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Officials Weight Protecting All Deposits At Silicon Valley Bank; Interview With Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) About Silicon Valley Bank Collapse; Florida Set To Pass Permitless Concealed Carry Legislation; Treasury Department To Protect Depositors At Collapsed Silicon Valley Bank; Searching For War Crimes In Ukraine; Stars Arriving At The Oscars For Hollywood's Big Night; Selection Sunday In College Hoops In Underway. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 12, 2023 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

Right now federal regulators are scrambling to prevent a sudden bank failure from triggering a wider financial meltdown. CNN has learned that the FDIC has prepared to step in and operate Silicon Valley Bank to ensure its account holders can pay their employees in the wake of Friday's sudden collapse of that bank. That's according to a source with details on briefings between Treasury officials and lawmakers.

It's just one scenario being floated at this hour with just hours left until financial markets reopen for Monday trading. Last hour I spoke with a woman who uses Silicon Valley Bank to run her small business. She says she hasn't heard yet from any bank or federal officials about the status of her money. Here's what she had to say.


LINDSEY MICHAELIDES, USED SILICON VALLEY BANK FOR HER SMALL BUSINESS: No direct communication from anyone at this point. So, you know, I'm in close communication with a lot of other founders and business owners. And we are trying to share all the information that we can find, doing our own research and piecing it together. And frankly I've been deep in this and mired in it since Thursday of last week. And at this point still have a lot more questions than I do answers.


ACOSTA: In a moment we expect to speak live with Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters who serves on the House Financial Services Committee. But first CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us live from the White House.

Arlette, we know California lawmakers have been briefed on the situation. And what are we hearing for the Biden administration in terms of what they will and will not do?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, federal officials have been working around the clock to try to come up with some solutions to address the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. And sources say that U.S. banking regulators and officials have been talking about using emergency measures in the wake of the situation. And that includes trying to find a way to back all of the deposits held at that back.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said earlier today that she's been in touch with financial regulators throughout the day. President Biden spoke yesterday with California Governor Gavin Newsom about efforts to try to address the situation. But one thing Yellen said is that they are not looking to provide a large-scale bailout of the bank in the way that was done during the 2008 financial crisis.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Let me be clear that during the financial crisis there were investors and owners of systemic large banks that were bailed out and we are certainly not looking, and the reforms that have been put in place means that we're not going to do that again. But we are concerned about depositors and we're focused on trying to meet their needs.


SAENZ: And big questions are still surrounding the fate of the money held by those depositors in the bank especially as many of these businesses are trying to meet payroll needs heading into week. Now U.S. officials are evaluating several options currently on their plate. One of those is trying to find a private buyer for the assets of this bank.

There was an auction that was held with bids due at 2:00 p.m. And so the evaluations are currently underway to determine whether a private buyer could acquire these assets. But there are also other steps that are officials are considering at this moment. And that includes trying to find ways to protect the uninsured deposits.

The FDIC only insures currently up to $250,000 at a bank. And the large majority, more than 90 percent of the money held at Silicon Valley Bank is above that threshold. Now one thing that officials are talking about is the potential to use the FDIC's systemic risk exception. There other items that are also on their plate currently being weighed. But certainly this is something that the White House and the Biden administration has been watching very closely as they are trying to prevent any further strains on the banking system and the U.S. economy overall.

ACOSTA: Yes, indeed. All right, Arlette Saenz, thank you very much.

Let's talk about what could happen next with CNN economics and political commentator, Catherine Rampell. She joins us now. She's an opinion columnist for the "Washington Post."

Catherine, everybody seems to be waiting for the Feds to do something before the markets open tomorrow morning. I mean, that seems to be there's a clock ticking in the background. It's for 9:30 in the morning -- tomorrow morning.


If something isn't done by that point, should we be bracing ourselves for some troubled waters ahead up on Wall Street?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Potentially. We've already seen this contagion spread to some other midsize regional banks. First Republic Bank, Western Alliance, a bunch of other banks in sort of that mid-tier size. Saw their stock prices plummet on Friday. There are reports that the FDIC or other regulators are already looking into -- you know, trying to swoop in early to make sure that these other banks are going to be OK.

If the issue with Silicon Valley Bank is not resolved in an imminent timeframe I think you might be -- you know, you should expect to see that some of this concern will spread to these other banks.

