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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

DOJ Says, FBI Informant Said Russian Intel Involved In Biden Claims; Fact Checking Trump's Town Hall In South Carolina; The Routine Of Mysterious Deaths Involving Putin's Foes; X Briefly Suspends The Account Of Yulia Navalnaya, Widow Of Putin Critic Alexei Navalny; A Veto Keeps U.S. In The Middle Of A Fierce International Debate Over What Is Happening Inside Of Gaza; Nikki Haley Stays In The Presidential Race. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 20, 2024 - 22:00   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: It's 2024 and Russia is apparently still meddling in U.S. elections. That's tonight on NewsNight.

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

And tonight, a 28-page filing that lays bare an active ongoing scheme to interfere in the 2024 election. The Justice Department spelled out all the ways that a former FBI informant lied over and over again to federal investigators. Alexander Smirnov allegedly planted stories that he said were told to him by foreign agents, Russian agents.

According to that document, Smirnov, quote, promoted a new false narrative after he said he met with Russian officials. He's allegedly associated with Russian intelligence. He met often with someone inside Russian intelligence, a person who runs hit men, quote, individuals tasked with carrying out assassination efforts.

The Justice Department makes clear that this is no accident. The contacts, quote, are not benign. The informant claimed that Russians have comprised -- that's compromising material on Americans who have close ties to 2024 candidates.

Now, some of the false stories that were provided allegedly by these Russian agents were about Hunter Biden, who the document refers to as businessperson one. On that informant, the DOJ says plainly, Smirnov's efforts to spread misinformation about a candidate of one of the two major political parties in the United States continues, it's happening right now.

So, will Republicans retrench and walk away from an impeachment investigation that is built on these alleged lies? It certainly doesn't sound like it.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: There's no evidence that Joe Biden received any financial benefit personally. And to that, you say?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, he's got a lot of houses all over the place, and he's never been paid more than about $179,000, I guess, is the top. Look, he's gotten a lot of money.


PHILLIP: Donald Trump parroting the Russian narrative over the Justice Department. That's nothing new, though.


TRUMP: My people came to me. Dan Coates came to me and some others. They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


PHILLIP: Now, here with us to discuss this as CNN Contributor James Clapper. He's the former director of National Intelligence.

Director Clapper, when you read this filing and everything that's entailed in it, are you convinced that this is another attempt by Russia to actually influence this upcoming election by targeting President Biden and his son?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Abby, absolutely. This whole episode reminds me of the classic movie, Casa Blanca, in which the police inspector, who's a regular patron under a nightclub, walks in and says, what, there is gambling here, I'm shocked.

And we shouldn't be a bit surprised about what the Russians -- the extent to which the Russians will go to sow discord, doubt, distrust in this country about our whole system. And it also speaks to the willingness of people to accept information, however flimsy, that supports their narrative.

We have a bad case in this country of what the RAND Corporation is cleverly and aptly called truth decay. And this whole episode is just yet another manifestation of this.



I mean, look, one of the troubling aspects about all of this is that Smirnov was a long time informant of the FBI's. But he started changing his story about Burisma and the Bidens back in 2020. It still took years. It's 2024, it took years for the FBI to put out this indictment alleging that these claims were false.

By that point, it's been out there in the public eye. Did this false information being out there for so long basically accomplished Russia's goals?

CLAPPER: Absolutely. I mean, this is a part of the Russian information operations campaign, which they waged, and, unfortunately, successfully, in the run-up to the 2016 election, and given their success there and the lessons they've learned in the election since then, they're going to continue to do that.

PHILLIP: Well, what about the lessons that we've learned, Director Clapper.

CLAPPER: So whenever they can sow doubt and discord and discount (ph), they're going to do it. I'm sorry?

PHILLIP: What about the lessons that the United States has learned, the FBI? Shouldn't they have been on to this earlier?

CLAPPER: Well, I think you raised a good point here, and this is something I wonder about, is the extent to which if this was a genuine FBI source, an informant, the extent to which he was vetted. Typically, when you're engaging, you're trying to recruit a human intelligence source, you try to determine, you try to vet them, try to determine the veracity, the information that they can provide.

So, for example, was he polygraphed? Was the information that he provided when he did serve as an informant, was that corroborated with information that was derived from other sources? So, that, to me, is a key point here, and I think you're quite correct to raise it.

