Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Russia, China Show Off Ties Amid Evolving Conflict In Ukraine; Sen. Roger Wicker, (R-MS), Is Interviewed About War In Ukraine, Russia, China; Top Republican on Senate Armed Services Details Plan To Get Rank-And-File GOP On Board With Ukraine; Pentagon Warns Of "Consequences" If China Gives Lethal Aid To Russia; Fulton County D.A. Debates Indictments As Grand Juror Spills Details; Fulton County D.A. Debates Indictments As Grand Juror Spills Details; NYT: Jan. 6 Special Counsel Subpoenas Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner; DeSantis Holds Campaign-Style Rallies With Police In 3 States; Trump Repeatedly Lashes Out At Ron DeSantis On Social Media; U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments In Twitter Case That Could Reshape The Internet. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 22, 2023 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And Phil, Biden was pressed on Putin's latest nuclear saber rattling, but he did not seem to want to talk much about it.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did eventually weigh in, but it was clear he wanted the focus to be on those eastern flank countries that he met with earlier today, a critical meeting that lasted for more than an hour behind closed doors. But when asked about President Putin's surprise announcement during his hour and 45 minutes speech that he would be suspending compliance with the New START nuclear arms treaty, responded like this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, any reaction to Putin saying he's pulling out of New START?



BIDEN: No. It's a big mistake.


MATTINGLY: And, Jake, that was an assessment that lined up with what we've heard from his advisers over the course of the last 24 hours. And notably, President Putin's announcement came hours before President Biden's own primetime speech. He didn't address this issue during the speech.

And just a short while ago, an interview with ABC News's David Muir was released, where the President again called it a big mistake, but said he was confident they could work things out. I think that underscores a subtext here. When you talk to U.S. officials, they make clear this is a reversible position. It's not -- the treaty goes until 2026. There is time to figure this out.

But keep in mind, this was the first agreement reached by President Biden and President Putin at the start of his time in office. And it just goes to show that even on issues where they thought they could negotiate, thought they could reach agreements, the relationship is all but imploded at this point.

TAPPER: And, Phil, the President sets a land back in Washington in just a few hours. What will await him as Republicans continue to splinter on the subject of support for Ukraine?

MATTINGLY: Yes, there are no shortage of complex issues, difficult decisions that need to be made. And certainly on the home front, Republicans in ensuring that there is still a pathway to get additional assistance, which U.S. Officials acknowledge is going to be a reality sometime soon. How they actually navigate a new House Republican majority where there is at least a portion of that conference that are almost militantly against new assistance or certainly want strings attached to that new assistance, that is a process that will be working through behind the scenes over the course of the coming months. But it's bigger than just the domestic front, obviously. As the president laid out in his speech, there's an alliance to stick together, there's China that is hanging out there geopolitically, no shortage of issues, and obviously, as you noted, Jake, no clear endgame to a conflict that continues now.

TAPPER: Phil Mattingly in Warsaw, Poland, for us. Thanks so much.

Today, China's top diplomat, Wang Yi, met face to face with Russian President Putin at the Kremlin in an unmistakable showcase of the two countries deepening relationship. That meeting comes just days after U.S. officials told CNN that the Chinese government is contemplating providing Putin with lethal military aid. This afternoon, a Pentagon spokesperson warned there could be, quote, "serious consequences" if that happened. CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports from Moscow, where Putin attempted to drum up support among Russians at a military style rally earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign Language).

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Russian leader Vladimir Putin rallying his nation for a tough battle. At a massive event in Moscow, Putin's message to the crowd Russian troops in Ukraine are fighting for Russia's survival.

PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): There is a battle going on for our historical borders, for our people. It is led by the same courageous fighters who are standing here. They fight heroically, courageously, bravely. We are proud of them. Three cheers in their honor. PLEITGEN (voice-over): The concert in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine, with Putin himself leading the rallying call.

For those attending, patriotism is the main message.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I adore Vladimir Vladimirovich. I'm prepared to support him with everything I've got.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The whole of Europe and the west is helping Ukraine, so, of course it's taking a long time, but we will demilitarize Europe and U.S., too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My understanding is we are fighting for our interests there. Regrettably, it is not us who decide what those interests are.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russian forces have made little progress on the battlefield in recent months, with both Russia and Ukraine sustaining heavy losses. As the U.S. believes, Russia might be turning to China for military supplies. Putin reaffirming his commitment to relations with Beijing in a meeting with China's top diplomat, Wang Yi.

