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At This Hour
Putin Warns West at One Year of War on Ukraine; Biden to Speak on Ukraine from Poland; Supreme Court Hears Case Targeting Legal Shield of Tech Giants; Alex Murdaugh's Surviving Son Testifies for Defense. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 21, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone.
AT THIS HOUR, President Biden's message to President Putin, the people of Ukraine and the world. His major address this hour.
Plus a Supreme Court challenge that could change the internet forever.
And Alex Murdaugh's son takes the stand, testifying for the defense in his father's double murder trial.
This is what we are watching AT THIS HOUR.
BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.
President Biden is preparing for a huge moment. And he is in Poland and about to deliver a major speech to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine.
Where Biden was just yesterday making a surprise trip to Kyiv where he pledged support for Ukraine really no matter how long it takes. Biden's speech comes today after Vladimir Putin himself made his own major address from Moscow.
And Putin is staying true to form and accusing the West of igniting the conflict and condemned the U.S. and NATO allies for supplying weapons to Ukraine and announced that Russia is going to suspend their participation with the New START nuclear treaty with the U.S.
Let's start with the big moment that is about to happen. Kaitlan Collins is where the president is about to speak.
We heard briefly from the president in his meeting with President Duda this morning but what do you expect to hear from him in this speech, Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Quite a moment as he was speaking to the president of Poland there. And they were each lavishing on praise on each other for their response since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago.
And President Biden is going to be speaking from the same spot one month after Russia began the invasion, where President Biden said that Putin cannot remain in power. It is the same venue there tonight. It is open to the public and about 1,000 people will be in the audience as President Biden is speaking.
The White House is saying that it will not be a direct rebuttal of what we heard from President Putin earlier. But it will be a challenge to the themes that we have heard from Putin, where he is blaming the West for the war he is conducting in Ukraine.
And Biden has the message that he has carried with him so many times on the world stage, of autocracy versus democracy. And that is something that we should expect to hear in Biden's remarks any moment now but also an appeal to the Western nations to continue to support Ukraine.
He'll talk about the difference they believe it has made and what the predictions were when Russia first went into Ukraine a year ago and what the reality on the ground is now and what that is looking like going forward.
I will note that we heard President Biden announcing the new $0.5 billion aid package to Ukraine yesterday. It did not include longer range missiles that we are continuing to hear Zelenskyy call for, even overnight, or the F-16 fighter jets.
There are signs around here in Warsaw that say "Send the F-16 jets to Ukraine." That is not something that the White House is prepared to do yet but they are discussing it. So this moment, on the world stage at a very critical time as we are nearing the one year anniversary of this invasion, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Looking at the staging of this moment, when you see what it looks like and the weight of this moment in the staging that we can see here in this live picture in Warsaw, Poland.
You can see that it looks like a moment to mark, a historic moment that we are about to see in just the staging in and of itself. We will come back to Kaitlan Collins for the big speech. Kaitlan, thank you so much.
For Vladimir Putin, for his part today, he is doubling down on his claims that the West is to blame for the situation in Ukraine. In his lengthy speech this morning, Putin also announced that Russia is now suspending its participation in the New START nuclear treaty with the United States. Fred Pleitgen is with us.
What else did Putin say in the speech?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Kate. The part of START and New START was the biggest news item from Vladimir Putin. It's quite interesting; he's suspending, not leaving that treaty just yet. One of the reasons he gave is that the New START treaty involves inspections, meaning the U.S. could go to Russian nuclear sites and places where they have strategic bombers. Vladimir Putin said that is "nonsense" and that's because the base with those bombers late last year was hit by a drone.
PLEITGEN: Now the Russians blame the Ukrainians for it. And Vladimir Putin today said he believes that NATO was complicit. And this is of course, something unconfirmed by both NATO and the Ukrainians.
Nevertheless, Vladimir Putin putting it out there and saying that they are going to be suspending their participation in New START. He also doubled down on the fact that he believes the West is at fault for his own invasion of Ukraine.
And Russia tried to do everything to prevent all this but also doubling down on the fact that Russia says they are in it for the long run and they are not backing down. Vladimir Putin saying he's not about to. In fact, it seemed to us that he is trying to mobilize and gear up the Russian population for a war that could take very, very long.
He says that Russia's economy has proved to be resilient and he believes they will continue to remain resilient as this goes on, despite the sanctions levied on the Russians.
And he said that -- this is key as well -- that if NATO, if the U.S. gives Ukraine those longer range weapons, that Russia would then have to push the Ukrainians further back and that obviously going to mean a further escalation of some of the events that the Russians have already started and that we know that appear to be underway, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Fred, thank you for being there and we will return to you also later in the hour.
