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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Is Trump Above The Law? Supreme Court Is Asked To Decide; Texas Supreme Court Rules Against Woman Seeking Emergency Abortion; Kate Cox Tries To Get That Abortion Under Sanction Of A Judge; Biden Trails Trump In Georgia Polls, Behind Trump In Michigan; Ukraine On The Brink, Its President Desperate; Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Missing From Prison. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired December 11, 2023 - 22:00   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: An extraordinary request in an extraordinary case. That's tonight on Newsnight.

Good evening. I'm Abby Phillips in New York.

Tonight, the special counsel bets big on the Supreme Court. How big of a bet? Well, every single check and balance on all presidents just might be at stake. Jack Smith is wagering that the justices will side with him. He's wagering that the high court will see the wisdom in answering this question sooner rather than later, is Donald Trump immune from prosecution?

Now, the special counsel writes like he's running out of time, and in a way he is. The normal appeals process would give no guarantee that the high court considers the immunity question before next November. Now, that is, I don't have to remind you, when America chooses its next president.

How the court rules may reshape democracy as we know it. The justices have never said yes or no, that a president can be criminally prosecuted for crimes they perpetrated while president. A ruling that the Constitution does not offer a get out of jail free card would put Trump in immediate election altering legal peril.

But a ruling that the Constitution puts a legal bubble around presidents would make Trump and anyone who follows him in the Oval Office truly above the law.

Joining me in moments are two of Trump's former lawyers. But first, joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. She's a member of the House January 6th Committee and she also worked for Congressman Don Edwards in 1974 when President Nixon was facing impeachment. Congressman Lofgren, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

I want to start by just asking are you concerned about this precedent that could be made from the Supreme Court for future presidents if they decide against Special Counsel Jack Smith? REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, that would be extraordinary. And really, the precedent is U.S. v. Nixon. I was actually on the staff and in Washington when that case was decided. And the decision was that the president doesn't have absolute immunity. And in that case, of course, Nixon was required to hand over the tapes and then, of course, resign shortly thereafter.

You know, this court has occasionally strayed from precedent, but it would be really shocking if they did so in this case.

PHILLIP: Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Do you think that Justice Thomas should recuse himself in this case?

LOFGREN: Well, I do. Thinking back to U.S. versus Nixon, Justice Rehnquist recused himself merely because he had worked in the Department of Justice, and he knew some of the individuals who were the subject of the inquiry.

Obviously, there's a lot of public -- well, Ms. Thomas came before the January 6th Committee. We had her texts and showed her involvement with some of the principals who were being prosecuted. I think it would be prudent for the justice to recuse, just as Justice Rehnquist did those many years ago in 1974.

PHILLIP: And tonight also, CNN is reporting that Special Counsel Smith might try to use data from electronic devices to show jurors when Trump was using Twitter on January 6th. Do you believe that there is electronic data that, for example, the House January 6th committee was not able to get, that the special counsel might have access to and that could be important in this case?

LOFGREN: Well, I don't know, because as you just mentioned, we were not able to get some of that information. However, I think based on public reporting, it does appear that there was data that was delivered to the DOJ, and it may be revealing. We'll see.

One thing we do know, the then-president did nothing to stop the riot. In fact, it was furthering his goals, which was to use violence to overturn the election.


And the fact that he did nothing for so long while calling individuals during the riot, trying to get them to continue to object, this may buttress that, but we'll see when the trial commences.

PHILLIP: Yes, we will indeed. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, thank you very much.

LOFGREN: Any time.

PHILLIP: Now, I want to bring in two former Donald Trump attorneys, Tim Parlatore and Jim Schultz.

Jim, I want to start with you. If Jack Smith would have done -- if you were Jack Smith, would you have done this?

JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Really, there's no downside to him doing it, right? There's a nuance here. So, the Nixon case didn't decide whether the president had absolute immunity or not. But what it did do was show that, in eight weeks from the time that the written (INAUDIBLE) pending before judgment was filed to the time the Supreme Court ruled was eight weeks. And the Supreme Court's no stranger to that, because that's what they did back then. So, they ruled at that point in time in eight weeks on that case.

So there's really no downside for Jack Smith taking on this matter and aggressively pursuing it. So, in that regard, I would have done the same thing.

