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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

. Biden Returns From Poland Trip, Historic Stop In Kyiv; Putin, China's Top Diplomat Tout Rock Solid Ties; Solemn, Emotional Work Of Transporting Ukrainian Soldiers' Remains Back To Families; Special Counsel Subpoenas Ivanka Trump And Jared Kushner To Testify Before Jan 6 Grand Jury; Trump Visits Ohio Train Derailment Site Ahead Of Visit From Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; NTSB To Release Report On Ohio Toxic Train Derailment Tomorrow; A Historic Storm Is Bringing Snow, Ice And Extreme Cold Across The US; DeSantis Makes Big Splash In GOP Presidential Money Race With 7-Figure Checks From Top Donors; Testimony From Murdaugh's Friend And Former Law Partner Highlights Inconsistencies In Murdaugh's Story. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 22, 2023 - 20:00   ET


RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And then this suspected shooter then moved on to shoot that mother and her child with that nine-year-old losing their life.

So, so many questions right now as we continue to look into this case.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Yes. Ryan, thank you for gathering all of that and bringing that to us so quickly. I really appreciate it.

It's amazing. Three different shooting sites. We are going to have much more on that. We will be continuing to gather more details on it.

Thank you all so much for joining us this evening. I'm Kate Bolduan.

AC 360 starts now.



President Biden is expected back in Washington within the hour after a three-day European trip designed to strengthen Western support for Ukraine a year into Russia's invasion. Before leaving Warsaw this morning, the President met with leaders from NATO's eastern flank and reaffirmed their joint commitment. Quoting the White House here: "... to stand with the Ukrainian people for as long as it takes. "

Vladimir Putin for his part was also Alliance building, meeting today with China's top envoys saying cooperation between their countries is very important for "... stabilizing the international situation." Russia wants weapons from China. A Pentagon spokeswoman today warning it would "certainly be a miscalculation of China to provide lethal aid to Russia."

President Biden had a similar answer today when ABC's David Muir asked him about Putin's announcement yesterday that Moscow was suspending participation in the New START Nuclear Arms Treaty with the US.


DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: What's your message to Putin on that?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a big mistake to do that. Not very responsible. And -- but I don't read into that that he is thinking of using nuclear weapons or anything like that.


COOPER: As for Mr. Putin who cast the invasion in defensive terms yesterday, he signaled the opposite today, suggesting it's a war aimed at restoring a piece of the old Russian and Soviet empire.

Speaking at a concert marking tomorrow's Defender the Fatherland Day, he said the battle is happening on "our historical borders," maybe not the contemporary internationally recognized borders that Russian forces crossed a year ago this week when they invaded Ukraine.

CNN chief White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly is in Warsaw for us tonight. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow and Kyiv, CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward.

Phil Mattingly starts us off.

What is the feelings among the White House officials about the trip as it wraps up?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Anderson, in talking to White House officials over the course of the last several weeks about the broad outlines of their efforts related to the one year mark of this invasion, I'm not sure at this moment, you could say they could have scripted a better 72-hour period for their goals.

There was the shock visit to Ukraine, which is kind of a jolt to the collective system of the world as the President stood side by side with President Zelenskyy. There was the speech that the President deeply wanted to deliver that not just laid out the broader stakes here, but also elevated them as well, and then there were the myriad of meetings with key US allies providing a personal commitment, a reiteration of US alliances and the value of them, but also the steadfast effort going forward on what is a war that shows no signs of ending anytime soon.

And I think it's those meetings that will probably have the larger impact on this course of these three days. When you talk to officials they made clear, there were substantive and very detailed discussions with President Zelenskyy behind closed doors, with President Duda here in Warsaw, and with those nine leaders of the Bucharest 9 countries earlier today.

Those are not just grip and grab handshake type meetings, Anderson, those are tangible meetings about next steps, about what's needed in this process ahead and about very complex and difficult decisions that need to be made. Those decisions and how they bear out will probably be the real test of how successful this trip was in the long term. But certainly in the short term, this was what White House officials wanted to accomplish.

COOPER: There surely have got to be a lot of concern among White House officials, though about Vladimir Putin speaking with China's envoy and the potential for China supplying weapons to Russia.

MATTINGLY: Anderson, there is no question about it. It's been interesting, in asking US officials over the course of the last couple of days what their thoughts were on the public statements, the speech the rally from President Putin, there was not a lot of surprise, not necessarily elevated concern, not a lot new that they heard even his reference to suspending the New START Treaty was somewhat dismissed. It was condemned, but it was dismissed as being more symbolic than actually tangible.

