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Police in Canada Begin Removing Protestors from Ambassador Bridge Who Blocked Traffic over COVID Mandates; U.S. Continues to Move Troops into Eastern Europe as Concern over Pending Russian Invasion of Ukraine Mounts; Growing Number of States Plan to End Indoor or School Mask Mandates as COVID-19 Rates Decline; Police Arrest White Men Eight Days after They Shot at Black FedEx Worker Making Deliveries; Wyoming Republican State Representative Defends Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney From Attacks by Others in GOP. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 12, 2022 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: We are always so grateful to have you with us. Good Saturday to you on this February 12th. I'm Christi Paul.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Phil Mattingly in for Boris Sanchez. You're in the CNN Newsroom.

PAUL: Listen, we're following breaking developments out of Canada this hour. Police have started removing protestors from that key bridge at the U.S.-Canadian border.

MATTINGLY: Last night a judge ordered the so-called Freedom Convoy of truckers to leave the Ambassador Bridge. Many ignored those orders and stayed. CNN Miguel Marquez is live in Windsor, Ontario. Miguel, what are you seeing right now?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is it. This is the very end of this protest here in front of the Ambassador Bridge. I want to show you what's happening. You can see a large contingent of police have moved in from the bridge side, sort of coming up from where the bridge is toward the protestors. They've kettled them in, essentially, at the -- in the intersection of Huron Church Road and College Road, where the main brunt of the protestors have been every night.

In a sign of just how sort of Canadian this end to this protest has been is that they had tents set up in the street. They broke down their tents as the police were moving in. Then they swept up the roadway before they started to leave. The semitrucks pulled out. There were probably 75 vehicles or so here last night. There were about 50 by morning. And now there's a few vehicles. I want to show you what's happening on this side of the street. Police have moved in from the north here and blocked off this street as well with a very heavy presence. And then all of the vehicles, there's only maybe 30, maybe 20 left at this point on that side of the street, and they're going to -- police are going to continue to move up this way toward those vehicles and move them out. If they refuse to leave -- there's not been a single arrest so far, amazingly enough -- if they refuse to leave, then they will use the ability to arrest them and find them and jail them. And there's a range of punishments that they've now OK-ed if they don't leave.

I do want to show you some of the heavy machinery they brought in as well. They do have heavy vehicles here as well to show a high degree of force, and that they are not going to stand for it. There are some protestors who are -- have bullhorns and are yelling at police. A lot of this is media out here at this point as well, though.

But it is clear that this is coming to an end. I spoke to one protester who has been out here every single night for the last six nights, he said, look, I feel broken. I feel like -- he's a big guy, he was very emotional about having spent so much time out here and feeling like, yes, our voices have been heard. But they were hoping for more. They were hoping that all of the mandates would have gone away by now and they would have achieved a lot more. Given that we are here, given that the world has heard what they are saying, and even the premier for Ontario, the mayor and the prime minister have all said, look, we understand your concerns. But you cannot do protests in this manner. Back to you guys.

MATTINGLY: There's no question they've been heard. A lot of attention both on the economic and political side over the course of the last couple of days. Miguel Marquez, great reporting all morning. Thanks so much.

I want to turn now to growing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. We've learned the Pentagon is moving some U.S. guard troops out of the country and potentially out of harm's ways. The 160 soldiers have been in Ukraine since November working in an advisory capacity, training Ukrainian forces.

PAUL: And we're waiting for a phone call that could be key to preventing the Ukraine crisis from escalating to war. An hour from now, President Biden is scheduled to speak by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The call comes as the U.S. is warning Russia could launch an invasion at any time. Secretary of State Antony Blinken did speak with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov ahead of the Biden-Putin call earlier this morning. Blinken tweeted that he called for a diplomacy solution but warned that, quote, "further Russian aggression would be met with a resolute, massive, and united Transatlantic response."

MATTINGLY: And in another sign of growing concern about a Russian invasion, the State Department today ordered all nonemergency personnel to evacuate the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. Officials had already called for U.S. citizens living in Ukraine to get out immediately. Several other countries are also urging their citizens to leave.

PAUL: That is a growing list of countries just in the last hour who have done so. We have multiple reporters covering every angle of this story. CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood at the State Department and CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley is live in Ukraine.

MATTINGLY: And Kylie, I want to start with you, because so much has been on the State Department's plate over the course of not just the last five or six hours, but really over the course of the last several months.


