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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

White House Official Say Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Now Distinct Possibility; Canadian Court Grants Injunction Giving Police More Power To Clear Trucker-Inspired Protesters; D.H.S. Bulletin Warns Trucker Convoy Could Disrupt Super Bowl On Sunday; Russia Facing Scrutiny Over Teenage Figure Skate Doping Controversy; Opposition To Mississippi Lawmakers' Attempt To Ban Critical Race Theory; WH Official: Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Now A "Distinct Possibility"; Welcome, Sebastian. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 11, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: $333.00 per second, a record-high price. So what in the world could be worth that? Well, the companies think that are buying it that a hundred million viewers is worth it. Of course, many people watching the Super Bowl only watch for the advertising and the commercials which are a sport for many in and of themselves.

Thanks so much for joining us. AC 360 starts now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: (AUDIO GAP) quickly, the administration now believes Russia could move.


JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I will not comment on the details of our Intelligence information, but I do want to be clear, it could begin during the Olympics, despite a lot of speculation that it would only happen after the Olympics.

QUESTION: So you now believe that Russia has all the forces it needs to mount a full scale invasion of Ukraine?

SULLIVAN: What I'm saying is that Russia has -- needs to conduct a major military action. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by quote "full scale invasion," but Russia could choose in very short order to commence a major military action against Ukraine.


BERMAN: He went on to warn any Americans in Ukraine to leave in his words "as soon as possible" and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Shortly after he spoke, we learned that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered 3,000 more troops from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division to Poland. Then late today, we got a better sense of the growing tension within Ukraine. An official close to the government's thinking there told CNN the

situation is quote, "really serious and uncertain," which could be significant because you might recall earlier this week, Ukrainian officers were going out of their way to tamp down fears of a Russian attack. We will go live momentarily to a strategic Ukrainian city that could be directly on a possible invasion route.

Now, as for the Kremlin, the Russian Foreign Ministry complain that Western media is conducting what it calls a large scale disinformation campaign on the imminence of any attack. We will go live to Moscow as well.

But because we're now getting word President Biden and Vladimir Putin will be talking tomorrow, we begin our coverage tonight at the White House. CNN's M.J. Lee is there for us now. MJ, what more are you learning about this phone call?

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we know that tomorrow morning, this phone call is set to take place between President Biden and Vladimir Putin. And notably, a White House official telling us tonight that initially the Kremlin had suggested that the phone call take place on Monday, but the White House countered with Saturday. So that's why the phone call is now happening tomorrow.

This certainly seems to suggest that the U.S.'s perspective is that they would prefer that this phone call happens sooner rather than later and it really does show that despite all of this that's going on and the dire warnings that we heard from Jake Sullivan today that the U.S. is still trying to go the diplomacy route.

But I think it is very much worth emphasizing to our viewers that when President Biden and his top advisers have in the past, talked about diplomacy with Vladimir Putin. They've essentially said: Look, this is a very unpredictable person. This is not someone whose mind we are trying to even pretend to read.

So, this is going to be an interesting dynamic that yes, on the one hand, there is diplomacy still at play. But on the other hand, what we saw over the last 24 hours is that the U.S. is very much preparing for that diplomacy and the attempt at deterrence to fail.

BERMAN: Now, M.J., a little more than a week ago, the White House changed its wording of the Russian invasion threat no longer using the word "imminent." So why are they now characterizing it so strongly again?

LEE: Yes, that's right. Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took the podium and she said: Look, we're not going to use the word "imminent" anymore, because we don't want to wrongly suggest that we know whether Putin has decided and made a decision on whether to invade Ukraine or not.

To be clear, what Jake Sullivan said today is actually the same thing. He said on that point that they still don't know whether Putin has made a decision. But clearly the information that they are trying to present today was of increased urgency.

One, on the timeline, they said that now the Intelligence is that this kind of invasion could actually happen before the Olympic Games ended. Remember prior to this, the Intelligence coming out of the U.S. was that it was unlikely that Russia would invade Ukraine while the Olympic Games was happening and then we of course heard the very dire warnings from Jake Sullivan directed at Americans that are still in Ukraine.


LEE: They essentially said, look, you need to get out right now, because we cannot guarantee your safety. We are certainly not going to be sending an American troops to rescue you if you are still stuck there.

