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U.S. Secretary of State Blinken Heading to Middle East; 112 People Dead in Fires in Chile; Storm Downs Trees, Floods Communities in California; Biden Says He 'Strongly Supports' Senate Border Bill; Fans Angered after Superstar Sits Out Hong Kong Match; A Night of Tributes, Rare Performances, and Awards History. Aired 12-12:45a ET
Aired February 05, 2024 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LYNDA KINKADE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome. I'm Lynda Kinkade.
Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, a Houthi official is promising to respond to the U.S. airstrikes in Yemen and as the U.S. secretary of state heads to the Middle East for the fifth times since Hamas attacked Israel in October.
Deadly wildfires ravage central Chile. More than 100 people are dead, and officials warn the death toll will likely climb.
And California braces for potentially life-threatening flooding.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Atlanta, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Lynda Kinkade.
KINKADE: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on his way to the Middle East, where tensions are high after U.S. strikes in the region. This will be Blinken's fifth visit there since the October 7th Hamas attacks in Israel.
Two U.S. defense officials say the airstrikes in Syria and Iraq destroyed or damaged 84 of its 85 targets. And a preliminary battle damage assessment indicates that no Iranians were killed.
The strikes were in retaliation for a drone attack in Jordan that killed three American soldiers. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan tells CNN that actions -- more actions are coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We're still assessing the battle damage. Our CentCom Central Command is looking at the capabilities we reduced and the casualties that were incurred.
The president was clear when he ordered them and when he conducted them, that that was the beginning of our response and there'll be more steps to come. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: U.S. Central Command says it hit anti-ship and land attack cruise missiles in Sunday's strike that the Houthis were planning to launch against ships in the Red Sea.
A Houthi official had said earlier that the group will, quote, "meet escalation with escalation."
Hundreds of Houthi supporters marched in Sana'a on Sunday. Organizers say it was a military parade to show support for Gaza and to protest against the strikes.
U.S. Central Command also released this new video of the strikes in Yemen. It shows missiles launched from two U.S. destroyers and fighter jets taking off from the USS Eisenhower.
When asked if this drives against Iranian-backed groups are working, U.S. President Joe Biden simply said, yes. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says the strikes are self-defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Since the last set of strikes, we've seen the Houthis continue to attack shipping in the Red Sea. That's obviously unacceptable. It's illegal. It puts innocent people's lives at risk. And it has economic consequences. Now that includes attacks, by the way, on British-linked vessels. And that's why we've acted again in self-defense in a proportionate way and together with our allies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Well, the U.S. strikes and the Israel-Hamas war will be the big topics for the U.S. secretary of state during his Middle East visit. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Tel Aviv with more on the trip and the mission.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's certainly no shortage of issues for the secretary of state to address as he spends the next four days in this region.
It comes against the backdrop of U.S. strikes against key Iranian proxies in Iraq, Syria, as well as Yemen, and also against the backdrop of major progress over the last couple of weeks towards working towards that next hostage release deal.
That hostage release deal will be a major priority for the secretary of state as he visits, not only Israel, but also Doha, Qatar, as well as Cairo, Egypt. We know that the Egyptians and the Qataris have been key mediators.
And he is coming as Hamas has been reviewing this broad framework proposal that Israel, the United States, Egypt, and Qatar have agreed to and presented to Hamas.
And so it's very possible that Hamas's response to that proposal could come while the secretary of state is in the region. But there's no question that he will also be focused on trying to provide the counterbalance to what we saw over the weekend.
And that is that U.S. military response strikes against Iranian proxies in Iraq, Syria, as well as Yemen.
I'm trying to balance that military response, which the United States views as necessary, with a similar diplomatic approach to try and prevent the -- these conflicts in the region from spiraling out of control into an all-out regional war, in particular, as the United States has made clear that it does not want, and it is not seeking, a war with Iran.
But beyond the short-term immediate challenges that the secretary of state will face, he is still keeping his eye on the ball on the longer-term problems in the region.