PHILLIP: And, Tim, do you think that the court grants this request ultimately? Is this something that is both in the interest of the special counsel and the former president?

I think we are having some trouble with Tim.

So, Jim, I'll put that question to you. Do you think the court ultimately grants this request?

SCHULTZ: So, look, the court -- Jack Smith is asking for two things. One, he's asking to skip a step, right? So, he's asking to skip the intermediate appeals court, which is the D.C. District -- the D.C. Court of Appeals, and then go on to the Supreme Court without hearing that -- without having that intermediate appeal.

And that is certainly an extraordinary measure. It doesn't happen all the time, but like I said, back in Nixon, it did happen, and it only took eight weeks. So, I think this court is going to take careful judgment on that.

I'm not sure whether he's successful or not. It all depends on whether this court really wants to hear from the D.C. Circuit. The D.C. Circuit is filled with kind of Supreme Court justices in waiting. A lot of the Supreme Court justices, you know, over the years have come from the D.C. Circuit Court. They may want to respect that process.

But in the end, I think a compelling argument is going to be made here for the speedy trial provisions and in the public's interest to get this thing over with, if either he has immunity or he doesn't, and the Supreme Court's going to have a roll on it either way. So, I think that's really what's going to drive their decision-making.

PHILLIP: Yes. And, of course, this is a court, the Supreme Court, that President Trump put three of these justices on the bench. At the same time, it's also a court that has consistently ruled against him in some of these cases related to January 6th. So, I mean, is this something that you can really make bets on, or is this really going to come down to the actual arguments here that are presented to the justices?

SCHULTZ: Look, I think they really have to take a hard look at the public interest argument. I don't put a lot of stock in the fact that they were appointed by President Trump when he was president, the fact that three of them were appointed by him. I don't put a whole heck of a lot of stock in that. I think they're going to look at this case and make a decision based upon the public's interest, and that speedy trial provision is certainly in the public's interest.

And, quite frankly, it's going to be very difficult for President Trump to make the argument that, hey, we want to delay all of this, but at the same time, he's saying, hey, all of these cases are killing me, wouldn't he want to get them over with as well.

PHILLIP: If and/or when the high court does eventually get this case, what do you think is the most effective argument that, let's say, Trump's lawyers have for immunity?

SCHULTZ: Look, they're trying to take a civil -- what is typically a civil -- an immunity that's afforded to a president in the civil context, meaning that it's the things that are close to the decisions that he makes that are in the outer perimeter of his official duties. In the civil context, he would be immune from suit.

They're trying to apply that in the criminal context, and I think that's going to be a very difficult hurdle for them to climb over.

PHILLIP: What happens then if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Trump? What does this mean going forward? Do all these election related cases against him go away?

SCHULTZ: Yes, they do. They do. If Supreme Court rules in Trump's favor, that means he's immune from prosecution in the Jan. 6 case.


I don't think that would apply to the documents case because, you know, that obviously happened after he was in office. That pertains to documents that he retained after he was in office and that he continued to retain. I don't think it impacts the documents case, but it can certainly -- it certainly has -- is going to impact the cases that the federal case brought against him in the case that involves the efforts to defraud the United States government, as alleged by Jack Smith.

PHILLIP: Do you think it would have any impact at all on any other people who are caught up in January 6th related activities, any other defendants if Trump ultimately is ruled to be immune or are they not immune, but he is?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think that's really -- I think that really is the presidential -- these are presidential immunities that he's claiming. So, I don't know that it's going to have much impact on anybody surrounding him. But, certainly, the person that they're after in this case is Donald Trump. And if that case goes away, the rest of them likely crumble as well.

PHILLIP: Jim Schultz, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

And next, Carl Bernstein is standing by for us. Why he says that this move will have extraordinary consequences.

Plus, more breaking news in that case that is captivating the nation. The Texas Supreme Court rules against a woman looking to have an abortion under the state's medical emergency exception. So, now that she's traveling out of the state to get one, what does it mean for her back home?



PHILLIP: Tonight, the monumental development on whether Donald Trump or any future president for that matter will have to face accountability for alleged federal crimes committed while in office. Special Counsel Jack Smith and his team are pointing to a similar move that was employed in the U.S. versus Nixon case, where the justices rejected then President Nixon's claims that he was protected by presidential privilege.

