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Colorado Ballot Battle; Historic Supreme Court Case; Biden's Slamming Special Counsel Report; Haiti's Most Violent Month; Biden Furious Behind Scenes. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 09, 2024 - 10:30   ET



REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): Israel-Hamas (ph). I'm sorry -- significantly degrade Hamas, no doubt about it. But there has to be a future for the Palestinian people in Gaza in the West Bank. This is a future that the Netanyahu (ph) government has not articulated, even as they continue to press forward with the military campaign.

So I wouldn't say that it has been over the top. They're trying to deal with a very, very violent enemy that wants to destroy them. But their lack of a plan for helping the Palestinian civilians going forward has undermined their ability to succeed in their mission.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You don't think it's working?

SMITH: I would say it's undermined their ability to ultimately succeed in having a safe and secure Israel. Because if there's no future for the Palestinian people, that empowers Hamas and other extremist organizations and undermines the ability to cut a very necessary peace agreement with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is ready to go, but they've said you have to start the Palestinian people down the path to some kind of future.

So, that needs to be worked on at the same time that you're working on the military side of it.

BERMAN: Let me move a little on the map to Ukraine. What direction do you think Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine is going?

SMITH: Right now, Vladimir Putin is going to try to take as much of Ukraine as he possibly can. If it gets to the point where he can't go forward and stops, I think a negotiation is possible. But right now, he thinks he's winning. And he is not going to stop at where he's at in Ukraine. That's the great fear, which is why it's so important to get aid to Ukraine now so that they can stop Putin and Russia from moving forward from where they're at in Ukraine and force that negotiation.

BERMAN: He thinks he's winning. Do you think he's winning?

SMITH: No, not long term. It's significantly undermined Russia's military capability and their standing in the world, and at the moment he's stalled. He's stalled in eastern Ukraine and along the southern border. But the key part of this is maintaining a sovereign, democratic Ukraine. The current situation is not great. Look, Ukraine as a country should exist where it was in 1991.

The moment that's not possible, so at a minimum, we need to maintain a sovereign, democratic Ukraine. We can't do that without further support them.

BERMAN: You are a high-ranking elected Democrat.

SMITH: You say that in a way that's ominous. If I may say so.


BERMAN: I know. You may not think it is in a second when I asked that question because you're not living in a vacuum to what's happened in the last day with the special counsel's report on President Biden which talks about his age and his memories. So I want to know how you feel when you heard President Biden last night called the President ECC (ph) of Egypt and the President of Mexico?

SMITH: Well, two things about that. One, I've worked with the President. I've sat in meetings with the president, spoken on the phone, talked about incredibly complicated subjects, the ones we just discussed here. At in no time did I think he wasn't completely on top of that very complicated situation that we talked about, what's happening with Israel and Gaza, between Russia and Ukraine, how do we deal with the southern border.

There's been no moment when I'm, like, he doesn't know what's going on. Does he occasionally say the wrong word? Certainly. On the way over here, I was talking in an interview with Neil Cavuto, I called him Steve. I have no idea why I did that. I know what his name is. That doesn't worry me so much as whether or not he knows what's going on in the world, and I'm confident he does.

BERMAN: Are you confident looking around the country that President Biden is the best Democratic candidate to defeat Donald Trump?

SMITH: Look, I'm not going to kid you on one point. It is a challenge, as old as he is. It is, without question. He's fully capable of doing the job. He's doing it well. He does not have the normal strength to go out there to campaign, to do rally after rally and conversation after conversation. That will be difficult on the campaign trail, but as I've said before, President Biden may not be the best campaigner in the world.

He's doing a good job as president. I'd rather have someone who's good at the job and not great at the campaigning than the other way around. But it's going to be a challenge to win that campaign.

BERMAN: Because he is so old?

SMITH: I don't know if it's just that or the way he communicates or the way his campaign goes. But clearly, yesterday's press conference, as you said, I'm a senior Democratic politician, I've been doing it a long time, that's not the way you want to do it. He was frustrated with what came out. There was not a clear agenda of here's my explanation. It didn't go well. No doubt about that. That needs to get better. But again, the most important thing is, is he on top of the economy? Look at how we have managed, everyone said we were going to be in a recession.

We're not. Now, there are still affordability crises. We have to make housing and food more affordable, but he's negotiated a very difficult situation, coming out of the pandemic, dealing with a series of international crises, in a way that's been very coherent and has moved the policy forward. There's no doubt in my mind right now that he's capable of doing the job.


Messaging, very complicated. If you've never run for office, I like to think of myself as a reasonably articulate person. Alright. I've done this a long time. I've been in press conferences, I've been in town hall meetings where I went--I--you--I shouldn't have said that. You try to fix it, and the you make it worse. Okay, it is not as easy as it looks.