Now beyond those critical immediate issues, the secretary of state also looking longer-term, as well. And that's why he's starting off this trip in Saudi Arabia as he tries to push forward this notion of Saudi-Israel normalization as part of a broader effort to try and turn this conflict between Israel and Hamas into a potential opportunity to establish a new normal in the region; to try and create a pathway for a Palestinian state.
That is very much where the United States is focused at the moment as it looks longer term. But of course, it faces major challenges. Nowhere more, perhaps, than right here in Israel, where the Israeli prime minister has repeatedly made clear that he is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.
That will be a major diplomatic challenge for the secretary of state to confront in this region this week.
Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Tel Aviv.
KINKADE: Retired General Joseph Votel is a former commander of U.S. Central Command. He's also a senior fellow with the Middle East Institute.
Good to have you with us, General.
GEN. JOSEPH VOTEL (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Thank you. Nice to be with you.
KINKADE: So before you retired in 2019, you oversaw the U.S. Central Command, which of course, is responsible for defending and promoting U.S. interests in the Middle East, Central and South Asia. Given your extensive experience in the region, ow would you describe the current situation in the Middle East?
VOTEL: Sure. Well, I think I think what we're looking at right now is perhaps the most complex time that we've seen in the Middle East, with -- with the conflict ongoing in Gaza; with reaction from Iran through their Iranian threat network; with the activity down in the -- in the Red Sea and around the Bab al-Mandab with commercial shipping and military shipping be attacked; and what the general unrest that is across the -- across the region right now.
I think this is one of the most complex times that I've -- that I've seen in the region.
KINKADE: So General, what concerns you most right now? Is it a possible escalation? Is it an increased threat to U.S. troops or possible miscalculation?
VOTEL: Well, I think it's -- I think it's all three of those.
The one thing I've obviously been thinking about for a number of weeks now has been a miscalculation, much like we saw with -- with a strike last week on -- or the attack last week on Tower 22 that resulted in the deaths of three of our Army reservists and wounded dozens more there.
This is -- this is a good example of how things can -- can very quickly spiral out of control in the region. Fortunately, I think our administration has exercised some patience in terms of responding to this.
And now our response to this, I think, has been very deliberate and very focused on the areas where we have been having the most challenges from the so-called axis of resistance in Iraq and Syria. And of course, down in -- in the Red Sea area, in Yemen.
KINKADE: Of course, General, for months, U.S. forces have come under attack by various militant groups in the region, all backed by Iran. The groups claim to be doing it in support of Palestinians, but they are, of course, backed by Iran. What are Iran's objectives here?
VOTEL: Well, I think Iran -- Iran has -- has several objectives in the region. First and foremost, they want to preserve their regime in power.
The second thing is they want to destroy Israel.
And then third, they want to expel the United States and other Western countries from the Middle East so that they can pursue their hegemonic objective?
So those -- those are the three broad strategic objectives that -- that Iran has. And the way that they've chosen to do this has largely been through this -- this axis of resistance, or as sometimes we refer to it, as the Iranian threat network, which consists of these proxy organizations that literally operate across the region and do their bidding at the behest of Tehran, even though it looks like, in some cases, they maintain a little bit of their own autonomy. They are -- they're actually part of the Iranian network.
KINKADE: Iran has called the U.S. a bully, saying it will respond, but it doesn't want a war. How do you think Iran is likely to respond?
VOTEL: I think Iran is -- is biding their time right now. I think they are trying to evaluate what our response has been to this to the deaths of our soldiers last week.
And I do agree. Iran does not want to go to war with -- with the United States. They would prefer to move back to the way that they were doing things, largely through their proxies, and continuing to make things problematic for the United States and other Western countries that are operating in the -- in the region, largely doing other missions unrelated to the current conflict in Gaza.
So I think -- I think that's what Iran is doing right now. We will see I think it's important to pay attention to the militia groups in Iraq and Syria and see how they respond to these heavy strikes that took place, now almost 48 hours ago.