What are you hearing from officials there this morning about how they expect all of this to play out?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, Phil, a senior State Department official explained why the State Department made this decision to withdraw most of the U.S. diplomats from Ukraine, saying that they have to prepare for the worst-case scenario here, which is in the realm of possibility. And that would be Russian aggressions into Ukraine and on the capital city, which is where the U.S. embassy is located.

They explained that Russia has a very capable military, and there are a number of ways that things could go wrong. Hence, they want to pull most of those diplomats out of the country while they can still get them out safely and quickly.

Now, some diplomats will stay at the embassy, some will move to a location, a city on the western side of Ukraine, obviously, much further from any possible Russian aggressions on the eastern side of the country. And the State Department making it very clear to Americans, once again this morning, that it is past time for them to leave the country, saying that they are in touch with a couple thousand Americans in recent days, encouraging them to leave the country. But also noting that there are a number of those Americans who have told the State Department that they want to stay. And the State Department is saying to them, listen, we are going to be limited in terms of what we can do to assist you if a war zone breaks out. Senior State Department official saying that that is a likely possibility this morning and explaining just how challenging it will be if a war breaks out and Americans are still there. That's why they want them to leave now. Guys?

MATTINGLY: Kylie Atwood at the State Department. Very busy day ahead, very tense day ahead. Thanks so much.

Now, I want to get to Ukraine where fear is growing that Russia could invade at any moment. CNN --

PAUL: CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley in eastern Ukraine, not far from the Russian border. Sam, you told us earlier this morning that you are seeing them reopening bomb shelters and rebuilding tanks where you are. What does that tell you about what the intentions are in that region?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the rebuilding of tanks just shows how they've had to scrape the bottom of the barrel. These are 1960s T-64 tanks that they're upgrading very substantially into something approaching a modern weapon, but unlikely to be a match for the much more sophisticated Russian armor that's coming across the border. And this is because Ukraine has been denied lethal aid by most of the NATO allies over the last eight years since it was invaded by Russia, or Russian-supported rebels lost the Crimea and east of the country, very limited amounts of lethal aid have been provided. Notably recently, Javelin and NLAW, which are even shorter range, man portable anti-armor weapons, nothing strategic, nothing on the scale of a tank.

And as a consequence of that, there is a strong sense here that the president downwards is determined that his country will fight, but he's also determined to try to dial down on the level of rhetoric, make sure that his country doesn't panic because that, he says, plays into the hands of his enemy. This is a comment he made earlier today.

PAUL: All right, Sam Kiley, we appreciate the insight. Thank you so much.

MATTINGLY: Here with us now to break down these rising tensions abroad, CNN's international diplomacy editor Nic Robertson in Moscow and a CNN global affairs analyst Kim Dozier. She's also a contributor to "Time" magazine.

Nic, I want to go to you, first, because look, we're at a moment where we're pouring over every single word, every single utterance of any diplomacy on any side here. And I was struck in reading what Secretary of State Antony Blinken, his readout of what he told foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, that diplomacy is still an option, and then you read the readout from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they're saying nothing about diplomacy. They're still talking past one another. Is that your sense inside the room as well?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think it is and it has been for some time. I think one of the threads that I see emerging -- and we've just had a readout from the French about President Macron phone call with President Putin, which was an hour and 40 minutes long. And I think you see a little bit of crossover. One of the lines you were just talking about there from Secretary Blinken's conversation with Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister here, was pointing out that there is a diplomatic track open, but to pursue that, Russia must de-escalate and negotiate in good faith. And we have a similar version of that from the conversation with the French president which says, dialogue is not compatible with escalation.

What I think this thread here -- and there are many threats to pull at, but I think what this shows us is that there's an increasing frustration.


On the one hand, Russia sort of is playing along with sort of its entertaining these phone calls and visits by President Macron earlier this week and an expected visit early next week by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz here, expected on Tuesday, but it's sort of playing along with a diplomatic track, but it's not matching it with its actions. And I think that we're getting in these readouts from these phone calls an increasing focus on that. Secretary of State Blinken saying if you want to talk, and you're sort of showing evidence that you do, but you haven't said precisely what that talk should be, de-escalate, draw down your troops. And the French president saying the same thing. If you want to talk, it has to be done realistically. If you really mean it, you're not going to be posturing your army in this way.