So we have certainly seen here from the White House over the last 24 to 36 hours or so a very, very increased sort of urgency in the tone that we have heard from all levels of the government -- John.

BERMAN: M.J. Lee for us at the White House tonight. M.J., please keep us posted.

Next to Ukraine is CNN's Alex Marquardt, in a city that could be in the path of a Russian invasion. Alex, we touched on this at the very top. Tell us more about what Ukrainian officials have been saying about these latest concerns.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I want to pick up where M.J. left off there. That urgency is not yet being echoed by Ukrainian officials, we are not seeing that level of alarm that we are seeing out of Washington, D.C. and that does just keep with what we have seen in terms of differences between Kyiv and Washington over the course of the past few weeks as this crisis has grown.

That's not to say that Ukraine is not taking this seriously. They see the same Intelligence as the United States and NATO. They are very aware of the potential harm that Russia could do, but they have also been making a concerted effort not to spook or panic their population.

As you noted, John, we are hearing from a Ukrainian official who is close to the Zelensky government who says that this is a very serious situation, and it is uncertain.

We are also hearing John, from the Mayor of Kyiv, and that is the capital city of course, that Jake Sullivan today singled out as a potential early target for a Russian strike. The mayor saying that they are going to great lengths to protect critical infrastructure. He says that evacuation plans have been put into place. That generators have been installed to provide electricity, that there are some 5,000 bunkers and shelters that people could use if there were a bombing or air campaign, which would be expected that number has grown in recent years.

But John, there is still that daylight. We have seen the U.S. and U.K. and other embassies starting to warn their citizens to get out, to draw down some of their nonessential staff and a spokesman for President Zelensky says that the security situation has not reached a level yet where that is necessary.

But Jake Sullivan again today reflecting what President Joe Biden has said to American citizens here in Ukraine, and that is simply get out -- John.

BERMAN: So Alex, what is the mood where you are?

MARQUARDT: Well, it really is remarkable, John. The lack of urgency among officials is reflected in the population. As I noted, they have been trying to keep the population calm, and if that was the goal, they've done a pretty good job of it.

Both in Kyiv where many of our colleagues of course have been for many weeks, I'm told that the streets are calm, people are out and about. I'm here in Dnipro, which is in Central Ukraine. It is three o'clock in the morning, but this was Friday night and all night long, John, people were out.

They were in the shops, they were in the cafes. They were walking around. People are acting as if everything is normal. I spoke to a number of folks who said that they are not thinking about Russia. They asked me why would I even be thinking about something like that?

So it is not top of mind. But John that could of course change very quickly the moment that Russia crosses Ukraine's borders.

BERMAN: Alex Marquardt in Dnipro. Stay safe, my friend. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.

Perspective now from CNN military analyst and retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. Also, Steve Hall, who served as the C.I.A.'s Director of Russia Operations.

General, you've heard our reporting, the United States is sending more troops to Poland and continuing efforts for a diplomatic solution at the same time. Is there anything you think at this point that the Biden administration could do here? Or is this just a waiting game?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You know, John, I'll tell you. I watched the presser as you were just talking with Alex and I thought Sullivan's use of the words "could happen," seem to be the prevalent tone of what he was attempting to message. That's a prudent approach from our government and the nations of NATO to take.

But what is more important to me and what I read is the White House is providing a sense of urgency and messaging. For the first time, I see Russia is failing to, in their attempts to control the dialogue. You know, as I've mentioned a couple times, there are four elements of national power.

The diplomacy is working, the West is not divided. That's the goal of Russia. NATO has for the first time in many years a sense of purpose, and they are stronger now than they were just a few months ago. Russia is subjugated to China. The diplomacy amongst several European nations is extremely strong.

Secondly, information. Russia has failed for the first time in my memory to control the information environment. They're on their back foot. The U.S. has taken a different approach, they're putting more information out to the public. They're having these press conferences, and that's pretty important to counter the Russian propaganda.


HERTLING: Finally, I'd say the economics piece. The resolve and the unity in what the economic cost will be, allies are on the same page on sanctions and export controls. And in fact, we're seeing some reflections and Anne Appelbaum had a great tweet this morning talking about the various oligarchs and what they were experiencing in places like the U.K. and Switzerland from the effects of what they believe potential economic sanctions will be.