It was the meetings that were happening at the same time between President Putin and Wang Yi, the top diplomat for China and also President Putin's top advisers that drew the most concern. You combine that with US officials talking about the fact they've seen Intelligence that China is now considering providing lethal aid to Ukraine, and you get the sense that for all of the issues that the US is going to have to grapple with in the coming weeks and months related to this war and maintaining what to this point has been an extraordinarily durable coalition of Western democracies.

It is the potential for China's involvement or increased involvement, particularly on the lethal aid side that is drawing the most concern, sharp condemnations, and a very aggressive effort to head that off as it has become very clear that despite China's reticence to get deeply involved, the alliance between Russia and China is only growing closer. Of course, President Putin signaled that Xi Jinping could be coming to Moscow sometime soon -- Anderson.


COOPER: Yes, Phil Mattingly, appreciate it. Next, now, we go to Moscow and CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

Fred, what came out of the meeting today between Putin and Beijing?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Anderson. Well, Putin certainly signaled that the relations with Beijing are extremely important to him. In fact, that concert that you were talking about, the really important patriotic concert, Putin came substantially late to that concert because he was meeting with Wang Yi, the top diplomat of the Chinese.

And there, he said that first of all, Xi Jinping will be coming to Moscow very soon, but also that he increasingly wanted to deepen those relations with the Chinese, because the Chinese have become so important for the Russians with all the sanctions that have been levied on the Russians by the US and Western partners, but of course, also militarily as well.

I want you to listen to some of what Vladimir Putin had to say.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Russian- Chinese relations are developing just as we planned in previous years, everything is moving forward developing, and we are reaching new milestones.


PLEITGEN: New milestones there is what Vladimir Putin was talking about. Now, Wang Yi seemed to take a swipe at the Biden administration and those concerns that the Chinese might be thinking about providing weapons to the Russians. He was saying that the relations between China and Russia are on solid footing, that they're not aimed at third countries, but they would also not be the subject, as he put it, to interference and provocations from third countries either -- Anderson.

COOPER: We talked about this concert in Moscow where he spoke today about Russia's historical borders. What other messages did he have for the crowd?

PLEITGEN: Yes,. you know, it was a massive event and the Russians were saying they believe that up to 200,000 people might show up there, I'm not sure it was quite that many.

The speech that he gave there was fairly short. He was talking about Russia unity. He was obviously talking about persevering in the current conflict there in Ukraine, talking about how all Russians could be a part of that.

There was another video message actually that he sent out tonight, where there was a lot more substance said than that. He talked about new weapons for the fight in Ukraine, for the Russian troops that are fighting there, talking about how they were fighting against Neo Nazism in Ukraine.

But he also talked about strengthening Russia's nuclear forces, and that is certainly something where you can really feel that right now, Vladimir Putin not only in no mood to back down in Ukraine, but also of course, in the conflict with the West and specifically with the United States as well -- Anderson.

COOPER: Fred Pleitgen, appreciate it.

More now on China, Russia and the US in the high stakes involved. I talked about it with CNN's Fareed Zakaria shortly before airtime.


COOPER: So Fareed, as we mentioned, The Pentagon has vowed there will be consequences if China provides Russia with lethal military aid. What kind of consequences? I mean, how do you see this playing out?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": It's not easy to see exactly what they mean by that. I think that the truth is, were China to start aiding Russia in a significant way, it would be a game changer. The Russians are running out of supplies, they're running out of missiles, they're running out of high-tech gear, China could fill many of those gaps, not all those gaps.

And the state of US-China relations are so bad, it is not clear what the Chinese have to fear. The Biden administration has already continued the Trump tariffs, they have blocked China's access to lots of high tech equipment and computer chips. They're putting in place more processes to do things like that, that deny China access to a number of the kind of key technologies they need.

So you can imagine from Beijing's point of view, they're asking themselves, what do we have to lose? The Americans are already trying to thwart us and here, we have our only major power ally in the world, Russia that is asking us for something. So, it's a real dilemma.

COOPER: But why would it be in China's interest to deepen the relationship, I mean, concerning how the war is going for Vladimir Putin, why deepen the relationship that way?

ZAKARIA: From China's point of view, what they end up with is a vassal state that is the largest exporter of energy in the world, and China needs enormous amounts of energy. Before the war, Russia was the largest exporter of, if you added oil, natural gas, and coal altogether, Russia was number one, and China needs all of that.

In addition, the Chinese and the Russians do have one common strategic interest, which is they don't want a world that is dominated by the United States.

