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Don Lemon Tonight

U.S. Slaps Russia With Tough Sanctions; Summit For Top U.S. And Russian Diplomat Cancelled; U.S. Not Going To War With Russia; U.S. Makes Decision As Per Russia's Move; Arbery Family Finally Got Justice; Women's Soccer Won In Lawsuit. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 22, 2022 - 22:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (on camera): I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thank you very much for joining us. I'll be back tomorrow night at 6 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM" and once again here on "CNN TONIGHT" at 9 p.m. Eastern. And now, here is DON LEMON TONIGHT, don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: All right, Wolf, we'll see you tomorrow night. Thank you very much. We'll straight to the breaking news. I'm Don Lemon. This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.

Our breaking news, danger ratcheting up in Ukraine, it's about 5 a.m. there. Russian troops surrounding the country on three sides. Vladimir Putin, not just recognizing two breakaway republics, but there are fears that he is laying the groundwork to take even more territory.

The world has been waiting for President Biden to call it exactly what it is, and now he is. The president bluntly declaring this is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and hitting back at Vladimir Putin with sanctions on two Russian banks with more than $80 billion in assets, as well as some of the country's wealthiest elite and their families. And warning, that's not all.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as with sanctions. Who in the Lord's name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors? This is a flagrant violation of international law. And demands a firm response from international community.


LEMON (on camera): A senior administration saying the sanctions are, and I quote here, "only the sharp edge of the pain we can inflict." And calling the two banks, quote, "a glorified piggy bank for the Kremlin, though." And these tough sanctions, but they are -- are they tough enough is the question? Will anything stop Vladimir Putin? Another question. The president saying that Putin is creating a rational to take more

territory by force. Joe Biden says he has no intention of going to war with Russia. But the United States and its allies will defend every inch of NATO territory.

That as the Secretary of State Tony Blinken cancels a summit with Russia's foreign minister, warning democracy is under attack and calling this, quote, "the greatest threat to security in Europe since World War II."


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: His plan all along has been to invade Ukraine, to control Ukraine and its people, to destroy Ukraine's democracy which offers a stark contrast to the autocracy that he leads, to reclaim Ukraine as a part of Russia. That's why this is the greatest threat to security in Europe since World War II.


LEMON (on camera): We have around the world coverage here on CNN. Let's get right to CNN's M.J. Lee at the White House, Oren Liebermann, Jill Dougherty in Moscow and CNN military analyst retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton joins us as well.

Hello, one and all. M.J., I'm going to start with you. President Biden is making clear that Russia is the aggressor. Saying their actions are a flagrant violation of international law. Are today's sanctions just the first step in punishing Moscow?

M.J. LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is at least what the White House is saying right now. That this is just the beginning when President Biden announce the sanctions today, he called them really the first tranche of sanctions. These sanctions that were announced included sanctioning and targeting these two Russian financial institutions. They also target U.S. investment and Russian foreign debt. They also take aim at Russians elite and families.

And also, as we know and we have talked about so much, the U.S. has been consistently opposed to this Nord Stream 2 pipeline, this gas line that runs between Germany and Russia. So, the line from the White House now is that the sanctions will continue to work on sort of a rolling basis, that as Russia invades more, if they invade more, more sanctions are going to be headed their way.

But a question that the White House is now grappling with is, what purpose do these sanctions serve? Because Don, remember, up until today, the White House had said the sanctions are meant to be a deterrent. We are not going to announce them until Russia has actually invaded Ukraine because the hope is that the threat of these sanctions would stop Russia from invading.

So, now we know because the U.S. is saying they have determined that Russia has begun to invade Ukraine. That the first attempt at deterrents using the sanctions, they were a failure, right? So going forward what the U.S. would like to see is that the threat of more sanctions would deter further invasion of the kind of invasion that would cause mass casualties, horrific scenario where an invasion could attack and really take aim at a city like Kyiv.

But that is the hope right now and so far, again, those attempts at using sanctions as deterrents, that didn't stop the beginning -- the beginning of a Russian invasion.

LEMON: That's what I want to ask Colonel Leighton. It didn't, the sanctions didn't work as a deterrent. So now what? What more can be done at this point?


CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's really a tough question, Don. I think, you know, a lot has to do with how Putin interprets our force posture. And by that, I mean our position of U.S. forces and NATO forces, a raid around the eastern periphery of NATO. And so, what we have to do is, you know, in essence what the president has done he's move some troops into the Baltic states. Of course, troops in Poland and Romania. And those troops are going to basically be the limit at which Putin can act. And if he was beyond that, then of course, it is a whole different -- whole different ball game at that point.

