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At This Hour

Zelenskyy Addresses UK Parliament, Meets With King Charles; Former Twitter Execs Testify On Hunter Biden Laptop "Censorship"; Lebron James Breaks NBA's All-Time Scoring Record. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired February 08, 2023 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ukraine's president just wrapped a dramatic speech before the British parliament where he renewed his plea for fighter jets saying that they would be "wings of free -- wings for freedom." Zelenskyy also met with King Charles at Buckingham Palace. You see images of that there.

Scott McLean is outside Parliament tracking all of it for us Scott, what more did Zelenskyy say?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the bottom line is the message was thank you, but more pleas. Of course, Zelenskyy made clear that his country was grateful for the support already given from the UK but that he is looking for even more weapons. And the top of his wish list is NATO standard fighter jets. Now, the UK announced already today that it was putting more sanctions on Russia, that it was training even more Ukrainian troops up to 30,000 now, and part of that training will include training Ukrainian pilots to fly Western NATO standard fighter jets.

The only caveat here though is that that training doesn't actually include the jets themselves. The prime minister's office, the defense ministry today clarified saying that no decisions have been made on whether to send jets to Ukraine at all. But clearly, the rationale here is that at least the pilots would be trained should the UK decide to do this down the road.

Now, Dutch, French, and Polish leaders have all said that they're open to sending these jets but at last word, the UK said that look, they're just not practical given the complexity of these machines and given the hours involved in actually training to fly them. President Zelenskyy said in his speech that look last time he was here, two years ago, he thanked the speakers for English tea. This time he said this.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: I will be leaving the parliament today, thanking all of you in advance for powerful English planes. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MCLEAN: So, some laughter there, some applause -- Ukraine has also been looking for long-range missile capabilities. And while the UK said today that it would offer Ukraine longer range capabilities. it didn't say specifically what exactly that means, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Much more to learn there. Thank you, Scott.

So, U.S. intelligence sources now tell CNN that the Chinese spy balloon shot that -- shot down by the U.S. military over the weekend is part of a more extensive surveillance program run by China's military. Beijing, as we well know is repeatedly denied that they do -- or were doing any spying at all.

Oren Liebermann is live at the Pentagon for us. Oren, what have you learned about this?


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Kate, according to multiple American officials familiar with the intelligence, U.S. intelligence officials believe this wasn't just a one-off balloon or a solitary balloon making its way across the United States and frankly, across much of the Pacific Ocean. Instead, U.S. intelligence believes this was part of a much larger program that had been carried on for several years now.

Take a look at what we know about this so far from U.S. intelligence officials. There have been a number of these balloons in recent years, which the U.S. has looked at. This is in part one out of the Chinese province of Hainan, a tiny province in southern China, which is interesting because that's very far away from Beijing where obviously China concentrates and centralizes its power.

According to the U.S. intelligence officials, there have been at least two dozen of these missions over the last several years. They have overflown five continents, and roughly half a dozen of those flights have been in U.S. airspace. That's not to say specifically over the continental United States, but within US airspace, according to these officials, which goes out several miles from U.S. territory. So that's the latest on this.

But obviously, this whole story has moved very quickly. We've learned more about what the Chinese balloon was doing and how much of a history there is to this. Now, it is worth pointing out that not all of these balloons have been the same. There have been slight variations between the balloons, so perhaps that suggests different capabilities, different surveillance, and different technologies onboard the different balloons, as China perhaps has refined the design of these.

China, meanwhile, has continued with the explanation this is only a weather surveillance balloon for civilian purposes. They have not acknowledged what the U.S. says, Kate, that this was a surveillance balloon to track the U.S. BOLDUAN: Yes. Oren, thank you so much.

Joining me now for more on exactly this is retired Navy Admiral Harry Harris. He's the former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and former U.S. ambassador to South Korea. Admiral, thank you for being here. This reporting that Oren was just bringing to us at the spy balloon as part of a wider more extensive surveillance program run by the Chinese military, what do you think that speaks to?