PUTIN (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 (voice-over): China has brushed off the U.S.'s concerns that Beijing might be contemplating supplying arms to the Kremlin's war effort taking a swipe at the Biden administration.

WANG YI, SENIOR CHINESR DIPLOMAT (through translator): We would like to emphasize once again that the comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and China has never been directed against a third party and is certainly not subject to interference and provocation by any third party.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): While Beijing says it wants a political solution, Vladimir Putin is drumming up support for his military operation, trying hard to keep the Russian population motivated for a battle he deemed existential.


PLEITGEN: And Jake, Vladimir Putin doubling down on that message once again tonight. He sent out a video message for Russian forces claiming that the Russian troops in Ukraine are fighting against what he calls Nazism in Ukraine. He also promised new and modern weapon for those troops. Clearly not the words of someone who appears to be backing down. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. He's the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, good to see you. You wrote last week, quote, "The United States was the arsenal of democracy during the Second World War. If we fulfill that role again, we will show Xi and Putin that there are very real limits to what their partnership can achieve," unquote. Do you think Biden is on track to fulfilling that role with his recent trip to Europe?

SEN. ROGER WICKER (R-MS), RANKING MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, let me say I applaud the President for going to Europe. They were great words. Now, they do need to be followed up with action.

And you know, we've complained over the last twelve months about foot dragging, appropriations have been made. We've urged them to give weapons more quicker and better. And so, I hope once the President gets back, his order to the Pentagon is let's give all the ammunition they need, the long range missiles, the air support, the things that Zelenskyy needs to actually win this spring offensive.

TAPPER: So, yes, you've been critical of what you say is the unnecessary slow walking of the aid to Ukraine. Are you having active discussions with other lawmakers about pushing Biden to send Zelenskyy, for example, the F-16 fighter jets he so desperately wants?

WICKER: I think we should do that. And, you know, well, there's always an excuse. You know, they're used to flying Migs (ph) over there, and there will be a training gap. Well, we've had a lot of time for training. And if there's more training that needs to be done, we need to start it this afternoon and make sure that we can get them what they need to win this offensive in the spring.

One thing I'm concerned that the American people don't realize is Vladimir Putin has failed miserably in this late winter offensive. He may have gained a meter or two in a small town, but it has not succeeded and is not likely to succeed. What it has done is it is result in a huge not just casualty rate, but mortality rate.


WICKER: Most of the problems they've had have been actually fatalities among these prisoners and these conscripts who are not ready to fight. And no matter what China gives them, they will never be ready to fight a war like this.

TAPPER: A source on the Hill tells us that you led a meeting last week with rank and file Republicans to try to cement support and educate some of them even on Ukraine aid and the oversight of those billions of dollars. The source went on to say that you sent members, quote, "a whole chart explaining the breakdown of U.S. assistance versus European assistance." Do you think you changed any minds or solidified any support?

WICKER: Well, listen, I think there is strong support among the Republican conference. I'd say 90 percent support for giving Ukraine the tools it needs to win the war. We're not asking our troops to go over there and fight. They're doing the dirty work, and we are helping the west provide some equipment.

I had questions about our share of the burden at our Tuesday lunch and also what the other allies are doing and what percentage of our GDP we're spending on that. So, the next day, I complied and supplied them with chapter and verse. And I think it was very helpful.

You know, I think the American people, I think they want Ukraine to win. They don't want us to get into a long war of attrition where we're making our allies fight with one hand tied behind their backs.


And so, the truth of the matter, Jake, is the President has the authority for 10 times more weaponry than he promised this week in Europe. And --


WICKER: -- what we wish he would do is take the Congressional authorization and show that we want Ukraine to be in this to win this. And frankly, Xi is -- the president -- the communist president of China is watching this.

TAPPER: Right.

WICKER: If we are worried about what might happen in the Western Pacific with Communist China, we ought to be mindful that they are watching for U.S. and Western resolve in Ukraine.

TAPPER: So what do you make of the Pentagon spokesperson's threat this afternoon that there will be consequences if China does provide lethal military aid to Russia in its assault on Ukraine?