LEMON: Jill, let me bring you in. Because, listen, Russia had to know that these sanctions were coming. President Biden has been warning of them for weeks now. They didn't provide us as a deterrent or serve as a deterrent. So how is the Kremlin responding tonight?

JILL DOUGHERTY, FORMER CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: You know, I think publicly they're saying in fact it was interesting that when President Biden spoke, the Kremlin said they didn't have time to watch his speech because President Putin was -- had another meeting that he had to attend. So, they're kind of brushing it off.

But you know, sanctions really, over the years have hurt Russia. But the problem is Putin knew as you said, that sanctions were coming. So, he has prepared his country. And in by sitting up a lot of money, $620 billion. But also, what he does with sanctions is they have had counter sanctions here in Russia. And those counter sanctions have gone -- have put people who are really the closest to Putin in positions of the authority like over the agricultural industry, for example.

And in effect, there's almost you could it a slush fund that helps those people in times of trouble. So the more difficult it gets, and the more sanctions there are, the more counter sanctions there are. And the more money goes to the supporters and the friends of Vladimir Putin.

So, it's kind of the, you know, pernicious system. But and, yet, this is really about what the west can do other than a gigantic war. And that's certainly is not what anybody at least in the west wants.

LEMON: Speaking of that, Oren Liebermann, President Biden made it very clear that U.S. is not going to war with Russia. Watch this and we'll talk.


BIDEN: We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message though. That the United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory. And abide by the commitments we made into NATO.


LEMON (on camera): Well, one has to wonder if that is a deterrent by saying I'm not -- we don't want to go war with Russia? Again, the U.S. is not going to war. But the U.S. is sending more troops and military equipment to NATO's eastern flank. What can you -- what can you tell, talk to me about that, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: President Joe Biden is making it very clear how he intends to use his military. He is not sending troops into Ukraine. He is avoiding a confrontation or an escalation between U.S. troops and Russian troops, but he is clearly also living up to what he said there, defending every inch of NATO territory.

Eight hundred troops. An infantry battalions task force heading for the Baltic states, as well as a number of F-35 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters, not only going to the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, but also to d NATO southeastern flank.

Those troops which moved from Europe essentially pushing towards that eastern flank into Eastern Europe will be in place by the end of the week. Biden made it clear in his speech, a message perhaps directed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, that this is a defensive posture.

The U.S. will work to bolster the allies, its NATO allies and make sure they have the tools, the capabilities and the partners they need for their defense should Putin think of going into Ukraine and look perhaps even beyond that.

Officials here very concerned about what Putin's intent is since at this point remains so unclear, they're getting NATO ready and the defensive position for any possibility here.

LEMON: All right. That's NATO assets. Colonel Leighton, let's talk about Russian military assets. New satellite images show in recent days additional troops and vehicles and infrastructure have been deployed including a field hospital constructed a military site -- on a military site within 24 miles of Ukraine's border.

What does this tell you about Russia's plans over the next few days and weeks?

LEIGHTON: Well, it basically shows us, Don, that they are getting ready to make inter military move into Ukraine. Any time you bring out the hospital beds, every time -- any time you bring up the blood supply, any time you move, you know, this type of equipment, these types of weapons, that close to the border, that means that you're ready to use them.


And we have to be prepared for them to actually cross the border, whether it's going to be in the Donbas region or beyond this region. That, of course, remains to be seen. My suspicion is that he is going to go beyond the Donbas.

LEMON: M.J., the Secretary of State Tony Blinking -- Blinken today called off a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that was set to take place this week. Does the Biden administration still believe there is room for diplomacy even with the moves Putin made over just the past couple days or even today?

LEE: Yes, not only is that Blinken/Lavrov meeting called off. The Biden/Putin summit that the White House had tentatively agreed to over the weekend. The White House confirming tonight that there are currently no plans for that to take place either. That makes a lot of sense.

You know, both sets of those meetings were contingent upon Russia not invading Ukraine. So, for the time being, those talks are not going to continue or there are no plans for those meetings to happen.

The administration though, including President Biden himself, it has been stressing that there is still room for diplomacy. But when these kinds of high-level talks are being called off, a question for the White House is what exactly does diplomacy look like with Russia at this moment in time? I asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki that question today.


