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CNN International: Supreme Court to Take Up Colorado Ruling to Disqualify Trump; Chaos on Capitol Hill; U.S. Strike Kills Iran-Backed Militia Leader in Iraq; Blinken Dealt Blow as Netanyahu Rejects Pause in Fighting; Southwest Iceland Volcano Erupts for Third Time in Two Months; Prince William Thanks Supporters; Voting Underway in Pakistan. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 08, 2024 - 04:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight's attack was specifically against militia leadership. This is causing some diplomatic trouble for the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, it was a mess what happened here, but we're cleaning it up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He needs to count votes before it comes to the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turns out, border security is not actually a risk to our national security. It's just a talking point for the election.

PRINCE WILLIAM, PRINCE OF WALES: Thank you also for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father, especially in recent days.


ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a warm welcome to our viewers joining us from the United States and all around the world. I'm Bianca Nobilo. Max has the day off.

It's Thursday, February the 8th, 9 a.m. here in London, 4 a.m. in Washington, D.C., where we're just hours away from the U.S. Supreme Court taking up the first case that could impact this year's presidential election. It's a crucial hearing to determine whether states can classify Donald Trump as an insurrectionist and thereby disqualify him from running for office.

Trump's lawyers are appealing a decision by the Colorado Supreme Court that tries to do just that, based on the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a relic from the Civil War. It says no American who's engaged in an insurrection shall hold any public office. Colorado's decision referring to Trump's role in the January 6th insurrection three years ago.

One of the lawyers involved in the Colorado challenge had this to say.


SEAN GRIMSLEY, ATTORNEY FOR COLORADO VOTERS: We're thankful to the court that they've put it on such an expedited schedule that they can decide this issue before March 5th, Super Tuesday, so that people can go to the polls on Super Tuesday knowing whether President Trump is, in fact, disqualified.

There's been an argument that this is somehow anti-democratic, that we should let the voters decide. This is the furthest thing from anti- democratic. Last time President Trump was on the ballot, he ignored the will of 80 million U.S. voters and summoned a mob to attack the Capitol during the peaceful, otherwise peaceful transition of presidential power.


NOBILO: This will be a high-stakes hearing. People have been camping outside the Supreme Court overnight to try and get a seat. CNN's chief legal affairs correspondent, Paula Reid, has a closer look at what may happen inside those chambers later on today.


PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What started as a long-shot bid to bump Donald Trump off the 2024 ballot with a fringe legal theory has ended up at the highest court in the land.

Thursday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about whether to disqualify Trump from holding office because of his role in the January 6th Capitol attack after a landmark decision from Colorado's top court, which concluded the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist ban applies to Trump.

ERIC OLSON, ATTORNEY FOR COLORADO PLAINTIFFS: Trump engaged insurrection and therefore cannot appear on the ballot.

SCOTT GESSLER, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Frankly, President Trump didn't engage. He didn't carry a pitchfork to the Capitol grounds. He didn't lead a charge.

REID (voice-over): In the years-long lead-up to the case, the challengers looked for states where they believed they could succeed based on a constitutional provision that hasn't been tested since 1919.

Their efforts have been met with mixed results, with only Maine and Colorado taking him off the primary ballot. Even California opted to include Trump. Trump's team insists that states should not be able to deprive voters of their choice of candidates.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This whole thing is rigged, election interference.

REID (voice-over): But now, after turning several recent hearings and other cases into campaign stops --

TRUMP: I want to be at every trial day.

TRUMP: I want to watch this witch hunt myself.

REID (voice-over): Trump is not expected to attend the Supreme Court arguments. That changeup is part of a more disciplined approach the team is taking to this historic case.

Arguing on Trump's behalf will be Jonathan Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general. This will be his sixth appearance before the high court.

JONATHAN MITCHELL, FORMER TEXAS SOLICITOR GENERAL: Supreme Court justices are ultimately political appointments.

REID (voice-over): And this case is not just a test for Trump. The justices have also been under intense scrutiny over questions about ethics and partisanship.


And for Chief Justice John Roberts, his legacy is on the line as someone who tries to steer the court clear of the politics that divides Washington.

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: We do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We do not caucus in separate rooms. We do not serve one party or one interest. We serve one nation.

REID (voice-over): Roberts under pressure to build consensus.

NOAH BOOKBINDER, PRESIDENT, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: This case puts the court in a tough position in any way around. I think they'd rather not be thinking about these issues.

But it is what the democracy requires and what the Constitution requires at this moment. We think that the court is going to rise to that occasion.