WICKER: I don't know what they mean by that, but the consequences should be that we're going to give the long range of missiles to Ukraine regardless of what China does. And we're going to show that we have the resolve to follow through on the strong and welcome words that the American President delivered in Europe.

TAPPER: Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it.

WICKER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Tomorrow, CNN will host a special town hall Russia's Invasion of Ukraine One Year Later. Top Biden administration national security officials will speak with CNN's for Fareed Zakaria. That's tomorrow night at 9:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

The Ohio toxic train derailment is getting more political by the day as we wait for key investigation findings about what might have caused the crash. Then, one official is calling it a massacre. The deadly clashes that have the U.S. state department extremely concerned. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our national lead. The National Transportation Safety Board is set to release its report tomorrow morning. A preliminary report into the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. This comes as former President Donald Trump visited the town and as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. CNN's Jason Carroll is in East Palestine for us. And CNN's Kristen Holmes is in D.C.

Jason, what's the latest on the ground there today?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do have late word from Ohio's governor who tells us out of an abundance of caution, he says that the Ohio EPA will now be independently testing the municipal water. They'll be doing that now once a week. Again, out of an abundance of caution.

So far to date, the water samples have come back showing it to be safe. Behind me now, what we've seen around town for the past week or so, sites like this where they're aerating the water to make it cleaner, to make it safer for those here as it feeds into local waterways.

In terms of well water, still much of a question there. We're told now that 74 private wells samples have been taken from those private wells still waiting for test results there. In the meantime, they're still suggesting that folks who rely on private well water that has not yet been tested to continue drinking bottled water.

Questions about air quality, again, the samples continue to show that the air quality here in East Palestine is safe. To date, they have now tested 560 homes. Again, that according to the governor's office.

But as you say, tomorrow Pete Buttigieg will be here. He's been criticized, as you know, by many residents here on the ground, saying that he should have given more FaceTime earlier to the residents here. Buttigieg, for his part, has always called for increased safety regulations when it comes to the rail industry.

We should also tell you that even though we've heard continuous reports about the air quality being safe, about the water quality being safe, the folks here in the ground simply just don't buy it. I was just texting with one just a few minutes ago who told me the following, he said, I don't believe one thing any of them are saying. No one has been to our street and asked about our concerns. And these are just some of the things that Pete Buttigieg and others, whether it be the EPA or state officials, have to deal with when they come to East Palestine and speak to the local residents here. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jason.

And Kristen, Donald Trump has no power to change any rules or regulations or get the functions of government going there for the citizens. So, this does seem a bit political, at least. What's the thinking behind his visit?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is enormous amount of political motivation here. And as you just heard from Jason, Donald Trump doesn't have to do the same things that the current administration has to do. He gets to just show up, make remarks, and leave, because he doesn't have any of that power.

Now, when I talked to aides and advisers, they said there were really two big things in the political sphere that they wanted to accomplish with this trip. And the first was making Donald Trump look presidential. He is, of course, running for president in 2024.

And this really looked like it almost exactly mimicked a White House presidential disaster trip. He was flanked by local officials. He visited the disaster site. He met with first responders. He thanked them, he gave remarks, and then he announced a major donation that he was making towards East Palestine, which included water and cleaning supplies.

Now, the other thing that they were hoping to accomplish here was to use this opportunity to contrast Trump to Biden and really double down on Trump's America First agenda. They were painting a picture here of Trump as the person who's coming into Ohio to talk to the people on the ground and largely talking about how this was the opposite of what Biden was doing, mainly pointing to his trip to Ukraine earlier this week and his trip in Europe.

And it's interesting, because one of the things you noted here, Jake, and I want to point this out, is that you said that this becomes more and more political by the day. Trump's trip comes after a number of conservative commentators have lashed out at the Biden administration and indicated time and time again in recent weeks that the outcome might have been different, the aid might have been different if these weren't Republican voters. So, again, this is becoming very toxic and very political on the ground there.


TAPPER: All right. Toxic in more than one sense. Kristen Holmes and Jason Carroll, thanks.

Joining us tonight for a live CNN Town Hall with the residents of East Palestine, Ohio, the governor of Ohio, Republican Mike DeWine will be there, as will the EPA administrator, Democrat Michael Regan. Plus of course, we're going to have Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw, all of them taking questions from the residents of East Palestine. Toxic Train Disaster. Ohio Residents Speak Out starts at 09:00 p.m. Eastern tonight only on CNN.