COOPER: If there is a victory for Russia in Ukraine, does that then embolden China with Taiwan?

ZAKARIA: I think so. I think if there is a victory for Russia in Ukraine, it says to everyone that, you know, the right makes might, the strong can do what they will and the weak will do what they must as Thucydides said 2,000 years ago, that the rules of international relations that were set after 1945 are weakening, and the core of those post 1945 rule was no change of your borders by force, no annexation of territories.

And for the Chinese, Taiwan is an absolutely central issue.


COOPER: And President Biden obviously spent a lot of the last few days talking to NATO leaders, keeping the Alliance shored up and unified. It is unified in the face of Russian aggression. Is there the same level of agreement among US allies about China?

ZAKARIA: That's a great question, Anderson, and the answer is decidedly not.

The Europeans need China from an economic point of view, and also even diplomatically. A European senior official said to me, we cannot do without Russia's energy and China's market. Now, as I say, it doesn't have to go down that path. We still could have a better relationship with China than we do. It is not absolutely necessary, as you say, for them to be so closely aligned with Russia, and China, unlike Russia is not fundamentally a spoiler state, by which I mean, Russia thrives on this kind of geopolitical tension. Oil prices go up, it helps it.

China thrives in an open, peaceful, prosperous trading world. That's how they've grown strong. And so it's an interesting question as to whether there is anything the Biden administration can do to wean China away from Russia, because they have -- put it in another terms, Anderson, of the three major nuclear powers in the world, to have to have them closely allied with their missiles pointing at the United States is a sobering prospect.

COOPER: Yes. Definitely. Fareed Zakaria, appreciate it. Thank you.


COOPER: By the way, tomorrow night, Fareed is hosting a CNN Town Hall with Biden administration National Security officials on the invasion one year later. It gets underway at 9:00 PM Eastern. It's tomorrow right here on CNN.

Next tonight, a stunning report from Clarissa Ward in Ukraine about volunteers whose work is wrenching, but vital, making it possible for the families of fallen soldiers to properly mourn their loss.

And later, what to make of the January 6th Special Counsel reportedly issuing subpoenas for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.



COOPER: We want to bring you a part of the war in Ukraine you've likely never seen before. You're about to meet a man who is doing a job that provides comfort to families who've lost loved ones in the fight. He brings their loved ones home, driving back and forth across Ukraine with the dead, bringing them to their families for burial.

CNN's Clarissa Ward joins us now from Kyiv.

I found, Clarissa, this report that you did so moving. Just talk about how you found out about this and how you did this?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson. It's not everybody who can do this job and we certainly hadn't realized initially that it really falls to volunteers to do this work, and it is a lot of work.

We spoke yesterday with the head of this volunteer group, Bulldozer, and they said that yesterday was a record day for the number of Ukrainian dead that they were trying to get back to their family so that they could give them proper burials. It's easy to get kind of carried away with the excitement of President Biden's visit and all the enthusiasm and support for Ukraine that that generated, but underneath that, Anderson, when you're spending time here, you really remember just how grim and deadly this war really is. Take a look.


WARD (voice over): On most days, Alia Grepnoy (ph) sets out before dawn, part of a volunteer group called, Bulldozer that transports the remains of Ukraine's fallen soldiers back to their families.

At a morgue in the Kyiv suburb of Boryspil, a group of servicemen are waiting to meet the body of private Alexei Litvinov (ph). It is somber work and the men move quickly.

Grepnoy hands over the soldier's personal effects.

(ALIA GREPNOY speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "At the moment, we have 18 bodies," he tells us. "And each family wants to get them as soon as possible."

(on camera): So why do you do this work?

(ALIA GREPNOY speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "Few people are willing to do this work for free," he says. "And not everyone has the psyche for it."

There are lonely seemingly endless hours on the road as he crisscrosses the country. Emblazoned across the side of his truck is the number 200, a military term for the transport of dead bodies the dates back to Soviet times.

On occasion, processions of people line up on their knees to greet the truck, mark of respect for the dead.

At a morgue in the City of Dnipro, Grepnoy stops to pick up more bodies. Overwhelmed by the number of casualties, the hospital has taken to storing them in a shipping container in the parking lot as the men work, mourning relatives file past.

Ukraine does not release information on how many of its soldiers have been killed in action, but Grepnoy says that his daily load has soared in recent weeks, as fighting has raged in Eastern Ukraine.

Do you have any idea how many bodies you have taken back to their hometowns at this stage?

(ALIA GREPNOY speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "In this van," he says, "Around a thousand.