It's apparent, I think, that the Houthis are going to continue to cause problems and continue to launch rockets and missiles and -- and drones out into the -- into the Red Sea, although we're doing a pretty good job defending against that right now. So I think time will tell exactly how Iran response to this.
KINKADE: And just finally, General, the U.S. has spoken about this multi-tiered response. What do you think comes next with the U.S.?
VOTEL: Well, again, I think, as -- as the national security adviser said on the media today, he indicated that we were still at the beginning of this and that some of these responses would be responses that would be seen, and some would be unseen.
So I think the next tier of this could be some of them, perhaps some of the unseen activities. This could be cyber activities. This could be economic activities, things that aren't as ballistic or as kinetic and -- and as easily to identify, but which will have a significant impact.
I think -- I think what's important for the United States is to bring all elements of its national power to bear, whether we've seen military. We need to see diplomatic. We need to see informational. We need to see economic power being wielded here, as well, to make sure that we create the effect that we want against Iran.
KINKADE: General Joseph Votel, great to get your perspective on all of this and expertise. We appreciate your time. Thank you.
VOTEL: Thank you. Goodnight.
KINKADE: Well, dozens of people were killed, and several others injured in Israeli airstrikes across Gaza in the past 48 hours. This video obtained by CNN shows the destruction at the mosque after an Israeli strike in central Gaza on Sunday.
A doctor says at least 14 people were killed there. He comes after another Israeli strike killed at least 17 people in Rafah on Saturday.
Well, the Israel Defense Forces say they've raided the Southern Gaza offices of a Hamas military leader. Mohammed Sinwar is the brother of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, who Israel describes as the mastermind of the October 7 attacks.
The IDF says the raid targeted a compound which served as a facility for Hamas to train terrorists for that attack.
Well, the votes for El Salvador's presidential election are being counted as we speak. But preliminary results show the country's former strongman president taking a commanding lead.
Nayib Bukele announced himself the winner hours ago. He has faced little organized opposition in the race, and he has extremely high approval ratings, due in part to his crack-down on violence and criminal gangs.
Human rights groups accuse his government of having detained and tortured innocent people.
Bukele defends his record, comparing the mass arrests to chemotherapy, to cure the, quote, "cancer" of the gangs.
Well, still ahead, deeply [SIC] -- deadly wildfires are sweeping through central Chile.
We'll show you more of this shocking video from firefighters driving through the flames.
Also, some of the flooding that people in parts of California are dealing with. And the severe weather that's on the way. We'll have the latest for millions of people under a flood watch.
KINKADE: Look at this vision that's come into us: video filmed by firefighters driving through a fire in central Chile as the nation battles historic wildfires.
At least 112 people have been killed, and a state of emergency has been declared. Tens of thousands of hectares have been burned.
Chile's president says, if any of these fires was set intentionally, the criminals will pay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIEL BORIC, CHILEAN PRESIDENT (through translator): It's hard to think there are so horrible and heartless people who could be able to inflict so much pain, but if these people exist, we will search them. We will find them. And they will have to face not only the entire society's rejection, but also the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Well, Pope Francis is calling on people to pray for those killed and injured in Chile's fires. Right now, there are 161 active fires across the country.
The firefighters are said to have about 102 of those under control.
The blazes come as Chile is being hit by a summer heatwave. More now from Patrick Oppmann.
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Residents run for their lives in Chile. Firefighters wave them forward, away from the ferocious flames burning behind them. Witnesses say it was a terrifying night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There was smoke. The sky turned black. Everything was dark. The wind felt like a hurricane. It was like being in hell.
OPPMANN (voice-over): Daylight didn't bring much relief. Neighborhoods were still smoldering when some residents returned to find their homes gutted, workshops ruined, and some people reported seeing bodies lying in the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Look, there's nothing left of my house. Nothing, as you can see. The neighbor across the street could not leave. He burned to death, because he did not want to leave to abandon his house.
OPPMANN (voice-over): Many of those who did evacuate were trapped in traffic jams and highways, with burning ashes raining down on their vehicles.
