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Cellular Network Outage Hits U.S.; Alabama Supreme Court Ruling Pauses IVF Treatments; President Biden Calls Putin A "Crazy SOB"; Arizona Refuses Extradition Of Murder Suspect; Reproductive Rights Advocacy In Michigan; National Security Concerns Over Russian Meddling; Republicans And Democrats Navigate Abortion Debate; Vice President Harris Campaigns On Reproductive Freedoms. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 22, 2024 - 14:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Your call cannot be completed. It's dialled. An outage hits cellular networks all across the country, leaving people who depend on their phones, you know, all of us, scrambling. Extradition fight. The suspect in a New York killing is arrested in Arizona, but now prosecutors there say they will not be sending him back for trial, saying it's safer to keep him. And they're suggesting that it's because they don't trust the Manhattan DA.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And how do three-day weekends, every weekend, sound to you? Many companies that have tried it are keeping it. Gives some of us a little bit of hope. We're following these major developing stories and many more, all coming in right here, five days a week, to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

DEAN: Welcome to CNN NEWS CENTRAL. I'm Jessica Dean alongside Boris Sanchez today, and we are witnessing a domino effect in Alabama after the state Supreme Court ruled frozen embryos are children. That means today, two more health centers announced that they are pausing, some types of IVF treatment, bringing the total number of clinics putting a hold there to three.

Advocates for reproductive rights warn that this ruling would have devastating consequences. And now the Biden campaign is calling Alabama's decision, quote, a blueprint for Republicans extreme MAGA reproductive agenda. This hour, we're expecting to hear from Vice President Kamala Harris as she attends a reproductive rights event in Michigan. Let's start with CNN health reporter Meg Tirrell on more about the fallout in Alabama. Meg, what are these two additional providers saying about their decision?

MEG TIRRELL, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Boris, these clinics represent most of the IVF cycles that are performed in the state of Alabama. They are concerned about potential criminal prosecution for essentially carrying out IVF in the wake of that state Supreme Court decision that found that frozen embryos legally are considered people. Now, the University of Alabama at Birmingham was the first yesterday to announce it was pausing IVF services. They've been joined today by Alabama fertility specialists and the Center for Reproductive Medicine, Infirmary Health in Mobile.

Now, the clinics say that they are advocating for their patients. Alabama fertility specialists say that they're working hard to alert their legislators to the far-reaching impacts here. But they really are concerned about the legal ramifications. And there's so much uncertainty going on right now, not just for performing IVF, but also about the current, currently stored frozen embryos that these clinics have. What will be the future of those?

We've reached out to Alabama's Attorney General's office to try to get any legal clarity. And they said as of now, they have not put out anything on this in terms of guidance, even though we imagine there must be a huge outreach from clinics trying to get guidance as to how to go forward here, guys.

DEAN: And are there any implications for reproductive rights nationwide, Meg?

TIRRELL: Well, there are concerns from people in this community that are concerned about the legal ramifications. And I think we see this as a sort of a path forward to enacting similar sort of language. We've heard from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists who just put out a statement yesterday saying that there's an incredibly concerning precedent for IVF access across the United States here. They say they've seen state legislatures replicate one and other's reproductive healthcare policies in an ill-advised attempt to compete for the most restrictive and harmful laws.

They say the outcome of this case will certainly affect access to fertility treatment across the country. So, I think that's a big question concern among fertility care providers. And, of course, patients who are desperately trying to have children using IVF about what this will mean.

DEAN: All right. Meg Tirrell for us, thanks so much. And she just mentioned some of those patients. And joining me now is Gabby Goidel. She has been undergoing fertility treatments in Alabama. Hi, Gaby. Thank you for joining us.


We just learned today that your clinic has paused treatments. And just for everyone out there who maybe hasn't gone through this, this is a lot of science, and you are in the middle of this and it's a very specific time when you can have the eggs harvested. So, tell us what this all means for you.

GABBY GOIDEL, PURSUING IVF TREATMENT IN ALABAMA: Yeah, so it's a very short window. I take medication for about 10 days until my eggs are retrieved. And I am right in the middle of that. I'll take my sixth round of shots tonight. So, the decision for my clinic to shut down was a really big shock to both me and my husband.

DEAN: And you all have probably been planning for this, saving for this for a very long time.

GOIDEL: Exactly. We've been, this has been about two years in the making of us trying. And we got in with this clinic about three months ago. So, it was three months of preparation physically and mentally to go through this. And it just feels ripped away.

DEAN: And now you're in Alabama, you're at this critical time where you're taking your sixth round of shots tonight. And in order to get those eggs out, which they have stopped doing in Alabama which by the way I'm told is 2 hours away from your home already, you're going to go to Texas, right?