Joining me now is Carl Bernstein. He, of course, along with Bob Woodward, broke the Watergate scandal and knows quite a lot about that saga.

So, Bob, what do you think the --


PHILLIP: Or Carl, I'm sorry, God.

BERNSTEIN: It happens all the time, 50 years of it.

PHILLIP: You're mistaken for Bob all the time. Carl, what do you think happens for this country if this court, which we all know is very conservative-leaning, which we all know Donald Trump appointed three justices on, what happens if they rule that he does have immunity? What precedent would that set?

BERNSTEIN: Well, it would set a precedent that the president of the United States is above the law. And I think the odds of that happening, given the Nixon precedent, are somewhat dim. You would have to assume that this court, which actually has been quite unhappy and vociferous in some instances, that the way Donald Trump has railed against the judiciary, decided against him, ordered him to turn over his tax returns, has not been very favorable to him. I think we can perhaps expect that this is going to be a judicial consideration based by the justices on their reading of the law and precedent. Maybe an exception might be Clarence Thomas, who probably ought to recuse himself, but probably won't. But, you know, we don't know what's going to happen.

If indeed, Trump is upheld in maintaining that he is above the law, that executive privilege holds in this instance, he's not subject to the same laws and the same procedures as other citizens of the United States, then, of course, some of these cases are going to go away. But not only will some of these cases go away, but the majesty of Nixon versus the United States will disappear. PHILLIP: What about if the other thing happens, if he is not found to be immune? He's running for president of the United States. There's potentially going to be a trial in the spring on this matter. What would that signal about how this next election will go for Trump?

BERNSTEIN: I think we need to step back. Let's look at the wide view. We are an extraordinary moment in American history in which this former president of the United States, an accused criminal, is the subject of so much of our cultural debate, of our political debate, of our debate on almost everything having to do with politics in this country, with culture, and we've never quite seen a phenomenon like Donald Trump. And now we find him engaged with the highest court in the land. He's already engaged with the Congress.

So, we have a situation in which we have a country that is fixated, and the media, and social media, which is fixated on Donald Trump to an extent that no former president, even Nixon, has ever been the subject of. And so we have to look at a phenomenon that we don't know what this means for this country. What we know is that this accused criminal, this former president of the United States who was accused of really sedition, the first American president to be accused of sedition, to undermine the very electoral system that he was sworn to uphold, that he could become the next president of the United States. This is a moment unlike anything.

Let me just talk about Richard Nixon for one second. Richard Nixon was also an ex-president who dominated his time as an ex-president. Gerald Ford's presidency was held hostage to some extent by the whole issue of him pardoning Nixon. So, we have a precedent where an ex-president takes the attention of the nation away from other things.

PHILLIP: But it strikes me that -- I mean, this is a case that -- if there's going to be a case that waves whether a former president should be held accountable criminally, it is on this matter. It is on a question of whether that president sought to overturn a free and fair election.

So, this is unlike, I think, the Nixon case.


This is at the heart of American democracy in some ways. And actually speaking of that, just over the weekend, I'm sure you've heard Trump repeatedly over the last few days talking about, I guess you could say joking about wanting to be a dictator for a day, but he doubled down over the weekend. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I said I want to be a dictator for one day. But The New York Times said -- and you know why I wanted to be a dictator, because I want a wall, right? I want a wall, and I want a drill, drill, drill.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERNSTEIN: We know that Donald Trump is an authoritarian. There's nothing new about this. And that's one of the issues in this coming election. Does the United States want an authoritarian president of the United States, such as we've never had in our history with the possible exception of Donald Trump?

PHILLIP: And I should say he claims that he's joking, but to your point, this is something that Trump flirts with quite a lot.

BERNSTEIN: I think it's more than flirtation. I think we need to look at the man, his life, his record, going back to when he started in business, as a conman, that we need to look at his record as president of the United States. Let's look at what happened on January 6th. Let's look at what happened in the run-up to the election. Let's look at what happened to many things during his presidency. This is not somebody with great respect for the rule of law or the Constitution of the United States.