Finally, you mentioned the military, and this is the last thing I'll say, 3,000 more forces going from the 82nd Airborne Division going to Poland. That's the rest of the ready brigade. They sent the first tranche of that to Poland a few days ago, and now the rest of the brigade is following. So that, to me, is a military guise to be expected.

BERMAN: So Steve, now to you, look, what type of Intelligence is it that you think the United States must have received in order for them to increase the level of their public urgency, in order for these other countries, U.K. and Japan to issue these warnings to get out of Ukraine in the next 24 to 48 hours?

STEVE HALL, FORMER C.I.A. DIRECTOR OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: There are a couple of things, John, The Intelligence could have come from anywhere. There is a wide different variety of things that the United States can do. I don't want to get too much into that to give away, the good stuff to the bad guys. But I do think we need to be a little bit careful here with regard to the numbers game that we're sort of playing.

So for example, you know, American citizens, 24 to 48 hours to get out. Does that mean there's going to be an invasion or that we have Intelligence that there's going to be an invasion in 24 to 48 hours? I'm not privy to the Intelligence any longer. But I don't think those two things coincide together. It's just a reflection of U.S. government trying to do what it's supposed to do for American citizens abroad, which is protect them and get them out of harm's way, which is what they'd like to do.

In my experience from serving in embassies abroad, when the Americans go, a lot of other embassies stand up and take notice and say: Well, geez, if the Americans go, and they've got really good Intelligence and really good information and really good infrastructure, we'd better get our people out of here, too.

So, does it mean that there is this broad sense of everybody needs to get out because there's an invasion coming? No, not necessarily. And lastly, the China angle and the Olympics angle. There wasn't an early analytical thought that perhaps Putin wouldn't do anything during the Olympics because it would embarrass Xi, the Chinese Premier, or it would detract from his big thing, the Olympics.

But does it mean that nine days is when the attack is going to happen in Ukraine, and there's going to be an invasion before then? No. Could it happen tonight? Could we all wake up tomorrow morning and they might be in? Yes, it could. You know, Mark and speak more to what those numbers mean, but you know, over 100,000 troops on the border looks like a lot.

So I just don't think we know and I don't think Vladimir Putin has made up his mind yet, either.

BERMAN: All right. Lightning round, 30 seconds from both of you, Steve, First to you. President Biden speaks to Vladimir Putin tomorrow. Is there anything Biden can say to Putin at this point to change the trajectory of where this is going? Whichever way that might be?

HALL: It's a great question. It'll be interesting to see how that conversation goes with the feedback we get from it. But, you know, I think the point that Mark made initially is a really good one. Putin did not expect to be in this position, he did not expect the type of unity that he now sees from the United States and all of our allies across the world.

So I think a lot of it's going to be, how do you get out of this, now that you've gotten yourself into it?

BERMAN: And General to you, we've got 30 seconds left. You know, the Russian military well? Does the world have a good sense of what their current capability is?

HERTLING: No, they do not. They're looking at numbers, John, and that's a great question. Yes, I was thinking about it today, during Desert Storm and yes, I am that old, I was a young Major. And when Seventh Corps, which I was a part of, they had 140,000 troops in Saudi Arabia, 140,000, four divisions, a bunch of cavalry regiments and some artillery.

Their Corps Commander, General Franks, put those 140,000 troops in all of their vehicles in an attack formation and rehearsed the attack into Iraq. We have not seen that with the Russian forces, and truthfully, they have not maneuvered as a large scale force.

Now that's not saying is, as Steve just said, that is not saying they can't do it, but I've got to tell you, if they do attack writ large with 100,000 plus troops into Ukraine, a large country with 40 million people, it's going to be ugly not for the Ukrainians, although certainly it would be for them, too, but for the Russians. They will be dysfunctional on a disaster.

BERMAN: General Mark Hertling and Steve Hall, thank you both so much for being with us tonight. We're going to have a live report from Moscow later in the hour. Next though, looking at a live shot of the bridge between Detroit and

Windsor, Ontario after a Canadian Judge tries to put the hammer down on the trucker inspired protesters blocking it. The latest on that and a conversation with the Mayor of Ottawa, the capital city now losing patience with their own protesters.