Over to Ukraine right now, where the people and their leaders will be paying very close attention, of course, to what Biden is about to say. Clarissa Ward is standing by in Kyiv.
What are you hearing from the people there?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that the people here are still feeling pretty buoyant after yesterday's visit by President Biden. They are hopeful that this symbolic visit is a strong gesture of support and that potentially it portends greater support militarily.
And specifically, I'm talking about in terms of the heavier, more advanced weaponry that the Ukrainians have been requesting for some time and, in particular, F-16 fighter jets and longer-range artillery and missiles.
In the shorter term they need more ammunition and we heard President Biden pledge to supply much of that. They are burning through it very fast in eastern part of the country particularly.
So I think they are going to be looking to the speech to see if there are any more clues as to what that increased support might look like. We heard yesterday from the president's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, that certain issues had been resolved and others that had been stuck were being sped up.
Somewhat cryptic and not exactly clear what he was alluding to. But people here are optimistic that potentially better days are to come in terms of getting that assistance and trying to finish this war once and for all, which is not going to be a small feat. It is a huge challenge and a long road ahead, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Clarissa, thank you for that.
Joining me for much more of this, as we are looking forward to the president's remarks this hour, John Herbst is here. He is the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
And also, CNN political and national security analyst, David Sanger, the White House and national security correspondent for "The New York Times."
David, Biden's team has said that the speech that we are going to be hearing from President Biden, it is not intended as some sort of head- to-head against Putin.
But is that somewhat unavoidable at this point?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Kate, it is completely unavoidable.
As the president was coming in to Warsaw from his trip to Kyiv yesterday, it became pretty clear to everyone in the White House that they were headed for a split screen moment, not simultaneous speeches but near simultaneous, with these two different visions.
So you have heard the one from President Putin, which is that the West started the war, that the United States continues to be a major aggressor and that he is suspending his participation in the last remaining nuclear treaty, because he can no longer trust the West not to pass on what inspectors learned to the Ukrainians, as they attack bases, Russian bases, just over the border, bases that are used for nuclear bombers.
So what you are seeing is basically the shattering of sort of the last areas in which the United States and Russia were at least pretending to work together.
BOLDUAN: I want to talk more about START in a moment.
But Ambassador, if yesterday was heavy on the symbolism with his visit to Ukraine, what do today's remarks from Biden represent, do you think?
[11:10:00] JOHN HERBST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, Biden is the leader of the free world. He has done a good job of rallying our allies and partners to deal with Putin's aggression in Ukraine.
And he understands that, for especially our East European allies, Moscow's aggression in Ukraine is seen as a prelude if Moscow were to succeed to aggression against them. Of course that is why Sweden and Finland are wanting to become members of NATO.
So he is here to say strongly to the allies in the East, we are with you and we will defend every inch of NATO soil. And that is a phrase he has used before.
And to make clear to the Kremlin, that we will stop you in Ukraine and for sure you are not touching NATO.
BOLDUAN: Ambassador, how significant, when and if President Biden, from this stage, from this lectern, sort of calls out Vladimir Putin by name.
When you are thinking or as you were speaking, I was wondering this, what a big moment this is that President Biden is going to be sending.
HERBST: It is interesting that you ask that. Biden sort of did that here a year ago. And that was somewhat controversial, even within his own administration. I think the most important thing is for him is to point out that what Putin is doing is an absolute violation, not just of the international order but a great danger to the United States.
Our security and our prosperity and he is going to make sure that Putin again loses in Ukraine. And I wish he would say that but he declines to. And for sure, Putin will not touch another country without major, major response.
BOLDUAN: And David, you are talking about this announcement from Putin, suspending participation in the New START treaty. Tony Blinken called it irresponsible. Listen to how Ned Price, his spokesperson, talked about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: If it is just a proclamation or just for propaganda, just because he wanted a sound bite or a news bite out of what was otherwise a pretty empty state of the nation address, 90 minutes, that he gave to his own people, that is one thing.
If Russia decides to take steps to actually move in the direction, to actually take steps that heighten the irresponsibility that we have seen from the Russian Federation over the course of the last year, with nuclear saber rattling and nuclear bluster and potential threats, that is very much another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: David, what do you think of that? SANGER: What I think he was getting at and what you heard in Secretary Blinken's statement was an uncertainty about exactly what Putin is saying that he may do. He is not pulling out of the treaty. It didn't sound like he was planning to break the limits, which are 1,550 strategic nuclear weapons for each country.