PHILLIP: This whole reason that this filing is even out here today is because the federal government wanted this informant to be kept locked up. They thought he was a flight risk. The judge essentially disagreed.

Are you surprised to see that given how they laid out that he lied about the assets available to him, how he had access to means to potentially leave the country and could be resettled somewhere by his foreign handlers allegedly?

CLAPPER: Yes, exactly. I don't profess to understand the rationale, and maybe I just don't know all of it, as to why he would be not considered a flight risk and why he shouldn't be incarcerated. I don't understand that.

PHILLIP: All right. Director James Clapper, thank you very much for joining us.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Abby.

PHILLIP: Let's talk about the politics of all of this. Joining me now is Republican Strategist Scott Jennings Scott.

This is something that I think really undermines, obviously, what a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill have been saying about the Hunter Biden situation. But I wonder, you understand, I think, your party pretty well at this point, how will all of this be viewed by Republicans who are pretty skeptical of the FBI and intelligence agencies that are putting together this pretty damning filing?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. One of the things that I think Republicans are going to look at here is this guy was apparently working with and for the FBI since 2010. So, 13, 14 years, he's on the payroll and all of a sudden he's not a reliable source. I mean, how long has this guy been lying? Why didn't the FBI know that? Why didn't they look into that sooner? And obviously the Republicans on Capitol Hill had come to believe that he was a credible source of information, I assume, because the FBI thought he was a credible source of information for a long period of time.

And so I think that's one of the questions I have after reading the filing and then reading the different news reports tonight, you're telling me we've been dealing with a guy for 13, 14 years and all of a sudden we say, he's a liar and he's not a reliable person? I mean, it seems pretty weird to me, truthfully.

PHILLIP: You know, the reason we're asking you that is because, I mean, we just have to confront that there's probably about half the country who is not willing to accept at face value information like this.

Scott, joining us now in this conversation is former Hillary Clinton Spokesman Philippe Reines.

Philippe, I want to bring you in here because you were first hand witness to some of this back in 2016 when Russia was involved in meddling in that election against Hillary Clinton. When you hear what's in this document, what goes through your mind?

PHILIPPE REINES, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON SPOKESMAN: You know, deja vu all over again, as Yogi Bear has said.


I think people need to realize, first of all, it's interesting that, one, this only happens on the Republican side, meaning Republicans falling for this against information used against Democrats, whether it was Hillary in 2016 or President Biden in 2024. And there's something to in that people should not allow themselves to be useful idiots or in any way willful.

This is a reminder that someone like George, I'm blanking on his name from 2014, thought that he was just having conversations with professors in Australia. That's not what was happening. Don Jr. just thought he was having conversations about adoption. That's not what was happening.

What is happening is that Putin is spending really next to no money to wage war on the United States, and he's doing it very well. And he's doing it by taking advantage of what you just said a moment ago, that we are a 50-50 nation, 50 percent of the country doesn't believe that it's Tuesday.

And Putin doesn't have to make up stuff as much anymore as he just has to tap into what we are doing to ourselves. And it's a problem because Putin is not the only one who wants to do this. We have the Chinese, the Iranians, North Koreans, and these folks are all looking at us and they see the biggest military in the world, and they laugh because all it takes is a couple of clicks and a couple of beers and a couple of misinformation, and suddenly they're off to the races.

PHILLIP: Scott, what's your take on that?

JENNINGS: Well, look, I mean, I feel like there's an effort tonight to dredge up this argument that somehow the Russians stole the 2016 election. I think Republicans are going to look at that and shake their head and say, we've been running the same election really for the last, or having the same argument about that election for eight years now.

I don't think the Russians stole the 2016 election. I don't dispute that the Russians have tried to interfere or mess with or otherwise tinker around the edges here. But I do think there are Democrats who continue to want to believe that there's no way Donald Trump could have won in 2016 without foreign interference, and I just don't think the evidence bears that out. Does that mean we have to be vigilant this time around? Of course it is. Of course it does. And we have to watch these.

PHILLIP: Not to interrupt you, but can I just ask you, I mean, if you're James Comer tonight or you're Mike Johnson tonight, I mean, should Republicans start to be a little bit more careful about this stuff that they've hinged an entire attempted impeachment on that could very well be made up out of whole cloth?