ACOSTA: And the former FDIC chair Sheila Bair says a buyer for Silicon Valley Bank is the best outcome. But I know you saw this earlier today, Catherine, the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that a bailout of the bank is not under consideration at this point. Could you have something short of a bailout, some sort of financial rescue package that nobody wants to call a bailout, but is essentially a way going in there and assisting the investors, the consumers at that bank?

RAMPELL: So everybody knows that the word bailout is a toxic term. Nobody wants to be accused of bailing out anyone let alone a bank, let alone a bank that, you know, serves the tech industry, which is a very polarizing industry. But it doesn't really have a specific term.

I think what they mean when they say we're not going to have a bailout is that they're not going to do something that necessarily makes the stockholders or the bottom holders whole. But they are interested in making sure that the depositors are OK, customers of the bank are OK, because those are customers that are often small businesses. They might be payroll companies that service small businesses who didn't even know that the service that they were using was funneled through this now troubled bank.

So I think what they're trying to set the parameters around is here is how we are going to help these companies make payroll. There might be as much -- you know, I've heard estimates as much as a million workers may not be able to get paid in the next couple of weeks that this is (INAUDIBLE).


RAMPELL: But without necessarily, you know, making whole the others who stand to lose money from this bank failure because of fears of moral hazard, basically meaning that if banks and their shareholders believe that they will get fully insured, you know, then they might as well take on huge risks going forward. That's the real fear here. They don't want to encourage further risk-taking or further poor management at other financial institutions. ACOSTA: And were there larger problems, broader problems at Silicon

Valley Bank that led to this collapse, I mean, there has been some talk about the rise in interest rates and how this bank may just not have been protected against a rapid rise in interest rates. What about the factor that -- I mean, we talked about this with a congressman earlier on in the program, that there, you know, they are obviously concerns out there about going in there and bailing out a bank that is sort of designated, you know, a go-to bank for tech startups, nobody wants to bailout the tech bros, I guess would be a short way of putting.

RAMPELL: Yes, I mean, to be clear these are not all tech bros.

ACOSTA: Are there larger, wider problems -- yes. Exactly.

RAMPELL: Yes, these are not all tech -- whatever a tech bro is that, you know, their client base is not uniformly that. You had somebody on earlier who's a startup founder in Ohio, for example.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

RAMPELL: So, the question about what went wrong here is a kind of a complicated one and it's not necessarily an intuitive one. It's not that this particular financial institution decided to invest in things that were inherently risky. And in fact they decided to invest their money to buy assets and things that usually look pretty safe. These are long dated bonds, mortgage bonds and treasury bonds. Things that normally in a typical interest-rate environment look pretty safe.

They pay a, you know, a slightly, you know, above minimal interest rate, that's what they were looking to do. But in an environment when interest rates are going up the value of those assets essentially goes down. At least in the near term. They are just less attractive for other people to buy. And the results of all of that is that they're starting to be concerned that maybe the things that this bank holds on its books are not really worth as much as we thought.

And then rumors started spreading and the panic kind of set on itself. People thought, well, I wonder if I'll be able to get my money out. I see other people taking money out. And then that became a self- fulfilling prophecy where all of the sudden tons and tons of customers of this bank started to pull their money out.


And if you remember the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," you know, the bank doesn't have all of that cash for all of its depositors on hand. It's been lent out essentially. In this case the form of these long- term bonds.

ACOSTA: Right.

RAMPELL: So that panic feeds on itself. It's like a classic, almost 1920s, 1930s, pre-FDIC bank run that we don't see very often today. But the problem with this particular bank is that so many of their depositors had accounts that were larger than the amount that is insured by the FDIC which is up to $250,000.


RAMPELL: \Which is again part of the reason why you saw people kind of swoop in and say, I want my money out now because I don't if I'm going to be able to get back otherwise.

ACOSTA: Right. All right, well, Catherine Rampell, thanks so much for your insights. We appreciate it.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right. And California Congresswoman Maxine Waters joins us now by the phone -- on the phone. She's the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

Congresswoman Waters, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it. We know California lawmakers have been briefed following the collapse of this bank. What are you hearing? What are your concerns? And do you think there will be a plan in place before the markets open tomorrow morning that will allay a lot of these concerns out there?