LEE: Can you help paint a picture of what exactly diplomacy looks like in terms of dealing with Russia?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first, we still -- the door to diplomacy still remains open. What diplomacy looks like, one, we're going to continue to engage with our European partners, of course. And we will continue to remain open to having diplomatic conversations once if and when they deescalate.


LEE: And look, Psaki also said that Biden/Putin conversation that now is basically not the appropriate time for that to take place. That they really need to see significant de-escalation. But that basically President Biden would never close the door on a leader-to-leader conversation.

LEMON: Jill, you're in Russia. So, take us to the ground here. Russian state TV painting the west as the aggressor despite what we're seeing on the ground here. Talk to me more about how this conflict is being viewed inside Russia?

DOUGHERTY: Yes, that's exactly what they're saying. I mean, it's almost the complete opposite of what people in the west see. In other words, what they're saying here on state TV is Russia is being dragged into this conflict.

And the reason is because NATO and especially the United States are using Ukraine as kind of a weapon against Russia. In a sense, they're not really talking about Ukraine. They're talking about the United States. And especially, if you at some of the polls, Russians blame not Ukraine but they blame NATO.

And yet, opinion is really kind of divided. I would say probably the majority of people do support defending Russia against the west. But there are people here who are not onboard with this war. There are actually have been some generals, some retired generals who came out and very strongly urged not to go to war. In fact, one of them wanted Putin to resign.

But there are people here who don't want to do it. You saw at his security council meeting. There was kind of a misstep in communicating about what they were going to do. So, but the thing is, you know, Putin now has so much power in the country he controls the military and you see them on the border. And now in actual parts of Ukraine.

LEMON: Colonel, I have to ask you, because these things obviously don't always go as planned as people think, right? The president may not -- may be saying, you know, we don't want to go. He doesn't want to go to war with Russia. But the possibility of being dragged into a war that is a real possibility. No?

LEIGHTON: It is absolutely, Don. That's why we have to be so careful about the next steps and how everything is managed both on the military side and, of course, on the diplomatic side. And so, every time you have troop concentrations anywhere, the risk is increased that there might be an accident, that there might be an unintended incident and of course unintended incidents have unintended consequences. So, it is a very real risk and there has to be a lot of deconfliction of forces. We don't want to go to war with Russia. But the events might draw us in.

And you know, quite frankly, the pictures that we might see from Ukraine in the next few days or weeks or whenever this happens could spur further action and could spur military action. And that is something the Pentagon and its counterparts and other NATO countries will have to be prepared for.

LEMON: And lastly, Oren Liebermann, the Pentagon is well aware of that?


LIEBERMANN: Absolutely. There is no abatement or easing of the concern and the worry about Putin's next steps. They see the number of troops there. If you include the separatists we're looking at 190,000. They see the buildup that's getting closer to the border.

Remember, on Friday some 45 to 50 percent of troops, Russian troops that is near Ukraine were in attack positions. And they've seen no signs that Putin is deescalating. If you're leaving your forces in Belarus when the exercise is over, if they remain at a heightened level in Crimea and just on the east -- on the border of eastern Ukraine there, what's the reason for that?

And the conclusion, the concern is the reason is an all-out invasion. Remember, it was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who said over the weekend he thinks the probability of tanks rolling into Kyiv is highly likely.

LEMON: Oren, M.J., Jill, Colonel, thank you all. I appreciate it.

Next, I'm going to ask a man who served on the National Security Council and testified in the Ukraine impeachment. Will anything stop Vladimir Putin?


BIDEN: Russia has moved supplies and blood and medical equipment into position on the border. You don't need blood unless you plan on starting a war.




LEMON (on camera): President Biden leveling what he calls the first tranche of U.S. sanctions against Russia and declaring Vladimir Putin's newest actions against Ukraine are the beginning of a Russian invasion. Biden saying that he believes Putin is ready to go much further in launching a massive military attack against Ukraine.

Joining me now, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, he is a former director for European affairs at the National Security Council. Thank you, Colonel. I appreciate you joining us. Good evening.

The U.S. is now calling this the beginning of Russian invasion. That's after hedging on what is called last night, what he called it last night the first round of sanctions now coming. What do you think of President Biden's response? And will it be enough to stop Putin?

ALEXANDER VINDMAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Sure, within the bounds of what the administration set out as a policy, which is reactive policy based on Russian actions as opposed to proactive policy.