JENNINGS: Well, first of all, I don't think their inquiry is entirely based on this one person. They have a whole trail of other payments from other foreign countries. They have text messages, they have records. They have other witness testimony. So, there's a long record here that they're looking at. That's number one.

Number two, I do think they need to haul in people from the FBI and try to find out how it is that this person who the FBI thought was a credible person is all of a sudden not credible. And how long he's been feeding the U.S. government misinformation, apparently at the behest of and at the payment of the FBI, I think that's important to know.

I don't know whether they're going to impeach Joe Biden or not. I've always been skeptical of it. I've never been quite certain they were going to be able to get the votes for it. And I'm not sure it's that big of a deal anyway because the Senate is never going to deal with it in the way that Republicans want in the House anyhow. But I think there are a lot of questions that need to be asked here.

But the Republicans did not find this person. They did not invent this person. This person was invented by the FBI, apparently, all the way back during the Obama years.

REINES: Scott, okay, let's forget 2016. Let's root it in 2024, we have two candidates. One of them, President Biden, has provided more than $100 billion in aid to Ukraine in its pretty successful war with Russia. We have another candidate, former President Donald Trump, who is basically telling people, don't worry about NATO, we're not going to come to their defense, who was saying stuff about Navalny that we don't care about? Who do you think Vladimir Putin wants elected?

And I know that whatever you say next, you know it's Donald Trump. And I think what's important for Republicans, and when I say Republicans, I don't mean every person that is registered public, that these folks who were right up against Russian intelligence, Russian middlemen, whatever you want to call it, that they'd be incredibly mindful that they might be used for nefarious purposes.

Donald Trump Jr. should never have taken that meeting. Because no matter what Donald Trump Jr. thought that meeting was about, the Russians thought it was about something else. This guy should not have met -- and no one involved in any of these campaigns or tangentially involved in politics should just be so naive to think that these Russians just want to like have a vodka with him.


It's just -- it' really is -- you know, it begs incredulity.

PHILLIP: Gentlemen, I know there's a lot more to say here, but we have to leave it there for tonight. Scott Jennings, Philippe Reines, thank you both very much.

REINES: Thank you.


PHILLIP: And ahead, after refusing to condemn Vladimir Putin for Alexey Navalny's death, Trump is now comparing himself to the Russian opposition leader.

Plus, Daniel Dale will join me with a fact check on Trump's town hall tonight in South Carolina, and why Nikki Haley says that she is not leaving this race and she won't kiss anyone's ring.

This is NewsNight.


PHILLIP: Tonight, Donald Trump returning to comfortable territory, facing questions at a very friendly town hall on Fox News. No surprises there. He's making some claims that aren't all there.

CNN's Daniel Dale joins me now with a fact check of what Trump said and what's actually true in it. Let's start with the claim about Ukraine. Let's listen.


TRUMP: First thing I get on the phone is with the European nations who are in of 25 percent of what we're in.

[22:20:01] We're in for over $200 billion. They're in for $35 billion.

INGRAHAM: It's been about $100 billion so far, but it will be $160.

TRUMP: It's a difference of $150 billion. They've got to start paying up.


TRUMP: So, Daniel, what's going on there, really?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Abby, those numbers appear pulled out of thin air. They're not even close to true. According to one reputable tracker of aid to Ukraine, the Kiel Institute, which is based in Germany, is actually E.U. countries and E.U. institutions that are far outpacing the U.S. when it comes to aid commitments to Ukraine, $156 billion for the E.U. starting in 2022 around when the war began, to $73 billion to the U.S.

Now, those are commitments, not allocations, not actual spending. If you look at actual spending, it's closer, but even then, Abby, the E.U. outpaces the United States.

PHILLIP: There's also, Daniel, a claim that Trump made about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Let's listen to that too.


TRUMP: I went in, got in, and I stopped Nord Stream 2. Most people don't know what that -- that's the Russian pipeline, the most important economic deal-plus, I call it economic-plus, much more than economic, ever. I stopped it. I told Germany you're not having it. I told all of Europe you're not having it. Anybody that wants to have it, they're not dealing with you. I ended it.


PHILLIP: What are the facts in that one?

DALE: You hear this a lot from former President Trump that he ended or killed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. It is also not true. What Trump actually did, Abby, was approve sanctions on some of the companies working on the project.

