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Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) Discusses Ukraine Aid Negotiations; Ex-FBI Informant Charged With Lying About Bidens To Await Trial In Jail; FL Surgeon General Fails To Follow CDC As Measles Cases Rise; OK Lawmaker Refers To LGBTQ-Plus Community As "Filth". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 26, 2024 - 13:30   ET



REP. JAKE AUCHINCLOSS (D-MA): It's entirely up to the House Republican conference. As you know, last May, in 2023, the president and then- Speaker McCarthy came to an agreement on funding levels that cut the deficit and responsibly funded programs and services at the federal level.

Senate Republicans, the White House, Senate Democrats, House Democrats, we've all stayed with that deal. It was House Republicans who walked away from that deal. They actually fired Speaker McCarthy over that deal. And they remain the odd man out on this.

So if they want to grown up -- to govern like grownups, then we have no issue. We have the deal that passed Congress. But if they want to have a tantrum at the negotiating table, then were heading towards a shutdown.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Congressman Jake Auchincloss, thank you so much for your time this afternoon. We appreciate it.

AUCHINCLOSS: Good to be with you.

KEILAR: Next, the -- pardon me -- the ex-FBI informant accused of lying about President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, heading back to court after he was rearrested. A judge just decided whether he'll be released or stay in jail.

And new details on an American woman missing in Spain. Her husband now speaking out.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: A judge has just ordered former FBI informant, Alexander Smirnov, to remain behind bars while awaiting trial. Remember, he's accused of lying to investigators here's about the Biden family's business dealings.

And there were major concerns among prosecutors about him being a flight risk. Smirnov appeared today before the same federal judge in L.A. who ordered his rearrest last week.

CNN's Nick Watt is outside the courthouse in Los Angeles for us.

Nick, you were there for the proceedings. Walk us through what happened.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Boris, why we're here. So this guy is accused of lying to his FBI handler, telling that handler that Burisma executives over in Ukraine had told him that they only hired Hunter Biden so that his dad, Joe Biden, then vice president, could protect them from an investigation.

He says he was told that Joe and Hunter Biden each got $5 million. Now, a DOJ lawyer in here today said, listen, the paper trail makes it very clear that this guy, Alexander Smirnov, just made that up.

Now Smirnov appeared in court today, heavy rimmed glasses. He's got an eye condition apparently, beard, looking a little disheveled, handcuffed at the waist, very polite. Lots of "Yes, your honor, no, your honor."

And his lawyers were trying to argue that he should be released. They said, listen, we will hire private security so you know he worked but run, he'll wear a tag, at which point the judge said, yes, tags can be cut off.

And the lawyer made a big point. He said, listen, you know, GPS tracking works. We know that because this guy was rearrested at our office. Obviously, you could track him to our office.

The DOJ hit back and said, listen, the reason we arrested them at your office, not his home, as we know, he has nine firearms in that home, including an assault rifle.

The judge very politely listened to all the arguments, but clearly was never going to let this guy out. He has been remanded in custody, awaiting trial.

So the other point that the DOJ made that was interesting is, you know, they said, listen, this isn't like historical lies.

He was lying as late as last September, claiming that the Russians were hacking a phone from a Kyiv hotel room where Hunter Biden was calling Joe Biden. Again, the DOJ saying that that is just not true.

And they say this guy is a flight risk. He has known connections with foreign intelligence, including the Russians. They can resettle him anywhere.

Also, he has access to money. And they claim he lied about the money. They say he has access to more than $6 million.

And also, even though he gave up his passports, he could get a new Israeli passport. He's a dual citizen.

His lawyer said, listen, listen, none of this. No, no, no. You need to let him out because we need his help, you know, working on his case. This is like Bernie Madoff. This is a voluminous case.

Bernie Madoff was allowed out to work with his lawyers. You should let this guy out to work with his lawyers. The judge having none of it. He's still in custody -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes. Some significant differences between Bernie Madoff's case and this one.

Nick Watt, thanks so much for the report.

WATT: Oh, yes.

SANCHEZ: Brianna?

KEILAR: Now to some of the other headlines that were watching this hour.

The person who set himself on fire outside of the Israeli embassy here in Washington on Sunday, has been identified a fight as an active-duty U.S. Airman. Aaron Bushnell is the name.

In the video of the incident, the 25 Bushnell said he would no longer be complicit in genocide before dousing himself with an unknown liquid and igniting himself, repeatedly, yelling, "Free Palestine."

Police officers rushed to douse the flames with fire extinguishers but Bush now later died in the hospital from his injuries.

Also the husband of a missing American woman in Spain is speaking out. An attorney for Ana Knezevich's husband telling CNN his client was not involved in her disappearance and was not even in Spain when she vanished on February 2nd.

David Knezevich, his lawyer, said the couple had been separated for months and his client has answered questions from Spanish police and the FBI.

And AT&T is trying to make amends for Thursdays nearly 12-hour-long network outage. They're offering a $5 credit to impacted customers. That $5 is equivalent, the company says, to the average cost for a full day of service.


AT&T says they're also taking additional steps to ensure that this kind of outage does not have happen again. The FCC is still investigating the incident.

And coming up, cases of one of the world's most preventable diseases rising. We have the latest on the measles outbreak in Florida.