BERMAN: Congressman Adam Smith, we are thrilled to have you here with us.

SMITH: Thanks for giving me the chance.

SARAH SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Ahead, the Supreme Court leaning toward Donald Trump's arguments in the Colorado ballot case. We'll discuss what that may mean, coming up.





SIDNER: With maybe Donald Trump's best day of 2024 under his belt, after winning the Nevada Republican caucus and finding he could possibly fend off a blockbuster challenge to his eligibility on the Colorado ballot. The Supreme Court justices appeared to be poised to side with him, potentially by a wide margin. Now the now hard, settling the debate over state's power and the 14th Amendment and how soon they might do it, Super Tuesday less than one month away, and primaries, as you know, have already begun. CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has the latest on this. Jessica, what do we expect and when do we, which is a harder question to ask, do we expect a ruling on this?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Sara, I mean it could come at any point. We're probably talking a matter of weeks here because the justices understand the urgency. The primaries are well under way. You said Super Tuesday is about a month away. And the calendar really is barreling toward the general election. What's interesting is we have seen the Supreme Court move very rapidly in somewhat similar circumstances.

It was back in the year 2000. The Supreme Court actually decided Bush Gregore (ph) one day after hearing arguments. Now, granted, that decision came during a very chaotic time with the recounts in Florida, which they halted. And of course, it was just weeks before the inauguration. So, there was a bit of a different circumstance there.

But in this case, these nine justices also know that time is of the essence here, so we could see something really in a matter of weeks here when often these big decisions might take until June. It probably won't be that long. We saw from the arguments yesterday that it really does look like there would be a solid majority to rule in Trump's favor, to overturn what the Colorado Supreme Court did in taking him off the ballot there.

There was a lot of pushback and skepticism from several of the justices, conservatives and liberals alike. And the skepticism in their view was that it's unlikely the 14th Amendment would really confer this kind of power on states to take individual people off the ballot that they themselves, the states, have deemed ineligible insurrectionists. So, here's more from the justices to see how they were agreeing.


ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE (voice-over): Why should a single state have the ability to make this determination not only for their own citizens but for the rest of the nation?

BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE (voice-over): These are difficult questions, and you look right at Section 5 of the 14th Amendment, as the Chief Justice said, and that tells you Congress has the primary role here.

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE (voice-over): If there's an ambiguity, why would we construe it to, as Justice Kavanaugh pointed out, against democracy?


SCHNEIDER: And really, Sara, the court doesn't even need to get to the court, if she's in this case, whether Trump engaged in insurrection, whether that would disqualify him from the ballot. Instead, there's a lot more off-ramps and narrow issues this court could decide, you know, like whether it's up to Congress to enforce this ban instead of the courts, whether this ban even applies to the President. So right now the justices will be deciding how they are going to, you know, write their opinion in what does seem like a win for Trump. Sara.

SIDNER: Jessica Schneider, I know you are all over this. Thank you for your reporting.

BERMAN: With us is former Manhattan Prosecutor Jeremy Solange. Jeremy, look, when this happened yesterday, it was the biggest legal headline that lasted about six minutes. Then the biggest headline now is the special counsel report exonerating President Biden, saying at least they will not press charges or bring charges with him handling the documents. But the issue is how he chose Robert Herr to explain why. Did he paint outside the lines, in your view, when he included what Democrats consider to be editorializing about the president's age?

JEREMY SOLANGE, FORMER PROSECUTOR (MAN-NY): There was sort of -- a generous amount of editorializing, no doubt. But I'd rather be an indictment of my memory and ability to understand certain things than an indictment of a grand jury. There are differences here. No doubt the special counsel pointed to President Biden's age, his ability to remember things and that it would be convincing before a jury that, you know what, maybe this is a regular guy. But it went a little more than one would expect.

SIDNER: When you talked about that and said, well, you'd rather have this than a grand jury saying, okay, you're indicted, but there is politics at play here.

SOLANGE: Of course.

SIDNER: Right? And it is being used politically. I'm just curious if you've seen something like this, not when it comes to a President but a special counsel talking about such personal things as he couldn't remember the date, as he says in the report, of his son's death.

SOLANGE: The relevance here that --should not -- it should not have been there,


in my opinion. And look at Jack Smith, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you don't really see that behavior. but you also have to recognize and I'm sure we played one way against the other way but this is a Trump's appointee out of Maryland, U.S. Attorney, pardon me. Is that in play here? It could be. But objectively, it's the right decision even if there is some editorializing. It's a right decision based on the interviews and the facts and the materials they were covered.

BERMAN: There's a lot in there that does point out the contrast between the case against Donald Trump and the noncase against President Biden. Explain.