Coming up, revelations from the spokesperson -- the foreperson, rather, of the Fulton County grand jury that investigated Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.


EMILY KOHRS, FOREPERSON, G.A. SPECIAL GRAND JURY IN TRUMP PROBE: I'm not the judge, I'm not the lawyers, but I will be frustrated if nothing happens.


TAPPER: So what might happen after the panel's recommendation to charge multiple individuals in the case? Stay with us.



TAPPER: Turning now to yet another investigation into Donald Trump's actions. It's no longer a matter of if Fulton County prosecutors will pursue indictments and their investigation into Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, the question now is, how many indictments? Prosecutors are still debating that number.

But if you ask the special grand jury forewoman, Emily Kohrs, she says it could be more than a dozen. As CNN Sara Murray reports, Kohrs is freely spilling details from the months long investigation.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Atlanta area prosecutors debating how many people should face charges in the probe into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to upend the 2020 election in Georgia, sources tell CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Decisions are imminent.

MURRAY (voice-over): A special grand jury, which can't issue indictments, handed prosecutors multiple criminal referrals.

KOHRS: It's not a short list.

MURRAY (voice-over): The special grand jury's foreperson, Emily Kohrs, revealed how extensive the list may be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than a dozen, though, I think I'd heard you say in another interview.

KOHRS: I believe so. That's probably a good assumption.

MURRAY (voice-over): Prosecutors are looking at each person referred, weighing whether there's enough evidence to bring charges that will hold up in court, and debating whether to bring a narrow case or a more sprawling one, sources say. In a series of media interviews about the closed door grand jury proceedings, Kohrs revealed they heard from witnesses who haven't previously been reported, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

KOHRS: Mr. Meadows didn't share very much at all.

MURRAY (voice-over): And Marc Short, former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence. She stopped Short of confirming whether the former president was on the list of recommended indictments.

KOHRS: I'll say that when this list comes out, you wouldn't -- there are no major plot twists waiting for you.

MURRAY (voice-over): Pointing out that Donald Trump was a frequent name before the panel.

KOHRS: We definitely heard a lot about former President Trump, and we definitely discussed him a lot in the room. I'm positive I have heard the president on the phone more than once.

MURRAY (voice-over): Among the calls, the one that set off this probe when Trump called the Georgia Secretary of State in January 2021.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.

MURRAY (voice-over): And Trump made this call to Frances Watson, a former investigator in the Secretary of State's office.

TRUMP: The people of Georgia are so angry at what happened to me. They know I won. Won by hundreds of thousands of votes. It wasn't close. Hopefully, you know, I will, when the right answer comes out, you'll be praised.

MURRAY (voice-over): As prosecutors continue their work, the foreperson hopes to see the Fulton County District Attorney take some action from the grand jury's month of investigating.

KOHRS: I will be sad if nothing happens. Like -- that's about my only request there is for something to happen.


MURRAY: Now, the district attorney's office did not have a heads up that the foreperson was going to go public, although she is allowed to speak about the grand jury, although not the deliberations. And ultimately, it's not up to the D.A.'s office to be responsible for authorizing her to speak or not.

Prosecutors in the DA's office, meantime, keeping their heads down, still continuing on with their investigation. That includes digging into what we saw the House January 6 committee released its report and its transcripts. All of that became public after the special grand jury completed its investigative work, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Let's discuss. It's rather unusual to have a grand jury foreperson to come out and talk about this stuff. There's a difference between a jury, and sometimes after a big case, jurors will come forward to explain why they ruled. This is a grand jury, which -- it's not a conclusion, it's just a prosecutorial tool, right?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And it's governed by entirely separate set of rules and laws. And so, we're not expecting to hear so much detail at this stage in the process, but because the specifications of this investigation are different from a jury, we hear all sorts of details from the foreman -- forewoman?

TAPPER: As is said about grand juries, that a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, it's not necessarily a suggestion that there will be a guilty verdict ultimately.


TAPPER: It's not that difficult to get a grand jury to indict. And yet you've you have this grand jury foreperson hitting the talk show circuit.