Chilean officials say it's one of the deadliest wildfires on record in the country. And many of the fires are still active, with tens of thousands of hectares of land burned in the South and central parts of the country.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric has declared a state of emergency and deployed additional military units to help battle the flames. A curfew is also in place in some towns to allow authorities to focus on battling the blazes and to bringing emergency supplies.
But the losses are just beginning to be counted. A popular botanical garden has been razed, and some residents say many areas near it have yet to be reached by emergency services.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): So far, no one has come. We're alone here in the middle of nowhere. You can see how the house has been abandoned, totally disintegrated. We need them to come and remove the bodies of our relatives. That's all we ask.
OPPMANN (voice-over): Authorities say extremely hot temperatures are complicating conditions to fight the fires.
At least one person has been detained so far in connection with the blazes, who officials say was doing welding work when a fire accidentally broke out and spread in nearby grasslands.
Patrick Oppmann, CNN.
KINKADE: In the U.S., nearly 1 million people without power after a storm lashed California with heavy rain and strong winds. Some cities are reissuing evacuation orders for low-lying areas, and at least one regional airport says it's shut down because its airfield is flooded.
Well, California's governor has declared a state of emergency in nearly 15 percent of its counties. The National Weather Service says flash flood warnings are in effect for parts of Los Angeles and the surrounding regions.
Local media tells CNN that several neighborhoods north of San Francisco are submerged in at least two to three feet of water. Officials are urging residents not to travel unless they're trying to get out of harm's way.
Well, joining us now is CNN meteorologist Karen Maginnis with the very latest. Good to see you, Karen. What can you tell us?
KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Lynda, this is devastating on so many levels, and I wouldn't ordinarily use a word like that. But on so many fronts, we are looking at flooding, downed trees, downed power lines, or could be mudslides.
We're looking at traffic that's going to be snarled. If you are a small aircraft operator, it is going to be nothing but IFR conditions. As a matter of fact, it is ill-advised that you go either boating or in an aircraft, On some of the roads and you're headed up into the mountains, it could be extraordinarily difficult.
We saw right around San Francisco, all the way down towards Salinas and into Monterey, where there was copious amounts of wet weather. We just saw from that video.
Now this is transitioning a little bit further towards the South. This is what we're looking at: one to two inches of rainfall per hour.
And this is going to be a 24- to 48-hour event. This is going to linger. That's what makes it so devastating.
If you are living in some of these South-facing beaches or Western- facing beaches in these beautiful Southern California counties, this is going to be fairly treacherous.
Point conception just about there. We're looking at wave heights between 18 and 22 feet. This is so powerful. And a lot of this is long stretch of moistures, fairly warm. So these
coastal areas are going to see round after round after round of fairly continuous rainfall.
Where you see this red shaded area, that's where we have flash flood warnings out. Ventura; also San Luis Obispo, L.A. counties. Those are going to be some of the hardest hit areas.
And I took a look at some of the reports, and they are forecasting nearly ten inches of rain for Pasadena. That is almost the entire amount that they would expect for a year.
The same for Los Angeles. For downtown Los Angeles in a year, about 12 inches of rainfall. From this particular event and the one we saw last year, there's going to be about nine to ten inches accumulation of rainfall. Twelve inches is what you see for about a year.
So this has tremendous impact.
Where you see this purple shaded area, excessive rainfall risk, only a handful of days out of the year. We'll see a flash flood, threat of a high level.
But it is responsible for more than 80 percent of the flood damage. And a good majority of the injuries and fatalities associated with flooding events.
Now, I'll be back coming up in the next hour to tell you more about this flooding threat, but also heavy snowfall, high winds. We could see wind gusts around 60, 65 miles an hour, maybe about 100 to 110 kilometers per hour for our international viewers.
Lynda, I'll be back then.
KINKADE: Wow, hopefully, everyone there stays safe. Karen Maginnis, we'll chat to you soon. Thanks so much.
Well, still to come, a breakthrough on the border crisis and Ukraine funding in the U.S. Senate, while Republicans say it is dead on arrival in the House.