But here's the critical thing. He only did that about three years into his presidency, when the pipeline was already about 90 percent completed. And even after he imposed those sanctions, the Russian state-owned company behind the pipeline said, okay, fine, we'll just complete it ourselves.

And before Trump left office in December 2020, they announced that construction was resuming. Germany announced in January 2021, again, before Trump left office, that they were renewing permission for construction in their waters. So whatever he told Russia, Europe, Germany, he did not kill that pipeline.

PHILLIP: Yes, despite what he adamantly says falsely.

Look, there's another topic that he keeps coming back to. This time, it's the classified documents situation at Mar-a-Lago. Let's listen to that one as well.


TRUMP: Bush took them, everybody, Reagan took them out, everybody took them out. It only became a big subject when I took things out. The difference is I had what's called the Presidential Records Act. I was allowed to do what I did, absolutely allowed. That's why they passed the act in 1978.

First of all, I didn't have to hand them over, but, second of all, I would have done that. We were talking, and then all of a sudden they raided Mar-a-Lago.


PHILLIP: Once again, confidently stating things that are true or false, Daniel?

DALE: This is like upside-down imaginary history. I counted at least four inaccurate claims in that short segment. So, number one, Reagan and Bush did not take classified documents home. In fact, the National Archives debunked this claim last year when Trump made it then. He was not allowed to take these documents. It is in black and white in the Presidential Records Act that all official records belong to the government after a president leaves office.

Allowing a president to take documents, classified documents, home was not why this act was passed in 1978. In fact, it was the opposite. The act was passed to make sure that the government, the people, owned presidential records, unlike when Richard Nixon tried to take them home and destroyed some of them.

And then the last claim that, you know, we were talking, we were having friendly chats, and then all of a sudden the FBI raided Mar-a- Lago. In fact, the FBI search in Mar-a-Lago came more than a year after the National Archives started its polite asking to try to get these documents back. So, Abby, it was not even close to something sudden.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, repeated and very politely asking for the documents that belong to the government back.

Daniel Dale, thank you, yeoman's work as always.

DALE: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, why Nikki Haley says that she's going to keep running, and one of the things that she says she won't do.

Plus, Donald Trump gets a second chance to condemn Vladimir Putin after Alexey Navalny's mysterious death. And, again, he chooses not to do it. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


PHILLIP: As the world condemns Vladimir Putin over the mysterious death of Alexei Navalny, Putin trolls the world. First, Russia is still refusing to release Navalny's body to his family, Moscow also adding Navalny's brother to their wanted list, and Putin today promoting the high-ranking official in charge of the prison system in which Navalny died.

Now, remember, it's routine in Russia for Putin's foes to wind up dead. And tonight, during that town hall, Donald Trump once again refused to criticize or condemn Vladimir Putin.


TRUMP: Navalny is a very sad situation and he's very brave. He was a very brave guy because he went back. He could have stayed away, and, frankly, probably would have been a lot better off staying away and talking from outside of the country as opposed to having to go back in.

And it's a horrible thing. But it's happening in our country too. We are turning into a communist country in many ways. And if you look at it, I'm the leading candidate. I never heard of being indicted before. I got indicted four times. I have eight or nine trials all because of the fact that I'm in -- and you know this -- all because of the fact that I'm in politics.

INGRAHAM: A lot would know.

TRUMP: It is a form of Navalny. It is a form of communism or fascism.


PHILLIP: For more, I want to bring in CNN Contributor and host of the podcasts On and Pivot, Kara Swisher. She is also the author of Burn Book out next week.

Kara, let's start with that, pretty unseemly to use Navalny's name in this way. And, of course, with Trump, it's always me, me, me.

KARA SWISHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I don't know if you've noticed that, but, you know, this is typical of him. He's very good at old fashioned propaganda. I've talked about this for years and he's quite good at repetitiveness. He keeps saying the same thing over and over again, and, eventually, it gets believed by at least a certain amount of the public.


And so, he keeps repeating it and making the comparison, it's repeated and we're talking about it. And that's how propaganda works. You can call it misinformation, online misinformation, but it's the same old tricks that they've used for many years, including in Russia, especially in Russia.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, propaganda is as old as politics itself.

SWISHER: That is correct. Yeah.