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Well, thank you very much for taking this issue up. It is very important. Yes, I have been interacting with not only other members of the committee that I serve on the Financial Services Committee, but Mr. McHenry and I are working together on this issue. We think it's very important. It is not an issue that should be captured or led by either party. It's so important for us to try to do everything that we can to make sure that, number one, the depositors get their money, whether they are insured or not insured.

And to make sure there's -- you know, opportunity for other people to get involved in basically determining whether or not other banks should be involved in some way. We are concerned about contagion.

ACOSTA: What is the potential for that? That there could be a kind of a cascading effect that people lose confidence in their deposits at other similar size banks, and start lining up at the bank tomorrow morning to get their deposits out because of this one bank that went down last week. Yes.

WATERS: Well, I want you to know that FDIC certainly has a plan. And that plan is ready to go and we're concerned about the jobs that are at stake. Many of those startups have their payrolls in that bank. They handled the payroll. And so we're going to make sure that we do everything not only to make sure that the depositors are taken care of, but they are taking care of in ways that will ensure that the jobs are not lost.

ACOSTA: And the Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, I'm sure you saw this, Congresswoman, she appears to be ruling out a bailout for Silicon Valley Bank. Do you agree with that? Or do you think it was maybe premature for her to come out and make that kind of declaration?

WATERS: Well, we're focusing on the depositors. We're focusing on those that are insured, those that are not insured, and so it's not a time for me to talk about the bank. We're not concerned about the bank. If the bank made mistakes, they are probably going to be held accountable. But we've got to get the money back to the depositors.

ACOSTA: At this point you're not concerned that the markets will open tomorrow morning and there will be ripple effects there on Wall Street where there are some fears tomorrow that all of us will be dealing with. You're not concerned about that kind of a situation, are you?

WATERS: No, no, no, no. I think not. I think there is a plan. And when people see that there is a plan that this plan is going to cover both the insured and the uninsured, and that people are going to get their money back, and that jobs are going to be maintained. The payrolls will be ready to go for those startup companies, those companies who have their payrolls handled by the bank. I think that people should be calm.

I think that the plan is going to help alleviate some of those fears. And I'm looking forward to the fact that we won't have the kind of contagion where it will have a ripple effect at all.

ACOSTA: All right. Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, she is the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee.

Congresswoman, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.

WATERS: Welcome. Thank you.

ACOSTA: Thank you.

In the meantime, proposed legislation in Florida could allow gun owners to discreetly carry their weapons without certain precautions.


I'll talk to one father who lost his daughter in the Parkland shooting about his efforts to stop that measure. Plus I'll talk to a retired army colonel who you may find to be familiar. He's helping to uncover war crimes in Ukraine. We'll talk to him about that coming up next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


ACOSTA: On Tuesday President Biden will travel to Monterey Park, California, as part of his West Coast trip. He is expected to speak about his efforts to reduce gun violence as communities still mourns the lives lost in a mass shooting there in January.

In Florida, permitless concealed carry is on the brink of becoming law. The legislation to allow Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training is set to be taken up by the state's full House and Senate. The bill would scrap requirements to pass background checks.

Gun violence prevention advocate Fred Guttenberg joins us now. His daughter Jamie was killed in the Parkland school shooting back in 2018. He's also the author of "American Carnage: Shattering the Myths That Fuel Gun violence."


Fred, talk to us about what's been happening with this proposed legislation.

FRED GUTTENBERG, GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION ADVOCATE: Yes. So probably later this week on Thursday. There will be a full session to pass in the House of Representatives, and the next the Senate, permitless carry, a dangerous and deadly political bill for the DeSantis presidential campaign. And what's amazing is while he runs around screaming woke, woke, woke, which is just the latest shiny object on a bunch of woke BS nonsense.

What people -- while they pay attention to him, they are not paying attention to what's happening in Tallahassee, which is the super majority has shot down debate by only allowing people one minute to speak. So they shut down debate. And so nobody is paying attention to it. But this dangerous and deadly bill that will roll back safety in Florida while DeSantis says Florida is where woke goes to die.

Florida is going to become the state where people go to die because you're now going to have gun owners that will not have required training that -- and you can't make it up. But they're actually going to lower back the penalties for someone who now gets caught on the school campus, OK, without a permit, from a felony to a misdemeanor.

They are doing everything they can to make Florida a more dangerous and deadly state, while he runs around screaming woke. Don't pay attention to the shiny object. Pay attention to what they're doing in Tallahassee.


GUTTENBERG: And don't let them get away with it.