It did sound like he was going to halt all inspections, American inspections, in Russia for compliance with the treaty. The fact of the matter is, Kate, we have not done those inspections in several years, mostly because of COVID-19, which kept the inspectors from going into the country.
And over the past year, because the Russians threw blockades to it and they maintained that we were throwing blockades to inspections of our sites, what this tells you is there is no appetite to replace this treaty when it expires in three years, in February of 2026.
At that moment, you could have a restored arms race after a half- century of agreements to reduce the number of nuclear weapons dramatically around the world. That would undo a lot of progress made not only in the post-Cold War era but in the Cold War era.
BOLDUAN: Ambassador, as we have China's top diplomat in Moscow, there are fresh concerns about China's role in the war in Ukraine and what they could be doing.
What should the message be to China today?
HERBST: I think that the administration has moved smartly on this front. The statement by Blinken that China's considering sending weapons to Ukraine and the stark warning I think will reduce substantially the odds of that happening.
The Chinese have been cautious once Putin made the invasion a year ago not to cross any of our red lines, not to find themselves afoul of sanctions, not to support Russia on the economic side that would possibly lead to serious problems with us.
Xi has been I think disappointed though not as much disappointed as Putin by the failure of Russian arms.
HERBST: And that's why you have perhaps some thinking in China to try to find ways to help Putin but probably not at the expense of a serious confrontation with us.
BOLDUAN: David, just as we are speaking, we are looking at President Biden's motorcade heading to the stage, where he is going to be giving this major address.
But on the question of China's addition to kind of this complicated equation, if you will, David, you said that this is going to make the standoff between Russia and the West even more complicated.
What are you seeing? SANGER: It does make it more complicated, Kate. In the Cold War, it was basically two nations facing each other, the Soviet Union and the United States. And now, Russia, the Soviet Union's successor state or the closest thing there was to it, basically finds itself in the position to where it needs China in a way it never did in the Cold War.
And you have three players.
Now do the Chinese want to fully back Vladimir Putin in what was an ill-considered invasion?
No, the indications are the ambassadors suggested they've been pretty cautious. But at the same time, the Chinese do see some advantage in having Putin distracting us and costing us time, resources and mindshare.
So I suspect along the way, China is going to quickly determine that they can use Russia to their advantage in this regard. It's harder for us to face two superpowers, even a declining one like Russia, rather than just one.
BOLDUAN: Very interesting.
David, thank you.
Ambassador, thank you as always.
We will be bringing you the remarks from President Biden when they begin this hour. Stand by for that.
This is also what we are watching today. Alex Murdaugh's only surviving son takes the stand and what he is telling the court saying as his father is on trial for the murder of his mother and his brother. That is next.
BOLDUAN: It is a case that could upend the internet and it is now before the Supreme Court. The justices are hearing oral arguments in the case Gonzalez versus Google. It is putting under the microscope the protections that tech companies have long enjoyed for the content that other people post on their platforms.
Jessica Schneider is watching this.
What have you heard so far?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we are about 1.5 hours into the arguments. And it appears the court is very hesitant to step into this, because of the warning from Big Tech companies that, if you let lawsuits like this one at issue succeed, it is going to drastically change the way that the internet and social media operates.
This is a case brought by the family of 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez, an American student who was studying in Paris, when she was killed in a city-wide ISIS terrorist attack in 2015. In 2016, her family sued YouTube's parent company, Google.
And they argued because YouTube not only showed ISIS videos online but also recommended those videos to certain viewers, they said that they were liable in part for their daughter's death at the hands of terrorists.
Now the family have lost at the lower courts and those courts said that Big Tech companies cannot be liable because, under Section 230, they have immunity from liability for content that others post.
And what the justices are hearing is asking whether it should be up to Congress and not them to decide if Section 230 should be changed. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT: You know, these are not like the nine greatest experts on the internet.
KAGAN: And I don't have to accept all Ms. Black's (ph) the sky is falling stuff to accept something about, boy, there is a lot of uncertainty about going the way you would have us go in part, just because of the difficulty of drawing lines in this area.
And just because of the fact that, once we go with you, all of a sudden, we are finding that Google is not protected. And maybe Congress should watch that system.
But isn't that something for Congress to do, not the court?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So there is a lot of uncertainty by these justices about whether to step in; if they do, how much they should tweak Section 230, which, for decades has given this broad protection to social media companies.
And this actually is the first of two cases to be heard by the Supreme Court to determine if social media companies can be held liable for terrorist content posted on their sites. So there is a lot at stake.