I appreciate this fairly heavy step. They sanctioned a number of different entities that will be impactful and they're signaling that they have more. But with regards to taking appropriate actions to deter Russian aggression, I think we're well shy where we need to be. The sanctions are not going to be a deterrent. If anything, the way they sequence right now is more punitive sanctions. So, Russia does this. The U.S. and the west take this kind of action and response to punish him. What I would think is a series of deterrent actions or proactive

actions ahead of Russia's activities are called for. So, you know, we know for certain that the Russians are getting ready to engage in a major offensive. We probably should be preparing our European allies to defend themselves or at least signal that the U.S. will be there behind them defending them.

That means force posture changes, not in response to Russian aggression but proactively. And the same thing with regards to arming the Ukrainians. This has frankly been the biggest frustration with this administration is that all these actions seem reactive instead of reactive.

But as far as today's action to go, we take a look at the snapshot in terms of the sanctions. Those are meaningful sanctions and those will catch the Russian attention. I think Vladimir Putin probably didn't necessarily believe that these kinds of sanctions were coming or this kind of unanimity of action with regards to Europe was likely to land --

I'm not sure if you heard our Jill Dougherty in the segment before. She is in Moscow and she talked about how Vladimir Putin has put aside all of this money and he's essentially his cronies. His cronies will have money. The longer this goes on, will the sanctions be more effective? Because in the short term, it doesn't seem like they're going to have much effect. So, if this goes on for a longer period of time, do the sanctions matter more?

VINDMAN: Not really. I think the fact is that it's highly unlikely that this is going to go on for very long. It's just militarily not viable for Putin to keep that many troops in the field about 106,000, 190,000 including the Russian forces, Russian controlled forces in the breakaway territories.

It's not possible to keep them in the field for weeks and weeks on end. Those helicopters and those planes need to be serviced. The same thing with the armored vehicles. These systems are designed for field operations but not for, you know, extended operations without being maintenance, receiving maintenance. And the morale is definitely going to be affected as time wears on.

So, I think this is likely to unfold in the coming days and weeks. We just saw what amounts to phase one. Building the case that Russia is forced to recognize these territories on this fabricated premise of Ukrainian aggression that didn't exist.

Now they're coming in with Russian ground forces into these territories and the next step is going to be building out what Putin has said, a recognition of the entirety of these two states, these two provinces and pushing out probably enough heads starting from there.

But I think we're, again, we're -- these are just the leading edges of what is going to be a massive attack on Ukraine. The position of the forces there. Vladimir Putin's rhetoric indicates that action is coming. LEMON: Let me ask you, you said that your frustration with the

administration is that this has been reactive. So then, what is -- what about this idea of diplomacy. Because you heard Tony Blinken, you heard Jen Psaki and the president still an idea of diplomacy they will take it. But we are past that point now. Correct?

VINDMAN: Don, unfortunately, that is very true. We -- we can continue to do diplomacy with our allies to build consensus, to build resolve, to gird our alliance for this coming offensive and to take the appropriate action.


I think there is probably more coming with regards to NATO, our NATO response likely an activation of the NATO response force if the consensus is there. That would be a major, major signal. So those types of things are going to occur. But in terms of standard fair diplomacy, it's dead.

There are alternatives just like in the Cuban missile crisis. We have these kind of alternative tracks -- track two type stuff where you had --


LEMON: What will get -- what will get -- a more direct question to you, Colonel, excuse me for interrupting. What will get Vladimir Putin's attention at this point?

VINDMAN: I think we may be beyond that point. But the things that wouldn't get his attention would be provisioning Ukraine with much, much more significant military assistant -- military assistance. Probably something on the order of ferreting and it doesn't have to be lethal.

I mean, Ukrainians are going to be conducting defensive operations against a massive force. So, provisioning them with logistics, establishing a pipeline to provide that, I think the sanctions probably are OK for where we are right now based on the template that this administration has laid out. There's a lot more head room for action.

I think positioning forces would make a good bit of sense. But unfortunately, I think we did not do enough to deter Russian aggression early on. And frankly, I think, you know, one of the things that we're going to look back on as a meaningful misstep is when President Biden said we will only defend NATO. That in a way offered a green light to Putin to conduct this operation.

We did not have to contend the ambiguity of a NATO and U.S. response. We have the policy of strategic ambiguity for a reason. We want our adversaries to believe or to calculate in that this could somehow turn into a bilateral confrontation. The Russians don't want that.

