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Tucker Carlson Sits Down With Vladimir Putin In Moscow; Candidates Clash During Race To Fill George Santos' Senate Seat; Adoptable Pets In the Spotlight For Super Bowl Sunday. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired February 09, 2024 - 11:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, new reaction to the two-hour video appearance shared by Vladimir Putin and Tucker Carlson. CNN Senior Correspondent Melissa Bell is with us now. Melissa, what was your big takeaway from this?

MELISSA BELL, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, mostly this was as we'd expected, not the interview of an autocrat that you would expect any ordinary or proper journalist to carry out, John. In fact, it was remarkable in the questions how phony they were, the outrageous falsehoods that were made not just about Russian-Ukrainian history, but frankly, about American politics as well. That went completely unchallenged.

But amidst this two-hour essentially propaganda stunt for Vladimir Putin just over a month before his election is due in Russia in March, what did emerge of interest perhaps the one part that stood out was when he was asked about the Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich, who's been, of course, incarcerated since March of last year, pre-detention that has been extended and extended. But, of course, this journalist could face 20 years in jail. Tucker Carlson did ask the Russian president about his fate. This was what he had to say.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through a translator): We are willing to solve it. But there are certain terms being discussed via special services channels. I believe an agreement can be reached.


BELL: Now, what we did find out more about where the Russian demands being made for his release. In fact, specifically, the Russian president mentioned a Russian national who is currently serving a life sentence in a German jail for having killed a Chechen on the streets of Berlin in 2019, Vadim Krasikov. Now, you'll remember that at the time of Brittney Griner's release, it was Viktor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer that had been swapped for her release. And it could well be, we understand, that this particular Russian national that we understand had been part of Moscow's demands at the time of Brittney Griner's release may well prove to be the price of Evan Gershkovich's release. Certainly, some movement there and at least the hint of a glimpse of some hope for Evan's family and friends.

BERMAN: Well, let's hope. Melissa Bell, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Retired brigadier general Peter Zwack joins us now to discuss. General, after watching this interview, how big of a win is this for Putin and the Kremlin? I mean, what did you see in that interview that could potentially hurt Ukraine as well?

BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK, (RET) U.S. ARMY: Sara, this was a significant success I think for the Russian Putin's information operat trying to present a reasonable face. It gave them justification. He'd been pretty well shut off from much of what he would call the free-minded world, people would listen.

But Carlson, just the spectacle of this visit, gave Putin a two hours op -- two-hour opportunity to transmit. And it comes as no surprise to me. I was in Moscow before the war, at a conference. And late at night in the hotel, there was Tucker Carlson on a interview in Russia talking about these things.

He's a rock star there. And so, the Russians brought him in, and Putin played him. I don't think that Carlson expected to be, frankly, used the way he was. And Putin has used -- dominated 80 percent of the conversation.

Also, the -- right before the war, if you remember, Putin published a treatise, kind of explaining Ukraine and Russia and how Ukraine had no right to exist. It was a real country. And the same narrative again two years later.

SIDNER: When you see this -- we also know that in this interview, Putin, again suggested that the path to ending the war in Ukraine that he, by the way, started, was with direct negotiations between Washington and Moscow. Is there any type of agreement that you could see as viable at this point with this war going on and Ukraine being very clear about where they stand on this?


ZWACK: In the near to midterm, Sara, no. Things have happened on the battlefield. And any, any negotiate if you will over Ukraine or on -- I don't want to say, on behalf of Ukraine has to be with Ukrainian consent.

This is their country.


ZWACK: And also, we would want to be in close touch and linked to our NATO and EU allies who had to have skin in this game too. No, I think -- I think doing anything -- the talk of a new administration and fixing it in 24 hours is just absolutely wrong. And it needs to be in concert with Ukraine and our allies, or else I don't think it holds much.

SIDNER: The country that's being bombed out of its mind, it has to be a part of these negotiations. And Zelenskyy has been very, very clear that Russia has to leave before any kind of anything can happen. All right.

I want to move on to Israel's war with Hamas. Netanyahu has just ordered the evacuation of Rafah. There are more than a million people there, many of them displaced from other parts of Gaza, just regular citizens.

If Palestinians have to leave Rafah, where else can they go? It is such a highly populated place. Most densely populated city, perhaps in the world.

ZWACK: Sara, I think here, I am an ardent supporter of Israel. And I, along with most Americans, most people who support Israel including our leadership, that you can't countenance the civilian slaughter that is -- that is occurred in Gaza since that horrific day, on the seventh of October. When Israel had the moral high ground, and we support them -- supported them and we support them now.

But it's ugly, it's hard. Pressure has to be put on Netanyahu in his hard, hard right -- (INAUDIBLE) members to stop or move out because this isn't working. And while a lot of -- Netanyahu still has a lot of support, it is -- it is also fading. Israel is marginalized. And this just gets more and more dangerous as we can see in a little late throughout the Middle East with Houthis and Iran-backed militias and all the things that we've been reading the last few days.