KINKADE: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. I'm Lynda Kinkade, and you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.
Well, U.S. President Joe Biden says he strongly supports the border bill that was unveiled by senators on Sunday. It includes critical aid for Ukraine and Israel, but House Republicans say it's dead on arrival.
More now from CNN's Priscilla Alvarez, who is following Biden on the campaign trail.
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Joe Biden brought his general election argument in Nevada on Sunday --
ALVAREZ (voice-over): -- as he tried to draw a connection between his administration's accomplishments and what voters are feeling in the state.
Of course, it's an important state as the president stares down November, one that he only narrowly won in 2020 and especially important as polls show a close contest nationally between President Biden and his Republican opponent.
Of course, all of this happening as news broke of a deal that was struck in the Senate that would address the U.S.-Mexico border. Only minutes before the White House releasing a statement saying the following: quote, "For too long, going back decades, the immigration system has been broken. It's time to fix it."
It goes on to say, "Now we've reached an agreement on a bipartisan national security deal that includes the toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades. I strongly support it."
Now of course, White House officials had been involved in these ongoing talks to make major border policy changes. They include in this deal, for example, a new emergency authority that would give the president the ability to shut down the border if certain metrics are met, while also expediting the asylum process.
Now, all of this is still up for debate, and the Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, plans to set up a floor vote this week. But already, House Speaker Mike Johnson is coming out against it, saying that, even if it were to reach the House, it would already be dead on arrival.
ALVAREZ: Meaning that the future of this deal is still very much up in the air.
Priscilla Alvarez, traveling with the president, CNN.
KINKADE: Well, Ukraine's president says his country needs a leadership reset. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has admitted to an Italian media outlet that he's looking beyond just changes in the military command as he considers replacing a series of state leaders.
The president stressed, he had, quote, "something serious in mind," but did not elaborate on who may be out of a job.
For now, Zelenskyy is deciding on whether to dismiss his Army chief following a failed counter offensive in Eastern Ukraine.
In Namibia, former vice president Nangola Mbumba has been sworn in as the country's new leader. He replaces Hage Geingob, who died while receiving treatment for cancer.
Mbumba has appealed to the nation to remain calm and collected, but he also announced that he will not seek a full term in the upcoming November election. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANGOLA MBUMBA, NAMIBIAN PRESIDENT: I have to thank the Namibian people for the honor they have bestowed on me to be their president, for a short period of time. I'm not going to be around for the elections, so don't panic. You are -- kept telling yourself already stories. I will be serving you for the remainder of Dr. Geingob's time in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Well, Dr. Geingob announced in January that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He had served as president since 2015 and was in his second term.
Police and protesters clashed in Senegal Sunday, a day after the country's president announced that he would postpone a vote for his replacement.
Pro-democracy demonstrators set up barricades in the capital city, Dhaka, and police responded with tear gas.
Elections were scheduled to take place on February 25th.
President Macky Sall has put that on hold, saying a conflict over the candidate list must be cleared up first. Opposition groups call it a, quote, institutional coup.
In the coming hours, lawmakers will debate whether to hold the vote in August and whether to keep Mr. Sall in power until then.
Still to come, show-stopping performances and historic moments. Highlights from the Grammy awards when we come back.
Plus, outrage in Hong Kong after football superstar Lionel Messi stays on the bench during a friendly match. That story and much more after the break.
KINKADE: Major disappointment there for fans in Hong Kong when football superstar Lionel Messi failed to take the pitch during a match between his Inter Miami team and a group of local standouts.
The Hong Kong government said the event's organizer, Tatler, owes fans an explanation fir Messi's failure to play.
Tatler expressed its extreme disappointment but denied any pre-game knowledge that the World Cup champion wouldn't play. Inter Miami's coach said Messi and another player sat out with injuries.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GERARDO "TATA" MARTINO, INTER MIAMI HEAD COACH (through translator): This decision was a decision taken together with the medical team. We were running the risk of aggravating their injuries, and that's why they couldn't be part of the match.