ACOSTA: And Fred, the governor wanted even looser gun restrictions, am I right about that? Like permitless open carry. But -- is he backing off of that?

GUTTENBERG: Well, no. What's interesting is he has said he would support it if they get in this bill. And the super majority may in fact try to do that. They have even said they may try to slip in rolling back the age from 21 to 18, which we passed after Parkland. We raised the age to 21. It has saved lives. But all of these lunatics who run around screaming woke are going to do things to appeal -- throw a red meat to a base. And it may make Florida a more deadly state and we can't let them do it.

ACOSTA: And what do you want to see happen, Fred? At the state level it seems like gun laws are only getting looser. What needs to change?

GUTTENBERG: Well, listen, I'm realistic. They had a super majority in the state. I want to see Democrats stop acting like they are intended to being a permanent minority, and I want to see them step up and fight. I want to see if it is required, if they're just going to shove this down everybody's throat, walk out. You're not needed there, go hold a debate in the public square, go old school. Go show Floridians who you are and what you stand for.

Make sure every voter in the state knows the truth about what's happening in Tallahassee and the risk to those they love it. Because right now Ron DeSantis isn't acting like a governor for Florida anymore. He's acting like a guy who wants to lock up a Republican base. And that is a - there's a deadly consequence to that if he gets away with it.

And I have got to tell you I know President Biden is going to California this week. I hope he calls out the differences between the states and how certain states like the one he's going to, California, are doing everything they can to reduce gun violence and successfully they have a lower per capita instance of gun violence in Florida. The issues caused by states like Florida who are making it harder to stop those who intend to harm others.

ACOSTA: And you mentioned the president is going to be in California. He's going to be talking about gun violence after the mass shooting that they had there in recent months.

Fred, what more do you want to hear from the Biden administration, though? Because I know you have said many times even though that bipartisan piece of legislation got through, which passed, signed into law, at the federal level we're still having mass shootings in this country on a very regular basis.

GUTTENBERG: Yes. Listen, when my daughter was killed five years ago. We had 300 million weapons in America. We now have over 400 million plus ghost guns. That legislation was critical and it was important. And I do believe it will start to bend the curve. But there is more we need to do.

And there is -- through either executive action, you know, which is a reflection of the reality that we have in Congress right now, that legislations can be complicated, but really also working with the ATF and a real director that we now have, and ensuring that the legislation that was previously passed is executed on and all the rules are carried out.


There is so much the Biden administration can do, and by the way, they can also set the agenda. Run on gun violence going forward. Make this a voting issue going into the next election.


GUTTENBERG: Do what you can to bring attention to the reality that assault weapons have no place on our streets. President Biden can use the bully pulpit and I expect he will.

ACOSTA: All right. Fred Guttenberg, great to talk to you as always. We know you're so passionate on this. Very important issue and of course if Governor DeSantis ever wants to come on and talk about this, we're happy to have him on as well.

Fred, great to see you. Thanks so much.

GUTTENBERG: He's weak and he won't.

ACOSTA: We'll see. We invite him on.

And there's a major development with Silicon Valley Bank. Some breaking news on that, coming up in just a moment. We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: Breaking news just into CNN. The Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and FDIC are releasing a statement on Silicon Valley Bank and what comes next.

Let's go to CNN's Arlette Saenz, she joins us live from the White House.

Arlette, this is just coming in. It sounds as though the Biden administration, the federal government wants to get on top of this very quickly. What more can you tell us?

SAENZ: Yes, Jim. Federal officials have been working around the clock to try to find some resolution in the wake of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. And tonight, the Treasury Department, FDIC and Federal Reserve all releasing a statement saying that all depositors with money at Silicon Valley Bank will be made whole. That includes the depositors of who previously their deposits only up to $250,000 had been insured.

Additionally, they also announced that a second bank Signature Bank has also been closed. I want to read you a bit of the statement which said that, after consultation with the FDIC, the Federal Reserve and also President Biden, quote, "Secretary Yellen approved actions enabling the FDIC to complete its resolution of Silicon Valley Bank Santa Clara, California, in a manner that fully protects all depositors.

"Depositors will have access to all of their money starting Monday, March 13th. No losses associated with the resolution of Silicon Valley Bank will be borne by the taxpayer." The statement goes on to say that they are extending the same protections to those depositors with money at Signature Bank, which is banks in New York, and additionally, they said that shareholders and certain unsecured debt holders will not be protected nor will be senior management at this company.