(on camera): And now we're at a stage in the war where more and more Ukrainian soldiers are being killed. Are you seeing that? (ALIA GREPNOY speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "At the moment, yes," he tells us. "Right now, it's a large amount."

Thirty-six hours after Grepnoy drops off his body, Private Litvinov is given a proper funeral in Boryspil. Killed in the Donbass region on February 11th, his mother, Maryna (ph) can finally say goodbye to her son.

How important was it to you to have his body returned so that you could give him this beautiful funeral today?

(MARYNA speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "The main thing is to have him at home, not laying somewhere eaten by birds. You understand how awful it is when people just disappear," she says. 'We cannot change anything, but thank God he is here and I can come to visit him."


This is the reason Grepnoy does this work, but seeing the family's grief is also incredibly painful.

(ALIA GREPNOY speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "The hardest part is when you drop them off," he says, "When there are relatives present to look them in the eye."

"It's very hard," he says. "There is so much emotion, so many tears."

But there's no time for tears tonight, Grepnoy still has more bodies to deliver, and across Ukraine, many families are still waiting.


COOPER: It's just extraordinary. Is Ukraine taking any extra precautions ahead of Friday's anniversary of the invasion?

WARD: They are, Anderson, because they've seen that Russia in the past on kind of symbolic occasions like New Year's Eve, which is a huge holiday here can fire off missile attacks just to make a statement or create a provocation.

So they've asked schools around the country to go into kind of remote learning mode, essentially, for the next couple of days with kids studying online at home. They've also asked people in the city of Kherson, which is a city in the south that was liberated a few months ago but has come under just constant shelling with the Russians sort of have pulled back their forces, but can still hit it pretty hard.

So they've asked people there again to be mindful about going out for businesses to stay closed, government workers to work from home, and for humanitarian aid groups not to be going out and distributing aid on those days. They don't know exactly what if anything is going to happen, but they want to be prepared for any possibility because especially in the aftermath of Biden's visit and his speech, there is a sense that potentially there could be some kind of a provocation whether that might be a missile attack, whether it might be artillery, whether it might be drones, we just don't know -- Anderson.

COOPER: Clarissa Ward, appreciate it. Thank you. Beautiful report. Thank you.

Just ahead, the latest on a new report by "The New York Times" that the Special Counsel has subpoenaed Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.



COOPER: Almost two weeks after a source told CNN that the January 6 Special Counsel had subpoenaed he former Vice President, sources tell "The New York Times" that Jack Smith has now done the same with his daughter, Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, who both worked closely with the former President in the White House.

CNN political correspondent, Sara Murray joins us now with details. So what do prosecutors hope to learn from these two?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, these are people who both had basically a front row seat on January 6, you know, Ivanka Trump was with her father when he allegedly called Vice President Mike Pence and pressured him to block the certification of the election results.

You know, she was with her father, when he spoke to that rally at the Ellipse where people were chanting "Hang Mike Pence." Later in the day, Jared Kushner had returned from the Middle East and both of them were with the former President, then the President at the time, trying to convince him to call off the rioters.

So if you want to kind of check the box of what was Donald Trump doing, what was he saying, what was he potentially thinking on the day of January 6 -- you need to talk to Ivanka Trump and Jared.

COOPER: I was going to ask, is it unusual to move to subpoena the daughter and son-in-law of a former President? Obviously, it is very unusual to even have the former President being investigated like this. So this is unusual on top of unusual.

MURRAY: The whole thing is unusual. I mean, think about also what Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner's roles were in the White House, that was unusual. That's part of the reason they had this sort of front row seat to, you know, this infamous moment, and so it makes sense that Special Counsel Jack Smith is going to want to talk to them.

Remember, the January 6th House investigators also spoke to both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and they frankly came away with a pretty scathing assessment of Ivanka Trump's testimony saying that she wasn't very forthcoming and saying that one of her aides happened to remember more about the events that were unfolding around January 6th than Ivanka Trump did.

So again, if you are Jack Smith, if you are the Special Counsel, and you're trying to do this fulsome investigation, of course, you're going to check this box. This is a place other investigators have gone before. It's not the same escalation, as we saw with him going after former Vice President Mike Pence, but it's still, as you said, very unusual.

COOPER: Yes, Sara Murray, appreciate it.

I want to get some perspective now from CNN legal analyst and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Elliot Williams.

What can they get from these two that the January 6 Committee couldn't?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly, Anderson, more importantly, the Justice Department can enforce its own subpoenas, which Congress can't. If Congress wished to go down the road of trying to compel anybody to testify, they would have to go to the Justice Department and take everything to Court, it would just be a more sort of convoluted complex legal process.