AVLON: Yes, basically. And that's what makes this such a face palm is that, you know, she says in her interview that, you know, she thinks it's really important that powerful people are held to account. But she's setting up a circumstance, while it may be technically legal, that could actually undermine any future prosecutions. And let's not be cute about this, which potentially, we're talking about is an indictment of a former president of the United States, that's a matter of enormous gravity, and you don't want to see people, sort of like, dancing their way around jury deliberations just to get face top.

TAPPER: And it is interesting. And Margaret, Trump wasted no time in talking, taking to Truth Social his --


TAPPER: Or whatever, it's, you know --


TAPPER: -- whatever it is.

AVLON: Inputs (ph) around that.

HOOVER: Input are untrue.

TAPPER: Yes. Well, because he uses it to lie quite a bit.

AVLON: Right.

TAPPER: But in this case, this is his just legitimate opinion. He slammed the jury, for one, and he called this an illegal kangaroo court. That's not true. It is a legal court.

But I mean, I wouldn't expect anyone to do any differently than what Donald Trump did against this -- given that what the grand jury foreperson is doing.

HOOVER: I mean, what they ought to -- this is going to be a teachable moment. This is a learning moment. This is a process about --

TAPPER: Such a mom --

HOOVER: -- how sympathize. Right. But like this is a process about how civil society and a representative democracy --


HOOVER: -- self-governs. I mean, these aren't normal people.

TAPPER: Right.

HOOVER: I mean, there's that fabulous quote from William F. Buckley, Jr. that says he'd rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the Boston phone book than by the faculty at Harvard University. I mean, the idea that there is some genuine wisdom in just normal people out there getting together and deliberating the facts. Why are you rolling your eyes?

AVLON: Because there's nothing lies about what we're watching right now.

TAPPER: It's very nice. But it's very nice what she's saying. It is governance of the people is what she's saying.

AVLON: It is governance of the people.

TAPPER: You're making me optimistic about our republic.

AVLON: And that's a good thing.

HOOVER: They may come down with a recommendation of several indictments after having deliberated for eight months and given up their lives and their jobs and their ordinary renounce (ph).

AVLON: And God bless them for their civic service.

TAPPER: Yes, John, I'm on her side.

AVLON: There you go. And I appreciate that she's making you more earnest. But here's the real deal, she's making it more difficult for the process to move forward by taking this sort of victory lap media tour right now. She's going to make it more difficult for prosecutors, should they choose to indict. So, it's for one thing for jurors to talk after a decision is made. At this point, she's actually making it more difficult.

TAPPER: Because they haven't actually come forward and indicted anybody.

And let me ask you, Margaret, because there's a different prosecution. There's -- I can't even really keep track.

AVLON: Right.

HOOVER: It's happening (ph).

TAPPER: There's a difference (ph). The special counsel investigating Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, not just in Georgia but nationwide, has just subpoenaed Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Maggie Haberman broke it for "The Times' and came on the show to talk about it. And you know, they're not just family, they're former White House senior staffers. HOOVER: Yes, and they -- we'll see. Are they going to testify? Will they do it? I mean, there's plenty of people who are fighting testimonies, Pence included. These -- there are so many legal processes. I think it's important that we give them their space to breathe out, but we also need to let that pillar of our democracy run its course. And the gears of justice grind slowly, but they're doing their work, and I think we just sit back and let --

AVLON: And not so slowly anymore. Notably, they did testify to the January 6 committee, unlike a lot of aides who sort of, you know, pledged the fifth endlessly. And they have -- this is a more serious subpoena. It has legal weight. And presumably they have even more inside information.

TAPPER: Interesting. Let's talk about somebody who might in fact challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. There are a few of them out there.


TAPPER: But Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is out there this week holding campaign style rallies in three states, kicking off a national book tour with the release of his memoir next week. Do you see this as essentially a soft launch for his presidential campaign?

HOOVER: It feels a lot that way. I mean, what do you do, check. What do you do when you're running for president? Start to get your organizational fundraising capacity in order, write a book --

TAPPER: Right.

HOOVER: -- and finish your legislative session so you can announce afterwards. Check, check, check.

TAPPER: Right.

HOOVER: He's done all three. I mean, so it does have the feel of it. And we know he is competitive with the former president in the polls.


HOOVER: So it has all the telltale signs of a soft launch.