And also ahead, an Oklahoma State Senator who referred to the LGBTQ- plus community as "filth" is not backing down. We'll talk about the backlash.


SANCHEZ: The measles outbreak in Florida is sadly getting worse. Health officials there have identified another two infected kids, making eight total reported cases in Broward County so far. This is according to state data.

A quick warning for you. We're going to show you images of what some patients endure when they get the measles. It's called the measles rash.

Now, here's an example of what can develop from one of the most infectious diseases known. If someone with measles coughs or sneezes, the virus can just linger in the air for up to two hours.

Despite this, Florida's Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is opposing CDC guidance. He's failing to direct unvaccinated students exposed to measles to stay at home.

CNN health reporter, Jacqueline Howard, is on this story.

Jacqueline, tell us more about how the state surgeon general is responding to what's quickly becoming a crisis in Broward County?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Well, that's just it, Boris. What the CDC recommends when there is a measles outbreak is that unvaccinated children who've been exposed to the virus should stay home for 21 days. That's the CDC guidance.

But what's happening in Florida, the state's surgeon general sent a letter to parents and guardians just last week saying, quote, "That the DOH, the Department of Health, is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance."

So they're leaving it up to parents to make that choice of whether to keep their kid at home, whether that child is vaccinated or not.

But the concern here is that unvaccinated kids are at a high risk of getting infected and spreading the virus. That's why there's this concern right now -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: So the point of that risk, Jacqueline, if an unvaccinated kid is sent to school during this outbreak, they are highly likely to catch measles.

HOWARD: Exactly. We know that, among unvaccinated people, if they're exposed to the virus, 90 percent of the time, they will get infected, they will get sick.

That's why getting vaccinated is so important. We know the vaccine is 97 percent effective.

And we also know that among unvaccinated people, if they do get measles, one in five will end up hospitalized. We know that measles is often associated with pneumonia, encephalitis.

All of these concerns you see there on the screen are complications of measles. And that's why this is concerning.

And, Boris, the cases and Florida are not the only measles cases we're seeing in the country right now. We know that, so far this year, there have been at least 35 cases reported across 15 jurisdictions.

And many of these cases are in pockets of communities where we do see low vaccination rates.

So the takeaway here is that getting vaccinated is really important to help contain the outbreaks like this that were seeing really at this time -- Boris?

SANCHEZ: Yes. The sad thing is this is an illness that was eradicated effectively decades ago. There's a simple solution for it.

HOWARD: Exactly.

SANCHEZ: It's out there.


SANCHEZ: And yet young kids are dealing with it.

Jacqueline Howard, from Atlanta, thank you so much.

Next on CNN NEWS CENTRAL, asked about the death of a non-binary teen in his state, and Oklahoma Senator is calling the LGBTQ-plus community, quote, "filth." And he's not backing down from his bigoted remarks. Well discuss when we come back.



KEILAR: An Oklahoma State Senator is facing backlash after referring to the states LGBTQ-plus community as "filth."

Republican Tom Woods was defending Oklahoma's latest policies targeting that community and was specifically asked about the recent death of 16-year-old non-binary student, Nex Benedict. Benedict died a day after a fight with a group of girls in their high school bathroom.

Here's how Woods responded to the question.


STATE REP. TOM WOODS (R-OK): We're a Republican state supermajority in the House and Senate. I represent a constituency that doesn't want that filth in Oklahoma.

You know, we are a religious state. We're going to be -- we're going to fight and keep that --


WOODS: -- filth out of the state of Oklahoma. (APPLAUSE)

WOODS: We're a Christian state, a rural state.


KEILAR: CNN law enforcement correspondent, Whitney Wild, is here with more on this.

Whitney, what did State Senator Woods say when CNN reached out to him for further comment here?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: We have not been able to establish a line of communication with Senator Woods. But Senator Woods made clear to that local paper, who aired that video, that he stood by those comments.

Let me backup and just give you a little bit more context because there's lot going on in the audio clip there.

This was at a public forum. A woman named Kathy Cott, 64-years-old, asked Senator Woods what he thought of the beating of Nex Benedict.

Nex Benedict, as you mentioned, is the 16-year-old who died the day after a fight at their high school. Nex is non-binary. And the reporting has been that Nex had told family members they were being bullied.

And so Cathy Cott said to Senator Woods and the other speakers and Oklahoma leaders who were at that event, what do you think of that? She believes that Nex had been targeted due to some of those bills.

And so she was seeking accountability there. And that's when you heard Senator Woods make those comments. At first, he said, my heart goes out, if that is the scenario, but then said what you just heard.

There are still so many questions about Nex Benedict's death. But this certainly, Brianna, that is a story that has Oklahomans acutely aware of some of the concerns about the unintended consequences of these anti -- anti-LGBTQ bills.


That's what Cathy Cott was getting at when she asked that -- Brianna?

KEILAR: And where does the Nex Benedict investigation stand right now, Whitney? There's obviously been this new police video you released in the case.

WILD: We are still awaiting the results of an autopsy and toxicology report. We have requested that as well.

At this point, Brianna police say Nex Benedict did not die of trauma. So certainly more questions about that.

KEILAR: All right, Whitney Wild, thank you for that. Next, was Alexei Navalny just hours away from freedom when he died? According to his aides, the Russian opposition leader was set to be part of a prisoner exchange alongside Americans Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich. We're going to go live to Moscow.