So anything the Justice Department does is going to have more teeth in Congress, both in the way of subpoenas and bring anybody in to testify.

COOPER: But, I mean, how likely is that the former President would then tried to just invoke executive privilege? And how does that -- how would that play out?

WILLIAMS: Now, certainly, he can. Now look, regardless of the fact that these individuals were the daughter and son-in-law of the President, they were still senior advisors of the President of the United States. Some conversations that they would have had with the President are necessarily going to be protected on account of their role, setting aside why they were there and what people think about how they got appointed and so on, they are White House senior staff.

Now look, not every conversation you have with an individual is going to be protected. Think about it, if they were talking about that "Hang Mike Pence" conversation, is that really within the scope of their duties as an aide to the President or policy related decisions with regard to the present? No, it's a criminal investigation and there is going to be a very gray area here, Anderson, that a Court is going to have to slice up and decide, was this within the scope of your duties as an aide or were you serving a candidate who also by the way happened to be your father?

COOPER: Well, but I mean, if it was in the scope of their duties, and yet it's also germane to a criminal investigation, where does that fall?

WILLIAMS: Privilege is really -- again, a Court is -- these are hard legal questions like you were saying with Sara that are unusual and never come up before.


Now look, most of time, the executive branch is going to have to bend the knee to the criminal process. This -- we came and saw this 40 or 50 years ago in the context of Richard Nixon. And so, necessarily, if there's a criminal investigation and this is germane information, it ought to be provided to law enforcement. But again, it's a little bit blurry when you're talking about White House staff who are -- who might have matters that sort of touch policy but also don't. But again, the big take away here is that merely working in the White House or frankly merely being the President of the United States can't be a shield to ever being investigated or participating in an investigation into criminal conduct.

COOPER: The time -- the time line of what it would take to go through a battle over executive privilege on this, I mean, what is that?

WILLIAMS: Yeah. So look, there's the practical time line and the legal time line, Anderson. Like, the legal time line, it's indefinite. Jack Smith by being -- by virtue of being Special Counsel can outlive the Attorney General and stay on the job for years. Now look, we live in the real world and at the end of day, there's a big political election coming up and the president -- the former president himself may well be a candidate. And if all of this becomes more complicated to use the words you and Sara said a moment ago, more unusual in about a year. So I think they have an interest in moving things along pretty quickly.

COOPER: And obviously, the Special Counsel is not just investigating January 6, also the Mar-a-Lago documents case. It's not clear how much Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner would know as witnesses related to documents. WILLIAMS: But -- look, they clearly have proximity to the president and the law, at least under federal law doesn't create a privilege but -- for merely being the daughter of somebody. Conversations you have with your dad or your mom under federal law can be subject to investigation by law enforcement. And so if they have useful information, he can certainly seek to get that from them. He doesn't even need to compel it. He can simply ask the question and isn't going to be violating any rules or laws by doing so.

COOPER: Alright. Elliot Williams, appreciate it. Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Coming up, it has been nearly three weeks since the toxic train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio. And despite cleanup efforts, a lot of concerns and questions remain unanswered. CNN's Miguel Marquez has the latest on the ground next.



COOPER: Tomorrow, the National Transportation Safety Board is set to release its preliminary report on the train wreck 19 days ago in East Palestine, Ohio, that forced a temporary evacuation and a controlled release of toxic fumes. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is also scheduled to visit tomorrow. This comes as the EPA threatened the train operator Norfolk Southern saying that they can fine them $70,000 a day if they failed to clean up and pay for the wreck.

The incident is also becoming increasingly political. The former president visited the area today, just ahead of Secretary Buttigieg's visit. In just minutes, CNN is going to host a town hall with residents of East Palestine and their state's Governor Mike DeWine. But first, CNN's Miguel Marquez has the latest from the ground.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN'S SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive effort under way to cleanup creeks and water flowing in and around East Palestine, Ohio.

DIANNA ELCER, EAST PALESTINE, OHIO RESIDENT: It is decimating our businesses.

MARQUEZ: It's dirty, difficult, and slow going work. For those living here, building trust that the water and air is safe as slow going as the cleanup itself.

ELCER: It took I think Norfolk Southern three days, four days for us to get a partial list. Vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and benzene residue, and combustible liquids. What the hell are combustible liquids? You know, it could be anything.

MARQUEZ: The makings of this disaster appears to have started somewhere between Alliance, Ohio, and the derailment in East Palestine. Surveillance video of the train in Alliance shows no signs of sparks coming from its wheels. There is a detector in Sebring, Ohio that would indicate overheat, a so-called hot box detector. It's unclear if it detected any overheat.