TAPPER: And I have to say, I mean, if you go speaking of Truth Social, if you happen to go there, which I did the other day, and go onto Donald Trump's account, it's like every other post, Truth Social post, whatever they're called, truths, every other one is attacking DeSantis, like literally every other one.

Here's just one of them, quote, "Florida was doing great long before Ron," do you say Des -- yes, DeSanctus, he says, because it's sanctimonious he's saying, "DeSanctus got there. People are fleeing from New York to Florida because of high taxes, out of control crime, not because of Governor DeSanctimonious. Rick Scott did great, and even Charlie Crist had good numbers. Sunshine and ocean. Very alluring." So, he's actually literally praising Democrat --


TAPPER: -- Charlie Crist, who lost to DeSantis 40, 60 --

AVLON: Yes, by 20 points.

TAPPER: -- in the last gubernatorial? I mean --

AVLON: Yes, no, I mean, first of all that's probably the worst Florida tourism board announcement you could possibly have. But beyond that, look, I mean, you know, he's obsessed with Ron DeSantis. He is -- because he's insecure about DeSantis taking his nomination away from him. And so, he's acting like a petulant child and lashing out on Truth Social. And it's a sign of DeSantis's relative strength that he can sort of play above it all while Trump is constantly lashing out looking for attention.


TAPPER: I mean, his strategy has been to not engage and just take it to Democrats, take it to the media, take it --


TAPPER: -- to teachers, take it to, you know, et cetera, et cetera. But he has not criticized Donald Trump.

HOOVER: And what's interesting is that he can afford not to right now, and he isn't being pounded out of the public arena. I do think the fact that these are troops, not tweets --


HOOVER: -- makes a big difference. If Donald Trump were still on Twitter, that platform --

TAPPER: He has been allowed back.

HOOVER: He has been allowed back, but he is not using that platform.

TAPPER: Right.

HOOVER: And the --


HOOVER: -- effect of that platform was far more, frankly, efficacious for him than frankly needing you to go to his site to then tell people what he said. Everybody was covering it before. And I think on some level, that has contained Donald Trump's damage and radius of damage.

AVLON: Today.

TAPPER: I don't disagree, but is it also possible that it's just kind of an old act?

AVLON: Yes, it's getting old. Which is what -- he can feel himself losing the audience, people looking to Ron DeSantis. I think the question is whether DeSantis's silence is a matter of strength or whether it's part of a larger pattern we see from other -- would be Republicans where they dance around Donald Trump for fear of offending. It's that fear of the base and fear of Trump that leads them to excusing the inexcusable. And until the Republican Party finds its spine, they're, you know, they're going to remain in troubles. They're going to have to be willing to call it out directly.

HOOVER: The face off will happen eventually. I mean, eventually, DeSantis and Donald Trump will be on the same stage. Donald Trump will be able to say all these things to his face, and the crowd will respond. And so, it's a virtual crowd right now. The Truth people are for Trump. The other people are for DeSantis. Where the base ends up, we're not going to be able to see it until there actually -- we have those moments in the debate.

AVLON: We just can't say Truth people. That's just (INAUDIBLE).

HOOVER: Thank you, thank you. But my client meant to say it.

AVLON: And then we'll see whether Ron DeSantis has a glass job.

TAPPER: So, "The Washington Post" writes about what's beyond these repeated attacks from Trump.


TAPPER: Is people -- they say, "People close to Trump said he wants to make DeSantis think about it whether he wants to get into the race. Trump advisers say he wants to make it painful for DeSantis to enter the race."

I have to say, none of this stuff is really all that painful. Hitting them from the left on Social Security and Medicare. Ron DeSanctimonius is not -- I mean, it's not that -- it's not as good as, you know, lying Ted Cruz or whatever.

AVLON: Yes, I know. I know. The first album was much better than the 7th. But yes, this is a very tired bully thug routine and we'll see if it's work.

HOOVER: I just -- I think it's too early for us to know whether it's going to get traction or not. I think Donald Trump may get his mojo back.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

HOOVER: It all may come back. And actually DeSanctimonious becomes the roar laugh line of the rally. One never knows --

AVLON: Too many syllables.

HOOVER: You know what -- TAPPER: No, but she's right.

HOOVER: -- easy for you to say.

AVLON: No, I don't absolutely --

HOOVER: Easy for you to say.