We understand the disappointment people have, and we apologize to them. But hopefully, they can understand that, if we had any chance they could have played even briefly, we would have done it. But the risk was too serious. So that's why we took that decision with the medical team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Well, CNN's Kristie Lu Stout was there at the match. Take a look.
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Here in Hong Kong, no-show on the pitch for the Argentine football superstar Lionel Messi, and the fans here are disappointed.
What was initially cheers in the stands here at Hong Kong Stadium turned into jeers and boos, and even chants of "Where is Messi?" and "Refund, refund, refund."
STOUT (voice-over): Some 40,000 fans here in Hong Kong clamored for the opportunity to see Lionel Messi play with his team Inter Miami for a pre-season friendly against a Hong Kong squad. This was Inter Miami's first ever international tour.
Its co-owner David Beckham, also here, adding to the football star power. But when Lionel Messi failed to get up from the bench, the mood inside the stadium soured, and the fans have been leaving utterly crushed and disappointed.
Joining me now is a super fan here in Hong Kong of Lionel Messi, Christer Leone.
A lot of people disappointed tonight. How are you feeling?
CHRISTER LEUNG, MESSI FAN: Disappointed. Just like everyone else. Yes, very disappointed. Really wanted to see him play, even for five minutes. So --
STOUT: Really disappointed. You named your son after Lionel Messi. You paid for the ticket. How much did you pay for your ticket?
LEUNG: Like 2,300 dollars. Yes. Hong Kong dollars.
STOUT: So that's about 300 U.S. dollars, right?
LEUNG: Yes. Yes. Yes. Very disappointed. And most people are. It's really -- it started up -- the disappointment started from yesterday, I think, with the training session, because that was not cheap either.
LEUNG: That was 100 bucks. So then today, you know, we really -- like, we saw the signs, right? He wasn't on the -- on the substitutes list, actually. And he was dressed in full tracksuit. So yes, we were -- we were praying for good, but hope it -- were expecting the worst, I think, a little bit.
STOUT: Your prayers weren't answered, Christer. I'm so sorry. Thank you for joining us.
LEUNG: Thank you.
STOUT: Now, the Hong Kong government, they were really hoping that an event like this would turn Hong Kong into a hub for mega events to help drive tourism and help to reboot the economy.
But for all the fans that showed up, tonight was never about the economy. It was always about the beautiful game. It was about football. It was about seeing their hero, Lionel Messi, on the pitch. But that was a dream that was ultimately denied.
Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.
KINKADE: Well, the biggest night in music has just wrapped up. The 66th Grammy Awards honored the best music of last year with performances from artists at the top of their game.
Crowds gave a standing ovation to singer Tracy Chapman early in the night for a rare public performance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRACY CHAPMAN, SINGER (singing): You've got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere. Maybe we can make a deal. Maybe together we can get somewhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KINKADE: Chapman and country artist singer Luke Combs performed her 1988 hit, "Fast Car." Combs covered that song last year, and it hit No. 2 on the billboard 100.
Well, the night also feature tributes to artists who died in 2023, with Stevie Wonder honoring Tony Bennett, Annie Lennox remembering Sinead O'Connor, and Fantasia performing Tina Turner's classic hit, "Proud Mary."
But the big winner of the night was Taylor Swift, who won Album of the Year for a record fourth time for the album "Midnights." She's the only artist to win that category that many times, surpassing Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Sinatra.
Well, for more now, I'm joined by music writer and analyst Bob Lefsetz, the author of "The Lefsetz Letter."
Good to have you with us, Bob.
BOB LEFSETZ, MUSIC WRITER AND ANALYST: Good to be here on this torrential rainy night in Los Angeles.
KINKADE: Yes, I'm sorry to hear about the flooding there, but good to have you on the program.
You of course, are an attorney, so I want to start with the unexpected at the Grammys. There was an arrest. A rap artist who won three Grammys and then was handcuffed and marched out. This is certainly a rare event to see any winner at any major award show arrested.