But in Salem, Ohio, just 13 miles further along, surveillance video clearly shows sparks in bright lights coming from under a rail car at about the half-way point of the train. There's another hot box detector just down the track from where the surveillance video was taken, but it's not clear if it detected an overheat either.

If it did, both the conductor and dispatcher would have been alerted to a heating issue. The NTSB said shortly before the derailment, another detector alerted the crew of a mechanical issue. The derailment occurred around 8:55 p.m., shortly after the train passed Market Street in Downtown East Palestine. The EPA now ordering Norfolk Southern to pay for and cleanup the entire disaster zone.

MICHAEL REGAN, EPA ADMINISTRTOR: They have to put together a work plan that's going to be very prescriptive in terms of all of the cleanup, how they'll do it, and the radius of that cleanup. They also have to explain to us how they'll pay for it.

MARQUEZ: All of this as former President Trump visits East Palestine, an area of Ohio where he still enjoys enormous support.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The community has shown the tough and resilient heart of America, and it's what it is. This is really America right here.


COOPER: And Miguel joins me now from East Palestine. So what steps are being taken now to make sure that the water and air are safe?

MARQUEZ (on camera): Yeah, in addition to that cleanup that you're seeing in the creeks that run through East Palestine and any surrounding water as well, they are doing tons of testing everywhere. They've done over 500 tests in homes, in municipal water around the area. They've not found any significant contamination so far. The concern of private wells and whether those private wells will remain free of contaminates, they're insisting or telling people that if they have private wells, they should test and get them tested regularly. The governor here of Ohio says that they'll test every single week the municipal water supply until they are assured it is safe. Anderson?

COOPER: Have the political battles over this impacted the ability to move forward with the cleanup in some way?


MARQUEZ (on camera): It certainly makes the population here less and less just -- more and more distrustful of the federal government effort. The EPA has really moved in a big way to try to bring order to all of this and force Norfolk Southern to focus on the cleanup here. This is -- this is Trump country in a very hard core way that the signs around here, the reception he got today, and all of that adds to -- it adds a layer of difficulty in an area that already distrusts the government, businesses -- the government at every level. It doesn't certainly make it any easier. Anderson?

COOPER: Miguel, appreciate it. Once again, residents of East Palestine, Ohio and Governor Mike DeWine join Jake Tapper for live CNN special "Toxic Train Disaster." Ohio residents speak out about 20 minutes from now, right here on CNN.

Meanwhile tonight, more than 1,600 flights were canceled tonight as a powerful winter storm hit much of the country, more than 65 million people, all the way from California to Maine are under winter weather alerts. Senior Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking it for us. So, where are conditions the worst right now and where is the storm heading?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN'S WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Well, conditions are going to be the worst across portions of the Midwest, places like Western Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, you can see that blizzard warning in effect. We are going to see blinding conditions with just driving snow, very strong winds. In fact, some of these winds will be anywhere from 50, maybe 55 miles per hour across the southwest. We could see winds of 60 to 70 miles per hour.

So you can see where the biggest impacts are going to be. These areas shaded in red. Also power outages are quickly piling up. More than a quarter of a million power outages with very frigid temperatures. We are going to see very high impacts across the Sierra as well as the snow piles up.

So here's the radar and you can see where the snow is now. That northern tier across the northern plains, Midwest, the great lakes, that's going to continue to come down throughout the overnight hours. We're also seeing icing across these areas and that's also going to make travel nearly impossible throughout the overnight and early tomorrow. This should be winding down though, by the time we get to midday tomorrow and moving out.

This is going to have a huge impact on northern New England as well because we could see a foot to a foot-and-a-half of snow there. As far as the ice goes, we could see a quarter to a half-inch of ice. And here is the snow yet to come. We could see an additional eight inches of snow across the Midwest. And as this moves into New England, Anderson, we could pick up as I said a foot to a foot-and-a-half of snow.

COOPER: I also understand, I mean despite all this, there were record- breaking temperatures today.

GRAY: Yeah, it's actually remarkable. We had 100-degree span across the south and then the northern Rockies today. Look at all these records broken. Atlanta hit 81 degrees today. In fact, that's a monthly record, and then Corpus Christi hit 95 today, just shattering the previous record. And if you see all of the previous records here really within the last five years, it just goes to show climate change, we are in this warming pattern and so we're going to see this more often.

135 possible record-highs broken through Friday, and then 35 possible record-lows. So definitely, the yin and yang going on across the country.