TAPPER: With Donald Trump, one never knows.

AVLON: Absolutely.

TAPPER: One never knows. Margaret and John, great to see both of you.

AVLON: You too.

TAPPER: Appreciate it. We'll see you next week in D.C.

HOOVER: Thank you.


TAPPER: Thanks to all.

The Supreme Court hearing, the second of two cases that could change the Internet, and who is really responsible for what people post. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our tech lead, for the second day in a row, the U.S. Supreme Court justices heard arguments in a big tech case that could reshape the Internet. The issue this time, whether Twitter or other social media companies can be sued for aiding and abetting a specific act of international terrorism. This case involves the family of a man who was tragically killed in a 2017 ISIS attack in Istanbul. Their argument is that Twitter knowingly helped ISIS by allowing the terrorist group's content to persist on its platform.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider and Axios Media Reporter Sara Fischer are here to explain what's at stake.

Jessica, first, tell us what both sides argued in court today.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we heard a lot of technical arguments in this case. So, it was a lot more subdued than we heard yesterday. But overall, the two sides here, they argued really over the meaning of this antiterrorism statute that the case is based on, namely, you know, whether merely by allowing terrorist organizations to post content on Twitter, whether Twitter should be found to have knowingly and substantially provided support for the terrorist organization.

So, obviously, Twitter argued that just allowing users to post does not mean that they knowingly support terrorist activities. On the flip side, the attorney for the victim's family, he really made this very far reaching argument that Twitter could potentially be held responsible for every terrorist attack or even a mention was made on its platform. So, obviously, Jake, that argument seemed to go a bit too far for some of these Justices.

TAPPER: So, read the tea leaves even further if you could. Do you think the Justices signaled about how they potentially might rule?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. There's some thought on this because the Justices are very aware of how much upheaval a ruling in the victim's favor could bring in this case, obviously, since it would really change the way the Internet is run. So they did tread carefully. They pushed back extensively on the attorney here who argued that social media companies are liable under this antiterrorism act.

Yesterday, of course, we saw them expressing the skepticism that Section 230's protection should be eroded. So as for tea leaves, Jake, you know, many court watchers are looking at both of these cases together. And it's possible here that if the Justices rule on today's case, that Twitter can't be held responsible under this antiterrorism tact -- act, if they found that way, they wouldn't even have to address the limits of Section 230 in the case we heard yesterday. And that might be the way to kind of skirt the issue, at least for now.

TAPPER: And Sara, yesterday, Supreme Court Justices heard arguments for that other Internet speech case involving Google. Tell us what the similarities are you think.


SARA FISCHER, SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER, AXIOS: So both of them take into account whether or not tech platforms should be liable for the content that everyday users post. But the key difference is, with the Google case yesterday, it was whether or not Google should be immune. And today what they were talking about with Twitter is whether Twitter should be held accountable for a different type of thing around antiterrorism.

I think what both of them, though, signify is whether or not big tech platforms that have let users post anything they've wanted for the past 30 years should be held accountable for anything that they post, including whether that is terrorist account.

And I think what you're signaling to Jessica's point from the court is that it doesn't seem like this is something that they're likely to take up. I think that they understand that if they were to make such a ruling, it would have huge ripple effect on the Internet. It's more likely this gets punted, if it even does, to Congress.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, it does seem more like a legislative action. How could theoretically, though, either of these cases change the way we use the Internet if they were to surprise us with their rulings?

FISCHER: Well, let's say you took that immunity away from tech platforms, meaning that they were held accountable for everything that any user would post, I mean, it would completely shut down the Internet as we know it. No more comment sections. You probably couldn't just post anything as an everyday user without really authenticating your identity.

And it's not just big tech, Jake. Think about any commenting platform, Yelp, TripAdvisor, all of that stuff, those businesses would be completely underwater.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Fischer, Jessica Schneider, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

In our world lead, violence and deadly clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank after an Israeli military raid. Israeli officials say the raid was focused on a house harboring terrorists who are planning attacks in the, quote, "immediate future." The raid happened in the middle of the day near a busy market in Nablus.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health says more than 100 Palestinians were injured and 11 were killed, six of whom have been claimed by Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas. The head of the local Red Crescent calls what happened today a massacre. A spokesman for the Israeli military conceded that the raid did get, quote, "very messy."