So there's an element here of calling Russia out. We've heard this before, but calling Russia out to say you do seem to look like, despite your denials, that you're potentially going to invade. And that's what we heard from Sergey Lavrov today, it's all propaganda that we're going to invade, it's a propaganda smokescreen so Ukraine can attack the Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country.

So yes, still talking past each other. Macron and Putin did talk about the Minsk agreement, that Putin wants more pressure from the west on the Ukrainians to move ahead on that. But again, that is not happening. And I think Russia to a degree now getting called out on its actions utterly incompatible with trying to pretend there's a diplomatic avenue that they're waiting to open up for them.

PAUL: Nic, that is such an important part of all of this, and important for you to make that point, too, because just in the last hour, when we talk about the diplomacy of this, but then what we're seeing realistically, just in -- not just Ukraine but around the world, just in the last hour, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey have all sent out notes that their citizens need to get out of Ukraine.

So Kim, with that said, when we talk about the fact that there are more than 100,000 troops surrounding -- Russian troops surrounding Ukraine right now, that there are more than 30 warships now, Russian warships, in the Black Sea, what is happening with President Zelensky in Kyiv? What is he doing if diplomacy clearly is not matching up, as Nic said, with what we're seeing on the ground?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Zelensky has maintained this public message of we're not seeing the same thing. We don't think an invasion is imminent because he's trying to head off the panic among his people, a flight of people from Kyiv, the capital, flight of money. I heard one ex-pat this morning saying, in Kyiv, saying that they were making sure to get money out of the bank before there was a run on the banks.

This is the kind of thing that Zelensky wants to head off. But when you see who has chosen to withdraw diplomatic staff and who has chosen to order, urge their citizens to leave, it started with the Five Eyes, the people who share intelligence most closely. That's the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. And then it spread from there. That tells you that they've intercepted something pretty grim. PBS has reported that it was a message from Putin to his troops to prepare to invade.

What's not clear if that's about to happen is what is the pretext that Putin is going to use to switch from the diplomatic efforts, the denials of invasion that Nic mentioned, to a full-on assault to take the capital or some part of the country.

MATTINGLY: Nic, one of the questions -- we've talked about the lower level, lower-tier diplomats, deputies talking right now. Obviously, Macron is not in that category. But President Putin has often had the perspective of he wants to be viewed on par with the U.S., with President Biden. Bilateral discussions should be happening. I don't necessarily want to talk in groups of six or eight or 10 to some degree. This call that's going to happen in about 45, 46 minutes, can it change the dynamics and what you expect from it?

ROBERTSON: There has been a thread through all of this that President Putin wants that conversation, wants that stage, that global stage with President Biden, wants the respect, wants to be treated equally, wants Russia to be recognized for the great power that it is and the great power that it can become. He wants this. And you speak to Russians here, and they say, look, in all of this, treat Russia with respect and we can do business. But disrespect us, and you'll find people, the average person lining up behind the president.


So Putin does have a position there that he needs to protect, a part of his persona, a part of what he thinks he brings to the future of Russia. Remember, he's going to be in power until 2036, at least, and he wants a legacy. And the legacy he's carved out for himself is a great Russia. So yes, part of it is he does want to converse on those terms. But equally, this is a psychological war at the moment where the U.S. is trying to interrupt Putin's thinking and calculations. Putin is trying to stand firm with his massive, muscular buildup of military and the threat of that on the border and not answering questions about what his decision he's going to make about not getting his original demands.

So there's a psychological war going on here. And, you know, we have yet to see which way it falls, and Putin can and potentially will just hold his ground and keep his army there without making a declarative position. And to a degree, the United States is trying to pressure him to make that position clear.

Quite possibly, Putin will want to try to meet with President Biden, but he probably won't want to do it if he's going to walk away with nothing, and it would be unlikely for President Biden to walk into a meeting with President Putin feeling that he had to give something away. That's just not going to happen. So it's hard to see what comes out of this phone call. The phone calls we've had -- that we've read about so far today have all been about, these are the positions, and everyone is stating their position, and no change.

PAUL: And we're trying to decipher Russia's intention here. Kim, you say that a country does not make the moves we're seeing as part of theatrics. Under what pretext do you believe Putin might use to justify an invasion?

DOZIER: Look, he could be, up to this point we haven't known whether he was threatening Ukraine with the troops around its borders in order to hold it hostage and get concessions out of NATO, which Putin hasn't been able to get, or whether he sees this as part of his legacy to seize more parts of the country, which Putin sees as part of the historic country of Russia.