LEFSETZ: You know, this is de rigeur. TMZ does now have some information. They say it was a citizen's arrest. It was about pushing a security guard. There's a disagreement as to whether that security guard fell or not. It was raining out. This is not a significant thing.
The funny thing is Killer Mike won a couple of Grammys, and this overshadows it. In the hip hop world, any altercation with the police is a plus side. This is a minor kerfuffle.
KINKADE: Fair enough. Well, we have to talk about one of the biggest winners of the night, Taylor Swift, adding to her Grammy collection.
Interestingly, we have to point out that in 2010, after Taylor Swift performed at the Grammys, you wrote, "Taylor Swift can't sing," and you added that, "Did Taylor Swift kill her career overnight? I'll argue she did."
So are you eating your words today, given her career is soaring, she's breaking records, she's making records.
LEFSETZ: A couple of things here. A, I was wrong, because the landscaping changed. Today, a faux pas is immediately forgotten, and you have the narrow vertical of your fanbase.
Never has anybody this big, known by fewer people. You talk about the "Fast Car" Luke Combs duet. They pan to the audience. Everybody on the floor, which is (UNINTELLIGIBLE), was singing "Fast Car." There was not an equivalent with any other song.
Prior to the Internet, especially from the '80s and '90s, the MTV era, we had a monoculture.
So I challenge people in your office right now to sing even one song from "Midnights." I am not making a judgment as to the quality. It's just this was the problem with the show itself.
It made it like we live in a monoculture when we do not. The overall market share of the so-called hits, this Spotify top 50, is actually going down.
So kudos to Taylor Swift. But you can ignore and live your life quite fine.
KINKADE: But she, of course, has one more number -- she's had more No. 1 albums than any other woman in history. Her Eras Tour is the highest growing (ph) tour ever over any artist.
And of course, she announced a new album tonight. So no doubt you're excited about that.
LEFSETZ: There are a couple of things. I thought that was also a faux pas. This is when the VMAs jumped the shark. They were the Metropolitan Opera House. And people started talking about their records.
I'm not saying the Grammys have that much gravitas, but she hijacked them to ill effect. Her fans will be thrilled. Everybody else, why did you have to rain on everybody's parade and hype yourself when everybody else is getting into the moment?
As far as those chart numbers, I don't like as -- she already wrote one song about me. But the charts in America are different from a lot of other charts. Physical means more, such that if you sell vinyl, you can manipulate being No. 1.
Don't confuse the recorded success of Taylor Swift with that of the Beatles. Forget the statistics. The Beatles, the Stones, everybody in the world knew who they were. Everybody knew their songs. The times are different. There's nobody bigger than Taylor Swift. In this past year, Morgan Wallen in the U.S., a country artist, actually had more recorded success. His record was in the top ten for a year. But it's a different landscape.
KINKADE: Yes. I mean, it's pretty hard to argue, though. When you look at the success of her, too. Clearly, people around the world know who she is. But let's leave that aside for now.
The Warner Brothers film "Barbie," which of course was the highest grossing film last year, also did pretty well. It had 11 Grammy nominations. And "What Was I Made For?", the song Billie Eilish sang, took home Song of the Year. Did you expect that?
LEFSETZ: Well, she obviously didn't expect to win Song of the Year. In the pre telecast, where they have, like, the other 90 categories, there was a victory for "Barbie" for her and from some other ones.
These votes -- since they expanded the categories, you can win the award with 18 percent of the vote. So therefore, Billie Eilish has a famous name. She is loved by the community. If you put Billie Eilish up against Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish will win, not because of quality. The perception is she's a warmer, fuzzier figure who plays the game.
KINKADE: Well, as Jay-Z said tonight, this is all very subjective, but we appreciate you joining us tonight. Bob Lefsetz, thanks so much.
LEFSETZ: Till next time.
KINKADE: And thanks so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Lynda Kinkade. I'll be back with much more news in about 15 minutes. WORLD SPORT is next.