And then later, again with Russia, the Russian Olympic doping Controversy. The teen skating sensation caught in the middle of it after testing positive for a banned substance, and the question should she be allowed to compete next week?

Sports writer Christine Brennan has some strong thoughts on that, she'll join us ahead on 360.



BERMAN: We are looking here at the Windsor, Ontario side of the Ambassador Bridge which as you know is a busy link with Detroit and a vital one to the automotive industry on both sides of the border.

As of little more than an hour ago, under a Judge's order, demonstrators blocking the bridge and again you can see them there were supposed to clear out. Windsor Police are now warning that violators will face criminal charges, but no sign yet as you can see that the order is being complied with.

The protesters right there remain.


BERMAN: The same goes for the Canadian capital, Ottawa, that's despite Ontario Premier, Doug Ford declaring a state of emergency and Ottawans generally losing patience with the idling trucks and honking horns that have been part of their 24/7 lives for the last two weeks.

I spoke about it with Ottawa's Mayor Jim Watson shortly before airtime.


BERMAN: Mayor Watson, as we mentioned, you've declared a state of emergency in Ottawa and called this protest, quote, "The most serious emergency our city has ever faced." What's the situation looking like as you head into the weekend?

MAYOR JIM WATSON, OTTAWA, CANADA: Well, unfortunately, the weekends tend to draw more people to the site where the protest is taking place, which is right in front of our Parliament Buildings. There about 400 trucks still in and around our downtown core.

And unfortunately, as the protesters have turned this into sort of a bit of a carnival where they bring in bouncy castles and saunas and whirlpools, and it does a great disservice and very insensitive to the residents who live in and around the area. They've had their peace and quiet disrupted for almost two weeks now

where they are blaring, you know, truck horns nonstop because there was a court injunction that gave them some peace for 10 days. But it tends to build up on the weekends and then go back to a more reasonable number of protesters on the weekdays.

BERMAN: So Mayor, the Premier of Ontario, which for our American viewers, that is the province Ottawa is located in, has also declared a state of emergency today and promised severe consequences for those taking part in the blockades. Do you know what those severe consequences might be?

WATSON: Well, they include fines of up to $100,000.00, a jail term of up to one year, the possession of the vehicle, and we have to hit these people in the pocketbook because they're dug in, they don't want to move.

Some of them have moved, it's actually gone down from what it was two weeks ago, but it is still disrupting commerce and tourism, and it is certainly disturbing the people who live in that particular neighborhood and around Parliament Hill.

And my message to the drivers and the truck industry and these are not really that mainstream truck drivers. These are a whole series of people who have gripes and grievances with government policy and politics and so on. But the bottom line is, they've stayed, they had their piece, they were listened to and not agreed with them, and now it's time for them to go home to their provincial Capitol and lobby their provincial government because clearly, they're not making any progress, they are just annoying people.

BERMAN: So in a letter to the Prime Minister and the Premier of Ontario, you wrote, quote, "We must do everything in our power to take back the streets of Ottawa. That's something the Prime Minister echoed by declaring this afternoon that everything is on the table to end blockades. If they refuse to go, will these people be forcibly removed?

WATSON: Well, that is one of the things that's on the table. That's what we don't want to do. Our police service have been trying to negotiate with the leaders, the leadership is a bit scattered, as you can well imagine in these kinds of protests. But the bottom line, we would like to see a de-escalation and a civil way of leaving, a safe way of leaving the site, because we have to go in and clean up. It has turned into a bit of a dump where they've got porta-potties, and bonfires, and barbecues and everything else.

The time is, to in my opinion and many other people in our city and polling has said this, you know what, you've made your point, it's time to move on.

BERMAN: Does the city even have enough law enforcement available for an operation to move them or would it require the military?

WATSON: No, we have put in a request, a formal request with the provincial and Federal governments. We have a lot of our other municipal police forces around the province of Ontario who have come and helped us out.

We still need more from the RCMP, the Mounties, which is the Federal Police force, as well as the Ontario Provincial Police. I've been in touch with the Prime Minister and the Premier, those requests are going in this weekend, for instance, we'll have a significant increase in the number of police officers to get that presence on the street, and particularly in the neighborhoods where some of the protesters are going into restaurants refusing to wear a mask, harassing staff, and really being belligerent to the residents of our city.