And he might be calculating that at this time you have a relatively green leader inside Ukraine who might not be able to lead a fight back after some sort of even piecemeal invasion, and you have got Biden and all of NATO, which has made clear they don't want to leave any of their forces in Ukraine because they don't want to risk a third world war.

The last time Putin seized Crimea, Ukrainian territory, he revealed later in an interview that he was willing to put all of his nuclear weapons, his nuclear systems on high alert if it looked like there was a counterattack against Russian forces. So he's already said if this is his goal, he's willing to go all the way, and he knows nobody else is.

MATTINGLY: If anyone can figure out what he wants, explicitly, it would be very helpful at this time, a moment of very high tension. Nic Robertson, Kim Dozier, really appreciate your time and perspective, guys.

PAUL: Thank you both.

Still to come this morning, more states are rolling back mask mandates. The debate over masks in the classroom, however, that is still thriving. We'll explain.



MATTINGLY: A growing number of states are planning to end their indoor or school mask mandates in the coming weeks as COVID-19 rates continue to decline. But those moves have drawn attention to the CDC which have yet to make any changes to its masking guidance.

PAUL: The agency says here in the U.S. we should continue wearing masks in areas of high or substantial transmission, which includes about 99 percent of U.S. counties thus far. CNN's Polo Sandoval has the latest.


POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From coast to coast, governors are rolling back their mask mandate. According to a CNN analysis, only these six states as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., still have such a requirement in place. However, California, Illinois, and Oregon already announcing plans to lift that requirement in the coming weeks. That leaves only Hawaii, New Mexico, Washington state, Puerto Rico and D.C. with no announcement on when they'll end their mask mandate.

Then there's masking up in the classroom. School systems in these eight states have either moved toward ending mask requirements or expected to do so by the end of March. However, local governments and school districts are still free to keep making masks a must even after state requirements are lifted.

DR. JAY VARMA, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, WEILL CORNELL MEDICINE: This is really a decision for elected officials, and they've made the decision to remove this, which is their right. So what I would like to see is to make it easier for individuals to protect themselves. And so what does that mean? That means making high quality masks, like the N95 masks, as widely available as toilet paper and soap and water are in every facility.

SANDOVAL: Governors in states scaling back have pointed to an improvement in COVID metrics when making their decision. That includes lower infection rates and COVID hospitalization numbers that are dropping. Some doctors worry the Centers for Disease Control and prevention could be falling behind.

DR. ALI RAJA, EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Right now, we've got the state saying one thing and the CDC saying they're looking at this again. And that's just not enough.

SANDOVAL: Dr. Ali Raja of Massachusetts General Hospital urging the CDC to issue revised masking guidance to help improve confidence in that agency.

RAJA: My patients every day come to me and say, well, I'm hearing this from the federal health agencies, I'm hearing this from our local town health agency, I don't know what to do. And the confusion between what we're hearing on the federal level and what states around the country are doing is just damaging to the trust and the psyche that the population has in our health officials.


SANDOVAL: Also losing the masks, Amazon. This week, the company announced fully vaccinated warehouse workers can go mask-less in states that have eased off indoor mask wearing. The new policy does not apply to the unvaccinated or those working in the few states where masking indoors remains in place for now.


SANDOVAL: And on that note, the list of states that seem to be outpacing the Biden administration and the CDC in revising their mask mandate, it really does seem to be growing shorter by the week here. In terms of Connecticut and California that actually announced their plan to keep that indoor masking requirement for the unvaccinated, I checked those stats a little while ago, Christi, and it does seem that accounts for about 25 percent of that eligible population. But a quick reminder, though, Christi and Phil, ultimately those local jurisdictions, they still have the ability to make their own mandate. So it may be a little different where you live.

MATTINGLY: It's patchwork for sure. Polo Sandoval, great reporting, as always, my friend. Thanks so much.

It took authorities more than a week to charge a white father and son accused of chasing and shooting at a black FedEx driver who was just delivering packages. The questions about the investigation and the parallels with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery coming up next.



MATTINGLY: Two white men are now facing criminal charges after a black FedEx driver said they chased and shot at him while he was delivering packages in Missouri.