GOIDEL: Yes. So my clinic offered to continue with retrieving my eggs. But I don't know what that would mean. What if they would create embryos with them or how long the embryos would have to be stored before I'd be able to be implanted. And I just did not feel comfortable with all the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen with them. I just honestly did not want them to be stored in Alabama. So, we've decided to go to Texas to finish off this process.

DEAN: So, you'll go today then?

GOIDEL: Yes. I am just booked my flights about an hour ago. And we will be leaving to Atlanta here shortly.

DEAN: Did it ever occur to you, or did you ever think when you and your husband started off on this journey that a court ruling would be impacting you and your family in this way?

GOIDEL: Absolutely not. We never envisioned that this process would be questioned in any way. And then much less by the Supreme Court of Alabama. And then the fact that it happened just the first day of my stimulation medication was just a whirlwind and something it was it was very hard to wrap our minds around.

DEAN: Well, and it's a stressful time no matter what, right? You're putting a lot of hormones into your body. There's a lot of hope and maybe some pressure built into this situation. You want it to work because in the end, you want to be a mom. And it seems like this has made an already difficult situation really, really difficult.

GOIDEL: Exactly. I struggled with the fact that I wasn't able to carry babies to term already. I felt like there was something wrong. I felt like, I had had the opportunity to be a mom ripped away multiple times. And just the fact that it has happened again for something that I have no control over. It just feels like every time I try, it gets -- the rug gets pulled out from under, under me and my husband. All we want is to be a family and, -- and have children and live the, the traditional American dream.

DEAN: Right. You want to create a life. There are a lot of people in positions of power that are making decisions that are clearly having a big impact on you, your family. I would imagine many, many others in Alabama where there are 5 million people. There are eight clinics, one in six people suffer from fertility issues. And now there's only five clinics that are, that are operating at full tilt. What do you say to these officials? What do you want them to know?

GOIDEL: I want them to know that their haste decision there, it feels like it was almost a flippant decision. It impacted real people who were going through real struggles and just trying to have children. And I would hope that they would have empathy and compassion for that process. And how hard it has been for us to get here already. And now they've just added so much more to it that I hope that they in some ways take a look at this and start advocating in the opposite direction for the residents in their state.


DEAN: All right, Gabby Goidel, safe travels to you. Good luck, thanks so much for joining us.

GOIDEL: Thank you, thank you.

SANCHEZ: For tens of thousands of Americans this morning there was a red flag about just how much we depend on our cell phones when for many they suddenly stopped working. AT&T suffered a massive outage that meant people couldn't make calls text message or go online even. This even temporarily affected 9-1-1 in some areas. An industry source telling CNN that so far there are no signs of a cyberattack or a hack.

DEAN: But now as most of the cell service is being restored, the why is still a big question. A lot of people want to know why this happened and could it happen again. AT&T still hasn't said exactly what happened. Joining us now to discuss is CNN senior national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. Juliette, it doesn't appear to have been a hack or a cyberattack, but the threat is certainly still lurking. And I think a lot of us are thinking about it especially knowing gosh my phone went out today and it makes you realize you really do rely on it for everything. Does this kind of outage give you insight into the vulnerability of the networks in the U.S.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECUIRTY ANALYST: Well, yes I mean we've always known them to be vulnerable. Most of our critical infrastructure and telecom systems are owned by the private sector although the FCC is has started investigation of this incident and our query about it. We are dependent on private actors for profit actors for the kind of connectivity that we view as just a way of life like roads and streets and sidewalks. And so and they have an incentive to make things work well. ATT&T I would say you know came out a couple hours later to say they didn't think it was nefarious and my technical explanation is it sounds like it's an oopsie, right. An internal oopsie. That doesn't defend it, but it does suggest that they have some sense of what happened.

My service was down, it's back up now and they're able to fix it. My biggest concern now from a security and safety perspective is not the vulnerabilities which we always knew, it's first net. First net, people are probably hearing about first net today, is a dedicated system available for first responders, firefighters, emergency managers, police officers that was created in the wake of 9-11 when all those systems went down. And it's a dedicated way for first responders to communicate with each other. That also went down. AT&T and the other services have always made

representations that that service is unlikely to go down. And we see the consequences of it. People, we haven't heard of any emergencies, but fire departments, police departments were sending messages out saying, get on your landline if you need us.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it's a really interesting glimpse into what could happen if these vital systems that we depend on go down. Juliette, obviously, this is in the private sector, but is there something more that lawmakers could do to try to address some of these vulnerabilities in case we see a worst case scenario in the near future.