PHILLIP: But at the same time, I mean, if you look at the polls, it's -- if you're being generous, a coin flip, whether Donald Trump becomes president again, if he faces Joe Biden, the American people could very well choose someone with all of these characteristics, someone facing these criminal charges, someone facing these civil cases as well. This is potentially not a case where the democratic process prevents someone like a Trump from being in office.

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. The question of, you know, of whether an authoritarian can win the presidency in the United States, we've seen evidence that probably it's very possible. He won the first time that he ran for president of the United States. If you look, the great issue around the world is becoming the future of democracy. Look at the numbers of countries that have moved from democracy to autocracy in the last 5, 10, 15 years, and not by coup, but by democratic choice of voters. We indeed could be in that mode in this country. That's one of the great questions.

This election is not just about Donald Trump. This case is not just about Donald Trump. It's about the people of the United States and what they choose in terms of leadership, of their values, their political values, their moral values. And we don't know the answers to these questions. We're going to find out. We know it's probably going to be a very close election. Trump is certainly in amazingly good shape for someone given his record and his deeds. And we'll see where this case goes and where his campaign goes.

PHILLIP: And someone facing the really unprecedented legal troubles that he is indeed facing.

Carl, thank you very much for joining us tonight, as always.

And breaking tonight, a ruling against the Texas woman who's seeking an abortion under the medical emergency exception. The cultural conversation about what this all means for women is next.

Plus, with Ukraine on the brink, President Zelenskyy is about to come face to face with U.S. lawmakers with a desperate plea, but likely to get the cold shoulder.



PHILLIP: New tonight, the Texas Supreme Court reversing a ruling that allowed Kate Cox to get an emergency abortion hours after she left the state to have the procedure.

Now, that reversal follows the lower court's ruling last week that Cox could get the abortion under Texas' medical emergency exception. Cox sought the court's action after learning that her fetus had a genetic condition that was fatal.

Now, in its ruling, the Texas high court called on the state's medical board to provide more guidance on that medical emergency provision. It also said that it should be up to doctors, not judges, to decide whether to provide an abortion, but that Cox's doctor did not establish or attest that her symptoms were life-threatening.

Joining me now is Irin Carmon, a senior correspondent for The New York Magazine. Irin, this is really disturbing of a case, and we've been following it for a while. But always knowing that Kate Cox's pregnancy, the clock was ticking, her decision to leave the state. What does that signal to you about what really was going through her mind and the decisions that she had to make about whether to press forward with the legal case that she was trying to make?

IRIN CARMON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, we've heard a lot of cases of women being forced into terrible situations by these new laws that were enabled by the overturning of Roe v. Wade. But what makes Kate Cox's case unusual is that she was still pregnant, going before a judge, begging as an adult woman for an abortion.

Now, minors have had to do this for quite some time, but it is deeply unusual. I think her lawyer said the last time was Roe v. Wade for an adult to have to go before a judge and say, I'm fearful for my life, my health and my future fertility. Her fetus has a condition incompatible with life, is either going to die inside of her or upon birth. And she would like to choose to end her pregnancy now for the sake of her life, her baby, and her future fertility.

And so I think there are 22 other women in Texas who have gone before a judge after their pregnancies have already ended in some painful resolution, whether it's leaving the state to get an abortion or being forced to become septic and ending up in the ICU or, in very narrow cases, finally getting the abortion that they needed in Texas.


Now, Kate Cox did something different. She tried to get that abortion under sanction of a judge and they ran out the clock. The first judge that told her she could get an abortion was last Thursday.

As you know, you mentioned the ticking time. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, they stopped the order, they delayed it. In the meantime, she made the decision that she needed to do what was best for herself. She'd wanted to get care at home. Now traveling, adding physical stress to an already very dangerous situation for her.

So, it's a good thing for her that she decided to leave because the Texas Supreme Court tried to pass the buck but ultimately said she would not be able to get this care in Texas.

PHILLIP: And she's about 20 weeks pregnant so really, every day starts to matter at that point when you really -- your opportunity in different locations even becomes more narrow.

For women who are looking at all of this happening, I've been so struck talking to women even in red states who are not supportive of abortion. But it strikes me that this is exactly the scenario that they are worried about. What do you think is happening in the minds of women in the country right now?