And if the Supreme Court were to whittle down those protections, it would change the way that these internet companies deal with content and maybe they would have to restrict a lot more content. And so it would create uncertainty that this court is not sure they are ready to really create that uncertainty just yet. We will see. Kate.
BOLDUAN: That was really a perfect bit of oral argument to pull. You could hear hesitancy in Justice Kagan's voice. Thank you for bringing that to us.
SCHNEIDER: For sure.
BOLDUAN: And now, to the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh. His defense team is presenting their case and on the stand today is his lone surviving son, Buster.
BOLDUAN: This is the first time that he has ever spoken in public about the deaths of his mother and brother. Randi Kaye is outside of the courthouse there in South Carolina.
What have you heard?
RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you are right, Kate. This is the first member of the Murdaugh family to testify. And it is his only surviving son. The defense were trying to paint a picture of a loving family and talked about how the Murdaughs would call each other every day, including Alex, Paul, Maggie and Buster.
They would go to sporting events together and play golf together and hunt together. But mainly the defense wanted to knock down this idea that Alex Murdaugh killed his family and then changed clothes, showered afterwards because he was seen earlier in a Snapchat video wearing different clothes than what investigators said he was wearing when they arrived.
This is what Buster said on the stand. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How frequently would your dad take a shower or a bath?
BUSTER MURDAUGH, ALEX'S SON: He could take them -- he could take them a lot.
I mean -- yes, working out there. If he goes outside and sweats a lot, comes back in and takes a shower.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that normal routine for him?
MURDAUGH: It was.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did he sweat a lot?
MURDAUGH: Yes, it is just hot out there in the summertime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he a lot bigger then than he is today?
MURDAUGH: He was. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How big was he?
MURDAUGH: Probably 2 -- 6'4", 250-260.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: And something else that the defense was also trying to do was to get at this video that was seen of Alex Murdaugh in the interview, in the investigator's car, crying. He was very hard to understand at one point. They played it many times in court.
Some -- one witness said he thought it sounded like a confession where he said, "I did him so bad" -- or did he say "they did him so bad," talking about Paul Murdaugh.
They played it for Buster Murdaugh and he said for sure, he is 100 percent sure his father was saying, "they did him so bad," and it certainly did not sound like a confession to him.
BOLDUAN: So interesting. Thank you, Randi Kaye.
Back to Poland, where my colleague Kaitlan Collins is standing by, where it is about to be the big moment.
And Kaitlan, this is how you have described this as a split screen, when President Biden takes to the stage.
COLLINS: Yes and everybody is watching to hear what he has to say after hearing from Putin earlier today, blaming the West for the war in Ukraine, something that Biden's advisers have flatly rejected.
President Biden is going to be in the same space where he was 11 months ago, right after the invasion had happened. Phil Mattingly is on ground there, where President Biden will be speaking.
Phil, it seems like a large crowd there as people are gathering.
What is the expectation of what we are going to be hearing from President Biden?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan, I think the one of the biggest things I noticed when I walked in here today, is the contrast of this event compared to what it was 11 months ago; 11 months ago, it was inside of the courtyard of a castle, a small crowd, very sober, steadfast message.
As you remember quite well, the message went off script, talking about President Putin not needing to be in power anymore. This is a very different atmosphere, thousands of people -- the U.S. embassy invited everyone. There are large screens outside for anyone who could not get inside.
This is much more of a rally atmosphere, which I think drives toward what President Biden to some degree will be going for today, to elevate this moment and to elevate the necessary of maintaining not just the U.S. support, which he has said will not go anywhere anytime soon.
As long as it takes, he says, but also the coalition of Western democracies that have been together throughout the process, stayed together, despite a lot of assumptions that it would not last this long.
But also underscoring, it is not just a war between two countries or a U.S. versus Russia issue but a dramatic inflection point, where people need to understand that the stakes are so much bigger than just Europe or just Eastern Europe or just Ukraine or just Russia.
I think that's the point he'll try to drive across and that is the setting we see as the president is getting ready to start, Kaitlan.
COLLINS: Yes, remarkable, Phil for you to be there, having been there last year for those remarks and now back there. We're waiting now; President Duda has just left the stage and we are waiting for President Biden to take the stage. Christiane Amanpour is also here.
What are you expecting?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Building on what he's been saying over the last at least 24 hours. The trip to Kyiv was the beginning of a massive set piece, designed to show Ukraine that the leader of the free world is here to support, for as long as it takes as they say.
But also to show European leaders that the leader of the free world, the leader of the NATO alliance, is here to support this joint endeavor.
And I think it is really important -- we did hear earlier today President Duda and President Biden exchange remarks before they went into their closed door talks.