOPER: Right. I think --

BLAGOJEVICH: I learned that when I was there.

COOPER: OK. What was sad is that you hadn't actually learned that when you mattered, when you actually were the governor. You work -- you talked about working for the criminal justice reform, there's a lot of people in Chicago, there's a lot of people in Illinois who actually like spit up when you say that, because when you were actually in power and when you were actually governor and you could have helped thousands of people with clemency cases, you blew it off.

The governor after you inherited a huge backlog nearly 3,000 clemency petitions that you failed to review. In fact, you were sued by -- you were sued as governor by Cabrini Green legal aid to try and pressure you to actually pay attention to clemency cases instead of extorting people for money and campaign contributions.

So it's a little ironic and frankly a little sad and pathetic and hypocritical, you talking about, you know, commuting -- getting -- you get a commutation of a sentence, which is within the President's right. But you ignored a whole hell of a lot of other people who are hoping you might give them clemency when you actually matter. So actually, you know what --

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, that was a long question but --

COOPER: -- I'm happy that -- that wasn't a question, it was a statement. I'd be happy to work with people on criminal justice reform.


COOPER: But I wouldn't work with you.

BLAGOJEVICH: OK. Can I answer that statement and question?


BLAGOJEVICH: OK. I like to dress that. Look, when you've been put where I was, and you have all the time that I was given to think and look back on some of the things you might have done different. That's certainly an area that you talked about that I certainly wish I would have done more on. There's no question about that.

COOPER: Fair enough.

BLAGOJEVICH: That's among my biggest regrets. I didn't know how corrupt the criminal justice system was until they did it to me. And that was a wakeup call. Having said that, I want to say one thing about me as governor, when the cases came to me, and I was given files about people who were seeking clemency or pardons, I acted appropriately.

COOPER: Actually, no, they sat on your desk and that's why you were sued.

BLAGOJEVICH: My regret is that I didn't make that --

COOPER: I mean that is the case.

BLAGOJEVICH: But I did clemencies and I did pardons.

COOPER: Right.

BLAGOJEVICH: I didn't do nearly enough. It wasn't a priority. I would acknowledge that. I didn't go to the office every day doing that. Instead, I was giving health care to all the children, free public transportation to our seniors and the disabled.

COOPER: Actually you were holding up --

BLAGOJEVICH: But I regret that very much.

COOPER: -- money to hospitals in order to get campaign contributions. But listen, Governor --

BLAGOJEVICH: You know, see that's a big lie. They got $8 million for me and I was sent to prison for things that aren't crimes. COOPER: They got it after you had left. They got it after you had left.

BLAGOJEVICH: I promise that -- I ordered it before that happened. And it didn't. They got it while I was governor. That is not factual.

COOPER: OK. Governor Blagojevich, I do wish you the best. I really -- I'm glad for your family that you're out. And I hope --

BLAGOJEVICH: I don't know. By the way, you're asking me questions. I'm sorry --

COOPER: Well, no, honestly --

BLAGOJEVICH: I appreciate you having me out.

COOPER: -- no, no, but just honestly --


COOPER: -- I just -- look, I have no problem you getting out. I think, you know, the President can do whatever he want. I just think I wish, you know, you're smirching prosecutors who actually who are no longer in government. But, you know, prosecutors are important in our system and you are going after the very basis of our justice system, which has plenty of problems. But, you know, part of the thing is --


COOPER: -- you got out. You do have an obligation to at least admit what you did wrong. And you refuse to do that. And you're creating a whole new alternate universe of facts. And that may be big in politics today, but it's still frankly, just -- we got to leave it there.

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, no it's -- that I lived it myself. It's not -- off.


WHITFIELD: All right, Blagojevich and Cooper.


Straight ahead, jurors in the Harvey Weinstein trial appear to be deadlocked on the two most serious charges. And inside look at the deliberations and the questions they want answered.


WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

The countdown to the Nevada caucuses is officially on. Caucus-goers will begin their selections in hours with the first result expected to trickle in later on this evening. Candidates know how important today's race is to their 2020 presidential hopes. Nevada is the most diversity to vote thus far.