CARMON: Well, I think what's really important for women to know is that these laws are operating just as the people who wrote them intended. They did not want women like Kate Cox to be able to get abortions. They very reluctantly have the most narrow possible exceptions.

And so, for women who have potentially been, or any people who have been on the fence about abortion and they think of it as, well, I wouldn't get an abortion in that situation, or I wouldn't get it in that situation, we have learned about an entire spectrum of reproductive experiences.

Because we all know, any of us who have reproductive lives know that these do not fall into very simple boxes. Life is messy, complicated, unexpected, and especially when a pregnancy is involved.

And so, to even to be in the situation where you might imagine I wouldn't get an abortion in this situation, I would in that, so many different people have been caught up in these laws and that is part of the intention. And I just think it's so interesting that when women and men have had the opportunity in red states to vote on this issue, they've gone against the expectations of what conservative states have wanted because of people like Kate Cox have spoken out.

PHILLIP: And can I just say, I mean, it's extraordinary to have this conversation in which it's a real life example of where perhaps Kate Cox would have to be on the verge of death to be allowed to have a procedure that would ultimately save her life. I think a lot of people don't even like to go down that intellectual road for themselves or for people that they love.

CARMON: The state of Texas would rather torture her, drug her pregnancy at a risk to herself, and force her to give birth to a dying baby on terms that she did not choose than to allow her to get the healthcare that she needs. And she's certainly not alone.

Again, this other case brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights has started out with five women, ended up with 22. The way that Kate Cox found her lawyers that she happened to be reading about that case when she got this fatal diagnosis of her fetus. And one of those women became so ill trying to get an emergency abortion that she qualified for under the extremely narrow provisions of one of these laws that her arm turned black from blood clotting.

Phillip: Oh my God. Yeah.

CARMON: So, we're talking about severe life-threatening situations here that even do not qualify initially.

PHILLIP: You were talking about a lot of these referenda that we have seen in red states and across the country. This is now the second, this past off-year election, is the second election that we've seen since Roe was overturned, where voters have really spoken on this abortion issue. Do you see this continuing as a driving force in American politics going forward?

CARMON: You know, we live in a politics of distraction, but it is incredible to me how focused people have been on this issue. I think voters are not stupid. They understand that extreme situations are happening that don't need to happen. Even these exceptions, which are far narrower than voters were tended to expect, notice there are no rape or incest exceptions in any of these Texas regulations that all overlap. There certainly isn't an exception for fetal anomaly.

When voters find out about what's happening, it stays in their mind. And one of the reasons is because every day we hear a new story. We hear a new upsetting story. And maybe it's somebody you know, or maybe it's you.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it could certainly be any woman of childbearing age or someone that they know. Irin Carmon, thank you very much for joining us. And President Biden is facing more grim swing state polls and the bigger picture of some difficult electoral college math. Harry Enten is here to break down those numbers, next.



PHILLIP: Another set of dismal polls for President Biden this time in the key states of Michigan and Georgia. In Georgia, the President trails former President Trump by five points and in Michigan, Biden is behind Trump by a whopping 10 points. Though, more people say that they're undecided there.

It's all adding up to some difficult electoral college math for President Biden and here with me, with more on this, at the magic wall is CNN Senior Data Reporter, Harry Enten. Harry, so Georgia and Michigan -- how critical is it really, that Biden win these states.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Okay, so I went back to the history of books, Abby, because I like doing this.

PHILLIP: The history of books?

ENTEN: The history of books, that's right. I have a lot of free time. Democrats have won the presidency without winning Michigan or Georgia. Abby, they've done it zero times since 1828. They have to win one of those. Of course, 1828 was when the Democratic Party was founded, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson, et cetera, et cetera.

So, look, these are in two different parts of the country. They have very different demographics, right? One has a lot of white working class voters in Georgia, of course, a lot of college educated voters around the suburbs of Atlanta and a lot of black voters, as well.


So, they're two very diverse states. You have to win one of them if you're a Democrat. And the fact that Joe Biden is trailing in both. Historically speaking, there simply isn't a roadmap for winning the presidency if you're a Democrat without winning at least one of the states.

PHILLIP: Either the South or the so-called Rust Belt. What about 2020? How does this moment, this picture, compare to what happened in 2020?