PAUL: And there are questions this morning about how police have handled the investigation. CNN's Nadia Romero is with us now. Nadia, good to see you this morning. Talk to us about what we know this morning.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Phil. So let's break down what happened. This was January 24th around 7:00 at night. D'Monterrio Gibson says that he was simply out doing his job. He's a FedEx worker, he was in full uniform. He was in a rented white van that had Hertz stickers around it. He was simply trying to deliver packages when two men, he says, Brandon Case, and his father, Gregory Case, approached him on the street in Brookhaven, Mississippi.

And at one point, one of the men jumped out of the car and tried to get him to stop, to try to get Mr. Gibson, the FedEx driver, to stop by waving a gun at him. But unfortunately, Mr. Gibson said he didn't know what was going on. And so fortunately for him, he was able to speed away. But that's when something else happened. He found five bullet holes in his van.

Now he left with his life and was able to go back to his FedEx station, call the police, and try to sound the alarm that this should have never happened to him. He wanted the men responsible to be arrested. But those men were not arrested until about eight days later. And listen to Mr. Gibson's lawyer talk about why they believe that there has just been a lack of justice so far in the investigation of the case, not only by the police dispatchers, but also by the Brookhaven Police Department. Take a listen.


CARLOS MOORE, ATTORNEY FOR D'MONTERRIO GIBSON: He immediately called the police that evening after he got to the interstate and informed his boss. The police did not take it seriously. So his boss went down with him the next morning to the station to make an official report. She showed them the bullet casings, the actual vehicle with the bullets in it, and packages with the bullets. And then they started to believe him. However, they still allowed the Cases eight days of freedom before they turned themselves into the Brookhaven police department, spent a day in jail on a $75,000 and $150,000 bond.


ROMERO: So the Cases are out of jail. The grand jury will likely convene in April, and they could ask for severe charges. Right now, the father and son duo facing assault charges, but D'Monterrio Gibson and his team of lawyers say they should be facing attempted murder charges. And this, Christi and Phil, just really reminds us of what's happening in Brunswick, Georgia, with the Ahmaud Arbery case, right. Eerily similar, only that this case, Mr. Gibson, is still alive to tell his side of the story.

PAUL: Very good point. Nadia Romero, thank you so much.

There's a growing divide within the GOP becoming more apparent as the RNC takes aim at two of their own on the January 6th committee. Why one Wyoming state lawmaker is standing by Congresswoman Liz Cheney.



MATTINGLY: The divides inside the GOP, they're growing deeper, this time over a move by the national party to reprimand two Republican members of Congress working with the House select committee, to investigate the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Some GOP lawmakers say it's time to move on, focus on the 2022 midterms. But the former president remains fixated on taking down those who dare question his election lies, including Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is now facing a tough primary challenge in Wyoming from a Trump-backed Republican.

Wyoming State Representative Landon Brown joins me now. He's the only Republican in the Wyoming statehouse who is publicly supporting Cheney. Representative Brown, thanks for taking the time. I want to start bigger picture and then move into the state. What was your thought when you saw the three words, "legitimate political discourse," in that censure resolution describing the events of January 6th?

STATE REP. LANDON BROWN, (R-WY): Good morning. I think it's the same thing that many of us felt, that legitimate political discourse is clearly not what we saw on January 6th. What we saw was a riot, and what we saw was a situation where five individuals ended up passing away because of the unpolitical discourse that was out there. It's a shame that we had to see that, and I'm proud to stand behind Liz Cheney and the fact that she's willing to stand strong and find out what happened and dig down and figure out what's going on with everything that happened.

MATTINGLY: You're not just a Republican in Wyoming backing Congresswoman Cheney, you've been vocal about it as well. You're not shying away from it in any way on Twitter and your public comments. The state Republican Party has also gone after the congresswoman, to which the congresswoman responded one point I think in a "New York Times" interview that the state party leaders have abandoned the Constitution. Do you think that the Wyoming GOP state leaders have abandoned the institution?


BROWN: Yes. I think what's happened here at this point is we've seen a fringe group that is on the far right of our party has taken over our party, and they are the ones that are pushing this narrative. And they've been working behind the scenes to come out and come against Liz Cheney since day one with her support of this January 6th panel.

Let's not forget that Liz Cheney was the one who said we need to make sure that we're looking at this from all angles. We need to make sure that we're there. And the Republican Party had everything out there as far as the opportunity to stand behind her, and they have left that. And unfortunately, that shows too many people across this country that Trump has hijacked the Republican Party.