REID: After Thursday's oral argument, the Trump team is going to need to quickly pivot to another issue that they would like to bring before the justices. They only have until Monday to tell the high court that they want to appeal Tuesday's decision that found that Trump does not have presidential immunity to shield himself from the election subversion case brought by special counsel Jack Smith. It's unclear if the justices are going to want to take up that issue, but it's just another example of how influential the Supreme Court will be throughout this 2024 campaign season.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) NOBILO: Republicans in the U.S. Congress are working to recover from a pair of humiliating defeats on Capitol Hill. GOP senators will meet today to discuss an aid package for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. Meanwhile, lawmakers who negotiated a bipartisan deal on border security are blasting Republicans for killing the bill under pressure from former President Donald Trump.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): But we've got to sit down together, figure out how we're going to solve problems, because the American people sent us here to do that.

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-AZ): Partisanship won. The Senate has failed Arizona. Shameful.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY) U.S. SENATE LEADER: But it is shameful and embarrassing to see MAGA radicalism take hold here in the Senate.


NOBILO: Over on the House side, some Republicans are now targeting Speaker Mike Johnson in the wake of losing two major votes just last night.


REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): He needs to count votes before it comes to the floor. As bad as Pelosi was, she knew her votes before it took place.

REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): It's unclear to me why we barreled ahead with a vote knowing that the votes weren't there. We did not need to embarrass ourselves.


NOBILO: Congressman Thomas Massey tweeting, getting rid of the previous speaker, Kevin McCarthy, has officially turned into an unmitigated disaster.

Johnson responded.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA) U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, look, it was a mess what happened here, but we're cleaning it up and Massey's one of my dear friends and colleagues, and I don't think that this is a reflection on the leader, it's a reflection on the body itself and the place where we've come in this country.


NOBILO: The chaos is raising fresh concerns about how Republicans will navigate a fast approaching government funding deadline. A U.S. military strike has killed a commander of an Iran backed militia group, it says, was behind deadly attacks on American forces in the region. U.S. Central Command says a drone hit a vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday night, local time, killing the Khatib Hezbollah leader. Sources tell CNN the militia leader was in charge of the group's logistical support, including drone and rocket operations. The group is part of a broader movement backed by Iran that's carried out attacks on U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Elliott Gotkine is following these developments and he joins me here. What can you tell us about this strike and the impact that it will likely have on attacks being carried out against U.S. forces in the region? And is it likely to escalate anything?

ELLIOTT GOTKINE, JOURNALIST: So the U.S. is still adamant it doesn't want an escalation. And you recall that in the wake of that attack on this U.S. outpost that killed three U.S. soldiers, that Khatib Hezbollah said that it was going to stop its attacks against U.S. personnel. It said out of respect for the Iraqi government. Clearly, it was also designed to avoid some kind of blowback from the Americans.

And clearly that hasn't worked, as evidenced by this drone strike last night at about 9.30 p.m. local time in a Shia neighborhood of Baghdad. CNN team on the ground actually heard two loud explosions in quick succession. And we've seen those images of that charred, burnt out car where the commander was inside. And also, according to the Iraqis, another person as well. But there was no additional collateral damage that took place there.

And a Biden administration official actually saying that even this is not the end of it, that they said originally there was going to be a multilayered response to the attack on that U.S. outpost that killed three U.S. soldiers. And this is just another part of it. So there will be more either on individuals, commanders that it holds responsible for those deaths or on facilities run by Khatib Hezbollah, be they in Iraq or be they in Syria.

And I suppose this comes at a pretty delicate time. First of all, Iraq has once again decried what it says is a violation of its sovereignty. And it said that this could actually undermine relations between and understandings between the U.S. and Iraq.


And this is just before the U.S. in Iraq go start talks about the future presence of U.S. forces in Iraq. So it comes at a very delicate time.

NOBILO: Elliott, thank you very much.

In Washington, family members of hostages held in Gaza met with a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers and members of Israel's Knesset on Wednesday. They made the urgent plea for their loved ones and all hostages to be brought home safely and immediately. U.S. Senate Republican John Ernst -- Joni Ernst, said that the issue is bigger than political affiliations or nationalities.


SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA): We stand here united across party lines and across countries for one cause, and that cause is to bring our hostages home.

These families live in agony every single day. They are uncertain if their loved ones are even alive.

TZVI MOR, SON HELD HOSTAGE IN GAZA: We don't know if our son is still alive. We didn't get anything from the Israeli intelligence for more than 70 days. I think that the first step to be with us is to close your eyes and to think about your loved ones being in a tunnel, in a dark tunnel, without air, without food, without water.