Coming up, the border proposal from the Biden administration that is angering both Republicans and Democrats. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the Biden administration is proposing a new border restriction that would prevent most migrants from applying for asylum in the United States. This rule is being linked to a Trump era policy known as Title 42 that sought to dramatically curtail who was eligible for asylum. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is live for us now from the White House.

And Priscilla, what are the similarities between the Trump era policy and Biden's new proposal?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, former President Donald Trump had tried to curtail asylum generally, including by barring migrants who crossed other countries to get to the U.S. Mexico border from claiming asylum. That has echoes to what the Biden administration is proposing now by largely barring, again, those migrants who have transited through multiple countries and did not seek refuge there from claiming asylum here in the U.S.

Now, administration officials reject this comparison. They say that this is not a ban on asylum in the way that it was under the Trump administration, that there are exceptions and that they are expanding legal pathways to the United States. But look, this is the most restrictive policy that the Biden administration has released thus far in their patchwork of policies to try to manage the U.S. Mexico border. The key difference here is that U.S. law permits migrants who arrive on U.S. soil, regardless of how they arrive to request asylum. This adds additional layers as to whether or not they would be eligible by instead doing what's called the presumption of ineligibility if they transited through other countries.

Now, an administration official told reporters that this was not our first preference or even our second. So they are conceding that this is not a measure that they necessarily would want to take either, but it's the only measure, among others, that they see fit to try to manage the flow amid mass migration in the Western Hemisphere. Jake.

TAPPER: I have to ask, I mean, how are Democratic lawmakers responding to this? They were so critical of Trump era policies.

ALVAREZ: The resounding message is that they are, quote, "deeply disappointed." That is what Democratic lawmakers have been saying, including immigrant advocates who say this is very reminiscent of the Trump era.

We should note, Jake, though, that this is a rule that wouldn't take effect until May. There's still public comment period it needs to go through. And the reason for that is that COVID era border restriction known as Title 42 that we talked to is expected to expire in May. So, all of this is the administration bracing for that time.

TAPPER: All right. Priscilla Alvarez at the White House for us, thank you so much.

Also in our national lead, across country, winter storm likely to last until at least Friday. Gusty winds, ice, heavy snow, creating white out conditions, particularly in the upper Midwest. Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is in the CNN Weather Center tracking the storm.

Jennifer, how bad is this going to get?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is going to be really bad, especially for places in the Midwest. You're talking about one of the top snowiest storms across places like Minneapolis, where we have blizzard warnings in effect across portions of western Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota. Look at this map, you see all the watches and warnings. It's hard to find a place that's going to be untouched by the storm.

We are going to see huge impacts. These areas shaded in red and then in purple across the Sierra, we're going to see a lot of mountain passes closed, but we could see very hazardous travel conditions. Power outages will be expected as well.

Here's the radar. And you can see the snow all the way across the northern tier of the country. Also, ice is going to be a huge concern. We could see half an inch to three quarters of an inch of ice in some places that's going to make travel impossible.

So throughout the overnight hours tonight especially, and then starting to wind down by tomorrow. So tonight is really where we're going to see the bulk of it continuing to snow across Minneapolis. This is 05:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. And then really winding down by the time we get into midday tomorrow. [17:55:06]

But this storm could have far reaching impacts, especially talking about the slick roads, the bridges, where we could see a quarter of an inch, a half an inch of ice, these areas shaded and purple, that's through Detroit. Madison could see a lot of trouble with that ice as well.

Additional snowfall yet to come across places in the Midwest. We could see an additional eight to 12 inches of snow, and that's where portions of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and that's on top of what has already fallen. This is also going to stretch into New England as well, Jake, where we could see anywhere to a foot, to a foot and a half of snow across interior sections of New England.

TAPPER: All right. Jennifer Gray in the CNN Weather Center, thanks so much.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn.

Reminder, please join me tonight for a live CNN town hall where the residents of East Palestine will get to ask their questions of the CEO of Norfolk Southern, Alan Shaw, of the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan. Toxic Train Disaster Ohio Residents Speak Out. Starts at 09:00 p.m. Eastern and it will only air on CNN.

Our coverage continues next with Wolf Blitzer. He's in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I will see you at 09:00 p.m. Eastern.