And when we waive the way that we'll only defend NATO, we kind of set the conditions for the Russians to believe that they don't have to contend with this anymore.


VINDMAN: And I fear for other republics in the former Soviet. I mean this is an antiquated term but those republics that used to be part of the Soviet Union that have been independent countries for 30 years, they now have to contend with the reality of Russia, belligerent Russia, prepare to take action and the U.S. and NATO only looking to defend NATO territory. I'm not sure if that's the best signal that we should be sending.

LEMON: I'm going to ask you what I asked Colonel Cedric Leighton earlier. And that is, the president says he does not -- we are not going to war. The U.S. is not going to war with Russia. But in these situations, you can -- one can get pulled into a war.

VINDMAN: Yes. Unfortunately, that's true. This is something that I've been warning against and that's why I thought we need to take much, much more assertive position to prevent this conflict. Because once those shots are fired and there are casualties by the thousands, it kind of changes the geometry.

Then the Russians have to contend with the fact that these weapons have been provisioned by NATO, U.S., the Baltics, so forth. Do they take punitive action with response to an enormous amount of refugees flowing in, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, Europeans are going to be deeply concerned about how to deal with that. And they recognize that the source is Russian aggression.

So, do they start to even further support Ukraine with regards to fighting Russia? I think that this gets very, very complex. Right now, it's actually -- it was simple a month ago. It's got increasingly complex with different courses of action getting locked in. Putin is locked in his trajectory for confrontation. And we're just going to be -- we have to manage this very, very carefully.

But this is the consequence of 20 years of failing to push back on Russian aggression. Russian undermining -- Putin undermining international norms and now we're getting to the point where we're paying the price. It's because we didn't do the deterrence that we needed to years ago that we're now at this point where we're at a breaking point. And I fear that there is a reasonable chance we get pulled into this based on the visuals of thousands and thousands of casualties. Just think back to the Balkans. We're into that crisis too.

LEMON: Colonel Vindman, thank you. I really appreciate it. Be well.

Almost two years to the day since Ahmaud Arbery's death his killers are convicted of hate crimes against him. And it wouldn't have happened if not for Ahmaud's family fighting for justice. That's next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON (on camera): Tomorrow, can you believe it. It will mark the

second anniversary of Ahmaud Arbery's murder in Georgia. Today the three white men convicted of killing him were found guilty of all charges in their federal hate crimes trial. Jurors concluding the defendant's actions were racially motivated because Arbery was black.

His mother speaking after the verdict, it was read, saying that she had to push prosecutors to take the case to trial and not reach a plea deal.


WANDA COOPER JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I told the DOJ that yes, they were prosecutors. One thing they didn't have, they didn't have a son that was lying in a cold grave.


UNKNOWN: Come on.

UNKNOWN: All right.

JONES: And they still didn't hear my cry.


JONES: OK. So again, we got a victory today. But so many families out there who don't -- who don't get victories because of people that we have fighting for us.

UNKNOWN: Come on.


LEMON (on camera): Ahmaud's father Marcus Arbery is here and family attorney Ben Crump as well. Thank you both for joining. Ben, I just -- good evening to both of you.


LEMON: After these things happen, the dad is here. But these moms step up, the mothers of the movement, they step up. I mean, they become warriors for their children. It's amazing to watch.

CRUMP: Yes. It really is, Don. When you think about all these strong black women like Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, Botham Jean's mother, Allison and all the way up, Michael Brown's mother, Lezley. But obviously, I want to uphold these black fathers too, like Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, certainly Andre Locke's father, Andre, and then certainly Marcus Arbery. It's only right, Don Lemon, that we stand up together in unity and fight for our children.

LEMON: And Marcus, I appreciate you joining us. And what you've done and Ben is right on about the fathers stepping up as well. I know this must be bittersweet for you right now because it doesn't bring your son back. What was it like hearing that verdict read out day and you walked out of that courtroom and you guys locked hands and held your arms up high? What was that like?

MARCUS ARBERY SR., AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: It just took a lot of pressure out of my heart because my family struggled with the death because how he was killed, you know what I'm saying, it was bitter but it was sweet, like you say. Because one thing about it, we got justice for Ahmaud but you know, of course, Martin (Inaudible). So we are going to have to deal with that. Sisters and brothers and aunts and the rest of our life because we are not going to see him no more.

LEMON: Were you worried that this might not have been the outcome?