Now this comes as they have really been trying to seek this resolution to the issues that depositors are facing in the wake of the closing of Silicon Valley Bank. About 90 percent of depositors had money over $250,000 which was the previous limit that the FDIC insured leaving many questioning what exactly they would do and how payroll would be met heading into this week. Now we are still waiting to get some more specifics from the Treasury

Department and other regulators here in Washington. But it comes at a time as they have been working very closely on this matter of trying to prevent any further jitters that it can cause for the banking system and the U.S. economy.

I will note in the statement they also try to stress the resilience of the banking system in this moment in part based on those protections or regulations that were put into place after the financial crisis in 2008.

ACOSTA: All right, Arlette. Thank you very much.

And CNN economics and political commentator, Catherine Rampell, is back with us.

Catherine, your reaction to the statement. I'm just looking at what this joint statement that came up from the Treasury secretary, the Federal Reserve chair, and the FDIC chairman. It also mentions as Arlette was saying Signature Bank. And so, at the close of business on Friday we had heard about Silicon Valley Bank, now we're hearing about a second bank. That is obviously going to cause some concern that some of this is spreading and that this is becoming a larger issue.

RAMPELL: Yes, there were a number of banks that saw their stock prices tank on Friday as a result of concerns about Silicon Valley Bank. You know, people were worried, well, if it happened there, maybe it can happen here as well. I've also heard lots of reports about people pulling their money out of a range of other kind of comparable midsized, mid to large sized regional banks that did not necessarily exhibit any signs of stress prior to all of this.

It's this sort of contagion, this financial panic contagion, and which is why -- precisely why the administration and the Federal Reserve were keen on making sure that they stopped the panic here before it spread to other financial institutions. And I think that's what they're hoping happen here that the depositors at Silicon Valley Bank and at Signature Bank are being told that they will be made whole.

There apparently wasn't a buyer for Silicon Valley Bank despite the request for bids or at least nothing that's been announced so far. But the FDIC in conjunction with the Federal Reserve and the Treasury secretary apparently determined that there would be what's called a systemic risk exception and that they would make -- that the government essentially would make sure that those who had deposits at Silicon Valley Bank would be made whole.

Normally again the FDIC only insures deposits up to $250,000. That was not the case. Many of the deposits and many of the accounts at this bank exceeded, far exceeded that level so the idea here is to calm that concern, calm the concern of any depositors at comparable banks.


So that they don't that sort of panic does not feed on itself. That's the goal here. ACOSTA: Right. And Catherine, just a quick follow-up, we're looking at

what looks like we're going to be seeing on Wall Street tomorrow morning. The Dow Futures, Nasdaq Futures, S&P 500 Futures, they don't appear to be spooked at this point. But we know that there are jitters and concerns that some of this may -- I mean, I think Maxine Waters was using the word contagion earlier when we were talking to her earlier on in this hour, that this may lead to more fear and loathing on Wall Street. But at this point, we're not really seeing that at this point.

RAMPELL: Well, I think the hope was that in some sense the Feds would step in. Whether that meant finding another buyer, whether that meant relaxing access to the Fed's lending window, which they also did. Or whether that meant stepping in and essentially having the government guarantee that all of the deposits at these couple of banks would be fully accessible tomorrow in their entirety. Not just weeks from now up to $250,000.

ACOSTA: Right.

RAMPELL: Or after all of this was sorted out, et cetera. That's why there was a lot of concern. So now that the government has stepped in and tried to provide a resolution, that may be calming some of those jitters. I don't know if it will be sufficient because they've only announced it for these two banks. The question is, how do investors, how do depositors extrapolate to other banks? Do they say, aha, if the FDIC and Treasury and the Fed were willing to, you know, stop the panic, stop the bleeding at this one bank, will they do it at my bank as well?

And we don't know yet how that will be interpreted. I'm sure I will be looking as others will at markets tomorrow and the behavior of these financial institutions tomorrow.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. If folks aren't lining up at the bank, that might be a sign of where things might be heading.