SIDNER: Yes, the fear of a wider war is real in the Middle East. Brigadier General Peter Zwack, thank you so much for your analysis today. Appreciate you. John?

BERMAN: All right. The showdown to fill the House seat vacated by expelled Congressman George Santos. Who has the edge this morning in a race that really does have huge national implications?

We all know what it's like to have your baggage weighed at an airport check-in but what if the airline got to weigh you as well? One airline giving it a try.



SIDNER: A critical special election coming up on Tuesday in Long Island's battleground third Congressional district. Former Democratic Representative Tom Suozzi and Republican County Legislator Mazi Pilip facing off to replace the former representative, a name we all know, George Santos. And it's a race that could tell us a whole lot about what to expect in the 2024 presidential race. Let's bring in Miguel Marquez, CNN's senior national correspondent. Miguel, what were some of the major takeaways from their very confrontational jabs that were going on last night? We're seeing a little bit of that play back and forth right now. What is at stake here?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was their one and only debates. And we're -- what three or four days from election day? Early voting is going on right now.

Look. The stakes couldn't be higher for both parties. Democrats want to take this seat because the Congress is so thinly divided right now. If there is a vote again on the -- on the -- on the Mayorkas, an impeachment, whoever gets in in this race will be voting probably in that vote. So, that's how contested this race is right now.

Look. This debate was very, very fiery. There was everything from abortion to gun control to Israel. The SALT tax and state and local tax deduction and reinstating that which is a tax that Donald Trump put into effect, that was one of the most heated debates at the moment. But immigration above all, it was the first thing the debate started about -- started with. And here's a little bit of how that debate went.


TOM SUOZZI, FORMER DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE: In 2018 when I was in Congress, I was one of only 18 Democrats that voted to fund ICE. When people said let's abolish ICE, I was only one of 18 Democrats. I went against my party.

MAZI PILIP, REPUBLICAN COUNTY LEGISLATOR: When you are in the majority in Congress, you voted to open the borders. You create a migrant crisis. And yes, you kicked ICE from here.

Let me tell you. As a county executive, you are being charged of this county. Doesn't matter what the commissioner will tell you. In the end, you make that decision.


MARQUEZ: So, this is a fascinating race to cover because Tom Suozzi is the Democrat. He's a pro. He represented this district for three terms before running unsuccessfully for governor. Mazi Pilip is a local legislator but has a fantastic personal resume and story. So, pitting these two together is really interesting to see how this will turn out.


He kept her on the defensive for most of the night because he's very good at that. But it is not clear that for all the smoke in the -- and the fire and the anger, that any mind was changed by what they saw last night, Sara.

SIDNER: Suozzi0 and Pilip going at it. But at least they're talking about the issues because everyone was just talking about the lies that George Santos kept telling. We will see what happens. But a very interesting ways and I'm glad you're on it. Thank you, Miguel. Appreciate it. John.

MARQUEZ: You got it.

BERMAN: All right. This morning, Finnair is asking passengers to voluntarily step on a scale when they check-in for their flights to Helsinki. Finland's national carrier says this will help give a more accurate estimate of aircraft weight before takeoff. 800 participants have signed up since Monday to join in the survey. In return, they're going to receive a gift, a very nice reflected baggage tag.

A cruiser assessing the damage after an unprecedented tornado in February in Wisconsin. The National Weather Service confirms it was spotted just south of Madison last night. This is the first time ever a tornado has been reported in Wisconsin in February, this early. Officials do say it caused some injuries.

The Los Angeles Lakers unveiled a new statue of Kobe Bryant.


VANESSA BRYANT, WIDOW OF NBA LEGEND KOBE BRYANT: For the record, Kobe pick the pose you're about to see. So, if anyone has any issues with it -- (BLEEP)


BERMAN: That was Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's widow. The new 4000-pound bronze statue captures the moment that Bryant walked up the core following his career-high 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. Sara?

SIDNER: John, just so you know, we have the perfect lineup joining us on the set who will show you some adorable little friends. Not me. That's baby.

They're ready to take the field this Sunday. The cutest showdown you will ever see. Kitty Bowl and Puppy Bowl. But we're doing the case.


SIDNER: Dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens are meowing and barking their way to glory on the gridiron. Who will win the Great American Rescue Bowl this weekend, Team Cuddlers or Team Adorables?

BERMAN: That really is the big question. With us now is Beth Stern with North Shore Animal League America. What's going on here? What is the Rescue Bowl?



STERN: If you called the cuddlers and adorables --

SIDNER: I mean, come on.

STERN: Who's the loser there? Yes, look at this. It's really a celebration of rescue and finding these guys' homes. So, where we are so proud to be on Great American Family, and we're going to be presenting this second annual Great American Rescue Ball. And we have adoptable dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. I mean, what's better than that?