ADMIRAL HARRY HARRIS (RET), U.S. NAVY: Well, first of all, Kate, good morning and it's good to be with you. The most important thing I believe that this demonstrates is that it should be no shocker to anyone that the balloons are part of a larger Chinese surveillance program. And I think that's the most important thing.

BOLDUAN: And tell me -- and tell me why that shouldn't -- and what -- and what does that speak to about in terms of what China's capabilities?

HARRIS: Well, the first thing it speaks to --

BOLDUAN: Yes, you should go.

HARRIS: Sure. Well, the first thing it speaks to is that this incident playing out on the -- on the very eve of the secretary of state's planned visit to Beijing, is indicative of China's continuing bad behavior. That's the word also, at this point, continue to play the line that the balloon was innocuous and it's somehow an unintended event. It simply beggars the imagination, in my view.

BOLDUAN: Yes. In the president's -- in President Biden's State of the Union speech last night, he himself didn't directly I guess, mention the spy balloon. But he did hold it up in the way he spoke about it as an example that his administration will stand up to China. Let me play a portion of his speech for you.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm committed to working with China where we can advance American interests and benefit the world. But make no mistake about it. As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did.


BOLDUAN: Admiral, what do you think of that moment? And what it does now to the tension between the administration and China in this moment?

HARRIS: Well, I think it's helpful because it opens the door for diplomacy. You know the fact that the balloon wasn't shot down when it first entered American airspace is important because all of that transit time across the United States to come into the United States gave China the opportunity to be diplomatic. And I've always said that diplomacy and diplomats matter. But China did not take that opportunity that was presented to them. They still haven't done so. And so, when the balloon was shot down, it gave -- it will give us I think, significant intelligence gain from what we learned from the debris and the debris field. So, I think the president's comments were spot on. And it gives us an opportunity for diplomacy to take the forefront, rather than the continued tensions that we have.


Look, the U.S. has partnered well with China over the decades, and -- but we fundamentally disagree on the international order. So, I think this is an opportunity.

BOLDUAN: It's a really interesting point. Admiral, thank you for your time.

Coming up for us --

HARRIS: You bet.

BOLDUAN: -- a Memphis police officer is accused of taking pictures of Tyre Nichols and sharing them. This is after Tyre Nichols had been brutally beaten by officers. The latest on this investigation. Next.


BOLDUAN: This is happening right now. Three former Twitter executives are testifying before House Committee on how Twitter handled the New York Post article about Hunter Biden's laptop. It's one of the first high-profile hearings conducted by the new Republican majority.

Sara Murray is watching this all on Capitol Hill for us and joins us now. Sara, what's happening in this hearing?


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, you know, this is a big moment for Republicans to dive into one of their chief complaints to dive into the Hunter Biden investigation and also their view that Twitter temporarily suppressing the Hunter Biden story -- laptop story around 2020 at the federal government was improperly involved in that. But what we're seeing from these witnesses, these three former Twitter executives is a lot of pushback.

You know, we heard publicly from James Baker, it's the first time we've heard from Twitter's former deputy counsel since he left the company essentially saying, you know, there was no unlawful activity here. There was no kind of collusion with the federal government. He said he doesn't recall talking to the FBI about Hunter Biden's laptop.

This is really a way in for Republicans to get into their Biden investigation. And we heard as much from James Helmer, the House Oversight Chairman today, you know, he said that this laptop -- this laptop, you know, that we've heard so much about is really at the heart of his investigation. He's also going to be pushing we know for Hunter Biden's finances.

But you know, this sort of idea of tech censorship really shows the catch-22 that these tech companies have been put in. They were slammed after 2016 for failing to police their platforms aggressively enough when Russian disinformation was spreading, and now they are back in the hot seat today from Republicans who say they overstepped and went so far as censorship. So, of course, we are keeping an eye on this for any other big moments today, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Sara, thank you so much.