ENTEN: Yeah, so, you know, we just talked about results. Let's talk about polling. So, Michigan polls where Trump led Biden. In Michigan, the entire 2020 cycle, look at that. No polls, not a single poll where Joe Biden trailed Donald Trump. So, far this election cycle, we've already had two. And of course, we're still in 2023.

We've had the CNN SSRS Poll. There was also a "New York Times"- Siena College Poll. Remember. Donald Trump trailed Joe Biden throughout the 2020 race, excuse me. The fact is Michigan is emblematic of what we've seen nationally, and that is that Joe Biden is behind Donald Trump nationally and in key swing states like Michigan and in Georgia.

PHILLIP: Yeah, what about some other swing states that, you know, perhaps Biden needs to win in order to win the presidency? How's he faring?

ENTEN: Yeah, so let's take a look at these states. These are states where Trump now leads that went from Trump in 2016 to Biden in 2020. So, obviously we mentioned Michigan, we mentioned Georgia. Take a look at your end, Arizona, perhaps the big one here, Pennsylvania, the Keystone State. The fact is, Abby, you can go building your electoral map. You can build it in many different ways, right?

We spoke about it in slide one, building in the South with Georgia, building in the North with Michigan. But if you lose all these states, if you're Joe Biden, look, I like doing a lot of electoral college permutations. There isn't one that I can really think of where if Donald Trump wins these states that Joe Biden could potentially possibly win.

PHILLIP: The point of all of this is that based on what is going on right now, something significant would have to change for President Biden to pull it out. So, which voters are perhaps the most important for him to start turning things around with?

ENTEN: Yeah, so you know, there's been all this talk of Joe Biden having problems on the far left of his party, right? Very progressive voters, perhaps on the Israel-Hamas war that's going on. But in reality, elections are won in the center of the electorate. And that was something that Joe Biden did in 2020 that Hillary Clinton could not do in 2016. So, take a look here.

This is an average of independent voters in Georgia, Michigan. In 2020, in those exit polls, look at that. Joe Biden won those voters by eight points. Look at the margin that Donald Trump is putting up here. He is winning them on average by 18 points.

PHILLIP: It's a huge swing.

ENTEN: It's an absolutely huge swing.

PHILLIP: If it holds, of course.

ENTEN: If it holds, of course, where this polls are a snaps on time. But the fact of the matter is, Abby, you go through the history books. I can't think of a single example in the states that are ultimately the most important, where a candidate wins independent voters by this large of a margin and then doesn't go on to win the general election. These are tremendous numbers for Donald Trump pretty much throughout our CNN SSRS polling.

PHILLIP: And when voters are asked about the characteristics of these two candidates, if they're up against one another, what are they saying in these polls about what's pushing them toward a Donald Trump?

ENTEN: Yeah, you know, I think that there are a lot of folks who say, okay, Trump is trusted more on the economy, right? Perhaps Trump is posted, is trusted more on stamina and the mental soundness to be present. But there's one category where I think just sort of is emblematic of everything we've seen in the polling so far, this sort of switch from Biden to Trump.

Cares about people like you. Generally speaking, this is a great category for Democrats. In October of 2020, Biden held a 20-point march on this question. Look at where we are in December of 2023. This was a "Wall Street Journal" poll that came out over the weekend. Biden still leads but by a single?

PHILLIP: This is an empathy question, which actually should be a strong suit for Joe Biden, but he's losing ground.

ENTEN: He is losing a lot of ground. If Joe Biden can't win on empathy, Abby, I have to ask you and I have to ask our audience, where the heck can he win? I have no idea where you can win. This is perhaps the worst number I've seen for Joe Biden and all the numbers I showed you this evening.

PHILLIP: A lot of work ahead for President Biden. Harry Enten, thank you so much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And this week, CNN will host two Republican presidential town halls in Iowa. Don't miss Jake Tapper's conversation with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tomorrow at 9 P.M. Eastern time. And my conversation with Vivek Ramaswamy on Wednesday, also at 9 P.M. right here on CNN.

And just hours from now, President Zelenskyy will visit Capitol Hill to ask lawmakers to approve more funding for Ukraine, despite their resistance to doing so. So, what do Russians think about Republicans who are blocking this aid? That's next.