All right. Catherine Rampell, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Despite Russia's brutal attacks on the city of Bakhmut, one group tracking the war says there's no sign Russian forces are making any progress. We'll speak to someone just back from Ukraine where he's been investigating possible war crimes. I think you'll recognize him.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: New tonight, officials in Monterey County, California, are considering expanding evacuation orders due to massive flooding. More rain is expected to his the hard-hit Pajaro River in the coming days. That could make the situation there much more dangerous. The county says those new evacuation orders could come sometime today. There have been close to 200 rescues from flooding in that area. About 15 million people remain under flood watches in California and Nevada.

In Bakhmut, Ukraine, a brutal standoff continues as Russian and Ukrainian forces battle for control of that area. The head of the Wagner Group, the Russian private military company admits that Ukrainian forces are fighting fiercely for every meter. A commander for the Ukrainian army says logistical routes in and out of Bakhmut are still functioning, meaning the supply of ammunition remains open for defending forces.

Joining us now with more on all of this is retired U.S. Army Colonel Eugene Vindman, brother of someone you also recognize Alexander Vindman. There they are right there. But Eugene Vindman was born in Ukraine as the twin brother as I said of Alexander Vindman, whose central testimony was part of Donald Trump's first impeachment trial. Eugene is now investigating war crime in Ukraine as part of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group created by the U.S., U.K., and E.U.

And Colonel, great to see. I know you were just in Ukraine for the United for Justice conference in Lviv.


ACOSTA: How clear is the evidence of war crimes? How is that picture coming together? I assume it is coming together because we've seen -- I mean, I've seen so much evidence just covering it on this show.

VINDMAN: Well, Jim, there's enormous evidence of war crimes. And we've seen evidence in Bucha, in Hostomel, and areas surrounding Kyiv, but we haven't seen and what we've seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg, is those areas that are under a Russian occupation. So Mariupol is probably an order of magnitude worse than what we've seen so far in the entire city of population of a few hundred thousand that is practically been leveled.

And we won't get a sense of what the war crimes in that area look like until we get access to it. And what we're looking at there is indiscriminate attack on civilian objects, civilians, that's a violation of a major or critical principal of war called distinction where you cannot attack civilians and civilian objects.


VINDMAN: And our group is helping the Ukrainian government investigate that.

ACOSTA: And you said Russian leaders will never escape accountability for their crimes no matter how long it takes. You mean Putin when you say that as well, don't you?

VINDMAN: I mean Putin, I mean his immediate lieutenants and I mean the officers and military that are fighting this conflict. Everything about war crimes investigations they are long, they are painstaking. The Ukrainians currently have something like 74,000 open cases and they don't have anywhere near 74,000 prosecutors. So it's going to require a great deal of time and effort and assistance by international organizations like mine and others that will come in and help the Ukrainians with this enormous herculean task.

And it's a process that will take quite a long time. If you think about the World War II, the Germans were still prosecuting cases from World War II last year. Yugoslavia which is a few decades old now, their case is ongoing.

ACOSTA: Right.

VINDMAN: And so it's a case -- it's a matter of documenting and then being prepared to try these cases when the opportunity presents itself.


ACOSTA: And last week we saw one of Moscow's biggest aerial assaults in months. Left nearly half a million people without power in Kharkiv. How long can Ukraine hang on? You've been there on the ground several times, many times. What is your sense of it on the ground? Is there a will to fight and a will to hold back the Russians just so strong that they will bear anything? Or is there a timeframe that you are concerned about that this is about as long as the Ukrainians are going to hang on for?

VINDMAN: Jim, I don't see the Ukrainians quitting anytime soon. So, you know, Russia's always had this fabled ability to hold on and take a great deal of pain from Germany even further back from the French. Well, the Ukrainians are from that same neighborhood in World War II. They suffered the same sort of casualties and they have enormous reserves and they are nowhere near quitting.

And frankly they need, with the help of the United States, with the help of Western partners, they can bear this frankly and definitely. The air defenses that are being donated, Patriots, NASAMs, IRIS-Ts, these are things that are going to help protect the skies. Of the missiles that were fired, typically 80 percent are shut down, so 20 percent actually end up reaching their target. So the Ukrainians are doing a magnificent job of defending their airspace and defending the ground territory.

We talked about Bakhmut. It's a grinding struggle. It's a grinding battle. Bloody on both sides. But the Russians are suffering enormously and much higher on their end.

ACOSTA: Well, Colonel Eugene Vindman, you're doing incredible work over there. Very important work. Thanks so much for your time. Say hello to your brother for us and make sure he knows that we were able to tell you both apart this evening.