It is completely unacceptable. You know, I have told some of the media and said, how would you like a message to the truck drivers -- how would you like these big trucks to come into your neighborhood, blasting their horn at all hours? Keeping their diesel engines running, where you wake up in the morning, it's the stench of diesel all through the neighborhood? You wouldn't tolerate that for a minute.

And yet, you come to our city, which happens to be the capital of our country, not realizing there are vibrant neighborhoods that are just down the street from Parliament Hill and you're hurting them, you're not hurting the government.

BERMAN: Mayor Watson, wish you the best of luck. Thank you so much for being with us.

WATSON: Thank you for asking. Take care.


BERMAN: More now in the potential spillover here, the Department of Homeland Security warn law enforcement that a protest convoy could take shape in the U.S. and potentially affects Sunday Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

Here to talk about it, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama administration. Secretary, thanks so much for being with us. How concerned are you about this D.H.S. Bulletin and the possibility of some kind of trucker convoy spreading to the United States and potentially disrupting the Super Bowl?

JEH JOHNSON, FORMER SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: It's a possibility, and I think -- I haven't seen the bulletin, there have been public reports about the bulletin, those types of bulletins are issued to state and local law enforcement.

I suspect that this is the Department of Homeland Security trying to anticipate all possibilities that are more than remote given what is happening and in Detroit, in Canada.

And so the key is to alert local law enforcement, State and local law enforcement to be vigilant to the possibility. I've seen no real indications that these types of convoys are moving into the Western United States, into California, but there must be an indication somewhere on social media, so state and local and federal law enforcement should be vigilant. When I was Secretary of Homeland Security and I issued a public

statement like this, I would put out -- I would describe the threat, I would describe what we are doing about it, and then I would tell the public, particularly those who might be going to the Super Bowl, we are not discouraging you from going but be vigilant, be careful; and of course, always if you see something, say something.

I have a lot of confidence in California law enforcement, in the California Highway Patrol, I'm personally acquainted with them and their ability to anticipate something like this.

BERMAN: What would they do in theory if a threat like this did materialize? How could they stop it? Or how could they circumvent it?

JOHNSON: Well, as you know, John, Los Angeles, Southwestern LA, Southern California is highways, it's interstate, it's five-lane highways. The California Highway Patrol, I've seen one biker stop a five-lane highway, shut down a five lane highway when it was necessary.

They are very astute. They're very good at what they do. And I'm sure that they are anticipating the possibility of something like this. I'm not a transportation expert, but I know those who are who are probably focused on this right now.

BERMAN: Mr. Secretary, you should know, I don't know if you can see it, but we are looking at live pictures right now of the bridge, the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario to Detroit here and we see those protesters still out there.

A White House official told CNN today that D.H.S. is working with Canada at all levels and preparing for potential copycat scenarios here. You know, you've been there, you were D.H.S. Secretary. What do you think is going on behind the scenes right now in the United States writ large to prevent this?

JOHNSON: Well, unfortunately, the Ambassador Bridge in particular has been the potential for a chokehold on our commerce between the United States and Canada for some time. Twenty-five percent of commerce between our two countries, passes over the four-lane Ambassador Bridge and feeds into city streets in Windsor.

Imagine, for example, the George Washington Bridge in New York City feeding into West 178th Street rather than I-95. Fortunately, there's a second bridge being built a few blocks south of there in Detroit. It can't happen fast enough, but it is incumbent upon Customs officials at the Federal level, state and local officials to plan for the possibility of some sort of blockade on key chokeholds around the United States, in New York and California and elsewhere.

And I'm quite sure that, you know, the NYPD, for example, is doing that. I'm sure that the California Highway Patrol is doing that, and we need to be sure that we've got all bases covered across this country.

BERMAN: So when you were D.H.S. Secretary, you oversaw several Super Bowls and the security around them. I think we have a picture of you inspecting one of them, Super Bowl L in Santa Clara, there it is right there.

JOHNSON: There it is.

BERMAN: How does the threat this year compare to what you experienced?

JOHNSON: I never got to go to a game by the way.