There's also this we're tracking today. A Memphis police officer is accused of taking photos of a bloodied Tyre Nichols and also sharing those pictures. This is after -- this was after officers brutally beat Nichols during that traffic stop where he later died. Seven more police officers are also now facing disciplinary action for that night.

Nick Valencia is live in Memphis for us with much more on this. Nick, what's the latest here?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Good morning, Kate. The follow- up continues in the Tyre Nichols beating and his death as we're learning more of another individual, another black man who has come forward to allege that he was beaten up by the scorpion unit just three days prior to Tyre Nichols incident. Monterrious Harris, he's 22 years old, a U.S. Navy veteran and he alleges that the same five officers now charged with second-degree murder in the death of Nichols were the same officers that assaulted him.

He says that he was in his car waiting for his cousin at an apartment complex when men wearing ski masks approached him to get him out of his car. They never identified themselves initially I should say as police officers. He claims that he thought he was being carjacked. Now, police say that after they arrested Harris, they did find a gun and marijuana in the car. His attorney claims in the lawsuit that the police report was falsified.

Meanwhile, the city council here held a first meeting since the release of the video of the beating of Tyre Nichols and they passed a series of public safety reforms including officially supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. It's something that the parents of Tyre Nichols had been adamant that they want to pass. And as we mentioned, Kate the fallout here over Nichols' death continues with an additional seven officers expected to face some sort of administrative discipline, bringing the total to at least 13 officers involved in Tyre Nichols stop who have either been disciplined or will face discipline. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. 13 officers now, craftiness. Thank you, Nick.

So, there was a big moment last night for NBA history, LeBron James and his record-breaking shot. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to the end of the third quarter, LeBron James, his shot at history. (INAUDIBLE) Lebron stands alone. The new NBA scoring record now belongs to LeBron James.


BOLDUAN: Revel in that historic moment with us. That's next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming to the end of the third quarter, LeBron James has shot in history. (INAUDIBLE). LeBron stands alone.


BOLDUAN: There's nothing better than the roar of a crowd like that. There truly isn't. LeBron James has done it again breaking records and making it look really easy. James last night surpassed Kareem Abdul Jabbar to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer. It's a record that stood for nearly 40 years.

Omar Jimenez was at the game last night. He joins us now. Omar, what was it like?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, look, everybody was anticipating the moment that shot went in. And as we got closer and closer that countdown clock in the arena, so when it was two points away, you could feel everybody on their feet with their cell phones out. They wanted to see that moment. They came for history, and then they actually got it.

But, of course, with him now becoming the all-time leading scorer, everybody takes what they will from different aspects of it. But one of the big questions is, how does this cement him as one of the if not the greatest of all time? And while the fans will debate it probably for the rest of time, take a listen to how LeBron answered the answer on himself.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA ALL-TIME LEADING SCORER: I'm going to take myself against anybody who's ever played his game, you know. But everyone's going to have their favorite, everyone's going to you know, decide who their -- who their favorite is. But I always feel like I'm the best ever to play his game. But you know, there are so many other great ones and I'm happy to just be a part of their -- part of their journey.


JIMENEZ: Him saying I always feel like I'm the best to play this game, there's no doubt people online will be up in arms about that. [11:50:04]

But I want to get to Kareem's reaction who -- he reacted last night in person but also wrote today that LeBron makes me love the game again. And he makes me proud to be part of an ever-widening group of athletes who actively care about their community.

And real quick, if you -- we just talked about the poetry and magic of sports. LeBron James, 38 years old when he broke this record 38,388 points. Last night, the 38th day of the year, and it's been 38 years since that previous record was set. I mean what is that? What's going on?

BOLDUAN: I wish it was like 11: 38 in this moment, but no, it's -- all -- it all stops here. Oh man, I wish we had more time. But honestly, if you're not going to believe in yourself, who's going to believe in you? I love that. I've always thought I was the best of all time. I think you're the best, Omar. Thank you for doing that. Good to see you.

Thanks, guys, for being here. It's nice to end on something like that, isn't it? I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS WITH JOHN KING" starts after this.