PHILLIP: A country on the brink and its President, desperate. Just hours from now, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy will visit Capitol Hill, meeting with lawmakers as additional American military aid is now in limbo. Republicans, even those in favor of more aid, they're insisting that they will not back more funding unless Democrats and the White House agree to major border policy changes.

At the Pentagon today, Zelenskyy warned that the partisan wrangling is a win for Vladimir Putin.



VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: If there's anyone inspired by unresolved issues on Capitol Hill, it's just Putin and his sick clique. They see the dreams come true when they see the delays or some scandals, and they see freedom to fall when the support of freedom fighters go down. And people like Putin shouldn't even hope to conquer freedom.


PHILLIP: Joining me now is Julia Davis, the creator of the Russian media monitor and columnist at "The Daily Beast". So, Julia, a U.S. official tells CNN that Russian state TV is, I guess, perhaps unsurprisingly, celebrating a lack of additional aid to Ukraine. And you spent a lot of time monitoring all of this. What are the Russians saying on television?

JULIA DAVIS, CREATOR OF THE RUSSIA MEDIA MONITOR: Thank you for having me, Abby. The Russians certainly have experienced a huge boost to their morale. Whereas before the AIDS stall in Congress, they were quite upset and displeased. The war is not going well. The mothers and the wives of the mobilized were complaining. The propagandists complained that people have lost any interest in this war.

And all of a sudden, this has given them an enormous boost. And their reaction was to say, well done, Republicans, because all of a sudden, they don't have to just wait for Trump to come back to power to hand them over Ukraine.

Now, they see it much closer in their sights. And their rhetoric suddenly changed from if we win to when we win. They're already starting to celebrate the potential victory once the USA to Ukraine is stopped completely. And that, of course, is their ultimate dream.

PHILLIP: You just mentioned Donald Trump and his role in all of this, even though he's not even in office anymore. How are they describing the former president, and what are they giving him credit for?

DAVIS: They describe him as the destroyer of America, which is, of course, why they adore him so much and want him to return back to office. They praise him for everything he did to undermine the trust of U.S. allies during his presidency. And right now they are convinced that Republicans are holding this aid to Ukraine hostage because Trump wants them to do it.

In fact, they're constantly showing tweets from Trump's children talking about the aid to Ukraine as one of the many signals that Trump himself favors that this aid be stopped. And they are certainly anticipating very eagerly his return to power and welcome it because they think that they will be able to get the control not only over that region but potentially as a global power surpass the United States.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, it actually kind of raises a question. What are they hoping for is the outcome here? Is it still the parts of Ukraine that Putin has publicly talked about or that he's already seized or are they eyeing the entire country at this point?

DAVIS: At this point, they're eyeing the whole country. When in the West, there has been a number of articles that have been written urging negotiations, and they scoff at that. They say, we don't want negotiations. We want the complete capitulation of Ukraine.

And now with this aid in peril, they think they could just keep bleeding Ukraine until they get the complete defeat, and they control the entire country. But then they have bigger plans beyond that, where they envision much as after the Chechen wars, they now have Chechens that are fighting on their behalf against Ukraine.

They say eventually Ukrainians will fight along with them to re- establish the greater Russian empire, which would mean other countries aside from Ukraine. So, they have very big plans.

PHILLIP: Wow. That's alarming to hear. Before you go, Julia, the team for jailed Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, says that he's missing from prison. They haven't heard from him. What do you think will happen here? Do you think we'll hear anything about his whereabouts anytime soon, especially since the eyes of the world are on Navalny as they have been for years now?

DAVIS: It's very troubling, especially because Putin just recently announced his intent to run in their upcoming elections, which of course was a given and not surprising to anyone.


But this might be a move to show that Navalny is completely in his power. He could do whatever he wants to him. And the fact that he's not even being brought for the hearings where it's mandatory that prison officials have him there, suggests that maybe he is sick, maybe he's in a condition where they don't want him to be publicly seen or maybe it's just the power play to remind everyone that Putin is the omnipotent leader.

He has no opponents, and anyone that tries to embarrass him or oppose him, as Navalny did will pay an enormous price or up to the ultimate price with their life.

PHILLIP: Julia Davis, thank you very much.

DAVIS: Thank you so much.

PHILLIP: And thank you for watching "NewsNight". Laura Coates Live starts next.