BERMAN: Maybe if you knew somebody.

JOHNSON: Right, right. Maybe if I knew somebody.

With each Super Bowl and I covered three of them, the threat picture was different. In 2015-2016, for example, we were focused on small scale potential attacks by the so-called lone wolf at a Super Bowl event. The threat picture today is different.

Super Bowls are called SEAR-1s -- Special Event Assessment Rating 1. And the planning for the security of these literally begins months if not an entire year in advance of each game, and it is a combination of Federal, state and local law enforcement that over the course of that year, we learned to work effectively together to protect the event.


And so, I have a lot of confidence in our law enforcement, our officials to think about every possibility here, and I look forward to a safe and secure Super Bowl.

BERMAN: Secretary Jeh Johnson when the Patriots are there next year, you and I can go to the game together. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BERMAN: Just ahead, the other major controversy on the world stage involving Russia. New details about a star of its figure skating team, the preeminent star of the Winter Olympics potentially failing a drug test. Why she was allowed to compete despite it in what about the country's latest doping scandal?


BERMAN: As the U.S. and its allies are putting Russia on notice about Ukraine, the country is also getting blowback on the Olympics change -- Olympic stage I should say, and demands for accountability over its latest doping scandal. This time involving Russian teenage figure skater Kamila Valieva who's actually scheduled to compete in just a few days.


Today, the international testing agency confirmed that Valieva was allowed to compete by Russia, despite failing a drug test in December before the Winter Olympics. And the head of the U.S. anti-doping agency told CNN today that the U.S. could prosecute Russians who were actually or allegedly involved in her case. This comes as global athlete and international athlete led movement released a statement saying in part, Russian athletes have no choice but to conform to the system. They either fall in line or they're out of sport. Falling in line sometimes means doping.

Joining us now in Beijing, CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. And Christine, so many new developments here. What's the latest on the controversy in any sense of when it could be resolved?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: John, I'll go with that last question first. It has to be resolved by 6:00 p.m. Beijing time Tuesday, that's when the women's short program begins. And Kamila Valieva is supposed to be in it. So, I cannot imagine that the Court of Arbitration for Sport would go any later than that, although who knows with this drama.

To me, the big news over the last 24 hours has been that the International Olympic Committee has finally piped up, finally said it is against doping. And finally is joined in, in this case, the appeal against the Russian and the Russian decision to let her keep skating. And it wants to have her thrown out of the Olympics. That is the news. The IOC is obviously saying enough is enough. Now they should have said this eight years ago with the Russians who have been cheating their brains out and getting away with it and keep coming to the Olympics, even though of course, they're supposed to not be at the Olympics, or at least not their flag, their anthem, and the name of the country.

But this is what the IOC deserves, John, when you keep letting Russia get away with things, you have this explosion that is now threatening to just to take over the entire Olympic Games. But the IOC is now saying what it believes that she should not compete, and that is a very big deal.

BERMAN: It is a huge deal during the Olympics to have the IOC say that potentially the biggest star of the entire games shouldn't get to compete. How are other athletes reacting to this at this point? And the fact that it is a minor involved here, how does that impact the investigation?

BRENNAN: Right, John. And then that actually is I'm sure people are saying yes, but she's 15. I'm saying that as I'm reporting this and trying to break the news. She is 15. And this is -- that sad. It's almost tragic in a sports sense that, well, no one believes that she is doing this on her own. Her coaches, her team, the adults around her again, it's part of the Russian state sponsored doping system that again, has been going on now for quite a while. That's a shame.

But if you believe in clean sport, if you think that there should not be doping, least you should try to get rid of the drug cheats. You have to have Kamila Valieva out of the Olympic Games. Most of the athletes you asked about, you know, they're so focused on their competition. You've covered Olympic Games, we've covered them together. And, you know, it Nathan Chen was taught was asked several times about the team situation, the team medal, because obviously this impacts that. If Valieva was thrown out of the Olympics, we can presume that the United States will then get the gold medal in the team because Russia would be disqualified from the team. I've asked Nathan Chen about that a couple times. And he just said, you know, whatever should happen, happen, but they certainly want a fair playing field.