SOLANGE: Absolutely. Unless you are sort of inviting (ph) --these are two distinct cases. You have one person, President Biden, who proactively says I found this national archives, I need to return this to you and let me get it to you, as opposed to former President Trump who says I'm going to ignore that subpoena and certify it was all done correctly, and then a search warrant has to be executed to secure exponentially more documents. There's a vast divide between President Biden and former President Trump objectively.

SIDNER: There are stark -- stark differences, which is why you are seeing stark differences in the court, not in public opinion, but in actual criminal court. Thank you so much, Jeremy Solange, for coming on. John? BERMAN: Sara.

SIDNER: Good to see you.


SIDNER (voice-over): Coming up. The top UN official, the warning of a dire human rights crisis in Haiti as the country just experienced its most violent month in more than two years. We'll take a deeper look at what is happening in Haiti and what's becoming a failed state.





SIDNER: New this morning, the violence in Haiti is reaching horrifying levels. 800 innocent people were killed, injured, or kidnapped just last month alone, making it the most violent month in two years, according to the UN. Protesters furious over worsening gang violence and poverty are calling for the Prime Minister to resign.


SIDNER (voice-over): A state on the brink of collapse. Haitians are once again rising up in protest, demanding presidential elections that were promised but never delivered. It's been nearly three years since Haiti's president was assassinated. Power vacuum, gangs exacting brutal violence on the population, have overrun the capital, Port-au- Prince.

The current Prime Minister, Ariel Henri, had been urging calm and says he will not step down, but swaths of the population are rising up against him. He took control of the country after being chosen by the president shortly before his assassination. A 2022 CNN investigation revealed that investigators believe Henri was at the center of it, and a judge overseeing the murder case told CNN that Henri (ph) was a main suspect in Moise's assassination, something Henri has denied often.

He wrote in a series of tweets, 'The division, their tactics to seed confusion and impede justice from doing its work serenely will not stand.' But Henri is largely seen as an illegitimate leader by the Haitian public. The final straw, he promised to move forward with long-delayed elections, citing a deal with representatives of political parties, but the elections never came. Henry now saying elections will be held when the unrest and violence finally subside. Protesters are calling for him to step down. And amid desperation, some Haitians are rallying around a polarizing figure, Guy Philippe.

GUY PHILIPPE (on camera): We have a government that has no respect. No one loves them. Everyone knows he's helping the gangs. Killing innocent people. Kidnapping. SIDNER (voice-over): The current Haitian government denies these

allegations. In Haiti, the self-proclaimed former police chief rose to prominence after leading a coup that resulted in the ousting of then- President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, followed by an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2007. He was only recently repatriated to Haiti after serving six years in a U.S. federal prison after taking a plea deal, admitting to taking bribes from drug smugglers.

Today, his words still galvanize a public frustrated by gang violence, corruption, and economic despair. For more than a decade, Haiti has suffered through an unrelenting wave of catastrophic crises, a catastrophic earthquake where more than 200,000 believed killed brought the island nation to its knees in 2010. Soon after, Haiti's misery compounded as U.S. peacekeepers meant to bring stability transmitted cholera, leading to a large-scale outbreak that killed more than 10,000 people.

In the following years, Haiti was continually rocked by political instability, the situation finally reaching a fever pitch with the assassination of the President Moise (ph) in 2021. Several people have been arrested and are in custody for their alleged roles in the murder. Warring gangs asserted control over much of Port-au-Prince, disrupting the supply chain of necessities and displacing scores of civilians.


Kidnappings and shootouts on the streets have become routine hazards of life. Gang violence has even stretched into the rural reaches of the island, the UN says. In 2023, the UN documented over 8,400 direct victims of gang violence, up 122% from 2022.

MARIA ISABEL SALVADOR, SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HAITI: I cannot overstress the severity of the situation in Haiti, where more people protracted crises have reached a critical point.

SIDNER: The gangs operate with impunity as political deadlock renders the government toothless and the national police force struggles for control.

JEAN VICTOR GENEUS, HAITI MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): The Haitian people can't take it anymore. I hope that this is the last time I speak before you before the deployment of a multinational security support force. The Haitian people have had enough of the armed gangs' savagery.

SIDNER (voice-over): But international efforts to restore security have also faltered. For now, demonstrations led by Philippe continue to gain traction, the protests fueled by despair over the state of their lives in a state barely able to function.


SIDNER: In a phone call, I've just spoken with the opposition leader Guy Philippe. He said he'd been through a harrowing ordeal. We'll have much more on what he talked to me about coming out of elite (ph) with Jake Tapper (ph), John.

BERMAN: Looking forward to this. We have new reporting this morning that President Biden was cursing behind closed doors when he saw the special counsel's report. And we're looking ahead. He has got an appearance later today with the German Chancellor. What does the White House plan to do to move beyond all this?