MATTINGLY: So I think to that point, a lot of people maybe don't understand that state parties aren't necessarily monolithic, and you make a point, a lot of times it's grassroots led. They're different state by state. And I think you're underscoring your view of the Wyoming state party. When you talk to voters in Wyoming, what's your sense of things? There's not a lot of polling in the state right now. We don't have a good idea of necessarily where this race is going to land other than President Trump commands a lot of loyalty inside red states, includes yours. How do you think this ends in this primary?

BROWN: Well, I absolutely think Liz Cheney wins this without a question. I do think this will be a tougher battle than Liz has faced in the past. But let's not forget that her challenger was on her team, and she's going to have a very hard differentiating herself from Liz Cheney. And let's be honest here, Liz Cheney has been a stalwart supporter of Wyoming since day one. She voted with the president -- with President Trump 93 percent of the time and has only voted with Biden 11 percent of the time. So it's clear to me that Liz will absolutely win this race. To me, it's going to be a much harder discussion on the other side of this race where her challenger is going to have a much different time to differentiate herself.

MATTINGLY: When it comes to -- you've also acknowledged that you expect to probably face a primary challenge because you're backing Congresswoman Cheney. You've also said eventually Donald Trump won't be the face of the Republican Party anymore. Do you think you're going to stay in the party? Do you think you will win? And if you don't think Donald Trump is not going to be the face of the Republican Party, when does that change? I feel like post a pretty significant presidential election loss, that would be the time, and it hasn't.

BROWN: That's a good point. But what I do strongly feel is that absolutely I will continue to be a Republican. I view the world through the views of the GOP as the Grand Old Party and a big tent Republican Party, and that's what we need to get back to. We need to get back to the understanding that we may have differentiating views within the state party, but -- or even within the national party, but we're all still Republicans. And at the end of the day, President Trump has a maximum of four years more in office. And I stand with Liz Cheney that I will do everything in my power to make sure that's not happening as well, because at the end of the day, what he did and the way that he handled himself on January 6th is clear to everybody that he is unfit for office.

MATTINGLY: Representative Landon Brown, thanks so much for your time, sir. I really appreciate it.

BROWN: Thank you. MATTINGLY: All right, Christi?

PAUL: So the Super Bowl may be in L.A., Phil, but the mayor of Cincinnati has a few things to say about what's coming up tomorrow. He's with us next. Stay close.



PAUL: Do you have your food ready? Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles between the Rams and Bengals.

MATTINGLY: You know what that also means, Christi? It means Andy Scholes is live from L.A. for us, which makes me happy. But Andy, the only question I really have, the pride of Athens, Columbus, Baton Rouge, and Cincinnati, Joseph Burrow, can he pull it off again?


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: He's been silencing his doubters all along the way. Like you say, he's got so many different communities rooting for him because, how do you not love Joe Burrow? He's never lost a big game. He's got such a cool demeanor, and he has the success to back it up. Like I said, he's trying to become the first quarterback ever to win the Heisman national title and Super Bowl. And think about that, he can do all of that in the span of just three years. And yesterday while rocking some more swaggy shades, Burrow explained his approach to football.


JOE BURROW, CINCINNATI BENGALS QUARTERBACK: Just like with anybody, the things that you go through help form who you are. And when you think about successful NFL quarterbacks, I think it's paramount to keep that even-keel personality and attitude. The game is a microcosm of life. And if you have these superhigh highs and super-low lows, you're not going to be successful on a consistent basis.


SCHOLES: Yesterday the Bengals and Rams both having their last major workouts here in Los Angeles before the Super Bowl. This game features the youngest head coaching matchup in Super Bowl history. Rams head coach Sean McVay is 36. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is 38. And Taylor was actually on McVay's staff in 2019 when they lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots, and that moment has really stuck with both of them. Taylor then taking the Bengals job the next day.


ZAC TAYLOR, CINCINNATI BENGALS HEAD COACH: I still remember Tom Brady and Bill Belichick walking by me in the hallway after they won the game and the excitement on their faces. I've never forgotten that. It's crushing to see.


Then again, to wake up the next morning and be on a plane to come here for a press conference, you don't want to -- that was exciting.

SEAN MCVAY, LOS ANGELES RAMS HEAD COACH: Setbacks are setups for comebacks. And any great competitor, any person that is successful in life, they've had some moments where they had to respond from adversity. That was one of them for me, for our team. But this is a separate entity. But I think, more than anything, it gives you an appreciation for how hard it is to finish this.


SCHOLES: One of those guys are going to be champion -- is going to be a champion come tomorrow.