I also think the U.S. is playing is smart. The United States does not want to be out front on this, Obviously U.S. versus Russia is tantalizing. But the United States is really hoping now that the IOC takes control and U.S. does not have to lead the way.

BERMAN: Yes, look, I don't think for a second that it's disconnected also from the diplomacy happening in other places, too. This is not an area where the United States necessarily needs to be involved in that sense.

Christine Brennan, this is fascinating. I expect more developments, I expect will speaking to you again -- be speaking to you again soon. Thank you so much.

Up next, as critical race theory remains a topic of controversy across the country, CNN's Nick Valencia speaks to one university of Mississippi student who says her class on critical race theory was one of the most impactful enlight -- and enlightening courses she's ever taken.



BERMAN: Critical race theory has become a lightning rod across the country. At its core, the theory holds that racism is systemic and institutional in U.S. society. School boards across the country have taken to banning the teaching of it even though it's rarely part of any grade school curriculum. The latest flashpoint is Mississippi where lawmakers are trying to ban it but it turns out the teaching of it is getting support from an unlikely source.

Nick Valencia has the story.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel. And if he gets his way, critical race theory will be banned from being taught in the state, which rarely happens anyway. But we'll get to that in a second.

Critical race theory is the concept of seeking to understand and address inequality and racism in the United States.


VALENCIA (voice-over): McDaniel recently co-authored Senate Bill 2113, which says no school shall direct or compel students to affirm that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion or national origin is inherently superior, or that individual should be adversely treated based on such characteristics.

McDaniel says critical race theory is the belief that American society is inherently racist, and it has no place in Mississippi's public schools, including universities and community colleges.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Systematic racism should not be taught to our children.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Last month on the Senate floor, McDaniel and his co-author argued for the legislation watched his Black lawmakers walked out in protest before the vote. It passed 32 to two and now goes to the House chamber.

MCDANIEL: If you look at the plain language, and again, I have to go back to that. It clearly states that we won't allow people to be taught they're inferior. We won't allow our classrooms to teach the superiority of a race or whatever the case may be.

BRITANNY MURPHREE, LAW STUDENT, UNIV. OF MISSISSIPPI: I thought the whole class will be like criticizing white people, but we didn't really even mention white people.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Republican law student Brittany Murphree believes Senator McDaniel and his colleagues may not understand what they're talking about. Admittedly, she says she did neither until this semester, when the second year law student at the University of Mississippi enrolled in Law 743 is actually the only class in the state that teaches critical race theory according to the university.


Murphree says her own conservative friends and family discouraged her from taking the elective, worried that is one of only a handful of white students enrolled, she would be made to feel guilty about being white.

(on-camera): Has this made you feel white guilt?

MURPHREE: No, not at all.

VALENCIA (on-camera): What hasn't made you feel?

MURPHREE: Empowered to change the Republican Party.

VALENCIA (voice-over): It's the reason why the 27-year-old wrote this letter to the Mississippi House Education Committee asking Republicans to reconsider their legislation. The class, she says, takes a critical view of decisions of civil rights advocates who are mostly black, not white people.

To date, this has been the most impactful and enlightening course I've taken throughout my entire undergraduate and graduate education, she writes, not only has this course furthered my understanding of race and the law, but the prohibition of courses and teaching such as these is taking away the opportunity for people from every background and race to come together and discuss very important topics which would otherwise go on discussed.

MURPHREE: It's just like any other theory base class that we're taking law school, like, I don't want people to think that it's like this completely different class than all the other class we're taking. It's just a normal class. And this is academic freedom, and people are taking that away from me.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Critical race theory has been around since the 1980s. A spokesperson for (INAUDIBLE) says it's been taught here for over 10 years. Assistant Professor Yvette Butler, who teaches the class now says the focus that's been placed on CRT is a direct backlash to the perceived racial reckoning in the U.S. after the summer of 2020.

YVETTE BUTLER, ASST. PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIV OF MISSISSIPPI: We're not focused on things like guilt and shame. My focus as a legal educator is to get them to think like lawyers. And in order to be an effective lawyer, you have to be able to think critically, you have to be able to consider multiple sides of an issue.

VALENCIA (voice-over): Senator McDaniel disagrees. He says CRT doesn't make better lawyers, but rather teaches them victimhood and blame. The one of the title of his bill is critical race theory, the main text does not define what it is.