NOBILO: In Israel, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is suggesting negotiations could still move forward on a ceasefire and hostage deal in Gaza. That optimism, even though Israel's prime minister has dismissed a counter-proposal from Hamas as delusional. CNN's Jeremy Diamond has the details from Tel Aviv.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The ball is back in Israel's court, and it's being swatted right back.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We haven't committed to anything. We haven't committed to any of the delusional demands of Hamas.

There is supposed to be a process of negotiation between the mediators, and from what I see from Hamas' reaction, they are not there.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissing Hamas' counter-proposal for a ceasefire that would see dozens of hostages released from captivity. Instead, he is vowing total victory.

NETANYAHU (through translator): Surrendering to Hamas' delusional demands would not lead to freeing hostages. It would just invite another massacre.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The latest Hamas position outlines three phases, each lasting 45 days. It's Beginning with the release of women, children, sick and elderly hostages, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, an intensification of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza's population centers, in line with a prior Israeli framework.

But Hamas' proposal also calls for the release of all Palestinian prisoners detained since October 7th, a non-starter for Israel. Phase two would see the release of all male hostages and soldiers, as

well as the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza. Dead bodies from both sides would be returned in phase three.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reviewing the proposal with Israeli officials.

ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: While there are some clear non-starters in Hamas' response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached. And we will work at that relentlessly until we get there.

DIAMOND (voice-over): As negotiations drag on, no respite for those trapped in Gaza. Overnight, ambulance crews in central Gaza rushing to the scene of another Israeli airstrike, searching through the rubble, rushing survivors to the hospital.

But in Gaza, even the hospitals are no guarantee of safety.

DR. AHMED MAGHRABI, NASSER HOSPITAL: Hello, good morning, my friends.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Speaking from inside Nasser Hospital, Dr. Ahmed Maghrabi describes the scene at the hospital's main gate.

MAGHRABI: This is the gate of the hospital And how the people are standing, you know.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Snipers on rooftops, people trapped in fear.

MAGHRABI: Nobody can move outside of the hospital. See the people, how they are standing. They can't, they can't go.

If anybody would go outside of this gate, he would be killed. See?

DIAMOND (voice-over): On the street outside the hospital, a lifeless body explains that fear. Locals say she was shot by a sniper.

From Khan Younis to Gaza City, the sounds of gunfire sparking panic. Hundreds of people waiting for humanitarian aid trucks now suddenly running for their lives. As confusion turns to fear, some rush one way. Others run the other.


But nowhere seems safe.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, Tel Aviv.


NOBILO: Remarkable images coming in from southwest Iceland right now, as a volcano has erupted for the third time in two months. Plumes of toxic smoke are rising into the early morning sky as bright orange lava shoots out of the earth.

With more on this eruption, we're joined by Rikke Pedersen in Reykjavik. She is the head of the Nordic Volcanological Center at the University of Iceland. And she joins us now via Skype. Fantastic to speak to you. Thank you so much for joining us.

So here we are again, another eruption. What can you tell us about what's happening today and how it compares to the previous ones?

RIKKE PEDERSEN, HEAD OF THE NORDIC VOLCANOLOGICAL CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF ICELAND: Yes, so the eruption that started this morning at six o'clock was really preceded by only a very short time of earthquake activity. So only about 30 minute warning of this one.

It started on a fissure very comparable to the one on the 18th of December. So it's quite a distance from Grindavik town. That is not the main concern at the moment. What is of concern is the lava flow towards the west this time. And it's actually moving in a direction towards the big geothermal power plant and the Blue Lagoon area.

So people are currently working on closing in the gaps in the dikes, the protected dikes around the power plant, to make sure that the lava can't enter that area in case it makes it that far.

NOBILO: Can you tell our viewers more about the geothermal power plant and what potential danger the lava flows reaching it would present?

PEDERSEN: Of course, it's just the destruction of the buildings and the facilities, the pipes for the hot water from that place. So there has been a huge effort in both December and still going on now.

To set up these protective dikes, they are about eight meters high, built around the entire power plant.

NOBILO: As far as I understand, the residents in Grindavik haven't been allowed back since the first eruption in December. You mentioned that the lava flow is moving now towards the west, where the geothermal power plant is. Can we expect any more evacuations from residents in the area?

PEDERSEN: Well, it's correct. There are no people living in Grindavik at the moment, and they probably won't be able to return in any foreseeable future as the area is really fractured and really been destroyed by the earthquake activity. Not the lavas themselves, but the earthquake activity associated with this.

But the only evacuations that were going on this morning was from the Blue Lagoon and the hotel there, and that worked smoothly.

NOBILO: Is it possible to predict how long this eruption pattern is going to last?

PEDERSEN: You mean with the repeated eruptions almost monthly?

NOBILO: Yes, exactly.