ARBERY: You know, no, sir, I wasn't worried at all. Because the God I praise, he always tells me the victory was won.

LEMON: How you are feeling about the Justice Department now, Marcus?

ARBERY: We still have a lot of work to do with it. But you know, it just -- Don, you just have to think, you have to see stuff for what it really is. You know, it took cameras and videos for us to get justice. And you know not those cameras and stuff like that, though, we got to look where Ahmaud case would have want at.

And you know that's because the investigating team right here is not good. Not for African American people and keeping it real. And that's really saying we got people that we're paying their salaries and swear on an oath to serve and take all people and they're failing to do their job. I'm looking at you have an outsider to come in and do their job. And you know that that's really terrible.

LEMON: Ben, I want to know how you feel about. Because you look, you've called this a lynching, how important was it to prove that killing of Ahmaud was racially motivated?

CRUMP: Don, it was historical, man when you really think about it, it was the first time in the history of the state of Georgia that you had a hate -- federal hate crime conviction. And hopefully it sets a precedent that we can have more of these cases brought even the understanding it's a high bar they always tell us.

But you know, race was the motivating factor for killing us unjustly, then we need to have it documented and have two bites of the apple. One in the state level and another on the federal level. And so, I think this was historic for Wanda and Marcus. It was historic for Georgia. But most important, it was historic for America and our children.

LEMON: It's interesting because people, you know, like to hide their racism. They try to pretend that it doesn't exist, Ben, the jury was asked to ignore all of the text messages, right, all of the whatever the social media and everything. All of these racist messages. And then say, no. Those don't count.

That doesn't -- that doesn't work anymore in this, you know, social media age and this technological age. What message do you think this verdict sends? You said that you think it's a precedent. But what does this -- what does this send moving forward, do you think? [22:39:59]

CRUMP: Well, the hope, Don, is that it sends the message that you can't think you're going to kill us and get away with it because on the federal level and the state level, we can come after you. But when you think about George Floyd and the video there and you think about the video and Ahmaud Arbery, you think so much about what technology has done to help us see for ourselves the evidence.

And with Trayvon Martin anniversary of the tragedy happening on Saturday, you can only try to fathom if we have video there and we have video in Breonna Taylor's case what measure of justice would they have received.

LEMON: Marcus, tomorrow is the two-year anniversary of your son's death. Sorry, you know, being killed by these men. Georgia lawmakers have made February 23rd Ahmaud Arbery Day. How do you move forward from here, sir?

ARBERY: Well, Don, I just -- I just give all glory to God and the whole team that ride around us and help us get justice for Ahmaud. It just feels so good. We know he just didn't die in vain. And his name will always be remembered.

LEMON: Marcus, Ben, thank you both, gentlemen. I appreciate you joining.

ARBERY: Thank you, Don.

CRUMP: It was historic. Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. And be well.

Civil rights leaders applauding today's victory. The attorney general on the verge of tears talking about it. What this means in the ongoing fight for equal justice. We'll talk about that next.



LEMON (on camera): The three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery now also found guilty of federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping.

Joining me now Laura Coates, she's the CNN -- she's CNN's senior legal analyst and the author of "Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Justice." Good evening, Laura. Thanks for joining us. Always a pleasure to see you.

So, this case almost ended with a plea deal. If it weren't for Ahmaud Arbery's his mother Wanda Cooper Jones, would we even be having this conversation right now?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Likely not. And that's because, of course, when you're a federal prosecutor, you're often thinking about very sort of glib phrase of a burden hand worth more than two in a bush. And what I mean by that is because there hasn't traditionally been a very difficult burden to prove a hate crime, I suppose they thought that if they could secure a guilty plea and evade having to actually try the case, they would able to be able to convey a kind of justice the family in the end.

But the family was quite resolve. I think they were right to be so. In thinking to themselves, no, no, the reason we've got hate crime laws on the books is because they are a distinct crime. Because they target indiscriminately with an eye toward somebody's race. It could be you. It could be I, it could be anybody who has a certain characteristic.

And for that reason, we codify our discussions about this. We codify the injustice. We codify in the form of saying, hey, we will hold your feet to the fire in a larger, you know, idea about how to secure that verdict. But the prosecutors were likely very reluctant about this notion.

So the family was very resolved. And I'm glad that they did, because but for their actions, we would not have known the extent of these racist messages, the vitriol that was spewed and what truly motivated these men to hunt, pursue, and eventually kill Ahmaud Arbery.