PHILLIP: So, on a related topic earlier today, X, which is formerly known as Twitter, briefly suspended the account of Yulia Navalnaya. She's the widow of Alexei Navalny.

They cited the idea that it had broken the site's rules and the suspension that you're seeing on the screen there. Her account was only down for about 30 minutes before it was restored. Later, X's safety team said that the platform accidentally had flagged her account as spam. Do you buy that explanation?

SWISHER: There's -- which one? There's like three or four different ones. I mean, it's either platform incompetence, which you can see how that could happen, or it's just done out of -- they just do it and then take it down and bring it up. I think they don't have control of that platform is really what happened.

If you have three different -- if it broke the rules, it should have stayed suspended. If it didn't stay suspended and it was a mistake, how did they make a mistake? And we all know how they made a mistake. They fired a lot of people who are part of that trust and safety team, which is a shadow of itself.

I don't think there's someone left to turn the lights off there in that particular department, which was an important department at Twitter, even if it was flawed in many, many times and did the wrong thing and everything else.

But this was -- this is a high profile person. And in the old days, they would have made certain that things did -- and very prone to attacks by Russian bots and things like that.

And in this case, probably someone called in a, you know, it's like a SWAT. It's like basically an online SWAT got SWATed. They made a mistake, took it down and put it back up. But it's, it's really platform incompetence, or being a useful idiot for Russia, either one. It doesn't really matter at this point.

PHILLIP: It's so hard to know at this point. One other thing, Kara, I want to turn to the 2024 presidential race, because some reporting from "CNN Tonight", President Biden has told his senior most staff to, quote, " -- significantly ramp up the campaign's efforts to highlight the crazy shit that Trump says in public."


PHILLIP: Smart move?

SWISHER: Yeah. Yeah, it is because it works really well on social media. Actually, the Biden team is very sharp, whoever the people who are doing his social media are quite good. Not everybody liked his Super Bowl thing. I did. I thought it was quite genuine. I know Jon Stewart made fun of

it, but it was a funny joke. But -- but I think there's a lot that they're doing that they do very quick and quickly about things he says, because Trump doesn't mind telling lies online. He does it all the time. He does it almost continually.

And if you don't push back, it's kind of like the war room from the old days that had instant response. This has to be instant-instant response online. It's got to be a little funny.

They're -- they're -- they point things out there. They're constantly highlighting things Nikki Haley says, for example, very smart to do. So yeah, they have to, they have to point them out over and over again, because the message you want to hear is, he crazy.

Remember how crazy he is? He's crazy. Remember the bleach guy that -- it'll work with a certain segment of the population that consumes this.

PHILLIP: Especially considering that Biden is also, I mean, he has the age problem. But I think the argument they're trying to make is that Trump is saying crazy things intentionally, they -- they in some ways, they have to counter the age with -- with this message.

SWISHER: Well, or you could have, you could do the, you know, just because someone is loud doesn't mean they're not old, right? He could, you could sort of portray him as there's an expression, the angry old man shaking his fist at the internet, you could do that. You know, you could do a lot of things.

He's -- but you know, Trump has been very deft in his use of social media, which is just flood the zone, which is a Steve Bannon thing. And he talks about it. Steve Bannon talks about that. When you flood the zone, people are confused, especially when it's toxic stuff, and they don't know where to turn.

The Biden administration, the Madden campaign, excuse me, not the administration, has to really get in here and fight in the same way, unfortunately. It's not pretty, for sure.

PHILLIP: It definitely will not be pretty. Kara Swisher, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

SWISHER: Thanks a lot, Abby.

PHILLIP: And next, Nikki Haley says that she is in a clash of biblical proportions, as Republicans make a pilgrimage to Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.



PHILLIP: Tonight, the Republican race for President in biblical terms. Nikki Haley says that she's David and Donald Trump is Goliath, and that she'll keep firing her slingshot until the very last vote is counted.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I refuse to quit. South Carolina will vote on Saturday. But on Sunday, I'll still be running for President. I'm not going anywhere.


PHILLIP: Now, it's a task that may really require divine intervention. Hours ago, Trump took a guess at why Haley won't quit.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, CURRENT REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think she knows how to get out, actually. I really don't.


PHILLIP: If you look at the polls, he might be right. The right belongs to the former President, and it may literally take a higher power turning him into salt for someone named -- not named Donald Trump to actually win. But Haley is insistent that she won't bow to the once and likely future Republican king.