SIDNER: Honestly, I've heard of the Puppy Bowl. I did not realize there was a Kitten Bowl.


SIDNER: And I'm kind of impressed.

BERMAN: Who's this guy?

STERN: We'd love -- we'd love that -- it's the Rescue Bowl.

SIDNER: This was -- look.

STERN: So, we're really promoting going to your local shelters. We have shelter crosser -- shelter partners across the United States who are holding parties on that day where there are special adoption events. So, we're really using that day to focus on getting these guys home.

SIDNER: There's a fight going on here. I think that's the two quarterbacks right there --

STERN: Oh, yes.

SIDNER: Going at it over -- I don't know, what a cheeseburger that's there?

BERMAN: Do some -- do some of these guys need introductions?

STERN: Well, all of these are up -- all of these guys are up for adoption. Sara and I are holding a little sister duo from Puerto Rico.

SIDNER: Sisters.

STERN: We just did a big rescue in Puerto Rico. We just did an upstate New York rescue. I have two kittens coming from Oman next week.


STERN: I mean, we rescue from all over the world, really. The Rescue Ball, we features kittens from Hawaii that were displaced from the fire.

SIDNER: So, the fires.

STERN: So, really, we go and we get them from wherever they -- whenever they need us, North Shore Animal League America goes. And we were able to round up the most amazing dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens for Sunday.

BERMAN: I mean the phone lines are open. How do people --

SIDNER: How do people will adopt? Yes.

BERMAN: -- who were watching this, how can they get?

STERN: It couldn't be easier. We just -- you can just log on to and you can visit us at our Port Washington campus. And these guys will be there this afternoon.

Everybody's healthy, ready to go, and yes, hopefully -- I don't think these guys will stand a chance. I think they'll be adopted --

SIDNER: I mean --

STERN: After your viewers see them within 10 minutes.

SIDNER: I want to take them all home. There is a -- there are a couple of escape artists you will see.

STERN: Yes. We have Lucy as a little escape artist. And --

SIDNER: And do you know all their names, or do you not want to say because when people get them, they may have one?

STERN: You know what? I think on the website their names are there.


STERN: But they were just given. I think once an animal comes home, they're adopted, the family should all join in and come up with the perfect name.

SIDNER: That become part --


BERMAN: How did this all start?


BERMAN: As someone who goes into Super Bowl Weekend, typically to watch football, but has noticed that there's all this other stuff that sprouting up and has over the years.

STERN: Well, I think on Sunday, it's the lead-up to the -- to the big football game.


STERN: And what's so great about Great American Family, we are airing it at noon. So, it's before really the Super Bowl festivities start.


STERN: So, to get excited, get ready, get in your seats, get all comfy cozy, get your dog or your cat, and start watching us at noon.


SIDNER: Watch your game. You know what I see is that they're really playing a lot with the San Francisco hamburger.

STERN: Oh, do you see --


BERMAN: What does that mean? Oh, they're definitely favoring the San Francisco stuff.

SIDNER: They're taking the -- (INAUDIBLE) Yes. But there is a little --

BERMAN: Sorry, Taylor.

SIDNER: Yes. I don't -- I don't know. That might be something --

BERMAN: These are anti-Taylor cast. I don't want to start a controversy. But these cats are going through the San Francisco paraphernalia.

SIDNER: They're going for the -- look at -- look at -- I mean, it's happening -- it's happening. I do want to ask you. I think there are some statistics -- some numbers that -- well, there's a puppy bowl right there. But we have some statistics I think on --


SIDNER: On what's going on here. You know, the Cudlers and the Adorables as you're looking sort of at this, how long has this been going on and how long have you been doing this? And why is it so important to you personally? Because I know it is.

STERN: Well, I -- every year that we've been doing this --

SIDNER: They're scaping.

STERN: Over the last seven years -- eight years, it's the day of celebrating adoption and rescue.


STERN: My husband and I are right now in really into animal rescue. We have 28 fosters right now, cats and kittens.


STERN: Special needs, once -- whoever needs us.

SIDNER: Wow. STERN: We've had over 2000 come through our home and we found forever homes.


STERN: So, really partnering with Great American Family into spreading that in what we do and finding homes and forever families for kittens in need, I think that's the most important thing.

SIDNER: It's so great.

STERN: That's what it's all about. We've got -- and what --

SIDNER: Thank you.

STERN: This year is so fun because we opened up to puppies and dogs. So, we have got --

SIDNER: Everything.

BERMAN: Inclusive -- it's inclusive.

STERN: Yes. and I --

BERMAN: Right.

SIDNER: Beth Stern, thank you.

STERN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thank you for what you do.

SIDNER: And thank you for this lovely ending. We really appreciate it. Really.

STERN: I'm so happy that I was able to bring smiles today.

SIDNER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Thank you all for joining us. This has been CNN CAT CENTRAL. "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next.