COOPER: Fascinating. Jennifer gray, appreciate it.

Coming up, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis making some big leaps forward in the money race to challenge the former president for the 2024 Republican nomination. CNN's Harry Enten has the numbers ahead.



COOPER: Showing you some live pictures, scene at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Air Force One and President Biden returning from the president's 72-hour trip to Warsaw and to Kyiv. The president has not actually gotten off yet. You actually can see the stairs are being brought to the plane. You heard Phil Mattingly at the top of the hour, his sources at the White House telling him that they are pleased with the president's visit and what the president accomplished as the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine approaches.

Meantime, the all but declared presidential candidate see our Florida Governor Ron DeSantis took a big leap forward in the money primary this month, with some seven-figure checks from top Republican donors. According to records viewed by CNN, DeSantis' operation got a $2.5 million check from one donor and a $1 million apiece for two more.

CNN also reports his total cash on hand now puts him on a about equal footing with the former president. This comes on the heels of the president's day campaign style stops at New York, Philadelphia and Chicago area police officers. This weekend, he's scheduled to host a three-day donor retreat, a few minutes' drive from the former president's Mar-a-Lago estate. And then next week, another potential campaign signifier (ph) a new memoir comes out followed by a future book tour.

Joined now by our Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten with more. So, does it surprise you that DeSantis is getting these big checks without even announcing?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN'S SENIOR DATA REPORTER: No, I'm not surprised at all, Anderson. The reason I'm not surprised at all is, look how much money he raised during his 2022 bid -- re-election bid for Florida governor, north of $200 million -- north of $200 million, and look at how much Trump raised in essentially the first month and a half of his campaign ending at the end of 2022, only about $10 million, in fact a little bit less than that.

And you know, money isn't everything in politics, in a presidential bid, but you can't have a successful campaign without having money on hand.

COOPER: He has been viewed as a national candidate or potential national candidate for quite a while.

ENTEN: That's exactly right, and that's why I think he raised so much in 2022, is because there were a lot of people who were trying to get in to ground floor (ph), right. And so to me, this is an indication that Trump is not necessarily going to have the easiest time sort of dispelling or disposing of Ron DeSantis from the field.

COOPER: Just in terms of polls, he's already on the former president's heels, isn't he?

ENTEN: He's very much so on the former president's heels. I mean, you know, we had two pretty good high-quality polls that were -- national polls that came out in the last few weeks, one from Quinnipiac and one from Monmouth. And what do you see right there, you see, one, with Trump, with just a five-point lead but DeSantis all the way up to 36%.


You see another one Monmouth --

COOPER: And look at Haley and Pence.

ENTEN: Way back.


ENTEN: Way back. And I think this is a thing, you know, there is all this thought, you know, oh my God, all these candidates are going to get in and it might split the anti-Trump vote, right? This is something we saw in 2016 but here is the thing I what I want to tell you, Anderson, if you take one thing away from me, it is this.

COOPER: I want to take one thing away from you.

ENTEN: If you want to take one thing, I hope you want to take two or three things away from me to be honest.


But either way, if you are going to take one thing away from me, it's that the anti-Trump vote this here is not split as much as it was in 2016. DeSantis at this point, with 36%, 33% of the vote, it is look at the list essentially at this point, three months after Trump declared during his 2016 bid, the top leading candidate was in fact Ben Carson, who was only at about 17% in Quinnipiac's poll. So, at this point, Ron DeSantis at 36%, much higher than the top anti-Trump candidate.

COOPER: What happens when you look at Trump versus DeSantis one-on- one?

ENTEN: Yeah. Look at this, what do you see? You see DeSantis --

COOPER: I don't see it -- now I see it.

ENTEN: Jump out ahead. There you go.


ENTEN: You see it. Ron DeSantis at 53%; Donald Trump at 40%. So I think the idea essentially is, if in fact Ron DeSantis gets into a one-on-one with Trump, that's major trouble for the former president.

COOPER: And is there evidence that Trump is no longer the -- as popular as he was?

ENTEN: Yeah, I mean, look, if you would -- we would always say, oh Trump has this 80% approval rating. No one has a higher approval rating with the Republican Party than Donald Trump. But look at the net favorability ratings, favorable minus unfavorable. Look at Ron DeSantis on your screen right now. Where is he? He's plus into the 70s. Look at where Donald Trump is, below that. Below that. So the fact is, at this particular point, Donald Trump isn't the most popular candidate.

COOPER: Though a lot of people don't know really much about Ron DeSantis, than more of the idea of Ron DeSantis.