HALEY: I'm not afraid to say the hard truth out loud. I feel no need to kiss the ring.


I have no fear of Trump's retribution.


PHILLIP: The Trump campaign says that she will, and it's not a ring that she'll kiss. You can look at the tweet from the Trump campaign spokesman, Stephen Chung. I'm not going to read it to you, but the vagarities aside, the Trump campaign says that she'll do it because everyone else already has. They nearly always do.

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, the last go-round at least, they all said the same thing, that Trump was unfit, and that Trump was unserious, and that Trump was unable to do the job. Until they said that he was.


TED CRUZ (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, as some of you may have seen, I announced today that after a lot of months of prayer, of reflection, that I've decided in November, I intend to vote for Donald Trump.

MARCO RUBIO (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After a long and spirited primary, the time for fighting each other is over. It's time to come together and fight for a new direction for America. It's time to win in November.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R) FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for president of the United States.


PHILLIP: Today, another Republican figure made another religious-like pilgrimage to Trump's Mecca, Mar-a-Lago. The House Speaker, Mike Johnson, went there to take the signature Trump souvenir photo. Two thumbs up.

But if passed his prologue, Johnson may soon get a review he doesn't like. Kevin McCarthy, you'll remember, made that trek too, right after the insurrection. He eventually found himself a victim of Trump's grudge and a House rebellion. And, of course, out of a job.

Ronna McDaniel also went to Mar-a-Lago just this month. Trump called her a friend on Truth Social, before unceremoniously pushing her out of the RNC's back door. And, of course, picking cronies, including his own family, to take over.

Joining me now is a Republican Pollster Frank Luntz. Frank, you heard Nikki Haley today. She used that specific language very deliberately. She says she will not kiss the ring. Do you think that she has crossed a line for herself? Is she really ruling herself out of being in Trump's good graces after this?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATIONS ANALYST: I think so, based on past history. Although, Donald Trump forgives. And people who were his mortal enemy become his strongest ally weeks later. And those who were his strongest allies become mortal enemies weeks later. There's no predicting this.

You have to go back to 2012, the last time that a presidential candidate did not drop out when the numbers were clearly against him and that was Rand Paul, who did manage to get a significant number of delegates, but nowhere near the number that he would need. And it's pretty clear that Nikki Haley isn't going to do the same thing.

Now, I look at this in two ways. Number one, it's her right to do so. It's her right to challenge him. And there are about 20 or 25 percent of the Republican Party that still does not want and is never Trump.

But on the other hand, in every single poll, bar none, Donald Trump is winning not just a majority, but a super majority of Republicans. And then Nikki Haley seems to only be drawing among independents, moderates, centrists, those that do not occupy the center of the Republican Party.

PHILLIP: So, when she says, when she says, Frank, that she's going to stay in until the last vote is counted, how much of that calculation is about just staying in the race to be a failsafe if something were to happen and Trump gets convicted of a crime? LUNTZ: There are a lot of people who think that's the reason. And I

know that Nikki Haley has future ambitions. And I think that, actually, I think that she may be hurting herself. Now, make no mistake, there are significant forces just outside the mainstream of the GOP that does not want Trump and is looking for an alternative.

But as a pollster, who's been doing this now for more than three decades, I see no evidence whatsoever that Nikki Haley is going to be a significant force in the 2024 election. Super Tuesday, all these states are up. I don't think she went to a single one of them.

PHILLIP: And her campaign has notably not really explained what the path even looks like to win even a single state in these upcoming races. Frank, thank you very much for joining us, as always.

LUNTZ: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And next, a wine ambassador, $400 in cash, and the fate of a Trump prosecution. CNN has found a witness to what Fani Willis says happened on that trip that she took with her top prosecutor. That witness joins me next.



PHILLIP: The fate of Fani Willis' ability to try her case against Trump is now in a judge's hands. But now there's a witness who is corroborating part of the Fulton County D.A.'s testimony.

Lawyers for Donald Trump have been seeking to disqualify her from this election case, claiming that she benefited financially from her relationship with the top prosecutor, Nathan Wade.

Willis, for her part, says that she routinely paid for her travel expenses in cash. And tonight, an employee at a Napa Valley estate claims that he saw Willis foot the bill for a wine tasting with Wade in early 2023.