(on-camera): And when you hear students say that this limits their academic freedom.

MCDANIEL: It does. I mean, there's only so many hours in the day, we're not talking about censoring books, or since we have thoughts or ideas, she's perfectly able to continue her course of study the same way many of us do, outside of the presence of a professor, or better said outside of taxpayers having to subsidize the message.


BERMAN: So Nick, is the bill expected to pass as is in when could it go into effect?

VALENCIA: Well, right now it's in the hands of the Mississippi House, and they have until March to vote on it. And according to Senator McDaniel, he believes that the bill will pass with minimal changes that he adds John that he's been wrong before. And look, we've spoken to a lot of educators here in Mississippi, especially at the university. They say it would be a disservice to Mississippians if CRT is banned from the state. They point to the fact that it's already being taught across the country, which would put Mississippi lawyers, future lawyers here in the state at a disadvantage to not have similar education. John.

BERMAN: Nick Valencia, interesting perspective. Thank you so much.

In a moment, we return to our breaking news on Ukraine with a live report from Moscow and with the U.S. on high alert what will Vladimir Putin's next move be?



BERMAN: More now on our breaking news about a potential invasion of Ukraine that the White House says could come within days. President Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin are expected to speak tomorrow. However, Russian officials have typically dismissed any talk of invasion. They have previously called it quote, hysteria on the part of U.S. officials and the media something they did again today.

Nic Robertson, our international diplomatic editor in Moscow with the latest. Nic, what are you hearing from the Kremlin tonight?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, interestingly, the Kremlin came up pretty quickly after the announcements coming from the White House. The spokesman saying look, we repeatedly reject these accusations that we intend to invade Ukraine. We see it as a provocation. And we think under the cover of that provocation, Ukrainian forces are going to attack those pro- Russian, Russian backed separatists in the east of Ukraine in the Donbass area.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was spokeswoman there who tends to often be a little bit stronger, if you will, in the criticism was again tonight saying that this was hysteria from the White House that this is provocation this information and threats from the United -- for the United States, Anglo Saxons who want a war, because they have too many problems at home. If it sounds familiar, John, it is, because we've heard this sort of language over the past month or so from Russian officials. And it's in keeping with the fact that President Putin hasn't made clear precisely what is going to do, how he's going to respond to the fact that he's not getting his way over his demands about NATO.

His senior officials seem stuck on the same track of their message. The message is they don't intend to invade. Everyone who's looking at it closely, who's a military expert is saying the opposite at the moment. And this is the two things just don't match up at the moment, John.

BERMAN: So Nic, as far as Vladimir Putin is concerned, is his brinksmanship, working out the way he wanted it to?

ROBERTSON: The -- what we're hearing from the United States and from allies, NATO allies is the sort of information that's designed to get into President Putin's thinking, to disrupt his thinking, to push him off track. You know, he came to this by bringing his armies to the border of Ukraine of making this a huge international issue of demanding that he got a response, a positive response to his calls for NATO not to accept Ukraine and to for NATO to go back to 1997 borders. He bought this about and he was hoping by pressure to shake some concessions loose. Those concessions haven't been coming. And indeed, in a way you can see how he's being wrong footed has been pushed off his narrative here, his being put in a position where it's being made very public that he might trigger an invasion through a false flag operation, that he might potentially have bodybags going back to Moscow, that the Ukrainians are better armed than they were six months ago.


So all of that gives him a bigger problem that he was expected to deal with, but is not showing how he's going to get around it. And that's still the conundrum here, John.

BERMAN: Nic Robertson in Moscow for us tonight. Nic, please keep us posted.

Just ahead, a new photo and remind her there is joy in this world tonight. And he shares a name with Anderson Cooper more on the newest member of the CNN family ahead.



BERMAN: We're going to have one moment tonight that is not about crisis and chaos. There is nothing more joyful than what Anderson announced on the broadcast last night that he is a father for the second time. This is the photo he posted this morning of him with his new son Sebastian Luke Maisani-Cooper is from the day after young Sebastian's birth, and we hear everyone is doing great at home.

And that's how we'll leave you this Friday with joy and peace.

The news continues, so let's hand it over to Laura coats in "CNN TONIGHT."