And so, in the end you had not only the state level conviction, you had the federal one as well. Which now means they will serve the rest of their lives in prison, likely in a state prison as opposed to a federal one.

LEMON: Now I want you to take a listen. This is the attorney general Merrick Garland reacting to the verdict today.


MERRICK GARLAND, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I cannot imagine the pain that a mother feels to have her son run down and then gunned down while taking a jog on a public street. My heart goes out to her and to the family. That's really all I can say about this.


LEMON (on camera): Very emotional there. What does this case say about Biden's Department of Justice, Laura?

COATES: Well, hopefully it means that they are going to make good on the promises to pursue these types of cases. Look, white nationalism is on the rise. The FBI has noted that time and time again. And so, one of the ways in which we use our legal system is to deter activity through accountability.

If you're able to hold people accountable, perhaps you won't silence the ideology but you will silence the actions and furtherance of those ideologies. And that is a step in the right direction.

It also is particularly endearing to have the attorney general of the United States be able to see himself in somebody who looks nothing like him and to commiserate as a parent and even to recognize what it must like for her as a woman, for her as a mother, for her as a mother of this son.

I, myself, like so many others was out there jogging in the commemoration of his final jog that day. And so many of us were year in and year out for the two years that he has been gone at this point. And had my children out there. And my own son would ask me why are we running for the amount of time that we were saying to do. It was because I want this -- I want this to never be you.

And so, for so many parents who are on this country, black women in particular, are watching these cases unfold with an eye towards deterrent and hoping that accountability will prevent our own child's fate in such a horrible and grotesque way.

And so, when you hear the attorney general, the highest officer in the land, frankly, the highest officer of a court in the land, saying and expressing it, I hope it means that we are bending further towards that arc of justice.

LEMON: I want to ask you, Laura, about some breaking news that we have. President Biden has met with at least three potential Supreme Court picks including Ketanji Brown Jackson, Ketanji Brown Jackson, excuse me, Leondra Kruger, and J. Michelle Childs.


Sources telling CNN that Biden still has yet to make up his mind. What do you think? Talk to us about these three women.

COATES: Well, these three women, frankly the president has an embarrassment of riches. Each qualified in their own unique way. One of course a Supreme Court justice in California. One had been a federal public defender on the court. The other now a federal judge as well. And of course, one is a district court judge -- excuse me, a D.C. circuit court judge replacing Merrick Garland who we just have spoken about.

And so, each of them brings their own strengths to the actual position. And so, this is actually suggesting that the president is right on track to be able to make his decision by the end of the month of February as he's articulated. Which gives us plenty of time, us as a society, to watch the confirmation hearings even prior to a midterm election.

Of course, it does not mean that because he has undergone these interviews that there will suddenly not be talking points to try to undermine their credibility. But these should fall upon deaf ears given the range, the scope of expertise, and the way in which each are revered.

Now, there may be others on this list. That's true, Don. And I'm waiting to hear if others are going to be included. But certainly at least to one of them has already received Republican support on three different occasions from three different nominees, frankly, in furtherance of her own career.

And so, I'll be curious to see to what extent she may not be considered qualified all of a sudden. I'm talking about Ketanji Brown Jackson. Or others in that realm. So, I'm looking forward to the day when we actually have a confirmation hearing of a black woman, a nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States. It's long overdue, and what an embarrassment of riches to have any of these three and others be included in the consideration.

LEMON: Laura Coates, thank you. I appreciate it.

COATES: Thank you.

LEMON: Twenty-four-million-dollar settlement after winning multiple World Cups. The women's national soccer team is winning. Take this. Equal pay.



LEMON (on camera): So, take this. The women's national soccer team scoring a goal, reaching a $24 million settlement with U.S. soccer in their equal pay lawsuit. Two million of the lawsuit going towards funding for women's and girls' soccer programs and players' post- career goals. But 22 million going towards back pay for players named in the suit, an indirect admission from U.S. soccer that players weren't paid enough.

After the organization spent years defending their lower pay rates saying that the men's team had larger audiences and suggesting that men are more skilled. But the thing is the women's team won four Olympic gold medals since 1991. They've won multiple World Cups. And, well, the men, they haven't.

Up next, President Biden hitting Russia with sanctions saying they've begun an invasion into Ukraine. We're live on the ground in Ukraine. And Fareed Zakaria will tell us what to expect in the days ahead. That's all right after this.