And joining me now is Stan Brody. He's estate ambassador for Acumen Wines. He hosted Fani Willis and Nathan Wade at that winery. Stan, thanks for joining us. What do you remember about this interaction that you had with D.A. Willis and Mr. Wade?

STAN BRODY, ESATE AMBASSADOR FOR ACUMEN WINES: Well, when they came in, very nicely dressed couple. And the way that I always do things, it's kind of fun because I treat people as if they're in my own living room as opposed to at the winery.

And the first thing I ask them, okay, do you like really big Cabernet? Is that what you like? He said, yes. I said, you found your home, sit your rear end down and let's have a good time. That's basically, you know, the way we started off. It was just a real nice, I'd say two, two and a half hours that we

were together. Just a lovely couple. That's as I recall them, you know. We got into discussing wine, the history of the winery, how wine is made, the differences between them. I always discuss Napa Valley, why we are so special and things of that nature. So, that's what it is.

PHILLIP: And the key --

BRODY: I did ask what they did.

PHILLIP: Oh, you did.

BRODY: I did know they were attorneys.


BRODY: I asked, what do you do? What do you do? I kiddingly say, what do you do for economic gain? You know, so, and so I did know that they were both attorneys, but I didn't -- this was prior to the indictment. So, I'd never put two and three together.


BRODY: -- at the time.

PHILLIP: One of the key things about your interaction with them is how they paid. People from all over the United States, all over the world, they come to Napa Valley. How rare is it for someone to use cash to pay their tab?

BRODY: It's not ridiculously rare, but it is rare. It's the oddball, odd man out. More often than not, it's, I'd say in excess of 95 percent of the time, it's credit card, which is a safe number to guess.

PHILLIP: And how much was it ultimately?

BRODY: There were two bottles of wine. They were $175 apiece and a single tasting, so, $350, about a little over $400.

PHILLIP: So, I imagine that you see tons of people doing this and obviously it sounds like you take great care of your guests there. But when did you realize all this time later that the two attorneys who sat down at your table were two attorneys who were at the center of perhaps one of the biggest legal cases in this country right now?

BRODY: About a month -- a month and a half ago because I was looking at it and I said, no, it's longer, it was a little bit further back than that because I'm a news junkie. I didn't know Mr. Wade at all. Nobody did, quite frankly, until this whole thing came out with his divorce and the relationship and everything else.

But then out of nowhere, I'm just sitting there thinking, wait a minute, you know, it flashed, you know. She was there and then when I was talking about in Napa Valley, coming to Napa Valley and I put two together and I figured out this was them.

PHILLIP: Sounds like you're a great host at this winery. We appreciate you spending some time with us tonight.

BRODY: Come on out and visit. Come on.

PHILLIP: And worldwide backlash tonight against the United States, vetoing a U.N. ceasefire resolution for Israel's war in Gaza. I'll explain, next.



PHILLIP: And tonight, a veto keeps the United States in the middle of a fierce international debate over what is happening inside of Gaza. The U.S. used its power to strike down a resolution inside of the United Nations, a resolution that got a green light from 13 other nations on the Security Council.

Now, the text of that resolution would have demanded an immediate ceasefire. Biden officials are now pointing to what the U.S. is willing to do, which is call for a temporary ceasefire.

That's a step that they have shied away from until now. Tonight, I spoke exclusively to the President of the United Nations General Assembly for his take on what should happen next.


DENNIS FRANCIS, PRESIDENT, UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY: The General Assembly has passed two resolutions on Gaza. And in both of them, we've called for a ceasefire in Gaza. I think in one of them, we may have used the term humanitarian ceasefire.

But the General Assembly, the 193 member states of the U.N., pronounce themselves in very clear terms, very decisively, to demand, to call for a ceasefire and for humanitarian aid and support. So, to the extent that the language used by the U.S. in their resolution goes in the direction of the resolution passed by the General Assembly.


PHILLIP: Now, France directly criticized the U.S.' veto, calling that decision regrettable, while the U.K. has repeated its call to halt all fighting inside the Gaza Strip and to let humanitarian aid reach the millions of displaced people by that conflict. And thank you for watching "NewsNight". "Laura Coates Live" starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Now, if you thought Dobbs was just about abortion, boy, do I have some news for you.