VINDMAN: Thank you, Jim. I appreciate it.

ACOSTA: All right, thanks as always. Thanks so much.

All right. Hollywood's biggest night is here. Up next, we're live on the red -- excuse me, champagne carpet. We're used to saying red carpet but we've been told it is a champagne colored carpet, for a look at what to expect at the Oscars. And for college hoops fans, today is also Selection Sunday. A lot of basketball hoops fans out there watching this. The bracket for March Madness has just dropped. We'll tell you who the top teams are. It's coming up.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: "Top Gun" or "Tar," "Everything Everywhere All at Once" or "Elvis," everyone has their own favorite movie of the year. But we'll soon find out which one is bringing home Oscar gold. The stars are arriving for the 95th Academy Awards airing tonight on ABC.

Here with me now entertainment journalists and Oscars expert Michael Musto.

Michael, great to see you. It's been a while. But you have a sterling track record of Oscar predictions at least better than mine. What do you think?


ACOSTA: The last thing that we heard earlier on in this program was that all of the sudden there's this momentum and buzz for "Top Gun" and they may bump "Everything Everywhere All at Once" out of the way. Do you buy that?

MICHAEL MUSTO, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: First of all, my streak is ending tonight because there are certain categories that are kind of tossups so I'm going to get a lot wrong. That being said, and by the way I still think "Lalaland" won for "Best Picture." That being said, no, "Top Gun" doesn't have a chance. I have as much of a chance winning Best Picture.

"All Quiet on the Western Front," the German film which won seven BAFTA Awards would be the only one that could sort of upset the card and be a dark horse winner. But it's not going to happen. "Everything Everywhere All at Once" is going all the way. This was a word-of-mouth pitch. Everyone, when it came out, said you got to see this movie. It ends 20 times, that's too long, but it's fabulous. It's a trip to the metaverse and it's the rare Oscar movie that people have actually seen and enjoyed.

ACOSTA: It's such a crazy movie. I mean, I remember watching it thinking to myself I cannot believe what they are doing with this motion picture. I mean, they're just going busting through sort of narrative boundary after narrative boundary. And you predicted Best Actress to go to Kate Blanchet for "Tar," but why her over Michelle Yeoh? She was phenomenal in "Everything Everywhere All at Once." And she's been winning a lot of these awards up until this point.

MUSTO: Like I said, I'm wrong this year so go for the opposite of what I'm saying. Yes, I love Michelle Yeoh. Michelle proved that she's extremely game and gave a hilarious, wonderful performance. But Cate Blanchett gives the best performance in the category. She is astounding as Tar, a lesbian doctor who's having a meltdown, and it would be her third Oscar, but they gave Frances McDormand her third Oscar. So it does happen.

ACOSTA: And Austin Butler, who still talks like Elvis I think, and maybe he's going to stop doing that after tonight, he captured the screen with his iconic performance in "Elvis." You're not going with him for Best Actor?

MUSTO: Nobody does all shocks like Austin Butler whether on-screen or off. But I'm getting a little tired of that routine. He was very good as Elvis, but he wasn't Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. You know when Austin Butler got really good? When they used actual footage of Elvis. In any case I'm going with Brendan Fraser. He was terrific and "Whale" isn't even a good movie. It's not even a good movie, but he gives a brilliantly empathetic performance as a bisexual man trying to make amends with his daughter before he dies.

And it's a comeback story. People love a comeback. Brendan Fraser seemed to be almost washed up and now he's back. Sending him for the Best Supporting Actor, who's going to Ke Huy Quan for "Everything Everywhere." He was in "Indiana Jones," he was in the "Goonies." He couldn't get arrested in the '90s, he gave up acting, he came back into the metaverse with Michelle Yeoh as her husband, and he's going to win Supporting Actor.

ACOSTA: Yes, and he played a short run in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." And we haven't seen him really since. That and "Goonies." Yes. What's that?

MUSTO: Can I just point out what the people are going to look for tonight which is that they now have a crisis team to deal with any possible slapping going on. It's too late. Andrea (INAUDIBLE) is not going to slap Angela Bassett. This is ridiculous. They needed this last year. They should have either stopped it from happening or certainly if they couldn't stop it address it.

Someone from the Academy should have come on stage and said we condemn this balance, but instead they left the three female hosts to flounder and then Will Smith won Best Actor, and everybody stood and cheered.