KAYYEM: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it's the extent to which our critical infrastructure is unregulated and the government has not set floors for what kind of safety they need. It's not sustainable. We saw it with Columbia Pipeline a couple of years back, some changes to how pipelines are able to come back up to service. But we haven't really seen this with telecoms, and we should. The reason why is it's not simply our connectivity, which we're dependent on.

What's really odd about this, and I think caused some of these rumors this morning, is it's rare to get a national outage like this. You'll get regional ones. We've seen those in the past. These are incredibly rare because companies have gotten used to avoiding what we call the single points of failure. You don't want one thing to go down and the whole system comes down.

It's clear AT&T had one. And I will say something from a crisis management perspective. I just went on AT&T's website. Nothing. I mean, these are institutions that have people who are dependent on them. We pay them for transparency. And just from a corporate perspective, honestly, it's two in the afternoon. I got my first phone call from you all at 530 a.m. I don't see anything on the websites, very few communications. Their obligation is also to inform the American public as if they were a public entity about what they know. Be transparent and notify us through websites and texts and emails and whatever else. I've got nothing. And I'm a client.


SANCHEZ: Wow. Juliette Kayyem, appreciate your expertise on this. Thanks.

KAYYEM: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Still ahead, President Biden ripping Vladimir Putin, bluntly calling him a, quote, crazy SOB. This as there are new signs that Russia is meddling in U.S. politics. We're digging into how Putin looms over yet another U.S. election. Plus, the FDA issuing a warning about the risk of using smartwatches to measure blood glucose levels. What you should know just moments away.


DEAN: For weeks, President Biden has been contending with a string of global flashpoints. And a Congress that won't commit to delivering aid to allies in the face of it all. The common thread for much of it, an increasingly belligerent Russian regime that's meddling in U.S. elections and sowing new divisions here in Washington.

SANCHEZ: We may have seen the President vent his frustration a bit last night. He referred to Vladimir Putin as a crazy SOB during a fundraiser. The Kremlin since responded, likening Biden to a, quote, Hollywood cowboy.


Let's bring in Stephen Collison, who has a new piece at breaking down all of this. Stephen, you point out that after the Cold War, the U.S. viewed Russia as something of a nuisance, but now we see Russia's tentacles everywhere. This is going to be yet another election that has Vladimir Putin's fingerprints on it.

STEPHEN COLLINSON, CNN POLITICS SENIOR REPORTER: After the Cold War, Boris, the U.S. ceased to regard Russia as a great power anymore. It saw it as a diminished economic and global force. Russia never accepted that definition of its lessening of power, especially through the last 12 years of his more-than-two-decade rule. Vladimir Putin has gone about trying to reverse that perception to show Russian influence in the old Soviet bloc and across the world. So, you've seen the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russian military dispatched to Syria, mercenaries in Africa, and you've seen the meddling in U.S. elections, constantly trying to test the U.S. to compromise U.S. power.

I think what people miss is it's not necessarily whether Putin wants President Biden in office or Donald Trump in office. It's he wants chaos. He wants to sow divisions between Americans to exacerbate existing divisions to make it more difficult for the U.S. to wield power across the world. And we're seeing that right now in Congress. The fact that there's a stalemate over the $60 billion for Ukraine, which, you know, is very important to Russia, obviously, and Putin's meddling has in some ways enabled all this.

DEAN: And so how concerned are U.S. allies? I know that the president has said that the nine key leaders have told him he has to win.

COLLINSON: Right. Whether that's hyperbole or not, it clearly reflects what a lot of America's European allies think. There's great concern in Europe, for example, particularly fostered by former President Trump's remarks about NATO recently, that a second Trump term would be even more disruptive than the first. It's not necessarily ideological. You know, for 70, 80 years, you've had liberal Democratic presidents and conservative Republican presidents.

And Europe and everyone else has been able to live with that. The point here, though, is that what allies want is stability. And what Donald Trump deals in is volatility. People can't guarantee what he's going to do next. That, in many ways, is the source of his political strength. But that's very unsettling if you're a U.S. ally, especially when you have leaders like former President Trump cozying up to Putin. And that is what's causing concern, more than what Trump would try to do politically or ideologically.

SANCHEZ: Stephen Collison, appreciate the perspective. Thanks for being with us. Let's expand the conversation now with Republican strategist Doug Heye and former communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris, Jamal Simmons. Gentlemen, thank you both for sharing your afternoon with us. Doug, first to you, we just heard Stephen indicating just how Russia is going to be a part of Biden's legacy, perhaps an outsized part of Biden's legacy. Is there a way that he could flip this and make it into a winning issue in 2024?

DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think he does. He does that by starting to use some of the rhetoric that we've seen him use and what he referred to Putin as just this week. Being called a Hollywood cowboy by Vladimir Putin is not necessarily the worst thing for Joe Biden. And it shows a Biden, even though we haven't seen the tape of this, demonstrates strength and vigor that so many voters are rightfully questioning whether or not Biden has. I think it starts there. It's more of an issue of attitude and energy than it is one of direct policy. Obviously, getting legislation through the House would be a huge benefit as well.

DEAN: And Jamal, we have seen glimpses now of the president unplugged, essentially. We have reporting that he's telling staffers on the campaign to go after Trump for saying, quote, crazy stuff, but it was not that word. The Putin comment reportedly calling Netanyahu a bad effing guy. Are staffers making a mistake getting this out here? Or is this all on purpose, giving him an edge?

JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR VP HARRIS: I don't think anything happens this often by accident in the White House, right? This is happening on purpose. Listen, it has something to do with Joe Biden and how he's going to govern the country. And we've seen Joe Biden. He's going to be kind of a pretty constructive force around the world. But it has a lot more to do with Donald Trump and the Republicans. I mean, and I don't know. I've been a Democratic operative for most of my career.

I have been spending a lot of time as a Democrat trying to navigate around the Republican advantage on national security that Ronald Reagan established in the 1980s. And it is amazing to me to see Donald Trump kind of take that Republican advantage on national security, wrap it up in a bow and hand it to Joe Biden, where Joe Biden is the one who actually is closer to the Reagan view of a strong America. Because I think what Biden realizes and what most Democratic presidents have realized is that you either have American leaders, you either have American leadership in the world or you're going to have somebody else. And that somebody else, whether it's China or Russia, is not going to be as judicious as the United States.


SANCHEZ: Doug, I want to pivot to something we just got an update on having to do with the Alabama state decision on IVF. Reproductive rights are an issue that Democrats certainly have felt strong on in the past. You can say that there's a direct tie between the results of the last midterm election and the overturning of Roe versus Wade. How should Republicans handle this issue? Because it seems like there's some division over how they're looking at this.

HEYE: Yeah, the first thing I can tell you in the House and Senate buildings at the party committees, the RNC, the NRCC, NRSC, they're saying to themselves, this is not something that we wanted to talk about. And obviously now it is very much on voters' minds and is going to continue to be. What we've seen is a lot of governors come out, Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia, a good example, making clear that he was going to protect this. I think that's the smart place for Republicans to be.

We've seen in election after election, we could talk about Todd Akin and Richard Murdoch in past Senate cycles, that cost the Senate seats, where Republicans have been really penalized for extreme and, frankly, crazy rhetoric when it comes to abortion. And rape and things like that, to where it not only hurts those candidates, it hurts other candidates because they now have to talk about it as well.

This puts them, some Republicans, in an opportunity to talk about sane policies, as opposed to being defined by the most insane things that we've seen coming from certain states. The farther any state goes, whether it's a six-week ban or something like this, the more it tends to define the national agenda. It's up to Republicans individually and then collectively to say, this is what we're for. And this is where the American people are. If you can get to that safe space, you can be okay.

And, Jamal, quickly, before we let you go, in that vein, the Vice President Kamala Harris in Michigan today, a key swing state, she's on this reproductive freedoms tour. The White House, or rather the campaign, has made a big push to use her in this way. They feel like she's very effective in this way. Do you expect that this will be effective in moving some of these more independent voters that they're going to need to win a place like Michigan, or even turnout.

SIMMONS: Well, the best predictor of the future is past behavior. So what we know is in 2022, the Vice President went out there after the Dobb decision took away women's right to abortion. The Vice President went out there and campaigned on it. She went around. She talked to state legislators and faith leaders and university presidents and students. She went all over the country and talked about it. And people said, stop talking about it. Talk about the economy instead. The Vice President continued to talk about it. The President talked about democracy. And Democrats did pretty well in the 2022 midterms.

So what I think the White House is banking on is that this is going to happen again. And that when Americans hear what happens in Alabama where IVF may be taken away from so many families, where in Texas a woman who clearly needs to have abortion services because she has a fetus that won't survive is told no, she can't do that. And, you know, 10-year-old girls who have been raped by family members can't get the reproductive care they need. When that happens, that puts uncertainty under everybody's skin. And I think that's going to have a very big impact on this election. DEAN: All right, Doug Heye and Jamal Simmons, thanks to both of you. Great to see you.

HEYE: Thank you.

DEAN: Still ahead, the fight to extradite a suspected killer. Why Arizona is flat out refusing to send back a man who's wanted for a brutal murder in New York. Plus, testimony is underway in the trial of Rust movie armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed. What the prosecution says investigators discovered on set that should not have been there.