PEDERSEN: We can't predict anything about that. We need to see what happens after the eruption has ceased again this time. If we have renewed inflation into the area where we know the magma is pooling at about four or five kilometers depth, then of course we will be looking at a similar scenario, but time will show.

NOBILO: Rikke Pedersen, we really appreciate your expertise. Thank you.

PEDERSEN: Your welcome.

NOBILO: Britain's Prince William says he's grateful for everyone's kind messages since his father, King Charles, was diagnosed with cancer.

On Wednesday, the Prince of Wales met with air ambulance staff at a fundraising dinner for London's Air Ambulance Charity, where he's a patron. It's the first time that the prince has spoken publicly since his father's diagnosis and since his wife, Princess Catherine's abdominal surgery.


PRINCE WILLIAM, PRINCE OF WALES: I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you also for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father, especially in recent days. It means a great deal to us all.


NOBILO: Prince William also met actor Tom Cruise at the gala, and during his speech he joked about air ambulances and the actor's daredevil movie stunts. Take a listen.


PRINCE WILLIAM: And Tom, if you wouldn't mind not borrowing either of the new helicopters for the next Mission Impossible, you seem to have a different take on normal wear and tear to the rest of us.


NOBILO: Still to come, Pakistan goes to the polls. We'll have a live report on the pivotal election people hope will stabilize their country amid recent controversies.


Plus, Pope Francis is speaking out against critics who oppose offering blessings to same-sex couples. We'll have a live report on what he says in a new magazine interview about that.

And later on, we'll tell you which streaming service landed Taylor Swift's Eras Tour film, and when you can start watching.


NOBILO: Two security personnel have been killed and at least seven more injured by an explosion in Pakistan's Balochistan province. It comes on the day of Pakistan's general election as the country struggles with political controversies, economic uncertainty, and frequent militant attacks. It's the latest attack of its kind after two more bombings took place on Wednesday.

CNN's Anna Coren joins me live from Hong Kong with more. Anna, what is driving the strength of feeling and the prevalence of violence in the lead up to these elections? And is there hope among the population at large that the results could usher in a period of relative calm?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, I think that's what people want. They want stability. You know, they've got economic turmoil.


They have terror threats. And obviously, there's political upheaval that we've seen in Pakistan now for the last few years. But look, voting will wrap up in the next few hours. And shortly after that, we will know the results.

The headline, though, from today has been the internet and mobile outages across the country that has several parties crying foul. The Ministry of Interior earlier this morning said it was for security reasons. And as I say, there is a heavy security presence across the country in anticipation of any social unrest, but more so terror attacks.

The country's most popular politician, Bianca, Imran Khan, he is a no- show. He's behind bars. He will stay there for the foreseeable future. And in the past few weeks, he's been convicted in three trials and is facing lengthy sentences.

Now, these legal cases against him are widely seen as a way to neutralize a 71-year-old and his party. Look, it's it definitely has worked.

But at the end of the day, this all comes down to the all-powerful and omnipresent military. You know, Khan was in favor when he came to power in 2018. That relationship turned sour in less than four years when he had a very public spat with the military establishment.

And now it is a foregone conclusion that his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, will be elected prime minister. We won't know this until later tonight. But this would be a historic fourth term in office for Sharif.

He actually has never completed a full term. His most recent stint ended in 2017 when he had a fallout with the military. He was accused of corruption, disqualified from ever holding office and forced into exile.

Well, the political winds have changed. End of last year, Sharif was allowed to return to Pakistan with the blessing of the military. Charges dropped and he was allowed to campaign for his party, PMLN.

But yes, as I say, you know, drama aside, Sharif is seen as a pragmatist, a businessman, and hopefully he will be able to restore the stability that the country so desperately needs.

NOBILO: Anna Coren, always good to chat. Thank you so much.

Republicans will cast their votes today in the Nevada caucuses. Donald Trump is on the ballot, but his lone remaining GOP challenger, Nikki Haley, is not. The caucuses are the only way to win the state's 26 delegates.

Haley took part in the non-binding primary earlier this week and received fewer votes than the none of these candidates' options. But she is downplayed that loss.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We always knew Nevada was a scam. Trump had it rigged from the very beginning. Our focus is on South Carolina, going into Michigan, going into Super Tuesday. Those are the places that we're worried about.


NOBILO: Meanwhile, the U.S. vice president will be hosting nine Democratic governors at her home in Washington this weekend for a meeting about the re-election campaign. Kamala Harris is looking for a direct account of what the governors are seeing and hearing in their states, some of which are expected to be key battlegrounds in swing states in the November election.

For the first time since he invaded Ukraine, Russian leader Vladimir Putin grants an interview to Western media. Why he gave that interview to conspiracy theorist Tucker Carlson.