It was one of the most disconcerting Oscars in history. I think this year will be great if Chris Rock came out --

ACOSTA: That was one of the weirdest --


ACOSTA: Yes. That was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen at the Academy Awards. I think we can all predict, safely predict this is going to be a much more mellow night.

Michael Musto, great to see you as always. We'll see your predictions and how they pan out. Thanks, Michael.

MUSTO: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: Great to see you.

College basketball fans have it circled on their calendar each year. It's Selection Sunday and right now we're learning which 68 teams will make it to the NCAA tournament and chase their March Madness dreams. And joining me now is CNN's sports analyst, Christine Brennan. She is also a columnist for "USA Today."

Christine, let's start with the top seeds. Any surprises?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Jim. On the men's side, no surprises at all. Really. Alabama is the overall number one seat on the men's side. You've also got Houston, Kansas, and Purdue. Those are the big four and they played well all year and basically no arguing about that.

There is a cloud over this tournament. A dark cloud over Alabama. As I said, the number one seed. But their star freshman, Brandon Miller, police say he delivered a gun to a teammate and that gun then was used in the murder of 23-year-old Jamia Harris on January 15th. And Miller, as you may know, Jim, has never been suspended or never been disciplined. He will be playing. He will be celebrated, and frankly, it's appalling that he is going to be in that position.

Obviously, a wonderful time of the year in sports, but a real reality check about a very important issue.

ACOSTA: You're absolutely right. And on the women's side, their bracket will be released later tonight. Who do you think the favorite is on the women's side?

BRENNAN: Jim, no doubt about it, South Carolina. John Staley, one of the greatest basketball players, men or women, we have ever seen. Three-time Olympic gold medalist. Coached the women's Olympic team in Tokyo. She won last year with South Carolina, her team, and South Carolina is the favorite again.

The big 10 has been playing great on the women's side. And Indiana will probably be the second seed. We'll know as you said in a little bit. Iowa also, excellent team. And the women's games come so far and obviously brackets for men to women are being done now as never before. It's great to see the women's game so successful because of Title IX which we celebrated the 50th anniversary of course last year.

So a true American success story. March Madness now covers both men's and women's. Not just men's.

ACOSTA: Yes. And there are a few names that did not make this year's men's tournament. Since we have those out we can talk about it. We can talk about North Carolina, the first preseason number one team to miss the tournament since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985. If I have that right. I hope I have that right. Do you see any surprises here?

BRENNAN: Well, there certainly are. There's always teams that don't make it, and North Carolina back early in the beginning of the season lost in quadruple overtime, that's four overtimes. It's unbelievable, to Alabama, the team that I just mentioned as the number one men's seed obviously. So all this could've been different if North Carolina had won that game and moved on different ways.

You know, I think when we see so many of these teams, 68 obviously making it, there are going to be some that are left out. Rutgers also didn't not make it. I'm sure there are a lot of fans out there. They are so passionate, Jim. One of the reasons this is such a big deal in our country.

ACOSTA: Right.

BRENNAN: Very much like the Super Bowl is that fans are so passionate and obviously there are always some who are left disappointed.

ACOSTA: But what makes March Madness so wonderful is that you have the potential for a very small team who are not really nationally known team to make a real run in the tournament. I remember when I was a reporter for a different network too many years ago, I won't say how many years ago, I watched George Mason University from Northern Virginia go all the way to the final four.

I can't remember what year that was. 2004 or 2005 or something like that. Forgive me if I'm getting that wrong in the mid-2000s. But Cinderella teams that's what makes this March Madness tournament so special. Who are you looking for?

BRENNAN: You know, there are certainly some teams from the big 10 and the FCC to keep an eye on. Teams that have played well. Texas A&M really got a bad seed. We may see them -- I think teams that are battle tested. But you're right. There could be upsets galore. And people talking about their brackets and what should they pick and I think one of the things if you feel like a team is going to lose maybe in the next round, pick them to be upset by a lower seed. In other words, say extensively a worse team.

But this is the magic of March Madness and the two men's and women's tournaments that there's really nothing quite like it in sports. And so I'm not sure I'm usually wrong. So I will just say I won't not give any names. But it's going to be fun to watch.

ACOSTA: All right. Well, coming over to copy off of your brackets, Christine.

Christine Brennan, thanks so much. We appreciate it.