Be sure to tune in to our Super Bowl special today, 2:30 eastern, "Kickoff in Los Angeles, a CNN Bleacher Report Special." We're going to talk with Peyton Manning, Troy Aikman, and more to get you ready for the big game.

And guys, this is a really exciting matchup. Rams trying to become the second team ever to win a home Super Bowl. The Bucs did it just last year. Bengals, meanwhile, one of 12 teams that have never won a Super Bowl. And when you talk to the fans from Cincinnati, they've been through so much over the years. Winning tomorrow would just mean the world to them.

MATTINGLY: I think that is an understatement. Andy Scholes, thanks so much, my friend.

And ahead of Sunday's kickoff, the mayors of Los Angeles and Cincinnati have announced a friendly wager on the game.

PAUL: The losing mayor is going to have to wear the winning team's jersey at an upcoming public appearance. The winning mayor will personally contribute to the losing city's children's hospital. So the kids will benefit even if they lose the game.

Cincinnati's mayor Aftab Pureval is with us now. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. Talk to us about, for people who don't know Cincinnati, what this means to this city. How do you -- how do you merge this city with the team at the point, the winning team?

MAYOR AFTAB PUREVAL, CINCINNATI, OHIO: Good morning. First of all, thank you so much for having me on. This team is emblematic of our city. We as Cincinnatians are young, we are diverse. Our city is dense. We are ambitious and confident. And now that we're on the national stage, we're not just happy to be here, we belong here. And we're going to stay here for a really long time.

MATTINGLY: It's like a Joe Burrow swagger has overtaken the city itself.

Mr. Mayor, I do have to dig in on the bet, because oftentimes local leaders put their own delicacies on the line, too. Was your calculation here that Garcetti didn't have anything in equal value to Graeter's and Skyline? Was that how you walked through this?


PUREVAL: That is too funny. First off, I'm two and zero with these mayors bets. Then Bengals are unbeaten even my administration. I've only been in office for four weeks. We won the bet against the mayor of Nashville, won the bet against the mayor of Kansas City. And so we were thinking about upping the ante. So glad that we are raising the profile of our children's hospital in Cincinnati and their children's hospital in Los Angeles. But think about some of the ideas on the cutting room floor. One of the ideas we had was to change Los Angeles' name for 24 hours to L-o-s-s Angeles. The other idea was to get a Hollywood walk of fame star in the Bengals name with the score of the game. But look, the children's hospital bet is also exciting.

PAUL: And it's so productive. Those kids are going to have a lot to remember because I'm sure there will be some sort of fanfare whenever that happens, wherever it happens. But talk to us, too, about the halftime show is what everybody -- I shouldn't say everybody, but a lot of people want to see. What about you?

Oh, he's gone. We lost him. I apologize. Never mind. You can make your own decision for yourself what you want to see at the halftime show tomorrow.

So Super Bowl Sunday, it may be a holiday, I know, for a lot of people. Millions of you planning your hosting parties for the big game, football fans shelling out, apparently, some real big dough for the perfect party here, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's the economic reality of the moment. CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans has more.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Phil, are you planning a big spread for the big game? Inflation will be your uninvited party guest. The grocery bill for your Super Bowl party up to 14 percent more than last year, says Wells Fargo. Watch out at the meat counter. For your chicken wings, prices are up nearly 12 percent for last year. Ground beef for your chili, 13 percent more expensive. Forget serving steak. Prices have soared there more than 17 percent.

Another way to save money, go big on the chips and dip. Did you know potato chips are only up about one percent year over year. And holy guacamole, avocados are the wild card. "Bloomberg" found exporting Hass avocados from Mexico cost nearly 25 percent more this year than last year.

Of course, it won't be a Super Bowl party without the drinks, and the picture there is mixed.


Beer prices are up nearly five percent from a year ago, wine up a little less, nearly four percent. The biggest price hikes, nonalcoholic drinks, a two-liter bottle of soda costs 12 percent more than last year. But guys, some perspective here. Last year, you probably didn't even

have a party, and this year there are still ways to be creative to keep the cost down. And of course, it's still cheaper than going to the actual game. This year, Super Bowl tickets are the most expensive ever.

Christi, Phil?

PAUL: Thanks so much, Christine. You have fun with it, too.

And thank you for being with us. We hope you make good memories today.

MATTINGLY: There's much more ahead on the next hours of CNN Newsroom after a quick break. Have a wonderful Saturday.