ENTEN: He -- maybe it is the idea and that I think is the one question, when Ron DeSantis actually gets into the race --

COOPER: Right.

ENTEN: -- will the sort of idea of Ron DeSantis actually match the realism of Ron DeSantis?

COOPER: Wow. Harry Enten, well said. Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you, sir.

COOPER: Appreciate it. Still ahead, the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. What his long-time friend had to say about the crime scene, plus new details on Murdaugh potentially taking the stand, latest next.



COOPER: Tonight, new details on the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. He is accused of killing his wife and son in an attempt to cover up his alleged financial crimes. And now, a source tells CNN that Murdaugh wants to take the stand, or at least it appears that way, in his own defense. (INAUDIBLE) Randi Kaye has the latest. She joins us now.

So what more can you tell us about, if Alex Murdaugh will take the stand? I mean, it seems like any defense attorney would not allow him to.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, a source familiar with the situation telling me tonight that no decision has been made on whether or not Alex Murdaugh will take the stand. I'm told he's pondering that decision overnight in jail. Of course, the source saying that the lawyers would like to recommend one way or another, but ultimately as in every case, it is up to the client. But the source put it this way, the final decision is only certain when his hand hits the bible. Meanwhile, the defense did call a few other witnesses today, including Alex Murdaugh's former law partner and here's some of that testimony.


JIM GRIFFIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What was his demeanor?

MARK BALL, FORMER COLLEAGUE OF ALEX MURDAUGH: He was devastated. I mean, he was crying. I mean, just -- just beside himself.


KAYE: Alex Murdaugh's longtime friend and fellow law partner, Mark Ball, testifying for the defense and revealing how Murdaugh appeared to him soon after the murders. He also helped shore up that the defense's theme that the crime scene investigation was sloppy. He described what he saw in the feed room where Paul Murdaugh was killed after, he says, investigators had finished processing that scene.


BALL: Looking around down around the floor and all that, it just -- there was a piece of Paul's skull about the size of a baseball laying there.

GRIFFIN: Did that upset you?

BALL: It did very much. I mean, it just really infuriated me. It is kind of like walking across the grave. You just -- it is one of those things you just don't do.


KAYE: Still, this defense witness also offered testimony that could help the prosecution. During cross-examination, Ball identified Alex Murdaugh's voice on the recording taken at the dog kennels around the time of the murders.


CREIGHTON WATERS, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE PROSECUTOR: Any doubt in your mind that Alex Murdaugh, Maggie and Paul were on that kennel video at 8:44 p.m. on June 7, 2021?

BALL: None.

WATERS: No doubt in your mind?

BALL: No doubt.


KAYE: He also told the jury that Murdaugh had repeatedly told him he wasn't at the kennels earlier in the night.


WATERS: And now, you know that's not true from seeing the kennel video, right?

BALL: I do.

WATERS: And that wasn't the only time he told you that either, is it?

BALL: No, at least three times.

WATERS: At least three times.


KAYE: Ball also revealed that Murdaugh had a couple different versions about how he allegedly checked his family after he said he found them dead.


WATERS: In his conversations with you, did he ever change his story about who he checked first at the scene supposedly?

BALL: The first time I remember, he checked Maggie first and then went to Paul. And then I heard him say at one point that it was Paul, then it was Maggie. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: This cell phone forensics expert also testified for the defense. He analyzed the state's data and timeline from the night of the murders. One key finding from him, Maggie Murdaugh's phone didn't appear to be motion activated around the time the state has suggested Alex Murdaugh may have tossed it from his moving car.


PHILLIP BARBER, ASSOCIATE WITH RICHARD HARPOOTLIAN: Can you tell us how much motion would be required for the screen to come on, on a phone?

UNKNOWN: Very little.

BARBER: In the times that Alex Murdaugh's car was passing, the screen never came on?

UNKNOWN: That's correct. The database indicated it was off.


COOPER: Randi, that witness, friend of Murdaugh's, he didn't seem to do any favors for Alex Murdaugh. I mean he said, correct me if I'm wrong, he said that Murdaugh changed his story multiple times in the stories he told his friend and that it was Alex Murdaugh's voice on that -- that video, which is crucial.

KAYE: Yeah. It was really interesting to watch it sort of unravel because the defense brought him in as a defense witness and then he started to talk about the sloppy murder scene. As you heard, the piece of skull that was found in the feed room. And all of these other points he made, these changing stories from Alex Murdaugh to his friend of more than 35 years, Anderson. So he really in the end, looked more like a state witness, a prosecution witness --